Let’s talk about tech

Jonathan Abro

As people living with sight loss we are constantly looking for solutions to make our lives easier without too much effort or cost writes Jonathan Abro.

Over the last 20+ years of my sight loss I have been on this same journey. I am delighted at how much is available to us. Ten years ago I would not have believed such progress would have been made and that some sight loss solutions would become mainstream in the way they have.

Over the next few newsletters I’ll share some of my favourite apps and solutions with you. I won’t be providing user guides but rather sharing what I find useful. Detailed instruction is widely available with a simple Internet search.

One of the best pieces of advice I have ever had from another VI person is: learn to touch-type now and learn to use assistive tech before you need it.

Being a few-fingered typist I took this advice seriously and tried various tutors. I found Azabat to be the one for me and within three weeks of tuition I was a touch-typist. It was definitely worth the effort as we use keyboards every day whether on smartphones, tablets or computers. Try these typing tutors to find the one that suits you:

Smartphones are a good place to start and, although I use an iPhone, the accessibility features and equivalent apps are available on Android phones too which means that the choice has become much wider as to which smartphone to buy.

When it comes to apps, remember to always try free apps first. If you think the paid-for apps have better features for your needs, give the free trial a go first to ‘try-before-you-buy’.

Seeing AI, a free Microsoft app, is one of my favourite apps and one I use frequently. Using artificial intelligence, each channel has a different function allowing us to:

  • Read the post as it arrives rather than waiting for help,
  • Scan a document to read or save for later use,
  • Recognise supermarket products by scanning barcodes,
  • Check on the colour of something,
  • Sort out currency in your wallet before going out,
  • Determine how light or dark the room you are in is, and,
  • Still being developed, read handwriting, scenery description and identify or describe a person with some hilarious results so to be taken with a pinch of salt!

Jonathan Abro lives in central London and is a Freelance IT Professional specialising in IT Project Management of large-scale software development and IT Accessibility for all forms of disability. He is a Trustee of VocalEyes, the Charity providing Audio Description to The Arts, a member of the London Sight Loss Council, a Tech Support Volunteer with the RNIB and a member of Retina UK. Jonathan has RP and, since being diagnosed in 1996, has lost all but a bit of his peripheral vision. He is passionate about travel with highlights including camping on the ice of Antarctica, standing on all seven continents and, to celebrate his 50th birthday (while raising research funds into RP and raising awareness of sight loss), he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.