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“It’s like I’m alive again. I really do feel like I’m a part of things now.”

Ellie Leach

Ellie had never used a typewriter, never mind a computer, when she attended an iPad demonstration at a conference for seniors with vision loss in 2014. Knowing how much her fully sighted daughter-in-law enjoys using her iPad, the 78-year-old Framingham resident signed up for training through Easter Seals Massachusetts.

Ellie, whose macular degeneration forced her to leave her job in a mailroom in 1994, said she initially feared that the technology would be too advanced. Working closely with Assistive Technology Specialist Steven Kessler, however, she now proudly uses the device on a daily basis while eagerly anticipating future lessons to learn even more.

“It’s like I’m alive again,” said Ellie, who relies on spectacle microscope eyeglasses to see the iPad. “I really do feel like I’m a part of things now.”

Ellie, a lung cancer survivor who has been the coordinator of a low vision peer support group in Framingham for nine years, also volunteers for the Meals on Wheels program through Framingham-based BayPath Elder Services. “Now as soon as I come in the door,” she said, “I reach for the iPad to see if I got any e-mail.”

Ellie credits Steve – whom she calls a “wonderful teacher” – with patiently teaching her to write down all the steps required to navigate the Internet and more. She enjoys e-mailing with family and friends, doing word searches and playing solitaire and other games that “I thought I would never play again after I couldn’t see the cards.”

In addition, Ellie listens to her extensive playlist of country songs on iTunes, and is delighted to view photographs online rather than in picture frames that would gather dust on her shelves. She even recently surprised her son by initiating a video chat through Skype. Next, she may try Facebook.

While Ellie admits to not understanding all the “technology lingo,” she said she simply focuses on one step at a time.

“It’s a lot of fun, and such a blessing,” Ellie said. “it’s made such a difference in my life, and I’m sure it would do the same in someone else’s life. You just have to have the right mindset and attitude to try anything and stay positive. I wish I had done this a long time ago because I’m getting so much out of it.”

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