Technology Reviews Christmas Special: What I Got For Christmas 2020

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!

Disability History Month Blog 6 and Final 2020: Disability Representation in Video Games and Other Areas

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.

Disability History Month and Tech Talk 5: Where Accessible, Adaptive and Assistive Technologies Stand in Politics and How We Could Make Them Better?

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

I talked about Photo Sensitive options in Blog 4 of my Disability History Month coverage, which if you haven’t seen yet you can read by clicking Disability History Month and Tech Talk 4: Accessibility Options Developers Could Use to Make Technology and Gaming Accessible for Everyone, or heading over to the Phoebs Does Technology Reviews YouTube or my Soundcloud.

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

According to https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-7540/, 288,000 (6.5%) disabled people in the UK are unemployed, with over two thirds of disabled adults (67.6%) still living at home with their parents, according to https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/disability/bulletins/disabilityandhousinguk/2019.

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.

Disability History Month and Tech Talk 4: Accessibility Options Developers Could Use to Make Technology and Gaming Accessible for Everyone

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

Screenshot of Accessibility in System Preferences on 2015 MacBook Pro, MacOS Big Sur, Version 11.0.1

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.

Earlier this year I was loaned gaming equipment from the UK charity, Special Effect, among which was a device called a Latchbox, which is actually made by One Switch. I wrote a blog about what I thought about it around the same time, which, if you haven’t seen yet you can view ar Experiments with Adaptive Gaming: How Much Easier Do Latchboxes Make it to Play Racing Games (Xbox).

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.

Disability History Month Tech Talk 3: Home Automation and How Accessible are Smart Technologies for Disabled People?

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

Adobe Stock

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

Photoshop Project

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

Photoshop project

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.

No 4: TV Controls

TVs have changed rapidly in the last few years, with smart TVs really taking off. According to https://www.statista.com/statistics/1107844/access-to-smart-tv-in-households-worldwide/, 48% of households in the UK now have access to smart TVs, with 6.7 million of UK households – according to Finder UK – subscribed to two or more subscription services.

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!

Conclusion

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!

Disability History Month Tech Talk 2: What Technological Solutions to Attending Events in 2020 Should We Keep in a Post Covid World?

What’s up TR Fans and welcome back for another post on Technology Reviews! As you will have read or heard in last week’s blog, vlog and podcast, this week we’re going to be looking at what technological solutions to attending events in 2020 we should keep in a post Covid world, as we begin talking more about what the new normal will be.

So as we know, 2020 has been a hard year in many areas of society. On one end you have the infection rates, mortality and long-lasting affects of having the virus, and on the other hand, you have businesses going bankrupt. Many conferences and other events have had to be moved online, which divides even more the rich in society with the Upper and Middle Classes, compare to the lower classes, who might not have any other means of attending events. We also have disabled and vulnerable people in all classes, who this year have been told to shut their social lives down.

However, while there are many bad sides to the pandemic, in a weird sort of way, modern technology has made life easier. In last Sunday’s blog I went into how technology, video chats and streaming services make it easier for disabled people to social distance and shield _ which if you haven’t seen them yet, can be seen further down the technologyreviews.co.uk blog, on the Phoebs Does Technology Reviews YouTube, and on the Accessible Technology Podcast on the Phoebs Lyle Soundcloud account. But for many wheelchair dependent people, there will be many technological solutions to attending events this year that will have allowed them greater access to events than they would have otherwise had.

This is a list of some of the technological solutions that I think should stay around in a post Covid world to help bring around better accessibility.

No 1: Virtual Quizzes for Businesses

If there’s a winner for anything that has taken off since the beginning of the pandemic, it’s the craze for virtual quiz nights.

In a normal year, I would go out to quizzes quite regularly. I really enjoy the Christmas and Disney quizzes that are held in local bars and night clubs, and have scored quite well in them in the past, but the reason I put virtual quizzes for businesses at the start of this is because it could be a way of including people who in the next year might still be shielding, and who might still not be able to go along because of underlying health reasons.

Most of the quizzes I go to give you a tablet or ask you to download an app or go to a website to join in, and to join and create your team, you just enter a code. Giving they’re digital anyway, I think they could easily go virtual, if pubs, bars and restaurants want to offer a certain number of virtual tickets, and if they’re still doing deliveries, it could be another way of organising a night with friends.

No 2: Virtual Tours

As many of my Accessible Technology Podcast listeners will know, I am a very big Georgian history Geek, and out of the entire Georgian history, my biggest interest being the Regency, because I am just fascinated by the character of the Prince Regent, the future King George IV.

At the beginning of this year I found out there were going to be a lot of events taking place in Mainland GB about the Regent, and of course I wanted to go along, but because I can’t travel as easily as other people and quite a lot of planning has to go into any time I travel, I knew I wouldn’t be able to go.

That changed after a few weeks when Covid happened, and this is where – without sounding mean to the millions of families affected by Covid – where I think the technological solutions implemented over the last few months have helped me as a disabled person. In the months that followed, not only have I been able to go along to the George IV: Art and Spectacle Exhibition, virtually with today’s technology, but a couple of weeks ago I was also able to attend a Virtual Tour of the Royal Brighton Pavillion, which is a place I’m not too sure – even in better times – I would be able to see fully with me being wheelchair dependent.

Screenshot of Standard Tour Guide on the Royal Pavillion Virtual Tour

What I loved about the Pavillion tour is you get your virtual tour guide in each of the rooms, and if you’re going round on a laptop you can go around using on-screen arrows. But if virtual tours stayed around, what I think should be added is a sign language option for people who are deaf and who might also have a physical disability or a chronic illness, and for you to tap to go forward if you’re going through the tour on your phone or tablet.

No 3: Virtual Talks

Kind of similar, coming up next, we have virtual talks.

Speaking again about the Regency, a couple of weeks ago I was also able to attend a virtual tour on the Time Traveller’s Guide to Regency Britain, hosted by Ian Mortimer and organised by HistoryExtra.

Since again, I can’t travel as easily anyway, I felt like this gave me the ability to go along to a talk which I am genuinely interested in, even if I can’t travel, and I don’t think I’m the only disabled person who, if Virtual Talks and Virtual Tours were packaged together in an All Digital Package, I would pay for it. Yes, I would prefer if I could see everything in real life, but if an event is taking place somewhere historical or in a museum that doesn’t have full disabled access, then as far as I’m concerned, being able to view it online is enough of a compromise. It would also be a way for places to get around the Disability Discrimination problem, which disabled people face daily.

If virtual talks were to stay, I would like them to operate in a half in person and half virtual environment, as it would allow half the questions in the Q&A to come from the in-person audience, and the other half to come from the virtual webinar.

Another reason I think Virtual Talks should stay online, though, is because apparently my mother still likes to use her history weekend twice a year to get away from me since I still live at home, but I have no idea why that is.

No 4: Online Conferences

Throughout the various lockdown periods we’ve had, I’ve also been able to attend a good amount of technology conferences online. I think these would be good to keep around in a half in-person/half virtual environment in a post covid world, because there will still be vulnerable people shielding in the new year, so it would let them still attend, even if they’re sick or not.

What I like about attending technology conferences online is that I’ve been able to learn stuff, as well as asking questions, and I’ve got contacts through them. But something I think they could do better would be giving you the option between asking your question in the chat or sharing your camera, as not everyone will be happy appearing on camera.

No 5: Online Meetings

So at the minute,I’m working as a Citizen Reporter on Leonard Cheshire Change Makers programme, which basically means I report on issues concerning disabled people in the community. Although I’m based in Northern Ireland, I – at some point – could be reporting on issues that are being discussed all over the UK, which brings the fact that I can’t travel up again.

Yes, in a post Covid world, I will hope to be interviewing as many people face to face as possible for my reports, but as I’ve said before, travelling just isn’t as easy for me. So yes, I will be hoping to do most interviews face to face, but if I’m interviewing someone in Mainland GB, I’ll be doing most of them face to face.

But what do you think? Do you agree with my picks, or is there anything else I didn’t think of that you think could help? Overall, I think including a mix of these in a post covid world could make life in all areas more accessible, no matter what you’re interested in.

Disability History Month Tech Talk 1: How Technology, Streaming Services and Video Chats Have Helped Disabled People with Shielding

What’s up TR Fans and welcome back for another blog! As Disability History Month runs from November 22nd – December 22nd, this is going to be a blog mixing the title with how I feel personally about Disability History Month, and I hope you enjoy all the different content I’m going to bring you over the next few weeks. As you heard in the last vlog _ which if you haven’t seen yet, you can find by searching for Phoebs Does Technology Reviews on YouTube _ I’m going to be doing these every few days from 22nd November – 22nd December, but now let’s get into it!

So what does Disability History Month mean to me? It means, as ugly as our history might be, looking into the days when we were mocked _ which you could argue, still happens when non-disabled actors are chosen to play us in films and tv shows _ to looking at the shame we brought centuries ago when for years we were isolated, to looking back at the early 1990s when disabled people protested for more rights and won us the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, to fighting to overcome the rise in Ableism we have today so we can achieve equality!

Yet the year we’ve had was unforeseen by everyone. 2020 was looked forward to as a year which would be everyone’s year, but the global pandemic changed everything. Disabled and vulnerable people were forced into shielding at the start of the year, and some have had to remain in shielding to this day.

But for many, the use of every day technology has brought around a glimpse of the outside world. Although shielding has been paused for a few months, I still haven’t been out too much (but as something that on a normal year I would do a lot of anyway), I’ve found it easier than others, in many way thanks to modern day technology.

How Technology and Video Chats have Helped Disabled People with Social Distancing

I’ll admit, when I was told to stay inside when the original lockdown first happened, it was hard. It was hard to fight the urge not to go for a walk around the pier on hot summer, or to meet up with friends, but despite the temptations, I knew I couldn’t. But there were other ways I got around it.

Video chats have come a long way since the early 2000s, when Skype was the only one you could choose, or since 2010, when it was challenged by Apple’s FaceTime. In 2020, however, there’s so many to choose from, so whether you choose to meet up with one friend over FaceTime, which I’ve done many times, or set up a group catch up for a quiz night _ something I’d like to do at some point if someone could give me counters on how to set it up – but other hobbies can be included _ then there’s something for everyone to meet up with your friends even if you’re not in the same place.

But if one of the many group video chats can take the crown for most talked about this year, then it’s Zoom.

Zoom has been used during the pandemic to go to meetings, to run webinars, for education in some countries and a lot more! Ranked number one in Customer Reviews, I think it’s well worth what it is whether you’re using the free membership _ which limits you to 40 minute calls _ or the paid subscriptions which give you unlimited call lengths.

I think moving conferences and webinars online have also helped in another way, though, and that is in the way that as a disabled person, I’ve been able to attend talks and conferences that I might not have been able to otherwise go to, for lack of wheelchair access.

As a lot of my Accessible Technology Podcast listeners will know, I have a slight obsession with anything that is to do with the Georgians. Last week, I was able to attend a webinar of the Regency on my iPad which I could mirror off my tv, and was able to go along with it that way. If _ Heaven forbid _ Covid did not happen _ I’m not sure I would have got this sort of access _ and this will be something I’ll be talking about more in next weekend’s content _ which will be on what technological-based solutions to the Covid Pandemic I think should stay in place in a post-Covid world.

But it isn’t just video chats that I feel have helped disabled people social distance, but with a rise in Adaptive Gaming, disabled people have also been able to remain in contact with their able-bodied and non-disabled friends over gaming subscriptions. No matter which platform you choose, most gaming platforms have subscriptions which let you communicate with your mates without being in the same room, which was cool with all young people before the pandemic, even more now that since the Xbox Adaptive Controller was launched, disabled people have had greater access to playing the games they like with their friends across all platforms.

How streaming services have helped disabled people with social distancing as well

But it isn’t all just the mainstream tech and video chats that have helped disabled people with Social Distancing. Our choice of Streaming Services has also doubled since the early 2010s. Even live tv now is caught mainly through streaming, but as for how much content across all the services helps with social distancing, it very much depends on what content appears on what one.

The big three this year have been Netflix vs Disney Plus and Amazon Prime Video, but it’s clear that Netflix and Disney Plus are the ones in front. What Disney Plus offer that Netflix doesn’t, is theatre productions being available on their service. Between July 3rd through 13th 2020, the live performance of Hamilton on DisneyPlus was viewed by 2.7million households _ according to nexttv _ exceeding the number of people who have seen it live on stage.

As someone who hasn’t seen it live yet (as I can’t travel just as easily and so, would prefer to see if it comes to the Republic of Ireland first if not Northern Ireland), seeing the live version on DisneyPlus starring the original cast, is something I’m happy to say is my way of seeing it.

DisneyPlus has also given us access to other Broadway performances and movie premiers, which is something that if you have a very severe disability with health conditions that don’t let you go out, you often wouldn’t have access to anyway.

But Netflix is still seeming to do better than Disney Plus in other ways, with them beating them on the day they released season 5a of Lucifer, as well some of their other shows performing better. But for me, it very much depends on what I’m in the mood for. And Prime Video isn’t too bad either, without also adding in some good BBC programmes on the iPlayer, and other ones across other services.

What I’ll say, so I don’t end up squaring them off against each other any more, is that now it’s getting colder, I’m glad there’s enough content out to stop me going out in the cold when there’s nothing much to go to.

Conclusion

But overall, I would have to say yes; technology, video chats and streaming services have helped disabled people social distance, and shield. I hope I’m not the only one who feels like technology has allowed me greater access to things than I would have, but I’ll be talking more about this next week.

There have been bad sides as well with a rise in online Disability Hate Crime _ which, according to the BBC, has went up 84% in Wales _ and the how do special educational needs kids get looked after in school when they’re meant to be shielding argument is another one to get into.

Please tell me if you agree with what I’ve said regarding technology, video chats and streaming services, and if you’d like to see more on how technology has helped disabled people with Social Distancing and Shielding. But otherwise, I’ll see you for another one of these next week.

Oral B CrossAction White 6000 Electric Toothbrush Review

The Oral B White 6000 Electric Toothbrush with SmartThings is a battery powered toothbrush with Oral-B 3D Technology Movement, with round toothbrush heads which oscillate, rotate and pulsate to break up 100% more plaque compared to a manual toothbrush.

The first of it’s kind, this toothbrush offers adults the best guidance as far as tooth care goes, when you connect it via Bluetooth to the app. You also have 5 professional cleaning modes, from: daily clean, pro clean, sensitive, gum control and whitening.

The box the Oral B toothbrush comes in is Dark Blue, and in it you get one white handle for your bathroom and a charger (I don’t use the handle as I keep all my toothbrush stuff and toiletries in my bedroom), a 2 pin UK plug, 4 Brush Heads _ being CrossAction, 3D white, Sensi, and FlossAction _ and a timer. You can use the timer on the App as your main timer, which is helpful for me as a disabled person, because I don’t end up missing out.

The app is also very accessible, with the timer being at the bottom. Everything else in it only requires a single tap.

The Oral-B SmartSeries 6000 Electric Toothbrush costs £229 normally on Amazon, but is reduced to £88 now with the Amazon Black Friday deals.

Overall, you can really tell the difference between the Oral-B toothbrush and a regular toothbrush, so if you can afford it, it’s a good toothbrush to get. The battery also lasts 2 weeks if charged fully, so I’d give it’s features and accessibility in the app four stars.

Adjustable Stand for Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Generation Review

The Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Generation _ even now as a last gen smart speaker _ is a beautiful bit of technology to have around your house. Available in Charcoal, Heather Grey and Plum Fabric, it will look nice against any background _ and what better to add another bit of design than adding in an adjustable stand?

Many adjustable stands are available, but in this blog, we’re looking at the Bovon Table Holder for Echo Dot 3, with a 360○ adjustable bracket mount.

The Bavon Adjustable Stand for the Amazon Echo Dot 3rd Generation is available on Amazon for £11, and comes in a white box with Echo Dot on the Stand _ among other things _ on it. Also in front, you have a blue sticker saying 100% fit for 3rd Gen, and inside, you get the table stand, with the 3600° mount to attach, and instructions. Over the last 11 months I’ve ended up losing the photos I had of how you build it while trying to keep background work for a book I’m writing, but I think you can find videos on YouTube on how to do it.

But overall, I would say the Adjustable Stand for Echo Dot 3rd generation is good, and it’s sturdy enough that it won’t fall if you don’t lift it while cleaning a surface under it. I also like how affordable it is, and it will definitely look nice against whichever background you put it in front.

Seagate External Hard Drive for Xbox One Review

Let’s face it! Nothing gets more annoying other than your gaming console running out of Storage _ whether you’re on Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch or PC (though maybe it’s beaten by being forced into lockdown during a global pandemic) _ but second to that. The Hard Drive I’ve been using is 4TB and costs about £105, but there are lower amounts of storage ones available as well, and costing slightly cheaper.

The Hard Drive comes in a green see-through box, with you being able to see the Hard Drive through it. Information will be displayed at the top of it and at the back about your storage and some other information. When you open it, you’ll see the Hard Drive, an HDMI Cable and information to help set it up, but now let’s get in to explaining how you do the setup and how you save games to it. The setup is the same with all hard drives.

So if you have your Xbox turned on, all you’ll have to do is plug one bit of the USB into the External Hard Drive, and the other bit into the Xbox. What will then happen is something will appear on the screen asking if you want to set up an external hard drive, and after you click format storage device, it will ask you to name it, then if you want to add games and apps to it.

This is the point where I just started adding games, but if you want to keep your current location, that’s fine. Overall, I think the setup is accessible for everyone to do, and the amount of storage I have still hasn’t ran out.