Guest post by Danielle Gibbs

Why I’m Using OrCam In Graduate School

Prematurity, cataracts and a medical accident have left me completely blind in my right eye and legally blind in the left. As an avid reader who’s passionate about language and literacy, being unable to see well is difficult for me since I’m forced to read very slowly (only 6 to 10 pages an hour). My diminished vision also makes pursuing a degree particularly challenging due all of the reading and writing that’s involved. While studying for my bachelor’s in English and French I used only a dome magnifier and the magnification software that comes with Microsoft, both of which were ineffective and not terribly helpful in increasing my productivity. I ended up spending around twelve hours a day, on top of attending classes, just trying to keep up with the readings. Most of my papers contained more typos than was reasonable because the Windows magnifier didn’t allow me to see the spell check underlines. Vocational rehab services helped me get other assistive technology during my master’s program; which was a blessing as I was studying English and reading two novels a week. During this time I used ZoomTex and OpenBook. OpenBook, for those of you who don’t know, is a scan and read program. The program works well but there are several drawbacks. First, you have to have your computer and a scanner in order to scan pages, which greatly limits your mobility. It quickly got old trying to lug both my laptop and scanner around. The program also made it kind of difficult to read novels because it would garble anything within an inch of the book’s seam. It also wasn’t practical for trying to read things like magazines, newspapers, or any print that was not on a flat page. Now, while preparing for my second Masters, this time in ESL education, I decided to try OrCam. I have had my device for about two months and have gone through two fast-paced summer courses in school. The OrCam has been great. Not only does it scan more accurately than OpenBook, but it is far more mobile. It works well for reading novels, textbooks, and e-books (I use it with my Nook). I’m not limited to having to read at home, at my desk, and I can go to the library to do research without having to lug around a ton of tech. In addition, there tend to be a lot of forms for this and that while in school, and the touch reading feature of OrCam is perfect for filling out forms. I can orient myself around a page well enough to see where there are words and where there are lines, so it’s pretty easy to use the touch reading to read the words and more quickly fill out the forms. Although I had purchased the OrCam primarily to help me get through my school work more quickly and conveniently, I’ve discovered that it’s actually quite useful for completing tasks around the house as well. I use it to read the dials on my washer and dryer, to read business cards when I need to make phone calls, and even to read the directions on the back of packaged food. I had bought OrCam simply to read books for school, without any grand expectations of the devise actually being able to do everything that is shown in the demo video, partly because I don’t really need some of those features and partly because I tend to be skeptical. Therefore It’s been a pleasant surprise to discover that many ways that it has been able to help me in my day-to-day tasks and I’m finding the devise to be very useful.  
Daniell Gibbs Danielle Gibbs is a freelance writer who is currently pursuing a Master’s in education.    
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