Championing technology for vision impairment

Nicole is fast becoming known as an iPhone and assistive technology guru for people living with vision impairment. The 43-year-old VisAbility client lives in Bunbury and is one of Apple’s biggest fans and is impressed by the company’s commitment to accessibility. 

Last year Apple became the world’s largest and most valuable company at $2 trillion US dollars. Nicole is happy to share her knowledge about Apple products and to improve people’s understanding of accessibility features.

“I’m a modern-day geek, and Australia is a very internet-driven society. Whether that be banking, ordering online shopping, or booking restaurants. It’s in everyone’s interests to become more familiar with the latest technology.”

Nicole – VisAbility client and tech expert

Accessibility features with iOS are regarded as the best in the industry. The iPhone and iPad are simple to use and Nicole has become a champion of their products and what they can do.

“The range of capabilities is impressive. VoiceOver has especially revolutionised the way people who are blind or have low vision can communicate through texting or emails,” Nicole explains.

Nicole sitting in front of her Braille notetaker
Nicole describes herself as an assistive technology geek

Nicole  currently receives services through VisAbility with Occupational Therapist Susanne Reilly and O&M Instructor Gillian Fry. 

“I was a premature baby and was blind at birth. I’ve grown up on assistive technology – I’ve used many different screen readers and applications. When people experience vision loss late in life, it can be overwhelming but a modern iPhone, with all it’s capabilities, can help them in their everyday life.”

Image shows Nicole with her white cane walking along a footpath close to the sea
Nicole walks along the beach path near her home daily

iPhone lover

Nicole bought her first iPhone in 2010, following a recommendation from her friend who had an iPhone 3GS. She has previously used a Nokia and it was a revelation to come across something that had incorporated accessibility into its design.

That iPhone had features including Zoom, VoiceOver, colour contrast features, and Mono Audio for the hard of hearing or deaf.

There’s an impressive range of technology for people with vision impairment. While Nicole’s choice of mobile phone is an iPhone, she also uses a Windows Computer with an NVDA Screen Reader with a Braille display.

“For extensive research or writing, I will use my computer. My mobile phone is great for keeping in touch with others and using social platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook.”

Nicole – VisAbility client and tech expert

earlier this year, Nicole came to VisAbility in Victoria Park to meet Assistive Technology Officer Emmanuel Lee to trial out a Braillant BI 20X Braille Display (link opens in new window) from Humanware. She was so impressed, she approached Humanware and asked for a demo model herself.

“I had a week to try it out. The beauty of this device is that I can hook it up to my iPhone and computer with Bluetooth and read items in Braille instead of relying on speech.”

Nicole had funds available with assistive technology in her Capital Support Budget as part of her NDIS Plan and is making good use of it. The device allows you to select from different Braille tables to read and make notes.

Outside interests

Away from all things techy, Nicole enjoys cricket and horse riding. She was born on a farm near Bridgetown and has always loved the outdoors. As a youngster, she grew up climbing trees and playing with animals.

Nicole stands alongside her horse
Nicole grew up on a farm and has recently taken up horse riding

“My parents never stopped me from doing what I wanted to do. I went to mainstream primary school and then onto boarding school. When I was 20, I moved into a flat on my own in Bunbury and started working, and then relocated to Perth in 2004. I secured a job with Optus and stayed there for six years. I have always been fairly independent.”

During the summer, Nicole travels to Perth to train with the Blind Venetians Cricket Club. One day she hopes to play for the national team.

“I was brought up on cricket. I remember the 1990 Ashes with Alan Border at the helm; we thrashed the English in the five-test series.”

Nicole has also recently taken up horse-riding at the Riding for the Disabled Association Australia in Gelorup (link opens in new window).

Nicole sitting on her horse being guided by someone else
Nicole loves being close to nature in regional WA

“It’s great to get back on a horse. I love these sessions – takes me back to life on my parent’s farm”.

Her parents no longer own the farm. In their retirement, they are enjoying exploring WA. Nicole calls them ‘wandering grey nomads.’

They are a close family, but Nicole is fiercely proud of retaining her independence.

“I’ve never been one to say ‘I can’t do this and can’t do that’. Assistive technology empowers people and opens up greater independence for individuals who are blind or have low vision.”

VisAbility has a range of Therapy Services throughout WA including regional areas. We also provide Assistive Technology and run a weekly drop-in clinic. If you’d like to know more about these sessions email: assistive.technology@visability.com.au