Technology in living and succeeding with sight loss

WCIT (Medicine and Health Panel) & Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers joint event, 13 June

The WCIT Medicine and Health Panel event held on 13 June and hosted jointly with the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers, provided an enjoyable interactive session highlighting the advancements in technology for visually impaired professionals. The session featured three knowledgeable panellists, each offering unique perspectives on the topic.

WCSM Past Master Ian Davies introduced the subject, highlighting the ever-growing population of visually impaired people and the importance of providing adequate tools to support their social and professional lives.

Keith Valentine, CEO of Fight for Sight, shared his personal journey of dealing with a family genetic degenerative condition. His insights into emerging technologies were both informative and inspiring. Keith highlighted how artificial intelligence (AI) can enhance daily tasks, such as reading documents and allowing him to query specific sections using his voice rather than having to listen to a line-by-line dictation. Although technology is rapidly advancing, “traditional” assistive companions (ably demonstrated by the beautifully behaved “Dotty”) are still vital for navigating modern day life.

Paul Ryb, an ophthalmic venture capitalist and WCSM Liveryman, discussed his own experience as a successful investment banker with an “almost perfect” life, who lost vision from sudden-onset dry macular degeneration at the age of 37. He emphasized the optimism and positivity required in such journeys and pointed out that while medical advancements may progress slowly, adaptive technologies are rapidly improving the quality of life for those with visual impairments in the meantime.

Glen Tookey, CEO of Sight and Sound Technology, explained how various tools and devices can assist visually impaired individuals in professional environments. He highlighted the marvels of modern smartphones, which can act as digital eyes, aiding navigation and accessibility. This together with other advancing technology have reduced the need for visually impaired individuals to carry bulky equipment to their workplaces.

Ian Davies from WCSM expertly moderated the panel Q&A session, ensuring an engaging and interactive discussion. Questions included how to deal with the challenges in using development environments (IDEs) by visually impaired developers. In response, the panellists stressed the importance of user-centric design and collaboration with other similar users.

The event concluded with a lively networking session bringing together a solid mix of interested members from both livery companies.

We fully expect the successful collaboration between WCIT and WCSM is to continue, with similar informative events planned in the future.

Panellists:

  • Keith Valentine – CEO of Fight for Sight
  • Paul Ryb – Liveryman and Ophthalmic Venture Capitalist
  • Glen Tookey – CEO of Sight and Sound Technology

Special mention to Paul’s assistive dog, Dotty, who also participated in the event and appeared to take a bow at the well-deserved applause.