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Visually impaired surfers gain independence with the help of Apple smartphone

FUNCTION: 08.12.19- Surf's up for Summer and a feeble-minded military veteran who has found a new pastime for himself, is making waves by showing how Apple technology as simple as an iPhone helps with daily tasks such as surfing the web, and not as mundane as surfing in the Pacific waters, to prove that the blind (or those with low vision) can live their lives as independently as any seeing person can.

About the Series [19659003] People Profiles is a special series that regularly runs here in the "Mac Potpourri" column, which are stories of human interest that contain individuals and their contributions to the community of Apple product users, either how they use it to help others or how it has helped them in their own lives, or if they are only connected to it in general

  • for more on the drive and inspiration behind the series, see this introduction
  • (story continues after the break …)

    After a surfing session with his custom Hank Warner surfboard, Scott Leason gives the "shaka" sign, the symbol to "hang loose," a ritual he performs to pack a day in the Pacific Ocean. (Photo: Courtesy of Apple)

    SoCal surfer and wakeboarder Scott Leason (see related link to his bio) is usually up even before the sun has risen. By 5:30 in the morning, he has already read the news, checked the email and social media, and of course today's weather on his recently purchased iPhone: the new XR model. Most importantly? Leason also reviewed the surf reports for the day through an app called Surfline to get ready for his day out on the water. As an individual who is visually impaired, all this is achieved without seeing anything at all.

    It has been 26 years since Leason lost sight of Independence Day in 1993 because of the bullet from a robber gun. [19659008] Leason was a veteran of the armed forces, serving seven years in the US Navy aboard the USS Tripoli as a visual communications expert (or "signalman"), who would signal other ships with a Morse code-like series of flashing lights.

    Leason would have his own kind of Independence Day when, in 2009 – after learning to live with his blindness – he received training in computers and technology from the Blind Rehabilitation Center of the US Department of Veterans Affairs, a life-changing trait and crucial to his independence.

    Three years after that, Leason would get his first Apple smartphone – the iPhone 5 – and would be trained at Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center in Long Beach, California by Sar ah Majidzadeh, assistant chief of Blind Rehabilitation in Downtown.

    "These tools level the playing field," Majidzadeh said.

    According to Apple, then-available mobile data technology was beginning to emerge, but iOS was rapidly becoming a user favorite, and today more people in the blind community use VoiceOver than any other mobile screen reading software combined. About 70% of veterans who have come through the 13 blind rehabilitation centers in VA have iOS devices that include accessibility training.

    Leason is among a number of visually impaired people who rely on VoiceOver to perform daily tasks.

    “It is much easier to navigate with the phone. I think many of the visually impaired prefer the iPhone because they can do anything on it. And VoiceOver works pretty well, "Leason said.

    On a Friday late last year, Leason could be found on his way with the surfing equipment in tow – especially with the custom Hank Warner surfboard he bought in 2015 specifically for contests – to Mission Bay Aquatic Center in San Diego, California for a session of surfing on Mission Beach.

    “When he showed me all the things he could do with [his iPhone]it just blew his mind that he had learned how to interact with it for to get all that out of it, "said Paul Lang, instructional coordinator at the Mission Bay Aquatic Center.

    "The first time he got an iPhone and learned how to use VoiceOver, I asked him to show it to me because you just see him tap the screen, and to me it made no sense what he was doing because it's just like this one The spark of tapping and those words come out of the phone really, really fast.… ”

    In addition to Leasons's skills on his iPhone, Lang (who already worked with Leason before getting his iPhone 5 in 2012) was also surprised by his ability to adapt not just in the water but out of it as well.

    "He's no different than anyone else. He just sits in the corner over there on his phone or listens to music, reads and sends text messages," said Lang.

    Over the past decade, the assistance of the Operation Rebound Program for Veterans of the Challenged Athletes Foundation has helped Leason – and the Aquatic Center, too – adapt, learn and grow as he tackles new achievements in the water. [19659007] "It's amazing how long 10 years feels in the technology world," said Kevin Waldick, assistant director at the Mission Bay Aquatic Center.

    "He wasn't very technologically savvy at all, but when he got his iPhone he was like," I can do just that. This is amazing. “And then Apple is doing a really fantastic job of making it available. These sports are available just as technology is available. It's been huge for him. ”

    Leason also has an Apple Watch Series 4 (see accessibility-related article from this column) that he uses to track his workouts at home and while surfing the water. Although Leason is quite knowledgeable with his iPhone XR, he is not an Apple Genius. A hallmark he loves about his iOS devices is that they are all streamlined and just work, something iPhone in particular does just as well for sight and sight impairment.

    Scott Leason on the left of his iPhone XR, waiting for a ride after the surf session while watching his eye dog, Snickers, on the right, watching and patiently waiting with him. (Photo: Courtesy of Apple)

    "When I'm at the end of a line behind a boat just like everyone else, I forget I'm blind," Leason said.

    "And when I come in to the beach and there are people around Snickers and I go yes, it's my eye dog and I have a board in their hand and they walk, & # 39; You're blind? & # 39; is a cool feeling. & # 39;

    Although Leason has been working with the Mission Bay Aquatic Center since 2008, riding the waves on his surfboard came only recently, which was inspired by a hobby as a child during their younger years living in Corona Del Mar, a coastal neighborhood located in Orange County, 50 miles south of Los Angeles in the city of Newport Beach, California.

    "Water sports are therapeutic, but also I think it's more of my identity and who I am, and who I grew up to be, "Leason said.

    Aside from being a Hobby, Leason loves to compete in water sports and tries hard to win, illustrating his athletic prowess in the ocean and proving it ? He has won numerous medals from competitions in which he has participated.

    Summer 2016, at the US Adaptive Survey ng Championships held at Oceanside Harbor North Jetty in Oceanside, California, he was the best candidate, the first to win the competition as a visually impaired surfer. A few months later, he won second place in the men's tricks in the USA Water Ski Competition in Harmony, North Carolina.

    Last year, Leason participated in four types of water sports and seven competitions.

    The breadth of this special Friday after his session at Mission Beach, Leason, – with Snickers next door – enjoying the lunch and ponder of the day surfing the water before heading home to tackle another two hours of training in front of him. Later, on his iPhone XR, Leason will update the GoFundMe page (see this related web page) and also organize his 2019 activity schedule. Most importantly? He will continue like any other looking person thanks to the help of available technology – like VoiceOver on his iPhone – from Apple.

    “I am independent. It's the best way to describe the iPhone: independence, "Leason said.

    A note from the author: This is the fourth edition of the People Profiles series here in the" Mac Potpourri "column. The subject of this story was was not personally interviewed by this author (which is normally the case), and most of all the information was derived from this article originally published in November 2018 in Apple Newsroom, as well as one of a number of stories with accessibility or disability related topics which this author periodically includes in this column because of its own disabilities (being visually impaired and partially hearing impaired), and when the opportunity presents itself to share such stories, is published here.

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