New App to support visually impaired people at Heathrow Airport

The Aira app from Heathrow Airport

Late last year, I was really excited to see a press release from Heathrow talking about an app they were trialling to enable visually impaired people to be able to use the airport more independently.

Steven outside Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport

Like a lot of people, I find flying really stressful. I’m blind and hearing impaired and the whole environment (from security onwards) is really tricky to navigate around, plus it’s really noisy so communication can be challenging. All this can often mean that the process of checking in can take longer, thus leaving less time for important activities such as spending money in duty free and scoping out the nearest bar!  Even though you can book support through your airline, you are still reliant on this being put in place and working without a hitch, so anything that can give people more independence is to be welcomed.

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Being born blind meant braille was a life saver growing up in the ’90s

A man and woman walk arm in arm through a large hall. The man has a white cane and is wearing a cochlear implant

The amount of braille based devices on offer was the one thing that really stood out to me when I attended last year’s Sight Village assistive technology show.

As Sense’s Technology Officer, it got me thinking back to my own relationship with braille over the years, and why I think that even in a world where there’s so much assistive technology, braille – certainly for me – has been incredibly important.

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What questions do six year olds have for deafblind people?

A seated man with a group of students, seated on the floor
Steven Morris with the Year 2 students

Last month, I went back to school… well for an afternoon at least!

Over the last few years, I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to one of my local primary schools, Chepping View Primary Academy in High Wycombe – where my wife works – to talk about living with a sensory impairment.

My visits have helped the children to understand more about the work Sense does, and the people it supports. As a result, the school council decided to run ‘Sense cinema day’ just before Christmas, raising more than £800 for the charity.

Each year, I speak to the Year 2 children about braille, certain technology that I use, and then I brave their questions!

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How accessible are Apple’s devices for people who are deafblind?

Steven with a man who is discussing an iPad
Steven discussing his iPad at a Sense technology workshop

For many people who are deafblind, smartphones and tablets can offer a lot in terms of accessibility features. Whether it’s a screen reader like Voiceover on an Apple iPhone, or an iPad or Talkback on Android models, it’s great to see that manufacturers are considering accessibility at the heart of what they do.

That said, the vast array of features can be bewildering. As an Apple user, I make use of several online resources to help me get the best from my devices.

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VarioUltra braille display

BAUM Vario Ultra Braille Display with 20 and 40 keys
BAUM Vario Ultra braille display with 20 and 40 braille cells

The personal views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not represent a product endorsement on behalf of Sense.

For people like me who are deafblind, braille displays can be an invaluable tool to help us access information and keep in touch with family and friends. There are an increasing number of braille devices currently on the market – we’ve written about some of them in previous posts. One of the newest Braille Displays available is the VarioUltra braille display and notetaker, manufactured by BAUM.

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Take the assistive technology survey 2016

The UK Government is currently conducting the 2016 assistive technology survey. The survey is open until the end of June and is looking at what assistive technology people use to access the Gov.UK website.

Gov.UK is the main source of information about government services and useful information about issues such as benefits, registering to vote and information on parenting and childcare.

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Review: The BrailleNote Touch is the world’s first Braille tablet

Steven Morris, Digital Champions Coordinator, Online Today project

Tablet devices are becoming more and more popular both for personal and professional use. We see them in schools and in the workplace, as well as being used at home, and out and about.

There’s a huge array of choice on the market, and real efforts are being made to make tablets and smartphones more accessible. For example, Voiceover on apple products or Talkback on Android devices.

“Real efforts are being made to make tablets and smartphones accessible”

A lot of these devices also offer Braille support, allowing users to connect them to refreshable Braille displays. Now, for the first time, a company called Humanware have developed the world’s first Braille tablet, called the BrailleNote Touch. And I was lucky enough yo attend the UK launch event in London to learn more about it.

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An update about the Next Generation Text Relay service

Steven Morris, Digital Champions Coordinator, Online Today project

Some readers of the oldblog may be aware that BT has recently replaced their old text relay service with the new Next Generation Text Relay Service (NGT). Last year, Janet Caldwell, one of our Online Today Digital Champions wrote a piece about her experiences of using NGT after she attended an event with BT.

NGT means that text relay is now available to use on a mobile phone, tablet or laptop, meaning that you can use it out and about. NGT enables relay operator assisted calls as well as text to text calls. To use NGT, you need to download an app called ‘NGT Lite’ to your internet enabled Smartphone, Tablet or computer. Sense has developed some guidance online which also has links to the NGT website where you can get more help or information and download the app.

The reason for this oldblog post is to let you know about an update to the NGT Lite app that will affect you if you are already using the service prior to 26 April 2016.

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Mobile Phones and Synapptic Software

Steven Morris, Digital Champions Coordinator, Online Today project

With so many mobile phones currently on the market, finding the right one can be a bit of a minefield! Selecting which model best meets your needs can be doubly difficult if you are deafblind.

For this month’s technology oldblog, we are going to hear about the experiences of Sheila Anderson who works for Sense. Sheila is partially sighted herself and has had a 5 year long struggle to find the mobile phone that is right for her.
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Review: Fitbit Flex

Steven Morris, Digital Champions Coordinator, Online Today project

Following on from my oldblog in January where I wrote about my attempts to get fitter and track what I am eating with the ‘My Fitness Pal’ app, I’m back this month to write about my new toy, a Fitbit.

Fitbit Flex

The Fitbit Flex is a wrist-worn device which tracks the number of steps I’ve taken, how active I’ve been, the number of calories I’ve burned and also acts as a sleep tracker. You can motivate yourself by setting goals. For example, walk 10000 steps in a day or sleep 8 hours a night! You can even have competitions with your friends if they own a Fitbit. There is a daily showdown where you can see who among your friends has walked the furthest—I always come last! The information from the Fitbit is accessed either through the Fitbit website or via their apps for Android and Apple.

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