Authentically Me - Emma's AT

Live. Play. Work.

For Emma Vardy, being true to herself and ‘authentically telling her story, her way’ speaks to how she lives her life through her assistive technology (AT) journey. On the day we met up with Emma to learn about her AT and how she uses it to live, play and work, it was a lovely calm afternoon where we sat together by the glistening pool in her welcoming garden.

The sun was beckoning through the grey, billowing clouds and the singular strokes of light beams contrasted perfectly as they bounced off the water. The sun was warm on our skin and the peace settled in from the evocative greenery surrounding us. We settled into our soft chairs, slowed ourselves down from the pace of a busy day, and we got to know Emma and her real and honest self.

This is Emma’s AT, and this is her story.

Self-confessed adrenaline junky, adventurous spirit, singer, exercise enthusiast, dancer, reader, food connoisseur, massage therapist and cat lover, Emma is a fearless woman who decided at a young age she was going to create the dream life she wanted for herself. She is also completely blind from birth. As we sat in the garden and sipped our cool water, Emma reminisced about the moment two years earlier, it had become clear how she wanted her life to look like heading into the future. 

“I like a settled life. I like working hard and meeting new people,” she said.

We talked about the AT Chat community, where Emma had recently become a member, and she said it was grounding to hear the honest stories directly from the community about the AT they liked to use in their lives.

“It can open up people’s minds and give them ideas about what they could buy, as sometimes you don’t know what is right for you, and what is the right fit,” she said.  

A woman sits by the pool and types.

Love to read

“I couldn’t live without my audio books,” Emma gushed, with a cheeky smile.

“Signing up to audiobooks and the Audible app was the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Emma said she couldn’t sleep without her audio books on at night. She spoke impassionedly about her favourite authors, with a vigour of excitement in her voice.

“David Walliams the British comedian is one of my favourites. I love him because he narrates all of novels and he is so passionate in how he does it. He is so enthusiastic, it's amazing. Anyone can enjoy them as they are so heartfelt as well. All of his books are written for children,” she said. 

“I also love Michael McIntyre. I love his kind, humorous way of looking at everyday things. It always makes me laugh. You know, you hear these things that go on every day and then you hear Michael McIntyre talk about it. You're like, oh my gosh, he's hilarious. It's just like a different perspective on the topic and such a great way of describing it.”

Emma sat at the table and played a few pages for us to listen to on her iPhone. What a truly different experience, as we sat and enjoyed the literature together. Emma smiled brightly as a humorous anecdote played from the narrative.

As we walked over to the pool area, the leaves crunched underneath our feet as the soft wind rustled through the palm fronds.

Sitting down on the banana pool chairs, we stretched out our legs, reclining into the soft grey fabric. The water in the pool was tranquil and the aroma from the flowers rose into the air, delicate and sweetly scented. The afternoon was still warm, but the sun stretching through the clouds was beginning to stifle as the day began to grow darker.

A woman sits at the table and touches a smart phone and smiles.

AT in the kitchen

We head into the house and Emma takes us into the kitchen and gets out her Galaxy ID mate which she uses to scan the groceries. One by one, Emma carefully takes an item out of the cupboard and runs her hand across the tin or jar. She picks up her scanner and she clicked until the reading was announced. Hot chocolate was a self-confessed favourite of Emma’s and when she found the barcode, the reader declared, ‘Cadbury drinking chocolate, 450g’.

This AT could be used in the home or taken to the grocery store to find items to purchase. She said she was happy to have these tools as it made life easier in the kitchen when she could use these items to build independence. Emma said she loved food and cleaned a lot but is still catching up with the food creativity.

A close up shot of a scanner scanning a tin.

Emma showed us her oven which had velcro stuck around the knobs to adjust the heat settings. Each piece of Velcro indicated a temperature point and as she turned the knob, she was able to gauge the heat settings accordingly. She showed us how she would adjust the temperature and told us how a bit of creativity when it came to AT, went a long way. The DIY Velcro idea was a fine example of this.

“You don’t always have to apply for new things and use your NDIS funding. You can look for things and buy a lot from the shops that you can use to adapt your everyday items like rubber bands and velcro,” she said.

My life, my way

We followed Emma to her bedroom and passed through her sitting room adjacent her bedroom. The indoor plants breathed life into the tranquil space, which contrasted perfectly with the simple, stylish touches of design. We sunk into the soft grey carpet of Emma’s bedroom and took in the seductive aromas of miscellaneous perfumes: sweet, floral, and evocative all combined for an olfactory sensation. Emma sits on her bed and showed us how she uses her AT, her way. 

She began to type on her computer, and as the last few beams of afternoon sun shone through her window, bouncing off the walls, Emma’s audio began to play. A smile danced across her lips as she listened to the story read by Jacqueline Wilson and closed her eyes. Emma explained to us that she would often spend time lying on her bed, listening to her audio through her computer and sinking into the story. Having this technology so accessible was how Emma loved to spend her time. 

It was time for Emma’s ballroom dancing class, and we followed her to the front door where she stepped out, tapping her cane along the pavement as she made her way down the rustic, white and black speckled stone steps of her front porch. The ball of the cane bounced rhythmically as she walked with a soft bounce from her white and grey sneakers.

Emma reached the cobblestone path and made her way quickly to the soft, brilliant green grass as the leaves crunched gently under her feet. She sat down on the stone wall, placed her hands in her lap with the cane now folded neatly in three pieces, and she waited for her friend to arrive, looking pensively out into the distance. The cane was Emma’s eyes and enabled her to venture out, unafraid and confident.

A woman waits with her arms crossed and her white cane in her lap.

This is how Emma uses AT to live, play and work, and this is her AT story. 

Watch this space for part two of our two-part series with Emma's AT, in collaboration with Vision Australia.

AT Featured in this story:

  • Audible app
  • Galaxy ID mate label scanner
  • Laptop
  • Siri
  • Smart Phone
  • White Cane
  • Rubber bands with tactile shape markings

Other useful links:

  • Sign in to your free AT Portal to discover more peer-led and co-produced AT articles and videos including: 'How I funded my Thermomix' by Robyn Luke". 
A woman stands in front of her house and holds her phone close to her face.