Hi I am John Churcher and I have Usher syndrome type 2. I have always had a hearing loss and was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of 14, was then registered partially sighted in 1992 at aged 19 and registered blind in 2000. Currently, I have about 50% hearing loss and 3% vision.
My two main passions are climbing and technology (even more so when it is accessible tech). I had looked at the applewatch before, but being on a limited budget and not sure what it could offer me I left it at that. Therefore I was so pleased to hear that I had been selected to receive an applewatch from the Molly Watt Trust. I eagerly awaited its arrival but as always with these things they seem to arrive when you’re out. Once I got it home I then proceeded to do the set up. The first few steps proved to be a bit tricky. I’m usually pretty good with gadgets but this time I got a bit stuck, but with the help of somebody who can see I was soon up and running.
The first thing you need to do is select the language and then pair it with your iPhone using your phone’s camera (also this step for me required assistance). I did try to activate voiceover before I started the set up but could not get it to work, maybe I did not press the Crown quick enough or this feature is not available at this stage of set up. As far as I can make out these are the only steps that you would need help with if you cannot see the screen. From this point on everything can be configured from your iPhone.
I have had my applewatch nearly a week now and I am really pleased with it. At first it takes a bit of getting used to as the voiceover gestures are slightly different to that of an iPad, iPhone or iPod.
The other main difference is that the apps are a simplified version of what you would find on an iPhone or iPad. The more I use my watch I’m finding that as a ‘voiceover user’ the commands that you have at your fingertips are the ones that you need, so there is less time spent searching for the correct buttons to press.
The initial things that I will be using the watch for are to keep track of my physical activities, and to use it for navigation when out and about with my Guide Dog Annie. This is one of the features that I am most looking forward to using as I will be notified by haptics when I need to turn, rather than having to hold my phone in my hand. Another really great feature that I like is the fact that I can use Apple Pay to pay for things. So, again instead of having to get my phone out at a contactless PayPoint I can just use my watch, which makes me feel even more safe and secure. So, now I don’t need to use a gorilla grip hold when holding my phone to pay for things as it stays safely in my pocket.
So the next thing that I need to do is to set it to navigate to a place that I know well and just get used to the haptics. I am also looking forward to seeing what else I can do and use voiceover with. The only slight downside at the moment is not with the watch but with my hearing aids in that they do not connect directly to the watch therefore if I’m in a noisy environment it is harder to hear what is being said. But aside from that I think that it is great that Apple include accessibility software as standard in their products thus enabling me, having a disability, to access the same technology as everybody else.
So over the coming weeks and months I will explore the Watch’s features in more detail.
It would be great if you could support the Molly Watt Trust by donating to their www.globalgiving.org/projects/deafblind-need-access-to-life-enhancing-technology/ page. In doing so this would help raise vital funds so that more people can have access to assisted technology to enhance their life.