An entire wall of the Society for the Blind store in Sacramento is stocked with the basics for vision assistance: oversized clocks, talking calculators and specially designed wallets, just to name a few.
On the other side is a lineup of voice-controlled desktops and portable devices that can magnify text or say it aloud. Some have cameras that can photograph text and read it.
Shari Roeseler, executive director for the Society for the Blind, said these all-in-one machines save people with vision problems from having to use a combination of iPads, Kindles and other devices that weren’t developed explicitly for this population. Earlier this month, the society teamed up with NorthState Assistive Technology in Chico to stock more “smart” items.
“These are all being used in workplaces and in schools,” she said. “Folks can go to college and have all their information, instead of maybe having to pay someone to be a note-taker for them.”
Kendra Connelly was in the shop recently buying raised stickers to put on her washing machine. Her congenital glaucoma has gotten worse in the last two years, and she struggles with the machine’s settings.
At the society, the 29-year-old gets trained to use technology, which she may need if her vision deteriorates further. She’s working toward becoming an occupational therapist.
“So, I’m learning different ways to accommodate this issue that has come up. Vision loss, especially being so young, it’s very challenging,” she said. “It’s all very important to help us maintain our independence in the community and to be able to contribute.”
In addition to all the new tech, the store also sells books and other items in braille. Roeseler — who can see — warns that tech shouldn’t be a substitute for literacy.
Studies show that as talking devices become more accessible, fewer school-aged children are reading braille.
“Understanding reading comprehension, how you put a sentence together — that’s part of learning braille,” Roeseler said.“If you don’t have those skills, it can really be a problem because not everything is available electronically.”