Google Glass Helping Paralyzed Woman Experience Life

Alex Blaszczuk, who was in a severe car crash in 2011 that left her a quadriplegic, is using Google Glass to take photos, send messages to friends and more.

Google Glass is in the midst of being tried out by several thousand "Explorer" users in the last few months, but there may be no users more affected by the use of Glass than early adoptees with physical disabilities.

One such user, Alex Blaszczuk, a young woman who became a quadriplegic after a 2011 car accident, was selected earlier this year by Google to participate in the company's Google Glass Explorer Program, which allowed prospective users to submit ideas for why they should be chosen to buy and test out one of the first Glass devices. Blaszczuk's entry was selected from the thousands of submissions to the #ifihadglass competition.

For Blaszczuk, who can't use her arms, hands and legs since the car crash, Glass has opened up many new horizons, despite the presence of her physical disabilities, according to the Google's Google+ page.

"Meet +Alex Blaszczuk: Glass Explorer, law student and owner of a 20lb cat," says the post. "In the fall of 2011, a car accident en route to a celebratory camping trip left Alex paralyzed from the chest down, unable to use her hands. Last month, Alex finally made it camping and shared her story #throughglass."

The accompanying film on the Google+ page was taken using Google Glass, as Blaszcuk gives visitors a look into her physical recovery and everyday life since the accident.

"+Alex Blaszczuk inspired us from day one with her #ifihadglass application," Google wrote on its Glass Google+ page. In her application for the Explorer program, Blaszczuk wrote: "I am a New Yorker, a law student, a quadriplegic. #ifihadglass I could finally capture my life on my own. I would show the world how to thrive with physical limitations in the most interesting city on the planet. With Glass, paralysis doesn't have to be paralyzing."

Since getting Glass, Blaszczuk took a camping trip with a group of friends, and she wore the device to share her experience. The camping video she took with Glass is posted on the Website of the Alex Blaszczuk Trust that was established in her name, and it portrays how she is able to take photos, act as the trip navigator and share in more experiences through her use of Glass. The camping trip was similar to the one she was heading to when the car accident occurred and changed her life back in 2011.

"On our whirlwind camping trip, and beyond, I have used Glass to take pictures, record videos, find directions, search for facts, and dictate emails and text messages," Blaszczuk wrote in a post on the Trust Website. "I also have several times affirmatively answered the absurd question 'are you calling me from your glasses?' For me, this is all much easier (or possible) only with the voice-activated, hands-free device."

Her experiments with the device continue. "Google Glass doesn't somehow 'fix' a disability," she wrote. "But, it is a more accessible tool for self-expression. For communities that are often silent, hidden, marginalized—like that of people with disabilities—these kinds of tools are essential. The more we enable people with disabilities to share their stories and passions, the more they become people, rather than tragic or heroic stereotypes. For me, Glass has also been an incentive to explore—even if I don't always share with the world, simplifying the logistics of my adventures makes me want to have more of them.

"And," she continued, "I'm lucky—I have friendships and community support that motivate me to apply to be an Explorer, run fundraising campaigns, and fight for whatever dreams I had before my injury. But disability affects many people already hindered by circumstance. And while I am still fighting my own battle to get back on track, I look forward to being a lawyer, activist, and voice in the push to end marginalization."