Sarah Matthews from South East London describes herself as a ‘very visual person’ before she suddenly lost her sight. She studied art and design at university, before going on to work as a freelance illustrator for magazines and newspapers, including the Guardian. However, losing her sight took that all away from her.
Sarah says that it was a real struggle adjusting to losing her sight, but that a big focus for her was being able to read again. She started by learning braille and trying various screen readers, as well as listening to podcasts about the assistive technology available to blind and partially sighted people. That is how she heard about the OrCam MyEye 2, a wearable device that uses artificial intelligence technology to read any printed text, as well as recognise faces, products, barcodes, currency notes, and colours.
Sarah says, “I was tired of having to rely on other people to come around and read letters or other printed documents for me, so I was really excited to be able to use my OrCam device to read by myself. Another goal I had set myself after losing my sight was to be able to read magazines again. I used to love reading magazines, particularly as I used to work in the industry, but after I lost my sight it became impossible. As soon as I got my OrCam device I started trying to read magazines again and now I can use it to read them cover to cover. One of my favourite things is sitting outside in the summer and reading a whole glossy magazine!”
She continues, “When you have had sight your whole life it is very difficult to adjust to suddenly not having any sight. My OrCam device has definitely helped me to adjust because it lets me do lots of things that I used to be able to when I had sight. My OrCam also lets me share experiences with people around me, like reading a football annual alongside my son and being able to share his enthusiasm as we read, or to help him if he gets stuck on a word.”
Sarah has looked into other technologies available to blind and partially sighted people, but was concerned about privacy and data security. “I love that my OrCam device doesn’t store any data about me or what I’m reading. It means that I can use it at work or in the library without worrying about data privacy, and I can also use it to read private documents like doctors’ letters that I don’t want anyone else to see.
Sarah has started working as a volunteer for a local charity called Listening Books, which provides audiobooks to people with a range of disabilities who struggle to read printed books, and is enjoying working to bring the joy of reading back to other people who have lost it.