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.
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!
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 TookeyOur 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!
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.”
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?
To find out more or to comment on the above, email email@example.com
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/
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.
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.  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.
 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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.”
- 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 email@example.com
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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/
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.
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
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!
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.
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
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?
COMPASS & NAVIGATION
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
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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Queuing: The band will constantly vibrate when behind someone in a
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 email@example.com 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
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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
THE FOLLOWING ITEMS APPLY TO FUSION ONLY
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
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!
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: email@example.com
We look forward to you joining us on November 1st for an engaging and informative session!
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
Glasgow G41 1AA
T: 0333 344 7712
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.
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,
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!"
Everyone has a role to play – what's yours?
Inclusive Design 24 celebrates efforts worldwide to ensure people with disabilities have full and equal access to the web. To this end, we will be holding 24 completely free one-hour webinars on all things accessibility. The sessions range from beginner to advanced and are aimed at everyone from executives to web developers.
This year, we will go beyond accessibility compliance. The focus for #ID24 2017 is
levelling up– taking your skills and knowledge beyond the basics and beyond compliance.
How to join
The event is now over, however you can view any number of the seminars from the session below by clicking on the links under each session:
SessionsAll times shown for your current local time ( UTC +1 )
1:00AM(0:00 UTC)Cordelia McGee-TubbAccessible Comics!!!
2:00AM(1:00 UTC)Eric BaileyDesigning for Inclusion with Media Queries
3:00AM(2:00 UTC)Jason KissPractical Accessibility Assessment: Getting past compliance testing
4:00AM(3:00 UTC)Bryce JohnsonFriction that fits - Unlocking universal fun
5:00AM(4:00 UTC)Russ WeaklyCreating accessible "floating" labels
6:00AM(5:00 UTC)Eric EggertARIA Serious?
7:00AM(6:00 UTC)Chaals McCathie NevileSVG accessibility
8:00AM(7:00 UTC)Andrew ArchFrom technical conformance to user-centred design in the Australian Government
9:00AM(8:00 UTC)Henny SwanInclusive Design Principles
10:00AM(9:00 UTC)Florian Sanders, Aurélie Houssin and Nathalie Dufour.Frenchies, trains and web accessibility
11:00AM(10:00 UTC)Johan HuijkmanAccessibility is dead. Long live usability
12:00PM(11:00 UTC)Nidhi AroraDemocratising Knowledge
1:00PM(12:00 UTC)Shwetank DixitAccessible Smart Cities: The Way Forward
2:00PM(13:00 UTC)Makoto UekiDesigning Accessible Web Content for Older Users
3:00PM(14:00 UTC)Suzanne ClarkeMaking accessible games at the BBC
4:00PM(15:00 UTC)Molly Ford-WilliamsGo Hack Yourself
5:00PM(16:00 UTC)Jared SmithRethinking Color and Contrast
6:00PM(17:00 UTC)Jesse BeachScaling accessibility improvements with tools and process at Facebook
7:00PM(18:00 UTC)Cynthia Shelly52 Usability Studies in a CSUN booth
8:00PM(19:00 UTC)Lainey FeingoldWhat is Compliance? Using the Law to Frame Accessibility as a Civil Right
9:00PM(20:00 UTC)Jennifer Krul and Janna CameronEnhancing technology through inclusive UX research
10:00PM(21:00 UTC)Chris O'BrienThinking Beyond Described Video with Integrated Described Video (IDV)
11:00PM(22:00 UTC)Birkir GunnarssonARIA 51, when a powerful standard is used wrong
12:00AM10 June(23:00 UTC)Denis Boudreau2017 design trends and their impact on accessibility
We came across this great article by blogger Maya-Liam who has Retinopathy of Prematurity. She talks about her experiences of using technology and being online and how other people who are registered blind can benefit from being online:
"Hi everyone, my name is Maya-Liam and I have Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). This means I was born early so my eyes didn’t develop properly. I’m registered blind, have no sight in my left eye and a tiny tunnel of vision in the right eye.
I think I’m a bit of a technology whizz, I use my Mac and iPad to produce music, take photos with added image descriptions, and I go online...a lot.
Lots of people think that blind and partially sighted people can’t get online at all - which isn’t true! Even when technology wasn’t what it is now in terms of accessibility, I was still using it. I struggled a lot more with it when I was younger, although with the development of accessibility settings on devices including laptops, tablets and smartphones, I can get online whenever I want.
The best thing about getting online as someone who is registered blind is being able to talk to my friends - I never feel like I’m on my own. Going online is also a fun way to interact with my blind and partially sighted friends, we mainly use Facebook to keep in touch with each other.
Being online definitely stops me from being socially isolated and my friends even encourage me to do my travel training, use my cane and tell me routes to places over Facebook (my friends all cheer when I bring my cane to the pub!).This means I can go and meet them when I might not be able to otherwise.
My top tip for anyone who is blind or partially sighted, make sure you know exactly which accessibility features might work for you. Get some help setting your hardware up and you’re ready to get online!"
Here at Sight and Sound Technology we have a dedicated technical support team, alongside our specialised sales team we have all the elements necessary if you want to try a whole manner of technology and software designed specifically for people who are blind or visually impaired.
Please just give us a call on 01604 798070 or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
We regret to announce that VFO (the home of the Freedom Scientific®, Optelec, and Ai Squared brands) are ending the sales of Window-Eyes, effective immediately.
We understand how important a screen reader is to you and are offering JAWS® for Windows 18 as a replacement. We are committed to providing a smooth transition and will honour existing Window-Eyes product purchases and software maintenance agreements, as follows.
- End users that paid for and are current with Window-Eyes 9.x will be converted to JAWS 18 at no charge.
- If you are using an earlier version of Window-Eyes, you can purchase an upgrade to JAWS 18.
- If you are using the free version of Window-Eyes you can continue to use it. While there is not an upgrade path from the free version, if you are interested in purchasing JAWS, please contact our sales team on 01604 798070 and select Option 1.
- Existing Window-Eyes SMAs will be rolled into the JAWS SMA program for end users that migrate to JAWS.
Detailed upgrade and SMA pricing information is provided below.
To make this process as easy as possible, we ask you to complete a simple web form that will go directly to our sales team, who will then contact you with an authorisation code for JAWS 18, or request additional information if necessary.
Requests for upgrades must be submitted at http://www.sightandsound.co.uk/we-jaws-migration or by phone at 01604 798070 and select Option 1 by 31st July 2017.
Please Note, the free Window-Eyes Offer for Users of Microsoft Office version is not part of the conversion program.
Customer Paid For
Window-Eyes Upgrade Pricing
JAWS 18 Pro JAWS 18 Home 9.0.x – 9.5.x No Charge No Charge 8.0.x – 8.4.x £195 £150 7.5.x £375 £250 Older than 7.5.x £550 £355 Using free Window-Eyes Offer for Users of Microsoft Office version £845 £699 SMA Purchase Price £215 £150
Below is a podcast explaining the migration from Window-Eyes to JAWS and the user experiences from different viewpoints.
To help with the transition to JAWS 18, VFO have created some tutorials to get you started. The tutorials are available in two formats, audio and Microsoft Word.
- Startup Wizard Tutorial [Audio]
- Startup Wizard Tutorial [Transcript]
- Basic Hotkeys Tutorial [Audio]
- Basic Hotkeys Tutorial [Transcript]
- Information Hotkeys Tutorial [Audio]
- Information Hotkeys Tutorial [Transcript]
- Getting Help Tutorial [Audio]
- Getting Help Tutorial [Transcript]
- Synthesizers Tutorial [Audio]
- Synthesizers Tutorial [Transcript]
- Outlook Tutorial [Audio]
- Outlook Tutorial [Transcript]
- Cursor Reading Tutorial [Audio]
- Cursor Reading Tutorial [Transcript]
- Web Browsing Tutorial [Audio]
- Web Browsing Tutorial [Transcript] (Coming Soon)
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ):
How long will the Window-Eyes Offer for Users of Microsoft Office program continue to be offered?
The free Window-Eyes Offer for Users of Microsoft Office from Microsoft and VFO will end on 30th June 2017. However, VFO will continue to provide free access to the Window-Eyes Offer for Users of Microsoft Office version for the foreseeable future.
Can I still get the Window-Eyes Offer for Users of Microsoft Office for free after the program ends?
Yes, although Microsoft’s involvement in the Window-Eyes Offer for Users of Microsoft Office program is ending, VFO will continue to provide it for the foreseeable future. The version is offered for Microsoft Office 2010 or newer.
How long can I continue to use Window-Eyes?
Anyone with a valid copy of Window-Eyes can use it in perpetuity. However, as the Windows operating system and/or applications change, Window-Eyes may become incompatible. VFO cannot guarantee its functionality as these changes occur.
I purchased Window-Eyes technical support. What happens now?
Window-Eyes technical support will continue to be offered by VFO.
I purchased a copy of Window-Eyes and now it is discontinued. Will I get a refund?
Customers who purchased Window-Eyes will have their investment recognized. VFO has various conversion and upgrade programs in place to preserve this investment as the customer migrates to other products within VFO.
I have been a user of Window-Eyes for years and cannot learn a new screen reader. How will I survive?
Although it’s always challenging to learn new technologies, many of the Window-Eyes keystrokes and features are similar to JAWS. VFO will provide transition and training material for free on their website to aid in customers migrating to JAWS.
What is the difference between JAWS® 18 Home and JAWS® 18 Pro?
There is no difference in functionality between JAWS 18 Home and JAWS 18 Professional. The Home version is restricted to non-commercial use and is not authorised for use in work or commercial environments. Additionally, the SMA price for JAWS Home is £150 verses the Professional SMA, which is £215.
If you have any questions please call us on 01604 798070 and select Option 1 or email us at email@example.com.
Building on the recent success in Scotland, Sight and Sound Technology has established an office in Glasgow and has expanded the local team to provide expert support for our clients and partners in the region. The new Office in Queen Street, Glasgow will be managed by Ruth Gallagher Carr.
The local team will provide expert sales, support and training for all products and services serving the Blind, Visually Impaired and those with Learning Difficulties and represents an important commitment by the company to the market in Scotland and its clients who look to us to provide excellence in this specialist technology area.
CEO, Glenn Tookey said; “We have been successful in growing our business north of the border in recent years and this development illustrates our commitment to provide a high quality local service to our loyal clients and end users in Scotland. We expect to make further investment in coming months establishing a fully functional base and team to offer even more services to that market."
Microsoft are due to release a new Windows 10 update called Creators Update by the end of April 2017. This update includes many new features and changes, some of which may cause issues with existing accessibility technology.
For JAWS and ZoomText, VFO have released updates to resolve these issues. We strongly recommend updating your products as soon as possible, before you receive the Windows update. You should be automatically prompted to download this update, but if not, you can download the update and find out more information from the following web page:
Please note that Window-Eyes does not require an update. The existing latest version, 9.5.4, will work fine on the Creators Update.
What is ZoomText
ZoomText is a powerful computer access solution that allows low-vision computer users to see, hear and use everything on Windows desktops, laptops and tablet devices. ZoomText magnifies and enhances everything on your computer screen; echoes all of your actions including typing and navigation through menus, dialogs and other application controls; automatically reads documents, web pages and email, and much more. With ZoomText, all applications can be used with greater ease, speed and productivity.
What’s New in ZoomText 11
For the release of ZoomText 11 our goal was to make ZoomText faster and friendlier than ever before. So we streamlined the toolbars, simplified command keys, and unified the core features to make them easier to learn and use. We've also made sure that the ZoomText interface is fully accessible using the mouse or the keyboard.
Here's a list of the key changes in ZoomText 11.
New Modern Toolbar. ZoomText has a brand new toolbar with a fresh clean look. We've streamlined and modernised the layout to make it easier to learn and fast and fluid to use. You can now access and operate the entire toolbar with the mouse or the keyboard.
How to use the new toolbar
- Using only the arrow keys and Enter key, you can fully navigate and operate all of the toolbar controls.
- Pressing the arrow keys moves the focus in the desired direction, such as left and right across toolbar controls or upward from a toolbar button to the toolbar tab.
- Many of the toolbar buttons are split button controls that have a top button that toggles the feature on and off or cycles the features mode, and a bottom button that displays a menu of associated features. When the focus is on a split button, pressing the Enter key will trigger the top button, while pressing the down arrow will open the menu. Use the arrow keys and Enter to key navigate the menus and select menu items. To close the menu, press the left arrow.
- When the focus is in a spin box, pressing the up and down arrow keys will adjust the spin box value; pressing the left or right arrow will move the focus to the next control.
- When the focus is in the Zoom Level spin box, pressing the Enter key will toggle the Zoom to 1x feature. Note: Left-click on the icon below the Zoom Level spin box also toggles the Zoom to 1x feature.
New Command Keys. ZoomText 11 has a new system of 'Command Keys' that are easier to learn and use. The new command keys eliminate hotkey conflicts and use key combinations that are easy to on any desktop or laptop keyboard.
How to use the new command keys
- All of the new ZoomText hotkeys (factory defaults) work on all laptop and desktop keyboards; utilise key combinations that are easier to find and execute; and eliminate long-standing hotkey conflicts with Windows and other applications.
- The new hotkeys for the most commonly used commands:
- Demonstrate Finder in IE11.
- See description of the “New Unified Finder Tool” below.
- Launch ZoomText Ctrl + Shift + Alt + Z
- ZoomText On/Off Caps Lock + Ctrl + Enter
- Zoom In/Out Caps Lock + Up/Down
- Zoom to 1x (toggle) Caps Lock + Enter
- Enhance Color On/Off Caps Lock + C
- Voice On/Off Caps Lock + Alt + Enter
- Cycle Typing Echo Mode Caps Lock + Alt + T
- Launch AppReader Caps Lock + Alt + A
- Launch AppReader from Pointer Caps Lock + Alt + Left –Click (on a word)
- Launch Finder Caps Lock + Ctrl + F
New Zoom to 1x. The new Zoom to 1x feature lets you instantly switch between zoomed and 1x views, without having to zoom in and out one level at a time. And when you zoom out to 1x, all of the other ZoomText features are still there for you.
How to use the new Zoom to 1x feature
- This one is simple, just zoom in and then press Caps Lock + Enter to toggle back and forth between the zoomed view and 1x view.
New Geometric Smoothing. ZoomText now smooths the edges of text in places where xFont magnification can't go. Here's a hint; your magnified PDF documents never looked this good.
How to use the new feature
- The feature is best demonstrated in Adobe Reader, where ZoomText’s xFont magnification is not available to provide smooth magnified text in PDF documents. Geometric Smoothing works in Adobe Reader changing the text from blurry unreadable text to sharp readable text.
New Consolidated AppReader. We've made automatic reading more efficient and flexible by combining ZoomText's legacy reading tools into one new AppReader. With the new AppReader you can read right in the target application, or switch on-the-fly to a high contrast text view that's better for visual reading. You can also spot read blocks of text by clicking and dragging the mouse.
How to use the new AppReader
- Open a Word document or webpage in IE11.
- Move the mouse pointer over the desired word where you want to start reading and Press the Launch AppReader from Pointer command: Caps Lock + Alt + Left-click. AppReader will start reading at the word under the pointer.
- To pause and resume reading (toggle), press the Enter key.
- To skim forward and backward by sentence, press the right and left keys.
- To skim forward and backward by paragraph, press the down and up keys.
- To switch between the App View and Text View, press the Tab key.
- While in App View and paused, click and drag to select a block of text to “spot read”.
- While in Text View, click the Settings button to open the Text View settings and adjust the font and color settings.
- To exit the AppReader, press the Esc key.
To learn about advanced AppReader capabilities, see Reader Features > AppReader in the ZoomText Help system. To open the Help system, on the ZoomText toolbar, select ZoomText > Help and Learning > ZoomText Help.
New Unified Finder Tool. Locating what you are looking for is easier than ever with the new Finder Tool. Finder lets you search and skim through documents, web pages and email to instantly find any word or phrase you are looking for. You can search through all of the text or only within specific items like headings, forms, links and images.
How to use the new Finder Tool
- Open a webpage containing good amount content with headers, links, images, etc. News pages and online magazines are good choices.
- Press the Launch Finder command: Caps Lock + Ctrl + F. The Finder Toolbar will appear.
- In the Search box type a word or phrase to find on the page, and then press the Enter key. The first instance of the word will be highlighted and a portion of the line or sentence containing the word will be spoken (so that the instance has meaningful context). Press Enter again to move to the next instance or Shift + Enter to move to the previous instance.
- Press start reading at the currently highlighted word, click the AppReader button.
- If the highlighted word is in a link, click the Execute button to trigger the link.
- To a view a list of all search matches on the page, click the List button. Click the List button again to close the list.
- To exit the Finder tool, press the Esc key.
To learn about advanced Finder capabilities, see Tools Features > Finder in the ZoomText Help system. To open the Help system, on the ZoomText toolbar, select ZoomText > Help and Learning > ZoomText Help.
New Smart Invert. See photos as they were meant to be seen in Internet Explorer 11. With ZoomText's new Smart Invert feature, photos are displayed in their natural colors when ZoomText's Invert Brightness and Invert Colors are active. It's not an illusion, it's Smart Invert.
How to use the new feature
- Open IE 11 to a webpage that contains photo images, such as a news page or a page of Google search results for images. Toggle ZoomText’s Color Enhancements on by pressing the Enhance Colors On/Off hotkey (Caps Lock + C) to enable the Invert Brightness or Invert Colors filter. The brightness or colors on the screen and in the webpage will be inverted. A moment later the brightness or colors in the photo images will un-invert to appear in their atural colors.
New ZoomText/JAWS Interoperability. Starting with the releases of ZoomText 11 and JAWS 18, ZoomText and JAWS are now officially compatible, giving you the best combination of speech and magnification available. You’ll enjoy how the two programs work together to keep your spoken point of interest in view, even when using the JAWS Say All command and virtual cursor. Now the two "Best in Category" are the "Best in Combination."
Demonstrating ZoomText/JAWS interop
- In JAWS 18, configure JAWS to use the laptop hotkey layout.
- In ZoomText 11, import the ZoomText for JAWS hotkeys as follows:
- On the ZoomText toolbar, choose ZoomText (menu) > Command Keys.
- Click the Import Hotkeys button.
- In the Import Hotkeys dialog box, select the ZT_11_JAWS_laptop_en-US.zxc file and click the Open button. The ZoomText for JAWS hotkeys will be loaded. Reading and voice related hotkeys will be disabled and all other ZoomText hotkeys will have the Alt key added to their key combination. For example, rather than pressing Caps Lock + Up/Down to zoom in and out, you will now press Caps Lock + Alt + Up/Down. These changes eliminate conflicts with the JAWS hotkeys.
- To make these hotkeys permanent when exiting and restarting ZoomText, on the ZoomText toolbar choose ZoomText > Configurations > Save As Default.
ZoomText 11 System Requirements
The following hardware and software are required to run ZoomText 11:
- Windows 10, 8.1 or 7 with Service Pack 1 (or later).
- Processor: 2 GHz i3 dual core processor or similar. i5 or i7 recommended.
- 4 GB Ram. 8 GB recommended.
- Video card with support for DirectX 10 or higher.
- Recommended: 256 MB dedicated video memory.
- 400 MB hard drive space. SSD drive recommended.
- 5-point multi-touch display for touch screen support.
- USB 2.0 for ZoomText Camera support.
Ai Squared have announced some issues with some of their digital products including ZoomText and Window-Eyes. There is an issue with the digital certificate which will expire on January 26th 2017 and you may find your software will fail to launch after this date.
Software updates to resolve this issue are available at: http://www.aisquared.com/CertificateFix/
Most ZoomText 10.1 users will be affected, including ZoomText Fusion. If you are running ZoomText 10.0 or below, you will not be affected. To find which version you are using, please go to the Help menu, and choose About ZoomText.
Users in the UK should download the version marked "International" from the page above.
If you have an single-user licence of ZoomText 10.1, you can download the software directly from this link.
Your ZoomText may fail to load after the 26th of January, but you can still install the update after this date.
If you require any more assistance with this matter or any other, then please contact our support team.
Affected Ai Squared Software Products
When attempting to start the following Ai Squared software products, the product will fail to launch and display a Windows error message: "A referral was returned from the server"
ZoomText Magnifier v10.1 Build numbers 10.10.8 through 10.11.6 ZoomText Magnifier/Reader v10.1 Build numbers 10.10.8 through 10.11.6 ZoomText Fusion v10.1 Build numbers 10.11.1 through 10.11.5 ZoomText Keyboard v4 Build numbers 4.0.0 and 4.1.0 Window-Eyes v9.5 Build numbers 9.5.1 and 9.5.3
When attempting to start the following Ai Squared software products, the product may launch even though the certificate has been revoked. Anti-virus utilities may detect the invalid certificate and block the software from running.
ZoomText ImageReader v1.2 Build numbers 1.2.16106 ZoomText Voices (language packs) v1.0 Build numbers 18.104.22.16893 Vocalizer Expressive v1.3 (for Windows Eyes) Build numbers 22.214.171.12429
Our very own Ruth Gallagher recently talked about a range of Assistive Technology available to support visually impaired and blind students in a webinar, working with CALL Scotland and the University of Edinburgh.
In this talk Ruth covers OCR options, VoiceEye - an alternative way to make text accessible - and other hardware and software/app options to ensure you can provide the best support for your students.
PLEASE NOTE: You will need free software Adobe Connect in order to view the video and all the associated questions put to Ruth and others during the webinar.
Here is the link to the Webinar: https://callscotland.adobeconnect.com/_a1197077653/p5mu3zxwrrz
Introducing the revolutionary new wearables for those who are visually impaired or partially sighted, the OrCam MyReader and MyEye. Both products will soon be available on the Sight and Sound web shop and to order over the phone. Please do not hesitate to give us a call on 01604 798070, selecting Option 1 for more information.
For now, and to understand some more about this fantastic new product, please find Leonard Rosenfeld's story below, a visually impaired man living in the United States whose life was changed for the better thanks to OrCam:
It was during a trip to Disney World with his family that Dr. Leonard Rosenfeld discovered that he was losing his vision
“Everyone told us that we should visit the Pirates of the Caribbean exhibit, and that we should get there early in the morning because it was so popular. So right after breakfast, on a bright sunny day, we went off to the exhibit. There were no crowds and we got right in. The building is like a pirate fortress. So you walk from bright sunshine into this dingy, dungeon-like building. And I froze. I said, ‘I can’t see anything.’
My wife and my children thought I was joking. They said ‘come on, it’s fine. Here are the steps, it’s nothing. Just walk.’ In the end my wife grabbed one arm and my older son grabbed my other arm and they sort of pulled me until we got in a little bit and there was enough light for me to see.”
After returning home from vacation Leonard went in for his annual optical check, where he received a shocking prognosis- he had Glaucoma.
Thirty-five years and 14 eye surgeries later, Leonard is now retired but still as active as ever. Despite his diminishing eye sight, Leonard taught for over 4 decades at the Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia, participated in the publication of more than three dozen manuscripts, co-edited four books, served on numerous committees, including 3 four-year terms on the Board of School Directors and was elected for a term as President of the Board.
And yet, despite all of these accomplishments there is still one thing that Leonard is unable to do because of his glaucoma, and which bothers him most of all.
“My mail sits in a pile until my son comes over, maybe once a week or so, and we go through the mail and bills together. This frustrates me because I’m an adult and I want to take care of this on my own. To have to depend on someone else is frustrating. This is why I find OrCam so liberating. With OrCam I can pick up an envelope and see who it’s from. I can open it and read the document.”
Watch this video to hear from Dr. Leonard Rosenfeld how OrCam has made a difference in his life:
SETTING UP EMAIL ON A HIMS U2 SERIES
Before you set up your Email account, you might wish to allow any passwords to be spoken by the note-taker. I recommend this if you are new to setting up Email accounts in Braille. In order to hear any password you enter, use dots one-three-five with space to open the Options menu, and arrow down to Hide Passwords. By default, the box is ticked, so press space to untick it, then press enter to save the change. Now you are ready to set up your Email account. Please ensure you have an Internet connection!
CREATING AN EMAIL ACCOUNT
- Open the Email client from the Main Menu.
- Use dots one-three-four with space or F2 to open the menu.
- Arrow up twice with dot four with space to Tools and press enter.
- You should be on Accounts Manager. Open this by pressing enter.
- Tab with dots four-five with space until you come to Add, and press enter.
You are now presented with a list of servers:
If none of these is applicable to your Email address, highlight Manual. Note: do not enter at this point, simply tab once using dots four-five with space. This brings you to the series of edit boxes you now need to start filling in. Use dot four with space to arrow down once to each field and enter the relevant information as follows, but do not enter after each field, simply arrow down:
- Account Name - type in your provider here, such as BT, Gmail, or whatever your Email address relates to.
- Display Name - usually the name you want to be known by when your Emails appear in someone’s Inbox.
- Logon Username - this is normally the whole of your Email address, but enter whatever your logon username is.
- Password - enter it correctly (this is where having them spoken and displayed as you enter Braille characters is very useful.)
- Email Address - type your full Email address here.
- Default Mail Server - this is where you can choose either IMAP or POP. To change to your preferred protocol, press space.
- Incoming POP3/IMAP Server - whichever protocol you selected above, you need to enter your provider’s incoming server details, for example, BT, Gmail, Virgin Media, or other.
- Outgoing SMTP Server - similarly, you need to enter your provider’s outgoing SMTP server details.
- Tab with dots four-five space to Advanced, and press enter.
We now come to a series of checkboxes which you tick or untick according to your provider’s protocols. Use space to tick or untick each box, and arrow down to each field using dot four with space, as follows:
- Use Secure POP3/IMAP SSL - you need to know whether or not your provider wants this ticked.
- POP3/IMAP Port Number - this should be automatically inserted, depending on what information you have entered above. But you sometimes have to change the port number yourself, especially if you have chosen to enter your details manually.
- SMTP Encryption Type - press space to choose between None, SSL, and TLS. Your provider should give you these details.
- SMTP Port Number - this should be automatically inserted, depending on what information you have entered above. But you sometimes have to change the port number yourself, especially if you have chosen to enter your details manually.
- SMTP Username - only enter this if your logon protocols require it.
- SMTP Password - again, only enter this if your logon protocols require it.
- Use AS Default Send-From Account - if you want to use the account you are creating as default, tick this box. Otherwise, if you are going to create another mailbox which you want as your default send-from account, leave it unticked.
- Keep Mail Copies On Server - if you want your Emails to remain on the server so that each time you launch the Email client, they come in, tick the box with space. If you don’t want to keep your Emails on the server, untick the box.
- Save Mail Copies In Sent Mailbox - tick the box if you want any Emails you send to be automatically put in the Sent folder.
- Tab once with dots four-five space to Signatures, and choose whether you want one at the end of your Emails. If you do, tick yes, and tab once more to the Signature button and press enter. An edit box appears that allows you to write what you want to put at the end of each Email you compose. When you have finished, tab once to the Confirm button, and press enter.
- If you do not want a signature, choose No, and tab to the Confirm button, and press enter.
- Now tab once more with dots four-five with space to the final Confirm button to conclude the setting up of your Email account.
- You can now press dots one-three-five-six with space to take you back into your Inbox.
RECEIVING EMAIL MESSAGES
If you have set up your account using POP, do the following to receive Email messages:
- From your Inbox, press dots one-three-four with space, or F2, to bring up the menu.
- Arrow up once using dot four with space to Messages, and press enter.
- Now arrow up twice to Check For New Mail, and press enter.
If your account is correctly set up, your messages should come into your Inbox if you have any.
If you chose IMAP, from the Inbox, simply tab once with dots four-five with space, and you should start to receive your messages if you have your account set up correctly.
If you require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to call us on 01604 798070.
This is the story of Gloria and a tiny chap named Mac. He lives in her eye right at the very back. He does a rather big job for a minuscule macula. He makes all of our lives utterly spectacular.Mac gives us the precious gift of sight. When he’s in good nick all in the world is right.
Gloria has so much going for her, so much to see, all of which filled her with absolute glee, her grandkids, driving, swishing a badminton racquet. Her life was thriving. Then one day it all changed. Something was far from right. There was wobbliness and blobs in the middle of her sight.
Little by little Mac got worse and unable to cope. He did his best but there was little hope. He was suffering from what we call ‘macular degeneration’, causing sight loss and fear and so much devastation. There are many like Gloria in her terrible plight, 600,000 of us have macular disease affecting our sight.
Imagine the horror of one day being barely able to see. The problem is most of us think ‘it won’t happen to me’. This is the story of Gloria’s Mac but one day much of your world could be fading to black. Eyesight is so precious and pure. Please donate, help us fund support and research for a cure.
You can donate here: https://www.macularsociety.org/donate/donate-online?appealID=1881