Empowering Technologies for Persons with Disabilities

Image source: http://1.mshcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/PebbleWatch.jpg

Image source: http://1.mshcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/PebbleWatch.jpg

Kristen Regelein, who is hearing impaired, faced a variety of challenges related to her hearing aid devices growing up. She suffered from bullying and social exclusion because of her disability and the listening devices she was forced to wear.

This inspired her to devote her life to improving hearing aid technology. She studied electronics at the Herald Institute of Technology and now contributes to the development of hearing aids that are more discreet and can connect with other electronic devices for easier use.

She currently wears the Starkey’s Halo hearing aid, which connects to Smartphones using Bluetooth. However, she has found that, though device is much smaller than earlier hearing aids, it still does not completely fit her daily needs. As someone who works with clients face-to-fact in her job at Pebble (a smartwatch manufacturing company), Regelein does not wish to seem rude when adjusting the volume on her Halo using her phone.

“My personal and professional life depends heavily on my listening and communication out to the world,” she says.”When your job is to negotiate deals, it could be challenging to find an appropriate way to adjust my hearing aids with my iPhone,” she says.

As head of global sales, Regelein is in a unique position to help use Pebble’s products to benefit the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community. She has worked with Starkey to make their hearing aids compatible with Pebble’s watches. Pressing buttons on a watch during a meeting is much less conspicuous than using one’s phone during a meeting. “No one has any idea that I’m using my Pebble to control what I hear in the moment,” says Regelein. She also notes that most people, if they do notice, “find it super cool — especially the mute button feature.”

Regelein hopes to develop further technologies to help people with disabilities live their lives more easily and confidently.   “My lifelong mission,” she says, “is to continue to be a strong advocate and voice championing empowering products that enhance the way we hear the world.”

Source: Eli Epstein, Mashable