Light in the Darkness: New technologies and products for the visually impaired
Living in a world of darkness is simply unfathomable to most people. However, blind and visually impaired people must make their way through a dark, and often times frustrating, confusing world on a daily basis. Thankfully, many innovative products for the visually impaired have become beacons in the darkness.
My family gained first-hand experience with the realities of blindness when my grandmother was diagnosed with an eye disease called Glaucoma over a decade ago. Though we sought out many treatments and preventative measures, the damage was irreversible. The shock came when wet macular degeneration began to set in. Coupled with the Glaucoma, the result was darkness. My grandmother suffered severe loss of vision.
Coming to terms with blindness was an emotional and physical roller coaster for my grandmother, a published author, business consultant and university professor, familiar with traveling the world to attend conferences and business meetings.
Desperate for tools and resources that might help my grandmother to maintain her active lifestyle, my family began to research products for the visually impaired. My grandmother?s most poignant disappointment was over the fact that she could no longer read. Ipods and on line accounts with audible.com and other audio book distributors proved to be wonderful resources for my grandmother.
However, this simply wasn?t enough. My grandmother wanted to be able to read her daily mail, magazines, newspapers, food packages, medications etc.
We decided to purchase a desktop reading machine. This reading device was truly a miracle for my grandmother. This incredible machine had the ability to quickly and accurately scan any document placed on its surface, and then read the scanned material aloud.
“As a person who has loved reading,” says my grandmother, “my desktop reading machine has given back to me what loosing my vision took away.”
In addition to the desktop reading machine, a variety of other simple and reasonably priced products for the visually impaired proved priceless to my grandmother. These technological innovations include talking clocks and wrist watches, talking calculators and voice recognition software for her computer. Even basic products such as over sized, raised print checkbooks and registers helped my grandmother to conduct business.
Computer software such as Zoomtext, a powerful screen magnifier, and Jaws Screen Reader which reads screen text aloud, enabled my grandmother to conduct simple and rewarding daily business tasks such as sending and receiving e-mails and even opening and reading e-mail attachments.
Little by little, my grandmother has learned to navigate through a new, dark world. She firmly believes that modern technology and innovative products for the visually impaired have helped her to live her life as an independent person.
“One of the things that can happen to people who suffer vision loss is that they begin to feel cut off and isolated.” Explains my grandmother. “Eventually, these feelings of isolation can lead to depression.”
Utilizing new technologies and keeping abreast of research and advancements in products for the visually impaired is the key to maintaining an active, productive and independent lifestyle.