Technology is the way of the future

04/09/19
Mike Corrigan, Access Technology Consultant at RIDBCMike Corrigan, Access Technology Consultant at RIDBC supporting student with vision impairment
 

For people with vision impairment, “Technology, in a big way, is closing the gap”. That is according to Mike Corrigan, Access Technology Consultant at RIDBC. The Access Technology service at RIDBC asks a simple question – ‘What is it that you want to do?’. In the most part, technology may have the answer. Mike’s knowledge is vast and, as a man who was born blind, he offers valuable and lived experience for the people he supports.

 
 

Technology leads to independence

As the above question demonstrates, the Access Technology service is goal driven and client focused. For the purpose of school support, it seeks to provide full access to the school curriculum as well as develop skills to foster independence. The technology itself, is the enabler. 

The skills that children learn today form the foundations of those skills they will use tomorrow – including things such as completing the Census; voting; online shopping; using social networking; online banking; applying for employment; and completing a tax return.

 
 

What technology is available? 

For people who are blind or have low vision there are a variety of options available when it comes to technology – below are a few examples. Mike says, “When it comes to technology there is something for everyone”.

refreshable braille display

    1. Refreshable Braille Displays

    Refreshable braille displays allow people to access, read and write information in braille from a PC or tablet, with a screen reader. Refreshable braille equipment can be used as a device independently or in connection with another device, such as a PC or tablet. Their portability allows them to be easily used in a classroom or whilst on the go.

     

    screen reader

    1. Screen Readers

    Screen readers, in the most basic form, assist in the transfer of information from a screen to the user either through an audio output or via braille using a refreshable braille display. The advantage of some screen readers though, is to identify the important information on the screen rather than simply reading all information on the page. Navigating the screen is achieved through keyboard commands or finger gestures.

     

    smart devices

    1. Smart Devices

    The development of smart phones and smart devices, and their associated applications, has been significant. Mike suggests “Making phone calls is now the least of what a phone can do”.

    From an assistive technology perspective this ranges from apps designed to educate young people on technology including the skills of navigating screens and programs using techniques such as double tapping or swiping (for example, the Ballyland Magic app); to image recognition apps that interpret the contents of photos using artificial intelligence (AI) technology; to apps that aid in navigation by identifying landmarks and points of interest (for example, Microsoft Soundscape).

    voice recognition

    1. Voice Recognition Assistants

    Well known assistants such as Apple’s Siri or Google Home use voice requests to perform tasks. For people who are blind or have low vision this can increase the efficiency of tasks that may have previously taken much longer. Examples include using YouTube for educational research or navigating a website to plan a trip using public transport.

     

    screen magnifier

    1. Screen Magnifiers

    Common amongst people with low vision screen magnifiers can include software that allows the user functionality such as changing mouse pointer size; identifying the mouse pointer location on a screen; adjusting screen colours; enabling audio output to support eye fatigue; and changing the way text is displayed on the screen to be more user friendly. Solutions that photograph, magnify, recognise and produce audio output from a page of print are also available.

     
     

    Technology is an individual experience

    In Mike’s experience, when it comes to technology, people usually use multiple devices – just what combination of devices comes down to individual preference and comfort. Sometimes it is also about knowing what is available, which is where Mike’s work in the role as an Access Technology Consultant is critical. It is one of many roles that he has performed in his 17-year tenure at RIDBC, and one in which he is incredibly proud of. “Over the years my role has changed a number of times to what it is today” he says.

    Mike’s view on technology is clear – “It is positive if the developers adhere to accessibility principles”. Adherence to said accessibility principles allows everyone to access the information, whether through sight or via a device.

     
     

    What does the future hold?

    The future of technology remains unclear, but mostly in a positive way. Many of the technological innovations we currently enjoy would not have been considered possible only a few years ago. What is clear is that technology will play an ever-increasing role in the lives of people who are blind or have low vision.

      
     

    The RIDBC Access Technology service may be accessed using your NDIS package

    For a discussion about how this service may be able to support you or a loved one please contact us via:

     


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