Thursday, October 25, 2007

Living the Digital Lifestyle

This week I am in our Minneapolis office and was able to work with my computer at home, my Serotek intranet, and even hear music. I did all this without even plugging in a thumbdrive. Using SAToGo I did it all. I got to thinking about this digital lifestyle.

We’ve been seduced into it, often without even knowing that it is happening to us. In our pocket we have a cell phone that does an amazing number of things besides make voice calls. Quite likely we have some sort of music-playing device – an I-pod or MP3 player. We have a computer or two or three, probably wired together (or today, connected via a wireless network). Maybe we have a personal digital assistant or other type of note-taker. It’s a lot of gear, but we don’t think of any of these as gadgets anymore. They are necessities. We can’t imagine functioning without them.

Welcome to the digital lifestyle. But it’s more than devices.

We are also members of a variety of online services for social networking, entertainment, education, information. We order our movies and music online and maybe pizza. We “Google” anything we need to know. We are “wired” into any number of online communities and exchange information on our blog or podcast or comment on other people’s blogs or podcasts. We have a Website where people can view our family or do business with us. When something goes wrong they can log on and follow our progress in the hospital or say nice things about us in our obituary.

And then there are our software tools – word processors, picture editors, Web page editing tools, browsers, screen readers or other accessibility tools – whatever we need to be involved and stay involved.

It doesn’t look very much like the Jetsons or any other futuristic conception from the last century. It’s a whole lot more practical and common place than that and yet, if you look, much of the gee whiz stuff is in everyday use – picture phones, tracking devices, robots.

The future snuck up on us and we didn’t even notice.

For a blind guy this is sort of heaven. Today I can do a hundred things without thinking about them each of which would have been a major production ten years ago. Think about it: shop, fill out a government or business form, write my congressman, text or talk to my wife while I’m standing in line ready to board my plane, get the plane ticket, reserve the hotel room, pick up the information off of my home computer that I forgot to load onto my laptop, listen to ten tunes my best-buddy told me I’d like, scan a dozen articles, order groceries, amuse myself playing an online game, pay my bills, get paid, invest in stocks, find out why my guide dog Jacksan is scratching himself silly. I can make this list as long as you’d like. I do it all using my computer, cell phone, or Personal digital assistant and I do it wherever I am.

I’m no longer dependent. I’m in charge. I am completely blind but my blindness is rarely more than a minor inconvenience. How did that happen? It’s the digital lifestyle. It makes molehills out of mountains and the impossible pretty simple. It puts an entire universe of people and services at my beck and call. And together we can do almost anything.

There is a problem, though. Of the millions and millions of blind people in the world there are fewer than five hundred thousand living the digital lifestyle today. And that isn’t fair. Anything this good and simple, immediately available to every sighted teenager in the world, should be available to every blind person as well.

That’s what my company, Serotek, is about. Our motto is Accessibility Anywhere and you can add to that for everyone. Our mission is to give every blind person everywhere an equal opportunity to participate in the digital lifestyle.

Of course we can only make it available. Then the choice is up to the blind person. He or she can put on the digital lifestyle and live free and independently in the modern world, or not. But we are rapidly approaching a time when no blind person can say that they don’t have the opportunity. The digital lifestyle is within almost everyone’s reach from grade school kid to grandmother. It’s there, it’s easy to use, it’s inexpensive. Adopting the digital lifestyle will take cost out of your life.

What are you waiting for?

2 comments:

Casey said...

I eagerly await the day when anyone can get online and partake in the wonderful digital lifestile! Once I found out what this could do for me, I naturally wanted to pass it on to others. SA2go has made it possible for me to move around without syncronizing settings files etc. It's a snap to connect home to grab that forgotten file or two. I can't wait to integrate the next set of updates into my own digital life!

thanks for helping make the digital life possible to more people than ever before! Nothing says thanks, like receiving an email from a past student!

Daniel Shelley said...

Hi, Mike,
I have some comments on this: I would lay some of the blame for not knowing how or when to use some of this technology at my own feet. That is, in my own case, I have a Nokia 3650 cell phone loaded with MobileSpeak, but I do not use most of the features (1) because my sister and I have a plan where I figure although we get more than 700 minutes per month, I still would encounter more access charges listening to .mp3s and interfacing my BrailleNote through Bluetooth than we can now aford on AT&T. We didn't know when we signed up to go probably with Tmobile because of the discount on connection charges metered by the gigabyte. (2) Because I just don't know how they work. Realplayer and sound recorder and Media Recorder are loaded on my cell phone for video shots and stills, and although I am a totally blind person, I took a photography class in summer camp and actually know something about taking landscape and portrait stills. However, I just haven't gotten bold enough to experiment. There would be no charge for taking pictures with my phone's camera. You may notice I haven't taken much advantage of System Access Mobile's capabilities of bookmarks and blogs and Web sites. This is because I like the content and spend most of my time dealing with that and emailing and correction of documents in MS-Word. I don't use remote control of another computer much, but I like to use System access on my mom's computer and when I'm travelling. So I could get interested in taking fuller advantage of the current technology. At the beginning of your post, most of the emphasis is on those who have not yet been served by the technologies. And System Access is truly a low-cost, flexible, and powerful solution for this. I also have a Roadrunner and a Zmate .mp3 player. For those of you who don't know, the Zmate accepts SDRAM memory cards. System Access has truly put me in a position of having a flexible Web browser which makes it possible to more easily obtain content to make use of these tools. Thats 'why I read forums like this where I can learn to make fuller use of the technology now available in my life. If thees comments can do anything to encourage readers to keep at it or try something they have been afraid to do, I will have accomplished my purpose here. I have never seen anything as tiny or powerful as the Roadrunner, which is currently iterated as the BookCourier. If you load a book from your PC into that thing, it's so tiny that you can listen to a book riding on a bus while the unit is in your shirt pocket. You know, I believe I can trust System Access to make the Roadrunner software accessible, and in my experience that software supplied worked on Windows XP, and you can get a new driver from Springer Design. It has worked fine, and I have recently loaded books into it. Admittedly the memory capacity is lower than in the Courier or in the Bookport. Last time I loaded the Roadrunner I was using JAWS, but I will try it again with System Access and let others know some time how it goes. If you lose it, you'd better know what color it is, because otherwise it's hard to identify at an airport or bus transfer center. And thanks to System Access Mobile, I can get text files and audio files to load into players that are supremely portable. Dan