Christmas 2004 was something of a turning point for Mary Beekman. This was when the 78-year-old from Strathfield, in Sydney, first realised that macular degeneration had caused her sight to deteriorate to an extent that she could no longer drive.
“That’s when I also recognised that I really could no longer read. I couldn’t even see a page close up,” Mary recalls.
She soon contacted her local Vision Australia centre, in nearby Enfield. Within no time she had signed up to the Vision Australia Information Library Service, and started borrowing audio books.
“They were very obliging down there,” she says. "People at Vision Australia have been very sympathetic to my needs.”
“I’ve always enjoyed reading. I like to read at night especially, especially now that I’ve raised my family and have more time,” Mary says.
She was also was one of 1000 Vision Australia clients to put their name down to trial the DAISY (Digital Accessible Information SYstem) player. This machine has revolutionised how our clients read audio books, allowing them to skip through chapters and find specific information via an index.
But Mary Beekman doesn’t need convincing about the merits of the digital playback device. She loves the flexibility and portability of the machine.
“The digital playback device is so easy to use. At the moment I’m reading The Forsythe Saga trilogy – I usually choose my books based on the author,” she says.
“It’s very handy for me, as a reader of fiction, but I’m sure it would be wonderful for students. I use my digital playback device every day.”
As a former electrical engineer, Mary’s husband Tony took a keen interest in the trial and became familiar with both DAISY machine models – the Plexor and the Victor. He’s so impressed that he’s offered to volunteer his services to maintain the equipment.
Earlier in 2006, Mary suffered a haemorrhage in her left eye, which further limited her sight. However, she says she considers herself to fortunate to see as much as she can. She mostly borrows audio books, but she also enjoys our compilation CDs, which enable her to keep up to date with magazines such as CHOICE, Reader’s Digest, Australian Geographic and various women’s titles.
“The service is excellent – I’m very impressed,” Mary adds. ”I very much appreciate the help I’ve received from Vision Australia.”