By Daniel Coney, guest author
I have an inherited eye condition called pathological myopia. Unlike “normal” myopia, which tends to stabilize, my form continues worsening. This condition causes structural problems in the eye that often lead to vision loss later in life. While I have no memory of ever having good vision, I had little in the way of serious vision problems until about five years ago. Then, a series of retinal detachments left me blind in one eye. I am gradually losing vision in my remaining eye, though I am not yet legally blind.
I cannot read print or use a computer without magnification. I rely heavily on the accessibility features of my iPhone and iPad. Our public library offers a selection of ebooks that I listen to using my iOS Kindle app and Apple’s built-in screen reader. While the library can have a limited selection and long waiting lists, and the screen reader has limited functionality, they allowed me to “read.”
In July, to my great delight, I discovered Bookshare. The selection of materials available through Bookshare is simply astounding. I have yet to search for a title and not find it! With a quick tap of a download button, my book is ready. I am reading a book or two a week.
I now use Voice Dream Reader. Its features are extensive and intuitive. I like the highly customizable display that lets me follow along as I listen. I use the iOS Samantha voice. Having grown very accustomed to it, I am able to listen to content at high replay speeds without sacrificing comprehension. I have tried other voices and settings but prefer that one. Most text-to-speech (TTS) voices seem better than one might expect, though getting accustomed to them can take some patience.
I enjoy a wide variety of genres and authors. I am especially fond of history, biographies, historical fiction and suspense novels, although I do not limit myself to just those. A few of the books that I’ve read recently are 1776 by David McCullough and The Rooster Bar by John Grisham.
I confess to sometimes being frustrated by my vision and missing the feel and smell of a book in my hands. However, I am exceedingly grateful for Bookshare offering all the content I could possibly want and for the devices and applications that let me so easily enjoy it.
In early 2017, with my ophthalmologist’s recommendation, I began studying braille. That is quite a journey in its own right. I enrolled with the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Bookshare membership is free for all currently enrolled Hadley students living in the United States. It was through Hadley, who are a wonderful group of people, that I learned about Bookshare. Hadley and Bookshare have proven to be great finds for me!
I have found the advice of others with vision problems very helpful and encourage others to seek any help they may need. I hope nobody lets vision difficulties rob them of the gift and joy of reading.
Dan lives in North Carolina with his wife of 35 years. They have two grown children and five granddaughters. He has a nearly forty-year career in banking. In addition to reading, he enjoys music, technology, the outdoors and St. Louis Cardinals baseball. @DanConey1
Bookshare would like to thank Dan for generously sharing his story.