Episode 13: Steph Cutler

Gears, Gadgets and Gizmos
Dr Phil Friend
7 Oct 2020

Steph's career started in the fashion industry where she designed for high street labels, such as Ted Baker and M&S.

Listen to Steph's Gears, Gadgets and Gizmos

She had always wanted to be a fashion designer and says she was working hard, playing hard and keen to make her mark. As her career began to take off disability came into her life when she unexpectedly experienced sight loss.

Her company, Making Lemonade was initially born from her lived experience of acquiring her impairment. This quickly led to an interest in the lived experiences of a wide range of other disabled people and interest in disability equality generally. She became an advocate of disability issues and a champion of diversity and inclusion which remains the foundation of Making Lemonade. 

In this podcast, Steph tells us about the things she uses on a regular basis which help her get passed or around the barriers her sight loss presents.

Here are links to the Gear, Gadgets and Gizmos that Steph discussed.

Transcript of the podcast

Phil Friend: 0:27

So I'm delighted today to welcome to our podcast, Steph Cutler, who I've known for some time. Um, but I'm going to let Steph tell you a bit about herself before we get into her sort of three gadgety things. So Steph, tell us a bit about yourself.

Steph Cutler: 0:43

Okay. So, um, I became, partially sighted and I'm registered blind but par tially sighted feels a bit more descriptive. I've got qui et a significant sight loss and I aquired that about 16 years ago, something like that. Um, and , um , and so for the last fifteen or so years, I've been living with sight loss and in terms of work and things that I've been doing I very quickly upon acquiring my sight loss I set an equality consultancy.

Phil Friend: 1:24

Um, okay. So, so you've got a major site impairment, so I'm guessing, although it doesn't have to be this way, I'm guessing that the things you're going to tell us a bit about are related to that. So what would be the first thing Steph that , um , comes to mind when you think about things you use on a sort of pretty daily basis to deal with your sight loss?

Steph Cutler: 1:46

Yeah, the first thing. Um, is my iPhone, when I first got an iPhone it is no exaggeration to say i t changed my life as a blind person, y ou k now, it really did. U m, and I think lots of people feel like that. I think ls of non-disabled people talking about, not being able to live without their phones but actually think s o many of us with a disability and with a sight loss, it really did have that kind of effect. And I think i t's because prior to that, it was possible to have an accessible phone, but it wasn't, that easy you had to buy a phone obviously everybody does, but then y ou h ave to get better additional software to put onto the phone and it h ad to be compatible. A nd so you didn't have much choice about what sort of phone you could have. And, u m t hen phones were much less sophisticated but t here was always a few issues and as disabled person you had to just pay in a ddition. And I think the thing that iPhone, one of the many, many things for me a nyway, you went out a bought this bit of kit and it looked like everyone elses and it had inbuilt accessibility so actually you didn't have to go ou t a n d b uy th em s omething else to put on it. And everything was pretty compatible because it wa s d esigned to be something separate. You were adding on to s omething else.

Phil Friend: 3:26

I mean, obviously I think we all know most people know at least that the, the iPhone and Apple products come with accessibility built in, cause we've got an accessibility. Um, or what'd you call it? It's not an a , it's not a kind of tab, but , um, is there a specific app or something that you use Steph , uh , that's on the iPhone, is there one particular thing you use an awful lot,

Steph Cutler: 3:50

So you b asically n eed t o switch it on make it start t alking w hich is what I do because I use voice over. So once y ou e nabled that a nd your settings everything y ou t ouch on t he screen, will talk to you and then you just use some different gestures in order to navigate so everything Apple is accessible in my experience when you can this way.

Phil Friend: 4:14

No, I think you are right. Yes. I think you are right. I think the iPads and the Apple Mac, you know, the desktop machines, they all have lots of accessibility features. So I think that was a first wasn't it? I don't think , uh , Microsoft were doing so much of it back in the day, but so voiceovers the thing , sorry.

Steph Cutler: 4:35

No, I can say, I think many of products , so it's been quite a game changer, I think, successful products . And then of course you can download apps to your phone or your device and they c an be mixed in terms of how accessible they are. S o some of those w ork p retty w ell. Some don't work at all and some of them are in the middle. So its a bit hit and miss

Phil Friend: 5:10

Do you, do you , um , have a sort of source for your, the apps or do you just hear word of mouth or what, what, what persuade you to download an app that you know, is going to be good

Steph Cutler: 5:22

Sometimes, I'll ask around you know , we do , we'll kind of talk to each other. I'm much more inclined if somebody uses the same assistive tech as me, or uses something in the same way to me and says this works well I'll follow their recommendation. Um , but otherwise you do things on a whim, you download something and you know , you try it and you see,

Phil Friend: 5:51

Yeah, yeah. So just trial and error

Steph Cutler: 5:55

When it works you've gott me, you know, I am loyal to you if your app works and it makes my life easier. You could be sometimes more expensive. I'm not going to leave you because I really appreciate the fact that some of the things that I use, I've got external apps for which really, like I say, there's an app that I use for shopping and it was completely inaccessible, completely inaccessible. And it just turned me off that brand entirely . Um , and I downloaded another one and I've used it ever since, because it's so simple for me to order products. Um, you know, when you're going around, the shop even with assistance you don't really get to know all the details. You can't see the labels, you know, you can't see the prices, even when you've got somebody really helpful, you still out on quite a lot of information like what are the calories is something vegan or, where it comes from those kind of things that would be on a label. You wouldn't ordinarily notice it . I've got much, much more ch oice a n d I can compare, u m , I c a n, when you go around a sh op i ts never that easy and you've still got to get there and that kind of thing

Phil Friend: 7:30

And what's the name, what's the name of the app, Ocado And they have their own app, do they?

Steph Cutler: 7:41

Yeah. they do yeah

Phil Friend: 7:41

Right. So there's an app that anyone listening to us can download onto their iPhone and then it , how does it work? Does it , um , it does , um , use a camera to you to point at things and it then tells you what it is.

Steph Cutler: 7:56

I think you can't do that you I tend not to can kind of do to the whole bar code thing yeah, they kind of , it can remember what you ordered last time so then its just a case of reordering things like milk so boring but essential things

Phil Friend: 8:12

Y eah, yeah.

Steph Cutler: 8:14

Um, and you can search for products, you can create lists and yeah, you can compare stuff you, you know, you book your slot you don't even have to leave the house and it gets delivered so as a person with sight loss who lives in an inaccessible place It just really gives you that independence never would have had otherwise .

Phil Friend: 8:39

Yeah. So , um, that's the first one, or have we already dealt with, I mean, what's your second favorite thing and we might have already covered it, but if you haven't, what is it?

Steph Cutler: 8:49

Other the kind of apps and things I use?

Phil Friend: 8:51

Yeah. I mean, stuff that you find invaluable in terms, aside , aside from your iPhone and , and the use that.

Steph Cutler: 8:57

Yeah . Yeah. I could talk about that all day. Um, because it literally does help me with so many things, but , um , another thing whch I really value, in fact, it has just become really normal and I think that's what I kind of love is when accessibility is built in and it just, becomes business as usual because you don't have to have extra stuff because you're disabled. A nd so it's a bit in line with t he t hing a bout t he p hone a ctually, but I've got a, u m, we needed to buy a new TV and at the time Panasonic, had been working with the RNIB and produced a series of their TV's which came with voice guidance.

Phil Friend: 9:45

Oh, okay .

Steph Cutler: 9:46

Um, and , again it's just built in and anybody could just but that telly um , yeah, they kind of , um, but if you want to use voice guidance and toggle it on and its just really simple really and it enables you to use the remote control much more easily. So it tells you which channel your on .These days there are tons of channels aren't there

Phil Friend: 10:08


Steph Cutler: 10:09

You skip through them. As somebody who can't see the screen constantly to screen at all or well it is so hard to know what , what you're watching, what channel you're on, you know, what's coming up next and with the remote control and the voice guidance it just tells you what that you're watching BBC, One you're watching, the One Show and after the One Show it's going to be East Enders so you can try to plan your viewing a bit more, you can do a whole bunch of other stuff as well, but it just means that it used to be quite hit and miss knowing what you were watching.

Phil Friend: 10:50

How long ago did you buy that TV then? Um , Steph, I mean ,

Steph Cutler: 10:54

Oh crikey.

Phil Friend: 10:54

Is it some time ago now?

Steph Cutler: 10:56

Yeah. It might be something like five years ago.

Phil Friend: 10:59

Right. So we can only assume I asked , because I'm assuming that they've got even better, that the voice guidance systems that they use on the modern a more modern TV would be an improved version of what you've got. Do you think?

Steph Cutler: 11:19

That might exist I don't know, we don't buy a new telly that often Well, I'd like to think happens is that other manufacturing cottoned on

Phil Friend: 11:27

Yes they copy. No. Well, what I'll do is , um , we do this with all the, all the podcasts is I'll do a little bit of post podcast research and see what we can find on voice guidance on TV sets . So I'll put those in the show notes for the listeners so they can look up and check it out for themselves. But that's brilliant. So, so you, you, I've now learned that you're a one show in East Ender fan. Are you? I didn't know this about you Steph you're revealing your deep secrets. Um , okay . So you should have said Panorama or something. Um , um, so that, so voice guidance on television clearly in absolute godsend for people with sight loss. What about your third thing? Is there something else that you use on a really regular basis,

Steph Cutler: 12:19

Well it has to be my new best Alexa?

Phil Friend: 12:20

Mm , yes.

Steph Cutler: 12:21

So Alex's not perfect , but she's pretty, pretty good. And , um, yeah, I mean, as a blind or partially sighted person she can make tasks that I wouldn't say necessarily were inaccessible previously. There would have been ways old school ways and stuff that you could still do on your phone or on your computer, but Alexa just make doing some of this stuff really, really easy.

Phil Friend: 12:49

Can you give me an example of , um, can you give me an example of what you use it for from a sight loss point of view?

Steph Cutler: 12:54

Yeah, so , um , once it's setup it couldn't be more simple and I don't use for everything it can do yet, I'm still kind of developing my relationship with her, but you can say things . If you think that to your phone, you can say things like call Phil and it will just start calling you. Um , you can , um, think of your calendar that you can ask what appointments you've got that day. Um , and the whole family, you know, kind of working out yeah . What everyone's doing in the household . You can just ask Alexa, you can set reminders. That's quite useful because I think reminders can often be quite visual things. Yeah . Like post it notes on the fridge, in the house . So you can set reminders for people to ring or for medication or things like that, which can go back to TV. You can ask Alexa, what's on the telly tonight. You c an, yeah. You can get your news from there, your sports information about what, you know, that kind of thing.

Phil Friend: 14:05

So it works, it works a bit, a bit like a radio, but on demand. So you kind of ask it to tell you the news, rather than waiting for six o'clock to come around when it's on TV or something, you use it as well for reminders, like, you know, switch the oven off or switch the oven off or call Phil at six, you know, that kind of thing.

Steph Cutler: 14:25

Yeah. Um , you can use it to say, like, if you put something in the oven set a reminder for twenty minutes or something , you can ask it for recipe books and things . Not very useful , useful for me. Um, yeah. I can't do it other ways, but actually, you know, you can ask Alexa for a recipe for Victoria Sponge and she'll find you one, you can even add the ingredients to your shopping list. All of that stuff with sight loss it isn't impossible, but tricky and you do need other bits of tech you know so she's kinda of good in the sense that she does so much stuff. You don't need lots of skills to be able to use her. There's lots of fun stuff you can do as well.

Phil Friend: 15:18

Yes. She can tell stories and jokes and audio audiobook . Radio

Steph Cutler: 15:26

Yeah. Like with a conventional radio its a bit like the TV it's hard to know what station you're listening to. You'd need an accible radio which do exist but you can just ask Alexa to play Radio Two and off she goes Umq .

Phil Friend: 15:43

An all round jolly good egg. We would say wouldn't we, we quite like Alexa . Yes.

Steph Cutler: 15:48

Yes she's not perfect she doesn't always understand you she gets confused. Sometimes bless her but I'm sure she'll just get better and better there is so much you can do can do it. I think Ithere are things I haven't done actually, but you can link her to things whereby you can turn the lights off you can ask to this is quite a good one. If you, if you're blind or partially sighted, or just forget why you put things if you need your phone in the house, you can ask it to find your phone and, you kn o w, t hat's quite useful. If you're bli nd, t he n yo u 're ab l e to tr y and retrace your steps.

Phil Friend: 16:27

Okay . Now we also , what we've got is the iPhone with about 8 million apps on it that you use all the time. One of your favorites is a Ocado , um, um , Panasonic TV or similar with voice guidance, which is allowing you to watch the one show and EastEnders and Alexa, which helps you find stuff , does all sorts of crazy stuff, but particularly tells you the recipe for a Victoria sponge, which is very, I'm coming round for tea . Right? Well, what can I say, Steph, but other than to thank you so much for giving us your time and sharing your three things with us , um, and I'll make sure that that, that information is on our show notes. So our listeners can find the things that you find so useful. So thank you so much, Steph. It's been great talking to you and take good care.

Steph Cutler: 17:14

Oh , you're welcome .

Phil Friend: 17:18

You take good care. Bye bye. Thanks for listening everyone. And if you'd like to be on the show, please drop me a line brinkburn@gmail.com