Every now and then during his presentation, Garry Hills would gush about the Apple products he’s explaining. “I don’t mean to come across as an Apple fan,” he takes care to preface, “but their products really makes independent living possible. They’re all accessible out of the box.”

It’s a tall claim, more likely to come from a TV commercial than an actual user. But Garry and his son, Christopher Hills, comes with both the life experience and the qualifications to back their words. Christopher, the star and expert of the workshop, has cerebral palsy, and he’s a certified professional in Final Cut Pro, and operates a video production company out of his home.

‘I’m more powerful than you think’

Garry and Christopher Hills were in Singapore to conduct workshops on accessibility in Apple products. The workshop included hands-on sessions with Switch Control, a feature on iPads and iPhones that allows users with impaired movement to bypass the touchscreen and operate devices using single-button devices called switches.

Photo of Switch Control interface

Christopher demonstrates the use of Switch Control to operate Final Cut Pro, a professional-grade video editing software for the Mac platform.

But the highlight of the workshop was the videos produced by Christopher, showing how he edits video with two or three buttons on his wheelchair. He also shows how he uses drones to operate a camera. The audience falls into a hush after each video, clearly awed by the creative possibilities of a humble button attached to an iPhone.

Christopher explained his use of computer software through videos that he created ahead of his presentation. Source: Christopher Hill/YouTube 

“I’m more powerful than you think,” asserts Christopher at the end of each presentation, as if willing his audience to think beyond the devices in their hands.

A lifetime with computers

When asked about how life was like before the smart phone, Garry half-jokes about the “disability tax”–the additional expense of buying specialised products that allow disabled persons to perform mundane tasks. “It used to be so much work to get our devices to work together.”

It’s clear that Garry and Christopher’s expertise with Apple products come from a lifetime of using computers and learning how to work with–and around–them.

Computers have always been a part of the Hills household, even before Christopher was born. When Christopher was four or five years old, his parents strapped a Discover Switch to his wheelchair to let him read eBooks by himself.

Like many other boys in love with computers, Christopher spent his childhood learning what else he could do with computers, and how to use special mouse and keyboard setups. Christopher later discovered video editing and, after his big break on YouTube, the rest is history.

Source: Christopher Hill/YouTube 

Being tech-forward can help us avoid being left behind

The Hills’ presentations were dramatic demonstrations of how the smartphone and connected devices have radically shaped the disability market.

In the past, products for people with disabilities were highly customised and expensive. Today, computers have become so portable, pervasive and connected that many people with disabilities can not only operate a PC, they can live independently in home environments where many physical challenges are simply automated away.

But it’s also clear that gadgets alone doesn’t remove barriers. Users also need a technology-forward mindset in order to experiment and learn what products work for them.

Source: Christopher Hill/YouTube

Says Christopher in one of the many videos on his channel, “With today’s technology, it’s easier than ever to include everybody. All we have to do is use it.”