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Dexterity (and Vision) – Nancy

line drawing of person

Age: 42    Height: 5ft 6ins

Lives in: Middlesex

Severe rheumatoid arthritis and mild uveitis

Assistive aids:

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What I can do

  • Can pick up and carry a pint of milk with either left or right hand
  • Can bend down and pick something up from the floor, and then straighten up again, holding on if necessary
  • Can pick up and carry a pint of milk with each hand
  • Can reach right arm only above head briefly
  • Can crochet, write and use a keyboard
  • Can sew with powerful illumination
  • Can do a crossword with powerful illumination
  • Can read facial expressions at close range
  • Can read minimum 20 point font size if contrast sufficient
  • Can read a headline at arm’s length
  • Can distinguish facial expressions at close range
  • Can watch a TV programme lasting half an hour all the way through and tell someone what it was about
  • Can recognise bus numbers up close but not at a distance
  • Can use an ordinary telephone
  • Can use a mobile phone with magnification
  • Can read and send texts with magnification
  • Can fill in an online form with screen magnification
  • Can select wardrobe, dress and groom independently
  • Can prepare meals independently
  • Can walk upstairs unaided
  • Can navigate way to a previously visited place

What I cannot do

  • Cannot pick up and carry a 5lb bag of potatoes with either left or right hand
  • Has difficulty reaching both arms above head
  • Cannot kneel down to sweep something up with a dustpan and brush, and then straighten up again (even if something is available to hold onto)
  • Cannot pick up and carry a 5lb bag of potatoes with each hand
  • Cannot reach left arm above head
  • Cannot use a conventional bath without adaptation
  • Has difficulty recognising a friend across a room
  • Cannot read a short newspaper article unless using powerful magnification
  • Cannot watch a foreign language TV programme with sub-titles unless audio-described
  • Cannot read information on food packaging, clothing labels or price tags unless using powerful magnification
  • Cannot see to thread a needle
  • Cannot go downstairs in poorly lit conditions without using a handrail
  • Cannot navigate touch screen menus or restaurant menus unless using powerful magnification
  • Cannot navigate the stock in book shops, music stores or libraries


I am a volunteer advocate and at the moment I work with a local voluntary organisation helping people with disabilities who have poor housing. I help them to write letters, to make a complaint. I have also advocated for people who have other issues such as benefits, anti-social behaviour and so on.

My condition

My arthritis is in remission. I have had knee replacement and neck surgery. I don’t have morning stiffness but I still have some residual pain. My main problem now is Uveitis and I am dependent on magnifiers to see, read and write. The left eye now is pretty useless, it’s foggy; I couldn’t read at all if I only had that eye. The central vision has gone.  I have a cataract in that now. I always have a mist in front of me. I can’t see faces on the left, I can see the shapes and I don’t have a problem with colours.

A typical day

Every day varies. I arise. After breakfast, have a coffee at the coffee shop. Read the newspaper. Then I go to the local voluntary organisation where I work as a volunteer to do some advocacy work or it might involve visiting someone. Come home, feed the cat. Watch a bit of TV then go to bed with book or a crossword and listen to the radio for a couple of hours.

Good designs and how they improve my life

I got a good new magnifier from the Low Vision Clinic at Moorfields Hospital. With it I can read the TV guide in the evening and see menus, newspaper etc, in dark venues such as pubs and restaurants. It has a light and is battery operated which is good when the light goes out.

Also, in the kitchen, I like packaging that is easy to open but I struggle with cardboard packaging, with caps that require pulling or twisting, or with bacon, meat or cheese packaging in airtight plastic containers.

Lessons for designers

If you want to appeal to all sectors of society then listen and discuss your ideas with your target market beforehand, disabled and non-disabled.

Poor designs and how they impact my life

The contrast of colours on packaging is often a problem such as white print on a light orange background. Even the medication boxes are hard to read sometimes, as the print is small. Finding safe lights that are powerful enough, safe and well made is a problem. I have been scarred for life by a halogen lamp that I had by my bedside. To read I had to adjust the head to place it near. They are top heavy and it fell on my chest and burned me

Five most important ‘things’ in my life

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Contentment
  • Health
  • Fulfillment
  • Exercise.

Message for designers

I am not sure. It depends on the product. I do think that there should be access to products for people who are not accustomed to browsing the internet. For example, include a phone number as well as a web address. There should have instructions with large print.