The following blog post was written by Erin Beneteau, a senior learning and development strategist for accessibility at Microsoft. Erin has worked in the field of assistive technology for over 15 years. (Note: This story is based on my experience, but names and some details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.)
Many years ago I worked with a gentleman who suffered complications during a heart attack, including a traumatic brain injury that left him with cognitive impairments. Together, we developed short-term memory skills he needed in daily life.
Unable to safely drive anymore, he now took the bus, something he never did before his heart attack. With his short-term memory issues, however, he often took the wrong bus, missed his stop, and struggled with other challenges during rides.
Back then this was quite a problem. We gave him bus schedules and helped him practice writing down important information on index cards that he carried during each bus trip. He learned to develop a things-to-do list on a calendar. After his accident, he also began carrying a notebook, where he wrote down things he didn’t want to forget. In addition, we set alarms on his watch for important appointments. While these were all helpful strategies, he still had to remember to do everything we taught him.
Fast forward to today and now I use memory strategies and tools. I haven’t had a heart attack, traumatic brain injury, or been diagnosed with a memory impairment. But, I use the same techniques that I prescribed for my client because advancements in technology have turned these into mainstream solutions that many people can use.
When I take the bus, for example, I use OneBusAway to remind me of timetables, show me stops, and track the progress of a bus.
Apps that help me manage my daily life can also assist people with memory impairments. The key is to ensure these apps have interfaces that are easy to use, navigate, and access. Then these apps can truly change lives.