Holly Tuke is a disability blogger, freelance writer and Assistive Technology Advisor. She's also the author behind the award-winning blog 'Life of a Blind Girl'.
Holly is passionate about raising awareness of all things vision impairment and disability, helping others, educating society and striving for change - and we're delighted to welcome her to the Dolphin Blog and to learn what assistive technology means to her.
Assistive technology has been a part of my life since I was a child. I learned how to touch-type during my first few years at primary school, and from then on, using a screen reader became part of my every day life. At that age, I was unaware of how much assistive technology would have an impact on my life. Now I can safely say that my life would be completely different if assistive technology didn’t exist. It may sound a bit strange, but I’m very grateful for assistive technology and the constant advances in tech.
The assistive technology landscape is forever growing and always changing, but the reasons I’m grateful for this incredible technology will never change. In fact, they’ll probably be cemented even more as advances in technology continue.
So why am I grateful for assistive technology?
It opens up the world
I know I’m not alone in thinking this. Apps and devices I use enable me to access an array of content, without them I’d be unable to access.
But for me, the most powerful part is that it enhances many of my skills just by tapping the screen, or by the press of a button.
Assistive technology enables me to carry out my job just like my sighted colleagues, write and publish my blog posts, build my freelance writing portfolio, plan and present my radio show on RNIB Connect Radio, keep in touch with family and friends and use social media for my disability activism and campaigning work. It also enables me to access content to help me relax including my favourite streaming and reading services. Apps like Spotify, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Audible and Dolphin EasyReader help me strike that all-important work life balance.
I can access the apps and websites I need whenever, and that’s all thanks to assistive technology.
It gives me freedom
Assistive technology gives me the freedom to do the things I want to, when I want to. It gives me the freedom to lead the life I want.
Screen readers, apps and devices give me the freedom and ability to access the digital world. They enable me to make choices and access information in an accessible format (most of the time). Without assistive technology, I wouldn’t be doing any of these things.
I often wonder what my life would be like if it wasn’t for the wonders of technology, what would I be doing? Where would I be? If it wasn’t for assistive technology then I certainly wouldn’t have access to the apps and programs I use every single day to complete a range of tasks.
It enhances my independence
Assistive technology means that I can complete my work independently, carry out tasks and it helps when visiting new places.
If it wasn’t for screen readers, I wouldn’t be able to use any of the devices I use every single day.
Apps that build a better awareness of the world around me like Microsoft Soundscape, Aira, BlindSquare, Google and Apple Maps all help me complete daily tasks independently, as well as harnessing my confidence and independence when out and about.
Using a mobile phone or computer may seem so simple and something we may take for granted at times, but without screen readers and other such assistive technology, many of us would be excluded from using these devices. We wouldn’t have access to the world in the same way we do today. From online shopping to navigating an unfamiliar route, it gives me a ton of independence.
I feel empowered
By having access to the specialist and mainstream assistive technology that I do fills me with so much joy. I know that learning how to use new software and devices can seem daunting, but once it becomes part of your life, it is empowering.
The fact that I have access to a screen reader and other accessibility features on mainstream devices is happiness I can’t quite describe. As disabled people, we often feel ignored or forgotten, but when accessibility is included in products straight out of the box makes me feel valued.
Assistive technology helps me strive to achieve my goals and ambitions. It gives me that extra push when I need it most.
It helps me hone in on new and existing skills
There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t use a piece of assistive technology, so when I do, I’m using skills I’ve had for years, or learning new ones.
Writing blog posts and articles, doing work tasks, browsing the internet or responding to emails all require skills that I’ve had for years. I also find that my skillset grows when using assistive technology - we're always learning!
This was something I recently thought more about when learning how to edit audio. As well as my day job and blogging, I also present a radio show. There’s a lot of planning and preparation that goes into the show before recording. Using assistive technology in conjunction with accessible editing software enables me to record and edit content, but most importantly, I can do it independently.
Using assistive technology gives me the opportunity to keep up existing skills, as well as learning new ones, both of which are a vital part of my future.
The impact of assistive technology
The assistive technology I use is so much more than a couple of devices and a few pieces of software, it’s my independence. It’s my eyes in a way.
Assistive technology means something different to everyone. It’s a real passion of mine. I think a lot of that passion and joy comes from the impact it has had on my life, I want others to feel empowered by technology, too.
Holly Tuke is the award-winning blogger behind Life of a Blind Girl where she shares stories of her life , her interests and her vision impairment.
As well as her day job as an Assistive Technology Adviser, Holly is also a freelance writer and recently started work on a radio show: 'The Happy Hour' at RNIB Connect Radio, which has an uplifting mix of music and chat, with a focus on sight loss, mental health, mindfulness, and overall wellbeing.
When she’s not tapping away at her keyboard, putting together a blog post or working on her writing portfolio, you can usually find her spending quality time with friends and family, singing her heart out at a concert, listening to music or getting lost in an audiobook.
About Dolphin Assistive Technology
The Dolphin SuperNova Range
The SuperNova range of assistive technology delivers a reliable combination of magnification, speech and braille for Windows. It empowers people who are blind or partially sighted to communicate and access information in ways that suit their sight.
GuideConnect is the simplest way for people with sight loss to stay independent, connected and entertained. GuideConnect has user-friendly menus that help people with visual impairments to send emails, make video calls, browse the web, read print, listen to audiobooks, radio stations and more.
Dolphin EasyReader is a free reading app that's suitable for anyone who is blind, visually impaired or has dyslexia. It gives users direct access to audio book libraries, textbook libraries and talking newspaper services around the world. EasyReader makes reading text easier, as users can customise how they view or hear text.