With my PhD submission getting closer this post discusses my experiences of getting the best out of the technology that I use and along with this finding the perfect sunglasses. You might think that PhD, sunglasses and technology don’t go together – I beg to differ.
With between 1 and 2 months until my proposed submission date writing is in full swing. I am finding myself spending 12 to 16 hours a day in front of my computer. This amount of screen time is challenging. While a good proportion of my ordinary working day is spent in front of a computer screen, I have strategies to make sure this amount of time is manageable. In this post I will explain why the writing up period is particularly difficult, give an overview of the technology I use and then reflect on strategies associated with the use of this.
For those who have not read my previous posts I suggest that you read the section called my vision. This will give you an insight into how I see the world and some challenges which reading, writing and the environment around me bring.Until recently I have been using assistive technology with some success. I have a MacbookPro and up until the end of last year used ZoomText and Dragon Dictate. On contacting the developers around some issues with stability of both applications on Apple hardware I was informed that both of these applications are no longer supported on OSX.
For those of you who do not know these applications, ZoomText enlarges the screen using an overlay system and offers speech of the text that is on the screen. Dragon is voice recognition software which allows you to dictate what you are writing. While Apple offers accessibility options as a part of their operating system that replaces most of the functions of these applications, there are certain aspects which are not as advanced in the accessibility features built into OSX.
As I have monocular vision with multiple complications this means that my sighted eye does double duty and gets “tired”. The term tired has multiple meanings, for example, my vision becomes more blurred as the day goes on and the muscles around my eye hurt. The glare from the computer screen becomes more irritating, and any fluorescent light causes a hazy environment with bigger halos around lights. The extra reading with my PhD has exacerbated the “tired eyes” to the extent that at the end of the day I read by the shape of words which makes proofreading a long and drawn out process. Furthermore, these symptoms cross over into everyday life, and I have found myself walking along a corridor with colleagues and walking into a door frame then tripping on a ledge.
On beginning my PhD I somehow overlooked the fact that undertaking this research meant more reading. In hindsight I was so enthusiastic about my topic that I didn’t even think about reading and writing but now reality has set in. Dragon would be particularly useful at this moment in time as I am writing up results and discussion and those who know me well, will also know that my grammar and spelling need a little polishing at the best of times. When using Dragon the voice recognition removes many of the spelling errors which is one less stress making writing and proofreading easier with less eyestrain.
One of the strategies I have been using to cut the glare is to wear fit-over glasses on top my reading glasses that filter the light making the screen and fluorescent lights less of a problem. Until I extended my time in front of the computer these worked very well. However, these glasses are not the best fit and finding others that meet the requirement (64% amber that fit over reading glasses) in NZ is near impossible. The more I wear these fit over the more the frame presses on my face causing skin irritation and blistering. As a result, I have been trying to get some clip-on glasses of this, but unfortunately, I have been unable to locate these in NZ. I have been able to find what I am looking for overseas but the providers often do not list the percent of light they let in making selection of the right clip-on difficult when using services such as AliExpress.
One positive thing to come out of wearing the over the top glasses for glare is that I am no longer embarrassed to wear sunglasses inside and I have expanded my range of sunglasses to cut glare to a light grey for indoors and a dark grey for outdoors. The only drawback of these is that they are non-prescription. However, they work well when I do not need to see details.In my research into sunglasses I have located a company that makes prescription wrap around sunglasses that fit snugly around my face cutting a lot of the glare. Even better these are polarized and available in progressive or bifocal glasses. The company which makes these Maui Jim is based in Hawaii and run their own lab to produce the prescription lenses. The frame which works best for me is called the Ho’okipa which are amazing to wear.
Another strategy that I use is to enable the speech on my laptop, but instead of having the computer read the entire screen I select the text that I want to read and use a key combination to start or stop the reading. This method means that I can target the information that I want read rather than waiting to hear the portion of the whole screen. The speech function is particularly useful in proofreading as it means that even if I am reading using the shape of the word there as an alternative audible backup which has proved invaluable thus far.
I hope that this post has given some insight, tips or tricks in both studying with a vision impairment and the importance of selecting the appropriate sunglasses.