Don Barrett, a 66-year-old West Jordan, Utah resident, has experienced diminishing eyesight and hearing his entire life.
An avid reader and computer user, Don was frustrated by losing his remaining vision.
"It was depressing for me," he said. "I’m the kind of person who has a big desire to remain self-sufficient and keep reading."
Learning about iCanConnect, also known as the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program, through the Utah State Division for the Blind “changed my life one hundred percent,” he said.
A few months ago, he received an iPhone with a wireless keyboard through the program.
He uses his new phone to email with a friend in Oregon and to connect with organizations for people with blindness in other states. He’s also learning to send text messages.
He often uses his iPhone to communicate with his son when he needs a ride home from the nearby church. And he is looking forward to using his new equipment to connect with other "temples all over the world," he said.
He especially appreciates his wireless keyboard, which makes using the iPhone much easier. "I’m very good using the keyboard," he said. "It makes it easy to communicate and connect with others. I can get right to it."
Don is a widower and lives with his son’s family and helps to care for his grandchildren. He said his new equipment has helped restore his self-sufficiency – a source of pride.
"I have a great desire to be as active as possible," he said. "I have a difficult time with people trying to help me. Equipment is a very important part of my life, so I don’t have to be dependent. I don’t have to wait for someone to come home."
He’s also embraced the training he’s receiving through iCanConnect. He’s an ambitious learner and that sometimes leads to technological snags.
"I’m having fun with the equipment and sometimes get stuck," he said, laughing. "I will ask for help and the iCanConnect trainers are always there to answer questions when I need it."
Don recommends iCanConnect to others, but says that learning new technology requires energy, tenacity and an open mind. “You’ve got to be able to accept change,” he said.
"I hope everyone with vision and hearing loss finds the program, like I did," he said. "It’s made the biggest difference in the world."