As a new year heads our way, how can assistive technology benefit you in keeping your resolutions?
Maybe you want to become better read. More free e-books are available than ever before, and when you’re on the go, there are formats for every device you’re carrying. Apps like Kindle’s (which doesn’t require a Kindle, by the way) will sync across your devices, so the page where you resume on your laptop can be where you left off on your tablet.
On a 7 am commute, though, not everyone is awake enough to read. Grab some earphones if you need them, and tell your device to read to you. Most modern operating systems can do this, and with many you can download additional “voices,” for a fee, that sound more human than the defaults. Of course, audiobooks that cost will feature human readers, music, special effects and the like, to keep you more alert.
You may also opt to mute the sound and simply let the book scroll on its own, saving your fingers quite a few “page down” clicks/taps.
Want to learn something new this year? An increasing body of research (and common sense) suggests that you use your brain, or lose it faster. Colleges from the University of Washington to MIT are offering virtual courses — free, under a tuition structure or via MP3 or DVD. Catch up on Renaissance art, quantum physics or Middle Eastern politics.
Reading and learning used to be sit-at-the-kitchen table pursuits. Today, they can help you make the most of your “down time” — on the bus or train, in the bathroom, watching that boiling pot, waiting in line at a store, walking to work, on a run (stay aware of your surroundings!) or wherever you might be.
You can be more productive in your writing this year. Keeping up with friends and family, finishing that novel or textbook you began eons ago, putting together that recipe book you promised…if you’re a slow typist or have mobility challenges, perhaps that’s held you back. Today’s dictation software is cheaper and more accurate than ever, and well worth a look. Depending on how and where you type, adding a freestanding desktop USB microphone (and wireless models are emerging there, too, with better accuracy than Bluetooth mikes offered) and/or a foot pedal to your setup may help free you from the keyboard.
The same setup can enable you to create videos, photo slideshows/panoramas, multimedia presentations, blogs, music mixes…whatever you’ve dreamed of. Sites like SoundCloud, Picasa, YouTube and a hyperlink from all your social media profiles then let you show your outstanding work to the world. For what matter, why not create your own training video or short course, teaching what you know or have learned over the years? Make your mark, with tech.
And why send a holiday letter next year, when you can send pictures and sound that are worth a thousand words? Almost all your recipients are on line by now, and those that aren’t probably get visits from someone that has a mobile device and can show them what you’ve done.
Show. Learn. Read. Create. What technology helps you the most? I welcome your comments.