Problems with Technology for those with Poor Eyesight – White Caners Keeping in Touch by Trevor Plumbly

Evermore Sophisticated Gadgets

Even with good eyesight, I always found technology elusive, a sort of nether-world inhabited only by bespectacled nerds and nimble-fingered youths. These people could do THINGS! Things quite beyond my capability, like programming video players or setting digital alarm clocks. In those days they had a sort of ‘harmless party trick’ novelty about them, but I always felt they were up to something. Now, of course, largely due to lack of control, they just about rule the world! Or most of the bits that are worth ruling.

As is customary, we must blame somebody for this state of affairs. Certainly not me! I didn’t trust them in the first place; there are lots of brighter people out there and they should have seen it coming when the rotary dial telephone died and remote controls were born. Next time you get seduced by the latest electronic essential; please spare a thought for White Caners because just as we conquer the newest micro-miracle, a new one pops up. This one is smaller, quicker and it’s got every function except time travel.

Development of Telephones

Look at telephones for example; not that long ago they were weighty, stationary and simple to operate. Holding a telephone gave a feeling of comfort and a sense that what you were doing was a matter of some importance. They were fixtures; this reflected their standing in the household and made them easily locatable. They were easy to operate because it didn’t make sense to fiddle with things that were working O.K. in the first place. Now they’re small enough to be impossible to locate unless they’re in your pocket or you’ve got another phone to track down their whereabouts. White Caners have enough trouble finding one phone, let alone finding another one to find the one they lost in the first place.

Proliferation of Gadgets and Gizmos

But it doesn’t end with telephones: the range of must-have techno-toys grows almost daily, all of which have cryptic names and obscure functions, along with the makers’ assurance that your life will be enriched the minute you buy one. Once the silicon chip entered the ring, ordinary people were on a hiding to nothing, Bill Gates was Caesar and nerds became the global Praetorian Guard. Teenagers who had previously been perfectly normal completely lost interest in the opposite sex, wandering the streets libido-less, marooned in cyberspace with texting the only means of contact. The rest of the world was on an uphill journey, attempting to get full use out of the latest gizmo before it’s replaced by the next latest.

Problems with Touch Controls for Blind People

Button or dial controls were never a great barrier for White Caners like me, but nerds can’t possibly leave a good thing well alone, so they came up with touchtronics. This little gem was intended to make access and operation easier and quicker, which it does if you can see the result; if you can’t, then get yourself ready for hours of frustration. Voice function helps, but even that only indicates what you’ve selected, not how to negotiate the options and, unlike the button system, there isn’t a pimple feature at the central point for touch reference. But try to buy one of the two year old user-friendly models over the counter and they’ll probably suggest an antique shop.

Gradually we are being forced out, THE NERDS ARE WINNING!! Your local bank is doing everything in its power to force you to conduct your business through machines, hard selling clients on the joys of internet and telephone banking with all the tenacity and guile of the legendary used-car dealer. Not long ago, only soldiers and prisoners needed numbers for identity, now we all need them, along with a password to get access to our own money. It seems to me that the less contact large companies have with actual people, the happier they are. As an example, I recently tried to withdraw cash using a credit card only to be told by a teller that it would cost $5-00 over the counter, but if I went outside the bank and used the ATM it would only cost me $1-00. It’s not that our main street is infested with purse snatchers and muggers, but juggling a white cane whilst fiddling with the combinations of a cash machine does advertise the fact that I am more vulnerable than most. Quite simply, reducing customer/staff contact to electronics, seriously endangers client loyalty. I could ask these folk ‘how stupid and inconsiderate can you get?’ But I really don’t want to know the answer. Maybe one of these barmy boffins will invent a personal machine that talks to their machine….That really would signal the end.

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