The Onboard Equipment Specs for a Deafblind Traveler
This is just for fun, but Nik and I were recently laughing at all the equipment I carry around as a deafblind person and decided to make an infographic. Of course, MY equipment and needs are going to be different than others, but these are my specs, to give you an idea of the things I use to get around. These are the things that more and more, I don’t leave home without. The photo below shows a picture of me standing in front of a dark background. My guide dog, a yellow labrador, is on my left. I also have various equipment in my hands and around my neck. The explanations of the equipment follow the picture.
The Well-Equipped DeafBlind Traveler
Item: Bluetooth Compatible Hearing Aids
Specifically: Phonak Naida Behind the Ear Hearing Aids
What they do: They amplify sound, but they also attach via bluetooth or FM to my com device (more on that below) and my smart phone. They make some level of communication with others and using voiceover (when your phone or computer read to you aloud) and listening to music possible for me. When I take them off, I can hear very little. People would have to talk directly into my ear.
Item: Bluetooth Com Device
Specifically: Phonak ComPilot with a Roger FM receiver attached.
What it does: This is sort of the intersection of all devices having to do with my hearing aids. I can connect my smart phone to it and listen to music or media, use voiceover, or whatever sounds the smart phone makes, I can hear it directly into my hearing aids. That way, I can control the sound with my hearing aids, which is much more precise for my hearing loss. And it also cuts out on ambient sound. It can also hook my hearing aids to a computer, TV and anything that has a headphone jack. I can also use it to talk on the phone, though this is very cumbersome so I don’t do it that often. In addition, it can receive input from my external mic (more on that later.)
Item: Refreshable Braille Display
Specifically: Freedom Scientific Focus 14 Blue
What it does: It can connect to a computer or a smart phone via bluetooth. Using the same navigation system as voiceover, it “runs” your smart phone like an external keyboard can. You can then read what your smart phone is doing by putting your fingers on the Braille display. It is meant to be worn around the neck in this manner so that you can use it while on the go. You have to have your smart device with you, but you don’t even need to take it out of your bag or pocket. This is good if you are using your smart device for GPS navigation or if you are using it to communicate with a hearing person who you are having trouble hearing. (more on that later.)
Item: Guide Dog
Specifiically: This is Marra, a mostly Yellow Lab cross from Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind in Smithtown, NY
What she does: She does NOT read streetlights or know where I want to go. She does listen to my commands and navigate me around obstacles. I have to take care of the macro traveling, but she maneuvers around the micro obstacles. In terms of deafblindness, she also is another input to what is happening in your environment. By paying attention to her behavior, I can tell if someone is approaching me, if it is someone I (she) knows, or if something strange is going on around me that I need to figure out. She is also cute and sweet.
Item: FM/Bluetooth External Microphone
Specifically: Phonak Roger Pen
What it does: This little handy external mic can link directly to my hearing aids via FM and Bluetooth. You have more range and some more flexibility with FM, so it is nice to have that option. I can put the mic on a speaker in a large lecture hall type of setting, hold it towards something or someone I want to try to hear better, set it in the middle of a table in a meeting, or even hook it up to things with headphone jacks. It also can work with assist listening devices at movie theaters and concert halls. It can also be used to talk on the phone, but again…cumbersome. It can me set to be mono or omnidirectional. It can even help me identify where that strange sound is coming from in my house so I can turn it off and go to sleep at night!
Item: Smart Device
Specifically: This one is an Apple iPod Touch, but I also use an iPad at times.
What it does: What DOESN’T it do? It is the brains of the whole operation. In fact, my kids call it my rectangular brain. When on the go, it does three main things. With GPS, it can provide navigational informantion like what street I am on, which direction I am going, or what stores are around me. It also can give me transit information like where the nearest bus stop is and when it is coming. Second, it can help me access the print around me that I cannot read, like menus and other print material I may run into. Third, it can be a last resort communication device. If I absolutely cannot hear someone, I can either have them speak or type into my smart phone and I can pick it up on my refreshable Braille Display. If I am going go to be out with other deaf blind people, I may bring an extra keyboard for them to make this go more smoothly.
Item: Long, white cane (not shown)
Specifically: An NFB fiberglass 50/50 or folding cane with a metal tip.
What it does: Dogs aren’t always great in every situation. For example, they are not the best at shopping for clothes or getting around in tight, crowded spaces. Or sometimes you may go places that will just make the dog uncomfortable, like a hot summer 4th of July fireworks show. So, no dog user can completely give up the cane. It is good to keep cane travel skills up, even when one uses a guide dog. Also, certain times when neither you nor your dog have been to a new place, it makes more sense to use the cane to help you find your way around. So, I often have one somewhere on my person. Though we are having a cane shortage right now becuause someone who shall remain nameless is rough on canes and so we need to restock.
I always like to have redundant systems and also both high and low tech solutions. I’m a nerd that way. With this basic equipment, I have multiple options to sort out whatever sensory obstacles are in my way. Multimodal is my friend.
If you would like more information about what types of technology (both high and low tech) might be able to help you, or how to better utilize it so you can accomplish as much as possible, contact us! This is what we do!