As a person who spends a good chunk of their workday on the Internet writing, commenting and searching around for interesting news featuring disability I come across a lot of articles and posts about technology (both assistive/adaptive and general use). It seems that, as a culture, we put a lot of meaning into the technology we use. Your choice of phone, in certain people’s eyes, says a lot about you; as does your choice of computer. A person that chooses a product named after a delicious fruit is considered more creative and trendy than someone who chooses a product named after an architectural element.
Design is important, I remember having to lug around a huge tape player along with boxes and boxes of textbooks that were taped. I hated it. Not only was it cumbersome, but the player was very ugly, I would have rather carried around a wheelbarrow full of 11×17 books than have to be seen with that hideous contraption. It shouldn’t have mattered though, it was a piece of technology geared at making things more accessible for me, why should the design matter that much? A more important question to me at the time was: why was it designed to look like that? Was it cheaper? A theft deterrent? Did the creators want to make the lives of people with visual impairments difficult? Did they think I wouldn’t be able to see their infernal handiwork?
Couple that with the CCTVs that were both highly useful and wholly unattractive. The one I would use in school came on a squeaky cart that to be wheeled around from class to class if I wanted to use it. I generally opted out; it would have been easier to wheel a deep freezer to class. As time has passed assistive technology has gotten better and popular technology has become more assistive. I use my iPhone as a magnifier, flashlight, screen reader along with many other things (voice to text on this phone is wonderful). My iPad (and Kindle DX) are now how I primarily read books. I have a computer that, while I was in college, was great for note taking and viewing PowerPoints and other electronic presentations. I don’t have to feel ashamed of my technology anymore. I do have to be careful because now because, unlike the bulky tape player of old, people do want to snatch my iPad/iPhone/computer (the Kindle a little less so, probably). Even CCTVs look better and are more portable.
What are your thoughts? Should design matter? Have you ever been judged (silently or out loud) for your choice of technology (assistive or otherwise)? Do you have a preference? Do you judge others? Feel free to share in the comments section below.