Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Perspective:Using Technology While Having a Vision Disability - Part 1

This is a series of articles showing how technology allows me to compensate for, or reduce the effects of my vision disability. I cannot do many things anymore but I can enjoy some of the smaller pleasures of life even though I am legally blind. 

BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) - Evelyn O'Brien of Wilbraham says an iPad now allows her to see things she hasn't seen in decades.
22 News May 4, 2011.  iPad gives sight to legally blind woman. This article might sound to good to be true to most, but I am here to tell you this is exactly how I feel. Reading is a chore at best. However, if text is large enough and/or there is a significant contrast between background and text, reading is still possible. For example, the newspaper, with it's small text and off-white paper color is impossible to read without a powerful magnifying glass.
Here is where technology comes to the rescue. I can read books, the newspaper, news services and web pages on my tablet, smart phone or PC. Let's talk about books first. I use an Apple iPad and got the first generation version in April 2010, the day it was available because I immediately saw the value to me. The price was such a small price to pay if I could read e-mail, read a book or read the newspaper in casual surroundings and not sitting to a desk with my face stuck to the screen. Today, this capability is not limited to Apple's iPad as there are many tablets, e-readers and smart phones that have a back-lit screen to provide desirable contrast. There is significant choice of brand and price point too. I must note that I made the move to the latest iPad with Retina display. I can absolutely tell the difference and it helps me.

For books, I use Kindle software on my tablet. I switched to Kindle from another e-reader ecosystem because of it's Whisper Sync technology that allows page synchronization between devices--like a smart phone, tablet or PC. In other words, I can stop reading on the iPad and later pick up my smart phone and continue right where I left off. I then set the text size to be very large. If the words exceed the bounds of the blind spots, then I can read it adequately. Below are screen shots from a tablet and smart phone showing what most people see versus what I need see for text size. 
Kindle on tablet-default size
Kindle on tablet-what I need

Kindle on smart phone-default size
Kindle on smart phone-what I need

There is nothing more gratifying than being able to read most of what I want to read even with this vision handicap. Technology has done this for me and I am very thankful.



About my vision condition--
I have a rare retina disease called Retinal Pigment Epethelium Distropy (RPE Distrophy). In english, I have blind spots in my vision due to small circles in my retina that do not transmit to the brain via the optic nerve. The periphery is pretty good with glasses but things right in the middle of my vision, where important things need to be seen, are not good at all. As an example, I cannot see traffic lights as they disappear when I look right at them. I can only see the first letter "E" on the eye chart. There is no cure or treatment for this condition. Although RPE Distrophy is similar to Macular Degeneration, which is very common, especially with seniors, only 200,000 people have what I have.

Please share this article with friends or relatives, especially those who might be older and have similar vision difficulties. All of my articles about tech and software come from my perspective--you must be able to see it to use it. Maybe my other articles found in this blog will be of use or provide motivation to not give up--or even try that new piece of tech that everyone is talking about.

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