When Alex Lee discovered that an inherited condition was causing sight loss, his life changed profoundly. He also began to explore the array of different assistive technologies available to help blind and visually impaired people read, communicate and find their way around. In this six-part series, Alex dives into the history of assistive technology, from long before computers to the latest AI. He asks why Braille took so long to become popular, how the simple white cane has been hard to improve on, what people might be able to see that machines never will, and who is responsible for the parlous state of audio description in the UK’s cinemas.
When an inherited condition caused Alex Lee’s vision to deteriorate, he began to discover the technologies that would help him navigate the world around him. Here he describes how his life began to change.
After Alex experienced a serious deterioration in his sight, he came to rely on artificial voices to help him with everyday tasks. Find out how synthetic speech came to be developed.
For anyone who thinks Braille is so last century, read on. New tech is helping dust Braille down and bring it to today’s visually impaired people.
Recent technological additions to the white cane aim to make the world easier for visually impaired people to navigate. Alex Lee explores whether new is really better.
Audio description enhances the experience of watching a film or TV show for people with a visual impairment, but it's not widely available in the UK. Alex Lee explains why.
About the contributors
Alex is a tech and culture journalist. He is currently tinkering with gadgets and writing about them for the Independent. You may have previously seen his work in the Guardian, Wired and Logic magazine. When he’s not complaining about his struggles with accessibility, you’ll likely find him in a cinema somewhere, attempting to watch the latest science-fiction film.
Ian Treherne was born deaf. His degenerative eye condition, which by default naturally cropped the world around him, gave him a unique eye for capturing moments in time. Using photography as a tool, a form of compensation for his lack of sight, Ian is able to utilise the lens of the camera, rather than his own, to sensitively capture the beauty and distortion of the world around him, which he is unable to see. Ian Treherne is an ambassador for the charity Sense, has worked on large projects about the Paralympics with Channel 4 and has been mentored by photographer Rankin.