In it Together – Walsall 2016

Jo, Colin, Molly and Guidedog Unis standing together smiling and looking at the camera.

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Walsall 2016

‘Hear no. See no, Techno’ Jo Milne, Colin Hetherington and Me.

Once again we were blessed with a room full of people all on similar journeys. 

With Usher Syndrome or RP, friends or family members of somebody with either condition, all ages, we were all there, United and “In it Together.”

Emily Worrall came along with beautifully made cakes with MWT logos on each and every one, they were delicious. Once again Emily and Mum, Sue Fenton thanks so much!

The lovely Jo Milne and inspirational Colin Hetherington were our guest speakers.  Both speakers touched me and I think most of us, a big thank you to them both.

It was just so apparent how similar our journeys are. Of course there are variations but incredibly similar.  Despite age differences and time frames, I felt so in tune with them both as individuals. 

Both inspired me with their words and their personal stories and I think this brings us closer together.  

I kept my own presentation brief, as it was particularly hard to follow Jo and Colin.

I was feeling under the weather but did manage my presentation before my voice went! 

I spoke fondly about the progression of technology in my lifetime, about the latest hearing aid technology and also about how despite the challenges of being deafblind how latest accessible assistive technology makes a difference to my life along and about those who have trialled products (applewatch) and blogged for us. 

As a Charity we want to offer friendship and both knowledge of assistive technology available and to help others use and access enabling and enhancing equipment.

After the three presentations, regular eye breaks and a few questions we all split up and chatted with coffee and cakes. 

It was great to meet new people, always is and it really is enlightening to know none of us are alone in our daily challenges.

I did my best to chat to as many people as possible, apologies if I missed anybody.

I spoke to a lady (will call her C) who had asked me to enlarge on my “Techno” speech on a one to one. 

This lovely lady had her interpreter with her. I sat down. 

Firstly I should mention prior the presentations, both C and her interpreter had asked me exactly what the ‘Techno’ part of my talk meant, with quite obvious confusion!  “I’ll tell you all about it after I’ve spoken.” I said.

Brilliant, I thought, raising awareness is what I do!

After the talk she was intrigued to know even more, so I sat down adjacent her interpreter (I didn”t catch her name!) so both could see me well.

C advised me she uses a kindle and has an old PC she’s looking to replace. She told me about her struggles, a lot sounded like mine when I used a Dell PC.  This brought back memories!

Then came all the questions about my preferences and why Apple?

I don’t want to come across biased, the main reason is simple Apple products have a consistency of Accessibility features and all features are built in making it much more inclusive. 

From what C told me she had to buy and install extra software for her PC in order to access it. 

The main issue we established and agreed with PC was the inability to enlarge EVERYTHING, for example… In a word processing document, the content of the document you can alter the text size to however big you wish, however not the most important, the tools for navigation etc.  Where it states : file, edit, view… And all icons gathered around in order to amend and edit a document, there is/was no way of enlarging/ zooming in these features. This was my issue with Windows. How can one access programmes if you cannot navigate it?

On a Mac/ iPad, when I am blogging, I use Pages. Pages is now built in to all Apple devices and is their equivalent to Microsoft Word. Pages is simplistic and has less on show to Word. For me, less is better. Less clutter helps. However, for me to access the tools, I simply tap 3 fingers and alter my zoom settings accordingly. There are only 5 icons in the top right corner in Pages, zooming in on these is incredibly simple.

As it happened, C said she also had issues with e-mail. 

The body of the email is never big enough to access on PC, (subject, cc: etc,) however she can adjust the font size of the email she is typing; and so she experiences similar issues. 

These basic zoom features I use everyday on both Mac and iPad, enable me to use AND navigate various programmes. For the third party programmes/ apps that down have built in features, it’s still ‘doable,’ for me as I have my own zoom functions, it just may take a little longer to navigate.

I had my iPad Pro with me, C had never used an iPad before so I took the opportunity to show her how I’ve set my iPad up and all the various accessibility features I use. 

C could not believe all accessibility features are built in. 

I explained the various settings to zoom, and how I change the settings based on what I am using. For example, Window Zoom, and Full Screen zoom, these are two different features of Zoom. I have a ‘controller,’ that is always on my screen, that I can tap and make quick changes to my Zoom settings. Life is so much easier with that one small controller, she was stunned. 

Using the iPad means using your fingers. C is deafblind, she was talking to me as well as using her fingers to sign. Deafblind people have the tendency to gesture and use our fingers, I personally feel this makes using an iPad more natural than a Mac/ laptop. 

Sense of touch is enhanced when you learn how to use it the way I do, the way lots of deafblind do.  I feel it is quite natural to use fingers to navigate a safari webpage, or a word/pages document I can literally ‘feel’ myself around anything with zoom features enabled.

C asked me where she could get the extra support/ training in Apple products if she bought one herself. 

Information like this is something everyone should know. 

A lot of people are not sure about Apple if they’ve never used it before. 

I’ve used Apple since I was 12 years old so I have had lots of practice using it, simple as that. 

Prior to this my experience with Windows led to me feeling ‘left out,’ and ‘left behind.’ It may well have changed, however, I am so comfortable with Apple for me there is no going back.

I informed C from my own experience Apple are friendly enough to go in and talk to about the various features. 

I could have stayed with her for hours talking accessibility and how she could use an iPad to access simple things like her email inbox. 

C was considering a new computer, and all sorts of additional equipment to access the ‘normal,’ everyday programmes she uses but, why buy all this when she could just buy an iPad with built in access? That easy!

I was in my zone ‘Techno” “Accessible Assistive Technology” explaining how I use my products, she mocked about her age and said she’s not a ‘computer geek.’  I assured her I am not a geek either it is just so simple to access information and that is what is important to us all. 

I could see from my time talking to C the many ways an iPad would help her. 

C was so grateful of my time.   

I didn’t intend to speak specifically about, however, it was evident that Accessibility features in Apple are a real game changer for people like myself. 

It’s hard not to talk about the differences this technology can make.

To finish off the event we headed off for drinks and food. This was when I officially lost my voice! 

Fair to say, my voice stuck around long enough for the event but as soon as my lips touched alcohol my voice gave in! Despite the lack of voice, it was just so lovely to see us all come together, laughter at every angle. With my new hearing aids (ReSound Linx2) I am now able to hear voices from every side of me, I could just sense happiness.  I could see happiness playing with Ricoh theta s 360 camera.

People were relaxed. Guide dogs at feet, drinks in hand and tummies full of good pub food. 

All of us, Usher Syndrome / RP or not, just like any other group, we were united and it was brilliant.

Besides being unwell, it was another successful and incredibly humbling event to be a part of.

A massive thank you to all who came and made our event an occasion and I look forward to meeting you all again very soon.

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