Dave: I don’t think this question is uncommon when it comes to blind people. Kelly, my wife really struggles to buy me, Dave, gifts for birthdays and Christmases because I never ask for anything and don’t really want or need anything. For those that don’t know me, I’m registered blind and have very little useful vision left. I’m also at that age (mid 30’s – cough, splutter) where I have the basic gadgets and gizmos that get me through the day and so don’t really want for anything else when it comes to presents.
Vicky and I discussed just the other day and Vicky suggested that being blind must have an impact on having ideas for presents; not being able to see products on the shelves, missing out on advertisements (as much as they’re annoying) and generally not knowing what is actually available unless you go ‘looking’ for it or hear about it in conversation or from coming across it when browsing the net or listening to podcasts, etc. We discussed that, when you’re sighted, something might catch your eye or you might see something that gives you an idea for a present where as if you can’t see then you miss out on all those clues.
Thinking about this more, she’s probably right (and not for the first time 😊); it probably does have something to do with it. However, there are also some things you just wouldn’t buy for someone with a vision impairment – a drone for example! Had I been sighted, then perhaps I would have been more in to gaming, needed something for a hobby or wanted something else that I’m unaware of!
Based on all this, and from looking back over our past Christmas Insights, we haven’t really done a ‘blind person’s Christmas list’ type Insight. So, keeping to that tradition, this isn’t going to be one either! 😊 Instead, I thought I would share with you merry bunch 5 items (in no particular order) that I use on a daily basis that really make a difference to my life as a blind person – you never know, they may give you some inspiration for a relative or friend that has a vision impairment.
1. iPhone with Voiceover – You all know what an iPhone is right? Well mine is the same, nothing different to what you would buy from the Apple store, the only difference is that I turn on Voiceover, one of the many accessibility features built-in to the iPhone. Voiceover is a screen reader that reads aloud what is under your finger and has different gestures to enable you to achieve different tasks, for example, a single finger double tap will activate the last spoken command, a 2 finger Z shape will scrub your last action or a 3 finger quadruple tap will copy the last spoken text to the clipboard. Voiceover works on all the native apps (phone, calendar, contacts, messages, mail, safari, etc but it also works on other apps so I can do online banking, grocery shopping, social media, and much more and all without even needing to see the screen!When asked, my phone is always the item of most value to me, not in the monetary sense, more in what I can do with it and how it enables me to continue to be independent and complete tasks that I might have otherwise needed help to do.
2. Amazon Echo/Echo Dot – “Alexa, How many days until Christmas?” Amazon’s range of the smart home hub (others are available) are great and lend themselves nicely to vision impaired people due to the nature of being voice activated. We have several echoes and echo dots around the house and they’re great for quick information. I use mine mainly for listening to the radio or music but also for setting timers when I’m cooking or need a quick calculation or conversion.
3. Audible Liquid Level Indicator – it took me several years of spilling water or overfilling cups before I would use one of these devices but I struggle to make a hot drink without using one nowadays. Basically it’s a small plastic box that has 3 metal prongs that hook over the side of a cup/vessel. When you fill the cup up, the device beeps when the liquid reaches the lower prongs and beeps faster when it reaches the higher one.
4. Talking Kitchen Scales – Another kitchen gadget that I use loads is the talking kitchen scales. These scales read aloud in pounds/ounces or kilogrammes/grams and enable me to accurately weigh ingredients or other items such as letters or small parcels.
5. Eone Bradly Watch – This was a fabulous Christmas gift a few years ago soon after they were released. It is an eye catching piece of jewellery that has been commented on by loads of people since. It doesn’t have hands like a standard analogue watch but instead has raised hourly markers. 2 magnetised ball Barings run in recessed tracks, one around the outside edge (hours) and the other around the inside (minutes) and, to tell the time, you just locate where the ball Barings are – simple! The thing I love about this watch is that, although it was designed to be accessible for blind people, it has a smart, stylish appearance and is a watch that everyone can wear whether sighted or not.
The above 5 listed items are just a few of the main things that I use but I have other items and gadgets that I use as well like my long cane (white stick) and Jaws screen reader on my laptop.
Vicky: So apart from pointing out the obvious – in this case that Dave is far nearer to 50 than he is 30 – I also think personality comes into play. As you can tell from the above list, Dave is a very practical person so, whereas I might have a wish list of things I would like rather than need for Christmas, Dave only tends to consider things that are useful. But also, throughout the year, I might not buy something that could go on my list (perfume for example) as I like to save these things for a special treat and I don’t think Dave operates like this, tending to buy this sort of item for himself when he needs it (well ok maybe not perfume but you get my gist!!).
However, there is definitely a visual element for me – I have a pair of boots in mind for Christmas and noticed them in an online catalogue because of the design. They are an ideal Christmas present for me as they are more expensive than I would consider usually but I would never have noticed them if I couldn’t see.
Maybe also though, the whole way Christmas creeps up on us is very visual – as Dave has said, the adverts but also the lights in people’s homes, Christmas decorations and even Christmas cards, and so maybe some of that excitement/build up is also lost if you can’t see making Christmas less of a focus generally? Just a thought and everyone is different, so we’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.
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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.