Raising a Ruckus: Coming Soon: Gimp Apps

Allen RuckerIf you use a wheelchair, the current Age of Man is techno-Valhalla. Because a group of brainiacs formed the Homebrew Computer Club in Palo Alto back in the ’70s, we now live in an almost completely available iWorld — soon to include the iWristwatch — and are all now part of a big iBrain. There’s a lot you can do in this world in the comfort of your chair, or any chair. In fact, leaving your house, let alone your chair, is now just for exercise. The iBrain is the only friend you need.

It works in all facets of your life. Say, you’re looking for a spouse — log on to iPerfectOther.com, find an attractive in-the-ballpark match, and go on a virtual date to see if you like each other. You are Skype-connected, both on screen eating pizza and chatting about life. Hey, if you have fun doing that, there’s an actual face-to-face encounter in your future. I know, a dozen app-makers are perfecting this no-date dating service as we speak. Nothing gets by these guys.

No doubt many of you regularly survey all of the current 800,000 apps, looking for the next disability-useful one. I’m a novice. I just plugged into this universe a little while back. Put me in the demographic of old, not entirely stupid or senile, and probably about a step and a half behind any 20-year-old.

My entry point was “Park Mobility.” If you’re not aware of it, this is an app that allows you to text the cops if you see a non-placard-donning car parked in a designated disabled parking spot. It’s what you might call a vigilante app. It also allows you to program the number of disabled parking spots in any local parking lot. It doesn’t tell you if they are filled. A major fail.

Inspired, I’ve decided to go into the gimp app business myself. With a friendly programmer on call, it doesn’t seem that hard. And the uses are endless! Say you roll into a public john and watch a perfectly able Joe enter the disabled stall, probably for the rest of the afternoon. You just open your “Get Out of My House” restroom app, hit a button, and The Voice of God announces, “Sir, you are using that stall illegally and according to Criminal Statue JA-47, Title 19, you are hereby arrested if you are not out of there in 30 seconds!” You then roll outside, watch the guy running out of the bathroom still pulling his pants up, and roll right in. Piece of cake, no?

App idea number two: “Lose a WannaBe Gimp.” You’re at a cocktail party, stuck in the corner, as usual, hoping a friend wanders by to talk. Suddenly you hear a loud beep from your iPhone, indicating a suspicious person is working his or her way to your corner. From experience, you can tell it’s someone who sees your chair and thinks you are good for a 30-minute rant about their inflamed bowel. They figure, “He knows disease. He’ll be fascinated!” Before they get to you, your phone rings loudly, you answer, hang up and announce. “Emergency! I gotta go.” You wheel away just in time, depart to another room, and hide out, hoping the guy gets bored and leaves.

This one might have real social benefit: the “Make a Friend” app. At least where I live, wheelchair users are a rare sight on the street or in stores. My neighborhood is Wheelchair Ghost Town. This app will identify any fellow wheelchair user within a two-mile radius. They might not want you to wheel up and say howdy, but it’s just good to know that they are out there. You don’t feel so alone. And if you spot one at a nearby Starbucks, you can hurry there so you can get the only accessible seat. It works at parties, too. You’ll never have to stare straight up again.

I assume that someone hasn’t already cornered the app market for disability- related services, but someone soon will. Kids will love them. They’re the only ones, truth be told, who will know how to use them.

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