Living with visual impairment can present some challenges:
- Dependence: For many tasks, blind and visually impaired people require aid from someone with a working pair or eyes. For example to read handwritten instructions or identify an unknown item.
An able-sighted companion may not be available at the time the help is needed and most don't want to be a continual burden on family and friends.
- Isolation: Mobility challenges often leads to much less contact with the outside world and can result in lonliness and depression. Furthermore, the vast majority of people lose their vision later in life, seriously compounding age-related social isolation.
- Restricted Employment Opportunities: It is estimated that 70% of blind people are either unemployed or underemployed, and the jobs they are able to obtain are often menial. This may not only affect a person's finances, but also her self esteem. The percentage of visually impaired working-age Americans (not including blind) who are employed is 46%, and the percentage of blind working-age Americans who are employed is only 32%.
- Education Challenges: Difficulties in accessing resources and demonstrating abilities can lower standards and expectations. A child who is blind that is not offered the opportunity to learn in ways that accommodates their blindness might not learn as much or as well as other students. Their inherent ability/ intellect is the same, but the opportunity to demonstrate it may be reduced. The percentage of blind and visually impaired American high school graduates is only 45% (compared with 80% of sighted individuals).
There have been many advances in technology over the recent decades to assist the blind. Unfortunately the following shortcomings have limited widespread adoption:
- Overlay on Able-Sighted Technology: Most solutions "sit on top of" technology designed for people who can see. For example, complex keyboard commands are often needed to enter data and navigate, while screen reading software is used to read computer monitor displays.
- Slow and Cumbersome to Use: Blind users often find themselves wading through large amounts of superfluous data before they find what they were looking for, so it can be time consuming to pinpoint required information. It can also be difficult to backtrack so even experienced users find themselves lost.
- Difficult to Remember: The blind are required to remember the commands for each software package they use as well as the accessibility software itself. There is usually not an easy-to-access reference guide available, so usage instructions need to be committed to memory.
- Lack of Assistance: Many of those brave enough to tackle the technology soon become bewildered and don't have any way of accessing the assistance they require. A technology-savvy friend with a working pair of eyes is usually not on hand when needed.
- Age: The vast majority of vision loss is due to age-related illness. The elderley particularly struggle because they have often had less exposure to computers, smartphones and digital technology in general. Accessibility difficulties are faced by those who are not technically inclined, regardless of age.
- Not Task Focused: Most solutions tend to be fairly general and don't perform the very specific tasks blind and low vision people require in order to allow them to work effectively, learn and keep in touch.
The Blind Country solutions effectively address both the life and technology problems as follows:
- Easy to Use: Our system has been designed specifically for blind and visually impaired people. Navigating the system, accessing information and performing tasks is very straightforward.
- Easy to Learn: Training time is usually measured in minutes, not hours or days. A consistent interface and user experience is delivered regardless of the task being performed. Even the most computer illiterate are usually up-and-running quickly.
- Help is Available: Context relevant help is always available at every step.
- Relevant Information: The system automatically filters unnecessary details from any material retrieved from an online source, ensuring the information presented is relevant.
- Trusted Helpers: The system allows able-sighted friends and family members to manage information such as contacts, appointments, reminders etc. so they can lend a hand if needed. They can gain access via computer, tablet or smartphone.
- Community Involvement: Blind Country has many virtual communities where members are encouraged to contribute, care for their neighbours and foster an environment of support and inclusion.
- Task Specific: Blind Country's personal assistant software contains targeted applications dedicated to the duties required by specific groups of people: the employed, students and the aged. In addition there are more general applications that focus on entertainment and keeping-in-touch with the world at large.
You can learn more about the Blind Country solution by clicking on one of the following links: