Today I came across 2 stories through Twitter - a man invented a contraption, My4Hands, to help him continue cooking when he became a wheelchair user, and a 7/7 bombings survivor created a smartphone app to help disabled people travel around London more easily.
Firstly lets look at the My4Hands invention. When you re a wheelchair user, its often that you find you cannot hold equipment in your hand and move - because you need your hands to help you move. So on the face of it, this would be a useful piece of kitchen equipment to have an aid to help balance on your lap while on the move.
Dale Lehn says:
The polyethylene core, in conjunction with the hold fast surface offers an insulation capability to prevent the transfer of heat through the board. Because of this My4Hands is ideal to hold a laptop computer without fear of burning your skin. As many people in wheelchairs do not have sensation on their legs, this is particularly important. You can also set a hot pot of water or skillet on My4Hands in order to be able to stir the contents and transport it easily to a sink or table. I always put a towel down between the hot item and the surface of My4Hands to keep from leaving a mark on the surface.
My head immediately buzzed with all kinds of questions - did he test it on different people or just himself? All my fire and safety instincts came to the forefront. I would never hold anything like a skillet or a hot pot of water as is seen from his video on my lap and move. I wouldnt do it period. The consequences of accidently tipping hot contents on my lap or dropping a hot heavy pan on my feet is too much to contemplate. I am ultra careful even when removing hot food out of a microwave. And I prefer not to if I dont need to.
Okay I might be butter fingers but for him it was necessity, he wanted to continue being able to cook and for him it does the trick. But its not something I could recommend or sell as a product.
Balancing a laptop and a drink on a trabasack is the most I would carry on my lap - with the safety belt on to stop it from slipping off my lap!
The second, Daniel Biddle's Ldn Access app details step-free access, ramps and usable toilet facilities at thousands of venues. Mr Biddle says he created it after finding that his wheelchair had made many venues become inaccessible.
"What happened on 7/7 robbed me of the ability to just go anywhere," he said.
"I can think of numerous instances where I've stopped somewhere to use the toilet or gone to a restaurant only to find it is impossible. There is such a lack of useful information for people in a wheelchair, those with learning difficulties or people with a visual or hearing impairment."
It works by using location-based technology to pinpoint where a user is, providing intuitive icons and simple terminology to make their choices from, breaking down bigger categories such as restaurants into smaller specific ones such as Chinese or Indian.
This sounds great. Technology is wonderful - however like any access information I would like to know who did the input into the data. Having access to the technology and the information is only as good as the accuracy of the data. A step up from calling a restaurant to ask them if they are accessible or looking up their website. How often do they prove to be erroneus? Information is still only as good as the reliability of its content.
Usability = Accessibility and Acessibility = Usability. I remember discussing Don Norman's The Design of EveryDay Things at university and I think this has had an influence on me equally now with independent living products - I want to give them the user test. For me, the one product that I can say to have tested and can recommend wholeheartedly is the grabber. Something I use everyday.
I would'nt know what I would do without them. I have one in every room and one at work. I use them to pick things up from the floor and off shelves above my head. I even use them to switch lights off when I cannot reach the switches. This particular one with the suckers is sturdy enough to pick up jars and flexible enough to pick coins and letters/mail off the floor.