Visually impaired twins cycle tandem towards their future

Identical twin brothers Michael and Dan Smith, aged 20, recently cycled tandem 570km from London to Amsterdam to raise funds for UK charity Blind in Business.  The route started with London to Calais on day one, onto Gent, Rotterdam and Amsterdam over the course of 4 days. Michael and Dan were guided throughout their route by five sighted guides, all medical students at Barts and the London School of Medicine.

The brothers were sponsored by Sight and Sound Technology, the leading UK provider of hardware and software for visually impaired and blind users, and managed to raise over £16,000 for the charity. Dan Mitchell, Training and Fundraising Manager at Blind in Business, said: “Cycling from London to Amsterdam is a gruelling challenge for any person, and an endurance challenge that many sighted people would steer clear of.  For two virtually blind twins, it’s shown their true determination to succeed.  We are extremely proud of the Smith Twins and the rest of the cycling team, and I’m sure this won’t be the last we hear from them!”

In 2009, Michael Smith first noticed changes in his sight; “My symptoms came on suddenly – one day I was in a lecture and I could not make out the projector in front of me, it was really hazy,” he explains.

Having lost 70%-80% of sight in his left eye within a matter of weeks, he was forced to leave university and discontinue his first year studying Medicine at Barts and the London School of Medicine. Following his decline in sight, Michael’s diagnosis was slow, however after a genetic test Michael was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition ‘Leber’s Optic Neuropathy’.

Unfortunately less than a year later, his twin brother Dan suffered the same fate whilst in his second year of studying Aeronautical Engineering at University of Bristol. Although devastating for Dan, he was able to continue his studies due to the technology that was now available to him. At least now they knew which technology was available, how to access it and they understood all the processes required, thanks to organisations such as Sight and Sound Technology.

Blind in Business directed the boys towards Sight and Sound Technology. As leaders in cutting-edge technology and revolutionary new ways to aid the visually impaired, Sight and Sound Technology have been able to give them the help they need with support from their highly skilled trainers and technical support desk.  Michael is now a Geography undergraduate at Kings College, London.  He plans to convert to Law and study the GDL and LPC within the conversion. He has an internship this summer with law firm Ashurst.

Michael Smith comments: “At first I struggled to adjust to life without my sight, it was very difficult to come to terms with. But with the help and support of Blind in Business and Sight and Sound Technology, the transition has been made a lot easier. Dan and I are happy that we could take part in the bike race to thank the organisations for their hard work.”

Sight and Sound Technology have been training Michael ever since in using technology and software programmes such as JAWS (screen reader software), ZoomText (screen magnifier software), TOPAZ (desktop magnification) and Kurzweil 100 plus scanner (text to speech software and scanner). Dan also uses similar technology with the addition of PEARL and Openbook, a text to speech software and capture.

Glenn Tookey, CEO of Sight and Sound Technology explains: “It’s a privilege to work with such inspirational boys. They are determined to complete university and get good jobs despite being left almost completely blind.  Our technology is enabling them to regain some independence and continue their studies in a bid to fight the condition which has so heavily affected their lives.

“We are very proud to have sponsored them for the race and will continue to support them in the future.”

Ends

Notes to Editor

  • For more information on Sight and Sound Technology please visit http://www.sightandsound.co.uk
  • Sight and Sound Technology is the UK’s leading provider of hardware and software to the blind, visually impaired and those with learning and reading difficulties. They work in unison with private individuals, charitable organisations, educational establishments and commercial enterprises to help our users fully realise their potential. Their product solutions have been specifically designed to improve quality of life at work, at study or in the home.
  • To arrange an interview with Glenn Tookey, CEO of Sight and Sound Technology, please contact katie@zoodikers.com
  • For further information on Blind in Business visit http://www.blindinbusiness.co.uk
  • Blind in Business ask for one simple thing.  They want more undergraduate and graduates to work with throughout the UK, to help them into their first job.  All their services are free.  They have a proven-track-record of helping people into good jobs, in marketing, IT, law, teaching, anything but driving a bus.

 

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