I started using the iPhone Reminders app during city bus lessons when I taught a high schooler who has low vision and significant social anxiety. The idea of having to ask the bus driver for help finding his stop – or interacting with anyone on the bus for that matter – was debilitating for him. He knew he would be reliant on taking the bus to the community college he planned to attend after graduation. However, the idea of setting foot onto that confined space with the occasional overly-chatty adjacent passenger made him pull up his hoodie and check out for the duration of the trip. We talked about strategies for appearing “less than ready to converse”, including wearing headphones, even if music was not turned on – and started setting up the Reminders app to alert him when his stop is approaching.
Reminders is an app built into the iPhone, which allows users to keep track of things they intend to do or lists of things they need to get: a homework assignment, grocery list, names of library books, etc. It has the option to set deadlines and be notified when they are approaching. Luckily for my student, it also has a feature that can alert the user to complete a needed task while approaching a location. That way, for example, you won’t drive right past the grocery store and discover when you get home that you still need that container of milk for your morning cereal.
My student and I started by using the “street view” feature of Google Maps to look at the area surrounding the community college and identify which landmarks lead up to it on the bus route. On the corner before the community college is an ice cream shop that he has visited. He decided to set that ice cream shop as the location for his reminder (steps listed below). My student wanted an alert that is as discrete as possible so he opted to have a vibration instead of a sound notification. However, we wanted to make sure the vibration was not too subtle and easily mixed up with the same short vibration he receives for text messages or e-mails. We were able to go into “reminder alerts” under settings and create a customized vibration (steps also listed below). My student was able to tap out a unique, long pattern of beats on the screen.
For this particular student, the Reminders app made for a much more comfortable and successful experience. He was able to be independent when riding the city bus while gaining confidence with an environment that could be very challenging for him. After this experience, I started introducing the Reminders app as an option for bus travel with more of my students – whether or not they wanted to dodge the chatty passenger on the bus. Although many ask the driver to alert them to their stop or are able to use methods to maintain orientation, they like the reassurance of having Reminders as a backup plan.