Keeping in touch with the outside world

Tablet demonstration at a Sense technology training day
Chris Fox undertaking a tablet demonstration at a Sense technology training day

For over three years Mum, who has Usher type 1d, has been using an iPad and it has improved her ability to communicate and interact with the world around her.

I first made contact with Sense three years ago, when I realised that Mum was struggling and I was out of my depth. Some of our first visitors were the Usher and technology teams.

When Chris Fox from the Sense technology team came to demonstrate the tablet she was immediately hooked and bought one two days later. She was interested in computers right from the start, she often used her grandson’s BBC Archimedes after he had gone to bed! She was amazed at what a tablet did and it gave her more independent access to the outside world.

We used FaceTime when I was away, we shared photos and videos, she emailed her friends, she kept up with the news and weather and found things she wanted to buy.

Her central vision, although very limited, was able to cope with a tablet, as it did the television, because it had its own light source. The tablet was also fantastic in areas of low lighting when using the camera facility, not to take pictures but to look around a room or watch people talking or signing. Without this she couldn’t see. Taking pictures of menu boards and then reading them was also useful.

Mum reads the posts every day from people who experience the world as she does and she draws great comfort from that.

Mum then decided to get a smart phone as this was more portable and again it was extremely useful especially when we discovered the Sense Usher Service. Mum reads the posts every day from people who experience the world as she does and she draws great comfort from that. She particularly enjoys watching the videos in her own language, British Sign Language (BSL).

As time has moved on Mum’s sight has continued to deteriorate. Her central vision is now so small that she can no longer see the whole of the tablet even at arm’s length. The smart phone being smaller is used much more. Mum’s tolerance of variable light levels is much less too. What used to be grey is now white so whatever she looks at is surrounded by a dazzling glare. The optimal time to use the smartphone and the tablet is now at night with the curtains drawn and all lights off. She sits up till the early hours catching up!

One note of caution is that being severely sight impaired does mean that the devices sometimes slips out of hands and gets caught, with fingers altering settings mid-fall or even worse rendering the device temporarily inoperable. It definitely helps to have family members on hand with a bit of know-how and lots of patience and persistence!

Beyond computers, the fabulous tactile BSL interpreters at Sense made the Sense conferences accessible to her and gave us the confidence to use tactile BSL, deafblind manual, block and now haptics ourselves. Sense also advised applying for a Direct Payment and now one of her communicator guides is Diane Cardwell from Sense Birmingham. She is superb and has helped Mum to make new friends.

Mum spends many fruitful and happy hours every day with her iPad and iPhone, they have kept her connected and will continue do so for as long as we can find ways of using them.

Read more about technology for the sensory impaired at the Sense website.

Author: Cathy Mills

Cathy's mother has Usher syndrome and is supported by Sense

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