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An Introduction to Assistive Tech

As May 21st is Global Accessibility Awareness Day I will, just this once, admit that very occasionally, I do get totally confused by a piece of tech.

In fact, it is not unusual to find me fumbling around a new app or gadget, desperately tapping buttons, and grunting to myself like a confused, angry caveman. It doesn’t matter how many apps you’ve used in the past, or how many Wi-Fi routers you’ve installed for family and friends, when it comes to tech, and everything else for that matter, there’s always something new to learn.

So why am I confessing all this today? Well, that feeling of frustration, confusion and feeling just out of my depth is something that I, and many others I’m sure, struggled with for a long time when I started to lose my vision. Yes, that is from an emotional perspective, but what I am referring to is how I felt when trying to adjust to using technology as a visually impaired person. As someone who has always been a nerd, ever since I got my hands on a ZX81 in 1981, the thought of trying to use any computer when I could no longer see the screen properly or use a mouse just seemed impossible. So, I just gave up.

It was not until I walked into the computer building at the Royal National College for the Blind that I discovered a whole new type of technology, which enabled me to use a computer like anybody else. Braille displays, speech synthesizers, CCTV’s, embossers, screen magnifiers, all these things, that I had no idea even existed, changed my whole outlook on what was possible and what I could do.

Of course, as the rest of the Double Tap team will tell you, I am an old man. This was before the mainstream adoption of the internet and smartphones. Surely, it is different today. There are so many ways to get information now: you can Google it, ask your voice assistant, post on social media, join a forum or email list and more… And yes, that is true and there all fantastic resources. The only problem is of course that you do need access to some form of technology to do any of that. It so easy to fall into our own little bubbles, where we take it for granted that everyone has a smartphone, laptop or smart-speaker, and, moreover, even if they do, that they know how to use it in an accessible way. The truth is, we all need someone to point us in the right direction, to show us what options are available and where to start.

In this audio, I try to answer that question that we have all been asked at some point. How do I use a smartphone or computer if I am blind? I explain the concepts of screen readers, magnifiers and braille displays, hopefully in a jargon free, easy to understand way so that if you are new to the world of assistive tech, you will have a better idea of what’s available and where to start.

Listen to the Audio Below:


Shaun Preece View All

Co-host & audio producer on the Double Tap Canada radio show. Occasional contributor to Double Tap TV, full time shed resident.

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