Fitness trackers and apps like the Fitbit have been some of the hottest items in 2016, especially with younger adults on the go. They can do everything from track your sleep, to tell you how many calories you’ve burned. Until recently, however, there weren’t any options available for the over 2 million Americans using manual wheelchairs. That changed last month when Apple announced they will be adding a way for wheelchair users to monitor their activity this fall on their Apple Watch.
This is a feature that has been in the plans for Apple since they released the first watch, but implementing this was not an easy task. Due to a lack of previous research on how wheelchair users burn calories, Apple was forced to do some investigating on their own. They partnered with the Lakeshore Foundation and Challenged Athletes Foundation to study about 300 wheelchair users for over 3,000 hours. Apple encountered several challenges such as the fact that everyone pushes their wheelchair a little differently and calculating for the type of surface the wheelchair is on. These along with several other factors had to be taken into consideration when Apple finally sat down to write the algorithm.
Accessibility has been a priority for Apple when it comes to all of their devices. There is a voice-over feature on iPhones for users with limited vision as well as an option to turn on Assistive Touch for people with physical and motor challenges. A lot of the research for Siri actually came from natural speech recognition which was originally intended to help people with limited use of their hands. The new updates will include the option to have information displayed using morse code, and iPhones will also be able to save transcripts of TTY conversations for the hearing impaired. When the new wheelchair features become available early this fall, users will be able to track daily fitness goals and can even be reminded when it is “time to roll”.
For more information on assistive technology check out our blog on Useful Free Apps for Wheelchair Users here.