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Assistive Technology Coordinator

I’m the Assistive Technology Coordinator at VisAbility. I look after the assistive technology service implementing you know changes and [Voice-over: Yuemei, Assistive Technology] always looking out for new gadgets and toys and also looking after the staff that provide the service.

Could you describe some of the technology you’re currently using?

Technology is really important for kids with vision impairment. I like to say that those with vision impairment actually are lucky to have a vision impairment now compared to ten years ago because technology’s changed dramatically. So we provide assessment and training for children with vision impairment, all kinds of technology from specialised, highly specialised technology to mainstream technology. So we can cover you know your iPads and iPhones which are your mainstream things and like cameras and things like that or highly specialised things that we deal with like their specialised suppliers of assistive tech like your electronic magnifiers, special text-to-speech reading machines.

We cover software as well as hardware, so we look at handheld magnifiers or desktop magnifiers but if you use your computer then we could talk about software, specialised software to make a computer easier to see or if you’re totally blind that you can actually use your computer and if we talking about smartphones or iPads that we can talk about the built-in accessibility or specialised apps and just give you the training to be independent in whatever technology you currently have or using technology to make you independent, and building that balance between families goals and child’s goals and schools goals and you know a child might, depending on their age might just want to be able to play and finding a feat of technology that can meet the most of the goals.

For example like if a child wanted to be able to read and they had low vision but I still wanted to check out the things in the garden or whatever we could still, you know different electronic magnifiers where they could still use it for reading in school and more academic staff but also they could use it for playing.

What helps you in your work with children, families and schools?

I think being childish, [giggle] helps so I guess it’s not really important but knowing what the current things that children are into like cartoons and books and things have been really helpful but then understanding the technology that’s possible and just thinking out of the box a lot of the time because for children with vision impairment, children when you grow up, there’s a lot of like peer pressure and things you don’t want to look like the different child, so now we’ve mainstream things you’ve got to know what’s kind of cool.

So like meet best of both worlds as well. So the child doesn’t feel different yet they’re still using these technology to make them independent without feeling like there’s some one different way.

What does inclusion mean and what does it look like when it’s working well?

So I guess inclusion in a way could be like with all the development with mainstream technology where you could use things that’s already out there but use them in a different way so for example one of the cameras I looked at – because some of the specialised things if you think about it it’s just a camera and a screen.

The camera zooms things up and makes things bigger and what you can do is find a camera that you can buy. So I looked at stuff for photographers and kids could use that and use that not for taking photos but for like having the clarity, zooming up words or things that they want to look at and yeah just thinking out the box in that sense to just include them in you know things that they may already have at home, that you could use as a “assistive technology device” to make them independent.

Has it been easy or hard to convince parents of the benefits of technology?

So with technology, we’re in a day and age where there’s so many things out there and if you are just not even talking about disability specific technology, when you’re like buying your phone or your computer, it could be just something like where do I start, because there’s so many things out there. So it’s good to just know what’s available you know early on. It may be before you even need it or even know how technology can assist people with vision impairment and

it’s really, I guess I would say really important. I’ve seen kids that haven’t used technology and kids that have used technology and those who really embrace it, have foundĀ  independence and superpowers in a way that they never knew that they could do. Sometimes I do get resistance so like from parents usually. But depending- not too much but once they see their child using it and children now days are just so wired for technology once they’re just, I don’t even say anything they pick it up and just use it and then I think that just clicks and the resistance just goes away because children just start using it to their benefit and I haven’t even said anything.

VisAbility, Website:

Phone: 1800 VISION