We, Dave and Vicky, took ourselves up to Sight Village South East last week, along with a friend, Gary who works at Sight for Surrey as their Assistive Technology Trainer.
Sight Village is the name given to the exhibitions that are organised and run by Queen Alexandra College. There are 5 ‘Sight Village’ exhibitions held throughout the year (South-West, Central, West Midlands, North-West and South-East) and are described as “The UK's leading exhibitions for blind and partially sighted people and for those experiencing sight problems”.
To be honest, Dave and I had discussed whether we would go again this year as we’ve been for the last few years, but we decided that we should – and we’re really glad we did.
Having fuelled up with breakfast en route, we made our way to High Street Kensington Tube. There were Sight Village volunteers at the tube ready to sight guide or support people to the venue itself, we declined their offer of assistance though as the 3 of us were managing okay. A guy called Steve also asked if he could just walk with us, which was fine, we joked about us all getting lost together and me not having another guiding arm available but Steve was ok just to follow us and as it’s only a brief distance we all got there ok.
Once we arrived, following the obligatory photo to prove our attendance, Dave, Gary and I went straight into the main hall. Many of the stands were familiar and focussed on CCTV and OCR technologies. We took the opportunity to head to the Sight and Sound Technology stand and, at Gary’s suggestion, managed to get our hands on and explore their MiniVision and SmartVision 2 mobile phones.
We then chatted to Barclays, mainly about the current issue Dave has regarding the recent App update not reading transaction dates on the statement correctly. As always they were keen to know about this and Dave gave them a demo of what’s wrong. They promised to pass it on to their Digital Access Manager the following day – let’s hope it gets corrected soon!
As the Amazon stand was quiet, we took the opportunity to have a quick listen to the new Amazon Echo Studio, a beefy smart speaker that will play streamed HD audio quality music. This sounded lovely but we were informed that presales were more than 700% greater than expected so, even though it goes on sale this month, they’ll not be available to purchase until at least February 2020, although currently showing on Amazon as retailing at £189.99 and available from 25th December 2019 – probably not one for this year’s Christmas list though.
We had a brief chat with Kevin at the Look UK stand and found out about the charity, the support and information they provide to young vision impaired people and their families and their peer mentoring service for vision impaired students aged between 11 and 29.
Gary was keen for us to have a look at the Synapptic TV Box. We had a demo of this from Ken at their stand. If you’re looking for a fully accessible way of watching live or catch up TV, catching up with box sets, keeping up with your emails or doing some online shopping, then this might be the ideal solution for you!
Our next stop was at the En-Vision America stand where we met and had a long and interesting chat with David. He demonstrated the audible prescription service called ScripTalk, a service that has been available across the USA and Canada for several years. En-Vision are keen to bring ScripTalk to the UK and David was at the exhibition trying to raise the awareness of the product and to engage with vision impaired people and get their views on the service. We all agreed that this is a great product and a service that should be available in the UK. Its definitely something that we’ll be shouting about, demonstrating on our training and raising awareness of over the coming months.
The traditional white cane has been around for years and companies have tried to bring it in to the 20th century by adding GPS and motion sensors but no-one has yet put lights in it… until now! Lighting up the exhibition halls was Dave from ‘Gizahand’ with their new illuminating long cane. This was a cool product that was designed to help a person using the long cane be more visible to other pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. Basically the bottom quarter of the traditional folding cane has been replaced with a durable opaque section that is filled with LED lights. It’s powered by a USB power bank that fits in to the top of the handle and provides over 3 hours of light from a 2 hour charge. Although a fun idea, at £129.95 + delivery, it’s another item that won’t be finding its way on to Dave’s Christmas list this year!
During our rounds, we stopped off and had a long chat with Andrew from TravelEyes. It’s always great to catch up with him and we chatted loads about Amir Latif’s recent TV programme Travelling Blind and all the other things he’s now up to. Dave and Gary both entered their competition to win a trip to Burma (the offer was only available for VI people otherwise I (Vicky) would’ve been straight in there too!!). Going on one of their holidays is still something I’d love to do, but it’s just not feasible at the moment with family commitments etc.
We bumped into Stella from the Macular Society, a friend and previous work colleague of both Dave and Gary’s and as well as taking the opportunity to wish her a happy birthday, we also caught up with the work they are doing.
And finally we took the opportunity to sit in on the ATW Solutions seminar where we met and heard from Colin Fowler, the founder of ATW Solutions. He discussed how they can help with Access to Work (ATW) applications, propose reasonable adjustments within the workplace and provide recruitment services for employment support workers.
One thing we did all notice was that the exhibition was less busy this year and that there is definitely a lack of organisations with ‘daily living’ products now exhibiting. Let’s hope that this is a blip and that next year there will be more exhibitors with a wider range of products for us to have a look and feel of! J
That said we found out about some interesting products and services, enjoyed catching up with several people and will definitely be making the effort to attend again next year.
Direct links to products and organisations we visited:
QAC Sight Village - https://www.qac.ac.uk/exhibitions.htm
Sight and Sound Mobile Phones - http://www.sightandsound.co.uk/hardware/mobile-phones.html
Barclays Accessibility (Sight) - https://www.barclays.co.uk/accessibility/sight/
Amazon Echo Studio - https://www.amazon.co.uk/amazon-echo-studio-high-fidelity-smart-speaker-with-3d-audio-and-alexa/dp/B07NQCKJSH/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=amazon+studio&qid=1573214695&sr=8-1
Look-UK - https://www.look-uk.org/
Synapptic TV Box - http://www.synapptic.com/products-tvbox.aspx
En-Vision America (ScripTalk) – https://www.envisionamerica.com/products/scriptability/scriptalk/
Gizahand Illuminated long cane - http://www.gizahand.co.uk/illuminated-mobility-long-cane/
Traveleyes - https://www.traveleyes-international.com/
Macular Society - https://www.macularsociety.org/
ATW Solutions - https://www.atwsolutions.co.uk/
We’re always interested to know about other people’s experiences and thoughts. Please share these by commenting…
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Our VIDA Insights...
Following our experiences from delivering our Vision Impairment Awareness training days over the past couple of years, we know that there’s loads more that we could talk about and examples we could have shared. Whilst these won’t be a substitute for our training, they will give you an insight (hence the name!) into our thoughts, observations and experiences from each of our perspectives - Dave’s living with sight loss and Vicky’s from being a sighted person and working alongside and supporting people who have sight loss.