Editor’s note: This is the third post in Lynda Lambert’s series for Low Vision Awareness Month. In this post, she discusses the assistive devices she finds most useful. Missed a post? Catch up on part one and part two of the series.
Technology I Use Every Day
Not all technology has to be high tech. A simple digital recorder can help you with carrying out important tasks. Some people use a recorder for keeping track of to-do lists. I use mine in several important ways.
Milestone Digital Recorder
It has five folders that I can put files into with just the press of a button. For example, I use one file for addresses; one file for phone numbers; one file for taking notes as I am writing or listening to books; and one file for my knitting patterns so that I can knit when I am anywhere. Because I cannot see to read a paper pattern, I can listen to instructions on my Milestone as I knit.
One of the most valuable things that I do with the Milestone is use it as a note-taker. I make verbal notes that I can use later because I cannot see to write them on a piece of paper. I use my Milestone when I am doing a speaking engagement. Because it is so small, I can hold it in my hand and as I am speaking, my notes can guide me. I just put my notes on the Milestone—one note per file—and as I click, a new file gives me the cue I need for my next item in the speech. It works great for this purpose.
It is small, (3.35 inches by 2.13 inches by 0.55 inches) just a little bit larger than a credit card. It fits in my hand and is easy to use. It comes with a carrying case, and I take it with me in my handbag everywhere I go. There is a 120-minute recording capacity on it. This device also can be used with a memory card. There is a slot for it, and it comes with a headphone jack. Weight is 49 grams (1.l7 ounces), and there is a built-in rechargeable battery.
The Acrobat CCTV
I learned how to use a closed-circuit television (CCTV) (also known as an electronic video magnifier) when I was away at the blind and vision rehabilitation program. It was not easy for me to learn to use a CCTV because I have eyes that are light-sensitive, and I can get severe headaches easily if I am exposed to a lot of light or motion. I had to take it just a little bit at a time because it felt overwhelming at first. We started out by learning how to read one sentence. Yes, one sentence, and it was a struggle. Eventually, I worked my way to be able to read one paragraph. Because I have only a small amount of vision, I can see only about an inch of any text or picture at a time. It takes lots of practice to be able to adjust to your new normal and be confident with it. Most of everything I do is with the use of a CCTV. This is my secret to doing the intricate work that I produce and the hours of writing that I do as I am working on new poems or articles for a variety of magazines. The CCTV is now my eyes so that I can do all of my work.
The Acrobat CCTV is excellent for an artist or crafts person to use. It has plenty of room for your hands to fit between the camera and the table. While you work with your art materials, you are watching and guiding your materials as you watch on the screen. This was my first piece of equipment that enabled me to begin to do my precise bead work; I am a bead worker who does mixed media art. Within four years of my sight loss, I was producing museum-quality art, and I had my first one-person exhibition as an artist with sight loss in an art gallery museum. Since then, nothing has kept me from doing my work and getting into exhibitions. I just do it in a different way now, using my low vision equipment.
The Merlin CCTV
The Merlin is my office assistant. I have it sitting right beside my computer, and I use it many times a day as I am in my office writing.
I also figured out a unique way to do my intricate knitting recently with my Merlin. Because the screen will pivot, I can lift it up to make it horizontal. I stand in front of the machine and look down to see my knitting or other work magnified. This was great because I am getting a physical work out at the same time by standing to do my reading or creative work.
This machine is perfect for use in an office, as it has a movable tray that you can move around as you read a document with the magnification.
My steep learning curve continues. Really, we have to stay up-to-date with our equipment so that we can do our work. As the technologies change, so must we. It is a challenge, and we are up to it! Instead of lamenting our losses, we will celebrate our achievements and we will do the work we need to do to learn to use the new technologies. It is worth the effort.
This year, I have to tackle some new challenges. All of my equipment has been replaced with new, updated programs and new devices. My technical specialist and our county blind association worked hard to get my old equipment replaced near the end of last year. I have a new computer, all new programs for it, and a brand new spectacular DaVinci Pro.
The DaVinci Pro is quite a step forward for me. Not only is it a CCTV, it is also a magnifier and a scanner all in one, meaning it can actually read what is on the screen. My computer can run on this machine too. We called in the company rep one snowy day, and he came to my house to install this machine properly. He even gave me some instructions for learning to use it. Now, the hard work will be up to me to figure it out so that I can begin using it daily. This piece of equipment has a steep learning curve—beyond anything else I have tackled. What a way to begin my new year! With the encouragement and assistance of my friendly local technical specialist, we will figure it out together. I am going to need lots more "homeschooling."