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Technology helps visually impaired people live more independently

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Technology connects us in many ways. You can stay in touch with a friend across the country, you can hand select who you want to date, and you can even help a complete stranger with the push of a button.

The blind and visually impaired have developed codes to navigate through their days. In their closets, there may be braille tags, safety pin coding systems, or other organizational methods. They've also developed similar systems for money. All bills feel the same, so they may organize by folding the bills differently depending on their value or may use note identifiers.

Technology is working to make all of our lives easier. But for some, it's removing barriers to their independence.

"You're able to do things that you hadn't been able to do before," said Isaac Beavers, the Huntsville Regional Director for the Alabama Institue for Deaf and Blind. "And that's really the important thing; is that people be as independent as they can be."

Beavers said apps like Be My Eyes use volunteers to help visually impaired and blind people. The app connects people to sighted volunteers to assist with distinguishing colors, reading expiration dates, or navigating new surroundings.

"Really if you want to help people, this is a good way to do it," Beavers continued.

There are apps that do similar things, without volunteers. Microsoft "Seeing AI" app uses a talking camera.

Arash Irammanesh is an intern with the Institute.

"I have peripheral vision impairment so I don't see, you know, around me; I have tunnel vision," Irrmmanesh explained. "And I have dyslexia. So I cannot read text either," said Irammanesh.

He said the app keeps him from having to ask people for help.

"Unfortunately people will take advantage of you," Irammanesh added. "This is autonomy. It's for you to be independent and not depending on other people."

Beavers and Irammanesh said apps like these are helping people every day.

"It's kind of a great day technology wise to be blind or visually impaired, we'll love the day when the medical world is able to cure all the visual impairments that are out there, but until then we've got these great technologies that help us kind of level the playing field," Beavers said.

As technology continues to advance, Beavers says the biggest thing the blind, visually impaired, and others with disabilities are really ready for is self-driving cars.

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