Reading tech keeps a blind man up with the news

New digital technology is helping make reading printed newspapers possible longer for a Melbourne man who is already legally blind.

As Victoria goes further into COVID-19 lockdown, an assistive technology device is enabling Maltese-born Twanny Farrugia to read the daily paper and maintain his independence.

Legally blind and the second-longest surviving kidney transplant survivor in Australia, he is using an OrcamMyEye to read, manage his myriad of meds and navigate his retirement village (as he says) “without crashing into too many walls”.

s reading the daily paper

The voice-activated device – purchased with Australia’s NDIS – comes from Vision Australia and their not-for-profit partner Quantum Reading Learning Vision. It works by clipping onto his glasses to read text, recognise faces, help with shopping and work, conveying visual information audibly. A new version will even read barcodes on medication.

Farrugia arrived in Australia in 1965 with multiple health issues including renal failure, and received a kidney transplant in October 1971, with open heart surgery, multiple hip and knee replacements following.

In spite of these impediments he lives life to the fullest as an advocate for organ donation, volunteer and inspirational speaker. Born with severe myopic eye disease, he lost the retina in his right eye when he was 28, closely followed by glaucoma and macular degeneration in his left, leaving him legally blind.

Now retired after running a business for many years, he lives in a retirement village in Springwood, Victoria with ‘guide pup’ Annabelle.

He openly admits that he loves technology – such as the Orcam device, recently released in Australia – which opens up the world to him and has provided independence. “I’m good at running into walls a lot, but now I can navigate my surroundings, read signs, a menu and all the medical information. Previously I would have to rely on someone reading for me what is quite personal information.”

Pictured: Twanny Farrugia reads a copy of Melbourne’s Herald Sun; his finger highlights the text he wants to read