Ashley Lasanta is an Explorer, one of the chosen few who are testing the new Google Glass technology and its applications for people with disabilities.
Google Glass makes many of the functions of a computer, tablet or smartphone accessible through what looks like an ordinary pair of glasses. With Google Glass, you can take and share photos, get news, surf the internet, play music, send messages, track your exercise and many more functions — most without using your hands at all. This is especially useful for people
on the go who need a handsfree device and for people with disabilities like Ashley who have difficulty using their hands.
Ashley got connected to Google Glass through the work of Billy Bush, director of membership development at Community Access Unlimited in New Jersey, where Ashley receives services. Billy signed Ashley up to be an Explorer, and they have spent the last few months exploring all that Google Glass can do.
Connectivity and independence
Ashley and Billy, along with Google Policy Counsel Adrienne Biddings and Wilson White, Public Policy Manager for Google Glass, shared the Google Glass story at the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) annual conference in Miami, Fla., in May.
The gathering of community service providers and direct support professionals was extremely interested to learn about this new device that can open new possibilities of connectivity and
independence for people with disabilities.
Biddings explained that Google Glass is a result of a concerted effort by Google to fulfill its mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Google hires people with disabilities. Although Google does not “assign” these individuals to work on accessibility issues, they are, by their own choice, present on every product development team. Google also has “core accessibility teams” that test each product in development to ensure it meets the Google Accessibility Rating. This standard is meant to meet or exceed the requirements of ADA, Section 508 compliance and the most recent Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0).
While Ashley and Billy are having fun discovering the many things they can do with Google Glass, they are also regularly in contact with Google to share their experience and make
According to Ashley, the only real problem so far is that some actions are not hands free, but require the wearer to tap the touchpad near the right temple. It would be much
easier for Ashley (and millions of left handed people) if the touch pad were placed on the lefthand side. Billy recently attended a Google Base Camp, a chance to meet and share experiences with other Google Explorers. One application he was particularly excited about: using Google Glass to help people with autism who have trouble with facial recognition.
Asked about negative reactions to Google Glass wearers in public, Ashley and Billy say they’ve had only positive experiences. Often, it seems, the glasses are an icebreaker that encourages curious people to approach. Ashley says, “They think it’s cool.”
Meanwhile, Ashley is very busy woman. In addition to her work as an advocacy field coordinator for the New American Movement for People with Disabilities, she volunteers at a local food bank, visits a local animal shelter and reads to children.
‘I’m still a person’
She’s also become a bit of a spokesperson for Google Glass in New Jersey. In April, she spoke at the New Jersey State Council on Developmental Disability’s monthly Partners in Policy Making meeting. Her message to them, “Even though I have a disability, I’m still a person. I can do the same things other people do, just a little differently.”
And with Google Glass, she’s able to do even more.
Service providers interested in learning more about the latest innovations in assistive and service delivery technology should attend the 2014 ANCOR Technology Summit and
Showcase, in Broomfield, Colo., October 9–10, 2014. The Summit is held in conjunction with the 14th Annual Coleman Institute National Conference on Cognitive Disability and Technology.
More information can be found at ancor.org.