I was three years old when British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee enabled the internet to be accessible to 'non-technical' people with the creation of the World Wide Web. I can't say the invention had much of an impact on me back when I was playing with trains or trying to eat snails. To be honest, as a three-year-old, I was oblivious to most things.
My biggest ignorance was I'd been born with a cocktail of eye conditions that meant even when I was unable to speak or walk, people were already telling my parents how I wouldn't be able to do most things a 'normal' person could.
I think Berners-Lee and myself can both sit back and smile at the ignorance to all those who said to us back in 1991 that we would not succeed. I myself may not have effected billions of lives, but I like to think I've done an ok job of my own life despite the hurdles put in my way. But, would I have succeeded without Berners-Lee's help?
A typical day sees me waking up to my iPhone blaring at 6am. This is shortly followed by me attempting to put it on snooze while my five-year-old guide dog, Golden Retriever cross Labrador - Pippa, declares breakfast time by slamming her head down on the side of my bed repeatedly. We are inseparable though; even Pippa knows it's a three-way relationship with my phone and she isn't getting fed till I've checked social media and had a quick flick through the morning news.
I suppose at this point my morning is no different than anyone else's?
Without the web I wouldn't be able to read the news as an old fashioned paper is just not big enough print for me. I'd regularly dress for the wrong weather without the apps to say whether it's sunny or rainy outside. I'd probably not even have Pippa.
Pippa has been my guide dog for three years now. Before getting Pippa my vision had got so bad I hadn't been out on my own for nearly two years but with her by my side, I like to think we are unstoppable. Things would have been very different had I not gone onto the website for the charity Guide Dogs. If I had never have applied for Pippa, I'd certainly never have started working for Guide Dogs last year.
I love my job as Engagement Officer for the Guide Dogs Liverpool team but without the web would I be able to hold down a job the same as those who have 20/20 vision?
Handwritten letters are replaced by emails and thanks to magnification or screen reader software I am able to just zoom in or listen to them. Meetings and calls are replaced by Skype and Facetime which means I don't even have to get to some of the harder to reach locations on my own - but can still be there. No need to struggle reading through piles of books, that's what Google and Wikipedia are for.
As part of my job I work all over the Merseyside and Cheshire area, but thanks to Google Maps and local transportation apps, with Pippa harnessed up by my side we can get to most places independently.
It's not just in work that I see myself as a modern day 'Internaut'. Shopping online means I can actually find the things I want rather than wandering round for hours aimlessly. It also means on the off chance I did find that dress I liked, I don't come home with a size 6 instead of a 12. There is also the added bonus of deliveries to my doorstep - have you ever tried working a guide dog and carrying shopping?
Even going out for food and drinks with friends is less stressful. I used to worry about recognising people in the crowd. It got so bad I'd turn down invitations more often than not. A quick Whatsapp message later to let me know where they are sat so I can walk in with confidence, sit down and relax. I can even read the menu online which saves someone reading the entire thing out loud and then me feeling embarrassed when I order the first thing they read out.
The biggest thing the web has done though, was taught me that I am 'normal'. I spent many years in my early twenties comparing myself to other people my age and feeling inadequate. You only need to go online these days to know you are never alone. I've always said that anything I do, someone somewhere will have already done it. Now I can actually find and learn from that person.
My Mum said to me once, "there isn't a good time to have a visual impairment, but if there was, that time is probably now".
If the world has become this much more accessible over the last 25 years, I cannot even comprehend what the next 25 years will mean to me and my sight. Turning 53 and getting my first guide drone? Even though Amazon will be doing it, I think I'll stick with my best friend, Pippa. Thanks to the charity Guide Dogs, there are currently roughly 5,000 guide dogs like her, working every day to change the life of someone with sight loss.
For me, a guide dog plus the internet is the perfect recipe for independence.
I was three years old when British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee enabled me to access a 'normal' life with the creation of the World Wide Web. At the time I had no idea how it had even happened, let alone how it would affect me. But, without the internet, I wouldn't be the person I am today.
To find out more about the charity Guide Dogs visit: www.guidedogs.org.uk
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