Interview with Simon Wheatcroft

1 January 2012

What keeps you going when things are getting tough?

Life is at its most interesting when things get tough. It's an opportunity to dig deep, adapt and thrive in the situation. One of my key preparations for a difficult task is implementation intentions. This is where you imagine a whole host of if, then scenarios, these can allow you to mentally prepare for a multitude of situations. This simple method has truly allowed me to enjoy the difficult times and thrive under often impossibly tough situations.

What’s your favourite thing about technology?

My favourite thing about technology is what it enables people to do. It is truly capable of touching all areas of people's lives and changing them in incredible and often unimagined ways. For me the advent of VoiceOver within the Apple ecosystem literally changed the direction of my life and allowed me to do extraordinary things.

How can companies make their products more user friendly?

The key to making any product accessible is to truly examine whether your user experience is truly intuitive. After all if a blind person can use your product or service it truly is intuitive! The single most important element is communicating effectively, be that how to navigate an application, or describing your product. This sounds easy and something everyone must be doing, but it truly isn't. Quite often I can use a piece of software and the user experience is terrible, the user journey has not been thought through, neither is how simple information can be communicated.

What or who has been the greatest influence in your life?

The greatest influence in my life has been technology, be it VoiceOver on the iPhone or natural language controlled systems. These iterations to technology allow me to function on a daily basis improving my efficiency and effectiveness.

What are your plans for the future?

My plans for the future are to expand what is deemed possible, not only for me personally but in the assistive technology space Next May I plan on expanding what is personally possible by running a 160 mile desert ultra marathon solo. No guide, just me and technology, it has never been attempted and will truly push the boundaries of possibility. Indeed, I had to create the technology to even make an attempt possible. In the assistive technology space I would like to explore how a business case approach could improve access. For example, if assistive technology was more affordable it could impact far more people's lives. This can be achieved through scale, make the technology affordable and it will scale. Design any product with a universal design approach, ensuring it solves a problem for both those requiring assistive technology and those who don't. Therefore, massively increasing the potential market allowing it to scale. I feel this approach could rapidly improve access for all and is something I will be exploring over the coming years.

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