‘I no longer need a magnifying glass’: a visually impaired travel writer tests an app that ‘reads’ for him

What do you think about could be an important issues to pack should you’re a visually impaired man with nearly no pores and skin pigment, who’s about to go to a nation the place the temperature is usually about 35C?

If you’re considering: sun shades, long-sleeved shirt and solar hat, then good, we’re just about aligned on this. But I’d be stunned should you’d stated that what I additionally required for a week-long work journey to Lebanon was a giant tube of business power numbing cream.

Well, expensive reader, that’s what I ended up bringing with me to Beirut, as a substitute of the sunblock I’d meant to take.

Such are the perils of a) being in a hurry on the pharmacy in Gatwick airport’s south terminal and b) having a visible incapacity as a results of albinism.

As a skilled travel journalist for the previous 20 years, you’d be proper to imagine that I may be a little bit extra, nicely, skilled about my packing. But, as my bylines for travel tales in numerous newspapers and magazines accrue in quantity, my imaginative and prescient has solely gotten worse.

Albinism (which leads to being exceptionally shortsighted in addition to having little or no pores and skin pigment) is an unchanging situation that individuals like myself are born with. But the nystagmus that comes with my pressure of albinism (known as “ocular”, should you should know) does worsen over the many years. This means that, for me, studying small- and even medium-sized print lately is a problem that can lend itself to disasters equivalent to shopping for numbing cream as a substitute of sunblock, to the hilarity of my fellow writers on the journey to the Middle East.

Case study Rob Crossan has a degenerative eye condition, and can only see about 30% in one eye.
Quote: “Reading small-sized print is a challenge that can lend itself to disasters”
Pins on a map

Apart from utilizing display screen magnification software program on my ageing laptop computer, I don’t go in for a lot of assistive expertise in my life; even much less so the tech that’s engineered for people who find themselves blind or visually impaired. I imply, enjoying audiobooks is a traditional instance to me of how the “normally” sighted are actually commonly utilizing tech that these with worse imaginative and prescient have lengthy been accustomed to.

Since I downloaded the Microsoft Seeing AI app although, it’s making life a lot simpler for me in pharmacies; locations the place studying a label had appeared to me to require eyesight powers better than the Hubble telescope.

Haleon (which owns on a regular basis well being manufacturers equivalent to Aquafresh and Corsodyl toothpaste) has teamed up with Microsoft, and now offers labelling particulars on the app for its merchandise. When I decide up what I hope is the oblong field that comprises toothpaste, I can, by merely holding it in entrance of my telephone display screen, get the data on what model it’s. The app may even learn out key particulars concerning the product, such because the substances within the toothpaste, or, within the case of painkillers, the dosage directions.

My days of taking an old style magnifying glass into a pharmacy and squinting within the method of a waning non-public detective are, I’m sure, over for good. It nearly goes with out saying that, as a man in my 40s, it’s changing into increasingly vital to actually know what I’m shopping for, and to chorus from reverting to my teenage maxim of “if it’s roughly something I can use, then my shopping trip wasn’t a disaster”.

Rob using Seeing AI

Now I’ve extra weak and delicate tooth, for instance, I actually do wish to purchase Sensodyne and never simply randomly seize no matter is on the closest shelf to my left hand.

So what I – and I think many different people who find themselves blind and visually impaired who use the Seeing AI app – am getting, is one thing that could seem easy to these with full imaginative and prescient however has been a lifelong chore for me: specifically I’m now in a position to purchase the product I need with out having to ask the store assistant (who isn’t inside 80ft of me in my expertise). It additionally means I don’t go house with a toothpaste, deodorant or cream that I by no means wished within the first place.

Of course, what I’d actually like is an app that will help me learn the ridiculously small menus that are positioned someplace close to the ceiling in late-night takeaways. I’m a bit tired of at all times ordering veggie burgers, as I merely have no concept what else is on supply, except a good friend is with me to translate the true element of the deep-fried delights I hanker after at one within the morning.

But, in reality, I’m quite glad that apps to help me with toothpaste and on a regular basis well being merchandise quite than takeaways are in my life. Because getting the flawed type of chunky chips is simply a mere hiccup in contrast with travelling to the Levant with nothing to guard my pores and skin however numbing cream.

Find out how Haleon is making healthcare labelling accessible for all. Download the Microsoft Seeing AI app for free from the Apple App Store

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