Illinois Accountant with Combined Hearing & Vision Loss says Smartphone Changed her Life

July 17, 2014
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With a degree in accounting, Sara Chung’s professional life was never in question. Math is her forte; and she enjoys her work as an accountant. But Chung, who is deaf with low vision as a result of Usher Syndrome, faced challenges staying connected to her network of family and friends. Technology that enables people who are deaf and blind to communicate by phone or through the Internet is expensive and the numbers didn’t add up for this 33 year-old from Lincolnwood.

Then she learned about the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program, which is promoted as iCanConnect, and is administered in Illinois by her employer, the Chicago Lighthouse For People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired. Chung met the income requirements to participate in the program, which paid for a new iPhone 5 and one-on-one training so she could learn how to take advantage of the new device.

“It changed my life!” says Chung, who is the youngest of three and now stays in touch with her family by texting and emailing. She also uses the smartphone’s video chat function to talk with others who know sign language.

Now in its third year, iCanConnect is helping people who have combined hearing and vision loss access technology – including laptops, tablets, amplified phones and braille devices – to make staying connected easier and more efficient.

Born deaf, Chung learned she had Usher Syndrome at age 16 after her basketball coach noticed she kept bumping into people and things. He urged her to see a doctor.

Despite the diagnosis, Chung excelled in high school and went on to get her degree from Robert Morris University in Chicago. She chose a career in accounting because she says, “I was so good in math.  It made me feel like I could accomplish something.”

Chung is the president of LeCOBDA – The Club of Blind Deaf Adults, a social interactive organization of deaf-blind persons and Support Service Providers (SSP’s).  “It’s a way for us to communicate with others like us.”

Joann Rushing, the program director for The Chicago Lighthouse, calls Chung a person with a “can do” attitude who is helping the iCanConnect program.

iCanConnect is available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Learn more at www.iCanConnect.org. Click on “State Partners” to find each state’s contacts. The website is accessible to users with low vision and those who use screen readers, and it features video that is both audio described and captioned.  Information about iCanConnect is also available by calling 1-800-825-4595 Voice or 1-888-320-2656 TTY.