The Uses and Abuses of Access

This week’s readings about accessibilty were eye-opening. I first learned about accessibility for the diabled in Clio Wired, but what we read for this week goes much deeper into the topic. After about half-way through Joe Clark’s chapter, I started to wonder if there is a piece of hardware, originally designed for the diabled, that I could use. I kept thinking about finding a pedal to hook up to my laptop, so that I could save myself from carpal tunnel syndrome in the future.

Ironically, the question that kept coming to my mind this week is how can technology, which is designed for the disabled, improve computer usage for all computer users. In particular, I was inspired by Lillian in Mark Pilgram’s page. She is the woman from Hong Kong, who struggles with English. I encounter many immigrants at my job at a bank. Many of them barely speak English, so I bookmarked Google Translate on my work computer to look up and write down phrases in Spanish to help communicate. I wish there would be an easier way. I’m trying to learn a little Spanish, but at the same time I’m trying to improve my Hungarian and learn Portuguese for my fiance, so the Spanish is not going well. My bet is that there is some technology designed for the deaf or blind, which could be applied to my situation.

I suppose the main conclusion I have drawn from this week’s readings is that it is going to become easier and easier for the disabled to use computers in the future. On the one hand, technology is getting better every day. I imagine in thirty years that there will be interfaces that allow parapelegics much more control over their computers. Add to that how easily people adapt to new technology, and it’s pretty clear that disabilities are going to be less of a hinderance for computer usage in the near future. That means better social lives for people, again, like parapeligics, who are stuck in a bed.

To end this post, I want to consider the downside of better access. Just as this week’s readings reminded me about the problems I have communicating with spanish-speakers, it also reminded me of one of the ways people use technology to commit fraud. Every month or so, my branch receives a relay call, during which an operator reads what a deaf person writes. Every time it’s the same. Either they ask for the balance of an account or for an account number. When I tell them that I cannot give that information on the phone, the operator informs me that the person on the other end ended the call. I do not even get a “thank you” or a “good bye.” I’m sure as we all realize, as much as using computers is going to become more convenient and easier in the future, so will fraud, identity theft, and other abuses.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Design, Helpful Tricks, Time and Money

One Comment on “The Uses and Abuses of Access”

  1. Alan brody Says:

    Lazlo:

    I have to applaud your vision of technology as helping people. I work in the public school systems and see what devices have done for students, truly they can be life changing. See http://www.fcps.edu/ss/its/

    On the other hand, have you considered the cost and availability of such devices? It seems to me that we have so many global issues for those in need, I wonder if this isn’t just creating more divides?


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