Central New York, Community, Health

Mobile Technology Helping The Deaf, Not So Much The Blind

Aurora of Central New York helps the blind and deaf. Grace Allen is deaf and Donna Reese is blind. Grace uses her phone to communicate while Donna is limited to one resource. (c) 2017 Jonathan Singh

By Jonathan Singh SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC NEWS) – Mobile devices can pretty much do anything in today’s day. iPhone’s and Android’s have apps that help deaf people communicate in other ways than sign language. As for the people who are blind, they are limited to the technology that they already have.

Aurora of Central New York is home to Grace Allen and Donna Reese. Grace is deaf, and Donna is blind. The advantage Grace has is that her cell phone allows her to utilize apps that help her send and receive messages to people. Donna is stuck with her computer that is programmed to convert text into sound.

Here are 6 apps that Grace uses to connect with others:

  • FaceTime
  • Marco Polo
  • Glide
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Skype
  • Snapchat

Grace communicates through her interpreter when she isn’t using the apps. She finds it easier when working as she is constantly using sign language to interact with the children and adults she mentors.

“When I am at work, I use my interpreter to help me send messages to the people I am working with. It helps to always have someone by my side to quickly relay what I need to say.” Grace says.

Donna uses her 1990’s computer that automatically changes text into audio. She faces a challenge though, as she needs to type on the keyboard to send emails and navigate through websites. When she types something into a web browser, she clicks multiple buttons on the keyboard that plays back what she types. The buttons are on top of the keys. They are made of rubber.

“It’s gets tough for me. I cant see, so I am usually guessing where I am going when I go somewhere new. When I am on the computer I am going off the feeling of the key pad.” Donna says

Donna is a grandmother of three. When she is baby sitting she tells the kids to “sweep it up.” That means to put everything back to where it was. Make sure all cabinet, doors are closed, and that all toys are off the floor.

“When I am home and I have the family over, things need to be put back the way they were before my guest leave. I keep my house simple, it makes it easier for me to walk around and find what I need.” Donna says

Grace has an advantage as her interpreter is there to translate to her. When she is alone she uses her apps to communicate with people. Donna is alone and goes off her senses, and the guidance of the cane she uses to direct her while walking.




Aurora of Central New York offers programs for blind and deaf people. The deaf have more resources to use due to mobile apps. (c) 2017 Jonathan Singh.