Independence Is Only One Device Away

Gaining and maintaining your independence as a person who is blind or visually impaired can be both expensive and cumbersome. Adaptive devices are often very expensive because they are made for a niche market. They are not made for multiple tasks like a Swiss army knife. Each device does what it does; each enhancing your independence gadget by gadget until we need ten different gadgets for ten different tasks. It has only been within the last seven or so years that being independent has not required the purchase of a money identifier, a GPS, a digital book player, a color identifier, a hand-held magnifier, a bar code reader, a document scanner, and on and on.

Today, each of those tasks, and many more can be accomplished using software applications downloaded from the internet. Using a single device such as a smart phone or electronic tablet, we can accomplish many independence-related tasks through a single device. Other apps already on the device at the time of purchase such as timers, calendars, contacts lists, calculators, and voice memos can enable even more independence. What is even more impressive about the majority of the devices made today is that they have speech synthesis and screen enlargement options built into the mainstream products. Devices can be purchased from mainstream retailers for the same price the general public pays. These new devices and the apps they run are less expensive than the thousands of dollars individuals who are visually impaired would have had to spend on multiple gadgets. Unfortunately though, these devices are still several hundred dollars and still unaffordable for many living on a fixed income.

PCB recognizes both the power of these new devices to enable independence and the prohibitive cost of them. In response, PCB will be launching a pilot program that would recycle pre-owned devices such as iPhones, iPods, and iPads, and get them into the hands of individuals with visual impairment or blindness who cannot afford such devices. The project called “iDevices for Independence” will begin with a pilot phase of four iPhones. We will use the pilot phase to work out processes and determine the true feasibility of operating such a project on a larger scale.

Once an iDevice is donated to this project, it is wiped of all previous data and updated to the current operating system. Independence-related apps such as money, color, and object identifiers, text reader, on-demand sighted assistance, light detector, and video magnifier will be loaded. Additional apps from ACB, NLS, Newsline, and iBlink Radio will also be included. Devices will also retain the pre-loaded apps described earlier. Each device will be preset so that either VoiceOver (speech) or Zoom (enlarger) is running when it is powered on. A power cord, very basic instructions for using the device, and a resource list for acquiring more knowledge will accompany each device.

Anyone wishing to receive a device from the iDevices for Independence project must complete an application. Submitted applications must include the $30 processing fee, verification of visual impairment, proof of financial need, and the completed application packet. Please download the application from the PCB website at: or call the PCB office at 877-617-7407. Applications for the pilot project should be received on or before September 1, 2016. If you have questions, please email or call the PCB office.

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