I recently blogged about my preference of twitter and a few reasons why. Following on from those comments I have been very fortunate to meet with some amazing people since using Twitter as a networking tool to raise awareness of Usher Syndrome, it’s challenges and what we need to access the world.
One of many people who made contact with me after my applewatch blog was the inspirational Maneesh Juneja.
Maneesh who is a Digital Health Futurist would tag me in various posts he thought might be useful to me and, excuse the pun, opened my eyes to both interesting and useful posts enabling me to research new things I might never have known about and to access and consider how these things could work for people with Usher Syndrome, deafblind, blind and also those becoming hard of hearing or visually impaired.
The main advantages I have found here are lots of the things Maneesh brought to my attention are mainstream and therefore do not come with the often extortion prices asked for specialist equipment for those with disabilities.
It is very encouraging that mainstream products are becoming more accessible to people like myself making us feel more inclusive.
I felt quite excited when Maneesh asked if he could meet me for breakfast and interview me about life living with Usher Syndrome and post the interview on his website, great for awareness in new fields of expertise http://maneeshjuneja.com/blog/2016/3/16/molly-watt-story-usher-syndrome
Over the months Maneesh introduced me to quite a bit of interesting pieces of technology one of which I could immediately see some uses for people like myself.
At our breakfast meeting he brought along a few gadgets including the Ricoh Theta 360 camera which we had discussed online. I could immediately see some uses of this camera for people with accessibility challenges.
The camera is small and easy to pair with iPhone (other smartphones too) and small enough to fit easily into my growing “accessibility kit”.
I decided I would try it at a recent Charity meeting.
At the meeting which was held in a local hotel there were 10 people, on a round table, at my request. A round table enables me to communicate a little easier, a long table is very difficult for people with Usher Syndrome or limited sight and deafness as we cannot see either to lipread or hear well to communicate however with technology things are getting easier.
The acoustics in the hotel lounge were not ideal, lighting difficult and lots of coming and going - quite normal for most but a run of the mill testing environment for me.
I knew two people at the meeting and then seven strangers.
We all took our seats. I said my name and asked if the others would mind me using my equipment as it would assist me in accessing the meeting, it was not a problem.
I explained how my Multi Mic would allow me to stream sound directly to my Linx2 hearing aids blocking out background and that the Theta 360 would allow me to access a few things my limited vision wouldn't. Firstly I would be able to take a picture which I could virtually immediately access on my iPhone enabling me to identify the faces of those sat at the table ‘name to face’ which would have been impossible for me otherwise. The picture also enabled me to recognise where the emergency door was located, the bar, the toilets, also other walkways, and hazards like other tables or obstacles I’d normally not be aware of, really quite amazing to be able to scan my iphone screen and see so much, I was blown away as were the others at the meeting.
I had not until testing this camera realised how much I missed.
The meeting went ahead and again the Multi Mic was brilliant, I did not feel totally exhausted from concentrating on listening and trying to lipread, I was able to listen clearly and just scan my phone from time to time to put a face to each voice - yes, I was very impressed.
I have used Theta 360 to help familiarise myself with my surroundings and to give me more of a sense of atmosphere at an event. For someone with no peripheral vision, having various perspectives on one screen and being able to zoom and ‘feel’ my way visually and manually has helped me ‘gain,’ the power of peripheral in a way. It is not just a picture, it is an atmosphere. Having that in my hand on a hand held device (my iPhone,) gives me hope for those with lack of field vision still being able to have access to what is around them, visually. Even if I take a picture and save it to view later it helps me familiarise and capture a visual setting.
At last weekend’s Molly Watt Trust ‘In it Together’ event I took the camera and it was demonstrated to several with Usher Syndrome or RP and it’s benefits well recognised.
I feel very fortunate to live in a time of such innovating and enabling technology and I am very grateful to all who continue to follow my journey and to support in the various ways.
Thanks go to Maneesh and to Twitter for being accessible and enabling me to reach out, to tell my story, my passion of raising awareness of Usher Syndrome its challenges and how the world of accessible assistive technology can enable and enhance all including people like myself.