In August 1999, while serving in the British Army, Mark Threadgold received a serious head injury during a work-related accident. The accident left him with severed optic nerves leaving Mark totally blind.
The hardest thing following Mark’s sight loss was coping with depression. Mark was going through a divorce at this time, so having lost his sight, he had also lost his job, his career, his home, and his family, and he could not see how he would ever regain his independence and have a normal life again. The care and rehabilitation provided by Blind Veterans UK equipped him with the skills and devices he would need to regain his confidence and independence, come to terms with blindness, and building a new life for himself.
Being an electronics engineer, Mark quickly became interested in the technology available to help with independent living. Although he has tried a range of devices to help with mobility, item identification and text recognition, he found that most of them did not really live up to the claims made in their marketing.
Although he has found a series of useful smartphone apps for satellite navigation as well as those for identifying things like currency and household items, he has found that text recognition using a smartphone is inconsistent and not particularly reliable.
Mark was offered the chance to try the OrCam MyEye by one of the rehabilitation officers at Blind Veterans UK, who was involved with the trial of OrCam’s introduction to the UK. “The tales of the speed, accuracy, simplicity, and portability of the OrCam MyEye seemed to be too good to be true, but the chance to try it out was a fabulous opportunity,” he says.
“Having been introduced to the OrCam, I was reading text from books, magazines, and household items within ten minutes. I was amazed by the simplicity of its use, and the speed and accuracy of the text recognition were far superior to anything I had achieved with a smartphone. The feature that recognizes your text is upside down and tells you to turn it around to scan it again made me laugh, but is incredibly useful. I have to admit that OrCam MyEye does actually do what is said it will do, and it does it very well!” says Mark.
The OrCam MyEye has given Mark the independence he was searching for. He uses the device to find the shops he wants by reading the signage outside to identify the particular shop, meaning he no longer needs to stop someone in the street and ask for help. He has also used the device to read the error screen displayed on his computer. Before the screen reader starts, the PC hangs and there is a screen telling you to select an action from a list. Mark uses the finger-pointing gesture with the OrCam MyEye to read the screen piece by piece until he finds it, allowing him to get the PC up and running again without having to ask a friend to come around and take a look at it. “The diversity of the uses OrCam MyEye can be put to in this way is fantastic,” says Mark.
Mark’s main use for the OrCam is in sorting and reading his post. “The speed and accuracy and portability means I can scan a letter and listen to it while I pour myself a coffee! The difference in speed sorting the junk from the relevant post compared with using the scanner on the computer is incredible,” he says.
Mark also uses the OrCam MyEye to quickly differentiate between tins of soup and fruit. “This means meals can now be less of a surprise if you have picked up the wrong one.”
One of the things Mark enjoys is using OrCam to read the menus in restaurants. “Although the typeface and lighting conditions can vary enormously, the OrCam copes very well with this and gives me the opportunity to look through it myself without asking for help. The unit is small enough to be carried inconspicuously and be used discreetly, which not only helps with independence but also means your differences stand out a little less."
“My parents helped me enormously in coming to terms with my sight loss, and have seen all my technology and devices come and go. When my father saw me working with the OrCam MyEye he said simply, “That is the best thing you have owned,” says Mark, “Yes; sums OrCam up rather well.”