We are so happy to welcome Elin Williams as our guest blogger. Elin is the writer behind the award-winning blog, My Blurred World.
She has been blogging about her experiences of living with Retinitis Pigmentosa since 2015, with the aim to raise awareness and help others in a similar situation. This has helped her create the very platform she could have benefited from reading when she was younger.
A self-confessed workaholic, Elin also works as a Social Media and Communications Officer, studies with the Open University and is a writer for publications including the BBC and The Guardian and is a mentor to young vision impaired people.
More recently, Elin’s advocacy has extended beyond the pages of her blog, and she has also delivered public speeches to schools and the government and has taken part in panels.
Elin tells us what assistive technology means to her and what it helps her achieve.
What assistive technology means to me
‘How do you understand that?’ My friends ask as I flick through my phone. They’re referring to my screen-reader, the robotic voice that narrates my life.
My screen-reader is a successor in a long line of assistive technologies that have featured in my life over the years; from handheld magnifiers to the clunkier devices that demanded a desk of their own, and then a variety of magnifying softwares on my phone and laptop.
As my eyesight deteriorated, the magnifiers were relegated to the depths of a dust-covered box but screen-reading software, coupled with a few apps have remained, acting as keys that give me access to the world.
That’s the best thing about assistive technology. Without it, I wouldn’t possess the independence that I do. It smoothes the hard edges of tasks that would be considered inaccessible and merely impossible without it.
So what do I use assistive technology for and what does it mean to me?
I have a set of skills that I refer to exclusively as my ‘VIP skills’, things I would never have learned if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m vision impaired. I’m talking about learning how to read and write in braille, using a white cane, playing the piano and harp by ear and understanding my fast-talking friend thanks to years of listening and increasing the speed of my screen-reader. The thing that initiated that skillset was learning to touch type when I was in primary school.
As a writer and blogger, touch-typing has proven to be one of the most valuable skills I’ve learned and thanks to screen-reading software such as Supernova, every word I write can be read back to me. Finding those typos has never been so easy!
It’s safe to say that I’m a workaholic and it’s thanks to assistive technology that I’m able to fulfil that tendency. My first job saw me using screen-magnifying software on my computer and a travel electronic magnifier that I could use to read any printed documents.
I now work as a Social Media and Communications Officer and so my work is entirely digital.
My screen reader is my everyday assistant and whilst it unfortunately can’t help me in ticking off the tasks from my ever-growing to-do list, it does read the emails that clog my inbox and aids me in navigating the social media platforms and websites that I manage.
When I remind myself to wind down, one of the main things I do to relax is read. I’ve been a bookworm for as long as I can remember but as the strain of using my electronic magnifier to read paperbacks got a little too much and the fact that braille books were a no-go in terms of carrying around, I turned to audiobooks to help me get that bookish fix.
The EasyReader App was a revelation when I came across it, giving me access to thousands of free audiobooks, which help me disengage from the world after those long days looking at a screen.
All of this leads to the overarching feat of assistive technology which, for me, is independence. Perhaps not complete independence at all times but a demo of it and I for one am looking forward to the full version where accessibility will be considered a priority in all mainstream aspects of life to allow assistive tech to really shine.
Apps feature in my day-to-day life to read printed documents and letters, writing on food packaging, clothing labels and beauty/health products. And being able to use my screen-reader with train tickets and the Passenger Assistance app means that an independent journey is only one click away.
Whilst assistive technology is brilliant, I won’t gloss over the fact that there are pitfalls, too. Most of which come as a result of app and website developers not communicating with those who are experts in accessibility.
So many brands, organisations and websites fail in adding ALT text image descriptions to their photos or dismiss the importance of labelling all buttons and links which makes navigating some online spaces as a vision impaired person near enough impossible. Unless you’re willing to click through to see what’s on the other side, that is. It could be Narnia, who knows?
Changes need to happen to make accessibility universally acknowledged and implemented in order for disabled people to navigate the world without barriers.
I’ll continuously vouch for these changes but for now, I’ll sit here and say I’m glad to have grown up in the era of technology where so many developments are being made every day.
Assistive technology is ultimately the tie that tethers me to a world that isn’t designed for those of us who are vision impaired. It gives me access to people, places and information that I wouldn’t have otherwise and that’s incredibly empowering.
About Dolphin EasyReader App
EasyReader App makes reading more accessible for readers who are visually impaired, have a neurodiversity such as dyslexia or any other print impairment. It can be used to browse and read books from accessible libraries, and enables the reader to customise the way they read, with a variety of features including large text, audio and speech.
Whether you're reading for leisure, education or work, choose the EasyReader App to read on your phone, tablet or laptop.
About SuperNova Magnifier & Screen Reader
Part of the SuperNova range, SuperNova Magnifier & Screen Reader provides exceptional magnification, screen reading and braille support. It enables you to explore your computer screen, to read information in way that suit your vision, whatever your level of sight. You can rely on SuperNova to help you succeed at home, throughout your education and at work.