Wednesday 5 April 2017

Deaf Girly and the Fitbit Blaze

I'm a bit of a tech geek - always have been, which was quite exciting in the 1980s and 90s when technology was moving at a fair old pace.

I remember the first time I got a caption reader to add subtitles to videos, my mind was blown. When mobile phones came out, I got a really early one – a brick-like Panasonic with a capacity for 10 text messages and a massive keypad. I loved it. All of a sudden I could text people – although I had no one to text as I was the only one with a mobile phone.

I embraced the netbook trend with gusto and got Pinktop – my dinky little laptop that came everywhere with me especially during my Superdrug beauty blogging days. When wireless dongles came out, I got one so I could work anywhere, anytime – where there was a 3G connection of course.

I impulse bought an iPad mini on the day it came out (thankfully near payday from what I can remember), which I still use all the time nearly five years' later... and when wearable tech arrived, I embraced the Jawbone Up – a steps and sleep tracker with a nifty app... and continued to do so for four years until last week the band (number 7 in four years – most of which had been replaced for free by Jawbone) completely disintegrated and so it seems, after a spot of googling, the company has disintegrated, too.

And so, I did a spot of research and bought a FitBit Blaze - with a pink strap of course - in the sale at Tesco Direct, using my ClubCard points and nervously tried it out.

Would it be as good as the Jawbone Up? Would the step counter work? Would I like the watch model rather than just a simple band? Would I miss my pink Casio watch, which I got from Argos with my Nectar points? (I'm a bit of a loyalty card geek incase you hadn't noticed)

And after three days I can confirm that I LOVE my Fitbit Blaze!

Yes it does all the usual steps and sleep tracking and yes that's great. But I'm more interested on what other things it can do for me and how it can help my deaf life.

And here's how:

The alarm clock
The first time FJM was present for my vibrating alarm clock going off under my pillow I thought he was never going to come back down off the ceiling. Sonic Boom alarm clocks, while very efficient at waking me up, are also very efficient at scaring the crap out of your boyfriend, and after two months of hoping he'd get used to it, I ditched the alarm clock.

But the Jawbone UP vibrating alarm wasn't powerful enough to wake me up. The band would sometimes fall off my wrist and there was no way I was relying on that. So I resorted to setting my iPhone alarm and hoping the noise of it rattling against the bedside table woke me. Usually it didn't. It woke FJM, who then woke me, which wasn't fun for him when I get up two hours earlier than he needs to.

Hopefully one day a hearing dog will be there to wake me up *waits excitedly* but in the meantime, I've been trying out the FitBit Blaze vibrating alarm and it is awesome! Totally awesome. Alarms are easy to set. You can set multiple alarms. Different times for different days and when it goes off, there's even a snooze option.

Job done!

The workouts
So, I'm a bit fan of the workout video. Sometimes I just don't want to exercise in public and since I discovered that you could rent them from the library in my teens, I've sweated it out with the best of them, from Cindy Crawford to Rosemary Conley. But the lack of subtitles frustrate me. It's hard to know exactly what's going on and get your technique right. iTunes does have some subtitled exercise workouts and they're good, but then I discovered Fitstar, Fitbit's exercise app.

Built into the Blaze are three workouts you can do. You hit play; the watch vibrates and the screen shows you the exercise while counting down how long you have to do it for. It's fun. But the Fitstar app goes one better. With short videos and workouts you can follow on your phone. And guess what? There's an option to switch on captions... amazing eh?

And all the workouts get logged on your Fitbit, which excitedly tells you you're fabulous and have hit targets and "Wooo, that's a lot of green!"

The notifications
There's one more thing that makes the Fitbit Blaze ace in my deaf opinion and that's the on-screen notification option. That means text messages, Whatsapp messages, and compatible apps can send buzzy notifications to your Blaze when it's within a room-sized distance of your phone.

This has been brilliant for when my phone is in my bag and I can't feel it vibrate. Or when it's under a pile of papers on my desk. Or when I'm cooking and it's by the sofa.

Basically it does the job a sound notification would do otherwise.


I can't help but feel incredibly lucky that I was born at a time when technology was developing quickly. And that I am now an deaf adult in a world where texts and emails have largely replaced phone calls and allow me to communicate incredibly efficiently where I might otherwise have felt incredibly isolated.

Things aren't completely there yet – there are still woeful gabs on the accessibility front:

    Consistent, regular, multiple options of subtitled cinema 
    My GP surgery... no phone-less emergency appointment option
    Woeful live subtitles
    Woeful subtitles on previously live programmes
    Woeful subtitles on some catch-up apps

However, modern technology has given me a sense of independence that in the early 2000s I did wonder if I would ever have. It's enabled me to sort gas bills over Twitter, book appointments with the tax man, and wake up at 6.15am without FJM having to wake up to.

This morning he got to sleep soundly until 6.30am exactly, when instead of waking him with my alarm on my phone, I woke him up by putting something on our induction hob and causing it to beep frantically... Oops!

But I'm confident that one day there'll be an app for that beep... and FJM will get his full sleep quota.

Happy Wednesday peeps



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