Case Study: VisionBridge
My name is Julian Jackson, and I lost my sight in 2010 to a retinal inherited disease. I am the Founder and Director of an independent social enterprise “VisionBridge”. We advocate for eye research, promote eye health, champion innovation and facilitate disabled user access to appropriate assistive technology (AT).
We also like to think that we are the gatekeeper into the UK of only the most appropriate AT, an integral link in the feedback loop from AT user to tech developer and standard-bearer of best practice amongst AT developers worldwide seeking to gain exposure to disabled user groups and individuals.
We identified an alarming lack of awareness and understanding about AT for visually impaired communities and those with visual processing and associated sensory challenges) amongst eye health, allied health professionals, users themselves and the voluntary sector. There was also little knowledge about how to access such AT and where to receive advice, guidance and ongoing support for such a wide range of hardware, software solutions and Apps on Smart phones.
We have discovered a growing inconsistency across the UK amongst healthcare professionals and providers regarding their understanding of the “patient referral pathway” and therefore we plan to create a much shorter and straighter “line of sight” between disabled user and AT provider.
VisionBridge identified and engaged with a reputable, ethical and experienced leading distributor of AT in the UK, Sight and Sound Technology (SST). This collaboration continues to deliver (free of charge) online and interactive sessions about AT, featuring live demonstrations with lots of Q&A between the SST team and the session participants.
We maintain a great dialogue with AT developers worldwide, facilitating effective potential user feedback to these developers and ensuring that functionality, usability, ergonomics and price from the point of view of the user are all taken into account before an AT product is finally launched into the UK.
We are also supporting SST’s development of a “What AT” App for Smart phones which can support professionals in their diagnosis and help disabled users understand their symptoms and outline possible next steps and a signpost to SST if necessary.
Thousands of healthcare professionals, disabled users, carers and families and voluntary sector representatives continue to participate in online and interactive sessions about AT. There awareness and understanding is steadily rising about how AT can improve disabled users’ mobility and independence, increase confidence and connectivity, support educational and employment opportunities and strengthen mental health and emotional well-being.
Also, the development of Sight and Sound Technology’s “What AT” App is designed to provide greater understanding about symptoms associated with eye diseases, syndromes and conditions and indeed systemic diseases which may impact on sight, visual processing and other sensory capabilities. This App will offer users the opportunity to discuss a full range of AT with experts and will signpost users to voluntary organisations and support groups offering guidance on current research, treatments and counselling support if appropriate.
The eye and brain can be impacted by ageing, auto immune and inherited disease, gene mutations, infection and injury, systemic diseases, lifestyle choices and the environment and so much more. AT can mitigate these impacts and improve the quality of life for all and “Inclusive Communication” can help us all get there!
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