What Would Restore Your Independence?



By Ed Henkler
 
The world is becoming ever more accessible for individuals with vision loss.  Computers fundamentally shifted the needle by facilitating access to printed media.  While this was an important evolution for individuals who could read Braille, it was a critical change for older individuals who lost their sight to AMD and other age-related ocular diseases.  Learning Braille can be very challenging for an older person and loss of sensitivity in fingertips could render this alternative media inaccessible, regardless of an individual’s willingness and cognitive ability to learn.

Then, along came smartphones, and the world became significantly more accessible for individuals with vision loss.  It was suddenly possible to navigate unfamiliar locales and through the magic of crowdsourcing, it also became possible to complete some routine tasks, otherwise known as ADL’s (activities for daily living). 

It’s a brave new world, yet many gaps remain.  While it has become relatively easy to find a new building in an unfamiliar city, it can still be difficult to find the door and, locating an unfamiliar office is next to impossible without soliciting assistance.  Ironically, in some of the most densely populated locations, even outdoor navigation can remain challenging if tall buildings render GPS useless.  Many routine tasks that individuals who are sighted take for granted, are still more difficult for someone with compromised vision.

The bottom line is that individuals who are tech-savvy are able to access much more of the world than in the past, yet they still are not on a level playing field with peers who are sighted.  The gaps are dramatically magnified for the tech-na├»ve, who haven’t used a smartphone and may not have any level of comfort with computers.  For them, nothing has changed and age-related vision loss too often reduces or eliminates their independence.  O&M instructors and organizations that support individuals with vision loss are incredible resources…..if the individual is sufficiently gregarious to work to restore the life they had while sighted.  Unfortunately, far too many become progressively more homebound.

I am exploring opportunities to restore more of this independence and would welcome feedback on the greatest challenges you face each day.  If only one thing could be changed, what would most facilitate a return to work, if that is your goal?  What changes in accessibility would most improve your quality of life if you’ve experienced significant vision loss?

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