By Guest blogger Vanessa Vlajkovic
Few people reading this blog will be able to imagine what it feels like to depend on technology almost like oxygen. Okay so I might be exaggerating just a tiny bit because air is really more important than most things in life.
But on a serious note, I am not being that dramatic because without my assistive tech I would be pretty helpless. Why? Because I have dual sensory loss, aka deafblindness. I can’t read small print or hear conversation. And so, I have a very special connection with my BrailleNote (BN), which is basically my life support to some extent.
It’s a necessity
I’m aware that the majority of our population today are married to their phones, iPads, tablets, laptops, PC’s and whatever else is out there that I’m forgetting. But the difference between these people and me is that if they drop their phone down the toilet, in the pool or, I dunno, have it stolen – they wouldn’t be freaking out and panicking because those things, despite making life easier and more enjoyable for mainstream society, are not relied upon for all communication. Which is exactly the case with me. I can literally not go anywhere without my devices because I would be lost and stuck without them. In times of crisis when I am alone and cannot communicate with my surroundings, that is where I find comfort in knowing that in my bag are tools to solve any issue that arises.
A key to the world
I relate my experience with assistive technology (AT) to that of a wheelchair user – without their chair, that person would not be able to get around and go about their lives. They would need someone to carry them everywhere which I can safely say is not desirable to most people, of any age. It’s a loss of independence, of control and freedom. That is precisely what my BrailleNote gives me – access to everything from email, SMS, social media and Google. I would not be able to work, go to cheerleading, study, travel, or anything else really, without this equipment. So, I am extremely grateful to have it, and to the people who invented it, because my life would not be anywhere near the same if I had no AT.
It’s not always easy
Having said that, there are obviously pitfalls to having assistive technology – it’s not a walk in the park all the time! For one, it’s really expensive. For people without a job and without external funding such as National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), affording AT repairs is a huge struggle. It’s natural that things will break and need fixing, just general wear and tear and what happens when you overuse something. That’s normal. But dealing with the cost when that occurs is a whole other nightmare. One has to cross their fingers and toes that the AT will last a reasonable amount of years before it crashes. And then also you could think of it from this perspective – I didn’t ask to be deafblind, I was dealt this hand of cards in life and although I’m not complaining it’s not my fault that I need the AT; as such, it really should be free or super cheap because it’s a necessity, not a choice. That’s just my opinion, everyone will have their own way of looking at it.
Weight is another factor. My BrailleNote is not light or particularly small so I’m unable to carry certain sized bags with me because my AT will not fit. This can be rather annoying if I’m going to a ball, wedding or other fancy event where it’s ideal to not bring giant bags because it just doesn’t match the clothes and atmosphere. So perhaps something to hope for in the future is customised AT that can be made to suit people’s needs and wants accordingly, and cater to the fashionistas of the world… like myself!
To sum up, there are pros and cons to owning AT but the pros largely beat the cons. It’s a bit like a child, or an animal – you have to look after it so it doesn’t get injured/break, recharge/feed it daily so it has energy, and I guess, it is a responsibility. But one I find very worthwhile indeed.
There is always room for improvement but there have already been significant discoveries made in my lifetime (21 years) that I am confident we are in good hands technology-wise for future generations.
- Search our NED (National Equipment Database) for aids for vision and hearing. In this section you will find aids that assist with speech and improving your awareness of your environment.
- Read this article by Vanessa Vlajkovic : Is Braille Still Relevant in the Age of Technology?
PHOTO CREDIT: ABC “You Can’t Ask That”