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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

Author

Garry

father, carer, consultant, writer, beachcomber My Gravatar = Life's a Climb

When Convenience becomes Accessibility

Question: Why would anyone need to ask a virtual home assistant – there are several names to choose from nowadays – to turn on the lights or open the door or lower the temperature in the living room?

Answer: most people don’t. Don’t need to, I mean.

But many want to. It’s cool. It’s convenient. And who doesn’t want an assistant to do things for them? Even very basic things. Then there’s the safety and security angle, providing you don’t get ‘hacked’ (more on this later). Say that the delivery lady is at your door and you’re at work? No need for your package to be left on the front porch. Over your internet connection, you can see her clearly looking at the security camera. Just instruct your home assistant to unlock the door for her and then lock it after she leaves. Or there’s that moment when you’ve just arrived at the airport and can’t remember if you turned off the air conditioner. Ask you assistant to check that for you and set it straight right away.

All of these and many more dazzling innovations have been designed primarily for people who want comfort and convenience and can afford them. Nobody actually needs these things, right? Personally, I’m not sure I’ll ever bother, even though I’m tempted;  BUT…

Here’s where it gets interesting for the millions of Australians (billions worldwide) who live with impairments, chronic illnesses or the debilitating effects of ageing. While most of these home automation innovations have been designed to provide able-bodied people with convenience; just think about those times when convenience morphs into necessity!

Abilities

 

My 21 year-old son, quadriplegic with cerebral palsy – but sharp as a tack and independently-minded – is moving into his own home in a few months. He will run his video-editing and consulting business from home. He will have a dog. He will party. And, even though he will have Support Workers around (no fully-functioning home-assist robots available just yet), he will get on with being 21!

Home automation, specifically, the Apple Home app controlling HomeKit-enabled devices and appliances, is one of three things that make this possible for him.

The other two are the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and his considerable mojo.

Okay. Apple HomeKit. Let me stop right there for a second. ‘Why Apple?’ you may be asking. [Disclaimer: I have nothing to declare here. I don’t work for Apple and I’m not trying to sell you anything.] Read on and I’ll explain.

As I’ve been describing, there are technological solutions for people who live with all manner of impairments that were not primarily designed as Assistive Technologies in the narrow sense of that term. They are ‘assistive’ quite by accident, you might say. Home automation is a great example.

Then there are tech solutions that are specifically designed to meet the needs of people who live with specific disabilities. Here‘s a great example. There are thousands of others.

Then there are devices and systems that are designed universally – that is, as far as humanly possible, they are designed to be used by everyone. And here’s where Apple comes in.

There are many things about Apple that are, shall we say, ‘quirky’. And Accessibility is one of them. The good people at Apple don’t seem to be able to help themselves. It’s almost as if it’s in their DNA. Every new device or service they roll out has been designed and built, not just for the ‘mainstream’ but for the ‘margins’. So, in our case, because every Apple device has Switch Control designed- and built-in, my quadriplegic son can do anything on an iOS touchscreen device that an able-bodied person can do. And he does! And because he has control of that device, he automatically has access to his Mac and his Apple TV and his apps, like Home!

As his father, what I appreciate about this is that I know his home automation will be safe and secure because HomeKit is as unhackable as all Apple devices!

In his case, Convenience (incorporated into HomeKit) means Accessibility, which means Independence.

Mount an iPhone on his power-wheelchair and he is in charge!

i didn’t expect this would be possible. I’m a pessimist and I’m surprised.

 

Podcast: “Not the Parent I Thought I’d Be”

Not The Parent

PODCAST EPISODE 00

Have a listen to this 2 minute intro to the podcast I am hoping to produce in the near future.

APPLE ACCESSIBILITY AWARENESS DAY WORKSHOPS – 18 MAY 2017

Do yourself a favour. The Accessibility Suite built-in to Apple devices is second-to-none and has grown and expanded so fast in just a few years that very few people have had the chance to fully appreciate the depth and breadth of Apple’s Accessibility features.

Oh, and don’t think accessibility is only important for those poor ‘disabled’ people. We’re all getting older and our faculties get more threadbare with each passing year. Whether you experience difficulties with vision, hearing, motor skills or mobility, I guarantee from personal experience that you will enjoy and get more out of your iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV or Apple Watch if you know how Apple has designed Accessibility right into it.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2017 is almost here! Here’s a list of all the Apple Australia workshops that are being run on that day.

If you’re interested in attending any of these free workshops, here’s what you need to do:

Go to Apple Australia Retail Stores Page…

Select the Store that you’re interested in…

Scroll down the page to “Workshops” and find the one you want – it’ll probably be up the top under “Featured”…

Click on the date and time you’re interested in, then follow the instructions to sign in and register!

QLD

Brisbane

Accessibility Basics: Assistive Learning Tools on iPad and iPhone
Minimising visual clutter can help those with cognitive and learning disabilities stay focussed. Join us as we explore how Guided Access allows family members, teachers, and caregivers to keep the attention on learning. We’ll show how Speak Screen, iTunes, and Dictionary can offer even more learning support.
1:00pm to 2:00pm

Accessibility Basics: Assistive Learning Tools on Mac
In this workshop, we’ll discover how Simple Finder streamlines the experience for those with cognitive and leaning disabilities.
3:30pm to 4:30pm

Accessibility Basics: Literacy Tools on iPad and iPhone
Discover how your iPad and iPhone can help to strengthen reading and spelling skills. Explore how Speak Screen and Look Up can reinforce learning.
9:00am to 10:00am

Accessibility Basics: Literacy Tools on Mac
At this workshop, discover how Mac can help those with reading and spelling difficulties with Text to Speech, Dictation, and more.
5:00pm to 6:00pm

Accessibility Basics: VoiceOver for iPad and iPhone
For people with vision loss, this workshop is a great introduction to VoiceOver, the assistive technology that offers amazing access to iOS.
11:00am to 12:00pm

Carindale

Accessibility Basics: Assistive Learning Tools on iPad and iPhone
Minimising visual clutter can help those with cognitive and learning disabilities stay focussed. Join us as we explore how Guided Access allows family members, teachers, and caregivers to keep the attention on learning. We’ll show how Speak Screen, iTunes, and Dictionary can offer even more learning support.
2:00pm to 3:00pm

Accessibility Basics: Using Mac with Vision Loss
Discover the different ways to interact with Mac for those with vision loss. This workshop will explore assistive technologies like Zoom, and some of its capabilities. We’ll help you start a document in Pages using Zoom or ask Siri to perform a search for documents in Finder.
1:00pm to 2:00pm

Accessibility Basics: VoiceOver for Mac
This workshop is an introduction to VoiceOver on your Mac. We’ll show you how VoiceOver gives customisable control to those with vision loss.
10:15am to 11:15am

Chermside

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Hearing Loss
For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, iOS 10 offers amazing assistive technologies to help communicate and enjoy more content. This workshop introduces you to iPad and iPhone features like FaceTime, LED Flash for Alerts, and vibrating alerts that you can use every day.
9:15am to 10:15am

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Vision Loss
Discover how to interact with iPad and iPhone with vision loss. We’ll use Larger Dynamic Type for larger text and Magnifier to make an object easier to see.
2:00pm to 3:00pm

Accessibility Basics: Using Mac with Hearing Loss
Discover the assistive capabilities of Mac for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. We’ll explore built-in features that support communicating visually.
11:00am to 12:00pm

Accessibility Basics: VoiceOver for Mac
This workshop is an introduction to VoiceOver on your Mac. We’ll show you how VoiceOver gives customisable control to those with vision loss.
3:45pm to 4:45pm

Robina

Accessibility Basics: Assistive Learning Tools on iPad and iPhone
Minimising visual clutter can help those with cognitive and learning disabilities stay focussed. Join us as we explore how Guided Access allows family members, teachers, and caregivers to keep the attention on learning. We’ll show how Speak Screen, iTunes, and Dictionary can offer even more learning support.
9:00am to 10:00am

Accessibility Basics: Assistive Learning Tools on Mac
In this workshop, we’ll discover how Simple Finder streamlines the experience for those with cognitive and leaning disabilities.
11:00am to 12:00pm

Accessibility Basics: Literacy Tools on Mac
At this workshop, discover how Mac can help those with reading and spelling difficulties with Text to Speech, Dictation, and more.
1:00pm to 2:00pm

Accessibility Basics: VoiceOver for iPad and iPhone
For people with vision loss, this workshop is a great introduction to VoiceOver, the assistive technology that offers amazing access to iOS.
3:30pm to 4:30pm

NSW

Bondi

Accessibility Basics: Assistive Learning Tools on iPad and iPhone
Minimising visual clutter can help those with cognitive and learning disabilities stay focussed. Join us as we explore how Guided Access allows family members, teachers, and caregivers to keep the attention on learning. We’ll show how Speak Screen, iTunes, and Dictionary can offer even more learning support.
9:45am to 10:45am

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Hearing Loss
For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, iOS 10 offers amazing assistive technologies to help communicate and enjoy more content. This workshop introduces you to iPad and iPhone features like FaceTime, LED Flash for Alerts, and vibrating alerts that you can use every day.
1:30pm to 2:30pm

Accessibility Basics: Using Mac with Vision Loss
Discover the different ways to interact with Mac for those with vision loss. This workshop will explore assistive technologies like Zoom, and some of its capabilities. We’ll help you start a document in Pages using Zoom or ask Siri to perform a search for documents in Finder.
4:00pm to 5:00pm

Broadway

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Vision Loss
Discover how to interact with iPad and iPhone with vision loss. We’ll use Larger Dynamic Type for larger text and Magnifier to make an object easier to see.
10:00am to 11:00am

Sydney

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Vision Loss

Discover how to interact with iPad and iPhone with vision loss. We’ll use Larger Dynamic Type for larger text and Magnifier to make an object easier to use.

1:30pm to 2:30pm

Accessibility Basics: Using Mac with Hearing Loss

Discover the assistive capabilities of Mac for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. We’ll explore built-in features that support communicating visually.

10:15am to 11:15am

Accessibility Basics: Using Mac with Vision Loss

Discover the different ways to interact with Mac for those with vision loss. This workshop will explore assistive technologies like Zoom, and some of its capabilities. We’ll help you start a document in Pages using Zoom or ask Siri to perform a search for documents in Finder.

4:00pm to 5:00pm

Castle Towers

Accessibility Basics: VoiceOver for iPad and iPhone
For people with vision loss, this workshop is a great introduction to VoiceOver, the assistive technology that offers amazing access to iOS.
9:00am to 10:00am

Charlestown

Accessibility Basics: Assistive Learning Tools on iPad and iPhone
Minimising visual clutter can help those with cognitive and learning disabilities stay focussed. Join us as we explore how Guided Access allows family members, teachers, and caregivers to keep the attention on learning. We’ll show how Speak Screen, iTunes, and Dictionary can offer even more learning support.
1:00pm to 2:00pm

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Hearing Loss
For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, iOS 10 offers amazing assistive technologies to help communicate and enjoy more content. This workshop introduces you to iPad and iPhone features like FaceTime, LED Flash for Alerts, and vibrating alerts that you can use every day.
3:00pm to 4:00pm

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Vision Loss
Discover how to interact with iPad and iPhone with vision loss. We’ll use Larger Dynamic Type for larger text and Magnifier to make an object easier to see.
11:00am to 12:00pm

Chatswood Chase

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Hearing Loss
For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, iOS 10 offers amazing assistive technologies to help communicate and enjoy more content. This workshop introduces you to iPad and iPhone features like FaceTime, LED Flash for Alerts, and vibrating alerts that you can use every day.
11:30am to 12:30pm

Hornsby

Accessibility Basics: Assistive Learning Tools on iPad and iPhone
Minimising visual clutter can help those with cognitive and learning disabilities stay focussed. Join us as we explore how Guided Access allows family members, teachers, and caregivers to keep the attention on learning. We’ll show how Speak Screen, iTunes, and Dictionary can offer even more learning support.
9:45am to 10:45am

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Hearing Loss
For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, iOS 10 offers amazing assistive technologies to help communicate and enjoy more content. This workshop introduces you to iPad and iPhone features like FaceTime, LED Flash for Alerts, and vibrating alerts that you can use every day.
11:30am to 12:30pm

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Reduced Mobility
Discover how assistive mobility features built into iOS can simplify iPad and iPhone for those who have difficulties handling their device.
5:00pm to 6:00pm

Miranda

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Vision Loss
Discover how to interact with iPad and iPhone with vision loss. We’ll use Larger Dynamic Type for larger text and Magnifier to make an object easier to see.
9:30am to 10:30am

Accessibility Basics: VoiceOver for iPad and iPhone
For people with vision loss, this workshop is a great introduction to VoiceOver, the assistive technology that offers amazing access to iOS.
12:30pm to 1:30pm

Penrith

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Vision Loss
Discover how to interact with iPad and iPhone with vision loss. We’ll use Larger Dynamic Type for larger text and Magnifier to make an object easier to see.
12:00pm to 1:00pm

ACT

Canberra

Accessibility Basics: Assistive Learning Tools on iPad and iPhone
In this workshop, we’ll explore how Guided Access helps keep the learning focussed for those with cognitive and learning disabilities.
1:00pm to 2:00pm

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Hearing Loss
For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, iOS 10 offers amazing assistive technologies to help communicate and enjoy more content. This workshop introduces you to iPad and iPhone features like FaceTime, LED Flash for Alerts, and vibrating alerts that you can use every day.
3:00pm to 4:00pm

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Vision Loss
Discover how to interact with iPad and iPhone with vision loss. We’ll use Larger Dynamic Type for larger text and Magnifier to make an object easier to see.
11:00am to 12:00pm

SA

Rundle Place

Accessibility Basics: Using Mac with Vision Loss
Discover the different ways to interact with Mac for those with vision loss. This workshop will explore assistive technologies like Zoom, and some of its capabilities. We’ll help you start a document in Pages using Zoom or ask Siri to perform a search for documents in Finder.
10:30am to 11:30am

VIC

Chadstone

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Vision Loss
Discover how to interact with iPad and iPhone with vision loss. We’ll use Larger Dynamic Type for larger text and Magnifier to make an object easier to see.
9:30am to 10:30am

Doncaster

Accessibility Basics: Assistive Learning Tools on iPad and iPhone
Minimising visual clutter can help those with cognitive and learning disabilities stay focussed. Join us as we explore how Guided Access allows family members, teachers, and caregivers to keep the attention on learning. We’ll show how Speak Screen, iTunes, and Dictionary can offer even more learning support.
2:30pm to 3:30pm

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Hearing Loss
For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, iOS 10 offers amazing assistive technologies to help communicate and enjoy more content. This workshop introduces you to iPad and iPhone features like FaceTime, LED Flash for Alerts, and vibrating alerts that you can use every day.
11:00am to 12:00pm

Fountain Gate

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Vision Loss
Discover how to interact with iPad and iPhone with vision loss. We’ll use Larger Dynamic Type for larger text and Magnifier to make an object easier to see.
12:00pm to 1:00pm

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Hearing Loss
For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, iOS 10 offers amazing assistive technologies to help communicate and enjoy more content. This workshop introduces you to iPad and iPhone features like FaceTime, LED Flash for Alerts, and vibrating alerts that you can use every day.
2:00pm to 3:00pm

Highpoint

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Hearing Loss
For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, iOS 10 offers amazing assistive technologies to help communicate and enjoy more content. This workshop introduces you to iPad and iPhone features like FaceTime, LED Flash for Alerts, and vibrating alerts that you can use every day.
9:00am to 10:00am

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Vision Loss
Discover how to interact with iPad and iPhone with vision loss. We’ll use Larger Dynamic Type for larger text and Magnifier to make an object easier to see.
7:30pm to 8:30pm

Southland

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Reduced Mobility
Discover how assistive mobility features built into iOS can simplify iPad and iPhone for those who have difficulties handling their device.
1:00pm to 2:00pm

Accessibility Basics: Using Mac with Vision Loss
Discover the different ways to interact with Mac for those with vision loss. This workshop will explore assistive technologies like Zoom, and some of its capabilities. We’ll help you start a document in Pages using Zoom or ask Siri to perform a search for documents in Finder.
2:30pm to 3:30pm

Accessibility Basics: VoiceOver for iPad and iPhone
For people with vision loss, this workshop is a great introduction to VoiceOver, the assistive technology that offers amazing access to iOS.
9:30am to 10:30am

Accessibility Basics: VoiceOver for Mac
This workshop is an introduction to VoiceOver on your Mac. We’ll show you how VoiceOver gives customisable control to those with vision loss.
11:00am to 12:00pm

WA

Garden City Perth

Accessibility Basics: Assistive Learning Tools on iPad and iPhone
Minimising visual clutter can help those with cognitive and learning disabilities stay focussed. Join us as we explore how Guided Access allows family members, teachers, and caregivers to keep the attention on learning. We’ll show how Speak Screen, iTunes, and Dictionary can offer even more learning support.
1:15pm to 2:15pm

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Vision Loss
Discover how to interact with iPad and iPhone with vision loss. We’ll use Larger Dynamic Type for larger text and Magnifier to make an object easier to see.
2:45pm to 3:45pm

Accessibility Basics: VoiceOver for iPad and iPhone
For people with vision loss, this workshop is a great introduction to VoiceOver, the assistive technology that offers amazing access to iOS.
4:00pm to 5:00pm

Perth City

Accessibility Basics: Assistive Learning Tools on Mac
In this workshop, we’ll discover how Simple Finder streamlines the experience for those with cognitive and leaning disabilities.
4:00pm to 5:00pm

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Hearing Loss
For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, iOS 10 offers amazing assistive technologies to help communicate and enjoy more content. This workshop introduces you to iPad and iPhone features like FaceTime, LED Flash for Alerts, and vibrating alerts that you can use every day.
9:00am to 10:00am

Accessibility Basics: Using iPad and iPhone with Vision Loss
Discover how to interact with iPad and iPhone with vision loss. We’ll use Larger Dynamic Type for larger text and Magnifier to make an object easier to see.
12:00pm to 1:00pm

Accessibility Basics: VoiceOver for iPad and iPhone
For people with vision loss, this workshop is a great introduction to VoiceOver, the assistive technology that offers amazing access to iOS.
2:00pm to 3:00pm

 

Apple has given my son a hand!

The human hand is a wondrous piece of engineering. Imagine where you’d be if you were suddenly without yours.

thumbs-up-signThink of the language we use: reach out, lend-a-hand, hands-on, get a grip, hand-out, handy, a handful, hands-free, hand-over, hang-on, hold on, at your fingertips, in the palm of your hand, second-hand, hand-me-downs, high-five, point-the-finger, thumbs-up, let your fingers do the walking, etc.

There are about 1,000 minutes in a waking day. I wonder how many of those minutes involve you using your hands…

…Grasping, gripping, holding…

…Making, fixing, building…

…Driving, working, writing…

…Caressing, fondling, stroking…

…and I wonder how you’d take care of yourself, earn a living, express yourself, interact with others, follow your dreams, live, if you had no use of your hands.

I don’t have to imagine what this is like. I have experienced it daily through my son, whose quadriplegia means that his strong, well-formed hands are quite useless. Well, perhaps not totally useless. As a diabetic, he needs several blood-glucose tests a day, and his fingers get regularly stuck with needles. But that’s all they are good for.

Then, surprise, surprise, into our lives comes Apple.

Did you know that every Apple device – Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Apple Watch – is engineered with a powerful suite of Accessibility features? One of those features – Switch Control – is for people who have some form of physical impairment, such that they find it difficult or impossible to touch a screen or type on a keyboard or handle a remote control.

Using Switch Control, and tapping a small switch with his head, my son tweets, texts, types emails, makes FaceTime calls, operates the TV, studies at university online, runs a video-editing business using Final Cut Pro on his Mac, plays games, listens to music, turns on lights and air-conditioners in the house and even pilots a drone!

And there’s a new feature in iOS10 and MacOS Sierra called Platform Switching. This enables a Switch Control user to ‘pick up and put down’ various Apple devices around the home and office and control them from one device; in Christopher’s case, his wheelchair-mounted iPhone is now his universal remote controller and switch interface.

If you’re a Switch Control user and you haven’t tried Platform Switching, here’s a quick video I made, showing you how to activate it.

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

Had a good laugh yet today? Go on…have one!

Parents of children-with-a-disability often lose laughter as easily as misplacing the car keys.

I grew up in a fairly serious and respectable family where personal responsibility and

laughpeace-and-quiet  were highly regarded. Noisy, spontaneous or, god forbid, boisterous behaviour was frowned upon.
My father was, and still is locally-renowned for his comedic talent on stage and television, but throughout my childhood, he routinely shed that kind of nonsense at the door, along with his hat and coat when he came into the house. Strange that.

And yet, I do have a few vivid, childhood recollections of rare moments of rampant hilarity – sometimes at home – and these have tended to be more durable than other memories. I’m smiling now as I think of a few instances.

And it makes sense, I suppose. Memories being what they are.

…that snort-food-out-your-nostrils, annoy-the-neighbours laugh-out-loud thing we do…

The human propensity to find things funny is fascinating in itself; but our physical response – anything from a smile, a grin or a titter; to a chuckle, a chortle, a giggle or a wheeze; right through to that snort-food-out-your-nostrils, annoy-the-neighbours laugh-out-loud thing we do – has all kinds of deep, mysterious healing effects on our bodies and minds. Measurable effects.

Check out this article if you don’t believe me.

Parents of children-with-a-disability often lose laughter as easily as misplacing the car keys – and not as a result of carelessness. Quite the opposite.

This might not be much of a loss if wasn’t for the fact that laughter is one of those free gifts we get in life. A free gift that makes us just a bit happier and healthier. A gift that is most needed when facing life-sapping challenges day after day after day.

I wish I’d twigged to this years ago. Honestly, I could have laughed a lot more than I did. And I’d have been better for it; as would everyone around me.

They tell me that if you smile; even a fake smile… (Just do it now. Go on. Tighten the muscles around your mouth and do your best creepy, joker fake-smile)… something physically changes in your body and mind. Just a tiny change, but a real one. Or look at someone smiling or laughing. Bet you can’t keep a straight face. After that, the next smile comes a little more spontaneously.

What’s the thing that gets you laughing? Chances are it is unique to you, but it will fall into one of a handful of categories. Go looking for it today. Chances are it won’t be that hard to find. And when you do, receive the free gift of a good laugh and bask in it.

Your circumstances won’t have changed; but you will. Your battles will still be there; but you’ll be refreshed to go on fighting a bit longer. At least, that’s what I’ve found.

Love to hear your thoughts on this.

 

 

 

 

The Quadriplegic Pilot

img_2200

img_2197

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.

But…

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!

 

What did you do in the war?

It is common-knowledge that veterans are not inclined to talk much about their tours of duty once they get home – unless, of course, they are in the exclusive company of comrades. And even then, the mood has to be just right.

It isn’t impolite to ask ‘what did you do in the war?’ Just don’t be surprised or offended if you don’t get much detail in response. Pretty easy to understand why. Even if one is not trying to forget, some things are just too hard to put in words. And even the right words are all-but-meaningless to those who have not shared something similar.

Ever wondered what goes on day-after-day in the life of so-called “unpaid carers”? The ones who live behind the doors of homes in your neighbourhood. Homes where there is disability or chronic-illness?

Well, you can ask them; but don’t be surprised if they don’t have much to say about it. Not surprising, really. It isn’t mortal combat, of course; but it can be emotionally, physically, mentally and financially-taxing enough to create a gulf too wide to cross without a lot of effort. Then there are the prejudices and misconceptions one encounters; the busy-ness and distraction; and the ignorance – well-intentioned or not – that makes many a carer decide eventually that it is isn’t worth it to even try to talk much about it.

It is still unclear if the apparent murder-suicide in the Manrique/Lutz family in Sydney this week had anything to do with disability or carer-despair. But there are many examples of similar tragedies that did. And here’s the thing – for every such extreme instance; there are hundreds of thousands of others that don’t make it into the public awareness. Lives of ‘quiet desperation’ generally go unnoticed.

I am not a veteran, but for a long time, I have been (and continue to be, albeit in a lesser capacity) a carer. And I rarely talk about it. It has taken a lot for me to even write this humble blog post this morning.

The main hurdle I have to overcome is to believe that it is worth it. Worth it to summon the energy to make the attempt. But, of course it must be worth it. Even limited understanding and awareness is always better than none at all. And who’s going to help you understand and be aware, if not someone who has been through it?

The other main hurdle is that talking about this necessarily involves others. And I’m uncomfortable talking about others. The moment I am introduced to someone as my son’s ‘carer’, for example, I am quick to add that he cares for me too. And it is true. I don’t want anyone to be under the misapprehension that it all goes one way. He: all ‘needy’. Me: all ‘care-y’! His awareness of my needs and his concerns for my well-being are never far beneath the surface.

Yet, if I’m circling around actual, deep, warts-and-all honesty, the truth of this also serves as something of a deflection from the deeper truth that I don’t like talking about myself. And that truth, in turn, masks the deeper truth that I can’t pretend not to be that child who is so desperate to talk about himself – to have someone understand, and yet so sure that nobody will understand, that he shrugs his shoulders and says ‘I don’t want to talk about it’.

See…I knew I shouldn’t have started this!

So…what’s it been like for this carer? Technical terms like ‘chronic-sorrow’ and ‘life-long grief’ come to mind; but let’s stick to plain language.  A carer can feel locked in a time-vortex in which the dynamics of ‘parent-of-a-newborn’ become the life-long reality: sleep-deprivation, diverted resources; life’s ambitions on-hold; seismic shifts in relationships. A carer has to be a fighter, an advocate, a counsellor, an inventor. Empathic, tough and patient. The limits of endurance, courage and good-humour are frequently breached. An inner-spring of hope, love and optimism is essential.

I wish I was a saint or a superman; but I most certainly am not. I’ve done my best as a dad and carer, and have to live with the knowledge that my best has not always been good enough.

cheers,

Garry

Another look at Kerb Cuts and Inclusive Technology

I was asked to present briefly at the QLD Dept of Communities, Clinicians Conference: “The Future is Now” in June, to introduce Allied Health Professionals to Apple Accessibility features from a Carer’s/Parent’s perspective. The presentation was not recorded, but I was asked to make a section of the content of the presentation available via video; so here it is!

This is my first attempt at this particular format – multiple video recordings of the same script against a ‘green screen’, and I haven’t perfected the technique yet; but I’ve decided to make the video available anyway in the spirit of getting something ‘out there’; rather than withholding it while I labour over it to make it perfect.

I’m getting set to use this approach to create a series of ‘snapshot’ and ‘in-depth’ videos from my perspective about all of Apple’s accessibility features.

Any and all feedback is welcome.

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