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Meet Ryan Bondroff!
Washington Access Fund client, Ryan Bondroff, first heard about the Access Fund while working for the Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ODHH). During the five years Ryan was at ODHH, he provided information and referrals to individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind to help them access needed services. When it came to financial assistance to help pay for assistive technology, he always referred them to the Access Fund.
In early 2009, Ryan had reason to come to the Access Fund himself when he needed to finance the purchase of a refreshable Braille Display and Window-Eyes, which together cost almost $10,000. A refreshable Braille display is an electronic device that connects to the computer and uses small plastic or metal pins that move up and down to display Braille characters. Window-Eyes is a “screen reading” software that relays information on a computer to the user in either audio or – when used with a Braille Display – in Braille format.
These two pieces of technology “have been incredibly vital and have given me the ability to access the world of information.” Ryan uses them on a daily basis, be it for applications such as Word and Excel or checking his email and surfing the web. Not only have they improved functional capabilities, they’ve dramatically changed and reduced eye strain. Ryan noted that deaf-blind people often avoid using screens because it causes a lot of pressure and stress on their eyes but, with the Braille Display, it makes things much easier and more restful.
Deciding which device and software to purchase was not the easiest process. They all have their pros and cons and the technology itself is very limited. But hopefully, as technology improves, the options will become better. Ryan had to ask himself, “What can I do to have my needs met?” He soon learned the importance of trying programs and software out to find the one that could best fulfill his particular needs. Braille companies are not in the practice of loaning out equipment but luckily Ryan was able to try out different devices through the Department of Services for the Blind (DSB).
Ryan has his MSW, a Masters in Social Work and he understands just how limited financial resources are, especially for organizations and agencies that support the disability community. “Without assistive technology (AT), most people with disabilities are underemployed if they are employed at all. There are barriers and people don’t always have what is necessary to break them down. Few agencies provide AT, it’s a problematic area, and the Access Fund does it through their loan program, by providing information about where AT can be purchased, and what equipment can help meet an individual’s needs – which fosters growth for independent living and…well, life. Without AT we are very much out of the mainstream of life, kind of “behind” on the times…the Access Fund provides a vital link to the world through AT. It decidedly increases work opportunities, independent living and breaks down barriers.”
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