Donation, program help vision-impaired unlock iPhone aids

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PORTLAND — With a donation from the Falmouth Lions Club, the Iris Network can now train six vision-impaired individuals to access technology on their Apple devices.

The Iris Network’s access technology program trains individuals with vision problems to use the technology already installed on devices like the iPhone or iPad.

Bonnie Gouzie, director of access technology and employment services, said that the training teaches people to use voice control on the Internet, make voice recordings, send text messages, answer calls and access voice mail.

When Jay Nash, community outreach coordinator for the Falmouth Lions, heard about this technology, he contacted the Iris Network to find out how the club could help. After a presentation by the Iris Network, the group donated $500 to the program, which will train six people for a period of six hours.

“One of the members of the Lions Club opened up their settings (when we gave the presentation) and was following along. They didn’t realize that their voiceover was already on the device they had purchased and anybody could turn it on so the device could talk to them and read anything on the screen,” said Steve Kelley, a vision rehabilitation therapist at the Iris Network.

The goal of the access technology program at the Iris Network is to allow people with visual imparements not only to become more independent, but to make them more competitive in a working environment.

“Part of what we do is we look at the individual client and what their goals are, whether that’s employment or personal goals and match up the technology that is important in achieving their goals,” Kelley said.

Gouzie said training like this takes the scare out of using this type of technology and it allows people to be competitive in a work or scholastic environment.

Kelley said the program helps to create an equitable work environment for those with vision loss.

“One of the boring statistics that we often give out is approximately 76 percent who have a vision loss and/or who are blind are unemployed, and these are people who are very capable of working,” he said. “Some of this access technology helps level the playing field a little bit. With the right technology a person with a vision loss can raise efficiency to be competitive.”

The Iris Network will be offering an open house on Thursday, Dec. 27, from noon to 5 p.m. at 189 Park Ave.

The open house, called “Getting your gift out of the box and into your hands,” will educate people, with or without a vision impairment, on how to use the access technology built into their new devices. Reservations are requested, but are not required.

Contact the Iris Network at 774-6273.

Amber Cronin can be reached at or 781-3661 ext. 125. Follow her on Twitter @croninamber.