If you are considering applying for a grant to purchase some equipment and aren’t sure what to ask for you may find the following article interesting. It is written by our VI volunteer Tessa Provan and taken from her blog which can be found at www.tessaprovanvi.blogspot.com

When looking for any type of equipment, whether it be a computer, computer software or a CCTV, there are a number of questions you need to ask yourself and bare in mind:

  • What is the Purpose of the Equipment?
  • Who is it for? (Myself or my child?)
  • Has that person used it before?
  • Who has recommended it?
  • Is it for use inside the home, or for use in external possibly unfamiliar environments? (If the latter, will I/my child feel comfortable using this outside the home?)
  • Is it portable? (Does it need to be portable?)
  • Will this equipment need to be replaced and if so, how long will it last?

Sight Level

The level of sight that you or your child has will determine what type of equipment will be required.

Is the sight level stable or is the sight loss progressive?
This is probably one of the most important questions you will need to bare in mind. Here, I would suggest that there are 3 main categories of sight level.

Category 1: No Sight, or no Useful Sight

Obviously, if there is no sight or no useful sight, then speaking computer software and talking phones for example will probably be the most appropriate forms of assistive technology. The types of equipment you will be looking for on a computer will use key commands rather than the mouse, so that the screen is easier to navigate and the user can always use the computer independently, as the speech will describe what is happening on the screen. You can either listen to the Speech through speakers or headphones on the computer or laptop.
(Please excuse me if I am preaching to the choir, I thought it would be best to start from the basics so that we can all start in the same place together!)

Category 2: Stable Partial Sight

If the sight level is stable, and a magnification level of between 2x and 5x is required for use on computers, then CCTV’s and Computer Magnification Packages will probably be sufficient. In this situation, the user will most likely feel most comfortable using a mouse for the majority of tasks. Before looking into any type of computer software, experiment with your existing computer or laptop; does it have a magnification option already on the Windows or Apple Mac PC version? If it does, try this before practically trying other types of Magnification Software, just because it might suit someone else, it might not be right for you. Also it is important to consider what is being magnified – is the whole screen larger, or only the menu options enlarged? Is this what you need or do you need a higher magnification level?

Category 3: Changing Sight Levels & Progressive Eye Conditions

If the sight level is subject to change, and progressively worsen without warning, then you find yourself in a position where you will need to assess a wider variety of options.

It is vital to encourage using what vision is available, BUT it is also important to prioritise what the useful sight should be used for. For example, is it more important to read a book, and then have to rely solely on another person to guide you around for the rest of the day; or is it better for you to listen to a book, and be able to walk home with little or no assistance from others? That is for you to decide, not for me to answer. Either way, if you find yourself in this category, you need to ensure you use what vision is available while also ensuring that if the sight does worsen suddenly, then you have a technology which can adapt to your changing circumstances. By this I mean, choose Computer Software which Magnifies and also has Speech. This way you can choose to use either of the two functions, or even both Magnification and Speech together, depending on how the sight changes from one day to the next. This ensures that if you miss something by looking with the magnification, the speech should tell you what you missed. You can experiment and find what works best for you, for example, you may decide that you like to type a document with just the magnification, and then read it back by listening to the speech.

Try Before You Buy

Always try equipment practically before deciding what you want to purchase. There are several ways of doing this:-

  • Attend an event like the Sight Village in Birmingham, where different equipment will be on display for you to try.
  • Download trials of the newest versions of screen reading software, (which is how I will be reviewing the computer software) please ensure that the website is genuine before downloading any items onto your computer.