Wednesday 24 August 2016

The very smartphone that tells you what not to wear

Published 17/07/2014 | 02:30

Paraic Barnes
Paraic Barnes

An app that tells him what colour shirt he's about to put on is one of the practical ways technology helps Paraic Barnes manage since he lost his sight three years ago.

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The 51-year-old, from Ennis, Co Clare, lost all vision after his retinas became detached. Since then, he has gone from being a "total dinosaur" around technology to someone who embraces it to help maintain his independence in daily life.

Paraic, who is a civil servant, says a watch that speaks the time was particularly useful in the early days, while a simple voice recorder to record notes and reminders to himself was also helpful.

But it's his smartphone that has proven the biggest lifeline of all for Paraic, because it does everything from reading menus aloud to telling him what's on TV.

He says: "It's hard to overstate the extent to which I was a technophobe" prior to losing his sight - he was barely able to use voicemail. However, his phone has now become a one-stop shop that helps him do everything from waking up in the morning to reading him the news. Its colour identification app makes sure he can choose matching socks or a suitable shirt - and doesn't have to keep asking his wife and daughter for help.

Meanwhile, the phone's inbuilt digital scanner tells him what items are what around the home, using image recognition.

"This means I can avoid putting gravy in my coffee, or red wine in the fridge, or that I know I'm picking up deodorant in the bathroom," he says.

Paraic says the National Council of the Blind in Ireland has been brilliant in helping him to cope with the challenges of sight loss and their shops had a great range of gadgets, including light scanner pens that identify items via messages you record for each one.

"The main message here is that sight loss is a game changer, but all is not necessarily lost," he says. "With a little support from one's loved ones and something so innocuous as a mobile phone, it's possible to compensate and live a perfectly normal existence."

Irish Independent

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