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Blog | Accessibility & Usability Consultant | Molly Watt
Friday, 20 September 2019 06:50

Playing Pad Pro Pencil

As a naturally creative person I was particularly excited about the arrival of the iPad Pro and Pencil but I did have the usual reservations that go with somebody with only 5 degrees of vision and big screens. When I opened the box and saw the size of the screen I was very apprehensive as big is not necessarily better for somebody with tunnel vision, especially a tunnel as small as mine. On taking the tablet from it’s box I was surprised at how light it was and how much a bigger version of my iPad air. Switching on the iPad Pro the screen clarity was profound, even to me and it was big! Strange as it might sound, as poor as my eyes are I notice differences, I guess because I have to look so carefully and scan everything it is rare for me to miss something new or different. First impressions, very impressive but size for me could be an issue! Switched on and straight to accessibility, all appearing to be quite familiar but some confusing issues for those of us with visual impairment when using split screens. It took me some time to set up and I am very familiar with iOS so would suggest perhaps help would be needed with an initial setup. I found split screens useful as I could concentrate on smaller areas at any one time which was good, however, the white bar to drag screens across is very difficult to see despite using zoom settings. The Zoom window with adjustable lens is fantastic for somebody with tunnel vision, makes navigating and reading on such a big screen so much easier and great to not get lost on the crystal clear screen. I did found it tricky using full screen zoom and three fingers to scan and drag around the larger screen but think it may get easier with practice. Even with my bad eyes the clarity of the screen really is brilliant both with and without zoom, I am truly blown away by it. At this early stage not all third party apps are compatible with the multitasking screens but hopefully more will be in time. Using two apps at the same time is incredibly useful, I found using pages whilst having email open to consult was brilliant, much more visual for me than message alerts popping up which I never saw. For me being able to scan each side of the screen using zoom makes using iPad Pro much smoother and more productive than my iPad air. Being an author and illustrator of a children’s book, book two coming soon and book three on the drawing board I was very interested in trying out the pencil. I was disappointed to have to wait a week longer for the pencil to arrive but it was definitely worth the wait. I was amazed by it’s accuracy, I can ‘paint’ with it without the mess, its also possible to zoom in on drawings to tidy up rough lines and edges. Lots of these things will be useful to the creatives amongst us but for me it makes life so much easier and very therapeutic, no more spilt water, paint everywhere or trying to perfect on inaccessible programs. Being able to zoom in to my own work and see it closely and clearly allows me to alter and perfect without the painful eye strain I’ve had to endure up to now. Art has always been my passion, often my therapy but it has gotten very difficult, however, it is one thing I absolutely do not want to have to give up because of my blindness. The screen size is big but surprisingly manageable particularly with the split screens and fabulous zoom features, I like it a lot. I like that I can position the iPad Pro wherever I need to, which is often quite close to my face, quite hard to do with a laptop! I have not yet transitioned to voiceover, preferring to still use my 5 degrees of sight to access text so cannot really comment on how voiceover works on iPad Pro although I am intrigued to know how it works on split screens. I settled on using two screens at a time even though I know it is possible to have more however, as previously mentioned the white bar used to drag open is so small it’s difficult for me to see and somewhat confusing too. I would imagine familiarity with multitasking using several split screens at once can be very productive and from my point of view so much easier as I will know what is where and be able to use the Zoom window at whatever size and lens strength needed to scan in and out with relative ease rather than the constant eye strain up to now of opening app after app, often being lost as to where I got to and having to start over regularly on several occasions. I like having the ability to invert colours if preferable albeit I would like to see something done to enable pictures to be viewed correctly when using this feature. I was absolutely right to be excited about the iPad Pro, it will my life easier and more productive. My concerns about the big screen eradicated as although a big screen I am initially using it as two smaller screens and with practice probably more. My third book will most certainly be written and illustrated using this awesome technology and that makes me very happy. The cover picture I'm using for this blog was produced by me on iPad Pro.

Wednesday, 04 September 2019 11:23

Grandad and Me, the tables have turned!

I’ve written about my Grandad before and thought as he will be 80 very soon that I’d write about him again.

I have always been very close to him.  This last few years he just seems to have got old, he’s grumpier than he used to be, he’s slower than he used to be, he never visits us anymore and he comes up with all sorts of reasons why, the fact is he has developed lots of things associated with growing old! 

A few months ago Grandad gave up his driving licence, I think it was for a few reasons, but he made it very much about the car being old and not worth repairing.  Over the past few years I have noticed he walks very slowly, he said it wasn’t him but more that I walk fast.  I noticed he has his TV so loud I find it uncomfortable and yet I am the deaf one but he says I’m exaggerating!  I even noticed with his glasses on he struggles to read and to that he says he simply needs new reading glasses!

Well a few weeks ago whilst on my travels with work I was able to spend a few days with my Grandad and while I was there he had a, as he called it, ‘routine eye appointment’ and thought he would need stronger lenses in his glasses!

Grandad came back from that appointment noticeably shocked.  The reason he was so distressed was the optician had discovered there was more to his eyes than needing new reading glasses.  Two age related eye conditions affecting his eyes and his eyesight. 

My entire life I have listened to my Grandad’s wisdom and advice, looked up to him in every way accept when he’s a grump, then I switch my hearing aids off!

After that appointment the tables seemed to turn, it was me offering support to my Grandad, telling him to try not to worry, that he would get through this and that he has lots of support around him.

Seeing my Grandfather distressed really upset me but I know that so much of what he is going through is simply because of his age and nothing can change that, similar in so many ways to me living with Usher Syndrome, the only difference is I’ve experienced my deafness from birth followed by, visual impairment through to blindness in my teens and the mobility challenges dual sensory impairment brings, however, besides the big age difference I have learnt to accept what I am dealing with whereas Grandad seems pretty much stuck in denial, a place I was in until the reality of my situation sunk in and I couldn’t hide there any longer!

Another big difference between Grandad and his age related impairments and myself is he isn’t confident with assistive technology and what it can do.  I’m happy to say Grandad has embraced his iPad which I set up exactly the same as my own as it makes sense to make use of the great accessibility features, nice and loud for FaceTime, big text, comfortable contrasts and he loves pinch zoom, even he has noticed it isn’t possible to use this great tool on everything on the WWW!

I’ve tried really hard to get Grandad interested in hearing aids but so far he remains comfortable with denial even though everybody around him knows how much he would benefit.  I know without a doubt if my Nannie was still alive she would have made sure he sorted out hearing aids, Nannie was like that - no nonsense sort of lady!

My Grandparents regularly told me how important it was for me to wear my hearing aids when I was a little girl “Molly you will be able to speak with your friends, join in with everything you want to.”  “Molly you will be so much more confident and more independent if you wear your hearing aids.” “Molly you will be safe if you can hear danger.”  Funny how Grandad isn’t remembering his own advice and applying it to himself!

When I look back at my childhood and before my Nannie Pat died my grandparents taught me some priceless coping strategies, one of the most important ones was to be creative and to have an imagination and I believe that is a big part of how I manage my challenges.

Assistive technology has been with me since I was 18 months old, I had no choice but to embrace it and over the years I have become something of an expert with it.

For Grandad he didn’t use technology during his working life.  I think he got his first mobile phone when I was 14 and at boarding school so I could text him, he rarely text back, probably because he couldn’t!  His first ipad was a gift so he could FaceTime one of my big brothers while he was training to be a pilot in Spain, that was about 6 years ago, other than that he has little experience or interest in technology which is really sad when I know just how much it could help him. 

It is encouraging to know that in a lot of areas I work in there is provision for older people to learn and understand how technology can be enabling and really isn’t overwhelming for them.

The possibilities for older people are endless if only they embrace it rather than shying away from it.  Grandad will always find an excuse for not needing it, coming across as deaf and blind to the enablement it brings!

I won’t ever give up on my Grandfather, he never gave up on me. 

As much as he grumps when I launch into talking about assistive technology it won’t stop me, hopefully one day the message might just sink in because the reality is “The tables have turned!’