Through a partnership with the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, The Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton recently launched an assistive technology device lab to help individuals with vision loss to better understand and learn how to effectively use various devices that have the power to help them retain their independence. The open-concept device lab offers access to a wide spectrum of over 18 different popular devices for use by all of the Center’s program participants.
Most smartphones and other devices now come with several built-in accessibility options. Plus, there are a wide assortment of other mainstream and specialized applications available to download which support independence for people with low vision or blindness.
Both free and paid mobile applications like Aira or Microsoft’s Seeing AI provide the ability to narrate the world through your smartphone camera—reading out street signs, printed text, and identifying objects and people. Learning to use transportation apps like Uber and Lyft enable unprecedented travel independence. Voice activated in-home smart assistants like Amazon’s Alexa give people the ability to control household appliances, adjust lights, monitor thermostats, and so much more.
Increasingly, technology is the great equalizer for people who are blind and visually impaired. While the Carroll Center offers a comprehensive variety of programs specifically concentrating on technology, some amount of technology instruction is incorporated into almost every program that it offers these days.
With so many different devices on the market, it can be challenging to choose the most applicable solutions. With the creation of this new device lab, program participants at the Carroll Center for the Blind are now able to freely explore the technologies that are best for them. They practice with these devices and applications prior to making a purchase decision that is best suited to their personal needs and budget.
“Being able to get hands-on with a variety of new technology and devices both in-class and out of class has been enlightening,” says Chris Lockley, a program participant at the Carroll Center. “Access to so many options has provided me with a sense of choice and freedom that I felt I had lost. It’s empowering.”
Access to assistive technology creates life-changing opportunities and possibilities for people with disabilities, whether at school, work, home or in the community. As mainstream technology becomes more assistive, getting connected is the next achievement of independence for anyone dealing with vision loss.
About the Carroll Center for the Blind
Established in 1936, the Carroll Center for the Blind empowers those who are blind and visually impaired to achieve independence and to lead a fulfilling life. The nonprofit organization provides services for individuals of all ages including vision rehabilitation services, vocational and transition programs, assistive technology training, educational support, services for seniors, and an optical shop. For more information, visit www.carroll.org.