Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Talking Eyeglasses

OrCam MyEye attaches to any eyeglasses. It can read text, identify faces, name products, and more. Expensive, but probably much less so than paying for long-distance sighted service.

A probable drawback is that adding weight to one side will be awkward and uncomfortable. Adding an inert weight to the opposite side will fix the imbalance, but increase the risk of head or ear pain. Consider adding a strap, web, or other support to reduce the pressure. Sort of an obvious issue from the perspective of a highly sensitive person, but I bet you that lower-sensitive people won't realize this thing will cross a lot of people's thresholds and won't know how to solve those problems. If you can't find what you need in an eyeglass shop, try cannibalizing the shock web from inside an old helmet. If appearance is an issue, consider the suspension potential of things like hats or wigs. But don't worry, the tech should shrink rapidly as it becomes more popular. In a few years it'll probably fit inside the earpiece of most prescription glasses ... you'll just have to hope designers thought of the weight issues and addressed them effectively.

So this got me thinking about phone apps. There are jillions of smartphone apps now, and identification apps (for trees, health food, etc.) are popular. I wonder how many of these have accessibility features that would let them serve as prosthetic eyes for visually impaired people? And yes, some apps have a speaker function or are actually designed to help vision-impaired users.

In a society that cared about people with disabilities, there would be a simple, easy, cheap way to massively improve life for vision-impaired folks: make all these read-and-see apps free to them. Once it's developed, software essentially costs nothing to replicate. The government could pay developers to make and maintain accessibility apps for blind people. Probably the developers would get a higher and more consistent revenue stream that way than trying to hand-sell these things to consumers one at a time. If you went to an eye doctor or any organization for the blind, they could say, "And here's a list of free computer programs and smartphone apps you can use to compensate for your eye problems." The government would probably save money due to reducing accidents, malnutrition, and other issues that affect disabled people more than abled people. Sadly, I don't see that solution as probable in this society, but there's the instructions in case anyone wants them.

Since the government is a white elephant, programmers could instead solve this problem on their own. Anyone who makes programs could choose a portion of their work to release pro bono. For example, make 9 apps for sale and 1 pro bono, using the recommended 10% tithe for Christians. If you're Muslim, zakat is 2.5% of your qualifying wealth which would be 1 out of 40, probably better to do that by hours unless you write code as fast as I write poetry. If you are well supported, you might choose to make much more of your work pro bono. A nonprofit could make writing free disability apps their whole focus. Someone could then make a website collecting everyone's free accessibility apps, and advertise that website to eye doctors and organizations serving the blind.

As yet another option, people with disabilities could write accessibility programs. Computer programming is a skill that easily evades most disabilities. You don't need to be able to move or type or talk, you just need to be able to think and communicate in some fashion with an interface, then have a program that lets you do stuff. So most people with the mental potential could learn to code if they wanted to. (Not everyone thinks well in that direction.) It might be more effective to have sighted people write apps for vision-impaired people, and so on, but then again the very different perspective of blind programmers could be useful. If I were a tech company, I'd seriously consider building mixed-ability teams for sake of parallax. A team with an abled programmer, a blind programmer, a deaf programmer, a paraplegic programmer, and a neurovariant programmer should be able to write some seriously badass code.
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