An Annan resident has spoken of how embracing technology has helped her overcome the daily challenges she faces after losing her sight, thanks to advice and training from Visibility.
Anne Dickie, from Annan, started losing her sight two decades ago after being diagnosed with glaucoma. By 2006, further health complications meant she was registered blind.
Anne said: “I was so isolated after my initial diagnosis. I didn’t know anyone with sight problems, and of course a lot of the technology that I’m using now didn’t exist then.
“The first couple of years were very difficult. I couldn’t drive anymore; I couldn’t read – so I couldn’t see the bus timetable. We moved to Annan as it was a bit more central than Eastriggs, but I was unfamiliar with the area so getting about was tough. I had to stop cooking, which was one of my passions. Then I found out about Visibility.”
Anne met Visibility staff member Mia Glendinning at a Rotary Event in Annan two years ago and quickly began embracing equipment the charity could demonstrate and loan to her.
Visibility, which has been helping people living with sight loss since 1859, offers a “Try Before You Buy” scheme across Dumfries & Galloway where people can loan smartphones, tablets and other useful aids and equipment at home while receiving training on how to use it.
Anne explained: “At first, I was a little bit apprehensive about smartphones and the like, so we started off a bit simpler. I borrowed talking scales and found out there was such a thing as a talking microwave, so I began basic cooking again.
“My husband, Jimmy, and I began going along to the support group Visibility started in Annan where a demonstration on what you could achieve with an iPad really got me thinking. The first app I tried was called Seeing AI, and I was able to read menus and order my own meals while we were on holiday.
“I know it might sound silly, but that’s a huge thing and I was totally buzzing after it. Rather than having Jimmy reading the menu to me, we could have a chat about what we fancied. I felt like a normal person again and could order my meals independently.”
Mia Glendinning, area coordinator at Visibility, explained: “A lot of the equipment that can help people to magnify or have things read to them can be very expensive. With an iPhone or an iPad, it’s either built-in to the devices or can be added with a free app. And the technology is getting better all the time.
“It’s very common to hear that these devices have helped people keep in touch with family by being able to dictate texts, emails or asking it to make a call for you. There’s built-in features that can let you use the camera as an electronic magnifier, or free apps that will read you mail that arrives or an article in the newspaper. Others have benefited by using GPS-enabled apps, like Soundscape or Moovit, to help them navigate and traverse around town, or get there bearings if they get lost. But when I asked Anne what the main benefit she’s gotten from learning how to use the iPad, and she said ‘I can cook again’, I was a little bit blown away.”
One person who has enjoyed the benefits of Anne’s rekindled passion for cooking is her husband, Jimmy Dickie.
He said: “I really missed Anne’s cooking, and of course I tried to chip in more with things like that after her diagnosis but it wasn’t the same standard though! So it’s tremendous to be able to taste her home-baking and healthy meals again.
“Mind you, now that Anne can also use her phone to browse the shelves in Tesco either by scanning the barcodes or magnifying the labels, our shopping bill has got somewhat higher!”
If you would like to find out more about accessible technology can help you, a friend, family member or neighbour living with a visual impairment, please call Visibility on 01387 267 131 or email firstname.lastname@example.org