Recently joining the team at SSW is Alison Bates. Alison, who has a vision impairment herself, will be our new Tech Advisor.
Welcome to Alison! Here she introduces herself:
I am visually impaired having been born blind (congenital cataracts). I had surgery at birth to give some sight but at 34 I had a detached retina in my right eye which could not be saved with surgery.
I am married with two daughters, both of whom have the same eye condition as me. The oldest is visually impaired and the younger one is registered blind.
I enjoy live music, festivals and theatre, and I am really into the 1950s, especially the fashion. I also enjoy travelling and exploring new places.
I am really excited about the Tech Advisor role; I’m looking forward to getting to know our members and building great working relationships so they can get the best out of their technology and feel confident using their devices.
We’re highlighting our objectives for the year in a series of blog posts. If you missed the first one (about improving our communication with members) you can catch up here. In this one, we’re focusing on how we’re going to develop our technology for VI service.
We’ve been offering some technology products for VI in the last couple of years but this is an aspect of our services that we really want to improve. Part of that effort is to keep up to date with assistive technology, as well as other relevant technologies. It’s one thing going out and buying a stack of ‘things’ but actually knowing what’s on offer, how each item works, the benefits or drawbacks of each product and making sure we’re recommending and buying products that will not be obsolete within six months is crucial.
With that in mind, we’re actively researching and testing products so we have the best choices to offer our members.
Although our current team is excited about the prospect of learning more about technology for VI we’re aware that there are very few of us. For that reason, we’re recruiting both staff and volunteers who will be the ‘go to’ on VI tech issues. We’ll all make sure we’re up to speed but there will be specific people who are dedicated to assisting members make decisions about which tech to use, explaining how to use it and fixing problems, should they arise.
And it’s not just our people who will be key to this improvement; our Centre at Rowlands Road will be sufficiently equipped and resourced to provide training, tech support and guidance to members and guests.
Clearly, acquiring technology – whether for VI or otherwise – generally comes at a cost which not everyone is in a position to afford. The final aspect of our objective is to provide a loan-to-buy service for those who are unable to access devices on their own. This may be because cost is a factor but also because no-one wants to buy something that they not long after decide isn’t for them (but would suit someone else better). This format is perfect: try the product at home, and on a day-to-day basis (rather than just testing it in a shop or showroom) so you establish whether it’s right for you. When you decide it is what you’re after, there’s no need to hand it back, you just carry on using it seamlessly. We’re also securing discounts with suppliers so if you order through us or get a referral code, you’ll be able to make a saving on certain products.
We hope that our technology for VI service will benefit a large number of our members and, perhaps, make aspects of their life easier and more pleasurable. We’re always keen to hear from members (and their families, friends or carers) to understand how we can best support independent living but, more than that, enhance enjoyment and fun too. If you’ve got suggestions you’d like us to explore, please do get in touch.