It occurs to me that people with normal seeing and hearing abilities may not fully understand the power of the smartphone, the computer and, in particular, the power of the screen. Like many in my position with poor sight and hearing, I know far more of what is going on looking at a screen than I do, as often as not, face to face and in a crowd or meeting. Let’s try to understand how this works and maybe the understanding will help guide newbies to sensory disabilities to overcome their initial puzzlement and learn to get the best out of appropriate technologies.
What is it about the screen? Why can I see more of my daughter’s face on screen than when she is across the dinner table from me? Why can I read headlines on screen but not when I hold up a newspaper?
Face to face images depend on reflected light -second best and the lighting circumstances vary greatly and are normally not within one’s control The smartphone or computer screen is made of thousands of tiny but potentially powerful little lights called pixels. The colour, the intensity and the size of the bits that make up the image can all be controlled to meet the needs of variously damaged eyes. Its as if the screen is alive, electrified and vibrant to weak eyes while the real world can appear dull to some of us.
Another way of thinking about all this is to understand that damaged eyes are a bit like a damaged camera and the cameras on modern phones are fantastic. So while my wabbly slow functioning eyes struggle to see whether her face has glasses or lipstick, the digital camera sorts it all out and, with my nose close to the screen in my case, I get it, well much more of it. On a zoom call, I might even get to be able to recognise the face which is talking and I never recognise a face when out and about.
I guess the message is clear. Encourage grandma to try something new digital because, when she has got over the first uncomfortable experience of something devilishly new and fangled, she might surprise you and herself by seeing more than she bargained for. She might even start reading again or browsing for clothes online.