The following announcement is regarding the next phone meeting for the Philadelphia Computer Users' Group for the Blind. I am posting it to this list as
it may be of interest to some of you who use iOS. All are welcome to participate, even if you're outside of the Philly area.
Many of us are very familiar with using VoiceOver on our IPhone, Ipad or iPod Touch devices. As we become more confident with using these devices we soon
hear about useful apps which are not only popular with sighted people but specialized apps which benefit visually impaired users, such as money identifiers
like Money Reader, apps for scanning text such as KNFB Reader and Seeing AI and apps for reading books with Voice Dream Reader or BARD. However, there
are plenty of lesser known apps which some of you may find just as interesting or useful. These apps may not be generating the latest discussion on the
blindness lists but you may find them just as useful and interesting.
This will be the subject of our next phone meeting, scheduled for Friday, November 30 at 8:00 PM. Our guest presenter will be Glenda Such, who has been
working in the assistive technology field for over thirty years. In the 1990s she was a manager with AbiliTech's assistive technology department, which
is how I came to know her and, eventually, worked for her for several years. Glenda is a passionate iPhone user who has evaluated hundreds of apps and
is eager to share her knowledge with you, as well as answering your questions.
As an example, she will tell you about an app which can turn your iPhone into a distance magnifier, allowing a low vision user to point a camera at an
object and to have that object enlarged for easier viewing. You may have heard of apps to recognize your money but are you interested in an app which can
recognize different types of plants or flowers, such as its name, where it came from, its life cycle, and even a description about the appearance of its
overall shape, bark, leaves, pedals and seeds. Are you interested in finding out about an app that turns your iPhone into a fax machine? How about apps
which give time announcements, other than the typical Westminster chimes that you might regularly encounter? How about an app which lets you know how fast
you're traveling? Are you interested in apps which can translate from one language to another, including an app which will let you scan something in one
language and have the text translated into another language? How about a couple of apps for saving on items in stores as well as getting free things?
Glenda will tell you about them!!
To participate, the number to call is (712) 432-3900. When prompted for an access code, enter
followed by the pound key.
What follows is a detailed autobiography, composed by Glenda, so that you can learn more about her. The text is below.
I began in the field of Assistive Technology when it was not yet a field. That was way back in 1986. I started out not wanting anything to do with technology
because I thought it was yet one more thing I could not see. Then I was introduced to both Zoomtext and Vista and found not only could I see the characters
on the screen, I could see all my typos which I could never see when I used a typewriter.
I was hired to be the Human Subject Recruitment Coordinator at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry which is now Salus University. In my position of having
to find subjects, otherwise known as human beings, to be a part of research being done at the college, I had to access a massive database of all the patients
seen at the Eye Institute which is part of the college. I had to basically learn how to use two different database programs at once on my own. In addition,
I had to learn how to use the computer itself and then good old word Perfect.
Right at that time I had broken my foot and could not walk the mile I needed to walk to get a train from Bristol, PA to the Fern Rock Section of Philly
which is where the college was back then. My supervisor had a great idea, he arranged for my entire computer station to be brought to where I lived so
I could do nothing but figure out how to work the thing from my home, alone, but uninterrupted.
I found out during that process I had a knack for technology and figuring out how it works by trial and error. I can’t tell you how many times I had to
reboot and start all over again.
But, I was determined and learned to use DOS, Word Perfect, the database programs and all while using my assistive technology program of choice, Zoomtext
but with no speech back then.
I was so pleased with how empowering it was to have access to the features of a computer and a software program like Word Perfect. But, that was not what
drew me into the field of Assistive Technology, it was me wanting to show everyone who had vision like mine how they could see what they typed by using
Zoomtext or Vista.
I started to show some of the patients at the William Feinbloom Vision Rehabilitation Center at the Eye Institute, how they could also see print when it
was enlarged and enhanced by the assistive technology programs. The next thing I knew, I was now part of the Feinbloom services showing the access tool
to more than half the patients that were seen.
Also, while there, I was asked to start a new program called Senior net. It was a national program for seniors to teach other seniors how to use computers.
Because the Senior Net we wanted to start at the PA College would be for seniors with visual impairments or blindness, it was a given they would need someone
who would be able to teach the assistive technology used by Senior Net members nationally. To do that, I had to learn to use screen readers for not only
the DOS computers, but for the Mac computers because Senior Net was basically a Mac based operation.
I learned the assistive technology for both platforms and the most humorous thing happened on the first day of Senior Net at the college. The Center had
both DOS and Mac computers but on different sides of the room. The person scheduling classes did not understand the difference in the platforms and scheduled
the entire room with students for each computer DOS and Max alike.
When I came into the room and found students sitting at both sections, the DOS and the Mac sections, I thought to myself, you have got to be kidding me.
They want me to not only teach two different platforms at once to beginning seniors, but to teach them to use assistive technology at the same time to
people who had never touched a keyboard before in their life?
Well, I was determined to give it a try and to say it was a nut house would be an understatement. I would say to one group, now you do this, and then walk
five feet to my side and tell the other group to do that.
They got so confused who I was saying what to, they began to get louder and louder with their frustrations.
I have to tell you, if they thought they were frustrated they should have been in my shoes.
Needless to say, that was the first and last day that class met as one full unit. I had the person who did the scheduling form two separate classes, one
for DOS users and one for those using the Macs. To say the difference after that was like night and day, would be an understatement.
I taught Senior Net for around a year while I was now working on my Master’s Degree in the Education of the Visually Impaired. I decided to get that degree
when I found there was no certification or degree for me to get to prove I was qualified to do what I was doing with Assistive Technology.
I looked at different options and thought if I can get a degree in teaching the visually impaired children and teenagers, then that should say enough about
my qualifications to teach.
After completing the degree, I went to work at Handisoft which became AbiliTech. They were a small company that had left their affiliation with the University
of Pennsylvania to become an independent training facility.
I became the Assistant Manager of their Assistive Technology part of the company who service the clients who were funded by BVS or the New Jersey Commission
for the Blind. In that role I not only got to keep teaching people who had a visual impairment or blindness, I got to work with people who had all kinds
of disabilities effecting their ability to use conventional computers.
Again, I had to teach myself the ropes and that was a trying period of my career. I was learning new materials and how to master them only one moment ahead
of me teaching what I just learned myself.
I do have pity on those first few clients I worked with back then, they might have been served better had I seen them a few months later. I actually went
back and looked at what I had recommended for those first few clients an ear later and was relieved that what I recommended back then I would have still
recommended one year later.
While at Abilitech I had the opportunity to hire someone of my choice to work for a contract we were awarded by the New Jersey Commission for the Blind.
I thought I would take a chance and when talking with Blazie Engineering’s top tech support person, I asked him if he would like to come and work for me?
He thought about it and got back to me with a large “yes” and that is how I came to supervise David Goldfield.
David and I worked together for a couple of years before I was approached by Lighthouse International. They wanted me to take over their Assistive Technology
Programs and the new Customer Service Program for which they just got approved for funds from the Department of Labor in New York.
I accepted the position and became one of the Directors of Lighthouse International. Soon after I started, I took over the Vocational Skills Programs
and then the Academic Programs on top of the programs already under me. While in that position, I was given countless Kudos and opportunities to spread
my wings. I was able to keep some direct teaching responsibilities by working with the clients who were more of a challenge by their multiple impairments,
were politically or economically important to the Lighthouse.
I also was asked to be a part of the designing committee for a huge client service recording and tracking database. The Lighthouse was working with Microsoft
to develop a database that would be so holistic and yet intuitive in its operation, it could be sold to agencies across the continent. As a matter of fact,
it is the Client Management Database being used across Canada in their services of the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Doing that work was so interesting as I got to give input as a person with low vision about how things should appear on each and every screen. I Was able
to let them know how a print enhancing program would display the screens and how to make them easier to navigate with the print so enlarged.
While this all was happening, I was one of the editing staff and was also writing for the Lighthouse’s International publication for parents of children
who are visually impaired or blind. I wrote about the issue of how many teenagers with low vision are resistant to vision rehabilitation. I wrote about
how some teenagers with low vision might refuse to use a white cane and ways of getting them to change their mind.
As this was all going on and my days were filled to the brim, I was nominated to the Food and Drug Administration’s ((FDA) ophthalmologic Devices Panel
as the consumer representative. After several rounds of elimination of other national candidates, I found myself as one of the five finalists. I was interviewed
over the phone and had to show my knowledge of eye pathologies, the functions of the eye, past devices that had been used to help people see better, and
then my knowledge of medical jargon. To my surprise, I knew more than I thought. I won the consulting position and served on that panel for four years
while still working at the Lighthouse. While on the FDA’s Panel, I had to review the clinical trials of some very interesting proposed devices for all
kinds of visual needs. None of them were for people who were classified with low vision, they had minor visual problems that could be addressed by the
I had to read their findings which were between 300 and 800 pages long. I had them provided to me in electronic format of course. But I had to be able
to reference the huge document while at the FDA meetings. During those meetings hearings were held as well as presentations were made to our panel by the
manufacturers of the devices under review by us as a part of the FDA.
In order to be able to listen to the presenters or people giving their testimonies, and refer to the applicable sections of the clinical trial documentation,
I had to use my full arsenal of assistive technology. I had a portable CCTV, a laptop with both print enhancing software being displayed on a larger monitor,
as well as a screen reader, and had a notetaker and a tape recorder on the side just in case something broke down.
Because the meetings of the panels are videotaped and recorded for transcription to be posted onto the Internet, I had to have the CCTV to my side and
the laptop at an angle to allow them to see my face with the cameras. This was nothing short of a riot to see let alone use while under the pressure of
being an active participant. But, I did and had the most intellectually stimulating experience of my life.
After serving my term for four years, I went back to my basic responsibilities at the Lighthouse. This was until I decided to develop the first program
to teach people how to be Assistive Technology Specialists. I wrote the Assistive Technology Instructor Preparation Program, which taught the participants
how to perform assessments, make recommendations, and to be able to teach the most commonly used Assistive Technology for people who are visually impaired
or blind. The program ran for nine months and each week students attended classes for four of the five days. They were in class from 9 until 3 each of
I was told I created my own Assistive Technology boot camp. But, the graduates of that program told me years later how they were more than prepared once
they finished the program.
I left the Lighthouse in 2008 after they had lost several multi-million-dollar contracts to an agency that underbid them to win the contract. After a year
of no funding to support my position, I was let go and that was the end of my official career.
I moved back to live with my sister in Pennsylvania to help each other out. It was during that time I purchased my first iPhone.
I was amazed at my lack of interest in mastering the new device. I actually struggled to do the simplest tasks on the device.
Then one day I became interested in sitting outside and listening to music by an old favorite of mine from years ago. It was Doris Day who got me interested
in learning to use my iPhone beyond its phone functions.
I had been taking a class at the Bucks County Association for the Blind and the instructor kept saying how one day it will all click. She was right, it
was overnight that I went from being almost stupid on the device to being my old energetic self-teacher.
I learned about You Tube and found my Doris Day on my iPhone and listened to her singing while out on my front deck. I then wanted to share her music with
others and had to learn to do that and all the apps to allow that to happen.
At that point my light bulb not only lit up, it turned into a massive flood light. I became a true lover of finding and evaluating apps for my needs as
well as my friends. I could not go one day without exploring at least two or three new ones a day.
At present, I have only just under 300 apps on my phone. Many are redundant as I am still exploring their effectiveness verses their competitors.
That is who I am now, a tech person using the iPhone to do almost every task I have to do in life.
I am obsessed in finding apps for people I know and those students I assist in teaching at the same Center where I first struggled to learn the iPhone.
I would like to let you know that during this last part of my learning and using the iPhone, I became totally blind. I have a rare form of a disease that
normally does not cause total loss of sight. Because mine is so rare, I lost all of my sight around 15 months ago, in August 2017. I mention this because
this last change in my vision has given me the perspectives of not only someone who has low vision but as someone who has nothing but light perception
I hope what I bring to you during my presentation will be of good use or at least peak your interests. I made this introduction to who I am this long and
comprehensive for a specific reason. I would like you to know the path I took to get to this point with assistive technology, and also the wide variety
of experience I bring with me as I speak with your group.
Glenda V. Such, M. Ed.