The Apple Watch as an Accessibility Tool

Published: Jul 03, 2017

When people see that I have an Apple Watch, the first thing they ask me is “Is it worth it?” and my answer is “Yes, if you’re in a wheelchair”.

A lot has been said about the Apple Watch, but not much has been said about it’s benefits for wheelchair users (other than the re-tooling of the fitness algorithms to count “pushes” instead of steps).

Here’s How the Apple Watch can benefit wheelchair users:

It Keeps Important Notifications Within Arms Reach

Any time your phone receives a notification or alert (e.g., Tumblr message) that alert is sent to the Apple Watch which then vibrates to get your attention. To read the notification, simply raise your wrist like you’re checking the time on a wrist watch. There’s no need to get out your phone and (depending on your settings) no sound emitted from the watch. All you feel is a gentle tap on the wrist.

I absolutely love this feature. If I’m out in Downtown Seattle and my wife sends me a text, I no longer have to stop moving to pull out my phone and read it or awkwardly fiddle with my headphones to ask Siri to dictate it to me. Instead, I simply glance at my wrist between pushes and decide what to do from there.

If the message is worth responding to, I can hit the microphone icon on the watch face and dictate a message on the fly or I can use one of the pre-made responses available below the message such as “Okay” or “Sounds Good”.

It Keeps Personal Tasks Discreet

Got an alarm to take your meds in the middle afternoon? Need to set a reminder to cath every four hours? Tired of having curious co-workers try to figure out why your phone blares (or sounds like a trapped duck in your pocket) around noon?

When you set an alarm on the apple watch, it doesn’t make any noise on the phone (again, based on your settings). Instead, you’ll just feel a long gentle tap on your wrist reminding you of what needs doing. No more curious co-workers or alarms interrupting meetings.

It Simplifies Your Wallet

I hate handling cash and I prefer to avoid opening my wallet altogether to pay for stuff if I can avoid it. Because we live in the freaking future, I can tap a button on my Apple Watch and pay for stuff by holding my wrist against it. For store cards (e.g, Starbucks) I can pay by holding my wrist up to the scanner and scanning my membership card. If I need to add a custom barcode (e.g., movie tickets bought online) I can use an app like Pass2U to generate whatever I need and have it show up on my Apple Watch on demand.

But Remember, It’s Still Just a Watch

Despite the benefits, you need to keep in mind that the Apple Watch is still a watch and does little more than extend the functionality of your phone onto it. It doesn’t do anything that your phone doesn’t do already.