Three cases where assistive technology saved the day

How assistive technology can help users with visual impairments gain independence

A student using a brailler
April 9, 2014

Call them tech detectives, the team of Perkins Products assistive technology professionals who are constantly in search of the right technology for each consumer. It may be an off-the-shelf item – such as an iPhone – combined with a more specialized piece of equipment like a braille display. The combinations are as unique as the individuals who benefit from them.

Consider these three cases from the Perkins Products assistive technology files:

Case #1: The Ivy League math whiz

A young man is excelling in math at one of the world’s top universities when suddenly he begins to lose his vision. Doctors determine he has a rare genetic condition. Soon, he can no longer see well enough to read text or the content of his computer monitor. He needs to adapt, fast.

“Normally, I would encourage him to learn braille,” explains assistive technology trainer Joann Becker. “But in this case, he didn’t have time to become competent in braille and keep up with his academic workload.”

The solution: JAWS screen-reading software. It allows the student access to key programs like Excel; offers a range of voices, so he can utilize the one he likes best; and gives him email access (he abandoned Gmail for the more accessible Outlook program).

“While it’s not easy to go from print to having a screen reader, this student is doing very well,” says Becker. “He wants to be independent, efficient and competent.”

He also wants a PhD. With hard work and help from the right technology, this math whiz may one day be called “Professor."

Case #2: iPhone and Apex for an 11-year-old

Like most 11-year-olds lucky enough to have one, this boy loves his iPhone. But, because he is blind and has hearing loss, it’s much more than just a cool tech tool. The iPhone, combined with an Apex BrailleNote enables him to access the Internet, email and reading materials.

And, yes, he can check in with friends via social media too.

“He loves being able to use the device to do all the things everyone else is doing,” explains Becker. “It makes him more confident and that will help him to do better in school.”

Case #3: Small changes, big results

An 18-year-old woman is transitioning from high school to college, but she rarely uses a computer. It’s easy to understand why. Hand tremors make it tough to manipulate a keyboard and tracking issues make reading the content difficult and tiring.

Assistive technology trainer Jermias Feliz added a Chester Creek Key Guard designed for people with hand tremors and Zoom Text software with speech so that she can both magnify and hear the content of her screen.

His other solutions were all low-tech and no cost: He limited her computer time to 45-minute increments to reduce eye fatigue. He changed her computer settings so that there is a greater on-screen color contrast. Finally, he adjusted the cursor setting so it shows up as a highlighted circle.

“That small adaptation made a world of difference,” explains Feliz. “It makes the process of accessing data so much easier and more efficient. She is more independent and she’s discovering things on her own.”

Case closed

The Perkins Products assistive technology trainers have overwhelming evidence that coming up with the right combination of technology enables consumers to tap into their potential.

“Whether in the academic world or in the workforce, it’s using a combination of different solutions that’s really going to fire the winning shot,” explains Feliz.

Case closed. World of opportunity open.