For the Love of Bill and Steve …

bill and steveI love Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. They are my heroes, and here is why! (With apologies to all Geeks that went before them and after that I also should love equally…)

I moved home this week, 156kms from Ballarat to the Yarra Junction. To save money we chose to do the move without professional help. This was made possible because we had assistance from terrific friends. As one might imagine such a move over a large distance is a logistical nightmare. It was made worse by the fact that at 4pm the day before the move the truck rental company cancelled our booking. I frantically got onto the iPad and started to look for alternatives. Nothing was available online at short notice. My wife got hold of our friends by SMS to reschedule the move. We tried calling other truck rental places through the NRS on the iPad. They were unfortunately all closed. Luckily for us I woke early the next day and rushed to a truck rental place near our home and was able to secure a truck for the move.

Now the reader may be wondering where all this is going. The last thing you want to read about is someone moving house. I mean, how boring is that? But this little episode got me thinking. I asked myself the question – How would I have coped with this sort of drama 15 to 20 years ago? It struck me that I would have been up the proverbial creek without a paddle. And all because I was deaf!

Let’s look at the simple process of renting a truck. Twenty years ago I would not have been able to rent a truck online. There would not have been a web page to go to, enter my details, date of hire and payment details. I would not have even been able to phone the company. I would have either had to go to a truck rental company in person or I would have had to get someone to call them for me. How inconvenient was that?

Twenty years ago the company would have had no way to contact me to inform me the booking had been cancelled. Of course I may have left a phone number of a friend or my parents for them to contact me but this would have been a landline. In the days before SMS even if the company had contacted the friend that I had listed, the said friend would have had no way to contact me. There was no email either. The friend might have visited my home and left me a note but that would have meant I would not have got the note until much later. In all likelihood I would have rocked up at the truck rental place in the morning only to find my booking cancelled. I can imagine I would not have been very pleasant company if that had happened.

The next day friends were coming over to help out. I needed to reschedule urgently. Twenty years ago there was no NRS so I would not have been able to call them. I would have had to pull over to a petrol station or a pub and ask some kind service person to call for me. Or I would have had to detour to my friends place and let them know. If they had not been home all I could have done was to leave them a note under their door. I could not have sent them an SMS because there was no SMS. Email would not have been an option either. I wonder how I lived back then. I must have been such a pain asking everyone to do things for me.

Indeed my poor mother was my ears. I would often ask her to get on the blower to Phil to meet me over the oval to play cricket. She would sometimes call my girlfriends to confirm dates or even cancel them. She took all my calls and made all my enquiries. My god what a burden!

Yet here we are, a little over 20 years later, and I have a myriad of communication options at my finger tips. The company emailed me to say truck cancelled. It is true that this was annoying, but at least they were able to inform me. I didn’t need to wait to get to my desk to read the email either, it came to my iPad. When I got home there was a message on my mobile too. (I had left it with my son for the day lest he needed to contact us.) In no time at all, knowing that I had no truck, I was able to instantly look for alternatives. True none of these alternatives were fruitful but at least I was able. Through SMS I was able to instantly contact my friends to quickly change plans. It is mind boggling really that all these developments have occurred in the last twenty years.

All I would have been able to do 20 years ago is cry HELP!  At worst I would have known nothing, rocked up at the truck rental and had just under an hour to try contact my friends to tell them not to hire a trailer and reschedule everything. Fast forward 20 years and all these nightmarish scenarios are but a thing of the past.

These rapid developments have impacted on every aspect of my life. Twenty years ago at work I was limited to what I could do because I could not talk on the phone. Now I am communicating with people easily and quickly. I email, I text and I use Skype and Instant Messenger. I am able to negotiate, organise, inform and advocate all though a variety of mediums. I can receive and return phone calls through the NRS. I am involved in online discussions through Facebook and Yammer. I even have a Voice Recognition App on my iPad for colleagues that are difficult to lip-read. They give me short messages by speaking into the App. It really is amazing.

What did I do 20 years ago? I cried for help, that’s what I did. I badgered and bothered people to make calls for me. Indeed in my first job I would block book John or Barb to assist me with cold canvassing calls that were essential in obtaining employment for my clients.  Now I do this all myself, how the world has changed.

23 years ago precisely I had a date with a girl for the first time. I caught a bus to her home but hopped on the wrong bus. I was hopelessly lost. It is a first date and you just want to look cool. You don’t want to be late. You want everything perfect. How cool was I rocking up at the petrol station to ask the attendant to call my date to come get me because I was lost? Today I would still be uncool but at least the uncool could be resolved with a simple SMS with no need to involve a third person who happens to be a petrol station attendant. (But thank you Mr Attendant you made the call without a hint of a smirk 😀 )

Yep the world is a better place for me and other deaf people today. It’s still got a long way to go but compared to twenty years ago it’s simply awesome.

And that’s why I love Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and they are my heroes! (With apologies to all Geeks that went before them and after that I also should love equally…)