Allan Mabert, from Essex, was diagnosed with Stargardts disease at birth, which caused him to have vision loss. His vision has deteriorated over the years to the point where he can now only perceive light. Throughout his life, Allan has had to make many adjustments to cope with his vision loss. The OrCam MyReader now plays a vital part in his daily life.
Allan heard about the OrCam by pure chance. He receives an Info Sound UK disk every month which is an audio magazine full of information about new products and services for visually impaired people. It was on this disk that Allan heard people describing the OrCam device. “What they were able to describe seemed incredible,” Allan said. He thought that if what they said about this device could be achieved it could be a real “discreet companion” for him.
Allan purchased the OrCam MyReader and tested the device out with many different texts. OrCam passed every test. “It was a worthwhile investment,” he says.
Allan does some public speaking where the title of one of his talks is “Blindness is No Laughing Matter – or is it?” Allan believes humour helps immensely with coping with vision loss. Often people will ask him what he misses the most about being not able to see, they usually expect that his answer would be driving or watching TV. In truth, the thing Allan misses the most is being able to read conveniently. “I think reading is compelling. So much so that if someone was in a café and there was no reading matter available to them, they would read the ingredients on the sauce bottle. Reading draws you in and allows you to get engrossed in the text.”
Although he is visually impaired, Allan has not let that stop him from pursuing a professional career. He considers himself fortunate because during his 40 years of working he has applied for 5 jobs and been successful on each occasion. Allan’s career path saw him work in local government, adult education and finally the charity sector.
Although he retired 5 years ago Allan is currently on the Board of Directors of Essex Blind Charity, which aims to improve the quality of lives of visually impaired people who reside in the county.
He recounts using his OrCam MyReader 2 weeks after receiving it to conduct interviews for the team leader position at the resource centre. He was the only blind person on the interview panel. With the help of the OrCam MyReader, he was able to read the resumes and applications forms of the candidates throughout the whole of the interview process. “It worked perfectly,” he said, “I had the same information as my two sighted colleagues. OrCam was my discrete helper. I would give it top marks for that.”
Allan uses every available format to pursue his appetite for reading, OrCam has now made it possible for him to speedily identify every book on the book shelves in his study. He has found many other uses for MyReader including identifying mail, receipts and invoices, financial statements and was delighted to discover that he could freeze the frame on the TV to identify written information. Allan says he wishes OrCam had been available when he served for 13 years as a magistrate in a London court, it would have enabled him to read court documents so much more conveniently and efficiently.
Allan also enjoys walking, tai chi, going to the theatre, and playing in a local quiz team. His OrCam MyReader comes in handy at the theatre because he can read the program right there in his seat instead of having to wait until he gets home.
Allan’s current hobbies are passive but it wasn’t always that way. When Allan was in his 20’s he really enjoyed sports. He represented GB in athletics in the 1977 European Games in Poland where he broke the world record for a partially sighted athlete in the 400 metres. He went on to represent GB at the 1980 Paralympics held in Holland. Allan says once again OrCam would have been so useful identifying and reading training schedules, events timetables and canteen menus.
Although he hasn’t had the OrCam MyReader for long, Allan is finding his own tricks to take full advantage of the device. During his years of study there were a limited number of accessible books available so he learnt Braille to widen his options. “If I had OrCam while studying in college or in my professional years it would have made my life so much easier and given me a greater degree of independence,” he says. Wherever he goes, Allan makes sure to take his “trusted companion” along. “I always have the MyReader with me because you never know when you will need it. Just to know I have it with me is comforting. The more I use it, the more it becomes a part of me,” he says. Allan is very happy with his OrCam MyReader and is looking forward to future features. “I hope they take what’s good and make it even better.”
Contributed by: Hannah Ziring, OrCam Community Manager