For the past year, excitement over Google Glass technology has been mounting. With the innovative device, the user can take pictures, surf the web, control an electric wheelchair, get directions and much more—all without using their hands. This technology is especially exciting for people with disabilities, as the powerful device has huge potential to incorporate assistive technology for people who are deaf, people who are blind, and even people with cerebral palsy. However, as journalist Lisa Goldstein reports, Google Glass is not currently accessible for people with hearing aids or speech difficulties.
In a recently published article, Goldstein chronicles her experience with Google’s #ifihadglass campaign as a person who happens to be deaf. She was excited about Glass’s potential to caption the world for her. Instead, she discovered the Glass is not currently compatible with her hearing aid: “But then reality dawned. Since I’ve been wearing electronics on my head for almost four decades, I have some experience with what can go wrong. In this case, I was concerned about the physical fit of Glass with my hearing aid, since it’s bulky near that ear. I also wondered whether there would be electromagnetic inference (EMI) with my hearing aid or cochlear implant.”
Though Goldstein was identified through the #ifihad glass campaign as one of the lucky few to have the chance to test Google Glass, conversations with Google led to the realization that the technology was incompatible with her hearing impairment. Furthermore, she discovered that her accompanying speech difficulties would make it impossible for Glass to understand her commands. For people with deafness or even CP, this is a cause for concern.
Despite these issues, it is impossible to not be excited about the plethora of possibilities Glass presents for people with disabilities. With some tweaks to the voice recognition system and the addition of a captioning capability, Glass can be made accessible for the deaf. It has already been lauded as “a clear winner for the blind” because of its ability to tell users about their surroundings. It can even be used to control electric wheelchairs. It is undeniably a technology with enormous potential to change lives and give more people more access to their world.
With time and work from Google, Lisa Goldstein’s request for a more deaf-friendly Google Glass may be the first step in a completely accessible device. As she puts it, “I’m already a Bionic Woman. Wearing Google Glass could either complete my costume or make me feel like a human disco ball.” Though she may find Google Glass’s current inaccessibility frustrating, the effort she put forth will hopefully pay off for her and every other person with disabilities who wishes to discover what life would be like if they had Google Glass.
Featured image of Sergey Brin wearing Google Glass courtesy of the Los Angeles Times