April Newsletter 305.

Amazon Alexa launches ‘Call RNIB helpline'

Amazon is launching the ‘Call RNIB helpline’ Alexa skill, which is one of the latest Alexa functions following on from a collaboration with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). Users who need the service simply need to say “Alexa, call RNIB helpline”. The helpline opening hours are Monday – Friday 8am-8pm; Saturday 9am – 1pm. Between these hours, an RNIB advisor answers the person’s call and offers support to those who need it. The RNIB helpline helps people with sight loss, and those who support them, with a range of services. This includes advice on issues like employment, education and technology, and support to adapt to life with sight loss by way of peer support and counselling services.


10 tips for managing wet age related macular degeneration (AMD)

Use good lighting. 2. Introduce contrasting colours. 3. Create large print labels and use self adhesive stickers. 4. Clear away clutter. 5. Embrace technology. 6. Give up smoking. 7. Eat a balanced diet. 8. Exercise regularly. 9. Protect your eyes outside. 10. Keep an eye on changes to your vision.


Blind and partially sighted students are struggling to access online exams


Spotlight on glaucoma

Glaucoma describes a group of eye conditions. It is a progressive degenerative disorder that affects the optic nerve at the back of the eye. This is the nerve that leads from the eye to the brain. Once it gets damaged in glaucoma, it results in loss of the visual field. In short, glaucoma causes irreversible loss of vision.

 Around half a million people suffer from glaucoma in the UK. Those who have it bad enough can get registered as sight-impaired or severely sight-impaired. As many as 10 per cent of those registered with a visual impairment have glaucoma. The figures are about two per cent of those over 40 and about 10 per cent of those over 75.

Glaucoma is an eye disease that can affect people at a very young age or even right from birth, though this is very rare. However, the biggest risk factors is age. The NHS in England currently offers free eye examinations every year to anyone who is over 40 and has a first-degree relative, a parent, child or sibling with glaucoma, is entitled to free eye examinations every year.

It is important to be tested for glaucoma because people are may not know they have glaucoma because it usually starts with the loss of the peripheral vision


5 Causes of deteriorating vision

The experience of deteriorating vision is particularly worrying, especially when you do not know the cause. Some people have bad eyesight from childhood, whereas with others, it can develop over the years. If you find that your vision is getting worse, then you must pinpoint the reason as soon as possible, as some causes are more serious than others. Whether your vision has been deteriorating for some time or you experience a sudden loss of sight, here are five possible causes: 1. Old age. 2. Cataracts Amblyopia 4. Injury 5. Myopia

Further details here: https://www.bigeasymagazine.com/2021/03/18/5-causes-of-deteriorating-vision/

New artificial intelligence (AI) makes news and entertainment accessible to those with sight loss

A new artificial intelligence (AI) personal assistant for blind and visually impaired people will, for the first time, make news and entertainment accessible. Developed by accessible solutions specialist RealSAM, the new Smart Speaker solution brings previously inaccessible news and entertainment content to its customers.

The speakers can provide news updates, over 27,000 books, the latest official coronavirus information podcasts, and helpful information from a range of UK sight loss charities all on the one platform.

According to RealSAM, the Smart Speaker was trialled extensively ahead of launch by members of the blind community.

As the first accessible hub tailored for those with sight loss, the RealSAM Smart Speaker is a voice-controlled media player tool that, once subscribed to, is available to use on customers’ existing Google Home

Devices from today and on existing Alexa devices from May 2021.

Calibre Audio – a national charity providing an audiobook service for anyone with a disability that makes reading print difficult – will also be accessible via RealSAM. This makes it the UK’s first audiobook library for blind people on smart speakers.

Subscribers to the platform will get access to the latest Calibre book releases, which can include books released on the same day as the print version. The Calibre collection with RealSAM is split into 69 categories including classics, biographies, crime and popular fiction.

Further details including the subscription cost can be found here: https://thiis.co.uk/new-ai-tech-makes-news-and-entertainment-accessible-for-end-users-with-sight-loss/