Product Reviews17th May 2015

Apple Watch - Deaf Friendly and Safer to use in public than my iPhone

Designed for hearing but bringing parity to deaf people, the Apple Watch exceeds expectations

by Emma Matthews

I am normally an early adopter when it comes to new technology, especially if that new technology comes from Apple. There is always one question that comes to mind. Would I like this new technology as a Deaf person? I do try and embrace new technology into my life, however, if it is not compatible for me as a Deaf person, then for obvious reasons I would not buy it. This is the same dilemma I had when Apple Watch was launched. I thought the very same question –
How useful would this watch be for me as a Deaf person. I am delighted to say it is much more useful than I expected.

 The primary feature of the Apple Watch is in relation to notifications; for me this is so useful. You can dismiss a message (including Hangout, Whatsapp, text message, Glide, and emails – however you can only respond to text messages). Hearing people have different sounds for different notifications and they can respond to them depending on the sound. Whenever I have notification on my wrist, I can dismiss non-urgent things straightaway without the need to look at my phone.

I would like to go straight to the most personal feature of all – Digital Touch. This is where you can send a sketch, various hand shapes, facial expressions or even different heart symbols. You can also send your own heartbeat and digital taps to other Watch users. This creates an imitate and personal connection. This, for me, is what hearing people have when listening to the voice of someone who is important to them. Some may think this is what text messages are for. The thing is, text messages use a standard font and the words cannot always convey meaning, particularly if English is not your first language.

Sending a doodle or a heartbeat is a personal thing as you can witness what the other person drew and only you can see it.  This allows me to feel loved, and connected to the person I love. I often go to other places for work and I need to use the map app to navigate. It can be unnerving carrying my phone in public, especially at night. I was delighted to see that my Apple Watch can direct me using different sequences of taps, letting me know if I need to turn left or right. At last, I can feel safe without taking my phone out in public. I have a train app on my Watch and can check train times to see if I am on time or delayed. Hearing people onboard can listen for announcements. All I have to do is to glance at my Watch and know if I am going home on time. (Yes you can do this on the phone also, but it is nice to glance at your wrist and instantly know if you are on time.) 

I often miss Facetime calls as I don’t always carry my iPhone around with me. I would end up calling this person back and so begins a game of Facetime ping pong. This is now in the past, as my Watch taps my wrist to let me know someone is calling and I can respond as I wish. This feature allows me equivalence to hearing people who can respond to Facetime calls when they hear the phone ring. There are many other useful Watch features but these can be enjoyed equally by Deaf and hearing people. I have had my watch for almost a month and I am amazed everyday, by what it can do and how useful it is. I have read elsewhere that Apple Watch can also control hearing aids. It goes to show how useful this Watch can be for all D/deaf people.

Article by Emma Matthews

posted in Technology / Product Reviews

17th May 2015