Vision Australia Hour: Talking Tech

Andrew McLellan, 11th February 2016
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Each week Vision Australia Radio's Talking Tech takes you through developments in mainstream and assistive technology from the perspectives of blindness and low vision.

Experienced RPH broadcaster Stephen Jolley and Vision Australia Senior Adaptive Technology Consultant David Woodbridge catch up with the latest in the everchanging worlds of smartphones, tablets, smart watches, and the connected home, as well as assistive connective devices that present content in Braille, synthetic speech and enhanced print. 

They aim to cover the best topics of interest to people who are blind or have low vision, while providing perspective around these topics. One purpose is to save people time in finding out what is new or topical, and help outline technology solutions that may be of use in the home, work place or education setting. Talking Tech believes in spreading the word about how technology can assist in everyday life; by giving people up to date and relevant information, people can make informed choices.

They also have some fun discussions of accessible games, great audio described movies, and the fact that David needs to stop buying so many gadgets. We asked David why that is:

You're Vision Australia's Senior Adaptive Technology Consultant - can you tell us a bit about your day-to-day role?

My role at Vision Australia is quite diverse.  Besides being on the Assistive Technology Helpdesk to answer questions for customers of Vision Australia or the general community, I also have lots of other jobs.  I podcast on a regular basis, conduct research, evaluate new products, write fact sheets, participate in internal/external technology related projects, assist other Vision Australia staff, and speak about technology of relevance to people who are blind or have low vision in the media.

Had you appeared on radio before Talking Tech? What excites you about radio as a medium to communicate new things?

Besides my Talking Tech program on Vision Australia Radio, I have done interviews on other radio stations including 2GB, ABC, CoastFM963 (Gosford), 2RPH, and 4RPH. Radio to me is like podcasting, in that it is about being able to reach a wider audience. 

But unlike podcasting, I love the fact that you don’t necessarily need to have access to the internet to listen to a radio station, that you can use good old terrestrial radio.  I’ve always associated radio with up to date news, and the fact that most of the time you don’t need anything special to listen to a radio station (apart from a receiver).  So for me, the more people I can reach via a medium that most people can access, the better it is for everyone.

Has the introduction of smartphones and relatively ubiquitous internet access spurred rapid-development in technology that assists those of us that are blind or have low vision?

The increasing flexibility of smart phones and tablets (whether app or web based tasks) has well and truly opened up the world of “online” like never before.  What is very exciting is that main stream players are pushing the change more and more. It’s not just the assistive tech sector pushing it. This benefits everyone, not just a particular group. There is room for improvement, yes, but things are always getting better.

Many people may think the bulk of such technologies as primarily being based around text-to-audio or large text. What are some other styles of technologies coming into the market?

One of the very exciting categories that has been in the news for the last few years, but is gaining a lot of momentum, is the “connected home”.  Turning your lights on and off, your radios/fans/heaters on and off, answering/unlocking your front door, motion detection, checking the outdoor/indoor temperature, exercising, health monitoring and more will be done via your smart device. That’s truly fantastic for everyone.  This is mainstream technology that is of use to people who are blind or have low vision.

What future developments in these technologies do you think will have the biggest or most long-term impact?

I believe the “Connected Home” will have a huge impact on society as we move forward, particularly as our population ages.  Other technologies such as the self driving vehicle - who knows where that will take us, but these are very exciting times.

Would it be fair to say that one of the technologies that changed the lives of those living with blindness or low vision the most over the last century is the radio?

Radio to me and has always been the level playing field.  Because of its nature as audio, communication in this medium is a lot different from television.  In radio, you have to paint a picture with lots of words.  To me when access to the Internet stops for whatever reason – in an emergency, in a remote area - you always seem to be able to get the radio.

If there is a natural disaster, radio is the means of communication when everything else can’t be accessed. I’m sure lots of us remember listening to radio plays when growing up. It’s absolutely fantastic, as you’re participating in your mind. Like mainstream technology, (such as the “connected home”) radio by its very nature is of tremendous benefit to people who are blind or have low vision.

For CRN subscribers:

  • Talking Tech is a segment of Vision Australia Hour, broadcast/distributed by CRN Fridays from 09:04 to 10:00 EST/EDT, and is available for DDN capture
  • For more information contact CRN staff on 02 9310 2999 or email crn@cbaa.org.au

Not a CRN subscriber, but want to find out more about getting content like this for your station? Read more here.

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What else is there to hear each Vision Australia Hour?
  • Talking Vision: stories of inspiration and achievement from people living with vision loss, how one can access services from Vision Australia and how you can become involved in assisting Vision Australia to 'make a difference' for people who are blind or have low vision.
  • New Horizons: presented by Blind Citizens Australia to keep members and listeners up to date with what is happening within the organisation.
  • Talking Tech: takes us through developments in main stream and assistive technology from the perspectives of blindness and low vision.

Please see the bottom of this page for more details on receiving this program.

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