Can an iPhone hold the key to a blind man’s independence?

Photography by Melanie Bell

Nominated by Lighthouse for the Blind of the Palm Beaches

What is independence worth?

For Kevin Williams, 43, everything.

But Kevin has Type 1 diabetes, which has stolen his kidneys and his eyesight. The disease also killed both his parents within the past year, and left Kevin homeless.

You don’t get Type 1 diabetes from eating too many cupcakes. It’s an autoimmune disease that causes the pancreas to stop producing insulin, the hormone that controls the release of sugar into the blood. There’s nothing you can do to prevent it, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

Diabetes took Kevin’s vision over the course of several years. As his sight worsened, he had to quit working and driving. His world shrank. Six years ago, he was declared totally blind.

But this is one area where technology is being used for good, and one of the best tools for a blind person is an iPhone.

Kevin has kidney dialysis three days a week. His phone would entertain him with music.

On days he doesn’t have dialysis, Kevin goes to the Lighthouse for the Blind, where they’re teaching him to navigate the world better. An iPhone would be a lifeline.

For example, the Seeing AI app uses the iPhone camera to take a picture, decode it and describe people, text and objects in words. In the grocery store, it can read ingredients and descriptions, and when you pay for your purchases, it can tell you if the clerk gave you the right change.

Using GPS, it can tell you where you are and how to get home. It remembers people you’ve met and can tell you if the person standing near you is someone you know.

You know how good it feels when you put on your favorite jam and float away on a melody? Watching (or listening to) your favorite TV show? (Kevin likes ION TV.) Those simple pleasures are all Kevin wants. A place to live on his own (he doesn’t need much space), some furniture (his bedroom set belonged to his parents, and it’s falling apart but it’s almost all he has), basic household stuff and maybe some new clothes.

But it all begins with the iPhone.

“I just want to take care of myself,” Kevin said. “Being independent. That would make me happy.”

Kevin’s wish:

Kevin Williams, 43, is a Type 1 diabetic who is blind and has renal failure, which requires dialysis three times a week. When both of his parents died from complications of diabetes within the past year, Kevin could no longer afford the rent and found himself homeless. Kevin moved into a crowded, 975-square-foot house with his half-sister and her family. Kevin longs to live independently. He wants to learn new skills that will make his life more fulfilling. To do so, he needs an iPhone, which has the apps he needs to navigate the world. He also needs a laptop computer, a small efficiency apartment, furniture and clothing.

Nominated by: Lighthouse for the Blind of the Palm Beaches

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