I don’t think of myself as having a disability, just getting older. Like all the people I went to school with some things become a little more challenging as we age. Some of those things are really subtle, its harder to lose weight, I ache a little more getting out of bed but nothing to cause any real barriers or challenges in my daily life.
I’ve worn glasses since I was a child, and as I get older so the lenses in those glasses get stronger from time to time. With good glasses my sight isn’t an issue, I watch TV, I drive (safely) and can even happily read a number plate at the required distance.
But about a year ago, I realized that my sight was causing some issues. My team were sending me quite long documents to read and I was also trying to assimilate information from other sources, government departments, other disability organizations, researchers and even the United Nations. I suddenly realized that when I received these documents for review, I was printing each one and reading it in the evening from the paper.
Why was I doing this? It seemed such a waste.
I looked back at my working day. Generally documents were emailed to me or downloaded from the web. I found that if I tried to read more than 2 or 3 pages on the computer screen my eyes became tired, I was susceptible to headaches and importantly I was finding the text hard to follow. As soon as I had these on paper it wasn’t an issue I could happily read late into the night.
But my briefcase was bulging under the strain, I broke two straps on my case after several documents were carried to and fro. This coupled with my concerns that such as use of paper was wasteful led me to look at how technology might help.
It seemed obvious that a traditional computer screen was not the solution I needed. Most tablet computers seemed to replicate the problem, too much glarer and reflection for me to read comfortably. Instead we turned to a different sort of device, in this case the Amazon Kindle. It took very little time to realize this was exactly what I needed.
The kindle has a non reflective screen, based on e-Ink technology it present text on a 7” screen without glare or reflection. I could read a report on budgets sat in the desert sun, I could review research into new technology for people with autism in bed with just my bedside light on. Without a headache, eyestrain, or a guilty conscience over my green credentials to trouble me.
There were some things I needed to adjust to make this work well. I changed the fonts and the level of contrast on the Kindle to suit my preferences, I set up my Amazon email so that I could email documents from work directly to my Kindle and download them on my home wifi network, and I bought a cover for the Kindle to protect it from carrying it around with me constantly.
The Kindle has become my personal assistive technology. I can work as efficiently and effectively as ever, reading large documents is easy, I can even make notes on them as I read. Every time I use it, I think “why didn’t I do this years ago ?” It’s a technology that I recommend, if you are reading widely whether for work, study or just fun, it could benefit you as well.