A A A Accessibility A A A A
Saturday, 05 August 2017 13:57

Access to sound, to people and to things

I recently googled what is a hearing aid? The definitions varied from:

Cambridge Dictionary - hearing aid meaning, definition, what is hearing aid: a device worn inside or next to the ear by people who cannot hear well in order to help… 

Wikipedia - A hearing aid or deaf aid is a device designed to improve hearing.

dictionary.com - Hearing aid definition, a compact electronic amplifier worn to improve one's hearing.

 I could go on but let's face it most people would think the above, however this is really basic stuff and quite outdated when considering what the latest in hearing aid technology is and can achieve.

I therefore googled Smart Hearing Aid from what I could see with my blind eyes there isn't a dictionary definition, evidently Smart hearing is simply a phrase, referred to in this way:

The phrase Smart Hearing has been coined over the last few years. It usually relates to GN Resound hearing aids, specifically the Made For iPhone devices. However, the term can cover many of the most modern hearing aids available from the biggest manufacturers via Hearingaidnow.

I have worn ReSound’s smart hearing aid technology for more than two years now, it is anything but simple, as result I am able to do so much more than just access sound.

Smart hearing aids have enabled unrivalled accessibility and connectivity to life for me and could do so for so many more.

I am severely deaf and registered blind.  A recent hearing test revealed my hearing has deteriorated, it felt like another time to grieve but after gathering my thoughts once again my appreciation of having the very best available hearing aid technology, smart hearing aids to enable me every day.

My blogs about ReSound smart hearing aid technology, first LiNX2 and now LiNX3D are written to raise awareness of potential and possibilities with this modern life changing assistive technology.

I am passionate that firstly those in need can understand the latest in hearing aid technology but also for those in audiology and the NHS to be aware of the many daily challenges of many living with Usher Syndrome/deafblind or deaf with additional needs.  

Technology is moving so fast often many are unaware of exactly what is available particularly when it can be so life changing, enhancing and enabling.

This incredible technology enables access to sound, not just the clearest of sound but directional sound, spatial awareness, both things I had never heard of let alone experienced before smart hearing aids.  

I am deafblind so rarely see somebody speaking to me let alone across a room, however now I hear a sound and can turn my head to the sound so much so I have on many occasions been asked how I can see somebody when I'm blind. 

Can you for one moment imagine how dangerous it is to be outside when deafblind, the many sounds of nature along with cars, alarms, people and the confusion of sounds from them all?  It is frightening, resulting in many using hearing aids that simply amplify sound to not like to venture out, in effect isolating themselves through no fault of their own.  

I myself could have been run over had it not been for my now retired first guide dog Unis.  A truck was reversing in front of me from the left, I could hear a beeping sound along with a mix of outside sounds but I had no idea what the sound was or where it was coming from, thankfully my guide dog saw and heard and stopped me walking straight into the path of danger!   No such potential danger with my smart hearing aids, 

I have learnt to decipher different sounds, many of which were new to me since starting my smart hearing aid journey.   Why should anybody be so fearful they self isolate when technology exists to enable some sort of normality.

 For me connectivity has been the most awesome adventure ever.  

I have worn hearing aids since I was 18 months old and now age 22 I have experienced the evolution of hearing aids from analogue to digital hearing aids before the smart hearing aid technology I enjoy thanks to ReSound.  

I will forever be grateful to my parents for insisting on taking the oral route of communication as it really has become my strength above everything.  

Having a voice has enabled me to do lots of things independently however I couldn't use a phone properly until ReSound provided the first ever “iPhone ready” smart hearing aids LiNX2 followed by LiNX3D and for me the icing on the cake connectivity to applewatch and prominent haptics technology (vibrating alerts) providing incredible access to sound, to people and to things, well done ReSound for being the first to provide technology with this level of accessibility, connectivity and enablement.

The digital world we live in has led to so many to communicate using social media networks, assuming they are fully accessible, to internet calling and phone calls - the power and ease of communication has grown enormously, however basic digital hearing aids would not enable access to all of these things.  

Being deaf tends to mean face to face interaction or difficulty in communication.  Loosing the ability to see is the worse nightmare for a deaf person meaning those invaluable visual clues, lip reading, body language and facial expression all gone and a new veil of isolation.  Smart hearing aids are available to bridge that gap and provide enablement.  

The ease and simplicity of the direct bluetooth stream - without any extras (indirect streaming meant poor quality of sound = inaccessible).

For instance I can now watch videos on Facebook, send messages and share them with our growing digital community. 

I have been enabled to fully participate and communicate orally on Skype conference calls with groups of people involved, I am able to hear every word without mishearing or feeling excluded - this was a real WOW for me, quite surreal and the ultimate in inclusion. 

This widening of communication skills has enabled access to most things digital, yes “deafblind” and inclusion with mainstream assistive technology, to apps, which really are the future, to TV and third party devices with not only the ability to stream, but to make further adjustments such as treble and bass along with volume improving my user experience.

 

Like all assistive technology it “assists” it does not cure.  I remain deafblind and reliant on technology but see myself as incredibly lucky to be living through and enjoying this evolution in assistive technology.

 

LINX3D come with the ultimate in accessibility and enablement, access to your audiologist via an app meaning if I have a problem I can “reach out,” send a report of any difficulty I am experiencing with my smart hearing aids, my audiologist receives and can respond to my remotely re-sending a new programme/solution to my problem - I can them sync this information literally via the app and onto the hearing aids.

When Smart hearing aid technology appears out of date, or not working properly it can be updated just like an app, done remotely by an audiologist, Something else that makes life easier.  I no longer have the mobility challenge of needing to visit audiology with a broken/faulty hearing aid, all thanks to ReSound’s smart hearing aid technology.

Consider the initial hearing aid definitions above and then consider just how outdated and how primitive they sound since the real emergence of the “Smart Hearing Aid” 

My disability is life changing there is no cure let technology enable people like myself to live fulfilled lives, it now really is possible.

“Enable Access to sound, to people and to things”

 

 

 

 

Monday, 23 January 2017 13:46

Is your window open to inclusion?

Accessibility - Able to be reached, approached or entered via Oxford Dictionary 

I found myself in the world of accessibility almost by accident.  I did not even realise I had specific accessibility needs until I began to go blind.

In real terms I have accessed the world very differently to most because of need, however, I wonder how many really understand that they too use lots of features in accessibility.

It seems that until things become "trendy" or "cool" they are sadly not in the majority of mindsets, so do we try to make accessibility trendy or just hope it becomes a part of early training and education?

Can we really wait for "trendy" as our ageing population increases and their reliance on the ability to access life independently increasingly looks toward technology?

Accessibility is not just about those with disabilities, it is for us all.  

I myself have life changing disabilities but also have very unique abilities that have given me an interesting insight into the term accessibility.

I speak at various events to differing audiences and find the general take on accessibility to vary.  

At charity events there is a great need to keep those in need not just up to date with available assistive technologies but also in many cases the need for training.

At digital events I often find accessibility considered 'dealt with' using a check list and something considered simply for the minorities!

Maybe it is because I see (excuse the pun) things very differently because I have to!

If I ask a room full of people young and old with disabilities do you use accessibility features or assistive technology? the majority would raise their hand.

If I ask a room full of developers and designers young and old the same question usually few hands are raised until I probe a little further - do you wear glasses? have you used zoom on your phone? have you ever watched a film? studied or maybe watched YouTube in a public place and used captions? Used a lift or escalator instead of stairs? virtually all hands go up.

I have also spoken at several events for Y3A and their membership use all manner of assistive technology and would use so much more if they were made more aware and trained on what is available.

My own sister would say she doesn't use any accessibility features and yet she studies Spanish as a foreign language and watches Spanish films to assist with her understanding and verbal ability and this is assisted with Spanish subtitles - she describes it as a way of "enriched learning" not accessibility and of course she is right (she is always right at 17!).

Of course accessibility for people with disabilities takes on a different meaning, phrases like 'special assistance' 'special needs' 'supported needs' each term indicating a need over and above the norm - to have very specific accessibility needs is different to accessibility as defined in the Oxford Dictionary and therefore why the apparent stigma to admitting the need for basic accessibility?

Over the past 10 years I have discovered just what is possible both with and without useable accessibility features and the results are astounding.   

My education confirms this without a doubt:

A senior school without a clue of what to do with me and worse a 'specialist school' for the deaf knowing even less in comparison a mainstream college with a positive can do attitude - who chose to listen and learn exactly how I could access information and the desire to see me succeed followed by a university with a poor attitude towards people with needs over and above the norm and not just deafblind.

I am very aware that the way I personally access the world is as a result of my condition and different to many, however the way I do lots of things is very similar to our growing ageing population and indeed I have set up many an iPad for the older generation exactly the same way as I set up my own, I think that tells a story in itself!

So please, when designing and developing pretty isn't always best, think about accessibility as a tool for the majority to be built in right at the beginning rather than something of a hassle or something simply for minority groups, accessibility is enablement for us all so "Open your window to inclusion".

 

 

 

 

 

Pin It