My journey

October 9, 2017 5:52 am Published by

What was your first use of assistive technology?

I suppose if you want to get right down to it, my first use of assistive technology was the use of simple magnifying glasses, which helped a little, but I found them very tedious. I remember as a child and a teenager, only seeing a talking book reader once or twice, and I didn’t run into digital magnifiers and the like till I was in my 30s in the early 2000s

What made all the difference for you as a reader?

In 1983, I was assessed by Mrs. Violet O’Malley. I’ll never forget that day. I was shown magnifying glasses and lighting, and for the first time in my life, Large Print Books. For the first time, I met someone who really understood the trouble I was having. I was asked what I found most difficult. I told Mrs. O’Malley that I had a hard time taking notes from the board, that I found completing assignment on time was difficult, including tests, and that trying to read the small print in dictionaries was particularly difficult.

I was awestruck when she reached down into her bag, and produced a huge, red Merriam Webster LARGE PRINT dictionary. I had never seen a large print book before, and was surprised such a thing existed. She had me look up a few things and I recall her smiling as I looked up a few entries with delight. I kept the dictionary with me, using it through to the completion of my Bachelor of Arts Degree, many years later. In fact, I shared a rather close bond with that 12 pound red Leviathan…

As one can imagine, as a visually impaired child, I was the butt of jokes, practical, impractical and sometimes downright funny. But children can be cruel, and in grade 7, my dictionary had secured for itself a place on top of my English teacher’s filing cabinet. I would pop in and grab it as needed for other classes.

On one memorable occaision, I happened to enter the classroom while the teacher had stepped out for a moment. Seizing an opportunity to impress his fellow students, a large, scruffy 9th grade student (we’ll call him “Dumbass”) grabbed me by the throat, pinning me to the blackboard, and lifted me off my feet. Gasping for breath, and unable to fight back, I reached for the dictionary atop the filing cabinet. I brought it down as hard as I could on that Troglodyte’s skull. In an instant, I was free, my opponent lay stunned on the ground. I had my book, and exited – quickly.

Back to our story…

At the end of our session I had a magnifying glass to help with fine detail, a seat at the front of the class so I could see the board, help copying notes if I needed, extra time for tests and assignments, and the best gift ever – that huge red Large Print Dicrionary. Then Mrs. O’Malley she asked me what types of books I liked to read. I told her, and a week or so later came the first Large Print library book I ever read: “Misty of Chincoteague”. A number of years ago, I took the dictionary to my local CNIB Office in Saint John, NB. I asked that it be provided to a student who needed it.

I was shown my first digital video magnifier around 2004, but did not get my first one till 2010, when I needed it for school. It has, like the dictionary before it, proven invaluable – and I depend on it so much, I bought a second one as a spare. I use it to read labels, receipts, books, virtually anything printed. I am also an avid collector of art and antiques, and the device has proven invaluable.

Finally, there is my Victor Classic DAISY Player. Thomas Jefferson said it best when he wrote “I cannot *live* without books.” How true that is. My grandmother, Ethel Parlee (1905-2009) had been a schoolteacher, and in the twilight of her career, had been a Vice-Principal. She taught me to read when I was 4. Her gift of literacy is the greatest gift I will ever receive. When Glaucoma took most of my sight in 2009-10, I was devastated that her wonderful gift had been ripped from me.

In 2015, I found my Victor Classic Talking Book Reader in a local thrift store. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but I remembered hearing “Victor” and “DAISY”, in conversations with some blind friends. I texted a blind friend who confirmed that the object was in fact a Talking Book Reader. I bought it, called my local CNIB office and arranged to get a power supply. Then I called and got setup to use the CNIB/CELA Library services. That was 2015. I hadn’t read a book in 6 years. First book I read? Well, it was October of 2015: ‘Salem’s Lot. I’ve barely slowed since then. There are simply no words that can express what that device has meant to me. I can’t help but think Ethel ‘s hand was guiding me that day in the dusty thrift store. Her gift. Returned to me.

What was your first experience of a library?

Probably my first experience was my own school library. I remember it being full of those old pulp novels from the late 50s and early 60s. I loved the bright, covers. You’d see a cheap paperback about Flying Aces of World War One, with this great line illustration and an almost psychedelic gauche. I love those covers. The library itself smelled of wood and leather and old paper. Gum under the desks, warm sunlight streaming through the window, illuminating art projects from our elementary grades. And Ruth Thompson watching over us.

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This post was written by Scott Rinehart