• Webinar Wednesday presents a major event on Microsoft Teams usability and accessibility with screen readers

    Over the last number of weeks, as many people have been forced to turn to remote solutions for learning, working and keeping in touch, you may well have heard of Microsoft Teams. This application has grown in popularity as more businesses and educational institutions are using it to make sure that their staff, students and customers can easily communicate.

    Microsoft Teams is a chat-based collaboration platform complete with document sharing and online meeting features, to mention but a few. It integrates seamlessly into the Office 365 platform to allow for easy collaboration anywhere you have an internet connection.

    In this major Webinar Wednesday event taking place on July 15th at 2:00 PM, we’ve brought together a number of contributors from Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands and the United States, to share their experiences of using Microsoft Teams with screen readers on PC and iOS-based platforms.

    You will learn how to successfully use the application to create teams and add members, chat and collaborate with colleagues by sharing documents, set-up and manage meetings, and make one-to-one calls from your computer.

    We’ll also spend time, as we demonstrate the application, talking about the accessibility features built into Teams and how it can work so well with the JAWS and VoiceOver screen readers.

    Registering for this event is not necessary, and, in a change to our normal Webinar Wednesday sessions, this event is being held using Microsoft teams itself. If you wish to join the session, please access the link below at 2:00 PM on Wednesday July 15th. If joining from a mobile device, please install the Microsoft Teams application in advance.

    Join Session

    If you have further questions, please contact stuart.lawler@sightandsoundtechnology.ie

  • Getting AT Ready Online 2020 Roundup - Prize draw and more!

    For those who don't already know, the annual Getting AT Ready event has been developed to provide disability professionals in Further and Higher Education (FE and HE) with an opportunity to discuss best practice, learn about new technologies and hear from the experts in the field. Our aim is to provide an environment that encourages discussion and the sharing of ideas between attendees and the various experts and exhibitors that attended the event.

    2020 has been a strange year so far, the effects of which have spread far and wide. Getting AT Ready was no exception. This was meant to be our first year with events in both Ireland and Scotland and I guess you can say, in a way it still was...

    The events took place wherever each person was located as Getting AT Ready moved online. It was something new and different for the whole format of the event but in the end, it was a grand success - with our planned speakers and panellists from both Ireland and Scotland all still involved. Despite the change in circumstances, thank you to all the 300+ attendees who got involved in Getting AT Ready Online and to all our exhibitors, speakers and panellists.

    We need to say a huge thank you to one of our exhibitors, in particular, FindMyFlow, who freely provided their software to support the workshops for all attendees.


    Keynote speeches and panel discussions

    We kicked off the day with our Keynote speech on Digital Passports from Siobhan Long of Enable Ireland & Joan O’Donnell from FreedomTech (rewatch it here). Siobhan has worked in the field of Assistive Technology since 1991 where her current role involves the management of Enable Ireland’s National Assistive Technology Training and SeatTech Services. Joan O’Donnell is the Project Manager of FreedomTech, which aims to ensure the development of a comprehensive ecosystem of support around AT in Ireland.


    This was followed by another keynote speech, this time from Steve Tyler from Leonard Cheshire Disability on the Future of Assistive Technology (rewatch it here). Steve Tyler is Director of Assistive Technology at Leonard Cheshire and has worked in the disability and accessibility domain for over 20 years.

    After a break for lunch, we returned with a panel discussion on inter-country collaboration featuring Gerald McLaughlin from Perth College, Fiona Burns from the Scottish Funding Council, Lisa Padden from the University College Dublin, Russell Renton from the Student Awards Agency Scotland, Caitriona Ryan from the Higher Education Authority in Ireland, and Dara Ryder, the CEO of AHEAD (rewatch it here).


    Workshops and prizes

    As many of you will know from attending previous editions of Getting AT Ready, in between the various speeches and panel discussions we have different workshops running - lead and delivered by different professionals from within the education and assistive technology sector.

    As the event was purely online this year, the workshops were all available to access after the culmination of the live discussions and all those who completed the workshops were entered into our prize draw where each of the exhibitors kindly some great gadgets from Amazon Echos to wine, iPads to vouchers.

    Workshops included Supporting Visually Impaired Students by Stuart Lawler and Ruth Gallagher, Assessing and Supporting remote students by Kellie Mote, and the Cagney and Lacey Model of Assistive Technology by Trevor Boland.

    We had some great feedback on the different workshops and the event in general. Here is some we received from a few very happy attendees!


    This was really interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have just started the PDA in inclusiveness and feel this event was very relevant and useful to my course and my job role. Jillian, Fife


    Excellent presentations: How the ROI have embraced the ‘AT Ecosystem’ was very enlightening and thought provoking. Having delivered research on Robotics and AI to an institution, I was fascinated by its development and future predictions for its application to disability assistance! Thoroughly engrossing! Alan, Belfast


    This was an excellent Conference. Being online meant I could attend, which I could not have done if it had been in 'normal times' - thank you.
    The Keynotes were very informative. I really enjoyed using FindMyFlow and it was a useful way of accessing information that would normally be scattered around or impossible to get near in a physical environment.
    It would be nice to think that in the future it could be both physical and virtual as this may well increase awareness, engagement and attendance? Fiona, Glasgow


    And last but not least, here are the winners of the prize draw!


    • Sight and Sound Technology – iPad – Karen Morton, Dundee & Angus College
    • FindMyFlow – Fitbit Alta Black – Jo Beacham, Access2Learn
    • Claro – Amazon Echo Dot – Linda Ross, UHI
    • Medincle – 2 bottles of wine – Anna Charles-Jones, ATOP
    • Inspiration – £30 Amazon voucher – Norma Rodley, University of Dundee
    • Sonocent – £50 Amazon voucher – Michelle O’Halloran, University College Cork
    • Lexable – Box of goodies including a famous Lexxie teddy – Sean Doherty, Queens University Belfast
    • Texthelp – £50 Amazon voucher – Annemarie Locke – West College Scotland
    • Pro Study – Amazon Echo 5 – Margaret Laird, Glasgow Kelvin College
    • Lightkey – Amazon Echo 5 – Monique Parnis, Rosmini Community School


    Discover more on the Getting AT Ready Website: http://www.atready.co.uk/

  • Stirling worked! Attitude and assistive technology

    Steve Tyler, Director of Assistive Technology at Leonard Cheshire, reflects on some of the earlier assistive technology influences in his life.


    Since Sight and Sound’s ‘Getting AT Ready’ event was originally due to take place in Scotland – pre-pandemic of course – I thought it would be fitting to reflect on some of my earlier experiences with assistive technology when I was at the University of Stirling.


    For me, being ‘AT ready’ isn’t just about having the necessary technology in place – it’s about having the right attitudes and support to go alongside it.


    As an eager student back in 1986, I began my search for the best university course with an element of doubt and an awareness that the options available may be limited due to my visual impairment. For me, I wasn’t just visiting universities to decide if I liked the course or the campus. It was about whether attending university and completing a course in Clinical Psychology was a possibility in the first place. And sadly, at the time, these fears were justified.


    At many of my visits, my hopes were dashed immediately. I was often asked the question “how would you conduct a reaction-time experiment?” Such experiments are of course highly visual, so the question was merely setting me up to fail. During one particularly negative experience at a top league university, one interviewer had the audacity to scoff at me when I spoke about the kind of books I enjoyed reading. He actually brazenly asked the question “you say you’ve read – how precisely did you “read”?”


    It wasn’t until I attended my interview at the University of Stirling that the tide began to turn. It was the tenth university I’d visited – and the furthest away – so by the time I arrived my hopes were on the floor. Until I met with Dr Carl Gijsbergs. I asked him outright whether he thought I could do the course and be able to overcome the logistics and challenges. I was met with complete surprise at such a question and he responded with something that has resonated with me ever since. “Of course, if you think you can do it, then of course you will do it, why not?” This was so different to the other reactions I’d had, and it made me realise that attitude really does make all the difference.


    Attitude was one of the key things that informed my university career. In my early lectures, as embarrassing as it was to be drawn attention to at 18 years old, my lecturers would outwardly ask people in the class to volunteer to read with me. After all, they would need to do the reading anyway, so they “fully expected 50% of the class to sign up.” Initially this felt uncomfortable, but actually, this was a simple positive move that ensured I was able to succeed academically whilst integrating with my classmates. On my very first day there, I had a gentleman called Gary turn up at my halls of residence. He declared to me that he wasn’t going away until he knew I was completely happy in terms of getting around the campus. I’d never really thought about that level of support before. I’d thought maybe I would be able to make friends if I could get to the bar – but of course, how could I do that if I didn’t know where the bar was? And it was those small, positive moments and attitudes that really did pave the way for an extraordinary experience at the university.


    When friends would come to visit, they would quickly fall in love with the place. Not just because of its beautiful setting, but because of the immense support I received there. I became interested in the level of support I was receiving at Stirling compared to what other visually impaired students were getting elsewhere. At that time, while a small portion of my contemporaries were getting places at university – they weren’t surviving. People were dropping out of education because they simply were not getting the level of support needed. I was one of the lucky ones – Stirling strived to be equitable.


    Of course, another important element of my experience was technology. For me, one particular piece of equipment that sticks out in my mind was my ‘Versabraille Mark 2’, a backpack-like device with word processing capabilities. It was enormous and heavy, but it was amazing. For the first time I could make braille notes on braille displays and then print them off. I’d always been pretty fast at brailling and this device made it all the easier. So much so that I quickly became the person of choice for my peers to get their notes from if they’d missed a lecture. This also made me feel a lot better about having readers! Of course, given the clunky nature of the device it would often break down every five or six weeks and be sent of for repairs. I look back fondly thinking of how the university porters would refer to it as my ‘vertebrain’, a name that stuck with it through the duration of my time there.


    In today’s world, technology is constantly changing and evolving. There are so many more options and possibilities – but that doesn’t make it easy. As social beings we still crave meaning and connection to others. For people to truly thrive, whether they are accompanied by assistive technology or not, the attitudes and environments around them must be supportive.

  • Enable Ireland at Getting AT Ready Online

    Enable Ireland

    Technology as a lifeline has suddenly become mainstream. For people with disabilities, this has long been the case, with people relying on low and/or high-tech aids and devices to enable and enhance their independence, communication, social connections, education and employment.

    Now, even for those whom technology has always played a key role, it has taken on an even greater level of importance. Schools, colleges and services are either shut down or operating remotely, meaning that educational institutions, students with disabilities, and organisations like Enable Ireland, have had to find new ways to facilitate communication, prevent people feeling isolated and allow them to continue their studies.

    If we were to find a positive from our current isolation, it may be that it is also opening up opportunities for those living with disabilities. Wider society is now embracing technology and virtual living more than ever before, creating spaces for those previously marginalised due to disability or illness.

    We were very much looking forward to attending Getting AT Ready in Dublin for the first time this year but the fact that the event can be run effectively online, offering access to the same content, discussion and exhibitors, is testament to the value and capability of technology in our lives.

    Enable Ireland’s Assistive Technology Services

    Equipping people with the knowledge and skills to find and use the right Assistive Technology (AT) for them is a core part of our work at Enable Ireland. Our National Assistive Technology Training Service offers a range of accredited and customised training programmes to support users of Assistive Technology to live the lives of their choosing. We deliver AT training online via our e-learning site www.enableirelandat.com and offer a wide range of training, workshop and seminar options.

    Our Foundations in Assistive Technology Level 6 Course is accredited by Technological University, Dublin and aimed at providing a solid foundation in AT for a diverse audience: adults who are AT users, therapists, teachers, IT professionals, families and others.

    Development of communities

    In 2016, Enable Ireland, along with the Disability Federation of Ireland, launched CHAT – Community Hub for Accessible Technology. CHAT sees a wide range of people involved in assistive technology – from individual users to developers and those in education – gather together a few times a year to look at how we can create a thriving assistive technology landscape in Ireland. We have loved coming together physically over the last few years but luckily the technology exists to enable us to continue to meet virtually and to hear and learn from individual experiences with AT.

    AT Loan Library

    Enable Ireland is an online library of electronic assistive technology, through which library members can borrow from a wide range of devices to trial with their clients and/or for professional training purposes.

    We also run a range of customised AT workshops to meet the needs of specific training groups, including topics such as AT for young children, educational software and hardware for primary and secondary school students and low-cost solutions.

    We are hugely thankful that technology has allowed us to continue to connect with people with disabilities and to deliver support services remotely. There is so much to be gained from creating accessible online spaces that include people with disabilities and that is something we can take from this experience and continue into the future.

  • Nystagmus Network  Charity Launch online CET Webinars for Eyecare Professionals


    Nystagmus Network charity was founded in 1984 to support patients living with the condition. They currently have 500 members but estimate there are more than 64,000 patients in the Uk living with the condition that they would love to support. This is why they want to expand their reach to engage with eyecare professionals to raise awareness of the charity and encourage referrals from eyecare professionals.

    Daniel Williams, Trustee said “We are delighted to launch our new eyecare professional CET webinars and host some of the ground breaking speakers. We are a small charity wanting to grow our membership and engagement for the benefit of our beneficiaries”

    The Nystagmus Network is a registered charity in England and Wales, number 118450. They provide support and information to people living with all forms of nystagmus and the professionals who work with them.

    Nystagmus is a complex, incurable eye condition characterised by involuntary movements of the eyes where they appear to wobble or flicker from side to side, up and down or round and round.

    Nystagmus affects ability to focus, recognise faces and judge speed and depth.

    The charity offers support and information to the 1 in 1,000 or more people affected by nystagmus, raises awareness through an annual Nystagmus Awareness Day on 20 June, whilst also investing in research into the condition to find a potential treatment.
    Here are a list of the upcoming webinars you can book on. Each webinar will give you 1 CET point.


    Nystagmus Network CET Webinars

    The Nystagmus Network is delighted to host a series of webinars all about nystagmus for eyecare professionals. Each Webinar will provide 1 CET point.

    Tuesday 26th May – 10:30

    A Clinician’s Guide to Nystagmus


    Nystagmus affects 0.24% of the population, yet it is a very poorly understood condition. Optometrists will regularly encounter patients with the condition in practice, especially in the low vision setting. Knowing how to modify routines appropriately, as well as how to classify and potentially refer patients for treatment, will help maintain high clinical standards.

    This lecture will provide an optometrist’s up-to-date guide to nystagmus, covering diagnosis, classification, and how to modify a standard routine. Currently available treatments will be discussed.

    Delivered by Dr Matt J Dunn who is a lecturer and optometrist at Cardiff University. His research focuses on clinical disorders of visual perception and oculomotor control. At the School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, he teaches clinical orthoptics. Matt is the author of the mobile ophthalmology reference text Dunn Vision Reference.

    Register Now:




    Wednesday 27th May

    Diagnosing Nystagmus – how, why and when?

    Jay will be talking about how Optometrists might approach patients with nystagmus and tips and tricks about what to look for, deciding how urgently to refer and what happens once they reach a specialist centre. No prior knowledge is expected!!

    Delivered by Jay E Self BM FRCOphth PhD who is a Consultant Paediatric Eye Surgeon and Associate Professor at the university of Southampton. He runs a research group with an interest in nystagmus, albinism and childhood visual disorders and works closely with Helena Lee who is also a Consultant and Associate Professor in Southampton. Jay is a medical advisor to 4 support charities, a board member of 2 charities and ambassador for one. He has worked both as a researcher and clinician in the field of nystagmus for 15 years. He is a founder member of the Nystagmus UK Eye research group (NUKE).


    Register Now:






    Thursday 28th May – 10:30

    Testing, Dispensing and Supporting Patients with Nystagmus

    The holistic view of supporting a patient with nystagmus. A practical approach on how to test, dispense and support a patient with Nystagmus.

    Delivered by Bhavin Shah, Behavioural Optometrist and Jayshree Vasani, Dispensing Optician. Bhavin is passionate about lifelong learning and technology to enable patients to optimise their vision. Jayshree is passionate about supporting patients with visual impairments and empowering the profession with her knowledge.


    Register Now:





    Sue Ricketts, Executive Information and Development Manager

    Tel:             01427 718093

    Email:         sue.ricketts@nystagmusnet.org

    LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/sue-ricketts-38305b176


    Tel:             01427 718093

    Email:         info@nystagmusnet.org

    Website:    https://nystagmusnetwork.org/

  • Braillesense Polaris V3.4 firmware upgrade notes


    The biggest highlights in this release are the addition of Exchange e-mail, the Macro Manager, and the ability to open files directly from Google drive, and save them back, directly from programs on the Polaris. One of the biggest advantages of this last feature is for education. As you may know, All Google Classroom files are stored in directories on Google drive, so now, the whole retrieval and creation process can be done directly on Polaris.

    Right now, Exchange E-mail is a separate application. This is so, because our original e-mail uses the Polaris Office engine, and the Exchange e-mail uses a different software package. It will operate separately for the first public release, however, they will try to integrate the two programs. The interface is mostly the same.

    Here’s the entire changes list. It does include what was fixed in the patch, in case users did not install the minor upgrade.

    1. General
    1. Fixed pauses in TTS when reading documents or books.
    2. Improved SD card recognition.
    3. When items are deleted from the Polaris Task Manager, they should now also be closed on the Android side.
    4. Upgraded the Liblouis version to 3.9.0. *Is important for some foreign language tables.
    5. Added Croatian and Turkish Braille tables, and updated the Irish Braille table.
    6. Fixed the problem of unnecessary dots 5-6 appearing before end quote and after exclamation.
    7. Fixed the problem of announcing the number 4 incorrectly when writing passwords in UEB.
    8. Fixed the move by Sentence command.
    9. Fixed the problem of the braille keys not working in the 3rd party apps when connected to a USB keyboard.
    10. Removed numeric indexing in the help system to reduce confusion about dot numbers.
    11. Fixed the problem of not opening notification items from the notification list.
    12. Fixed problems crashing when trying to open the App Manager.
    13. Change the typing mode key to enter-backspace-space-m due to key conflict.
    14. Fixed the problem of not correctly back translating “BayCon.”
    1. Mobile Screen Reader/Android aps
    1. Added ability to control Android media apps when media keys are set to app mode.
      1. To activate the “previous” function, long press the previous media key.
      2. To play or pause, long press the Play media key.
    • To activate the Next function, use a long press of the Next media key.
    1. Fixed the problem activating edit boxes for Facebook and Skype login, and WatsApp verification.
      1. Fixed the problem of not activating the Sign In button for Apple Music.
      2. Fixed the problem of edit box labels not appearing in the account section of the Sero app.
      3. Fixed problems where the edit boxes for signing in to Google drive will not activate.
      4. Fixed the problem adding e-mail addresses in areas like Play store or Account settings  if address length exceeds 31 characters.
      5. If user presses space-z in 3rd party apps, the apps now terminate.
    1. File manager
      1. Inserted the "Android Program" Item in the "Send To" function. This allows you to send files to Android apps like Dropbox, one Drive, KNFB reader, etc. We will more clearly try to define this according to file extension in future, but it does attempt to offer apps that match the file type you are sending.
      2. Inserted the "Exchange E-mail" option in the "Send To" function for attachment to an e-mail using the exchange app, same as can already be done for the original e-mail app.
    1. Google Drive
      1. Now Supports the ability to open a file from the Word processor, Notepad, E-mail, Exchange e-mail, Excel Viewer or Media Player. Google drive will appear in the Open/Attach File dialog under the drive list, and you will be able to navigate and select as you would from local drives on the unit.
      2. Also will now launch the above programs when pressing Enter on an associated file in the file manager. *Note: files not supported by the apps mentioned above cannot be opened and will result in an “Unsupported file type” error.
      3. Now supports the Send To function.
      4. Some Conditions
    1. Only supports selecting files or folders for the purposes of opening or saving.
    2. The login function is not supported from these programs. Please login to Google drive from the  file manager before trying to use these functions.
    • Streaming media files is not supported. We download the file in a temporary folder in the flashdisk before playing.
    1. In general, it should be noted, due to transferring to and from Google Drive, opening and saving files is a bit slower than when accessing local files and folders.
    1. Word processor & Notepad
    1. We inserted the ability to spellcheck the current word with Backspace-K.
      1. Fixed the problem of not displaying the last word when executing auto scroll.
    1. Changed the control movement key from space-dot-1 and space-dot-4 to tab and shift-tab for consistency in dialogs like the Find/replace dialog in both Notepad and Word Processor.
    2. Fixed the read Sentence Command in notepad and e-mail.
    3. Fixed the problem of removing the punctuation when a word is changed where punctuation is connected.
    4. Fixed the problem of the spell checker not working when placed on the last word of a document.
    1. Word processor
      1. Changed the word wrap default value to off. Only applies to new files. It must still be set manually in existing files.
      2. Inserted the function to “set current as default” in the font dialog.
      3. As two values are changed in the document settings, the office engine sees it as a modification. So the word processor will display the save prompt when exiting the document.
    1. Fixed the problem of fractions being incorrectly grouped/bracketed if spaces are not used.
    2. Fixed the problem of the Custom Dictionary not working in the spellchecker.
    3. Added the ability to open password protected files.
      1. Refers to documents that are password protected for reasons of privacy such as those in the health professions.
      2. *Note: these files can only be opened in and from the Word Processor. You cannot open them in the Notepad.
    4. Fixed the problem of not editing content inside a table. (Jasmine’s document sent to us by Jim)
    5. Fixed the problem of crashing when pressing the first cursor router.
    6. Fixed the problem of locking up when executing selection and copy.
    7. Fixed the problem of not displaying the negative sign in Nemath mode on the visual screen.
    8. Fixed the problem of not printing a document using a USB printer.
    9. Fixed the problem of removing the entire paragraph if the misspelled word is in the last position.
    10. Fixed the problem of displaying an empty display when deleting a line break in mathematical text.
    11. Fixed some instances of jumbled text problems. *This is an ongoing and specific task, so please send us examples if you still experience this.
    12. Fixed the problem of removing the negative sign in numerical text.
    13. Fixed the problem with editing forms as sent to us by user.
    14. Fixed the problems maintaining correct cursor position when spell checking the current word.
    15. Fixed the problem of displaying Korean on the monitor when opening special power point files,.
    16. Fixed the problem of reporting an incorrect word count in the Word Processor due to counting empty lines as words.
    17. Fixed the problem of not correctly pasting multiple items from the Calculation history.
    18. Inserted the “insert page break” and “insert tab” items in the “insert” menu.
    19. Changed the hot-key for "Left justify": to enter-backspace-space-j due to key conflict.
    20. Fixed the problem of not reading the  current line in the Word Processor after closing the Android notification list.
    21. Fixed several issues with Nemeth Braille translation.
    1. Notepad
      1. Fixed the problem of locking up when editing the document and changing "Set characters per line" on the Polaris MINI.
      2. Fixed the problem of the Braille grade not being honored in the Find dialog in braille documents.
      3. Fixed the problem of menu names being displayed incorrectly when turning off the control Information.
      4. Added the “From Cursor to End” replacement option to the Find and Replace dialog.
    1. Fixed the Braille translation issue when pasting to a Braille document in the notepad.
    2. Fixed the problem of displaying the enter sign when continues reading.
    3. Fixed the problem of displaying duplicate text when moving by paragraph.
    4. Fixed the problem of locking up when moving by paragraph in a braille file.
    5. Fixed the problem of crashing when reading continuously in a braille file.
    6. Fixed the problem of crashing when scrolling backward in a Braille file.
    7. Fixed the problem of the control characters not working in the find dialog in a braille file.
    8. Fixed the problem of speaking the entire paragraph after you press Enter when  keyboard echo is off.
    9. Fixed the problem of not opening some epub files.
    10. Fixed the problem of not deleting a block when pressing backspace.
    1. E-mail:
    1. We inserted the first name and last name field when using Enter-I to  save an address from an e-mail. * This fixes the problem of all contacts having both last name and first name in the Last Name field.
      1. Inserted the “Modify” option when a contact already exists. You can change the email address.
      2. Inserted the empty trash function for IMAP.
    1. Now allows searching for contacts by first name, last name, or e-mail address when using the Enter-L function.
    2. Inserted the ability to find an e-mail address by typing all or part of the first or last name as can be done on the U2 products.
    3. there is now a Header Display setting in the Options dialog, so that you can define how and what is displayed in the message list.
    4. Fixed the problem of inserting text twice when pasted from the clipboard.
    5. Fixed the problem of not reading the message body when using 3rd party TTS.
    6. Fixed the problem of returning to the top of the message after spell checking the current word.
    7. Fixed the problem opening web link such as those to dropbox files.
    8. Fixed the problem accessing Microsoft accounts.
    9. Fixed the problem of not announcing the completion message when sending a blank message.
    1. Exchange E-mail
      1. New program to support the Exchange E-mail function, appears below original E-mail program in Main Menu.
      2. Mostly functions like the original E-mail program.
      3. Accounts manager.
    1. Only supports the entry of Account name, server address, username and password, as this is all that is required.
    2. The only advanced option is the signature option.
    1. Save Offline to Polaris Mail.
      1. Inserted the "Save Offline to Polaris Mail." for saving messages offline. They are saved to the original e-mail program. When you activate this function, you are given a choice as to what account you want to save it to.
      1. Set Options
    1. Inserted the "Message list Type" for selecting the mail header types to display. This is related to the speed at which e-mail messages are recieved. If you choose to display less header information, e-mail is received faster.
    2. detailed:
      1. Attachment count, title, sender name, sender email, date.
    • Simple
      1. Includes Attachment , title, sender name, date.
      1. Spam Settings
    1. if user selects the "Detailed" option, user can add the subject, address or host to the spam filter.
    2. If user selects the "Simple" option, user can add only the subject to the spam filter.
      1. Mailbox
    1. If a mailbox has a sub mailbox, you can use enter and backspace to navigate in and out, similar to navigating folders/files in the File Manager. This means though that you must always use F3 and Shift F3 to enter and exit main mailboxes.
    1. Media
      1. Media Player
    1. Now supports the function to browse files using the media keys as was the case in the U2.
      1. Daisy Player
    1. Now supports the function to browse files using the media keys as was the case in the U2.
    2. Auto Scrolling with the Braille display now works correctly.
    • Fixed the auto scroll speed hot keys so that they are consistent with those on the rest of the unit. They were previously backwards.
    1. Fixed the problem of unnatural speech pauses when reading the book.
    2. Fixed the skipping of phrases in BookShare books.
    1. Organizer
      1. Address Manager
    1. Fixed problems sorting records correctly, including those remaining after the patch release.
      1. Schedule Manager
    1. Added “Refresh” function for immediate syncing with calendars in the Cloud. *Last item in menu or press Backspace-R.
    2. Added “Calendar Type” setting to the calendar settings dialog. Options are Solar, lunar, or both.
    1. Web Tools
      1. Web Browser
        1. Fixed the problem of not opening www.websudoku.com.
        2. Fixed the problem of the Previous Page command not working.
    • Fixed entering text in to the edit boxes on the ACB email lists page.
    1. Fixed a problem where some HTML pages couldn’t be saved from the Browser.
    2. You can now delete all items from the history by selecting all and choosing Delete.
    3. Inserted the Clear all button in the history dialog box. You can either select all and delete, or use this button to clear all. Space-D still deletes the current item.
    • Fixed the problem of suddenly returning to the top of the page after reaching a certain position. This is really common on Wikipedia pages, but others as well.
    • Fixed the problem of not displaying control symbols when navigating with space-dot 1 or Space-4.
    1. The open function is now available when trying to execute an mp3 file link.
    2. Fixed the problem of not seeing the input area for the PIN in the kahoot school site.
    1. Extras
      1. Sense Dictionary
    1. Removes the punctuation at the end of a word received from another program, as in when you look up a word from the Word Processor or Notepad.
    1. Utilities
      1. Polaris Math
    1. Changed the Braille grade option from a combo box to a toggle similar to the Calculator.
    1. Calculator, fixed the following errors:
      1. Fixed the problem of incorrectly displaying the multiplication sign in the history list if the braille code is set to UEB.
      2. Fixed the problem of not being able to input Nemeth devision.
    • For percent, you can’t use a Nemeth percent. Also, you must end with a % sign and can’t use it in the middle of a problem.
    1. Can’t do parentheses right after another set of parentheses
    2. Can’t do parentheses after a number
    3. Can’t use the multiplication dot in many instances
    • Can't use a multiplication cross between two parentheses
    • Can’t do a multiplication cross after a parentheses
    1. Dividing a fraction by a fraction gives the wrong answer
    2. Dividing a whole number by a fraction gives the wrong answer
    3. Mixed number times a simple fraction using a multiplication cross gives the wrong answer
    • Can't do a number immediately followed by Pi or use the multiplication dot between them 2 pi.
    • When doing 3 squared plus 4 squared, it speaks quotation mark, but does calculate it correctly
    • It doesn't allow for scientific notation
    1. To do index roots you can’t use correct Nemeth code.
    • You can't put an operation in an exponent because it doesn't allow you to use the dot 5 to end the exponent. Instead, it automatically fills in a dot 5 when you hit the minus sign
    1. Display Time and Date
      1. Fixed the problem of skipping seconds.
      1. Fixed the problem of the countdown timer throwing errors if the braille code is set to UK.
      1. Wake Up Alarm
    1. Added ability to set multiple alarms.
    2. Main window now consists of alarms list and buttons.
    • Add Alarm: Enter-A.
    1. Modify Alarm: Enter-M.
    2. Delete Alarm: Space-D.
    1. Terminal For Screen Reader
      1. Fixed the problem of not sending translated braille when using the terminal clipboard.
    2. Macro Manager
      1. New app located below Sleep Timer.
      2. As a reminder, the actual Macro Manager is located in the Utilities menu. But, you can’t do anything with it until you have Macros saved there.
    • To begin and end recording a Macro, type F2-R.
    1. To insert delay time for instances where execution is too fast, press F2-D.
    2. To execute the most recently used macro, press F2-E.
    3. To open the Macro Manager from anywhere, press F2-L.
    • Added export and import the macro list. This allows you to create macros for others, such as teachers or students, or in situations where you want to make a complicated task easier to perform for someone else. We export and import  the macro list to and from the flashdisk\database\macro folder.
    1. Settings
      1. Setup Internet
    1. Changed some code to hopefully improve the problem of losing the wireless password. Please test and let us know.
    2. Fixed the error when entering nothing in the “bypass proxy for” field in the internet Setup dialog.
    • We hopefully improved on the situation where Wi-fi profiles seem to disappear.
    1. Fixed the problem connecting to iPhone hotspots.
      1. Bluetooth Manager
    1. Fixed the problem of not reconnecting the Bluetooth Keyboard when restarting Polaris.
    1. Backup Restore Polaris Settings
      1. Fixed the problem of not restoring web browser settings. Please make a fresh backup after doing the upgrade for this to work.
    2. Voice Options
      1. Added Turkish And Croation to the voice Options
      2. Inserted English India Sangeeta, veena and rishi
    • Inserted UK Malcolm, Scottish Fiona and Australian Lee.
    1. Global Options:
      1. We inserted the language option in the global options. This changes the system language of the unit according to the Android System settings. This allows users to easily change supported open firmware localizations.
      2. Please note that, because this is connected specifically to an Android setting, all Android languages appear in this list. If you choose a language for which we do not have a localization, Polaris prompts and menus will appear in English, though you may operate in the chosen language on the android side.
    • Note: currently Braille and TTS need to be changed separately via their respective options. We will discuss further automation of the whole process. But for now, possibly a perfect use of the Macro function.
    1. Please note that any open applications need to be closed and re-opened before they will appear in the changed language.
    1. Exam and Function Lock
      1. Fixed the problem that Exam mode wouldn’t exit properly with the password.
      2. If Function Lock is enabled, the password will now be required to initialize options.
    2. Upgrade
      1. Added display of the program count during the “Initialization” phase, so that you can see progress. This count shows all installed packages, including stock Android packages and apps, polaris apps and packages, as well as any installed apps. The count will easily exceed 150, even if you have nothing additional installed.
      2. Will now not allow an upgrade to proceed if the battery level is below 40%, even if the AC adapter is connected. This is to protect against instability during the upgrade process.


  • Next Webinar Wednesday: JAWS hidden gems (April 8th 2:00PM)

    We are delighted to announce our next Webinar Wednesday, at 2:00 PM on April 8th.

    This session, entitled JAWS Gems, will take a look at some of the powerful functionality in JAWS, the world’s most popular screen reader.

    You’ll learn about some recently added features such as Picture Smart, as well as some powerful tools that have been around for a while, including the JAWS Dictionary, the Skim Reading tool and the Text Analyser.

    If you use JAWS in school, at college, at work or at home and want to increase your efficiency, then this session is definitely for you!

    This session is also suited to teachers, parents and others who support users and who wish to improve their understanding of JAWS. As always there will be lots of time for discussion, so bring along your questions and we’ll be happy to answer them!

    We have been made aware of problems some people have experienced when trying to register for our webinars, so this time, no registration is required, just turn up on the day. To join the meeting, simply access the link below, any time from 1:15 PM next Wednesday.


    You can also, if you prefer, join by phoning into the session. If you require information regarding this option please get in touch with us.

    We look forward to another lively Webinar Wednesday and thank you for taking the time to join us!

  • The Sight and Sound Technology Podcast – Episode 21: All things mobile with Karl Brealey

    Karl Brealey is one of our Assistive Technology Sales Executives. In this episode we meet Karl, find out a bit about his work and then Karl talks us through the selection of specialist mobile phones available from Kapsys.

  • Live Q&A webinar to unveil new features in the updated Braillesense Polaris software!

    We are hosting a webinar to unveil the many exciting new features in the updated Braille Sense Polaris software, which will release this weekend.

    This session is ideally focused at existing users, as well as teachers, classroom assistants, parents, visiting teachers/QTVIs, blind professionals and indeed anyone else with an interest in the Polaris.

    Amongst the features demonstrated will be the support of Exchange email, the newly designed macro manager and Google Drive integration.

     It would be helpful if you could register for this event beforehand, but you can do that right up until the time the event starts, at 2:00 PM on Wednesday next, March 25th.

    Please follow this link to register:


  • The Sight and Sound Technology Podcast – Episode 19: Covid-19 announcement

    As the Covid-19 strain of the Coronavirus makes itself felt throughout the world the way in which we work and live has changed immeasurably in a very short time. We want you to know that in the midst of this significant change and upheaval, the team at Sight and Sound Technology remain available to support and assist our customers.

  • Sight and Sound Technology – supporting our end users during COVID-19 (Coronavirus) lockdown

    The outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is having a significant and disruptive impact, worldwide, on people’s personal, educational and working lives. Nowhere and nobody is untouched during this Pandemic.

    Here at Sight and Sound Technology, the challenges are significant. We must look after our own people and keep them safe, but at the same time we recognise that everybody who uses our services needs specialist technology and support in every part of their daily lives. They rely on us to provide it and keep it working.

    Over the last few years, we have built a powerful mix of technology and automation to operate our company and we are confident that despite this being the most uncertain of times, we can continue to provide the broad range of specialist services to our clients and end users. For us, this is a real challenge as our day to day work requires us to work directly with the users of our technology and services, however our tried and tested disaster plan enables us to continue offering our critical customer service and support just as we do today.

    We have implemented a range of measures inside the business to follow the Government “contain” and “delay” phases of defence to the virus and to secure our employees and people externally that they communicate with. We also have developed the capability to operate virtually and to offer products and services without being physically face-to-face.

    If all of our staff are required to self-isolate during the COVID-19 Pandemic you can still:

    Place Orders yes
    Speak to us over the phone, via email and chat for quotes and enquiries yes
    Speak to our technical support teams, allow remote access to your computer, obtain guidance and advice yes
    Have demonstrations or familiarisation after purchase of any of our products by video call yes
    Elect to have an assessment, training session or education programme online yes
    Receive physical goods that you have purchased from our company yes
    Speak to our administrative or accounts people and receive documents and information that you require from us yes
    Escalate any issues that require urgent attention yes


    Contact Centres and Technical Support - we have automation and systems in place that enables our people to work securely from remote locations, including their homes. We can take and make telephone calls and have access to our systems that allow us to offer all of our current services, including sales, enquiry handling, technical support, remote installation of software and financial services.  

    Sales demonstrations, training sessions, education programmes – we have online technology that enables our people to use real time or recorded video, webinars, Skype, Teams and a number of remote technical solutions to allow us to demonstrate, install, train and fix technology that is out in the field with our end users. We are soon to introduce storage and back up services to complement our front-line technical support services and to further secure precious data that our end users rely on.

    Goods In, Despatch and Delivery services - for companies that supply products that require shipping (as opposed to computer software that can be delivered over the Internet), this is the biggest challenge. Hygiene is the most important factor and we have ensured that anything that is touched by an individual is wiped clean hygienically before and during the build and packaging process. We have agreements in place with several parcel carriers and as long as they are operational then we can deliver products to our end users. We will supplement the delivery service with a remote installation and support service, that includes live or recorded video sessions where instruction is required to make our products operational. Our business premises are set up so that family members who normally live together can work in segregated areas to operate the activities that require a physical presence in our building. Our automated set up means that there are very few tasks that require us to be onsite for.

    Disabled Students Allowance - Please see our DSA section to find out how we're managing DSA services.

    We are not claiming that our services will operate at the same level of efficiency, but we are confident that we have the technology and automation to operate a full suite of services to keep those who rely on assistive technology supported at this most unusual of times. We hope that this offers peace of mind and takes just one of the many uncertainties present right now, away from you.

    Glenn Tookey
    17th March 2020
    Chief Executive Officer
    t:             01604 798070
    e:            info@sightandsound.co.uk

  • The Sight and Sound Technology Podcast – Episode 18: Introducing Will Marshall

    We’re meeting the newest member of the Sight and Sound Technology team on this episode. Will Marshall is an Assistive Technology trainer working in Scotland. We find out about Will, his work and how he’s been teaching himself JAWS over the last few months.

  • The Sight and Sound Technology Podcast – Episode 17: Introducing Alastair Mackay

    As part of our on-going 'Meet the Team' series, we are introducing Alastair Mackay, who works with sight and sound as a customer trainer and Assistive Technology Sales executive in Scotland. We learn about Alastair's work and what he does when he's not working hard for Sight and Sound!

  • Case Study: The SUNU Band

    SUNU Band Review: Sandy Tompkins - January 2020

    What are the challenges you face?

    I’ve had low vision all of my life and have had many operations over the years. Now I’ve lost my sight completely, without light perception or anything. When I lost my sight I felt like I was in a vacuum and nothing was around me until I touched it. I had no sense of direction or orientation.

    I’d gone from being mobile and outgoing and doing lots of travelling to being in the house all the time. I am between guide dogs at the moment and haven’t had one for five years.

    How did you hear about the SUNU Band?

    I’ve had my eye on sonar for quite a while. I’d looked at a couple of other devices but they weren’t suitable, either because they were too expensive, or they weren’t wearable.

    Why did you decide to use this product?

    I get embarrassed because I have to have my hands out when I’m walking around and I end up hurting myself. The SUNU helps me detect obstacles and whether they are near or far and it’s liberating. It has given me back a sense of space and place. I didn’t feel like I belonged in the world.

    What difference has it made to you?

    I’ve been using it for around a year. Unfortunately, I have a long cane but am not very good with it so I still use sighted guide a lot. The band is helpful when shopping, I can detect when I’m at the end of the aisle and can walk around the aisles without bumping into things and knocking things over.

    I find it most useful when I know my surroundings. You also have to learn what the feedback or the buzz means but then you become intuitive with it.

    I have recently been to Italy for five weeks. I always loved travelling but had stopped it completely over the last couple of years. I go with a group so I always have someone with me but I didn’t have the confidence for that before I started using Sunu.

    For me the price was right too and I found it better value than the alternatives I looked at.

    Who would this product help the most?

    I think both long cane and guide dog users would benefit from using the band. For example, if you’re working with a guide dog it would help you give the right directions at the right time.

    Product: SUNU Band

    Description: The SUNU Band is worn on the wrist, like a watch. It uses sonar technology to send out a soundwave, which rebounds back when it hits an object up to 16 feet or 5.5 metres away. The band detects the distance of the obstacle and gives feedback to the users via vibrations. Working with a mobile app, users can explore and navigate new places, customise alerts and use the in-built GPS function.

    Most suitable for: People who are totally blind or have low vision. The band is best used in conjunction with a long cane.

    More information: http://www.sightandsound.co.uk/sunu-band.html

    Price: £240 ex VAT

  • The Sight and Sound Technology Podcast – Episode 16: Introducing the new ElBraille with the Focus 5th Edition!

    Happy new year everybody! In this episode, Stuart introduces us to the newly arrived ElBraille, the revolutionary Windows 10 device that works seamlessly with the Focus 40 5th edition Braille display from Vispero.

  • The Sight and Sound Technology Podcast – Episode 15: The year in review and what's coming in 2020 with Glenn Tookey

    Our final podcast of 2019 features a sit down chat with our very own Glenn Tookey, Chief Executive of Sight and Sound Technology.
    Stuart reflects with Glenn on the year that was for the company, what’s coming in 2020 and we find out how Glenn will be spending the time off!
    Happy Christmas from all at Sight and Sound Technology!

  • Is it time to remove registration as partially sighted or blind?

    Founder of Visualise Training and Consultancy and Seeing Beyond the Eyes CET roadshow lead Daniel Williams has retinitis pigmentosa. In this article, he asks if it is time for a change when it comes to Certification of Vision Impairment (CVI).

    Whilst recognition that you have low vision is an advantage, when it becomes a label on a numbered scale, the effectiveness of the registration process is questionable. The other troubling issue for registration of people with vision impairment is how unfair the system can be, denying them many crucial benefits and concessions.


    To see or not to see…


    Certification by an ophthalmologist gives you formal registration of being vision impaired and opens the door to referrals for social care assessment and many other concessions including financial assistance. You will be registered as sight impaired (partially sighted) or severely sight impaired (blind).


    At present, to get the coveted award, known as The Certificate of Vision Impairment (CVI) you need to stumble into one of the following categories:


    Sight impaired (partially sighted)


    Your sight must fall into one of the following categories, while wearing any glasses or contact lenses that you may need:


    • Visual acuity of 3 / 60 to 6 / 60 with a full field of vision.
    • Visual acuity of up to 6 / 24 with a moderate reduction of field of vision or with a central part of vision that is cloudy or blurry.
    • Visual acuity of 6 / 18 or even better if a large part of your field of vision, for example a whole half of your vision, is missing or a lot of your peripheral vision is missing.

    Severely sight impaired (blind)

    Your sight must fall into one of the following categories, while wearing any glasses or contact lenses that you may need:

    • Visual acuity of less than 3 / 60 with a full visual field.
    • Visual acuity between 3 / 60 and 6 / 60 with a severe reduction of field of vision, such as tunnel vision.
    • Visual acuity of 6 / 60 or above but with a very reduced field of vision, especially if a lot of sight is missing in the lower part of the field.




    …that is the question


    This is where things can become tricky for certain eye conditions – you may find yourself stumbling into things on a daily basis, but, unfortunately, not falling into the above categories which still causes immense problems and visual difficulty for the patient.


    The criteria, based on the keenness of your central vision - or acuity - judges the level of detail you can see, for which you will be asked to read down the eye chart. It also concentrates on your field of vision, which is determined by how much you can see around the edges of your central vision, whilst you look straight ahead. After assessment of the results, your eligibility is decided - win or lose.


    Some patients really struggle to see which adversely impacts their lives yet will not meet the criteria.


    Let’s be clear


    A good illustration of this is a patient who has nystagmus. In addition to uncontrolled and repetitive rapid eye movement, they may struggle with sensitivity to various light conditions but have overall good acuity yet still fail to meet the criteria.


    Another example of this may be a patient who has early onset retinitis pigmentosa with very good visual acuity and field. They will struggle emotionally with a diagnosis of a degenerative condition, they may struggle in the dark, to cook, clean and get out and about. So why can’t they be registered?


    These are only two examples. Many people struggle with their vision, at whatever level, but do not get the tick in the right box to receive the support, advice and recognition they need to cope with their loss of sight. As a result, many patients slip through the system and end up alone and vulnerable.


    Surely the time has come to reorganise and update this system to embrace a more holistic approach to measurement of sight loss, without the charts and numbers focusing on functional vision?


    In other words, if someone is struggling to see properly, does it really matter if they meet a set of pre-determined figures? Some eye conditions, even with a relatively high acuity of 50%, leave patients battling to complete everyday tasks. They may also be living in fear of becoming blind or of coping with future degeneration.


    The people who are in between who can't drive and likely can't read standard sized fonts even with glasses are unlikely to receive any form of disability benefit despite being very much at a visual disadvantage. They fall in no man's land and are just as likely to need help, especially if they lose their driving licence or job as a result of sight loss.


    Sue Ricketts, Executive Information and Development Manager with Nystagmus Network highlights the problem: “So many people with nystagmus fall between two stools; they can't see well enough to drive, but they can't get registered on visual acuity alone so can't access concessionary fares on public transport. If they don't qualify for Personal Independence Payments, there's no help there for transport costs, taxi fares etc. either.”


    Boxed in      

    What is the advantage of fitting people into a box? If you have a problem with your vision, you need to be referred to resources where help, advice and support is freely available.


    The challenge appears to be how an individual can be assessed in terms of how their life is impacted by visual problems and how best to ensure limited resources are distributed fairly to give anyone who would benefit, access to the right technology and support.


    At present the main focus for registration seems to be Visual Acuity (too often Snellen) which is a very limited tool - great for measuring and in the correction of  refractive error but a poor indicator of useful acuity in the real world. Driving standards recognise that using Snellen acuity is a poor indicator of safe driving vision but they haven't been able to come up with an alternative.

    So yes, an alternative method for assessing functional vision is certainly needed in my opinion and would make a wonderful PhD project for multi discipline studies.

    Receiving certification can be life changing as it significantly improves lives, yet ophthalmologists admit it can be difficult to ascertain if it is appropriate to certify a patient, especially if they have a long-term condition. This surely illustrates the need for a more consistent approach and to question why some patients are declined certification.


    I know of many patients who meet the criteria yet are not offered certification so the system within ophthalmology must to be reviewed to address this. Optometrists also have a duty when they know their patient meets the criteria, but is not offered certification, to re-refer them for assessment.


    Patients and eye care professionals, what do you think needs to change to improve things?


    Best wishes




    To find out more or to comment on the above, email daniel@visualisetrainingandconsultancy.co.uk



  • Smart Home Technology Increases Access and Independence for Blind and Partially Sighted people


    Daniel Williams, Founder of Visualise Training and Consultancy, looks at how smart home technology can be life-changing for blind and partially sighted people


    As the world becomes increasingly digital, it brings welcome channels of communication and independence for people with visual impairments. The latest development is Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology (SMART) – better known as smart home technology, which uses internet-connected devices to interact remotely with your electric appliances and systems, at home or away. Smartphones, tablets, smartwatches and other personal electronics can be used.


    Most people with low vision love the thought of speaking, especially when you can avoid squinting or fidgeting with fingers to do things and this is the great advantage of smart home technology - you speak, it does the task!


    Speak up, please


    For a blind person, the simple, everyday action of locking a door, fiddling to get the key to fit and activating an intruder alarm with the correct digits, is a real fumble. As for adjusting your home lighting when you have low vision, it’s a constant battle to get it right in each room with seasonal and daily light fluctuations.


    Not so with smart lighting; locking up is one command and getting just the right level of light for you in your home is a breeze. Your voice will instruct the exact shade of white you require, with minimal glare and you can pre-set with a single command or let motion sensors automatically activate.


    Blowing hot and cold


    What setting do you leave your heating on when you’re away from home? Too low and pipes might freeze and burst, too high and you’re wasting money and energy; and then the weather changes.


    For a blind person, it’s a performance adjusting anything but if you can just say what you want to change or pre-set, it’s so much easier – “Turn my heating to 19 degrees”-  simple, efficient and you don’t even have to say please! If you’re worried about an icy winter or a dodgy pipe, just speak. For those muddling times trying to remember whether you left the iron on or not, a sensor can inform you if you have left an appliance on by mistake.


    Music and audio books made simple


    Music is often an important part of life for many blind people and audio books are a must-have. Instead of trying to locate your favourite tracks or books on your device or wait until you arrive home from work to find and play, just use your voice assistant and ask for whatever song, artist or audio book you like. Why not have them playing in whatever room you like, timed for your arrival home or on command? Relaxing, without all that access bother, is bliss.


    The phone is a visually impaired person’s best friend. But even with a decent screen-reader tool or keyboard location dots, it can mean trial and error. Far easier to put in a request to ‘Call my optician’ or ‘Call Sam or Dad or whoever’. With a voice search system, you can tell it to dial up a local service such as an eye clinic, leisure centre, gym or other organisation and be connected in seconds.


    What’s in the news today?


    Keeping up with the news can be hard if you have low vision and especially if you can’t read Braille or reading large print and glare causes problems and checking before an outing if you need to take a brolly, a sun hat, or both, is a daily British dilemma! So, to get random facts, figures and information from the internet or ask about a local business service with your smart home technology voice control, just say the words.


    Appointments for today


    Appointments and reminders for the eye clinic, GP or optometrist can be the bane of a visually impaired person’s life too. They are often not sent to you in large print and it’s too easy to be forgetful, so connect your calendar to your voice friend and you can be reminded in advance and get a nudge when it’s time to next book in.


    Find out more


    To find out how Daniel and the team at Visualise are driving inclusion and accessibility for blind and partially sighted people, visit https://www.visualisetrainingandconsultancy.com/

  • The Sight and Sound Technology Podcast - Episode 14: Mike Adams, Chief Executive of Purple

    We're delighted to meet and chat with Mike Adams on this episode of our podcast. Mike is CEO of Purple, an organisation changing the disability conversation with businesses and disabled people. Purple see disability as a value opportunity and Mike is leading the development of products and services which are beginning to transform the landscape across all business sectors. Purple Tuesday, created and co-ordinated by Mike, has achieved national acclaim for its contribution to changing the customer experience for disabled people, including online accessibility.

  • Commitment from technology companies vital for assistive technology users

    By Stuart Lawler, Business Development Manager, Sight and Sound Technology Ireland

    Assistive technology (AT) changes lives. It gives people with disabilities access to the technology they need to perform everyday tasks, thrive in school, go to college and excel in employment. But it’s a huge area, encompassing everything from simple, low-tech solutions to really sophisticated, high-tech devices and finding the right solution can be difficult in such a wide field. Add to that that technology needs don’t remain static, rather changing as our lives and circumstances change, and it can become mind-boggling.

    Only one in 10 people who require AT have access to it. [1] This is partly driven by a lack of consistency in access and support, which has led to gaps in understanding and take up. So how do we streamline the experience for users? FreedomTech is a not-for-profit organisation with that focus as its mission. FreedomTech created CHAT (Community Hub for Accessible Technology) - a 200-strong user-focused space where people can learn from each other and identify gaps and challenges in assistive technology. CHAT allows not only end users to learn about AT, but also developers, academics, therapists, service providers and healthcare professionals.

    We in industry have a role to play in improving the landscape for AT users, and not just through our product development, although that is critical. The peer support and learning network offered by CHAT is vital but it’s not sustainable without support and the tech industry is a natural partner. Collaborating at this level means that we can close some of the gaps in understanding on what AT is and how impactful it can be. It also means that we can listen to users and learn from their experiences, gaining a better understanding of their needs and reflecting that in our product offering. We have a responsibility to do more than sell technology; we must provide the ongoing support necessary to ensure that the technology we know has the power to transform lives, actually does so.

    Mainstream technology companies have made huge strides in their commitment to AT users in the last 10 years, enabling people to use a mix of both out-of-the-box accessible mainstream products and specific AT products. In AT we have seen developments in wearable technology for people with sight loss that, while relatively new, shows the potential for innovative solutions.

    As an AT user myself, this is an exciting time. It’s up to our industry to make it so for all AT users – to remove barriers, improve access and provide life-long support that ensures the user’s continued success throughout their lives.

    Stuart Lawler is Business Development Manager with Sight and Sound Technology Ireland. Sight and Sound is an assistive technology company with 40 years of experience in the UK and opened their first Irish office one year ago.

    [1] WHO figures state that less than 1 in 10 people who need AT can access AT https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/assistive-technology


  • Learn about the new version of JAWS in our free webinar!

    We’re approaching that time of year again, where another major version release of JAWS is about to land!

    As we did last year, Sight and Sound Technology are delighted to present another webinar where we’ll talk about all that’s new and exciting in this version of JAWS 2020, the world’s most popular screen-reading technology from Vispero.

    Learn about the significantly enhanced JAWS cursor, better support for use of the virtual cursor to enable more efficient use of web-based applications, improved Braille input and lots more!

    Please click the link below to register your interest in attending the webinar.


    For any questions, please contact Stuart Lawler at Sight and Sound Technology by email to stuart.lawler@sightandsoundtechnology.ie

  • Tech industry collaboration with not-for-profit sector improves landscape for assistive technology users

    Sight and Sound Technology Ireland, the leading provider of AT in Ireland, will partner with not-for-profit body FreedomTech for the next three years, in a venture that will improve the assistive technology (AT) landscape for people with disabilities. The collaboration will provide a sustainable platform for people to share and learn from each other in an area that can otherwise be disjointed and complex to navigate.

    Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, today welcomed the partnership, which will help to create a level-playing field for students with disabilities and ensure their success in higher education and beyond. 

    “Peer support and the sharing of knowledge and experiences is vital for students, and particularly so for students with disabilities. Assistive technology is a key tool for success in education and employment and we must make it easier for people with disabilities to access it and have continued support along the way. Providing opportunities for people using assistive technology, and indeed those working in the area, to get together to share and learn in this way is the right thing to do and having a partner in the technology industry now makes it viable, so I’m very pleased to see the commitment from FreedomTech and Sight and Sound Technology Ireland here today.”  

    According to Joan O’Donnell, FreedomTech Project Manager, assistive technology can transform the life of a person with a disability. “AT allows someone with sight loss to learn successfully alongside their sighted peers by converting standard print to large print, audio or Braille, or provides reading support tools for students with dyslexia, for example. However, for assistive technology to have this positive impact, a coherent approach to how people access it and the support they receive in choosing and using the right piece of technology for their stage in life is needed.”

    The lack of consistency in access to AT has resulted in gaps in the understanding and take-up of assistive technology. In fact, only one in 10 people who require AT have access to it. As a result, FreedomTech created CHAT (Community Hub for Accessible Technology) - a 200-strong user-focused space where people can learn from each other and identify gaps and challenges in assistive technology. CHAT allows not only end users to learn about AT, but also developers, academics, therapists, service providers and healthcare professionals.

    FreedomTech and CHAT have been supported by Enable Ireland and the Disability Federation of Ireland to date but the partnership with Sight and Sound Technology Ireland puts the organisation on a more sustainable footing and allows it to continue to work towards effective AT services, as well as to provide greater opportunities for users and potential users. 

    The collaboration also enables users to influence industry, as noted by Sight and Sound Technology Ireland’s Business Development Manager, Stuart Lawler. 

    “The right piece of assistive technology can have a hugely positive impact on an individual but as life changes, so does the way in which technology is used, so we pride ourselves on being able to respond proactively to these changing circumstances and in being there to provide lifelong support. We’re excited to partner with FreedomTech and the CHAT community to better understand the needs of Irish assistive technology users and to ultimately streamline the experience of assistive technology users and make their lives and choices significantly simpler.”



    1.  WHO figures state that less than 1 in 10 people who need AT can access AT https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/assistive-technology 
  • Seeing Beyond the Eyes project wins Vision UK John Thompson Award for Excellence in Services, Support and Care 2019

    Vision UK, the umbrella organisation which leads collaboration with partners across the eye health and sight loss sector recognised the ground-breaking work being done by the Seeing Beyond the Eyes team last night at their joint conference between the RSM GP with Primary Health Care Section, Vision UK and in association with the RSM Ophthalmology Section and Digital Health Section.

    The team faced stiff competition from 5 other nominees in their category so were delighted when it was announced that they’d been awarded The Vision UK John Thompson Award for Excellence in Services, Support and Care 2019, one of the new thematic awards at this year’s event.
    The team’s achievements in bringing the optical and sight loss support sectors together to benefit patients with visual impairments has been impressive since the project’s launch in May 2018. 60 interactive Continuing Education and Training (CET) workshops have been delivered throughout England and Scotland empowering over 4,500 optometrists and dispensing opticians to better support their patients living with sight loss and forge closer links with local and national support services. Feedback from delegates has been excellent and referrals are increasing.
    Project lead and founder of Visualise Training and Consultancy Daniel Williams stated “We are delighted to win such a prestigious award but it is vital that we continue our education programme as there is still so much more to be done to ensure patients receive signposting and referrals for support as soon as they get a suspected and life-changing diagnosis.

    It is estimated that over 50% of sight loss is preventable, but it is still increasing so engagement between the optical and sight loss support sectors is more important than ever to help minimise the financial and emotional impacts for patients. Therefore, we are determined to reach all 21,000 UK optical clinicians but need help from the optical and sight loss sectors in terms of funding, venues and resources to achieve this so please contact me if you can assist.”
    To find out more about the Seeing Beyond the Eyes project and book your free workshop place, visit  https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/visualise-training-and- consultancy-17222888162 or email info@visualisetrainingandconsultancy.co.uk

  • All of our Summer School sessions are now available to watch and listen

    Over the summer we hosted a series of training sessions called the Sight and Sound Summer School. We realise that for many people, accessing training can be difficult and costly, so we made it as easy as possible by delivering the sessions online, using the very popular Zoom meeting platform.

    Over the course of 5 days, we covered a range of solutions, with sessions on JAWS and keyboard shortcuts, ZoomText, RUBY magnifiers and Braille displays. Finishing with a surgery style session, there was the chance to ask us any questions on any of the Sight and Sound product range.

    With August being the prime time for summer holidays, we made sure that we recorded each session in both audio and video format for people to catch up on, you can find the details for these sessions below:

    Sharpening your Shortcuts with Sharon Lyons
    Audio only: https://audioboom.com/posts/7340419-sight-and-sound-summer-school-2019-session-1-sharpening-your-shortcuts-with-sharon-lyons
    Video: https://youtu.be/hGqN-GFSzmw

    Exploring RUBY magnifiers with Ash Cross
    Audio only: https://audioboom.com/posts/7342466-sight-and-sound-summer-school-2019-session-2-exploring-ruby-magnifiers-with-ash-cross
    Video: https://youtu.be/-V27ZQPZ4Gg

    Introducing ZoomText Magnification software with Ruth Gallagher Carr
    Audio only: https://audioboom.com/posts/7342471-sight-and-sound-summer-school-2019-session-3-introducing-zoomtext-magnification-software-with-r
    Video: https://youtu.be/Lo-aRkdkEas

    Exploring the Focus Braille displays with Stuart Lawler
    Audio only: https://audioboom.com/posts/7343337-sight-and-sound-summer-school-2019-session-4-exploring-focus-braille-displays-with-stuart-lawler
    Video: https://youtu.be/gXr2VbYWp3U

    Sight and Sound Tech Surgery
    Audio only: https://audioboom.com/posts/7344746-sight-and-sound-summer-school-2019-session-5-the-sight-and-sound-technology-surgery
    Video: https://youtu.be/XrPQj28q7mk


    Something we missed?

    Is there something else you'd like us to cover? Or did you have a question that wasn't quite answered in these sessions? We'd love to hear from you!

    You can email your suggestions or questions to carla.barker@sightandsound.co.uk

  • The Sight and Sound Technology Podcast: Episode 12 - Angel Eyes NI, My Dad's Blind and Life of a Blind Girl

  • Guest Blog: I’d never have guessed…you don’t look blind!


    Daniel Williams looks at misinterpretations about people living with sight loss

    Lots of people, including those who have been blind since childhood, haven’t the foggiest what being blind is supposed to look like so comments like ‘You don’t look blind’ can be somewhat baffling.

    Visually impaired people who don’t use a cane or a guide dog often show no visible sign of sight loss so look the same as any sighted person and it’s often this that confuses people.


    The eyes (don’t) have it 


    Of course, as with many things, this stems from stereotypes, but people with sight loss don’t all have similar eye characteristics or a standard ‘look’ and they don’t conform to a set pattern of non-looking.  

    Then there is how a blind person walks; if you have a guide dog, you tend to walk much faster, just to keep up with it. You can walk as confidently as anyone else, whether or not you walk with a mobility aid or are accompanied by a sighted guide or a guide dog. Visually impaired people don’t all shuffle about, chin on chest, trying to look at their feet and bumping into things!


    Myth busting


    Common (and hilarious to people with sight loss) misinterpretations include:


    • Only elderly people have sight loss. 


    • If you’re blind, how come you are so confident and capable? 


    • Why aren’t you miserable? 


    • You can’t be blind if you wear make-up! 


    • You wear such fashionable clothes; you can’t possibly not see! 


    There will always be some elderly people who may look frail or unsteady and it is often this that gives rise to the assumption that all blind people struggle and need assistance. 

    Most people with visual impairment live life to the full; they are confident, ambitious and outgoing. They style their hair nicely - give or take the odd bad hair day – and shave or apply make-up just like everyone else. 


    21st Century changes


    After living with a visual impairment for over 25 years, it seems that not much has changed surrounding the media and fashion industry’s portrayal of sight loss. After carrying out various online searches, it’s still mostly represented in a bland and old fashion light. 

    Some sight loss charities seem to constantly portray images of older white ladies with white hair wearing dark sunglasses, however this is a stereotype that needs to change, as blind people come in all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, sexual orientations, classes and personalities - just like everyone else within society. 


    Old fashioned fashion and media


    So, good people of the fashion and media industries, why aren't we walking down the catwalk with our guide dogs, represented on manikins in shop windows and on advertising boards in a modern and inclusive country that celebrates equality and diversity? Answers via email to daniel@visualisetrainingandconsultancy.co.uk please as I’m always happy to discuss.

    Although things are improving, TV programmes such as soaps still underrepresent people with visual impairments and even if they are included, they seem not to be a lead character or they portray sight loss in a negative way, focusing on what people can’t do, rather than what they can. This seems strange as people with visual impairments are part of our society and I’d be interested to know your thoughts on this.


    All different, but mostly the same


    So, the thing is, people with visual impairments are just the same as the rest of the population - some dress well, some are very well educated and have professional careers, some speak cool stuff and just like everyone else…and some do not.

    The facts are that blind people are generally a happy, outgoing lot who enjoy life without a fear of being vulnerable.

    So next time to bump into a person with sight loss (like what I did there?), just treat them as you would anyone else and if they look like they may need some help, just ask.


    All the best,




    Daniel Williams was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of 8 and now helps to improve the lives of others living with sight loss through his business, Visualise Training and Consultancy    https://www.visualisetrainingandconsultancy.com/ 


  • Announcement: Update required for those using a Freedom Scientific Network License Server

    A Network License Server from Freedom Scientific is used to manage software such as JAWS, ZoomText, Fusion, MAGic, and WYNN. This announcement for the person in your organisation who is responsible for maintaining software licensing.

    The Sentinel License server technology Freedom Scientific have been distributing over the past 15 years, requires updating in order to address issues related to changes in technology such as Virtual environments and IPv6.

    For all the Freedom Scientific software releases as of October 2019 using Network License Servers, it is necessary to visit the link below in order to update to the latest version of the license server.

    Please visit the following page to view all the details and FAQs on this topic.



    Required Upgrade to Network Authorization Utilities 7.0

    Upcoming releases of JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion will no longer support Freedom Scientific Network Authorization Utilities 6.6 and earlier. Version 7.0 will be required for products released in October 2019 and later. The 7.0 version offers the following benefits:

    • Backwards compatible with earlier versions of JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion.
    • Improved support for virtual environments
    • Contains the latest bug fixes and performance improvements
    • Support for IPv6 coming with JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion 2020

    Download the latest version: Network Authorization Utilities 7.0

  • Guest Blog: Fancy a Real Blind Date? By Daniel Williams

    Visualise Founder Daniel Williams takes a light-hearted look at the subject of dating someone with a visual impairment

    I’m being serious! Many people who don’t see too well – and in my case, that’s putting it mildly – like to think they’re quite good looking and worth a second glance.

    If you’re going to accept an invitation for a date from someone who has appalling sight like me, don’t be fooled. It’s no good thinking you may as well turn up wearing your old gardening clobber and save yourself a bit of time; if your date is blind, what the heck will it matter what you look like.

    Blind people have an advantage. Most sighted people concentrate only on visual appearance when deciding if they are attracted to someone. This is a mistake. They miss what really counts. Conversational skills get forgotten. The sound of a voice, the volume, tone and emphasis on words as well as a choice of words, even the way someone breathes or eats are significant. Detecting emotion in a single sentence can be an eye-opener. There’s no hiding, we’ll quickly pick up on the vibe and if we’re on the same wavelength.


    It makes sense

    Then there’s the individual smell of someone, the touch of fabric or skin, finger to finger, the attention to detail, it’s all there. Make an effort, please. Style your hair, brush your teeth, have a shower and add a dab of deodorant…but don’t overdo the eau-de-toilette. Dating a blind person isn’t all that different and first impressions count so, if ya think I’m sexy, I probably am…go for it, dress smart, look good and sound wonderful and you might catch my eye.

    There is another great advantage when you’re going on a blind date, as it were. When you can’t see too well, you are – thankfully – forbidden to drive. If you like to be in control and take to the wheel, you can drive your blind friend round the bend, it’s fine. And there will be no arguments about who is going to drive on your next date. Hopefully, if all goes well, there will be lots more dates. If not, maybe agree next time to take the bus.


    If you have full sight, you may never have met anyone with visual impairment before. This isn’t a reason to go all nervous, dithering about what sort of things you can say and what might offend. There’s no need to tip-toe about on eggshells until they crunch because you’re scared you’ll say something stupid like, “Let’s go and see a good film or play” or “The menu here looks good, see anything you fancy?”

    Blind people can see, they just see in different ways. They also do something called laugh at themselves. I’m an ace at this. If I didn’t laugh at myself, I’d spend half my day worrying about how foolish I might look.


    You can’t see that!

    Then comes the date and where do you go? A theatre or cinema visit sounds good but if your blind friend can’t see anything, what’s the point? Many venues are equipped nowadays with audio descriptions and there are apps and different tools to help; a sighted person can often just fill in the silent bits.

    If you’re still feeling unsure, I have never met a visually impaired person yet who bites when asked a question. We’re all human, I think. A relationship is a two-way communication process, whether one of you is blind or not. Just ask your blind friend a simple question. Once you get to know each other better, the awkwardness goes away, hopefully with the crunched-up eggshells.

    Mind you, if we’re on a date at a restaurant, best not ask me if there’s anything you should avoid bringing up. I’m likely to reply, “Yes, your dinner!”



    You also might have to accept occasionally getting a kiss on your nose instead of your lips or cheek. We’re only feeling our way.

    What about helping someone who has a visual impairment? All too often, people love to jump into the ‘caring’ role, mistakenly thinking they’re doing what is best.

    Being helpful to someone who is blind is usually welcome…to a point. But don’t overdo things and take control. Most of us value our independence and it can be suffocating being with someone who leaps in, shunts you out of the way and takes charge. This can quickly lead to taking advantage of and even enjoying the feeling of someone being dependent on you.


    On equal footing

    As with all relationships, think in terms of being equal. Remember, both sighted and blind people tend to respect someone else for their self-confidence. But please do let me know if my socks don’t match or I have a piece of carrot stuck between my teeth.

    And then comes the dog in some cases…

    This can also be a problem for anyone, but it is – dare I say – magnified – when the dog is a guide dog. There are now 3 of you in the relationship. And none of us guide dog owners, including me, are going to give the dog away. Occasional slobbering – from the dog, hopefully, not by the owner - is part of the deal, as is being covered in dog hair. You will have to accept there are times when the dog is working and not to be distracted and that the dog is always going to be around….well, most of the time.


    Hair of the dog

    But there are advantages too. A guide dog means greater independence. On a date, having a dog can help to break the ice and make you feel more relaxed, warming things up a little; there’s always going to be some humour somewhere when a dog is around.

    It’s also a great comfort to have a dog when you’ve drunk a little bit too much; walking in a straight line is bad enough with sight loss without a drink but the dog will get you home safely and you’ll save on taxi fares too.


    You also have to feel comfortable having a four-legged friend around. There’s no room for jealousy, even when people ignore you and make lovely compliments about the dog.

    When accepting a date from a blind person, keep your eyes wide open. We’re a great bunch...and we look good!



  • Guest blog: Profiting from the purple pound by Daniel Williams

    There are over 12 million people with disabilities in the UK, 7 million of whom are of working age - double up that figure to include their associates and you have a stampede of pounds ready to be spent. They have been given the name purple pounds and smart businesses are embracing this cash flow.

    We’re talking pounds, not peanuts

    The value is not to be ignored by even the smallest business or service provider as it’s estimated the purple pound is worth a staggering £249bn to the economy which is one heck of a lot of disposable income and spending power no business can afford to ignore. Perhaps it is better to express it a little differently and say that disabled people are a significant economic force and should not be brushed aside.

    It’s the hidden ‘barriers’ that suddenly loom up that make a trip even to the optometrist seem like an obstacle course. It can be enough to make you see red. Whilst having lots of different tests and lights shined into your eyes is maybe not the most exciting thing, it is not this which is the problem. Nor is having to navigate buses, trains, tubes, streets, possibly a taxi and the odd green man at the traffic lights in order to get there on time. The problem which awaits you is getting access, whether at the entrance or once inside.

    Before you’ve set foot outside your home, website accessibility is probably the first hurdle. It’s very rare for anyone who has a significant disability to be able to navigate most sites and if a business isn’t accessible at this stage, you may be feeling nervous at what you’re likely to encounter before you arrive. If an optometrist has a website that you can’t see, you may be feeling confused and uncertain as to what will follow next or if you have understood procedures correctly. But the answer is not difficult; any local web designer should be able to help you to get your website disability-friendly. The benefit is not only in attracting more relaxed patients but the message you give out about your service. It spells volumes!

    Finding the optometrist

    The purple pound has nothing to do with going purple with rage. This can happen of course when you have a visual impairment and you can’t see the optometrist or because your eyesight is so appalling that you need to flap your arms and do a little jig on the spot, hoping to attract his or her attention. The term refers to the potential spending power of disabled people, which also means their friends and families, who may be out and about shopping or visiting places, including optometrists. Access facilities for people with a disability can be impossible and not just in the smaller shops. At a time when the High street is struggling, competing with online retailers and large out of town stores, every pound spent counts. Disabled people are out there in their millions; they need and want, to spend their pounds. Businesses of all shapes and sizes should be jumping into this highly lucrative market and snapping up the opportunity before someone else does. For what will probably be an inexpensive outlay, the benefits are huge: healthier profits mean bills get paid and you stay afloat. With a service such as eye care, you can’t exactly sit at home and go online and get your eyes looked at. No technology in the world is going to substitute an optometrist physically examining your eyes, and your local High street may be the only place you can travel to without a bundle of stress. So, if, like me, you have low vision – and mine is terrible – you don’t have any option but to hope for the best. Where is the benefit in a shop putting up barriers to access their goods?

    Open the door

    If you are using a wheelchair and you have sight impairment and access into an optometrist’s premises is not good, staff will usually go out of their way to offer help.

    However, this does not provide a solution. It isn’t a very pleasant experience being pushed, pulled and tilted backwards feeling like you’re a parcel being delivered. Can you imagine someone grabbing your shoulders from behind and suddenly tilting you backwards? It is also quite tiring when you feel on show and constantly having to express gratitude for help offered which can be demeaning to someone who values their independence and just wishes to remain as quiet and unobtrusive as everyone else. The experience doesn’t make you want to return. There is no benefit to you in this. And wheelchairs, especially motorised ones, are not cheap; they cost thousands of pounds. Contrary to popular belief, they are not supplied by the State; they are purchased with hard-earned purple pounds and this also means paying for damage. If your chair gets damaged after it has been pulled or lifted through a doorway, it can be a battering experience in more ways than one, costing you money. You are unlikely to return. What business owner can afford to turn customers away like this?

    There is a simple, inexpensive solution. A shop or business does not have to tear down their front entrance with big cost to make it ramped or flat; a portable ramp could easily be purchased for a few pounds and fixed in place in seconds. For a heavy glass door on an existing flat entrance, a push button automatic opening to create independent access would make a huge difference. The investment would be won back with purple pounds whizzing in.

    Keep things simple

    Disability is not just about wheelchairs; for those with low vision, reading instructions in small print is like asking a toddler to read Shakespeare. If you are visiting an optometrist, having to strain to read anything means that, at the point of entry, you’re going to feel uncomfortable and worried you might have missed something which isn’t going to help you or make you feel relaxed. If shops and service providers have the right facilities, the benefits are significant. It signals a welcoming environment, embracing diversity, and a rise in profit.
    The solution, as always, is simple. Letters, instructions and appointment cards can easily be printed in large font or perhaps an audio description of important information can be given. The magnificence of being offered a magnifier is a must- have. Carefully considered lighting, the use of tints, tilted lamps and avoiding glare are other good, cost-effective ideas. As a business owner, you do not only increase your reputation for being inclusive and welcoming to all customers - on equal footing - you will also increase your cash flow.

    Even if you have managed to make it through the door without too many bumps and scrapes, there is often the problem of the location of the reception desk…and its skyscraper height. Far too many reception desks are impossible for anyone in a wheelchair to see across or are in an obscure place; for someone with low vision, they may find themselves having to wander all over the place trying to find it.

    The solution does not usually require massive outlay - simply reposition the reception area closer to the entrance and with good signage. By attracting a wider cohort of customers, your turnover increases and word spreads in the wider community, enhancing your image.

    You’re having a smashing time

    Then there are glass doors - for anyone with vision like mine, meeting with a glass door can be a bruising experience - crash, bang, wallop! Glass doors may look attractive but marking them would make them more so. Business owners look carefully at outgoings and repairing the damage that could have been avoided with an an inexpensive sign is a waste of profits.
    There is often an access problem to businesses for people with low vision and for elderly people who may struggle with balance, even if ramps for wheelchairs are provided. Whether you are quite agile on your feet or a bit doddery, a handrail makes a big difference to your safety. Steps are another issue because if you can’t see too well, you could find yourself going in leaps and bounds in ways you didn’t really want. A simple, very low-cost remedy is to have clear signs in place and use contrasting colours with tactile markings to highlight steps, edges and obstacles. I can already see purple pounds racing through your door and rattling in your tills.

    If you are deaf and you are visiting somewhere like the optometrist, then lighting, signs, ramps, handrails and a coloured sticker on a glass door are not going to help you to hear what time your next appointment is. The optometrist may as well be explaining your diagnosis in a foreign language. There are simple solutions. Appointments could easily be made by text. A loop system in the practice and subtitles on TV screens would be welcomed, and perhaps someone in your practice can communicate in BSL and if so, could you promote this? By making these low- cost adjustments, you radiate welcome, warmth and an all-inclusive approach to the spending public. Staff also benefit from a more enlightened working atmosphere.

    Just say hello

    When you are calling a patient from a distance, they may not hear and miss the appointment; the same applies to a patient with limited vision. You may go wandering off in the wrong direction, bumping into who knows what on the way. Yet a personal greeting to each patient costs nothing. Most adjustments hardly cost more than a bean or two…but they bring the purple pound bouncing through the door in droves. Purple pounds bring profit, not loss. There are many less obvious, inexpensive options which optometrists – and other service providers – can offer. Many people attending appointments may be nervous or suffering anxiety and as noise seems to be everywhere today, a quieter area where people can feel more relaxed would be beneficial with extra time given to patients who need it. Another great incentive is to offer a home visit or, at the very least, offer an appointment on the ground floor to avoid stair climbing. Acts of simple kindness always bring customers returning and recommending. The benefit of demonstrating a willing, easy-going and helpful approach to business needs no further explanation.

    One of the most common reasons a business will frequently state when asked why they haven’t given more thought to access for disabled customers is, “We don’t get many disabled customers in here.” Once they improve their access, they are likely to find more disabled customers appearing through their doorway, increasing their revenue.

    The purple pound in practice

    If disabled people have already struggled with the website before arriving at a shop or other business premises, only to find they can’t get in to the premises, find the reception desk, book an appointment with ease, hear what’s being said to them or find a department easily, it’s not going to entice them back in or get them to tell their friends and families. Instead of benefit, the business loses…and to a competitor.

    The colour purple is significant as historically, it’s been the dominant colour of power and whilst this is not the specific reason it was chosen for the purple pound campaign, it is symbolic. Identifying with a colour can help to forge a way in which people can express a cause. In this case, it’s the benefits of economic power, portrayed by the purple pound.

    As a service provider, think about including rather than excluding - whether you are a start-up or a well-established business, an eye-care service or a shoe shop, begin by thinking how best to appeal to the widest possible audience. And most business owners see attracting customers as the greatest benefit of any business strategy.

    By making your service accessible and user-friendly to everyone, more people will benefit, refer you on to others and become loyal customers. If you want your business to be profitable and rise above the competitor sharks, begin by appealing to the mass of customers who have the purple pound jangling in their pockets.

  • The Sight and Sound Technology Podcast: Episode 11 – Sight and Sound Summer School, and introducing Sam Coulson

  • Guest blog: Look on the bright side of being diagnosed blind by Daniel Williams

    It isn’t all bad - you won’t have initials after your name but to be registered severely sight impaired (blind) you don’t need to have complete sight loss but will need to meet certain criteria. So, whilst you may be able to see enough to get around in a reasonably upright manner (except after a visit to the pub), if you pass the test, you’re in! Registering is voluntary, confidential and opens up a raft of prizes.

    Blind man’s buff

    You won’t get a nice T-shirt to wear – although badges are available - being registered blind is not a tag that pops up on every screen whenever you want to buy something. It pops up on the right screens at the time you most need to see and be seen.

    Registration just means that your name and the details of your visual impairment have been officially recorded by your local social services and then the badge of honour is yours. Things are looking up!

    Once social services receive your certificate, they’ll make contact with you to come out and have a coffee and assess your needs.

    We are a nation that likes to form an orderly queue…until you come along, jumping upfront, flourishing your registration card with glee. Whilst you’re unlikely to get invited to tea and scones at Buckingham Palace by the Queen, you can go to Alton Towers and skip all the queues - the same applies to Disneyland and quite a few other attractions. You can usually get a free carer ticket to most theatres, cinemas and attractions and that’s when everyone wants to be a blind person’s best friend!

    Just flash the card

    There is a need for caution. Best avoid zooming up to the front of the queue for Mr Whippy to get your ’99 first. Large one, please! Still, there’s often a kind soul who might see all the slobbering and drooling…from you, I mean, not from your guide dog.

    Once you are registered blind, you can settle down to enjoy your favourite TV show, even those gory vet programmes they like to show when you’re eating your dinner, with a half-price TV licence. Yes, 50% off the fee!

    Stay tuned, there are more goodies to come…

    If you are employed, it’s always good to hear that you’ll pay less tax - with your new status as registered blind, you will be eligible for the blind person’s tax allowance.

    The price is right

    If you want to purchase specialist equipment such as a magnifier, it will be exempt from VAT which is great for avoiding tax once again.

    Then there is free bus travel - the downside is that it may only be available after the commuter rush hour at 9.30am, but on the upside, this allows you to get a lie-in so you can stay out late at the pub and blame it on the buses or maybe not as some bus passes stop working at 11pm - but if you’re blind you should be in bed by then anyway!

    Or why not get a disabled person’s railcard? As a blind person, don’t give in to the urge to get behind the wheel of a car and motor off onto the roads. But if you have a
    driver who can drive you around, a Blue Badge will come in useful and you can park in most Pay & Display spaces for free.


    You can also get help with certain NHS costs and free eye health checks which are still important so you can keep a regular check on your eyes without worrying about the price. Here’s the link https://www.gov.uk/help-nhs-costs

    Benefits and grants

    Registration will help support a claim for financial support for: Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Employment Support Allowance (ESA), Tax credits, Access to Work, Disabled Students Allowances (DSA), Attendance Allowance.



    Click the following link to access benefits calculators

    So, what are you waiting for? Simply visit a high street optician or your GP for an initial check-up and referral to an ophthalmologist and remember…always look on the bright side of being registered blind!

    Take look at my sight loss journey video by using the following link https://youtu.be/G_mqsKBlSkY

    All the best,


    Daniel Williams was diagnosed with retinitis
    pigmentosa at the age of 8 and is now improving
    the lives of others living with sight loss through
    his business, Visualise Training and Consultancy

  • A review of the SUNU Band by Zoe Hanscombe of Open Sight, Hampshire

    Recently Zoe Hanscombe of Open Sight, Hampshire, reviewed the SUNU Band. A wearable for partially sighted and blind people.

    The SUNU Band is a type of smartwatch that can be linked to your Smartphone and becomes a navigation tool as well as an obstacle detection aid, but it can also be used on its own without the app.

    This device uses an array of sensors on a band you wear on your wrist similar to a Fitbit or watch. It has many different functions to assist a partially sighted or blind person. It can detect obstacles via sonar. A haptic notification will alert you of potential obstacles using a harder vibration when you are closer to the obstacle.

    Here is what Zoe had to say after trying out the device:

    "As a visually impaired person myself, and guide dog owner, I can certainly see the benefits for a person using this band who is living with sight loss. The SUNU Band comes with a charger cable, and instructions in Braille as well as print.
    It is worn like a ‘Fitbit’ or watch and can go on either your right or
    left wrist depending on what other mobility aid you use, it has a flat
    pad where you would normally find a clock face and you use this pad
    the same way when using your smartphone, by swiping in certain directions, there is also a circular sphere at the top of the band that is where the sensors live. The sensor needs to be in line with your index finger as shown in the photo.



    You can naturally hold your arm down by your side, to see around you using the haptic feedback just twist your wrist around to find your surroundings. The band has a buckle strap like a watch and is very comfortable to wear.

    Using echolocation this band can be used solely on its own as an obstacle sensor and a watch to tell the time, but it can also be used with a free app that is available on Android and IOS smartphones. This then turns the SUNU Band into a clever navigation tool along with many more functions.

    So what can it do?

    Know your way, explore new places and get spoken directions to where you want to go using the SUNU Band app on your smartphone.

    Indoor Mode: when the indoor mode is activated it works on a shorter range as you are in more of a confined space then being outside, so detecting doors, furniture, walls etc at a range of around 2 metres.

    I’ve found this function useful for:

    • Queuing: The band will constantly vibrate when behind someone in a
      queue, as the person in front, moves forward, the band will then pulse
      to tell me that the person has moved forward, as I move forward
      closer to the person in front, the vibration will become more
      frequent letting me know I’m close behind the person in front of me.
    • Finding things: Such as reaching out to press the button on the pelican
      crossing, the vibrations allow me to locate the solid object and finding doors and openings.

    Outdoor Mode: In a more open space detection is increased.  Speeding up its vibration the closer to the detected obstacle you get. As you get closer the vibration intensified. With a little training and practice, it can be an extremely useful device.

    I found outdoor mode useful for:

    • Detecting low hanging branches, lamp posts, street furniture, and people.
    • Glass doors are very hard to detect with low vision, the SUNU Band can solve this by vibrating to alert you.
    • Waist height gateways or barriers that are waist height.

    Other functions available on the SUNU Band include an alarm clock, compass, voiceover and voice service, and a pedometer to track your footsteps and how far you have travelled.

    You can: change measurements, change gestures, use the help section and
    many more.

    The good thing about using the SUNU Band with the app is more features and tools in the future can be updated within minutes when available. It is important to remember the SUNU Band should not replace a white cane or guide dog, it's an additional mobility aid."

    Thanks to Zoe for providing such an insightful and in-depth review of the SUNU Band. If you are local to Open Sight in Hampshire you can find their contact details below.

    Otherwise, please feel free to give us a call to talk further about the SUNU Band and how you could give one a try. Our number is 01604 798070. Or email sales@sightandsound.co.uk

    Open Sight Hampshire currently have a demonstration SUNU Band at our Resources Centre, for more information please contact them on  02380 641 244 or email info@opensight.org.uk

  • Synapptic launches its new Version 7 update with Synapptic Reader!

    A press release from Synapptic on their latest Version 7 update:

    "We're delighted to announce the release of Version 7, our latest software update, which includes over 20 new features! Version 7 also includes our new innovative Synapptic Reader feature, giving you easy access to the world of Android apps. To learn more, watch our videos at www.synapptic.com/V7.

    To order your FREE 15-day Trial Version, please visit our website at www.synapptic.com.

    At Synapptic, we’re always striving to give you access to all the latest technology innovations, whatever your level of sight loss. Up until now, Synapptic software has given people with sight loss a simple way to use mobile technology. But now, you can explore outside of the Synapptic environment in the same easy way, using our Synapptic Reader.

    In recent years, the explosion of apps has followed the rise in mobile technology, enabling you to access specific services or perform specific tasks, directly from your device. Our new Synapptic Reader, included in Version 7, gives you a simple way to leave the Synapptic environment and read out the text on any Android app, using your smartphone or tablet.

    So whether you want to listen to your favourite music on Spotify, download and listen to an audiobook on Audible, send a free message to friends & family using WhatsApp, or access free sighted assistance with Be My Eyes, it’s easy to move quickly outside of Synapptic. As soon as you leave Synapptic and move onto any Android screen or app, Synapptic Reader will start speaking automatically, then switch off when you return to the Synapptic environment.

    Other new features include our enhanced Web Browser, making it easy to search the internet and have all results displayed in a simple Synapptic list. And also the ability to use automated call systems and pick up your voice mail messages easily. Using our unique Synapptic touch and release system, all features and lists are read out automatically as you scroll down each item, then release your finger to open the selected feature or link.

    We’ve also released our new smartphone and tablet packages, which include the latest models from Samsung, bringing you the most advanced mainstream technology, made easy and accessible through our Synapptic software.

    Our Synapptic phone and tablet packages, with Version 7 software included, are now available to buy for as little as £299".

    For more information on any of the Synapptic devices, you can contact us by email at sales@sightandsound.co.uk or by telephone on 01604 798070.

    Alternatively, you can take a closer look at some of the Synapptic devices on our online store here: http://www.sightandsound.co.uk/catalogsearch/result/?q=synapptic


  • Guest Blog: The Importance of Sight Loss Awareness Training

    Over two million people in the UK live with sight loss and employment opportunities for this huge cohort are still woefully inadequate. Only 1 in 4 blind and partially sighted people are in employment.

    For many people, finding employment that matches their skills and experience often does not mark the end of discriminatory employment practice, but the beginning.



    Many people with sight loss report feeling marginalised within the workplace, not only by managerial assumptions about their competencies but also by the attitudes and behaviour of more immediate colleagues. They report uncomfortable working relationships and an unwillingness on the part of many of their peers to engage with them as equals, resulting in extreme workplace isolation for many.

    Discrimination in the workplace is not generally malicious or premeditated, it is often the result of unconscious bias, a lack of information and education, and a fear of doing or saying the wrong thing, which often ironically causes far greater offence.  For example, “Did you watch TV last night” ‘Did you see that’? ‘Did you hear that’?


    Benefits of inclusion

    Sight loss awareness training is a great opportunity for your business or organisation to take the lead when it comes to these issues, and to ensure your working environment is as harmonious, collaborative and non-discriminatory as possible. This benefits employees and customers with sight loss and has an impact that will be felt at every level.

    Research increasingly demonstrates that when employees respect and share the values of an enlightened employer, job satisfaction and employee retention increase, whilst absenteeism decreases dramatically. Similarly, open and honest communication within a business and between colleagues is consistently shown to be one of the principal routes to increased productivity.

    It is also evident that having confident and well-trained staff that have undergone sight loss awareness training puts customers with visual impairments at ease, making them more likely to return and spend money within the organisation. Research shows that people with disabilities have a spending power of 212 million, so why would you not want to retain these customers?


    Diversity dividends

    There are also many proven key benefits to retaining a diverse workforce — including people with sight loss — by ensuring they are valued and respected. Employees from minority groups, particularly those with disabilities, are massively underrepresented in the workforce, and their uniquely valuable perspectives often provide access to consumer markets that are often overlooked or poorly addressed.

    Ultimately, becoming confident about sight loss works in the self-interest of every organisation, making them more enlightened places to work, and helping to change attitudes and behaviour for the better. As more companies adopt these progressive policies, they slowly become the norm, radiating out through supply networks and business partnerships to the wider community.

    In essence, it is about creating a supportive, positive and inclusive environment for all workers so employees are informed about disability issues and are confident that their interactions with disabled colleagues will not cause offence, and as a result, staff with disabilities feel respected, included and treated with equality.

    Education, information and empathy closes the experience gap between employees with and without sight loss while removing barriers and embedding best practices so that everyone feels comfortable and empowered. When employees are able to be themselves within the workplace, they flourish and achieve their full potential and when your team is achieving their full potential, so is your business.

    For more information on our sight loss awareness training options, please visit



    or email me at daniel@visualisetrainingandconsultancy.co.uk


    Best wishes,


    Daniel Williams was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of 8 and is now helping to improve the lives of others living with sight loss through his business, Visualise Training and Consultancy


  • The Sight and Sound Technology Podcast: Episode 10 - Sight Village, summer specials, the focus scratchpad and more

  • The Sight and Sound Technology Podcast: Episode 9 - Getting AT Ready 2019

  • The Sight and Sound Technology Podcast: Episode 8 - 40 year celebration promotions and Windows Mail continued

  • The Sight and Sound Technology Podcast: Episode 7 - Introducing Sharon Lyons and Carla Owen

  • The Sight and Sound Technology Podcast: Episode 6 - Introducing Ramble Tag, a user's perspective of the MiniVision and a new JAWS feature

  • The Sight and Sound Technology Podcast: Episode 5 - Robbie Forde, Amie Hynes Fitzpatrick and Apple Music on the Braille Sense Polaris

  • The Sight and Sound Technology Podcast: Episode 4 – Jenny Axler and Aram Hekimian

  • The Sight and Sound Technology Podcast: Episode 3 – Talks with Training Manager Matt Pateman and Brian Hartgen

  • The Sight and Sound Technology Podcast: Episode 2 - JAWS Training, the Sunu Band and Polaris v 3.0 update

  • New Podcast - Episode 1: Glenn Tookey and the 'Suddenly Sightless' podcast

  • Guest Blog: The Importance of Visual Impairment  Awareness Training by Daniel Williams

    Over two million people in the UK have a visual impairment, and employment opportunities for this huge cohort are still woefully inadequate.

    For many people with disabilities however, finding employment that matches their skills and experience is often not the end of discriminatory employment practice, but the beginning.


    Disability discrimination


    Many people with visual impairments  report feeling marginalised within the workplace not only by managerial assumptions about their competencies, but also by the attitudes and behaviour of more immediate colleagues. They report uncomfortable working relationships and an unwillingness on the part of many of their peers to engage with them as equals, resulting for many in extreme workplace isolation.  


    Disability discrimination in the workplace is not generally malicious or premeditated. It is often the result of unconscious bias, a lack of information and education, and a fear of doing or saying the wrong thing for fear of causing offence, which often ironically causes far greater offence.  For example, “Did you watch TV last night” ‘Did you see that’? ‘Did you hear that’?


    Benefits of inclusion


    Disability awareness training is a great opportunity for your business/organisation to take the lead when it comes to these issues, and to ensure your organisation is as harmonious, collaborative and non-discriminatory as possible. This not only benefits employees/customers with disabilities, but has impacts that are felt at every level of your company or organisation.


    Research increasingly demonstrates that when employees respect and share the values of an enlightened employer, job satisfaction and productivity increase, as does employee retention, whilst absenteeism decreases dramatically. Similarly, open and honest communication within a business and between colleagues is consistently shown to be one of the principal routes to increased productivity.


    It is also evident that having confident and well trained staff that have undergone visual impairment awareness training puts customers with visual impairments  at ease, making them more likely to return and spend money within the organisation. Research shows that people with disabilities have a spending power of 212 million, so why would you not want to retain these customers?


    Diversity dividends


    There are also many proven key benefits to retaining a diverse workforce - including people with disabilities - by ensuring they are valued and respected. Employees from minority groups, and particularly those with disabilities, are massively underrepresented in the workforce, and their uniquely valuable perspectives often provide access to consumer markets that are often overlooked or poorly addressed.


    Ultimately, becoming a disability confident workplace works in the self-interest of every organisation, whilst making your company a more enlightened place to work, and helping to change attitudes and behaviours for the better on a macro level. As more companies adopt these progressive policies, they slowly become the norm, radiating out through supply networks and business partnerships to the wider community.


    Disability confidence in action


    Practically, what does a disability confident workplace look like? In essence, it is about creating a supportive, positive and inclusive environment for all workers. In a disability confident workplace employees are informed about disability issues and are confident that their interactions with disabled colleagues will not cause offence, and as a result staff with disabilities feel respected, included and treated with equality.

    Learning awareness

    How exactly is this confidence and harmony achieved? Disability awareness training works by challenging attitudes amongst both those with and without a disability, increasing understanding of disability issues. Courses encourage employees to discuss their preconceptions of disability and their fears of interacting with people with disabilities.

    Courses also provide a wealth of information on a range of disabilities, including acquired disabilities, hearing and visual impairments, learning disabilities and issues surrounding mental health. Often role play is also used to encourage people without disabilities to place themselves in the position of someone with a disability, and to encourage an empathy and understanding of the experiences many people with disabilities face.

    All of these strategies – education, information and empathy – are about closing the experience gap between those employees without disabilities and those with disabilities; in the same process, it is about removing barriers and embedding best practice so that everyone feels comfortable and empowered to be themselves within the workplace, to flourish and to achieve their full potential. Because when your team are achieving their full potential, so is your business.


    It might be that you work with an employee or customer who has sight loss but are unsure on how to guide them or avoid certain terminology as you think it might offend them.

    For more information on visual impairment awareness training


  • What’s new in the ZoomText and Fusion 2018 November Updates

    This update applies to ZoomText 2018.1811.8 and Fusion 2018.1811.4.

    Improvements in Chrome

    • The text cursor and program focus are now tracked, highlighted and echoed with greater accuracy and reliability.
    • AppReader’s Next Paragraph command (UP arrow) and Previous Paragraph command (DOWN arrow) are now working.

    Improvements in Microsoft Office 2016 and Office 365

    • In Word documents, AppReader now skips over text that is marked as deleted.
    • In Word’s Review pane, ZoomText now displays a Cursor Enhancement on the text cursor.
    • In Excel 2016, a problem with Excel spontaneously crashing when clicking in cells, block selecting cells or scrolling the sheet has been fixed.
    • In Excel 2016, a problem with multiple cells becoming selected when selecting one cell with the mouse has been fixed.
    • In Outlook, when opening email ZoomText would announce the email differently depending on how the email was opened, that is, by using the mouse or using the keyboard. The announcement of email is now consistent regardless of how the email is opened.
    • In Outlook, the address fields are now echoed.

    Improvements in Skype

    • In Skype, the text cursor and program focus are now tracked, highlighted and echoed with improved accuracy and reliability.
    • In Skype, Mouse Echo now reads the item under the pointer in Skype’s Suggested list of contacts.

    Improvements in localizations

    • A collection of translation and formatting errors have been fixed in localized versions of ZoomText and Fusion. These fixes occurred in the Arabic, Norwegian, Portuguese Brazil and Turkish localizations.

    Miscellaneous improvements and fixes

    • In list views, ZoomText now announces the correct column title when navigating across the columns for each line item.
    • On multiple monitor systems, when running in the Windows 10 Lock Screen, using the Zoom In and Zoom Out commands would cause ZoomText to restart. This problem has been fixed.


    Miscellaneous improvements and fixes

    • When installing Fusion, desktop icons are supposed to be created for Fusion, JAWS and ZoomText. However, the ZoomText icon was not being created. This problem has been fixed.

    ZoomText 2019 Downloadable Installer

    ZoomText Multilingual Installer

    Fusion 2019 Downloadable Installers by Locale

    Fusion English Installer – ENU

    Fusion Dutch Installer – NLD

    Fusion French Installer – FRA

    Fusion French Canadian Installer – FRC

    Fusion German Installer – DEU

    Fusion Hebrew Installer – HEB

    Fusion Spanish – ESN

  • Announcing our first free online training session in JAWS 2019

    We’re very excited here at Sight and Sound as we eagerly await the release of JAWS 2019, the latest version of the world’s most popular screen reader, from Freedom Scientific, part of the Vispero group.

    To ensure that our customers can get the most from this exciting new release and find out what it contains, we are delighted to announce our first online training session, which will take you through the features and new options available in the newly released version.

    Over a 90 minute session, Sight and Sound’s Stuart Lawler will talk about some of the key additions in 2019 including improved support in Microsoft Office, enhanced support in Skype version 8, Audio ducking, phonetic speaking of characters during navigation and much more.

    Whether you already qualify for an upgrade to this new version, or you just want to find out what’s new, this session is for you. If you are a user, or someone who supports users then again, this session is definitely for you!

    Please note, we will assume a good knowledge of JAWS at the commencement of this session, so this should not be viewed as an introductory training module for the JAWS screen reader!

     image of JAWS logo

    Time and date of the JAWS 19 online training session

    The session takes place at 7:00 pm UK time on Thursday November 1st. We will be using the popular Zoom Meetings client, which can be used on PC, Mac, iOS and Android. Additionally you can join the meeting from a standard telephone if you wish.

    To join using Zoom or the Zoom plug-in, please follow the link below. You will also be able to download and install Zoom Meetings through this link if you do not already have it.


    Please note that the training session will not be live on the link until about 30 minutes prior to 7:oo PM UK time on November 1st.

    To join by telephone from the UK please dial 02036 950088, or from Ireland, please dial 01 691 7488. When you are prompted for a meeting ID, please enter 658690209.

    If you can’t join on the night don’t worry, we’ll be making the session available afterwards as a podcast for anyone to download and listen to in your own time!

    For further queries in advance of the session, or for assistance configuring the Zoom meeting client, please contact Stuart Lawler. Email: stuart.lawler@sightandsound.co.uk

    We look forward to you joining us on November 1st for an engaging and informative session!

  • Supporting ContactSCOTLAND-BSL with Focus Blue Braille Displays and more

    Access to Sign Language Interpreting Video Relay Service for Deafblind Sign Language Users.

    ContactSCOTLAND-BSL, Scotland’s only nationally funded online British Sign Language/English interpreting video relay service (VRS), delivered by Sign Language Interactions on behalf of the Scottish Government, is proud to announce the service can now be accessed by deafblind BSL users.

    Deaf BSL users have been using contactSCOTLAND-BSL to contact any of the 140+ public
    bodies or any of the 1,000’s of Scotland’s third sector organisations by calling through a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet or desktop computer, signing via the camera to the online BSL/English interpreter, who in turn calls (phones) the public body or third sector organisation and relays the call between the two.

    Deafblind people have been unable to access this ground-breaking and at times life changing service due to the simple fact that they cannot see the interpreter on screen!

    Now with advances in technology and specifically software, deafblind BSL users whose first language is BSL, can now access the video relay service by signing to the online interpreter using BSL and rather than seeing the signed response, they receive the responses via a braille display attached to the computer with responses being typed by the online interpreter. This is a first for Scotland and a first in the UK.

    Debra Wherrett – Deafblind BSL User (the first ever user!) said:
    “At the time when technology advanced with video I missed this opportunity because of my sight loss, a real missed opportunity which was really disappointing. Thought I wouldn’t have the chance to use video relay. Now I have that opportunity! Never say ‘impossible’, there is always possibilities, I thought I wouldn’t have this chance. Thank you.”

    Andrew Dewey, Director, Sign Language Interactions said: “Advances in video technology has meant that deafblind people have been excluded from
    accessing services that many people take for granted. Now deafblind BSL users can have access to all of Scotland’s public bodies and third sector organisations and able to make phone calls where previously had to rely on others to make. This can be from the mundane such as ordering food for their guide dog (albeit pretty important to the dog!) to contacting council services or making appointments at their GP surgery whenever they need to. The key is being able to express themselves in their language of choice – BSL.
    “We are extremely honoured to be delivering this truly ground breaking and potentially life changing service on behalf of the Scottish Government and feel proud and privileged to be at the forefront of these developments.”

    Video of Debra Wherrett using contactSCOTLAND-BSL can be seen here:



    More information can be obtained from:
    Sign Language Interactions
    112 Cornwall Street South
    Kinning Park
    Glasgow G41 1AA
    T: 0333 344 7712
    E: admin@signlanguageinteractions.com
    M/SMS: 07970 848868
    Notes to editors
    ▪ It is estimated that there are about 9 million people in the UK who are deaf or hard of
    hearing. Out of this figure there are an estimated 151,000 people use British Sign
    Language (BSL) and of these 87,000 are Deaf.
    British Deaf Association: https://bda.org.uk/help-resources/
    There are between 5,500 – 8,000 BSL users in Scotland
    ▪ There are an estimated 23,000 Deafblind people in the UK
    Deafblind Scotland estimated there are around 5,000 people in Scotland with a dual
    sensory impairment. Relatively few people are totally deaf and totally blind – many
    have a little hearing and/or sight left.
    deafscotland: http://www.scod.org.uk/faqs/statistics/
    Numbers of deafblind BSL users are relatively small, however, access and barriers are
    immense for this group.
    • Sign Language Interactions is Scotland’s largest provider of communication
    professionals with deaf and deafblind people. With contracts to deliver British
    Sign/English language interpreting, Electronic Notetaking (ENT) and communication
    services with deafblind people to a number of public and private services.



    When I first saw the new iteration of the Hims BrailleSense, the Polaris, in 2017, I was very disappointed.  I liked the hardware, but found the software very unstable.  Hims has taken the bold step of layering its Sense applications over a version of Android, rather like HumanWare did two years ago with its BrailleNote Touch.


    But, to their credit, the guys at Hims have worked hard on making the software more stable so that using apps in Android is a much easier experience.  So much so, in fact, that Hims has just brought out the Polaris baby sibling, Polaris Mini.


    Meet The Mini

    Like its larger sibling, Polaris Mini runs on Android Lollipop 5.1.  Yes, that does mean it is roughly four major versions behind the current Android P beta cycles.  And that does concern me in respect of both security and current apps not being able to run on it as well, if at all.  But with the negativity out of the way, let’s concentrate on some of the really positive things this machine does well.


    Firstly, it’s size is really appealing.  It is small, lightweight and sleek.  It measures approximately 18.7cm wide, by 11.4cm deep, by 2.2cm thick, and weighs approximately 423g.


    And, for me, its case is far better than any of its predecessors with a solid clam-shell construction and slightly rubberised feel.


    The hardware on Polaris Mini has also been beefed up.  There is 64gb of onboard storage with 3gb of RAM, Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Dual-band (2.4GHz and 5.0 GHz), Wi-Fi Direct, and a 2.1 GHz SAMSUNG Exynos 7420 processor.  Battery life is reported to be around 12 to 13 hours of use with Braille and speech at mid-volume.  A compass, GPS and vibration motor are all installed.


    The box contents comprises Polaris Mini; USB C to USB 2.0 standard cable; wall charger; earbuds with line-in volume and microphone; case; strap; battery and Braille Quick Start guide.


    Unpacking And Setup

    The first thing you will want to do when unpacking your device is charge it.  The battery may or may not be inserted upon arrival.  If it isn’t, you will find it pretty straightforward to put in.  Full instructions on how to do this may be found in the Polaris Mini user guide found here:



    With Polaris Mini facing you on a flat surface, you will find several keys, ports and controls.  On the front of the device, from left to right, are:

    • Three-position lock switch: furthest left locks all keys, middle locks keyboard only, and right unlocks all keys
    • Three-position Media Mode switch: furthest left is App Mode; middle is DAISY Mode; and furthest right is Media Mode
    • Five media buttons comprising: back, record, stop, play/pause, forward
    • Power button


    The right panel comprises two ports: the furthest one away from you is a micro HDMI socket for connecting the Polaris Mini to a monitor.  The one nearest the front is a USB C port which is used for charging the machine and attaching it to an external keyboard, pen or other drive.


    The left panel, from back to front, comprises 3.5mm microphone and headphone sockets, and volume up and down buttons.


    The top panel has a perkins-style keyboard which is as comfortable and responsive to use as any of its predecessors.  As well as the four function keys that sit two either side of the space-bar, Hims have added control and alt keys to the line-up here for extra navigation convenience.


    The Polaris Mini has a 20-cell Braille display with the same number of cursor routing buttons above, and two navigation keys at each end of the display.


    The battery compartment underneath also houses a Micro SD card.  I am told a 256GB card will work in the unit if you require that amount of storage.  There is also a mono speaker and a 13mp camera underneath the machine.


    Using Polaris Mini

    A note about the power button.  Once you turn on the machine and it goes through its boot sequence for the first time, it is possible to simply tap the power button to put it into Standby Mode after that.  Press it again to wake up the machine straight away.  You do this in the same way you would your Smartphone.  But if you want to close the device down for a longer period, simply hold the power button in for a few seconds until a prompt to shut it down appears.


    Polaris Mini has the same menu structure as its predecessors when you power on the machine.  But there are extra items due to the fact that you can now go into the world of Android in addition to using regular Sense applications.


    So after connecting to Wi-Fi, (and this is now a much faster experience on Polaris Mini,) the first thing I did was launch Play Store from the main menu and put in my Google credentials to allow me to use its services including the Play Store.  The way of navigating is generally to press the tab key.  When you want to use an edit field to type in information, you need to press enter once you have landed on the edit box.  This then opens up the field for you to enter your search criteria, username or password.


    I fully expected Android to be sluggish and crash.  But no! I was very pleasantly surprised a year on to find that Android is now more stable and a pleasant experience.  So much so, in fact, that I downloaded a whole raft of apps that I have in my library.  One of these is a trial of KNFB Reader.  It allows you to pay for the full version of the app once you’ve tried taking 25 or so pictures of your text for OCR scanning.  I was amazed to find how well this actually worked for me.  The Polaris Mini is much more comfortable to hold in both hands over a piece of text than a larger machine.


    I also downloaded apps such as the BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Kindle, and Google Assistant.  There are several Google apps already installed on the Polaris Mini such as Maps, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drive and YouTube as standard.


    Do bear in mind though that not every app in the Play Store is compatible with Polaris, so it will be trial and error that will carry frustrations I’m afraid.  There are some work-arounds though.  For example, the popular Amazon Kindle app won’t work, but it is possible to download the latest app with an extension of APK on the end of its name.  This bypasses the need for the user to navigate with touch gestures which aren’t possible on Polaris.  The APK version installs Kindle to your device without those, thus making it accessible.


    There are, of course, lots of advantages to having access to the Play Store.  You can choose to use a different Email client, web browser, Social Media apps, music player … the list is endless.  But if you aren’t interested in Android, and you simply want a really good note-taker with all the features we have come to enjoy from Hims, then Polaris Mini has them without you ever needing to venture into the Play Store at all.  The regular File Manager, Word Processor, Media Player, Utilities and Global Options are all there, working just as well.  Just bear in mind though that you do have a little power house in the Polaris Mini if ever you fancy being bold!


    Elsewhere, using the built-in stereo microphone or an external one is perfectly straightforward to accomplish.  While Polaris Mini has a mono speaker due to its compact size, listening to stereo content through headphones is very nice.


    There is always intuitive help at hand with Hims devices, and Polaris Mini is no exception.  There is a user guide on the machine, a Braille Quick Start guide to get you going in the box, a downloadable manual from the Hims website, and a whole chapter devoted to each application on the unit itself.  Just remember that Hims can’t take responsibility for or support apps that you download outside of the native Sense suite.


    Conclusion And Pricing

    A year ago, I wouldn’t have touched this machine such was its instability and tendency to crash.  But after a couple of great updates, Hims has got Polaris to a really competitive, productive state.  And now the same feature set is on a smaller machine that fits snugly in your bag or back-pack, it really is the mature companion I had long since hoped it would be.  Sure there are some things it could do better, and yes I would like to see it leap in versions to at least Oreo.  I would hope that Hims will move forward with updates to ensure Polaris doesn’t get left behind where security and app accessibility might be compromised.  After all, it is a lot of money for a Braille device if it can’t keep up.


    But if you want a small, ergonomically comfortable note-taker to use with plenty of bells and whistles to make productivity a smoother experience, then the Polaris Mini is definitely worth shelling out for.


    And speaking of price, it currently retails for £3,395.00    excluding VAT.  But there are always offers to be had, so do check with dealer Sight and Sound Technology, 01604 798070,

  • Getting AT Ready 2018: A grand success!

    Thank you to everybody who exhibited and attended our 3rd Getting AT Ready 2018 event at Napier University, with your involvement we created an exceptional day from start to finish.

    For those who don't already know, the annual Getting AT Ready event has been developed to provide disability professionals in Further and Higher Education (FE and HE) with an opportunity to discuss best practice, learn about new technologies and hear from the experts in the field. Our aim is to provide an environment that encourages discussion and the sharing of ideas between attendees and the various experts and exhibitors that attended the event.

    We kicked the day off with a panel discussion which included our very own CEO Glenn Tookey, Monica Hoenigmann from Edinburgh College, Fiona Burns from the Scottish Funding Council, Mark Wilkinson from Edinburgh Napier University and Lorna Caldwell from SAAS.

    In front of the audience of guests the panel discussed a number of key topics that are particularly poignant in the assistive technology sector. This included an update on the access and inclusion strategies for colleges, factors affecting the low retention of disabled students in University, mental health strategies, transitional best practice and the problems educational institutions face in terms of resource.

    Following a short break for some tea and coffee, the attendees were encouraged to attend any of the 5 workshops we had running concurrently, both in the morning and the afternoon. This allowed the delegates the opportunity to hear from all participants. The exhibition was also part of the workshop line-up, providing an opportunity to speak to the publishers of the AT that was mentioned in the workshops, first hand.

    We received some great feedback from this year's guests such as Suzanne Halliday, learning support and lecturer at the City of Glasgow College:

    "I really enjoyed the day from start to finish. It was a well organised event with a good mix of networking opportunities, up to date information on improvements to enhance the student journey, stimulating workshops and new AT technology to enquire about.

    It is the first time at any event I have been able to have the transcript, which is useful to read over again and to share with colleagues who were unable to attend.

    Finally, the lunch was delicious- what a treat! It was lovely to get a break from sandwiches and wraps and I am sure my energy levels were higher in the afternoon sessions as a consequence. Thanks all."

    The suppliers/exhibitors remained around their stalls for the day, providing an opportunity for those who weren't taking part in the seminars to have a high quality one on one discussion. Too often these events are overcrowded or don't provide ample time to see and talk to each of the exhibitors for a lengthy amount of time - at Getting AT Ready it has long been our aim to ensure that everyone has enough time to see and explore everything that is on offer.

    A word from supplier and exhibitor Find My Flow on this year's event:

    Team FindMyFlow had a brilliant time at AT Ready. It’s a such a well designed and well organised event that is relaxed, engaging and focused on the future. There was a great atmosphere which facilitates lots of interesting conversations, insights and ideas. As an exhibitor, we had so many takeaways from the day which help us to make our product and service even better."

    Thank you again to everyone attended what was a fantastic day in Edinburgh. We leave you with some words from our DSA Business Manager, Carolyne Smith:

    "What a brilliant day! From the Panel discussion with SFC and SAAS, to the workshops and the delicious lunch, we couldn’t have been happier with the result. Working out how we can top this for next year will be no mean feat but we have some ideas up our sleeves so do keep your eyes posted on the website for further information. A big thank you must go out to the team at Napier for their help making this happen!! Looking forward to next year already!"

    Website: http://www.atready.co.uk/

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