Entertainment & Culture

Disability and entertainment: tech and a short trip to a log cabin

Hayleigh Barclay is delighted to join in with Disability Horizons to offer a monthly article on entertainment. Hayleigh has a Masters in Creative Media Practises and is currently undertaking a Doctorate of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and she’s going to use her expertise to open up the world of entertainment to Disability Horizon’s readers. This month, consequences of a short trip to a log cabin.


I am currently sitting in front of a laptop, texting on my new iPhone 5s. IPod newly charged, sitting beside me, I ran that dry this morning. Kindle Fire isn’t too far away either – it will probably need charged soon as I am on a self-inflicted challenge to see how many pages I can read in one sitting. It has occurred to me that my life consists of three to four different battery chargers; weekly software updates that I constantly neglect; vibrations and pings which herald the arrival of incoming text and e-mails; and pocket-size screens which are getting smaller and smaller as the pixel definition gets higher.

The aforementioned epiphany struck last month when my family and I took a short trip to a log cabin for five days. I will spare you the outlandish description of the mountains and the lake and how the snow looked like icing sugar sprinkled on the giant chocolate cake of mud. The bare jist of it is, it was a nice break! The point is, when it came to packing, the top three essential items consisted of iPhone, iPod and Kindle (not necessarily in that order) let’s face it, if you forget your toothbrush, you can always buy another one. The cabin already had a WiFi connection so there was no need to panic on that score.

I have come to the realisation that I am 100% a techno addict. I say this with neither shame nor pride. I am what I am, and what I am needs no excuses.

Now you might be thinking “what has this got to do with Disability Horizons?” and yes, we are getting to that part. The nature of my disability means that due to a weakening of the muscles I have very little mobility. As you can imagine, this has had an impact on my level of independence. However, with the invention of touch screens and receiving a gift of the first generation iPod back in 2001, this would dramatically change. For the first time I could control what music I listened to at any particular time by scrolling, skipping and shuffling via touch sensitive buttons. Not only was the iPod a revolution in music, but it also had the ability to revolutionise how people with disabilities could access music.

Fast forward almost fifteen years and we can see that accessible entertainment technology is still an ingrained part of society – in fact it had become the norm. When was the last time you saw someone texting old school instead of using a touch screen?

Phones now have the ability to use voice activation to send messages or search the net. We can now shop online using internet apps on our iPods and phones. Bank managers everywhere are having coronaries, but at least we are saving the planet by not melting the plastic of debit cards every time we chip and PIN. Music can be downloaded and accessed via the same technology. I have had to restrict myself to using iTunes only when I receive a voucher for either birthday or Christmas or else my bank manager really would have a heart attack at the amount of money I can spend on music. We can now read our e-mails and texts in privacy and reply independently. Movies and TV shows can be watched on tablets which can also be accessed via touch screen. I have just learnt that a voice activated TV is an ACTUAL THING! I have also been made aware that some museums offer a 3D guide through exhibitions which can be accessed over the internet. Books and magazines can be purchased and read on e-books (they can even read us a bedtime story through the text to speech tool) instead of having to be handheld and the pages being turned. This has been especially helpful for me regarding reading research materials for uni. Oh, and remember those women who would be hiding behind their Kindles reading Fifty Shades of Grey? I was one of those women! I would like it noted that in the years since flicking through the trilogy, I now have a plethora of titles in my library. But, my first time will always have been with Mr Grey…

Not only are we entertained by this technology, we can communicate with other fans by joining online communities. I have heard accessible technology being described as a lifeline to allow people to engage with the world. Obviously safety should be paramount, and if done wisely, technology has the ability to connect people from the four corners of the globe. Disability doesn’t have to be a barrier between societies. Art and entertainment can be widely appreciated and utilised by readily accessible technology. I often wonder if the inventors of these pieces of equipment and software are aware of the positive impact it can have for those with reduced mobility? It used to be that in order to listen to music or send a text it would be a team effort between me and a staff member. Nowadays, I can read a text and giggle at what will no doubt be a very immature joke – I probably look like a mad woman laughing at herself, but at least it’s a talking point.

Who knows where technology will take us in the future. As accessibility increases, so too does our capability to access entertainment. Never again will any of us have a sleepless night wondering what a Kardashian is up to!

As Apple says, “Think Different”. Microsoft tells us to “Be What’s Next”. Samsung advises to “Turn on Tomorrow”. Perhaps they are not just slogans after all.

By Hayleigh Barclay

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