Skip to main content

Technology: a great leap forward in accessibility for people with vision loss

NextSense Access Technology Consultant Mike is blind, and trains and supports people who are blind or have low vision to achieve their goals through specialised assistive technology.
Mike Corrigan holding his iPad
  • Vision

It’s been more than two decades since Mike brought his passion for technology and accessibility to NextSense.

An Access Technology Consultant, Mike is blind, and trains and supports people who are blind or have low vision, and their families, to achieve their life or work goals through specialised assistive technology.

His interest in computers began early, when he learnt programming as part of his Bachelor of Commerce degree in the 1970s. He later went on to work in the technology and higher education sectors, and continued to build on his qualifications, particularly when independent access to information was made easier through new technologies.

Mike says it’s important to explore what his clients want to do, and then work with them to determine if there is a way to help them do this, or to do it more easily. 'Our sessions are very centred on the client’s goals. It’s all about them, not a uniform curriculum,' he says.

Many of his clients are keen to learn how to use a screen reader, which can be challenging as it requires getting the cursor in the right place while being guided by synthetic speech from their screen reading software.

‘If the only thing you’ve got is the last thing that’s been spoken, you’ve got to try to work out where you are on the page. That’s not an easy thing.’

The key, he says, is finding content that the person is interested in reading or editing.

One of his young clients is a keen cook, so Mike used that as a starting point to get him searching for recipes he could make at home with his parents. He has taught him how to navigate internet searches using his screen reader, skills which he has been able to generalise and apply to other interests, like travelling.

’He’s been able to generalise the skills he has learned in our sessions to explore things for himself.’ he says. He now uses navigation apps like Google Maps and TripView, which uses real-time data to view timetables and track services, to plan trips, and his family are enjoying the outings together.

Mike says it takes a lot of practice, hard work and determination, but often his clients underestimate what they can achieve.

People start off telling you that they aren’t sure how they will be able to adjust or learn how to use new technologies. But then they find out they are much better at it than they thought they would be.

— Mike, Access Technology Consultant, NextSense

And learning tips and tricks like keyboard shortcuts and commands, or knowing about new accessibility features of software, can make life and work much more efficient. When Mike was younger, he mostly had to rely on a limited supply of braille books and audiobooks to access information and literature.

But electronic refreshable braille displays, which are tactile devices that connect to a computer or smartphone, have opened up access to him and his clients, and are a key literacy tool for people who are blind.

Braille is more alive than it has ever been because you can access it now in so many different forms. And if you can read something, you understand how it’s spelt.

— Mike

Mike is often approached by developers and companies to test new products and software—such as wayfinding apps, websites and printed materials—identifying issues and making suggestions for improvements.

He says the pace of technology is astounding, offering more independence than ever before, particularly with the growth of artificial intelligence and apps that describe objects and products.

It has got him thinking about what kinds of technology he would like to experience in future.

'I can’t believe where we’re come even in the past 10 years. So, I think we can let our imaginations run wild with possibilities and some of them might come true. For me, I’d like something that could scan a room and tell me who’s there', he says.

Hear more from Mike on our podcast.

Listen or read the transcript.

Also in this section

Learn more about NextSense

Back to News and stories