Technology for Independent Living
By Maribel Steel
Tour Guide, Dialogue in the Dark Melbourne
There is no doubt that we live in a visual and technological world. But have you ever wondered, how do people who have low vision or are blind access visual information like you do?
If you were no longer able to identify a visual world, how would you use a computer without being able to see the screen? How will a visual GPS get you to your destination, or how would you even find items on store shelves that you are used to doing on your own?
Dialogue in the Dark Tour Guides are keen to show just how possible it truly is! They are people who are blind or vision-impaired who utilise specialised technology to retain their independence and log into an ever-changing tech world in a variety of ways.
A Buddy Called JAWS
As a vision impaired person and tour guide, and as a way to access my computer, I use software for the blind called JAWS (Job Access With Speech). It is a screen reading program, using a synthesised voice that is available in 18 languages.
The ‘voice’ talks the user through every aspect of operating a PC; such as composing and replying to emails, filing documents to folders, creating published posts and surfing the internet – independently.
As a writer, I use JAWS every single day and what I love most – is that I can push ‘his’ buttons and he doesn’t even mind!
Another of our Tour Guide’s, Adam is totally blind and is a keen marathon runner. He speaks highly of his Apple watch that keeps him on track to achieve his athletic goals.
“My Apple watch has certainly streamlined my life. I utilise it every day for messaging, doing emails, and as a marathon runner, to calculate speed, time and distances.”
The other tech-gadget Adam finds useful is a ‘Bar Code Reader’. “With my sports I need to fuel my body so I use the Summit Bar Code Reader to locate specific foods in a supermarket I need to stay healthy for my body building program. It’s a light weight, hand held device that tells me the item I am looking for.”
Becoming Tech Wise
Tour Guide Rory has also adapted to becoming tech-wise after losing his sight. He has found the ‘Talking Typer’ as a useful tech-aid to brush up on his computer typing skills.
“Tech wise, it makes me feel empowered and boosts my confidence in my day to day activities, both as a family man and as a tour guide for Dialogue in the Dark.”
Rory uses an APP on his smart phone called, “Where the hell am I”. The APP informs the user as to the location in conjunction with a GPS system.
“I find it easy to use, and especially if I get lost because my wife’s phone is set up to know where I am and we can work it out together.”
Stay in Touch
This is just the tip of the accessible tech-iceberg. In coming posts, we will explore more of the many options our Dialogue in the Dark Tour Guides use to successfully navigate not only a sighted world but also, how they are tapping into a plethora of accessible options to achieve their aspirations and live life to the full.
Maribel Steel is a tour guide with Dialogue in the Dark, Melbourne. She is a freelance writer, speaker and positive vision educator. Maribel is legally blind with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) and is a peer advisor for VisionAware (American Foundation for the Blind).