Vision Australia is urging eye care professionals to educate themselves about the range of products and services available to assist people who are vision impaired.
Vision Australia Chief Executive Officer Gerard Menses said while the organisation does get some referrals from optometrists, “we would love more”.
“Ninety-five per cent of people (who come to Vision Australia) have some vision. We want to maximise that vision,” Mr. Menses said.
Mr. Menses said optometrists were often the first eye care professional to see people with low vision, but getting the message out about adaptive technology products was difficult.
Ninety-five per cent of people (who come to Vision Australia) have some vision. We want to maximise that vision
“This is technology they can be selling … this is material that they should be aware of,” he said.
Mr. Menses was speaking at the Sydney Texpo, hosted by Vision Australia in September. Texpo is a exhibition of the latest gadgets and services to assist people who are blind or visually impaired. It is an annual event, which also travels to Queensland and Victoria, attracting about 2,500 people nationwide. Products on show included magnifiers – both portable and desktop, some with built in illumination; glasses with magnifying lenses attached; talking watches; audio label makers; talking blood glucose testers; large button phones; sensor reading equipment that detects colour and contents; and large print keyboards.
The highlight of this year’s exhibition was the digital talking set top box, which will go on sale in Australia later this month. The set-top boxes, which are already being trialled in regional Victoria, provide synthetic speech descriptions of electronic program guide data, program information and menu options.
Vision Australia Advocacy Officer Susan Thompson said the advent of digital television posed real challenges for people who were blind or visually impaired.
“If you have ever tried to work a digital television with your eyes closed, you know its impossible,” she said.
Ms. Thompson said it was not yet confirmed whether the talking set-top boxes would be available under the federal government’s digital TV switchover Household Assistance Scheme, but she was “confident”.
Texpo also provided information on the range of services available, such as Braille Training, Children’s Services, Employment, Low Vision Clinics and Seeing Eye Dogs Australia.
Mr. Menses said he had often seen “tears of freedom” from people who were visually impaired, when they realised that products and services were available to help them.
“Something like not being able to read the newspaper has a huge isolating impact. People feel isolated, they lose their confidence … they stay in their home unnecessarily. With a little bit of effort, people can live very productive lives. We live in a world of information but only five per cent of that information is available in alternative formats. We help turn (the remaining 95 per cent of) information into accessible information. One of our goals is: ‘information anywhere, anytime’.”