AS someone who has lived with low vision since birth, Glen Bracegirdle is the ideal person to help other vision impaired people make the most of technology.
The Vision Australia access technology specialist recently visited clients across Sunraysia with his seeing eye dog ‘Bronny’, PICTURED, with the aim to look at what technology is available, including computers, tablets and mobile phones, and make them more accessible for people who are blind or have low vision.
“Computers have a screen and a mouse, but they don’t mean anything to our clients because they can’t see them,” Mr Bracegirdle said. “I teach them to use a computer just with the keyboard and voice feedback to guide them, or adjust their settings to increase the font size or magnify what is on the screen.
“We also look at how to operate an iPhone or iPad by turning on the voiceover feature and using a series of finger flicks and taps, and using Siri to perform common tasks like text messaging and phone calls.”
Mr Bracegirdle, who was born with albinism, said he also learned to use these technologies to improve his life.
He started at Vision Australia as a volunteer, and became an access technology specialist about two years ago.
“I find that clients appreciate having someone available to help them who also has low vision,” Mr Bracegirdle said. “If you call a computer company, they might send someone out with full sight who can see the computer, but that’s no help to our clients.
“They like having someone who’s also vision impaired, who knows what they’re experiencing and can relate to what they’re going through.”
Mr Bracegirdle said most of his clients had lost their sight due to age-related conditions.
“Quite often I go out to see a client and they’ve been given an iPhone by a family member and have no idea how to use it – they can’t even turn it on – and it might be the only form of communication they have,” he said.
“You start with someone who hasn’t even been able to communicate with the world, and within an hour or so of spending time with them, we have them making calls and sending text messages.”