Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, a day when we take a moment to reflect on digital access and inclusion for the more than one billion people living with disabilities. OMT editor Dennis Mons spoke to Eva Eikhout, whose Apple iPhone is a support and advocate, for that purpose.
We cannot stress enough how important Global Accessibility Awareness Day is. The lives of people with disabilities are made so much easier thanks to technology, and Apple is at the forefront of that. We were wondering how this works for them in everyday life, and so I took a call from Eva Eikhout.
The iPhone is more than ‘just a phone’ for Eva Eikhout
Let’s just say Eva Eikhout is an expert by experience. She has lived her entire life with a disability, but that certainly doesn’t stop her. The flamboyant, very charming lady is a presenter at BNNVARA (Weet wat je date, Yung DWDD, BNNVARA Academy TV). She also makes a monthly podcast ONBEPERKT with Wilfred Genee about overcoming limitations.
We spoke to her about how accessibility on tech thanks to an iPhone and Siri, for example, helps her. How her daily things go and in what areas there could be improvements.
When did you feel you could contribute to the awareness of technological accessibility for people with disabilities?
“I actually don’t really do that consciously. I just happened to have this. It’s not like I think: I want to show the world that you can live with this. I don’t have time for that and I do a lot of fun things. But by doing that I do indirectly show what I can do.
It’s not like I get up in the morning and think ‘this is what I want to show the world today’. But I do think ‘gosh there’s a nice party in Nijmegen today’. And when I am there, some people say ‘how cool that you are there and dare to do that’. That’s okay, because if I inspire someone who is in a wheelchair, for example, like me, and does that too, then at least I have already helped one person.”
Eva inspires, but in her own words “unintentionally. (Image: Geke Bosch)
What was an eye opener for you on tech in terms of accessibility?
“I am just tremendously happy that we live in this day and age because there is so much technology that I am very grateful to use. Take for example my adapted car that I drive with a joystick. Also, my cell phone is essential for getting in touch with caregivers who are at my door every day. It’s also great that I can turn on my lights thanks to an iPhone and voice controls so I don’t have to get up.
It’s often very small things that make things easier for me. For the most part, it allows me to be independent. Like driving a car I can because of the adjustment, being independent is so important.”
Does it also make it easier to find places you can go to?
“Anyway, of course I can always ask people things on Instagram so then I quickly gathered information. But it’s also so nice that I can control my iPhone without needing help from others.”
More support from the tech corner besides Apple
Apple has made great strides when it comes to accessibility with the iPhone and Siri, for example. Do you think other tech companies should follow suit?
“Oh, Apple is definitely a big forerunner. I notice that in everything they do. My car is also very nice. But my wheelchair is just behind in terms of technology. I can really list ten things that would help me but still aren’t there.”
Aside from Apple and your iPhone; Microsoft, for example, has released the Adaptive controller. That one is modular and thus adaptable for people with certain disabilities. Could Apple perhaps do the same?
“I’m not a gamer myself, but I do think there’s a big market for it. Some people just find it harder to get out the door and find a lot in a game, also in terms of socializing.”
The Adaptive Controller for the Xbox. (Image: Microsoft)
But again, could Apple get a jump on that? And I mean in general. Can you envision modular accessories, for example, for your iPhone, iPad or your AirPods?
“Of course I hope that there will be more developments that help so much. That my house becomes even more automated. That you come in and just say that the lights should be on, the thermostat up and the bathtub can be filled.
But one thing is also cooking. I never cook because I grab everything with my arm and my chin and then stand too close to the fire. So who knows what tech things are coming up in the kitchen.
Tech guidance in healthcare
This Apple tech can also help people, who are now at an older age, tremendously. Do you think they should actually receive guidance in that area as well? They are often already nervous about pinning.
“Well, when I look at my 90-year-old grandmother, I don’t think an Apple iPad makes much sense anymore. Then she’s more stressed about it than it is useful to her. But I do show her pictures on my iPhone and she loves that. How else those pictures get on that phone doesn’t matter to her, haha.
Still, I think it does come in handy at a certain age. For example, if I want to use an ATM, I have a bag, and in that bag is a wallet, and in that wallet are ten cards. I’m not going to get those out. But with my iPhone, that’s solved in no time. Ideal!”
Anyway; I love gadgets. Siri I’m super good at, too. A lot of people don’t know what all they can do with it either. But also Apple’s Siri can definitely be improved.”
Apple iPhone tips and tricks from Eva Eikhout
What would be a tip for you when it comes to getting started with accessibility features on the iPhone, for example?
“First of all, I just like it. For example, when a new iOS comes out. Then I go on YouTube and watch videos and press all the buttons. Then I end up finding what works best for me. For example, the Apple MacBook had the interactive corners. That was fantastic! I don’t reach everything with my fingers so that works much nicer.
So my tip is: go watch a lot of YouTube videos. You’ll find so many useful tips and settings there. And just go and do it. I’m still learning Siri commands that work much better because I looked them up.”
“In addition, I can just recommend Apple products. I do that to friends as well. Then I say ‘just try it and if you don’t like it, I’ll sell it again for you,’ but then after a week they just turn around.”
So what can Apple make now? Bionic arms and legs?
“Then rather legs, because I prefer legs to arms, haha. Because I would have liked to be big!”