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Choosing the Best Visual Impairment Products for You

James Everson, Chief of Operations

By James Everson, Head of Operations, Sight and Sound Technology

James, who has been with Sight and Sound Technology for over 20 years, tells us about his experience of product development and how he chooses the products that we bring to you.

In my years in the business, the technology has got smaller and a lot more clever. I remember seeing the first Kurzweil reading machine. It was like a small washing machine in size so it’s phenomenal that the technology to help those with Visual Impairment is now available on a mobile phone. The goal is always to give the end user the best experience to make dealing with life’s challenges that little bit easier.

Pre-Covid, I went to a lot of international trade shows to source products. There, you see the latest technology and alpha versions or mock-ups of upcoming products. We look at how products function for our customers and get them tested by our staff and by customers, so that we can provide feedback to the manufacturer. It’s good to work with the developers and they do tend to listen to us on what needs changing to get the best outcome for users. Then we make sure that our tech support, trainers, sales and customer support are all trained in the product before it comes on stream.

Sometimes I have to have difficult conversations with manufacturers, if a product is not suitable or not ready. And sometimes we miss out on products that end up being very successful.  One example of that is Guide software. I saw the potential in it when I saw it first, but it wasn’t right at that time and it needed lot of changes. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep my eye on it closely enough and it went to a different re-seller once those changes were made and it was ready to bring to customers.

It’s essential that our staff are well trained in support. Years ago, we would have had to go back to the manufacturer to resolve a lot of customer issues and queries but we now have that expertise in-house. That has taken us a lot of time and effort to build up but it’s worth it to be able to offer a full and lifetime service to our customers.

Finding the right products is a lengthy process, even for established manufacturers and products. Our priority is that customers have a good experience so I’m looking for good quality, reliability and something that’s going to last. It’s a big investment so it’s important that the product suits the customer and that they can use it for a long time.

There are lots of things coming on stream to get excited about. Wearable tech is changing, it’s getting smaller and smaller all the time. Another device that comes to mind is Annie, which is a Braille training device and what it can offer for Braille tutoring at an early age will be phenomenal. It will be a great kick start to someone learning Braille.

I really miss going to shows and meeting customers or potential customers. I started off in customer training 20 years ago, so that one-to-one element has always been really important to me. I like it when someone comes with a specific need and we have to find them a solution. My attitude has always been that if I can’t do it myself, I’ll point them in the right direction. So, I’ll be glad when we can meet face-to-face again.