Molly Watt: My Grandad and I both have progressive conditions. Mine is Usher Syndrome. His is ageing

Posted on April 27, 2017

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One thing most (god willing) I will not avoid is growing old! It doesn’t seem to matter how fit we are, ageing brings new challenges.

I have always had the best relationship with my Grandparents and since losing my Nannie 10 years ago I have grown particularly close to my Grandad and spend as much time with him as I can.  Grandad can be quite a grump but I love his wisdom and his belief in me.

The funny thing is although there are 55 years between us we have lots in common when it comes to how we get by on a daily basis.

Grandad is not registered deafblind but he relies on assistive technologies similar to what I do and he doesn’t even realise it!

Grandad has worn reading glasses most of his life and they have gotten more and more magnified as he has got older.

Grandad desperately needs hearing aids, he has his television so loud, he regularly mishears or doesn’t hear at all!  Grandad is in denial about his hearing and sees his glasses as ‘just glasses’ and not assistive technology – Grandad is in denial but then again, Grandad is 77 years old.

I have Usher Syndrome, I am deafblind, my disability is not dissimilar to the ageing process.  I certainly have much worse vision than my Grandfather and I wear hearing aids for my deafness and as a result I hear better than he does, but then again I am no longer in denial, I was for some time but not anymore, I soon learnt denial was only a comfortable place for a short time and not somewhere I could hide for too long.

I have been out to a restaurant with my Grandad, he has had to guide me safely to my seat, make sure I am sitting in an area with appropriate lighting and away from any direct bright light and then he has realised he has forgotten his reading glasses, disaster you may think but in actual fact I was able to read the menu to him.

You see, I am registered blind, however I have a tiny five degrees of sight in my right eye which could be compared to looking through a straw and for that I do not need glasses.  I do have good and bad days with it but on a bad day, if I was struggling, as menus can be hellish to read, I would take a picture with my iPhone and then zoom in. Glasses do nothing for me, but technology wins the day always.

This interesting comparison gets better as three Christmases ago we bought Grandad an iPad for Christmas, something he had insisted he was not interested in for many years.  He simply did not understand the capability of an iPad and I’m pretty sure this was down to his own silly pride that he thought learning to use if would be difficult and something he didn’t want to learn at his age!  Pride is a funny thing, especially male pride!

I set up my Grandfather’s iPad using almost identical settings to my own.  Large bold text with increased contrast, both zoom and magnifier on, vibration on and ring on high.

We set up an email address for him and an apple ID so we could download a few apps that he would possibly use.

I showed him how to use FaceTime so he could speak to my brother who at the time was learning to fly in Spain.  He couldn’t but agree that iPad was fairly straight forward to use and he liked that he didn’t struggle to read from it and that he could hear it if it wasn’t too far away from him, unlike his mobile phone!

In all I spent about an hour with him and his iPad.

I did not mention I had set him up the way I set up my own iOS products and as we all know ‘I have very specific accessibility needs.’

Grandad was happy to play with his new gadget completely unaware he was using so many accessibility features – I do wonder if I had told him I’d enabled certain features would he have remained in denial that he didn’t need this sort of assistance!

Since getting his iPad Grandad reads his newspaper on it, he checks share prices on it, he does crosswords on it, he books holidays on it, he researches things on it and something I really love is that he uses FaceTime to call me, in fact, we are more likely to get him on FaceTime than on his home telephone!

I live 200 miles away from my Grandad, and he’s not as mobile as he used to be, he has a bad back amongst other problems, all age related. Of course being deafblind and reliant on a semi retired guide dog my mobility isn’t the best so thanks to FaceTime I get to see Grandad so much more than I would without this enabling technology.

The question is, who is more in need – Grandad or I?  We both have challenges with our ears, eyes and mobility he is older generation and I am registered deafblind.

I have a progressive condition called Usher Syndrome, he has a progressive condition called ageing!

These comparisons made and the undeniable fact that in the main we are living longer, we are in an ageing society surely it’s time accessibility and usability were the first must haves in all web and app development and design?

It is fair to say you may not meet somebody with Usher Syndrome every day and may well consider the ‘Molly’s’ of this world are a minority this may well be true however, the ageing community is a serious majority and what is more the challenges I have highlighted above are challenges I have had to experience all my life, however, I hate to break it to you but without change and appropriate consideration given to accessibility and usability for all everybody will at some stage be affected.

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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