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Blind veteran catches the second wave with surfboard and iPhone





Blind veteran catches second wave with surfboard and iPhone
Scott Leason is an early rise. By 5:30 he has checked his e-mail, social media, news and weather. He has reviewed today's surf reports via the Surfline app on his new iPhone X R prepping for today's trip. Before the sun sets on this Friday, he is ready and ready to go to the Mission Bay Aquatic Center in San Diego, where he will surf Mission Beach.
And he experiences everything without seeing it. Leason is blind.
A US Navy veteran, he was one of several visual communication experts – or "signal men" as they were called ̵

1; stationed on USS Tripoli amphibious ship, signal vessels to vessels through flashing lights, Morse code and semaphore. After seven years of service, Leason was blinded when a whirlpool cost him both eyes on July 4, 1993. In 2009, after learning his new "normal" for several years, Leason received a computer technology and technology training from the US Department of Veterans Affairs & 39; Blind Rehabilitation Center that would be central in its journey to live independently.

Available mobile data technology was still growing, but Apple's iOS quickly became a usability. In 2012, Leason received his first iPhone – iPhone 5 – and training from Sarah T. Majidzadeh, Assistant Chief of Blind Rehabilitation at Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center in Long Beach. "It's much easier to navigate the phone," says Leason. "I think many visually impaired people prefer iPhone because they can do everything about it. And VoiceOver seems quite darn good."

Leason is just one of many people who are blind or weak viewers, who rely on VoiceOver to navigate in daily tasks. In fact, more people in the blind community now use VoiceOver than any other mobile screen reading software combined. About 70 percent of the animals that have come through VA's 13 blind rehabilitation centers are equipped with iOS devices and accessibility training. "These tools level out the rules of the game," says Majidzadeh.

But Leason is no technical guru. Yes, he is wearing an Apple Watch to track his strong workouts at home and in the water. But he prefers to keep things simple and have all their devices streamlined, something that iPhone has made for both blind and blind people. "Tomorrow I can start my surfing training," he says. "It would be interesting to see what calories I'm burning out there."

He is also a serious performer with a serious competitive operation. He wants to win and sometimes he has: Leason was the first blind champion of the United States Adaptive Surfing Championships at the Oceanside Harbor North Jetty in June 2016. The same year he won second place in men's tricks at the United States Water Ski competition in harmony, north carolina Only this year he competed in seven competitions in four different sports.
"When he showed me all he could do with [his iPhone]it was only heard that he had learned how to interact with it to get it all out."
Although Leason has worked with Mission Bay Aquatic Center for 10 years, surfing is just a recent effort, an attempt to revise childhood pastimes from growing up in Corona del Mar. Over the years, With support from the Challenged Athletes Foundation's Operation Rebound program for veterinarians, Leason and the Center have adapted, learned and grown as he conquers new achievements in the water.

Paul Lang, instructor coordinator at Mission Bay Aquatic Center, remembers some of the stumbling blocks in the early days they have overcome since. "As he walks on skiing and wakeboards with us, we can usually communicate to the rider that the boat will turn," he explains. "Scott does not have any of these signals so we had to come up with systems like when we let him down on the beach when we get up and shake the line so he feels the line shaking and it's our queue to him as we get in These little things … we run into a roadblock, we find it out with Scott, and come up with systems that work well so everyone can do this. "

Lang, who has worked with Leason since before receiving his first iPhone, is often blown away by his ability to adapt in and out of the water.

"The first time he got an iPhone and learned to use VoiceOver, I asked him to show it to me because you only see him touching the screen and for me it made no sense what he did because it's just like This flurry of tapping and these words come out of the phone really very fast, "says Lang. "And when he showed me all he could do with it, it just blown me that he had learned to interact with it to get it all out of it… He's no different than anyone else. He's sitting just in the corner where he gets caught on the phone or listening to music, reading and sending text messages. "

"It's amazing how long since 10 years feel in technology," says Kevin Waldick, Deputy Director at Mission Bay Aquatic Center. "He was not very technically knowledgeable at all, but when he got his iPhone, he was like" I can only do it. This is amazing. & # 39; And then Apple makes a truly amazing job of making it available. These sports are available just as the technology is available. It has been great for him. "

When 2018 ends, Leason has a month of wakeboarding and surfing to him and the Center takes a break for the holiday. "When I'm at the end of a line behind a boat, just like everyone else, I forget I'm blind," he says. "And then when I get into the beach and there are people around Snickers, and I go yes, it's my eye dog and I have a fold in my hand and they go," are you blind? "It's a cool feeling.

"The water sports are therapeutic, but I think it's more of my identity and who I am and who I grew up to be," he says.

On the back, Leason has a spicy lunch while reviving the waves of the day. He is dried, but he still has a two-hour workout scheduled later in the day. And with Snickers by his side, he continues. He will make a fundraiser on his GoFundMe page, he plans his contests and activities for 2019. He will continue to live life on his own terms. "I'm independent," he says. "It's the best way to describe iPhone on: independence."

Press Contacts
Colin Johnson, Apple, colin_johnson@apple.com, (408) 974-6284
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