This week I am in our Minneapolis office and was able to work with my computer at home, my Serotek intranet, and even hear music. I did all this without even plugging in a thumbdrive. Using SAToGo I did it all. I got to thinking about this digital lifestyle.
We’ve been seduced into it, often without even knowing that it is happening to us. In our pocket we have a cell phone that does an amazing number of things besides make voice calls. Quite likely we have some sort of music-playing device – an I-pod or MP3 player. We have a computer or two or three, probably wired together (or today, connected via a wireless network). Maybe we have a personal digital assistant or other type of note-taker. It’s a lot of gear, but we don’t think of any of these as gadgets anymore. They are necessities. We can’t imagine functioning without them.
Welcome to the digital lifestyle. But it’s more than devices.
We are also members of a variety of online services for social networking, entertainment, education, information. We order our movies and music online and maybe pizza. We “Google” anything we need to know. We are “wired” into any number of online communities and exchange information on our blog or podcast or comment on other people’s blogs or podcasts. We have a Website where people can view our family or do business with us. When something goes wrong they can log on and follow our progress in the hospital or say nice things about us in our obituary.
And then there are our software tools – word processors, picture editors, Web page editing tools, browsers, screen readers or other accessibility tools – whatever we need to be involved and stay involved.
It doesn’t look very much like the Jetsons or any other futuristic conception from the last century. It’s a whole lot more practical and common place than that and yet, if you look, much of the gee whiz stuff is in everyday use – picture phones, tracking devices, robots.
The future snuck up on us and we didn’t even notice.
For a blind guy this is sort of heaven. Today I can do a hundred things without thinking about them each of which would have been a major production ten years ago. Think about it: shop, fill out a government or business form, write my congressman, text or talk to my wife while I’m standing in line ready to board my plane, get the plane ticket, reserve the hotel room, pick up the information off of my home computer that I forgot to load onto my laptop, listen to ten tunes my best-buddy told me I’d like, scan a dozen articles, order groceries, amuse myself playing an online game, pay my bills, get paid, invest in stocks, find out why my guide dog Jacksan is scratching himself silly. I can make this list as long as you’d like. I do it all using my computer, cell phone, or Personal digital assistant and I do it wherever I am.
I’m no longer dependent. I’m in charge. I am completely blind but my blindness is rarely more than a minor inconvenience. How did that happen? It’s the digital lifestyle. It makes molehills out of mountains and the impossible pretty simple. It puts an entire universe of people and services at my beck and call. And together we can do almost anything.
There is a problem, though. Of the millions and millions of blind people in the world there are fewer than five hundred thousand living the digital lifestyle today. And that isn’t fair. Anything this good and simple, immediately available to every sighted teenager in the world, should be available to every blind person as well.
That’s what my company, Serotek, is about. Our motto is Accessibility Anywhere and you can add to that for everyone. Our mission is to give every blind person everywhere an equal opportunity to participate in the digital lifestyle.
Of course we can only make it available. Then the choice is up to the blind person. He or she can put on the digital lifestyle and live free and independently in the modern world, or not. But we are rapidly approaching a time when no blind person can say that they don’t have the opportunity. The digital lifestyle is within almost everyone’s reach from grade school kid to grandmother. It’s there, it’s easy to use, it’s inexpensive. Adopting the digital lifestyle will take cost out of your life.
What are you waiting for?