GALLOWAY'S APPEAL: How technology has advanced to support visually impaired people

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Doing every day tasks such as reading or cooking can be very difficult when you have lost your sight.

But thanks to new technology, life is becoming easier.

Andrew Coleman, of Galloway's, with Brian Whitfield, Jean Dowson and Luke Howarth

Andrew Coleman, of Galloway's, with Brian Whitfield, Jean Dowson and Luke Howarth

Whilst the new aids may appear daunting to some, staff and volunteers at Galloway’s Society for the Blind, in Penwortham, are always on hand to show service users how to make the most of the new gadgets available.

Andrew Coleman, assistive technology co-ordinator, who was born with congenital glaucoma, says: “We have everything from the latest computer technology and software through to tablets and smart phones. We also have a lot of mainstream technology, that is more suited to the home environment. We have a lot of home-help items, particularly for the kitchen, such as talking microwaves, scales, thermometers and hobs. Technology is becoming more accessible as people have smart phones, tablets and computers. Sometimes people only need to be made aware of the range of functions and accessibility that is already embedded in their device. Or people can download free apps to go on their smart phones or tablets. We have many varied workshops and sessions to support people.”

One of the many free downloadable apps is Tap Tap See, using the camera on a device to take a picture of an item, person, or area it then gives an audible description of the picture.

Brian Whitfield, 52, of Leyland, who lost his sight following a car collision when he was 22, regularly uses the app.

Andrew Coleman using Tap Tap See with Brian Whitfield

Andrew Coleman using Tap Tap See with Brian Whitfield

He says: “When I lost my sight I sunk into a deep depression. I was pig headed and still living as a sighted person, not accepting help.

“Then I found Galloway’s. I went on a six-week course and I was shown how to use an iPad and to use new technology. I use Siri (voice command) on my phone to tell it to go to Tap Tap See. It can take a while to get used to the app but I managed to work it out straight away.

“For example, I use it in the kitchen to look at food items. It works by analysing the shape of an object and it picks up the text and gives a spoken description. It can do anything - you can go outdoors and scan the scene in front of you and it will tell you what is there.”

Brian, a father-of-one, is supported by his wife Joanne, who adds: “Technology has been getting better and better and it has opened so many doors. Years ago, everything was so expensive but now you can download free apps.”

Andrew Coleman using Synapptic with Jean Dowson

Andrew Coleman using Synapptic with Jean Dowson

Jean Dowson, of Leyland, uses the Synapptic programme on her Samsung phone. The Synapptic programme turns a phone or tablet into a simple menu screen which a person can navigate easily with audible intraction.

The 85-year-old says: “It makes my phone easier to use as the display is much larger. You can have the voice on also if you wish. There is a magnifier feature which acts like a magnifying glass to enlarge items. You can also scan clothes or other items and it tells you what colour they are. I found the technology and apps hard to grasp at first but after booking in a session with Andrew I now know how to use them all.”

Luke Howarth, 30, of Burnley, lost his sight three years ago following a car crash. He only has slight vision for just a few inches in front of him.

He uses Prizmo Go an app which acts as a document reader. It scans a letter, book or document and uses optical character recognition to verbally read the text back to the user. Luke says: “I feel quite lucky to have lost my sight whilst I am young, as my brain can cope with new information. There is nothing I can’t do, especially with these aids. I now have a new job as a volunteer co-ordinator at Sightline, which is a helpline to support visually impaired people. It is based at Galloway’s, where I also get a lot of support. I find the Prizmo Go app very useful when I am out and about. I can use it to read menus, books and letters.”

Luke Howarth using Prizmo Go

Luke Howarth using Prizmo Go

The Post has launched a campaign - Gallowheels - in conjunction with Galloway’s to raise £50,000 for a new minibus.

To see more click here http://galloways-appeal-help-us-raise-50-000-for-charity-minibus-1-8770784
/galloway-s-appeal-the-importance-of-reaching-out-early-to-people-with-sight-loss-1-8832583
/galloway-s-appeal-the-challenges-of-getting-on-a-bus-1-8802173
/galloway-s-appeal-service-users-rely-on-minibus-to-attend-shooting-club-1-8820876

So far, kind hearted readers have donated £5,000. Can you spare any more?

To make a donation visit www.galloways.org.uk/gallowheels; Call: 01772 744148 Text: GALL25 £amount, £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10, to 70070.

or send a cheque payable to Galloway’s to: Galloway’s Society for the Blind, Howick House, Howick Park Avenue, Penwortham, PR1 0LS.

• Are you holding any fund-raising events to support Galloway’s? Let us know by emailing natalie.walker1@jpress.co.uk

• Galloway’s is hosting a sight loss conference for anyone needing support at Leyland Civic Centre on November 23, from 10am until 3pm. To book a place call 01772 744148.

Gallowheels campaign

Gallowheels campaign