Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2024: Putting Accessibility Into Practice

Sharing Stories and Busting Myths from Across The Blind and Low-Vision Community

May 17, 2024
Montage of the four Envisoner's who have shared their personal stories on the occasion of Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2024: Shawn, Vicky, Wes, Fernanda and Dave.3

To celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we’re sharing personal stories from across the Envision community of the transformative power of assistive technology, especially AI, while busting some of the common myths and misconceptions about the needs of people who are blind or have low vision. 

Dave Wilkinson

Dave Wilkinson, supported by Envision, will soon be the first person who is blind or has low vision to complete Race Across America solo on a tandem bike. He discusses how artificial intelligence and tools like the Envision significantly improve his autonomy by providing detailed descriptions and immediate feedback on his surroundings, allowing him to make informed decisions independently.

Dave also stresses the importance of personal space and consent, urging others not to assume the need for help or invade personal boundaries without permission. He clarifies that he, like anyone else, will ask for assistance when necessary, advocating for respectful interactions.

Fernanda Silva

Fernanda Silva, an entrepreneur, financial strategist, and mother of three, shares her inspiring journey of overcoming vision loss at the age of 19. Despite the challenges, Fernanda pursued her dreams with determination, becoming a successful entrepreneur and a devoted mother. She emphasizes that being blind doesn't mean constantly needing help, and she values respect for her independence above all. Fernanda's message is clear: people who are blind or low-vision can lead full, independent lives and contribute significantly to society when given the right tools and respect.

Fernanda highlights the role of assistive technology, specifically her Envision glasses, in her daily life. Referring to them as her "digital eyes”, they enable her to manage complex financial documents, run her startup company, and care for her children. They enrich her everyday experiences by describing the world around her, making each moment unforgettable. Fernanda's story underscores the transformative power of technology in enhancing accessibility and inclusivity, advocating for a world where technological advancements open doors for everyone.

Shawn Keen

Shawn Keen, who recently joined Envision’s US team, has been blind since birth and is passionate about using and teaching assistive technology. In his daily life, Shawn relies on assistive technologies, including the Envision Glasses, for various tasks, from getting ready in the morning and distinguishing between products to reading mail, and presentations, and using his computer. His integration of these tools highlights the importance of accessibility in enabling independence and productivity for people with disabilities.

Shawn emphasizes that individuals who are blind or low vision individuals are the same as anyone, primarily for a normal, independent life. He points out that life goals are the same too, such as having careers, families, and enjoying life. 

Wesley (Wes) Ramage

Wes Ramage from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, shares his positive experiences with Envision and AI technology in celebrating International Accessibility Awareness Day. He highlights how Envision, and its use of generative and conversational AI, has enriched his ability to perceive and interpret the world around him. A particularly memorable experience for Wes was using the Envision glasses' "Ask Envision" feature to receive an accurate description of a train traveling through a wintry landscape in Southwestern Ontario. This technology, while not replacing human judgment, significantly enhances his ability to navigate and engage with his surroundings. Wes is optimistic about the continued advancements in AI and its role in his life.

Similar to Dave’s advice on respecting people’s personal space, Wes emphasizes the importance of respecting everyone’s autonomy. He advises that assistance is appreciated by people who are blind or who have low vision. He encourages people to wait for individuals to ask for help unless they seem completely lost and unaware of others around them. Simply saying hello and offering help when necessary can be a great way to provide support. 

Vicky Cardona 

Vicky, who is well known to the Envision community, emphasizes the crucial role of accessibility in her life, especially as someone who is totally blind. She highlights how assistive technology, particularly AI, allows her to access important details and perform everyday tasks independently. Vicky acknowledges the significant impact these tools have on her quality of life and independence, from identifying people and scenes to reading distant signs. Despite the advancements in AI, she asserts that it cannot entirely replace human assistance and expresses gratitude for the support she has received from others over the years.

Addressing common misconceptions, Vicky clarifies that while blind individuals often appreciate assistance, it should be offered respectfully and not imposed. She prefers being asked if she needs help rather than having someone assume control, such as by grabbing her shoulder or speaking for her. Vicky's insights reveal that the needs and preferences of people who are blind or have low vision vary, and it is important to respect their autonomy and ask before offering assistance. She advocates for a balanced approach where help is available but not forced, ensuring that individuals can maintain their independence and dignity.

Join the discussion - LIVE

Do you have a story to share, a myth to bust, a question to ask or simply want to be the first to find out what’s brewing in the Envision AI labs? Then register today for the next Envision webinar on May 30th, 6:00 PM CET / 5:00 PM GMT/ 12:00 PM (noon) EST / 9:00 AM PST using this link