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How assistive technology training with Galloway's Tech Ability has given Gordon 'his life back'

Updated: Nov 29, 2021

Gordon is sat on the sofa. In  front of him is a table with his tablet placed on the holder he created.
Gordon Read with his tablet

Remote tech support has given West Lancashire resident Gordon Read his ‘life back.’

The 88-year-old from Hesketh Bank was one of 13 visually impaired people to be loaned a data-enabled tablet and receive one to one remote training from sight loss charity Galloway’s.

The Tech Ability project is aimed at giving blind and partially sighted people with no internet access or confidence in using digital software, the opportunity to try new assistive technology.

Gordon, who has Age Related Macular Degeneration, has gone from not understanding technology to being able to send emails and read documents, using accessibility software Synapptic.

He said: “This tablet with Synapptic has given me so many things to do during the day.

“The main thing is being able to read my letters which is marvelous.

“Whenever I used to get a letter in the post I would dread it because I could never read it. I used to have to go to a neighbour and beg them to read it.

“But with Synapptic, I slip the letters under the tablet’s camera and the machine reads it.

“It has broadened my horizons, as I can do so much more now. I can use the camera to blow images up, read newspapers, and send emails.

“Now I have independence and it has given me my life back. It is like having another person in the house with me. It is a great friend.

“After these sessions and I have to give the tablet back, I want to save up and buy one because it would be a great help to me.”

Gordon has even made a holder for his tablet to make things easier for him.

He added: “During my sessions, I was finding I needed an extra hand to hold my phone, the tablet and paperwork. So I used a shelf from my old cooker and took two bars out of the middle and elevated the shelf by arranging it on two blocks of wood. Then I can just slide my letters and paperwork underneath for the tablet camera to read.”

The Tech Ability project has been made possible thanks to an initial grant of £17,787 and then a £5,000 continuation fund from Catalyst and The National Lottery Community Fund COVID-19 Digital Response Fund. Galloway’s is also being supported by digital charity CAST and Graham Longly from Aspire Assistive CIC Ltd, who is providing the training to help deliver the scheme. You can read more about the project by clicking here.

A woman's face has a black blur
What a person with AMD sees

Did you know that it is Macular Week (June 21st to 27th)?

Macular disease is the biggest cause of blindness in the UK, with around one million people are affected by the condition.

Macular disease affects people of all ages. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is what Gordon has, is the most common type of macular disease, generally affecting people over 50.

AMD affects the vision you use when you're looking directly at something. AMD may make this central vision distorted or blurry and, over a period of time, it may cause a blank patch in the centre of your vision.

Usually the first problems people notice are their ability to see detail. You may have problems reading small print, even if you wear your usual reading glasses, or you may find that there is a slight smudge in your sight or that your vision has a small blurred area in the centre.

Straight lines may look distorted or wavy or as if there's a little bump in them. You may also find you become sensitive to bright light or that you see shapes and lights that aren't actually there.

You should have your eyes tested by an optician if:

• You notice any difficulty with reading small print with your reading glasses

• Straight lines start to look wavy or distorted

• Your vision isn't as clear as it used to be

Image of an older woman with a young girl. The picture has a black filter
What a person with cataracts may see

Gordon also developed a cataract in his left eye but has successfully had an operation to remove it.

He added: “I now have another 25 per cent vision all round so I feel I have two eyes again, rather than having to turn my head to look at something. My vision is not perfect but it is not too bad. After six weeks I can have glasses which will allow me to see things in more detail. I can now see my nails on my hands, whereas before I could not. I can also see the big numbers on my telephone.”

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