What’s up TR Fans and welcome back for another review! Thanks to everyone who has continued to support this blog during the last 6-7 weeks while I’ve been on work experience! I’ve had a brilliant few weeks! But although this is my first blog back, I’m still only going to update a couple of times a month, especially with how busy I’m getting behind the scenes, but hopefully I’ll be able to say more about that soon.
I’ve meant to do this blog for a while now, but for various reasons it’s been pushed back to now. But here’s my review of the Blue Snowball ICE Microphone, which is the microphone I use for voiceovers and my podcasts.
So the Blue Snowball ICE Microphone – as the name will suggest – is sold by the company Blue Microphones – and is a good budget microphone costing around £55, making it a good alternative mic for anyone who wants to start recording but has a budget, or who can’t afford their more expensive microphone, the Blue Yeti. Coming with Blue’s custom condenser capsule, it is capable of delivering crystal clear audio quality, miles ahead of the built in microphone quality on your computer. It can also be used for recording, podcasting, voice overs, twitch gaming, YouTube videos, and is compatible on PC and Mac.
Coming in a white and blue box, the front of it includes a photo of the microphone head, with the word “ICE” in blue behind it, and the word “snowball” in the E. You also have a bit of information at the bottom, as well as a miniature photo of the microphone set up, and as we look round the side, we’ll find information on the audio specs.
Inside the box, you have the microphone stand, the USB cable, the microphone head, and some paperwork. The microphone head comes in a separate box inside the package, and it is easy to unwrap.
The only bit of setting up the microphone you might need help with is when putting all the pieces together. You have to twist a couple of times to get the microphone attached to the stand, and even then, you might have to change the capsule options at the back depending on how you want to set it up. After the microphone is set up, you would just put the USB cable into the back, and that’s you ready to use it. I don’t personally have experience of trying to turn each capsule with my chopstick, so I don’t know how easy or hard it is to do, and I also can’t use anything other than my head, but if you fancy trying it out and telling me how hard or easy it is, then I’d be interested in learning your view.
If you would prefer using it on your iPad or phone, or any other tablet, you would have to buy a USB to USB-C cable or any other adapters, but you can buy them for cheap on Amazon if you want to get one.
But what do I think of the Blue Snowball ICE Microphone overall? It’s got good audio quality overall, and although I have to put it as close to my mouth as it can go to get good enough quality, it doesn’t catch the sound of my ventilator as much as other microphones I’ve tried have. For disabled people who want to have the independence of setting it up, it might not be the best option, but overall, it’s a good microphone if you want a good budget microphone.
The next generation consoles for Xbox and PlayStation have been out since November, but while many people have either one of the two consoles, it’s still a distant dream. Like me, some of my readers might still be using one of the last generation Xbox Ones, so in this blog, we’re going to be looking at how accessible the next generation controllers are, and how they stand up for people who are waiting a wee bit longer before upgrading to the current generation.
So starting with the box, you see the Xbox logo on the front, above a picture of the controller itself, which stands beside the words Pulse Red.
As you start looking at the sides, you’ll see some information telling you what you get inside, and at the back, some more about what you get with this controller.
Most of the features this controller gives you have been around for a couple of generations now, such as the textured grip and the hybrid D-pad, which was included with the Xbox Elite Controllers – although you do have a choice not to use it on that controller. But the one new thing that you do get on this controller is the new share button, so if you want to share a moment of your gameplay with your friends, you can.
The box is easy to open – much easier than the keyboard case I looked at last week – and you’ll see the controller as soon as you open it. But the only other thing you get in the package is two batteries, which now seem a bit pointless because you should instead get some rechargeable batteries.
Once I got using the controller, I found the buttons much easier to use than the buttons on my Elite Series 2 controller, but it might just be with it being a newer controller that I haven’t been using for the last year.
Some other information about this controller is – depending on what controller you’ve had before – it may be smaller, but for me, as someone who has been playing on the Xbox Elite Series 2 controller in Co-Pilot with the Xbox Adaptive Controller, I think the Series X/S controller is actually bigger. As the controller is built with Backwards Compatibility, you can use it on the Xbox Series X and S, as well as the One X and S, Windows 10 and on Android, with iOS support coming in the future once XCloud gets run out to the web extension for Apple fans who want to use XCloud.
But how accessible is the controller overall? Well, starting from the what I like about it side, I think the buttons are easier to press than on the Elite Controller, I love how I can now share clips of my gameplay – which is something I’ll start using more as I bring out more gaming videos, and if you prefer using your controller with the Swap Sticks option on, your settings will automatically be saved from what you had it set to on your last controller, plus it still works very well in Co-Pilot. I also like how you can still plug it in and play, if you have rechargeable batteries.
But even then, there are some things I don’t like about it. One of these things is that it doesn’t let me use the right stick for navigation until I’m signed in to my account, which makes it difficult for me to sign in because I’m right-mouthed instead of right handed, and sometimes when I’m trying to hold down the home button and trying to turn it off, it takes a long time. I’m not sure if this is something that only occurs when you use it on the Xbox One, but could someone please tell me if it is? Other than that, I don’t have any complaints about it, and even the white back doesn’t annoy me as much as I know it has some other people, because I use mine on a clamp and I play with my mouth.
So overall, I would say this controller is accessible, but some small features still need to be sorted.
What’s up TR Fans and welcome back for another review here on Technology Reviews! Today, we’re going to be looking at how accessible Apple’s new Magic Keyboard Case for the 11-inch iPad Pro is for disabled people, or anyone with limited movements.
But before I get into this review, I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has got my Phoebs Does Technology Reviews YouTube Channel to 25 subscribers, and for making my Story of My Life / 20th Anniversary of my Accident video the most watched video on my channel, with it now on 151 views. If you haven’t seen the video yet, you can find it at https://youtu.be/zO5AHsRAgYg, and if I get to 30 subscribers, I will put a video out on my Instagram announcing options for what type of blog and video I will make if we get to 50!
So the new Magic Keyboard Case for iPad by Apple came out last year, and can be used with the iPad Pro 11-inch 2nd Generation, as well as the 4th Generation iPad Air, and the 2019 iPad Pro. It features a similar keyboard that comes with the new MacBooks and on new Bluetooth keyboards, and is now joined with a trackpad and a USB-C port for passthrough charging, turning your iPad into a mini computer.
Coming with a floating, cantilever design, it allows you to attach your iPad magnetically, and to smoothly adjust its viewing angle, depending on what’s more comfortable for you.
The box that the case comes in has a picture of the case on the cover, and at the back, some details and images on what all it’s compatible with.
And like everything else Apple related, it has the usual special plastic that comes with all other Apple Products, so for fans of the packaging, you’re still not losing out.
Once you open the box, the first thing you’ll see is the Smart Keyboard Case, and the paperwork on how to use it is in the middle of the case, which you can set aside until you’re ready.
Some other features that this case comes with are full-size, backlit keys, how you can use the same Multi-Touch gestures that apply to MacBooks on the trackpad, and how it folds into a case that provides front and back protection. However, the keyboard case doesn’t cover the entire iPad as there is a bit at the side that is uncovered that other YouTubers have pointed out, so it’s best to just be aware of that in case you’re travelling, but it hasn’t personally impacted me just yet as I only got it near the start of this most recent Lockdown.
It’s been over two months since I bought this case, but I was so excited to get using it when I first got it that I got stuck in to testing how accessible it was straight away. Here’s a video of when I tried using the keyboard and trackpad on it for the first time, and how easy it was to get a hang of it.
But what do I think about the Apple Magic Keyboard Case overall, and would I advise other people to get one? Well, since I got the new Magic Keyboard Case, I’ve been using my iPad more than I’ve ever used it, and it brings a lot of the worries over not being able to reach something away, now that the trackpad has been added. I also like how I can plug my hard drive into the iPad while charging it at the same time, how your keyboard settings will be the same as they were if you’re swapping over from another keyboard case, and the keyboard is nice to type on, but I would like if you could change the colour of the backlight.
However, although there are good things about it, there are also some things that Apple could improve on.
Unfortunately, the same customisable trackpad settings you have on Mac aren’t available in the trackpad settings for iPad, most notably, the ability to right click with the left or right of the trackpad, which could make life easier for some physically disabled people. A lot of apps also don’t support scrolling with arrow keys, which might disadvantage people who can’t scroll using the trackpad or for whom clicking a button might be easier. The price _ at £279 _ also makes it expensive, although if you can afford it, it’s well worth the money, and lastly, more mac apps should bring out iPad and iPhone apps, but that might be closer than we think if the rumours regarding Pro apps coming to iPad are anything to go by.
But overall, I think the Magic Keyboard Case for iPad Pro 11-inch (2nd Generation) is accessible, but it could still improve in some ways.
What’s up TR Fans and welcome back for another review here on Technology Reviews! Today we’re going to be looking at a pair of XG-13 wireless earphones that were made in China and which I got for my 23rd in January, so let’s see how accessible they are.
Just a quick note, though, that this is going to be the last review blog coming out on here until the 19th of April as I’ll be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the accident that left me disabled on April the 9th, which I’ll be making a video for to highlight my story. My plan at the minute is to maybe upload a video on the Phoebs Does Technology Reviews YouTube Channel as a My Story video, but it will all depend on what sort of music I include, so I might include it on here but we’ll have to see.
But now, let’s get into the review.
The version of the XG-13 Wireless Earphones I have are the Version 5.0+ in EDR and Bluetooth range, with a transmission rate of 10M. The transmit power is 2.402-2 to 484GHZ, and the included Charging Case Battery Capacity is 350MAH.
The case itself is small, so you’re able to take the earphones wherever you go with ease. Then, if you want to charge one or both of the earphones, you would just plug a DC 5V charger into the back, which for Skullcandy fans like myself, is the same charger we’ve been using, but if you don’t have that sort of charger, you can get them for cheap on Amazon. But they also charge if you just place them in the case, without you having to charge the case as well.
You get a talk time of about 3 and a half hours, music time of about 4h, standby time of about 120 hours, so you definitely get good usage out of them.
When you open the case, the earphones look like this, and they should be a good enough size for whoever’s using them. They are available in black and white.
So what do I think about the XG-13 Wireless Earphones overall? I like how clear you can hear sound on them, and I think it’s cool that you can charge them inside the case. Each time I’ve charged them, they’ve been able to charge quickly, and I like how I’m not required to have them both on constantly, as well as the voice you hear to tell you they’re connected.
But even then, there are a few problems. As many of you know, I use my head to do things that other people take for granted, and it’s for this reason why my Skullcandy headphones are still my main headphones, and I only use these one of these ones in one ear at a time when I’m watching something. Although they are comfortable, they would fall out of my ears more if I used them with everything else I do, but they are accessible depending on when they’re used, like if you sleep on your side.
Like my other headphone reviews on here, the only other thing I’d like to see would be a voice control feature, so I can control the volume and other features on them if, for example, I drop my stylus, but other than that, I’d give them four stars.
What’s up TR fans and welcome back for another blog here on Technology Reviews! I’ve been taking a break from this for a while so I can concentrate on applying for jobs and writing my book, and for this reason, I’ve planned to only update roughly every two weeks, although updates will still be coming!
But now, let’s get into my review of the Xbox Adaptive Gaming Kit!
The Xbox Adaptive Gaming Kit By Logitech is a collection of high performance and durable buttons and triggers for the Xbox Adaptive Controller to further enhance adaptive gameplay. To develop a comprehensive set of controls for ultimate configuration and flexibility, Logitech G worked with different accessibility organisations, and in the months following Christmas when I’ve been playing around with them, I have to say I’m pleased with how professional these switches feel.
The box that your switches come in has a green header with the Xbox logo on it, above a black header with Xbox One on it, although these switches will also work on the Xbox Series X and S or any other Xbox you have. Another Xbox Logo appears at the bottom, parallel to the blue Logitech G logo, and under the blue Adaptive Gaming Kit text, which has more information about it in 3 different languages. There’s more information about the switches and what’s included at the back, but I think I would have liked seeing a bit more about Logitech G on it, as it’s Logitech and not Microsoft who have developed the switches and put everything together, although you do see a bit of the Adaptive Controller at the side, which is by Microsoft.
The first thing you’ll see when you open the Gaming Kit is a guide to how you put everything together, and when you move that, you’ll see stickers and your sticky stuff, which you can stick to a tray or around your arm. You also get 3 tray mats, which you can put on any tray or your lap if you’d like to use them, and when you move them you’ll see all the different compartments which hold all your switches and a couple of bags.
As someone who is paralysed from the neck down, I think it’s brilliant that you get so much, but as I can use all the front buttons of a controller and only need help with the back buttons unless I’m playing something that requires more, I probably don’t need as much out of it.
The switches you get are 4 light touch buttons, 2 variable triggers, 3 small buttons and 3 large buttons, which all come with 3mm wires and can plug into the back of the Xbox Adaptive Controller.
After using them for a few months, my favourite thing about these switches is how professional they feel and sound, and to let you know what I’m talking about, here’s a video clip of me clicking one of the switches which I have mapped to a trigger.
But what do I think about the Xbox Adaptive Gaming Kit overall? I like the number of switches you get in the kit, how professional they feel when compared to the other switches I bought, and all the extra bits you get alongside them. However, the one disadvantage to it is the price. In the UK, you can get it for £89.99, which is even more expensive in American Dollars. Some households wouldn’t be able to afford it, and a lot of disabled people come from low earning households. Therefore, although I will give this 5 stars for everything you get in it and for the quality of what you get, for it being a good enough price for the background I’m from, and for the price being good giving I’d have to pay more for just one switch, if someone from an underprivileged background is watching, it might not be the best for you, and I’ll finish this blog saying it might be good for it to become part of the Black Friday market, or for it to be discounted at other times of the year, same as the Adaptive Controller.
What’s up TR Fans and welcome back for the Christmas Special here on Technology Reviews for this year, and my last upload of 2020. This is where I explain everything I got for Christmas to all of you, and give a hint about the types of things I’ll be covering next year.
So most of the stuff I got this year are clothes related, with bed socks, a dog Christmas jumper, and pyjamas being the gist of it. As far as tech goes, I got the Latchbox by One Switch _ which I reviewed during the Summer and if you haven’t seen yet you can view at Experiments with Adaptive Gaming: How Much Easier Do Latchboxes Make it to Play Racing Games (Xbox)?, so I can play more games and finally try to get into more shooter based and assassin type games. I also got the Xbox Adaptive Gaming Kit, which is a kit actually made by Logitech and includes all the switches you need to make co-pilot gaming – where you play with two controllers as one character – easy.
I was also sent a Kindle Edition of the new Twilight book, which I am loving, as well as receiving a couple of paperback books, and a Historian’s notebook (at least I have somewhere now to write all my thoughts on Georgians, not like I need any more excuses to fantasise about historical men).
So now that I’ve told you all what I got for Christmas, here’s the plan for what all I’ll be covering next year. Although I do plan to review the Logitech Adaptive Gaming Kit at some point, it won’t be in the next while because I’m going to be attending some events as a part of work, and I also want to get back to writing my book, which I’ve been missing for a wee while. I’ll be uploading a review of my Blue Snowball microphone at some point, as well as a few other headphone/headset reviews, and I might include some more Tech Talk content, as well as other game reviews. I also plan at some point to do content about the most accessible Xbox games – as well as maybe the most inaccessible – but that won’t be until at least later on in the year.
But anyway, that’s all for now, and I will see you in the next blog, whenever that will be. So all that’s left to say now is I hope you all have a great New Year – hopefully it’s better than this one has been – and this is Phoebs Lyle with Technology Reviews out!
What’s up TR Fans and welcome back for Blog 6 and the Final of my Disability History Month coverage here on Technology Reviews! So in this blog, I’m going to be looking at disability representation in video games, as well as shedding a wee bit of light on how we’re represented in other areas of the media and in the Arts, and if there’s something we could do about it.
Representation of all kinds of people in society being portrayed in video games and in other areas of the media has really taken off in the last few years, with Tell Me Why – released earlier this year – being one of the ones which featured a transgender character. There are also many games featuring black characters, as well as some – but definitely not enough games – which include disabled characters – the new Marvel Avengers game being an example.
Disability Representation in the Media in General
Disability representation has come a long way from where it was during the centuries when we were shown off to the public as fools and freaks, however, if we look at how disability is represented across all areas of the media and in Theatre, while there has been a large improvement, there are still plenty of cracks.
Disability – although the conception of it being bad has largely disappeared – is still portrayed in the media as something awful. Yes, there has been a growth in the number of disabled characters we have in film and tv, but recent studies by The Ruderman Family Foundation https://rudermanfoundation.org/white_papers/the-ruderman-white-paper-on-authentic-representation-in-tv/, have found that 80% are played by actors with no disability, compared to 22% of disabled characters on network tv shows that are played by disabled characters, and 20% of disabled characters on streaming services.
Likewise in Theatre, there has been a growth in the number of Disability Theatre groups being set up, though disabled people – behind and in front of the scenes – are still underrepresented, and video games have a similar problem. Although more disabled characters have turned up in the last few years, there are still many games where nothing to do with disabled access is shown, nevermind a character’s identity, and the physical disabilities that are shown are the most common ones and do not reflect the wide range of disabilities in society.
Disability Representation in Video Games
1: Representation of Disabled Access and Characters in Building Games
I was limited in the numbers of games I could play for years, Candy Crush and building games being the only ones I could really play. What I liked about the town build games was how easy they were to get around (even if I was playing with a short stylus), but while it was interesting to see all the different builds I could get, I found it weird how disabled access wouldn’t be included in any of them.
While I understand exploring a virtual world is meant to be an escape from the real world, I think including disabled access would help from an educational aspect as far as teaching about the rights the Disability Discrimination Act gave disabled people goes, as well as drawing attention to what housing rights for disabled people is like today. Of course, if these themes were added into building games it would also be good to include housing in relation to black rights as well, but I think including both of them is a fair ask.
Something else I’ve noticed however in the few years that I’ve been able to get into Minecraft as well, is how I would love to play as a disabled character as well. I got excited after one of Minecraft’s events last year where they mentioned a new feature where you could customise your skin to represent your identity, but was annoyed when I found out that they still didn’t include a wheelchair option, and I instead had to opt for two withered legs and arms.
2: Disability Representation in E-Games
I also downloaded a few sport related e-games to my phone and iPad over the last few months, including some of the Olympic games. While I enjoyed playing them, and they were accessible, what I didn’t like was that I couldn’t get one where I could play at the Paralympics, which – with the games coming up next Summer and the ongoing debate on if gaming could become an Olympic sport – I think is a discussion well worth having.
If there was a Paralympics game released, I could understand if I wasn’t able to play as a character who is paralysed from the neck down, because even in the real world, that isn’t likely. However, I would be just as happy if I was able to play as a wheelchair dependent Paralympian, because that’s the other part of my identity.
I might return to a story about gaming becoming a future Olympic sport next year for International Wheelchair Day, so tell me over on my social medias if that’s something you would like to see!
Disability Representation in Film and TV
So yes, it’s mostly disability representation in front of the camera that we’re looking for, but what about disabled talent behind the camera?
I’ve worked on a few film and tv projects before, and I studied a couple of tv modules while studying for my HND in Broadcast Journalism. While it can never fully be guaranteed that disabled people could do everything behind the scenes and in both pre and post production on film sets, it would be nice if we could use more equipment, which is something I think could work better as we get more and more adaptive technologies. What we need are cameras which are accessible, even with one hand, and even ones which can be voice controlled. It would also be good to see, if combining electronics with the latest technologies, if there’s a way we could control lighting on film sets with an app on phones and tablets, so we can access everything the same as our often able-bodied counterparts.
Something else the entire film industry has to think about, however – especially now that most tv and films are caught through streaming – is how we stop stereotyping disabled people, and what we do with the content with stereotypes that does exist.
In October, after the Black Lives Matter movement blew up even more – and rightfully so – Disney decided to add a warning to the beginning of every movie they made in the past that showed racial stereotypes and could be seen as disrespectful, instead of removing the content. What they did was exactly right, but what I don’t understand is how they added those warnings to films with racial stereotypes, but they didn’t add a similar one mentioning disabled stereotypes to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which remains the only Disney movie depicting someone who has a disability with a stereotype?
I wouldn’t call for film like The Hunchback to be banned or removed, or other films and tv programmes which include negative stereotypes of disabled people. However, if everyone is equal, a warning should at least go at the beginning of films and programmes which include such stereotypes, which I think is a fair ask.
Disability Representation in Theatre
Like what I said when I was talking about behind the scenes in film, I think theatre would also be good looking at the technologies that are available today, and seeing if they could help with including more disabled people behind the scenes of productions.
We’re able to control our lights with our voices and with apps, to turn TVs on the same way, and a lot more with today’s technology, so I think it would be good to see if we could apply it to theatre equipment, and to see how some of the best production could run with disabled people in them.
But overall, I think there’s movement in including more disabled people in all different areas of the media, not just in video games. I’ve looked at so many modern day technologies over the last few weeks that, if we combine them all and include them in all different areas of society, we could be looking at a more inclusive world for disabled people. Yes, there’s some things that have to change, but I think that’s more to do with how the media looks at life as a disabled person, but with more productions coming out featuring disabled people and even more of us uploading stuff on social media, I think we’ll see attitudes change.
What’s up TR Fans and welcome back for Vlog 5 of my Disability History Month coverage here on Technology Reviews! So this is my penultimate bit of coverage for this year’s History Month, with the content coming out across all my sites on Tuesday being the final, and I won’t see you then until after Christmas. However, I hope you enjoy this blog, as I look at where accessible, adaptive and assistive technologies stand in politics and with the law, and what could be done to make them, and accessibility all over the world, better.
So on November 8th this year, we celebrated the 25th birthday of the Disability Discrimination Act, which was passed into law in 1995. The Act, which was fought for by disabled people who chained themselves to buses and other bits of transport, ultimately gave people like myself civil rights like everyone else, but how much has actually changed from what it was like to be a disabled person before I was born, to what it’s like now, and can this blog, by mentioning technology and other things, send out an idea of what full equality looks like?
Accessibility According to Politics and the Law in General
So although the Disability Discrimination Act gave us the right to access goods and services, education, employment, transport and accommodation, there are still ways that people working in these sectors have been able to bypass this law. I’ve seen houses being built close to me before that have no disabled access, I’ve gone years feeling I can’t play the same games that my sibling and friends played because I was the physically disabled one (in fairness, the ICT and Gaming Industries seem to be moving forward with that now), and I also haven’t been able to go to places for a day out because of my disability.
So in this blog, I’m going to be looking at 3 points which could get us close to thinking what type of accessible world we want.
1: Photo Sensitive Modes as a Lawful Requirement for Media, Streaming and Gaming Sites
As I said in that blog, I don’t have epilepsy myself, but I know and have known people who do. Some of the flashing lights used in various media content, in games and in movies could be enough to make people have seizures, therefore bringing us into the situation where some people can view this but some can’t, which could violate the access of goods when you consider digital goods. Yes, I understand film and other video content might not be able to do anything, but I think the lawful requirement should at least be there for gaming.
Museums Which Aren’t Wheelchair Accessible Should Lawfully Be Required to Offer a Virtual or Video Version
I talked about Virtual Exhibitions and talks in my second blog of Disability History Month, and mentioned how virtual exhibitions and virtual talks are two things I’d like to see staying around in a post Covid world.
I’m not saying I don’t trust the majority of places to put the procedures into place themselves, because I do, but what happens if there’s one person who is against accessibility? Having a bit of legal back up so that you can access a museum virtual could help disabled people in education and employment feel like they’re protected.
Employment Schemes for Disabled People to Help Point Out if There’s Breaches of Disability Discrimination Act in Regards to Housing
Giving that the Disability Discrimination Act is meant to give disabled people access to goods, employment and accommodation, I think it would be good for there to be schemes which allow disabled people to say if accommodation, or any other buildings such as bars, night clubs etc are accessible to them, because we know what we need. But I also think it would be good for the Virtual Tour idea that museums opted for this year to also extend to housing in a Post Covid World, so we can have a half in-person and half not in-person future, and one that will help our income as well.
So overall, I think the Disability Discrimination Act has been better for disabled people in some aspects of life, but it hasn’t made life completely better. As someone who is coming from the Northern Ireland perspective, although there’s some parts of the law in Mainland GB that might be worth including e.g digital accessibility, I feel lucky as far as the train service goes, as I’ve never had a bad trip using Translink. Yes, I know it has it’s problems, but it’s more so other areas of Northern Ireland’s society I’d like to see change on regards of the Disability Discrimination Act, other than that.
What’s up TR Fans and welcome back for Blog 4 of my Disability History Month coverage here on Technology Reviews! So as I explained in my last vlog, podcast and on Twitter this week, my upload times are going to be changing slightly so I can get as much coverage out as I want to between now and the 22nd of December, which is when this year’s History Month ends.
Accessible and adaptive technologies have come a long way from where they were in the early 2000s, and it’s no longer just a few people who talk about accessibility. Despite the recent launch of Cyberpunk 2077 causing uproar with them not including enough accessibility options and including flashing lights – something I have raised my concerns about over Twitter – most games, and various bits of technology, now consider accessibility from the get go, and in this blog, I’m going to give my thoughts on what accessibility options I think developers could include to make technology and gaming accessible for everyone.
Accessibility With Technology
1: Including Some Accessibility Options in the Initial Set Up of a Device
I’ve been using a MacBook Pro for the last 5 years, but for 4 of those years, I could only access part of it.
Bringing you into what my laptop’s accessibility settings are set to, I’ll try to explain it on here beside this picture, but you’ll see what I mean when the video gets uploaded. My keyboard is set to Sticky Keys – which means I can get round my mac, only having to hit one button at the one time, even when using keyboard shortcuts. My trackpad is then set to working with a click, but last year I was able to change my right click so that instead of having to press two fingers on my trackpad, I would only have to tap the bottom right corner. The sad thing is, though, that for almost 4 years, I had to ask for help as I didn’t know it was there.
If I hadn’t have been looking around trackpad settings that day, it’s entirely possible I’d still be asking for help doing right clicks, and while I had help the day I got my Mac to put sticky keys on, some disabled people would like to work everything out for themselves, and some of us aren’t too tech-savvy. This is why it would be nice to have some accessibility options offered to us during the initial set up, so that even if it’s only the keyboard and trackpad/mouse settings, there’s at least an option for them to work as soon as your computer is ready to use.
2: Alignment Options as a Setting for Websites and Apps
If there’s something that gets more annoying year in and year out at the minute, it’s the ongoing growth in screen resolution, making it harder for physically disabled people to reach stuff on their devices.
This is something I was talking about at the beginning of this week. Whether you’re on a website, or scrolling through an app – especially media ones – depending on the device you’re on, it can become straining when you have to reach up. I can’t use anything other than my head, so I use a stylus to get round my phone and iPad, and as bad as things can get, I don’t find it as difficult to reach now that I use a big stylus for most stuff, though it’s still hard on my iPad, because it’s a bigger screen. I also suffer from a pain in my neck which goes into one of my shoulders, which feels worse the more I have to stretch.
So this is why I think it would be good to have alignment options as a setting for websites and apps. If there were alignment options in settings, it would let us choose whether we wanted content displayed at the top of the screen, at the side of a screen or at the bottom, depending on what’s easier. But I would also like to be able to select one option for something, i.e. the search bar, and another for something else, i.e, content options.
3: Remapping Touch Bars
While the other two points on this list apply to all computers, this one is Advice for future MacBooks, but here it is anyway.
Apple’s touch bar was first added to MacBooks in 2016, but there have been various reports from disabled people on Twitter saying it’s inaccessible. The control strip is located above the keyboard – placing it in a pretty inaccessible place anyway – but it’s meant to work in a similar ways as you see your phone and iPad ones.
Mine doesn’t have the feature as I think I have the generation before, but as I made clear above, I’m not sure how well I could use it anyway. What would make it better would be if new generations of MacBooks would allow you to remap the touch bar to below the trackpad or just under your keyboard, as that would make the positioning more accessible.
Accessibility With Gaming
1: Photo Sensitive Mode and Toggle Options Included in Accessibility By Default
Colour blindness, blindness and other settings are included in I think pretty much every video game now, and if not every, it’s definitely a lot. There have also been a lot of games that have an option for you to turn flashing images off, so why was a game – especially given where accessibility is now – allowed to be released, yet it could cause seizures?
I don’t have Epilepsy myself, but I know and have known people who have. Gaming is meant to be opening up to the idea of more and more gamers being able to play, so if there’s one thing CD PROJECT RED can do to keep people who play their games safe, it’s adding a no flashing lights mode.
However, thinking of my own disability as well – as someone who struggles with controls more as I can only use everything on the front of a controller but not at the back – I think it would also be good for Toggle options to be added. As we look into the future of gaming, I think especially shooter games should have Photo Sensitive and Toggle Options by default in their accessibility options, and the fact it took this to happen is an outrage.
2: Including More Accessibility Settings for VR Headsets
Virtual Reality – often shortened to VR – makes you the character in a video game, by requiring you to wear a headset (the one I have is for my phone and by Intempo) and putting you into the game – not the same as Augmented Reality – which is an interactive experience combining a real-world environment with what you see digitally, and letting you put digital objects into it, or play with a part of a digital object.
Most of the Virtual Reality games you get are controlled by you using a controller, but there are also ones you can get when you operate them by looking, as well as ones which you operate by making sounds.
However, disabled people have long had a complicated relationship with VR games, similar to how we felt about the Nintendo Wii in the past, and how we feel about the Nintendo Switch. While the ideal situation would be for you to see part of the real world while you have the headset on or for there to be an adaptive controller, we have to understand that something like that would take years of planning and would also cost money. So thinking of an option that should be cheap, I think a setting should be added which gives you the choice between whether you control your games by using a controller, or if you control it by looking.
I find AR games, however, easier to operate, but what would make me feel safer would be if there was a safety mode in settings which could tell me if a car is approaching.
3: Automatic Breaking for Racing Games
And finally, we have automatic breaking for racing games.
As I said in that blog, I don’t think the problem is as much the latchbox as it is racing games in general. What I think developers of racing games should do is introduce an accessibility option which allows you to automatically break when you turn accelerate off, because it was too difficult for me turn accelerate off and then to press break.
But anyway guys, what do you think? Do you agree with my picks, or are there any other accessibility settings you think should be added? Overall, I think accessibility with technology and gaming is in a better place now than it was a couple of years ago, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done, such as letting you remap directions on joysticks and discussing what could happen to make jumping easier.
What’s up TR Fans and welcome back for another blog, which is now blog 3 of my Disability History Month coverage! A big apology for not uploading last night – I’ve been very sick this week and am only feeling better now – but everything will be updated over the weekend and maybe early next week depending on how fast the exports go.
So while the Internet of Things [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_of_things] might have once been thought of as Science Fiction, since the introduction of Smart Speakers, we’ve seen it being used more and more, by able-bodied as well as disabled people. You can now control your lights, turn your heating up and down, turn your tv on and more, all with a voice command. But despite some of the advantages of home automation, some of the smart technologies we have are more accessible than others, so what are some of the best known home automation technologies available today, and how accessible are they for disabled people?
1: Home Automation in General
When we talk about home automation, we’re getting into the world of artificial intelligence. If you’ve read, watched or listened to my review of the Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Generation – which if you haven’t, you can view at https://technologyreviews.co.uk/2020/04/29/amazon-echo-dot-3rd-generation-review/, you’ll know that I say the voice command could be better, which I still stand by as there are times when I have to shout for my Alexa to listen, even when I’m beside it, though it isn’t as bad as the first generation. This will obviously improve as AI and smart speakers get more advanced, but I can’t tell if it would be any better on the new generations as I haven’t tried them yet.
No 2: Smart Light Bulbs
At the end of last year/beginning of this year, I started planning to make 2020 the year when I would tech my room up. I wanted and still want to get control over my lights, and so for my birthday in January, I got one of the Lifx ones.
I started having problems straight away, in that the bulb I got didn’t fit the wall lights I have all around my room, so I decided to get a lamp for it. The lamp blends into my wallpaper ok, but as good as it is, I still would like to get control of the other lights around my room, including 7 spotlights.
We’re in a unique situation here when people with physical disabilities can get more independence than they would have had 10 years ago, but to allow us the freedom of taking the full advantages these technologies now bring, developers should design bulbs that can fit every sort of light people have in their homes, not just lamps. If these design changes were made, disabled people could also get brought into the climate change movement as well, as – depending on the light bulb – smart lights run on less energy compared to the usual ones.
But as a result of how the rest of the year has panned out from about April onwards, I will be continuing my smart home adventures in 2021. If you see anything in this blog that you think you could help with, please reach out in the comments or over my social medias to tell me if something might help. I’m only at the start of this journey so I’d really appreciate if you could tell me if something would work better than others.
No 3: Smart Locks as a Way of Opening and Closing Doors
As I only got as far as looking at smart light bulbs and beginning to look at how I could control my tv this year before being put into shielding, based on what order I might install things next year, at point number 3, I’m looking at smart locks.
For years, I’ve wanted more control over one of my bedroom doors, but also the ability to open and close doors – when we’re allowed to go out again – by myself. Smart locks allow you to open and close doors using your phone, or with smart assistants, but what I would need to find out before I order one is whether or not you can get ones which open doors after a tap on your phone or with a voice command, or if something like this doesn’t exist already, for developers to come up with something that does. It would also have to have an override mode in the case of a fire.
Although they can be expensive, what makes smart TVs accessible is the ability to control them through an app on your phone. As someone who is paralysed from the neck down and who doesn’t like using the physical tv remote because it has to be brought over to me and I can’t use it anyway, I rely on apps so I can get round my tv.
I haven’t been able to set my smart tv to work with Alexa yet, but I was able to set my Apple TV 4K to operate off the remote app on my phone or iPad, which will do fine until I get the last couple of bits to let me control my tv.
No 5: Smart Thermostats
Home automation also makes it possible to control your heating through the latest technology, helping to save money and energy as well. With thermostats which connect to Alexa, Google Home, Apple HomeKit etc, it’s possible for disabled and elderly people to adjust their heating on a phone or tablet or using a smart speaker, and you can even set schedules for when you’re not home.
No 6: Robot Vacuums
Robot Vacuums are another bit of home automation technology that should help you out around the home, as they double as a mop as well and can clean up all surfaces. If you get one that connects to your smart speaker, you should be able to give the smart speaker commands to send it out or send it home, but I can’t comment much more on them yet as the one I got for my family last year didn’t connect to Alexa, so I don’t know if one that does reacts differently or not. They also move out of the way if they’re about to bump into something, such as a dog or a cat, but ours stopped working after it startled my dog and two cats who went in for the kill. Hopefully our next one has better luck!
But overall, I think most of the smart technologies we use with home automation today are accessible. Technology has come a long way over the last 100+ years, from the early technological changes of the 1900s, to the customisable car that my aunt who had only a thumb and no fingers on her left hand had made for her over 40 years ago when she was learning to drive, to the technologies which let disabled people get as much independence as they can today, and which have enabled some of my disabled friends to drive. There are more smart technologies being used for Home Automation that didn’t make this list but can make help disabled people feel more secure in their own homes, like video doorbells and cameras, and hopefully as more and more become available, we will see a world where we can help reduce climate change just as much as our able-bodied friends, and in a way that is accessible to us and gives us a level of independence too!