WBU-AP(Senior group) Fine Work
How Braille And Audio Devices Are Helping Me To Lead A Normal Life
Australia Greg Fawdry (49/Male)

I live in Tasmania, Australia and I am a senior civil engineer for a local water corporation. I do sewer and water network modelling on the computer.

I was born very short-sighted and for most of my life I had correct vision of about 1/can of normal vision. I managed to complete my schooling and to obtain my university engineering degree with the only aid I had; this was the 6 times magnification telescope, which helped me to take down lecture notes. In those days there was very little help for people with in-between types of visual impairment, that is, in between normal vision and legal blindness.

As the years progressed, my vision had deteriorated due to Myopic Macular Degeneration until a few years ago when I became severely vision-impaired. At this stage, I realised that I needed further assistance to live a normal life and to continue working as an engineer. I sought help from Vision Australia and purchased a CCTV Magnifier and a Magic Screen Magnification Programme with a screen-reader. This equipment allowed me to continue to access the computer at my work using larger images, and to be able to listen to what was on the screen.

Thus, I was able to continue working for another couple of years with my new adaptive devices until further deterioration in my eyes made it necessary for me to undergo adaptive technology assessments by Vision Australia. With the help of a grant I was able to obtain more equipment which enabled me to operate like a normal sighted engineer. They included the following:

1. The Talking Calculator Desk Type: This is a very handy piece of equipment for making basic calculations.

2. The Talking Measuring Tape: This helps me to take measurements of objects at my work and at home.

3. ID-Mate Summit Barcode Scanner: This is a marvellous scanning device that allows me to place barcodes on engineering plans and files and to record messages on the barcodes. This enables me to find my plans and files and I can communicate my work to others who can see normally. It is also useful for recording memo notes when discussing work with other engineers for reference later on. The ID-Mate Summit is also useful when shopping as it can help in identifying grocery items, pharmaceuticals and other things. With the latest version of the gadget, you are able to connect to the Internet to obtain the prices of items you want to buy.

Storing bus time-tables is also helpful for me to know when the right bus is leaving. I have made a separate folder in the ID-Mate just for this purpose. I have also set up another separate folder for recording Bible verses; this helps me to memorise them when I have spare time. In fact, separate custom folders can be set up for many purposes that give similar access to sighted people.

4. Noise Cancelling Headphones: These have been a real blessing at my work office as quite often it becomes very noisy with people talking, vans on their delivery rounds, and so on. This allows me to hear my computer screen more easily.

5. Braille Display: Recently at work, I have been experiencing a lot of eye fatigue using my Screen Magnification software. So I decided to learn Braille, thereby reducing eye fatigue by accessing Braille and print materials electronically.

I got myself enrolled in a Braille correspondence course and, to date, I have completed Grade II Braille. I am currently installing my new Braille display and screen-reader software into the computer; truly, I am very excited about the possibilities of Braille to help me continue with my normal engineering work and in reducing eye fatigue. My Braille display allows access to my work iPhone, thus giving me accessibility while I am out of the office and I am able to send emails remotely.

Braille has also made reading easier for me and this is especially helpful to me in labelling items. One novel use I have found is to place labels on my wrench socket set. This helps me to find different sockets when working on my old vintage car that I am restoring. Previously it was very difficult to find the correct socket to fit a nut or bolt.

6. Trekker Breeze GPS: This talking GPS has enabled me to upload locations of pumping stations, sewerage treatment plants and other locations I need to visit while working on my computer modelling projects. This is particularly helpful when you have a driver who is not familiar with the locations being visited.

This device also helps me find my way around when I am not at work. Recently, I was able to take a member of my family on a trip to mainland Australia and I was able to guide him around.

Indeed, I have found Braille and audio devices to be very helpful to me in living a normal life. I have no doubt that they will continue to assist me in the future.


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