Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The shape of things to come

Last weekend my father-in-law brought a friend round to visit. She's from Jamaica originally and had just bought a laptop so that she could keep in touch with her family around the world. A good idea I am sure you would agree. "Could you show her what to do?" he innocently asked and I agreed. Oh dear! I hadn't realised that she had no experience of computers at all and didn't know where the space bar was let alone how to set up a Skype account. It was a hard slog with not much to show at the end. She's going to need a lot of ongoing help.

Later in the week my father-in-law phones me at work. He has bought a new mobile phone and has spent the whole day unsuccessfully trying to plug the charger in. He had called the provider, ranted, threatened them and generally lost the plot so he brings it over for me to see. On his older but similar model the charger plugged into the right-hand side. This is now the slot for a memory card and the charger goes into the left. It might seem obvious to most of us but not to him.

Now to the point. I'm not writing this to disparage either of these people but out of a sense of nervousness for my own future. Technology is zooming ahead and many people are getting left behind. My job is technology based and hopefully I am pretty much on the mark with what is current, or at least not too far behind. The question is can I keep this up or will I get slower at learning whilst technological progress accelerates off at warp speed and inveigles itself into every aspect of our life.

Working in the field of technology and disability I know the difference that a well designed interface makes, whether its a cash machine, website or mobile phone. How easy it is to use and access for people that are older or have a disability is in the hands of the designer and how well they understand how people are going to link in with it. Lets hope the technocrats realise this and possibly I won't be calling my children in twenty years time to come and programme my crystal based video recorder for me.
Until next time...

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