Let your device be your sidekick

This summer marks the second anniversary of living with my new clutch, the cochlear implant (CI), which I call "black magic," that restored my hearing.

Importantly, I discovered many practical ways in which my sidekick, aka my smartphone, helped me communicate when my world was silent for 14 months before my CI surgery. I believe the solutions I discovered using my smartphone during those pre-surgery months can be equally beneficial to the hard-of-hearing even when they are not deaf.

As a consumer advocate most prominently on technology matters, I always preach the many practical benefits that can be gleaned from your investment in a smartphone. I consider those practical benefits analogous to the financial concept of "return on investment" (ROI), regardless of whether those investments are in technology devices and/or subscription services offered in the digital world, though technology's ROI is immeasureable in my opinion.

I consider sharing this knowledge critically important, as without a "reference manual" that Boomer and GenX generation consumers are used to from 20th century technology devices, many beneficial features will go undiscovered with 21st century technology devices.

Take the Microsoft's subscription service of their popular Office productivity suite for example. Earlier this year, while researching free applications that can transcribe my classroom recordings that I review to prepare customized handouts, I discovered that our Microsoft365, formerly Office365, subscription can now transcribe the audio recordings I upload, saving me time.

BTW, the non-subscription version is still an option. Visit wbvobserver.com/read/columns/the-digital-world to read my July 7, 2020, column for details.

I have my grievances, aka pet peeves, that I wish technology device manufacturers could remediate through more "standardization" instead of confusing consumers through "differentiation" but academically, I understand that differentiation is necessary for healthy competition.

I'm at least grateful that the mutually exclusive ecosystems that smartphones and tablets operate in – devices running Google's Android or Apple's iOS/iPadOS operating systems – both have "Accessibility" settings to alleviate certain types of challenges that users' disabilities may heighten their operational difficulties of these devices.

Over the years and to this day, I have repeatedly seen how a useful standard feature like using the transcription prowess built into the "virtual keyboards" (those small keyboards that popup on the device's screen when it knows you want to type in something and disappears when you're done) is relatively unknown to many seniors I help.

Pushing that little microphone icon on the device's virtual keyboard will let the user "speak" a reply to a text/email, for example. I don't have arthritis yet but my mom does and it is often painful for her to type on the small keyboard on her iPhone so I taught her to use transcription built into the smartphone instead.

Whether you have a challenge typing on the small virtual keyboard or just have fat fingers like me, LOL, you may want to let the smartphone transcribe what you dictate instead. In the next column, I'll give more practical examples that are useful for those with hearing issues.

Tak Sato

Strategist and technologist with over 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives while using digital literacy as a tool for seniors to avoid loneliness and social isolation. Please visit EmpowerSeniors.Org for more information!

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Volume 15, Issue 11, Posted 8:23 AM, 06.20.2023