HomeTechThis nifty piece of technology helps me navigate life and work as...

This nifty piece of technology helps me navigate life and work as a blind person.

To write this article, I am using the technology that this article is about.

It’s something called the Mantis Q40 and it’s a refreshable Braille display. This device allows me to interact with my computer using Braille.

Braille is a system of reading and writing raised dots, which are read by touching them with the fingertips. I use it because I am blind.

I started using Braille at the age of eight after my eyesight became too poor to read and write with traditional methods. The Mantis Q40 is a far cry from the Braille you used as a child.

The Mantis Q40 is a device the size of an A4 sheet: most of the space is taken up by a QWERTY keyboard, but at the bottom is a row of 40 refreshable Braille cells.

Each cell consists of eight pins arranged in two columns and four rows. These pins move up and down electronically to create different combinations called Braille symbols.

These symbols correspond to letters, numbers, and punctuation marks that appear on my computer screen.

Essentially, the Mantis allows me to both touch type using the QWERTY keyboard and read the content of a touch screen in Braille.

It’s a game changer – I can’t imagine doing my job without it.

This is all a very indirect way of saying that I have a Braille display that changes under my fingers as I work, allowing me to take in information as I type, or to search and read stored information.

I use it all day, every day. I couldn’t do my job at Guide Dogs without Braille.

Refreshable Braille is a surprisingly old technology, developed by a company in Germany called Papenmeier in 1975. I first encountered it at age 17 in 1982 when a machine called VersaBraille was loaned to my school.

It was a standalone machine. You could enter data using a Braille keyboard and would store what you typed in a cassette.

It acted as a note taker, as it could read the information stored at any point via a small updateable Braille display. I was blown away!

Imagine being able to write Braille without the bulky paper you were used to.

VersaBrailles were too expensive for the school to purchase; a teacher pointed out that you could have bought a family car for the price of one.

But it was going to be a pipe dream and I wouldn’t be lucky enough to have a Braille display until late 1993.

To view this video, please enable JavaScript and consider upgrading to a web browser that
supports HTML5 video

Until then, I stuck with Braille paper, which was very thick, more like thin card, and it wasn’t unusual to have stacks of notes at school, five or six inches thick.

The first model I used cost almost £7,000, paid for via Access to Work scheme. It was from ALVA and it was a big platform with a Braille display and nothing else. It had a standard QWERTY keyboard that sat separately.

It’s an all-in-one solution (Image: Mel Griffiths)

It was huge, probably three times the size of the Mantis, and incredibly heavy. It’s certainly not portable.

Since 1993, I have worked in various customer service roles where I would have struggled without Braille.

There are those who use text-to-speech software: technology that reads aloud what is on the screen. While my hat is off to them and their ability to decipher the different voices in their headphones and stay sane, I couldn’t use that.

For the past six years I have worked for guide dogsto charity close to my heart because I have a beautiful German Shepherd cross Golden Retriever guide dog named Elsa. She is my seventh guide dog since I got my first in 1989 and I couldn’t do without her.

I work at the ‘Guide Line’ as a canine health adviser, talking to service users and volunteers and advising on health issues with working guide dogs, retired dogs or puppies in training.

This is where my Mantis Q40 comes into play.

It’s a totally versatile team that has opened up the world of writing in ways I could never have imagined.

Unlike the other Braille displays I’ve used, which were much larger and less portable, the Mantis is a Bluetooth QWERTY keyboard with a built-in braille display that’s refreshable, meaning an ergonomically less cluttered and more comfortable experience.

It’s an all-in-one solution, whereas before, people with a visual disability he had to carry a traditional keyboard and a separate braille display.

While talking to callers, I often have to look up things on my computer. If I’m listening to someone talk and want to read information at the same time, I can’t have a screen reader talking to me simultaneously, so my Mantis keyboard allows me to read the information on the screen while I’m conversing on the phone. .

There is amazing technology out there for the visually impaired and I am lucky to only own part of it (Image: Mel Griffiths)

It also means that when I take notes or record information during a call, I can quickly check the accuracy of what I’ve written by reading it in Braille.

It’s a game changer – I can’t imagine doing my job without it.

It’s not cheap at around £2,500. Fortunately, again using the Access to Work scheme and with the help of my employer, I was able to get one.

Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to own one and it does everything I’d hoped for. It fits nicely in my backpack so I take it with me wherever I go.

An added bonus is that it also connects to iOS devices like my iphone. It means I can access thousands of books on the Kindle app and read them in Braille, something blind people could only dream of until about 10 years ago.

I even used it to read a poem at the service when my father sadly passed away in 2021.

It’s a totally versatile piece of equipment that has opened up the world of writing in ways I could never have imagined.

I am a true advocate of Braille and would urge anyone who is blind or partially sighted who thinks they could benefit from Braille to go ahead and learn it.

In my ideal world blind all children would learn it in school. For me, it’s the difference between being read to and reading to myself.

There is amazing technology out there for the visually impaired and I am lucky to only own a part of it – it has truly changed my life.

Visit the Guide Dogs Tech Hub for more information: www.guidedogs.org.uk/techhub

The technology I can’t live without

Welcome to the technology I can’t live without, Metro.esThe new weekly series of ‘s where readers share the part of the kit that has been indispensable to them.

From gadgets to software, apps to websites, you’ll read about all kinds of innovations that people really trust. If you have a bit of technology you can’t live without, please email Ross.McCafferty@metro.co.uk participate in the series

FURTHER : Wearable technology is revolutionizing the way people with high blood pressure manage their health

FURTHER : I thought diabetes would end my sailing career, but a glucose monitor saved it, and my life

FURTHER : Sharing access to my location through the Find My iPhone app eases my fear of traveling as a woman

Source link

- Advertisment -