By Evette Wilson
Hello my name is Evette. I’m 35, I have an acquired sensory disability and I am totally blind. Five years ago I woke up from a coma totally blind and temporarily paralysed. While going through intense rehabilitation in hospital, I learned very quickly that assistive technology was now part of my life. There were changes that needed to be made to my home now I was disabled, and I was using adaptive technology I had never even thought about. Little did I know, one day I would be educating people about assistive technology for blind or vision impaired people!
Here is some of the technology I use:
– A mobility chair. This is a chair with wheels, not a wheelchair. There’s a difference! Although I have my mobility back, I still have nerve damage and bad balance, I just need to find someone to push me.
– Hand rails in the shower and toilet. These rails help give me balance and confidence to be independent when it comes to personal care.
– Talking clock and watch. This speaks the time and tells me when I need to get up for coffee. Check out this video of my dog Stanlee using it.
– Liquid level measure and swing kettle. This is essential when making that morning coffee. It’s a gadget that clips onto the side of a cup with two metal prongs on the inside. When you pour in liquid and it touches the metal there is a beep sound or vibration that signals when to stop pouring. No more crying over spilled milk!
– Google Home. Not only does this control my lights and television, but it plays all of my music, podcasts, and broadcasts my daily morning news and weather forecast. I also use it to set reminders, timers, add to my shopping list and get delicious recipes with a list of ingredients and step-by-step instructions.
– Ring video doorbell. This gadget is great as it lets me know if there is movement on my front driveway. I can also call the doorbell and speak to whoever is on the other side without opening the door. This gives me confidence to be home alone as it can also alert family members who can check the video surveillance from their mobile phone.
– Tactile markers. I have used rubber and velcro dots to differentiate buttons I use the most and I have tactile markers on bottles/jars in the fridge. This ensures I will never put lemon curd on my ham sandwich again! I also use elastic bands to differentiate the shampoo bottle from the conditioner.
– Bells. I have a bell on each of my pets. I have one dog and two cats, and sometimes the cats like to creep around in stealth mode. So when I hear the bells, I know where they are. No more unexpected cat scratches.
– iPhone and iPad. These are my most cherished items of assistive/adaptive technology. Yes, most people have a mobile phone but to me it is much more than just a phone. Firstly Apple have an accessibility feature called Voice Over which is a series of approximately 40 gestures so blind or vision impaired users can navigate through the phone. A gesture is a series of finger taps and swipes on the touch screen, and it uses a text to speech feature. Each gesture is a command, for example a one finger single swipe left or right moves the focus to read words or sentences. A two finger swipe down reads the entire page, a three finger swipe up or down moves the page accordingly, a three finger quadruple tap copies the text and it can also convert speech to text by using dictation. And we cannot forget about Siri! Check out the AppleVis website for more information about Apple’s products for blind and vision impaired people.
Smart devices are kind of useless without apps, and there are apps out there that keep me independent. For example, apps for checking colours of clothing, whether a light is on or off, reading text on a document or medicine bottle and checking currency, objects and even people by using facial recognition. There are apps for navigating through the supermarket, getting your shopping delivered, Uber eats and of course, Facebook. Yes some of these apps are mainstream but they give me the confidence and empower me to live as independently as possible.
My journey has been one of ups and downs, ins and outs, but I am grateful for technology that makes my life just that little bit easier.