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Robert Pearson

  Accessible Media

10/19/2015

Tracking Disability Activity Through Wearable Devices

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Robert Pearson recently discovered the benefits of owning a wearable device. How can wearable technology become accessible for persons with disabilities?

Internet of Things in combination with wearable technology promises new possibilities for users of all abilities

Image: Internet of Things in combination with wearable technology promises new possibilities for users of all abilities.

For some it may not seem logical to try to walk 10,000 steps in a day. That is the average recommended amount of steps that one should walk in order to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Have you ever tried to count your steps or keep track of how much walking you get done in a day? The original pedometer has evolved into wearable technology that allows you to track your daily activities. It comes in different models and even allows you to track the quality of your sleep. I recently had a chance to explore for myself the benefits of using this wearable technology as I received it as a gift.

Typically, a wearable technology device today is able to do so much more than just calculate the number of steps you have taken or climbed. Devices measure your heartbeat, blood pressure, your activity levels, sleep quality, calories burnt, and so on. It’s worn on the individual’s wrist or tagged to the sleeve of the shirt. But what if you are not comfortable being tethered to a device on your body? I have a physical disability with my left arm (where I would normally wear a watch), so my preference for activity trackers is the pocket model. It came with the added benefit of an accompanying sleep tracker, which started to unravel an amusing story of my sleeping habits as a parent to a three-month-old son.

As I started to learn more about my daily activities, understand exactly how much I walk and playing with my kids, it became clear that persons with disabilities wouldn’t be able to leverage such devices as some of us would. How would they reach the 10,000 steps to a healthy lifestyle goal, especially if one were mobility impaired? I am curious as to whether accessibility of wearables is considered in the research, design and development stages? I can stand in place and conduct some interesting tests simply by holding the device in my hand and swinging it back and forth. Individuals in a wheelchair may have little use for this type of technology, but so would those walking with everything from a limp to running blades.

The stats generated by these devices may not accurately track the activity of a person with a disability. Further to that, the devices themselves can be visually dependent and offer feedback that is only usable to those who may be fully sighted. As we delve further into the realm of wearable technology, the availability of media in an accessible format will become an increasingly challenging proposition.

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Related Resources

Blog: Accessibility for Internet of Things Ecosystem | Read Robert Pearson's Article.
 
Publication: Model ICT Accessibility Policy Report | Download Free Report.
 
Event: IAAP Access 2015 Conference in Henderson, Nevada, United States | October 21-23, 2015 | View Event Details.