Friday, 24 June 2016

Technology For The Rest Of You

I have my computer setup to do automatic updates from Microsoft. Some would contend that this is a bad idea, a risky idea. Microsoft has, in the past, released a few bombs on an unsuspecting public by way of updates with mistakes in them. Microsoft is not alone in this; I've seen the same with Adobe and other software providers. And with the many updates, thanks to continuing security challenges and hackers, there are bound to be mistakes that creep in.

Today I experienced one of those mistakes, one which was new to me. I've spent the last hour or so trying to reconfigure my desktop back to it's original state. The update last night seemed to have caused my computer desktop to disappear, replacing it with the new "tiles" approach used on most tablets these days. After extensive research and peeking and poking, I discovered that the update applied last night ended off by setting my laptop into what is called "Tablet Mode". That means my laptop thinks it is a tablet, and thus would only display the tiles rather than a desktop.

My guess is that some developer somewhere decided that a device with a touch screen must be a tablet, ergo the default to tablet mode. I can see the logic in this thinking, given that most laptops do not have touch screens. But this is a changing metaphor; I believe that touch screens, like a great many applications originally designed for accessibility, will soon be part of the standard computer. Plus I think the developer was pretty arrogant to make an assumption and change a setting like that without confirming it with the user. Updates should never change an interface without user permission, plain and simple.

This is important to me on two fronts. I use the touch screen because there are days when my hands are shaking enough that I cannot get the mouse to where I want it. So I touch the screen; the shaking is usually not bad enough that I miss by much. The other reason these settings are important to me is because I will be using other non-default settings as time goes by, with access technologies like speech interface and eye gaze. These are common tools for people with ALS.

What is perhaps most interesting in all of this is that so many of these tools developed for those of us with limitations become a standard part of the toolset for the enabled world. Speech interface is common on most cell phones and hands free systems these days. Soon it will be standard on all computers, along with built in dictation ability. Soon your PC will easily adjust for failing eyesight and poor typing skills. Autocorrection is already de facto in almost all cell phones, and most computer programs.

You see, we in the handicapped world know how important it is to be able to access things. And once our life is easier, it quickly transfers into the non-handicapped world. This is true for computers, for cell phones, for sidewalks, for stairways, for doorways, for bathrooms, and for all kinds of things. By being handicapped, we are leading the way in making the world a better place. All we need is your help. Trust me, you'll be happy you did.


  1. Did you roll back the computer to an earlier date before the update?

  2. No. I just unchecked the Tablet Mode. It's back to normal now.