Getting connected and keeping informed using technology

It’s never been so important to be connected and stay connected in these, quite frankly, odd times. Chatting to your friends, family, and caring neighbours, ensuring you are informed and up to date, well stocked with food, medication and general supplies, are all vital to keep healthy in both mind and body.
Mark from our Digital Team has put together a series of blog posts called 'Can You Hear Me?' This first blog covers ways that technology can help somebody who is blind or has a visual impairment to get connected, and keep informed.

Mainstream Technology

Smartphones are accessible for somebody living with sight loss, even if you are totally blind. One thing I always say is think of a smartphone as an easy to use, sophisticated computer, that’s also a phone too.

Learning to operate a smartphone with no sight will take some time, and will most likely need some support in the beginning, but it’s totally possible. I have colleagues that have no sight and are far slicker, with speed, than I am using such devices!

If you have some useful vision… it’s easy, as both Apple and Android (Samsung) smartphones have easy to set up features that allow you to adjust your phone in all sorts of funky ways, like increase the font size for example.  You can always use the benefits of voice commands too, like Siri, Alexa, and others. There are so many mainstream apps like WhatsApp, Facebook and specialist apps too, like the fantastic Seeing AI and Be My Eyes.

Our friends at MID Communications (a franchise of 02) can get you the best products, phone and data tariffs too.

Specialist Mobile Phones

I’m a fan of specialist tech too; they are a very concise solution provider, and are very intuitive, easy to learn with easy to remember features and functions. They are not as complicated as mainstream technology so you can be up and running in no time. There are a couple of really nice pieces of specialist mobile phone kit: Synapptic and In Your Pocket.

Synapptic

Gives you access to an android phone, without all the fuss.  So easy to set up and use and suitable for any level of sight loss, and can evolve with you if your sight changes.

In Your Pocket

A totally voice controlled, fuss-free mobile phone that gives you access to books, newspapers and magazines. In basic terms, it’s a mobile audio library that’s a mobile phone too.

Magnification

The Henshaws Digital Team carry all types of magnification solutions, from handhelds and portables to desktops, with anything from 4 inch to 24 inch screen size. Many of these are from our friends at both Humanware and Optelec

In a nutshell, these solutions allow you to view and magnify text, objects and photos, anything from <0.5x to >22x times magnification. You can also change colours and contrast to suit your eye condition.

The best of both worlds now exists – due to technological advancement these units can now carry both magnification and OCR features too. What’s OCR? Read on my friend… 😊

OCR (Optical Character Recognition)

For the layperson OCR is ‘Text to Speech’, or simply put it reads for you. The device will take a picture of the thing you think you want to read; it will then do all sorts of instant wizardry to read it out to you, pretty smart, eh?

Some OCR sit inside portable and desktop magnifiers, others standalone, and some (like the OrCam) are truly wearable, and does so much more than read.

Specialist Computer Software

This software sits between you and the Microsoft world! Giving you exceptional control of your visual experience if you have got some useful vision, or you could use screen reader software which allows you to hear what you type into the computer, and hear what’s on the screen too.

As you can imagine, there are lots of different solutions out there – JAWS, ZoomText, Fusion, SuperNova, GUIDE, and even something called NVDA, which is free.

Our friends at Dolphin and Sight and Sound are both experts in this field.

Wearable Technology

I mentioned the OrCam before; this type of technology you wear on your face, like a futuristic pair of spectacles – I believe this is the future, for mainstream and specialist technology for people living with sight loss.

OxSight and GiveVision are just two products on the market that give excellent solutions.

Next steps to getting you connected...

So, there you go, lots of things to get your teeth into and to ponder “Which is the right piece of tech for me?”

If you are interested in any of these solutions and want to talk to some tech geeks (like me!) then give us a call on 0300 222 5555 or email us at info@henshaws.org.uk

Most of the technology mentioned here we’ve pretty much done a video within our Knowledge Village online resource, and most of the products you can purchase through us too (any commissions we earn will allow us to continue to deliver free services within our sight loss community).

Want to know more?

Please go to our Knowledge Village and/or YouTube channel (and subscribe to both so that you keep up to date with our new content):

Henshaws Knowledge Village

Henshaws YouTube channel

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Sarah
Sarah
Sarah is the Marketing Manager with responsibility for Community Services across Greater Manchester, and the Knowledge Village.