blink | bmobile and PAVI Promote Smartphone Accessibility for the Visually Impaired

A captive audience: Frontline Staff at TSTT’s St. Augustine Retail Store listen attentively as PAVI Representatives and Session Presenters Marlon Parieaho and Mikkel Trestrail elaborate on accessibility.

Most people who have grown accustomed to the everyday use of smartphones and the internet in general, cannot fathom life without their devices. For the visually impaired, many of whom were not born blind, this is an inconvenient reality. Unknown to many however, this does not necessarily need to be the case. As a matter of fact, the average smartphone offers accessibility options which can make a visually impaired individual a lot more efficient when using a smartphone that someone who can see just fine.

To ensure that such valuable information does not remain unknown, as it largely is, as well as to enable greater inclusion for persons with visual impairment, blink | bmobile has partnered with PAVI (Persons Associated with Visual Impairment), to educate its staff, largely its Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) who deal with customers on a daily basis, on the many available functions that most smartphones have built in and which enable greater accessibility for persons with disabilities. The Company recently launched a campaign called ‘Show and Tell’, in which PAVI representatives, Marlon Parieaho and Mikkel Trestrail have begun visiting several TSTT Retail Stores around the country, in order to demonstrate to staff, how to access the accessibility options on the iOS and Android platforms.

For Parieaho and Trestrail, the move is a very welcomed one, and they commended the Company for doing it, and in particular, for consulting persons who use the technology daily while experiencing the challenges of being blind. Parieaho, who lost his sight 4 years ago, is a 13Uyear veteran of the T&T Police Service and is the only completely blind Police Officer on active duty in T&T. He is also an ‘Innovations to Invention’ awardee, artist, athlete and motivational speaker. While Trestrail, who has been blind since the age of 11, is coUfounder of the Roman Catholic Ecclesial Community known as the Companions of the Transfigured 2 Christ (CTC) Community. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology, has previously taught Sociology and Computer Studies, is a motivational speaker and facilitates lectures.

“TSTT has more or less taken up the mantle. I am not sure another service provider will continue it, but the fact that they have chosen to do a seminar like this and they decided to consult persons with visual impairment on things to do with visual impairment is a really good step in the right direction because we have had too many cases where they want to make or do things for the blind, but strangely enough they don’t consult the blind,” explained Parieaho. “I am very glad for the reception thus far. It sounds to me like everyone was more or less interested in what we have to say and it was more than just a bit of entertainment but people were actually very interested in the information we had to share and I am hoping to delve into it a bit more.”

He said he hoped the Company would add someone with a visual impairment to their staff in the near future, in order to provide longUterm assistance to persons with visual impairments. Trestrail concurred, noting that he saw the campaign as only the first step on a long journey of enabling greater inclusion for visually impaired persons in society. “It is a great initiative but it’s only the first step on the journey of inclusion. From my own experience, staff knowing about phones is a great thing,” said Trestrail. “I see it as a great start, but I see it as a first step in other things that can happen to help persons with a disability experience greater inclusion in our society.”

They both emphasized that showing a visually impaired person the many available options they had available to them for using smartphones, would not only offer them greater inclusion and efficiency, but would offer a completely new lifestyle, much like it does for persons who can see.

“With these innovative technologies built right in, iOS and Android devices become powerful tools for visually impaired persons. When you think you are offering a blind person a phone, you are actually offering them a lifestyle,” explained Parieaho.

Some of the useful Apps they noted include the Maverick Money Reader, which scans and identifies local currency for the blind, Blind Square, which uses GPS and the compass to locate you and then gathers information about the surrounding environment from FourSquare, among other very useful things. They even showed games, movies and comic books for the blind, none of which, as they joked, requires braille.

The experience was as eyeUopening for the staff who all described the presentation as insightful, extremely useful and much needed.

Kysha George, an employee at TSTT’s Arima Retail Store agreed that the session was of great value and was herself excited about being provided with the information, given that she has dealt with persons with disabilities before. “I think it’s a value to us because from my own experience, I have had someone with a disability come in. They were not blind, but mute and could not relay the information they needed,” George shared. “The presentation I think was very informative, the CSRs selling the devices will now have more knowledge of the features which are available on the iPhone and the Android for the blind and I like the fact that they showed us different Apps which are readily available for blind persons.”

She suggested that everyone become aware of the accessibility features available on smartphones so that they would be better able to assist persons with disabilities if or when they encountered them.

From left to right: Oceter Morris, Manager at TSTT’s St. James Street, San Fernando Retail Store, Marlon Parieaho and Mikkel Trestrail of PAVI, and Gervon Abraham, TSTT’s Manager External Relations and Government Affairs.

Fully engaged: CSRs at TSTT’s St. James Street, San Fernando Retail Store, chat with ‘Show and Tell’ Session Presenters and PAVI representatives Mikkel Trestrail and Marlon Parieaho

Training in progress: Marlon Parieaho and Mikkel Trestrail of PAVI demonstrating the various smartphone technology aids for persons with visual impairment, at one of the ‘Show and Tell’ Presentations, at TSTT’s St. James Street, San Fernando Retail Store