Google Glass: Accessibilty for the Deaf?

mashable1Since the first announcement of Google Glass, tech junkies have been intrigued by  its possibilities. The accessibility community especially is interested in what it could mean to helping those with disabilities. When Google Glass unveiled its Explorer campaign, inviting people to apply for the chance to be among the first users, over 145,000 people responded to the #ifihadglass hashtag, explaining just what they would do with the new wearable technology. Deaf journalist Lisa A. Goldstein immediately answered the call and writes about the experience in the Mashable article: Google Glass: Not For the Hearing Impaired.  Inspired by her desire to explore the possibilities for the hard of hearing, she tweeted: “One word: Captioning. Movies, shows, public events, people I have trouble lip-reading (mustaches are so 70s!). #ifihadglass.”  Her submission was one of 8000 people chosen for the pilot program. But then came the hard part: actually finding out if she would be able to use it.

Google Glass Pros and Cons for the Hard of Hearing

Although Goldstein secured a spot to try the device, she would still need to pay $1500 for the privilege, in addition to travel for pick-up. Before shelling out the cost out of pocket, she had important questions she needed answered. Would the device fit over her hearing aids? Would electromagnetic interference from Google Glass interfere with her cochlear implant? After many attempts to reach the company for answers to these questions, she ultimately discovered the device is not compatible with hearing aids. She also could not get much of an answer about EM interference. Because of these issues she eventually had to decline the invitation to try Google Glass.

Although Goldstein had issues with Google Glass, another Google Explorer user who is deaf in one ear reported great success. David Trahan wrote about his experience recently on the MRY blog, What Google Glass Mean For a Half Deaf Person. As a trial user, he was amazed to learn how the device uses bone conduction technology which could enable him to hear sound. His describes his reaction to using the device “like finding out you have a super power – something that you never imagined could exist, but then all of a sudden you found your trigger and started to fly.”

Despite various opinions on the device’s accessibility features, the fact remains that as a new technology, Google Glass does hold many exciting possibilities for helping people of all abilities. Once compatibility issues with hearing aids and cochlear implants are addressed, this could be an exciting new technology for those who are deaf and hard of hearing.

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