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Communication

Henry Regains Independence After Losing Vision to Rare Disease

For Henry Arguello of Florida, who works as a home improvement retailer at Home Depot, life after losing vision required changing his habits and lifestyle. But that does not mean that he is not being able to perform his tasks at work all by himself.

At the age of 32, Henry started losing vision to Stargardt disease, an inherited form of macular degeneration that affects younger people. The reason Henry is able to perform his tasks independently at work and at home is thanks to the revolutionary assistive technology device, OrCam MyEye.

Before he started using the OrCam MyEye, Henry constantly struggled with reading small print, whether it was text messages displayed on the screen of his mobile phone, or on everyday items and packages where text provides information about the ingredients of food and cleaning products.

 

While working at Home Depot, Henry is responsible for receiving inventory, then sorting it out, and stocking it on shelves. He is also required to ensure that all of the deliveries that come into the store are the right ones, in the right quantities and measurements. As Henry’s low vision progressed and he started losing vision, his attempts to read the products’ names and details became extremely difficult for him. In order to improve his lifestyle and the way he is coping with low vision in his everyday life, Henry joined the Job Readiness Program for the Blind and Visually Impaired led by the Miami Lighthouse. The instructors, most of whom are blind themselves, helped Henry gain the confidence he needed, as well as teaching him new skills that help people with low vision increase their daily independence. In addition, they taught him how to utilize the newest technology to maintain and to lead a fulfilling career regardless of his condition. While attending a Low Vision Course at the Miami Lighthouse, John, the store manager at the Lighthouse shop, told Henry about the OrCam MyEye. John knew Henry worked at Home Depot and believed he could benefit from using the device.
Henry reading box with Orcam Eye

After receiving training with the OrCam MyEye device, Henry quickly realized how easy it is to use it is and saw the daily benefits that using it can provide him. Thanks to the OrCam MyEye, he is able to easily identify the products and stock them on the correct shelf with complete accuracy. Henry can now help customers find their items by using the OrCam MyEye to read the barcodes of any product. He can also use the device to read the prices to customers, and even have the device read the product description out loud to any customer he is providing service to.

The OrCam MyEye does not require internet connection, so Henry never has to worry that the device won’t work inside the store or anywhere else where internet connection is limited. Henry is now able to complete daily tasks on his own, faster and better.

OrCam has also improved Henry’s life after losing vision in more ways than just being able to work independently. Henry uses the OrCam MyEye to read his text messages and the articles he is interested in on his mobile phone. While going out shopping on his own, he is able to easily identify the products and read the ingredients on his own. He is also able to recognize money bills while paying at the checkout counter with his device.

Henry says about life with OrCam that “Without the OrCam I would not be able to do my job to the best I can. It helps me succeed every day.”

Story replicated with permission from Orcam

Categories
Communication Every day

Seeing AI – a bridge for everyday independence

In 2017 Microsoft launched its Seeing AI mobile applications with the aim to make the world more freely accessible to individuals living with a visual impairment. The free IOS Seeing AI app allows users to complete multiple tasks within the one application providing audio descriptions to the user for what is in front of the camera. Features include

– Speaking short text as soon as it appears in front of the camera

– Providing audio guidance to capture a printed page

– Gives audio beeps to help locate barcodes and then scans them to identify products

– Recognising friends and describing people around you, including their emotions

– Identifying currency bills when paying with cash

– Describing colour and generating a tone for the brightness of a room

Seeing AI although initially launched with English only now has support for Dutch, French, German, Japanese and Spanish opening the door for many non native English speakers to engage in their world in their native language. 

Robin Spinks was born with albinism and has experienced partial blindness all his life. At CSUN 2020 Robin recently described how applications like Seeing AI have impacted his life as a dad. 

Using an example of family trip to the zoo Robin explained how Seeing AI had acted as as “bridge” between a dad “who can read but not see” and his young son who could “see but not yet read”. Being unable to visually identify animals beyond “a big black blob” in their enclosures, Robin and his son were able to combine his son’s sight and Seeing AI to share a learning experience utilising the animal information boards in front of the enclosures. 

Robin said “I was able to talk to my son about the black blob being a Visayan Warty Pig, and have conversations about endangered species and sustainability”. “We were able to enjoy a full day at the zoo, talking about the animals together.” These types of assistive technologies have been a “game changer” as a parent.

Robins’ wife Emma who is also visually impaired highlighted the limitations of everyday products for those with visual impairments and how new Assistive Technologies are helping to close this divide. “Something as simple and private as taking a pregnancy test becomes a challenge when despite huge advances in technology there are no accessible pregnancy test kits for the visually imparired” shared Emma.  “Image how hard it might be for a young person taking a test who doesnt want to tell anyone the results”. Applications like Seeing AI can now take a photo of the test and tell you the results, enabling an added layer of independence to a task, which sighted people often take for granted. 

Emma shares many of her experiences and wisdom as a visually impaired mum of 2 young sighted boys through her podcast One Blind Mum 

 

Robin Spinks and child
Robin Spinks and Son. Image- RNIB