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.

Published by Phoebs Lyle (Breathe On UK)

22 year old HND Broadcast Journalism graduate and disability advocate from Northern Ireland, interested in politics, technology, and how it can become accessible to everyone, fantasy, and other stuff.

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

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