Your Accessible Wish List: Access without a Thought
Christmas is here, and that means gift shopping. For our final post of the year, we’re going to highlight a few gift ideas that lend themselves well to accessibility even though they were not designed with it in mind.
Smart Home Assistants
Smart speakers, such as the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod have become very popular within the last few years. They’re hands-free, easy to use, and incredibly versatile. Once set up in a home, it’s only a matter of merely speaking a few words to get them to perform tasks such as adding to your Christmas wish list, purchasing groceries, turning on and off the lights, or playing White Christmas by Bing Crosby, the best-selling single of all time. They don’t require you to remember keyboard commands or touch screen gestures in order to operate them. As such, these devices open up a previously untapped world of possibilities for those who have disabilities. If you are someone who can’t flip a light switch due to a motor disability, the digital equivalent via one of these virtual assistants makes this possible. Furthermore, numerous accessories and devices have made themselves compatible with home assistants, allowing themselves to be controlled or monitored only by your voice. In fact, the other devices discussed later are both devices that can interface with an Amazon Echo speaker!
There are many versions out there with many different functions, but we didn’t put the Instant Pot here because of its multi-purpose nature. We’ve highlighted the Instant Pot Smart Wi-Fi edition specifically because of its accompanying app that you can download onto your phone, allowing you to monitor your cooking from a distance. It can also be controlled with Alexa via an Amazon Echo or other third party smart speaker, by saying phrases as simple as “Alexa, pressure cook on low for 2 hours.” For those who may not be able to see the temperature, pressure status, and current mode, these features are life-changing as well. Furthermore, operating the Instant Pot via the mobile app with something like Apple’s Voice Control on iOS or a hands-free voice assistant removes the barrier of remembering where buttons might be located. Due to these features which are designed for a mainstream audience and the digital world we live in, many requirements or conveniences for those who have disabilities are fulfilled. Moving around the kitchen to retrieve various cooking implements is lessened for those who have a mobility disability, pressing buttons can be accomplished via an accessible interface for those with motor or hand coordination problems, and monitoring the status of your Christmas ham to ensure it comes out just right is now a breeze for aspiring visually impaired chefs.
Tile Bluetooth Tracker
The Tile Tracker is a device for locating lost possessions with a mobile application or voice assistant. For those who frequently misplace keys, phones, or wallets, these are an invaluable tool to add to your daily arsenal, especially when the lost objects are expensive or necessary for day-to-day life. To find an item, you can activate a chime which will play from the tile, permitting someone to hear where the misplaced item may have been last. You may also view it on a map if you’re in range, or find it via crowd-sourcing if someone else with the Tile app was in the vicinity of your tile.
Finding lost items is not all there is to these tiny wonders, however. For instance, finding luggage after arriving at an airport can be quite a hassle, especially if you are blind or visually impaired. Often, travelers can rapidly identify their suitcase by its color or what may be written on a plastic tag affixed to it. This is made almost impossible to those who are blind by the constantly moving conveyor belts that are featured at most baggage retrieval hubs, requiring people to ask airport assistance for help or use a service such as Aira. If the luggage has a tile stuck to it or inside an enclosed pocket, retrieving it becomes a much easier process; one may view when the luggage as it comes in range on their phone, and then trigger the tile so they can hear as the suitcase rolls by. While the Tile is advertised most prolifically for lost keys, creative approaches to design have made it into something everyone should get for those long business trips or early morning commutes, if only so they can track their phone when it disappears from sight and the battery is depleted.
LCI Tech would like to wish all of our clients and readers a very Merry Christmas. Have a safe holiday season, and don’t forget to let us know about any mainstream gadgets that are made accessible by the momentum of the digital era in the comments!