Molly Watt: It’s wrong to assume all deaf people hear nothing and all blind people see nothing

Posted on April 18, 2016

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Molly Watt 1

We really need to get beyond the assumption that all deaf people hear nothing and all blind people see nothing.

There are those with no sight at all and there are people with no hearing at all, however there are lots of variations in between.

People born blind are different to those who go blind and the same with deafness, all need to be considered for accessibility.

I’m no expert, have just learnt these things since going from deaf to deafblind as a result of Usher Syndrome.

Being born deaf means I was brought up a visual learner and even though registered blind, not partially sighted, I choose to use my 5 degrees of useful vision to access information.

I accept that at some stage I might need to transition to voiceover, I am fortunate, I could access voiceover with my linx2 hearing aids, with my previous Phonak hearing aids I would not have been able to even consider using voiceover.

When you consider lots with Usher Syndrome in the UK will be using standard NHS hearing aids, many without direct bluetooth connectivity making voiceover a no no – this is one of many reasons why deafblind hearing aid users should have access to the best available assistive technology as using their eyes is not always an option, as may well become the case for me going forward, however at this time I choose to read text.

I continue to find accessing information online and using apps difficult as there remains insufficient accessibility features available to me.

The regular fob off is there is voiceover for the blind, not all blind use it and I am deafblind or there are captions for the deaf which are often too quick for me to keep up with.

It took forever for Facebook to get dynamic text as a feature, we are still waiting for a choice of colours and contrasts.  Will it ever come, who knows?

Just over a week ago I attempted to contact Waterstones Book Shop with a view to them stocking my children’s books and I was faced with this https://www.waterstones.com/help/independent-publishers/48impossible for me to read, colours made it completely inaccessible.  I’m told this matter will be looked into.  In the meantime I’ve had to have additional help, not quite how I want it to be at 21 years old!

Then last week LinkedIn. LinkedIn offer voiceover and nothing else, there is no dynamic text, no way of changing colours or contrasts or changing text sizes on their app.

It is possible to use the iPhone zoom feature – is it right to assume every LinkedIn user will have an iPhone?

I may well have Usher Syndrome which is a progressive condition without a cure, however, as people grow older they too begin to need larger text more choice in colours and contrasts, they do not just switch to voiceover.

The accessibility features I speak of would help huge numbers of people so why are these things not taken into account by developers right at the beginning?

Frustrating is an understatement for the way I feel. Sadly so much remains inaccessible and wonder when it will all change?

All I can do is hope access for all comes sooner rather than later!

Read more of Molly’s articles for Limping Chicken by clicking here.

Molly has Usher Syndrome and spearheads her own charity, The Molly Watt Trust, where she actively raises awareness of Usher Syndrome. She is Sense’s youngest Ambassador, a motivational speaker and avid blogger. Molly can be contacted via her new personal, accessible website www.mollywatt.com or her charity websitewww.molly-watt-trust.org

The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. It is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.

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