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Conference Roundup
Inherited Retinal Disease

Power of inclusive technology underscored at VISIONS 2024

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During the opening session of Foundation Fighting Blindness’ VISIONS 2024, a panel of tech leaders with visual impairments shared their experiences with groundbreaking technologies that have significantly enhanced their daily life. These innovations, ranging from AI-powered apps to universally designed wearables, highlight the potential of inclusive technology to transform lives.

Rebecca Rosenberg, founder and CEO of ReBokeh, who has low vision as a result of albinism; John Samuel, co-founder and CEO of Ablr, who has retinitis pigmentosa; and Mike Hess, Executive Director and founder of the Blind Institute of Technology (BIT), who has been legally blind since childhood, discussed how these innovations, ranging from AI-powered apps to universally designed wearables, highlight the potential of inclusive technology to transform lives.

Seeing AI: Empowering Independence

Seeing AI is an app that uses artificial intelligence to provide real-time audio descriptions of the surrounding environment. This app allows users to independently navigate restaurant menus and make informed choices without relying solely on others. The power of Seeing AI lies in its ability to bridge the gap between visual and auditory information, making the world more accessible to those with visual impairments.

RayBan Meta Smart Glasses: A New Frontier in Wearable Tech

Panelists were also excited about RayBan Meta smart glasses, which integrate advanced AI to provide audio descriptions of the user’s surroundings. With a simple voice command, users can capture images and receive instant feedback on what the glasses see. This technology exemplifies universal design, benefiting not just those with visual impairments but anyone looking for enhanced situational awareness. The discreet integration of microphones and speakers ensures that these glasses remain stylish and practical.

Eone Bradley Watch: Timekeeping for All

The Eone Bradley watch, a timepiece designed for universal accessibility, was also highlighted. This tactile watch allows users to tell the time by touch, making it suitable for both visually impaired and sighted individuals. The watch’s design emphasizes inclusivity, reinforcing the idea that accessibility can be seamlessly integrated into everyday objects.

Books App: A Gateway to Knowledge

Ms Rosenberg introduced the Books app, preloaded on Apple devices. This app, which supports a variety of text formats including PDFs, has been a game-changer for Rebecca since her school days. The ability to adjust font sizes and access clean, readable versions of textbooks and other materials has made learning more accessible. Ms Rosenberg also highlighted Siri, Apple’s voice assistant, which was initially designed for visually impaired users but has become an indispensable tool for many.

Building a Supportive Community

Mr Hess also underscored the importance of resilience and leveraging one’s unique experiences to excel in professional environments. He encouraged employers to be intentional about creating inclusive workplaces by ensuring that their software and tools are accessible. This proactive approach can make a significant difference in the employment prospects and job satisfaction of visually impaired individuals.

Mr Samuel concluded with a powerful message about community and support. He emphasized the importance of connecting with others on similar journeys and helping those who are new to the challenges of visual impairment. Sharing experiences and offering guidance can significantly enhance the sense of belonging and empowerment within the visually impaired community.

The technologies and initiatives discussed in the presentation underscore the transformative potential of inclusive design. By creating products and environments that are accessible to all, we can build a more equitable and supportive society, the panelist emphasized. The advancements in AI, wearables, and collaborative efforts demonstrate that when accessibility is prioritized, everyone benefits.

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