My Tech Experience, 2007-Present

I’ll say that this was, for me as for probably everyone else, the era of social. Or at least online social.
I had been blogging since 2003, and especially connected to my Live Journal community since 2006. It was a joy to try and generate interesting content that could be evaluated, appreciated, and expanded upon by strangers.
But the prospect of finding and reconnecting to high school friends finally drew me into this weird world of social media, micro blogging?, whatever you wanna call it.
I therefore joined on the tail end of MySpace’s dominance of this new form of communication. I ended up being glad that I did, as this allowed me to receive the information so that I could attend my ten-year high school reunion. My goodness, I’m already only four years from the 20th. How time flies and things change.
Speaking of change, people were already encouraging me to go ahead and create an account on the rapidly emerging site Facebook. I didn’t really like it though, because it wasn’t too entirely usable with screen-readers yet and there were very few people I knew on there. And besides, it clearly catered to people who were still in college, as you needed to use your university email address to sign up. Even though I’d been out of undergrad for four years, I still got my old address to work.
Over the following years, Facebook did of course become a lot more important in driving my decisions about many things, including in many respects my return to graduate school. I was able to get advice from people regarding which course of action I should take. And once arriving at UNC to start that crazy time in the Fall of 2009 I friended the other incoming classmates and thus found it easy to get transportation, help with study materials, and other things I needed starting out. Of course no amount of technology can really make one do what he truly needs to do in order to succeed, as I learned.
I could argue though that Twitter is giving me an even better chance to succeed, as it is bringing me into contact with the communities of interest that I’ve never really had access to before. I hopped onto that network in November of 2008, at the urgings of one of my Live Journal friends, and initially found it even more useless than Facebook. It just kind of puttered along in the background, with me remembering to log onto and post on the website a few times a week or so. Isn’t it funny to think that it was once that quiet?
I had interacted with Twitter some via text message on my LG EnV phone, still a relatively new innovation to blind folks. This worked ok, but was kind of cumbersome as the tweet stream continued to increase the farther we went into 2009.
Twitter use really took off for me in March of 2009 with the advent of Jawter, the first blindness specific client. And while clients have since become more complicated and divorced of being only able to function with the JAWS screen-reader as that first one was, its basic functionality has continued to underline most of them.
To read tweets, one holds down control+windows, which are basically modifier keys, and taps either the up and down arrows depending on whether one wishes to go forward or backward in the timeline.
With later iterations of this concept such as The Qube and Qwitter before it, it became possible to tap the left and right arrows to cycle between buffers, home, mentions, etc. These clients don’t have an on-screen interface, but are instead operated with hotkeys meaning they can be accessed no matter what else one is doing with the computer.
So suddenly I was able to follow hundreds, even thousands, of people, and keep up relatively well with what was going on. I probably have more followers who are blind or low vision and/or deaf/hard of hearing, naturally. But of course bloggers are a big segment of those I watch as well, as the influence and inspiration gives me ideas such as this very tech series. Then, there are the folks at networks like NPR, with accounts like NPR Generation Listen helping tremendously in my realizing the desire to travel up and check that place out as I will this week. Pretty good stuff, huh?
My ability, some may say productively, some maybe less so, to interact with social media has definitely been enhanced by the introduction of the smartphone, and specifically the iPhone, to my life. I think the Android platform has finally almost caught iOS in terms of usability by people who are blind, which makes me happy as we definitely benefit from having more and better competition.
As I’ve provided short samples of how the PC-based screen-readers sound, I thought you might also like to hear VoiceOver, which I should again point out that you can do if you have a fairly recently device running iOS by clicking home three times rapidly. Remember if you choose to do this that gestures do change slightly. You’ll need to first tap the icon which you wish to select, then double tap to activate it. Try doing this with your eyes closed, just to add to the fun.
I know I was and often still am surprised at how well I can actually operate a touch-screen device. In fact, I may now write faster on it than I did with cell phones that had buttons, and especially those on which you had to text using only the numeric keypad. This is because if one puts it into the mode called Touch Typing, one need not find each letter then double tap it in the way I described above. Instead, I just place my finger on the screen close to where I think the letter I want is located, slide it around a bit until it repeats that letter, then release to input it. It takes practice, but becomes a lot more convenient once the skill is acquired.
And I suppose this entry sums up the look through my experience with technology, starting with those big bulky computers and shrinking to the tiny machine I have sitting across from me streaming Stevie Wonder on Pandora. It really is amazing to contemplate how far we’ve come, and harder to imagine where we might in fact be going. I plan to enjoy the ride!

3 Responses to My Tech Experience, 2007-Present

  1. Pingback: My Tech Experience, 2007-Present | Earl™ Blog

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