How did people cope before Google?**

Or more to the point; how did people cope before assisted technology?

This weekend just gone, I attended a conference with colleagues, part of the presentation was a show, bright lights, loud music, all contained in a large conference centre, with about 1700 other people.

Enough to put anyone with anxiety off!  So add to that my sight issues and ever changing hearing and I was in a total panic mode.  I had my faithful Fizz with me and some fabulous friends, so knew I would be well liked after.  But having been to a similar (yet different) event with the company in the summer, knowing more wasn’t helping to make me feel better.

This was a BIG event, there were lots of whispers about information that was going to be shared, I knew o had to be alert and listen, while also taking notes.

And this is where the assistive tech came into play……

Out of my bag came my iPad and headphones, just one placed inside my left ear and my voice over switched on and I was all set.

Since I was 6, I have been able to touch type, so could happily type as the various speaker talked, using the camera on my phone to photograph the PowerPoint slides I thought would be relevant …. Even though I couldn’t actually see them at the time!

I have said it before that “I am a Mac” but over the weekend it became so clear just how much of one I am.

I have many a ‘shortcut’ set up on both my phone (iPhone SE) and my IPad, so with certain finger taps or multiply finger movements I can easily move around.

The one that got a lot of whispers was the ‘screen curtain’.  For those who don’t need it, I guess it is a feature you don’t know about.

The screen curtain does exactly as it suggests, it puts a black curtain over the screen, or an easier way to explain it; it turns the screen off, without turning off or stopping you using the iPad.

This feature works hand in hand with Voice over as I have no need to see what I am doing as I am able to hear it all.  Also in a conference setting, where the lights are dimmed and others are sat behind writing notes, it saves the light from my screen being of a distraction or glare to them while allowing me to conserve battery.

It did cause no less than three people gently tapping me on the arm and explaining that my laptop seemed to be switched off.  So, with a quick three finger triple-tap the screen curtain was turned off and they could see my document, which often then led to “wow” or “aren’t you clever?”  But like I said above, it’s all just part of the tech and my ability to get the most out of such a conference as others.

Over the weekend I wrote pages and pages of notes, which I have since edited and corrected the odd predictive text issue and been able to recap on my learning.

The conference was much more tricky than I had anticipated, I didn’t realise just how much my hearing had changed from the previous 6 months.  I didn’t anticipate the eye atrain, ear ache and headache that I would suffer after four hours.  So much so, that in the evening instead of putting on my new posh frock, I got into my pj’s and curled up instead.  Knowing that Sunday’s training was almost twice as long!

The team around me were concerned about my struggles from the previous day, so arranged for me, Fizz and a friend to sit in a better position, much closer to the screens, yet further away from the speaker, so the presentation was clearer, and not as loud.

I felt very emotional and suppressed my tears at this act of kindness, they did not need to do this, yet they did and it became clear when I returned to the conference just the extent hey had gone to.  A member of staff met us at the door and walked us in moving us through the crowds and seating us, checking if Fizz needed any water or if I needed a drink or anything.  This biggest part with them making these adjustments for me was that they allowed me to have a friend with me, my colleague who I was sharing a room with, who was more than happy to take Fizz out for a walk and a wee or get me anything I needed or showing me where the toilets were.  This simple act allowed me to relax, to know that I was with someone I knew and trusted and that didn’t have to worry about a thing.

So at our next conference in February I shall be keeping a tally on how many comments and ‘gentle nudges’ I shall get about typing or pretending to type on a switched off iPad ….. Watch this space !!

The one thing that this weekend has shown me is how much I am loosing my control on my disability, how much it has changed and thankfully how much I am now surrounded by people that are happy to support me.

 

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