Sunday, May 18, 2008

A new way to drive

In my continued search to make the world accessible to myself, with a still healing broken ankle, I contacted a local mobility company to find out about making my car accessible. There seem to be no great temporary fixes, but Enterprise Rent a Car actually rents out cars with hand controls. (Mobility devices such as left hand controls with spinner knobs, left foot accelerators and pedal extenders are available at no additional charge. In fact, I got a great deal)
They leave the foot pedals on and leave the hand controls. My thoughts after a few days of using this. My key to some freedom!
  • Making all cars with hand controls would significantly cut down on the amount of distracted driving. You must have one hand on the wheel and one on the controls at almost all times. No cell phones, no makeup application, no eating or drinking. A pro and a con. Would it make for safer driving?
  • The brain is imminently adaptable. About 14 years ago, (about 12 years after I learned to drive) I fell in love with a manual car. I bought it and learned to drive it. Lo these many years later, I spent 2 days driving with no radio and no passenger, paying total attention to the motions forward > brake, down > gas. Not to mention trying to be sure my reflexes didn't move to the floor pedals altogether. It seems to have taken...mostly.
  • Human factors and user experience people abound in automotive design, trying to make intuitive controls on the dash and an easy to use "cockpit" but is anyone really deconstructing driving itself? Is sitting in a seat, sipping a cup of hot coffee, steering a wheel and pushing pedals still the best solution? What about moving your body to control the direction of the car, or again, hands, shoulders, arms, head -- can they engage? I'm no auto designer but it seems like this area is ripe for a full redesign. Maybe we can get Apple to take a stab at it! Some interesting ideas from the big guys, a Segway type car and of course, Fusion Man(though that landing might have a serious impact on the health of anyone's ankles!)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Video for the greater good

Video is a medium used for fun, persuasion, entertainment and documentation. As designers and researchers, we often use video to tell our story. It's a persuasive marketing tool, within a group or to a client, to share edited video that allows the end user to really tell his/her story directly.
Today I ran across a group using video in another unique way.
The American Refugee Committee (ARC) International is arming women and girls (and men) with video cameras to directly address the issues of "gender based violence". With these cameras, the community is making their own videos based on their own experiences and knowledge. This is apparently having a profound effect on the communities understanding of and talking about the numerous events of rape, forced marriage and wife beating.
This Through Their Eyes program gives a voice to many who may have otherwise lived with these secrets their whole lives. It is now documented, on video and made real to the community empowering others to step forward and tell their story. Hopefully, reducing the amount of stories in the future.
Another great example of technology empowering people all over the world and a nod to the power of video, made by real people for real outcomes.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Human Kindness

And yet, another post on the adventures of having a broken ankle. What I've noticed in being able to get out and about more, is the basic human desire to do good and be kind. Yes, I really believe that underneath all of our daily griping, screaming at the TV or radio when various members of the government speak, and even among soldiers killing in Iraq, Iran and points far and wide, when given the chance, people want to be nice to each other.

This has been very apparent as strangers go out of their way to hold heavy bathroom doors, otherwise barely maneuverable on crutches, offer a seat in an otherwise crowded lecture, special dispensation at the local public pool to a private lane...the list goes on and on. Along with the wonderful friends who have stepped up to help in amazing ways, I have truly learned that to depend on "the kindness of strangers" as Blanche DuBois suggested (via Tennessee Williams) so many years ago.

As you go about your day, assume that people really do want to help, that they do want to be nice to you, they really aren't out to make your day more miserable. Perhaps, if we each can assume that, we will create a conscious circle of kindness to one another, not just acting on instinct, but working at purposefully sharing this innate kindness.