the surprised pessimist

"I'm not interested in blind optimism, but I'm very interested in optimism that is hard-won, that takes on darkness and then says, 'This is not enough.'" Colum McCann


January 2017

The Quadriplegic Pilot



When my son, Christopher was very young, he enjoyed remote-controlled vehicles. Trucks, cars, whatever.

The only problem was…he had to rely on his old man to operate the controller. Joysticks are not made for those who have no use of their hands. We had a lot of fun – him directing,  me driving. Even when I managed to drive his first monster truck straight into our goldfish pond, we had fun. Good memories.


Any parent will understand that the memories are also bitter/sweet. If only he’d been able to take over the controls and have a go himself. Imagine the fun I would have had watching him crash into the pond!

Oh well. You learn how to ‘work around’ all kinds of situations when you live with cerebral palsy.

Anyway, yesterday, we discovered that may all be about to change. Using a combination of an iPad – the most accessible device on the planet – and the DJI Phantom 4 drone quadcopter (with a little help from me setting up the waypoints) Christopher got his first taste of piloting his own remote-controlled craft.

I never thought such things would be possible. I’m a pessimist, so I’m surprised!

Here’s a quick, very basic video to show what happened. Stay tuned. MUCH more to come. 🙂

Home Automation, Good Design and Independent Living

Christopher and I recently toured a display house built by the good people at Ausmar Homes. The house is excellent because the approach to designing it is excellent. As with all good design, it is inclusive, not exclusive.

ausmar assist.jpg

Homes have traditionally been built with only the able-bodied in mind. Architects usually design houses – doorways, hallways, windows, steps, kitchen bench top heights, bathrooms, utility spaces,  driveways, landscaping, etc, based on the assumption that the only people who live in houses are fully able-bodied. Anyone who lives with mobility difficulties has no choice but to undertake expensive modifications to the homes they buy or build in order to live there comfortably and safely.

But – just as with ramped kerbs – if the built environment is designed to include those ‘on the margins’, it will include everyone; exclude no-one. A house is no different. Anyone, regardless of ability or disability can easily get through a slightly wider doorway. Not everyone can easily get through a narrow doorway. Everyone can negotiate a ramp. Not everyone can negotiate a step.

And with our ageing population, more and more people are living with one form of disability or impairment or another. Why not simply design every new house so that anyone could move in and live there? Expense? Not really. If all homes were designed from the start with this approach, economies of scale would immediately apply.

Add to a well-designed building, some of the accessible, affordable home-automation technology available these days, and you begin to see a whole new world of possibilities for independent living. There is a mishmash of ‘smart’ home appliances becoming available. And this is good. But it is far from a perfect solution. What’s needed is for someone to give us accessible devices that we can personalise and then operate reliably and securely within a home network, and then invite home-appliance manufacturers to make their products compatible with these personalised devices, so that anyone, regardless of ability or disability, can live more independently in their own homes.

Apple’s new HomeKit in iOS 10, built-in to all iPads and iPhones – the most accessible devices on the planet, bar none – allows for home appliances (not very many in Australia yet, but more becoming available all the time) such as lights, door-locks and sensors to be connected easily and securely via the home wifi network, and controlled from the HomeKit App. Imagine asking Siri to turn off the living room lights, activate scenes, or lock the front door from anywhere in the world.

We spent a few days shooting a little video to help you imagine how cool it would be to live in a home that is built right and equipped right. Christopher has just completed the edit. Here it is…

I never thought such things would be possible. I’m a pessimist, so I’m surprised!


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