I thought it fitting that my first blog of 2016 should be an update on My Apple Watch experience after 8 months and to mention the project set up to fund it for others.
I’ve read lots of posts about the Apple Watch, some very technical, some good and some bad.
For me it has been more personal, more about accessibility and inclusivity and how it has changed my life, enhanced it in ways I didn’t believe to be possible.
In my first blog, I talked about maps and safe navigation using taptics, my world has opened hugely and I have used this feature a great deal, not just around the UK but also in Boston and Miami. It is very accurate and very impressive.
I’ve now found Apple Watch apps for public transport which have taken a lot of stress out of getting around independently.
I can now access information via the watch like train platform numbers and departure times, this is something I could not do before, unable to access moving information boards or hear muffled tannoy in noisy crowded stations. I can also flag a taxi without any hassle using my watch.
Stress free navigation has been huge for me.
Apple Watch is simply part of my everyday life, its features have eased my daily challenges. I have invested in a couple of new straps which allow a little variation on the look. I personally love the look, shape and size of my Apple Watch, I think it’s chunky look is quite trendy.
Usage wise and from a health and wellbeing point of view I am no longer using my iPhone as much as I did which has reduced eye strain and migraine, I’m able to rely more on what my watch offers.
I enjoy the Activity feature, I walk a lot with guide dog Unis and find a satisfaction in knowing I have achieved certain goals.
My life in general is also less stressed than it was.
Usher Syndrome means being deafblind, however deafblind is only part of this disability, mobility is a major issue and cause of much stress when you cannot see or hear properly and this has been well addressed on Apple Watch, as detailed above.
I have found voice to text very useful and fairly accurate, I would however like any text or message sent to state ‘sent via Apple Watch’ just so the recipient is aware should the text be slightly out – rather than possibly assume my English questionable!
Alerts via taptics is brilliant and over the months I have realised that text messages, whatsapp, tap, sketch and phone calls all have customised vibrations which means I only look at the watch if I feel I want to, again resting my eyes more than I’d previously been able to.
I still use taps as a quick and easy way of getting attention if I need to, very clever and easy on the eye too.
I use the Starbucks app regularly and also love Applepay as it means not only do I not need to carry cash but I don’t feel the vulnerability and stress I used to at opening my purse and struggling with money and change. Being able to access my bank details on my watch is also so useful as cashpoints for the deafblind are very challenging, pretty inaccessible and something I would dread.
I personally don’t use my Apple Watch for accessing email, preferring a bigger screen for anything long, however I have recently found the App Spark which I think would work for me if the text was bigger.
Apple Watch is hugely convenient for anybody, even more so for somebody deafblind like myself for whom it becomes a reliable friend.
In my first Applewatch blog, I wasn’t using Voiceover just because of personal preference however, I have started using it on my other iOS devices and have found some speech preferences.
For those not aware Voiceover is a built in accessibility feature in Apple products which is a navigation service that reads aloud EVERYTHING you scan with your fingertip.
I feel there is room for improvement on Apple Watch, it doesn’t work in the same way as on other devices because of its much smaller screen.
On iPad and iPhone, one finger is used to scan and listening to what is being said is fairly easy for somebody blind, for me, thanks to my Linx2 hearing aids. However, scrolling down a whole screen using Voiceover you have to use three fingers, this does not work on Apple Watch.
The small screen of the Apple Watch works well for somebody with very limited vision like myself and able to access text, however if reliant on voiceover I’m personally not too keen.
On the home screen the icons are very small, so I struggle to see them. If you scan with your finger Voiceover will read them to you which is very useful, however, moving the screen to see hidden icons whilst on Voiceover, is a real challenge, in fact, I still haven’t sussed this out!
I personally would recommend setting up glances if available on your iPhone as it is much more easily accessed this way and then mirrored on the watch by swiping rather than straining your eyes to see tiny icons.
I set up as much as I could on my iPhone and it has definitely made using my Apple Watch very easy.
There are lots of apps on my iPhone that would be very useful to be on Glances, I’m hopeful more and more will become available.
Looking back to before Apple Watch, I used my iPhone all the time, and I worried it would be snatched from me as I couldn’t see or hear things around me particularly outside. I worried about battery life, would rarely venture out of my comfort zone, and I really felt very vulnerable.
I had to hold the phone or have it very close to me to feel a vibration indicating a text or call and even then often missed them.
I am now easily contactable, and I am well connected because of state of the art accessible assistive technology.
It has made me feel independent and confident, and such a long way from the isolation I once felt and sadly so many others with Usher Syndrome still feel.
Technology does change lives and it will only improve, it needs to be available to all.
I feel so passionate about this technology that my charity The Molly Watt Trust has set up it’s first GlobalGiving project to fund Apple Watches for others living with Usher Syndrome. Find out more here: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/deafblind-need-access-to-life-enhancing-technology/
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