Photo of man wearing a visual accessibility devie

My name is Stephen Marino and I am legally blind. I have received services from BESB since I was a child.  Over the year’s VR has helped me with education and finding employment as well as all the other needed support services such as mobility, low vision, rehabilitation technology and adaptive technology devices.  I currently work as an Intensive Paraprofessional at Frank T Wheeler School, an elementary school in Plainville Community Schools District. I have always used technology to help me see things better. Last summer, I contacted my VR counselor because I was having difficulty reading small print as well as when transitioning to see students faces. VR helped me to identify a wearable device which is essentially like digital binoculars with even more features! The device is called The Patriot Viewpoint. My vocational rehabilitation counselor had me demo it in my summer school assignment and from the second I put it on I knew it was the device that was life changing. 

It made me much more confident in my job, as well as during this Covid-19 pandemic and working remotely from home. I worked with students and teachers virtually all day long. We were given Chromebooks which are small and hard to see, but with my Patriot headset I was able to see my screen much easier and see the students' faces on the screen in their small pictures as well as looking at their screens they shared with me with even smaller fonts. I used a mix of Zoomtext and magnification from the computer to see other things when I wanted them to see my whole face or work on a document with them in live time.  Overall, this Patriot headset and Zoomtext allowed me to perform my job tasks independently.  We used different ways of learning with the technology. It was a different way to teach the students with special needs and learning difficulties virtually. It was very valuable especially with the way technology has improved. The ability to have the firsthand experience of using adaptive technology has been an asset to my job in many ways. While working virtually, I took on a lot more responsibility and helped out the Special Education teacher more than I could have in school and that gave me an opportunity to excel and it showed my ability and all that I have to offer. The virtual classes continued during summer school at which time we were able to begin working with students on the protocol of wearing masks. 

Once the town decided to begin school with a hybrid program which consists of in-person classes as well as virtual classes, I was a little anxious and not sure what to expect. Once I got there, I realized the COVID-19 safety protocol was being followed and everyone was wearing their masks and face shields when necessary. All the new rules and guidelines made things more of a challenge, but with adaptive technology it was much easier. I am thankful for my Patriot headset because not only does it enhance what I see but I can be farther away from students and still monitor their activities. 

Overall, the services I have received from VR has enhanced my ability to be a professional in my community and maintain employment.  I am so thankful beyond words for the support of BESB throughout this pandemic.