Pros and cons of wearables for people with sight loss

In my role as a Disability Consultant, I'm often asked to make recommendations about hardware and software that may be able to support a client to be more independent in their life. It's helpful to ask the question 'Why would you want to use a wearable device instead of an app, or vice versa?'

Grid of 4 people on webinarWe discussed this question at our recent webinar, Technology to help people with sight loss - with RNIB and Envision.

At the start of the webinar, we asked attendees to answer the poll question: 'Do you (or the person you care for) currently use any apps or wearables to help with sight loss?':

  • 25% of people who responded used some apps/wearables either on a regular basis, or some of the time
  • 59% said they didn't use apps/wearables, but would be interested in using them
  • 19% of people weren't particularly interested in using either wearables or apps 

As someone who is sighted and uses apps all of the time I was slightly taken aback at the fact that nearly a fifth of respondents weren't interested in using apps that I would have thought could help them so much. 

It was interesting to learn the views of the webinar guest speakers from Envision and RNIB and I think there was a conclusion that when it comes to wearables and apps "one size doesn't fit all". Everyone has their own individual needs and requirements. Some people are pretty adept at using their smartphones and bringing up various apps to help them out. Other people want to have built-in functionality..

However, for certain users who want an "all-in-one" solution, it might be worth considering a wearable device, although it is likely going to be more pricey than an app.  

Apps discussed during the webinar 

The advantages and disadvantages of wearables

Group of different tech devices on a tableOn the day after the webinar I mentioned earlier, I went to the Sight Village event in Solihull to have a look at what was new in the world of tech. I was quite surprised to see that there weren't many wearable devices around, but there were a few different apps you could download for your independence. I'm sure next year there will be more.

I went to another conference recently and I used my Apple Watch to give me directions that I'd requested through my phone. What my watch couldn't give me was an actual picture of where I was at any given time, but the app on my phone could. 

Wearables have some advantages over apps because if you are out you might not want to be getting your expensive phone out and using it to read information, or to take a picture of your surroundings to get an idea of where you are. If you're using a wearable you don't need to worry about your phone as it is tucked in your pocket. 

Your end goal

At AbilityNet we always want to know what your end goal is when you contact us. Do you want to know about assistive technology like a wearable, or are you happy to use your phone and all the different types of apps that are available? Everyone is different. AbilityNet values that so much! 

Further resources