THEY are devices that make the world, suddenly, make sense.
With a flick of a switch, a blind person can read the typed documents and bills that arrive in their mail box.
They can navigate the streets without having to read a map and find out what flavour of canned tuna they’ve pulled out of their pantry cupboard without having to see the label.
The annual Adaptive Technology Texpo at Albury’s Vision Australia office boggled the mind of even sighted visitors and was a revelation for those who suddenly have a way to do something they hadn’t been able to for years — like read a newspaper.
On one stand, Ann Eldridge from the Australian Lions Visual Independence Foundation, demonstrated a talking barcode reader.
The device means vision impaired people can avoid the horror stories that come when you’re not able to read a tin, box or bottle, like making coffee with Gravox, cooking a stew using dog food or washing your mouth out with Dettol.
It was a tool originally developed for blind American veterans of the Gulf War and has now been adapted to read millions of Australian products — a whopping 2.2 million items to be exact.
Giving another demonstration in the room next door was Lavington’s Barry Smerdon who has learnt to use a kettle that works a lot like an instant coffee machine, dispensing hot water directly into a cup with the press of a button.
He said using a normal kettle was fraught with trouble for blind people.
“I’ve had a few experiences where it hasn’t all gone into the cup, it’s gone all over the bench,” explained the Vision Australia volunteer.
“It’s a highly dangerous environment for a blind person to be in, pouring the water from a normal jug.”
Mr Smerdon, who slowly lost his sight due to a genetic eye condition, had the added challenge of explaining the product to a largely blind audience.
“I have one of the kettles at home so I tell them what colour it is and what size it is and explain the four buttons,” he said.