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Digital Literacy case study: Update on Telstra & Able Australia’s partnership

Telstra Foundation

Posted on June 21, 2013

3 min read

Michael is a 50 year old man who has no vision or hearing. He was born with some vision but lost this in his teenage years. Michael loves water sports, is a keen swimmer and won a Gold Medal in Hong Kong when he was twenty. He also enjoyed family holidays on Lake Eildon where he learned to water-ski.

Through his adult years, after the complete loss of his vision, Michael became increasingly withdrawn and for many years, stopped communicating altogether. After diagnosis and treatment for epilepsy eight years ago, Michael has gradually started to communicate again and to take an interest in the world around him. His outdoor activities now include rock wall climbing, body surfing, snow skiing, joy rides in small planes, zorbing (see photo below), scuba diving and flying fox rides. Michael has not lost his need for an occasional adrenalin rush and he is currently contemplating swimming with the sharks at the Aquarium.

Michael has always been fluent in deaf sign language and he developed the ability to communicate with the deaf community through tactile sign language. He is also fluent in braille and is able to use a computer, using a braille device.

However, it was not until Michael was shown an iPhone, that his enthusiasm for technology soared. He understood immediately, the transformation this would have on his life and the fact that his iPhone is the same phone used by his family and friends is a source of great pride. It also means that his family is able to assist him with his unending questions regarding the iPhone.

Michael attends weekly training at Ablelink, where peer training is assisting many people with deafblindness, thanks to a partnership between Telstra and Able Australia. Watch the video of Michael learning email on an iPhone where he is being taught by John, who is also deafblind.


As soon as Michael commenced his training on the iPhone he started collecting phone numbers on scraps of paper. He would bring them along to training to add to the training iPhone. He would braille them onto paper and memorise the numbers. Michael was determined to buy his own iPhone and be in contact with his family and friends, at all times.

Michael using his iPhone

Michael has worked all his adult life at Vision Australia in packing. Most of his colleagues are vision impaired and very few know how to communicate with Michael. His iPhone now provides ‘face-to-face’ communication with his workmates who are blind. They can ‘read’ the iPhone screen via speech output or braille. Michael can now complete online training and his involvement in the workplace has increased dramatically, he even orders his own coffee via SMS!

Michael went on a holiday on a cruise and was very excited to take his iPhone with him.

He sent me an SMS on his first day:

“Hello Claire good morning. Jo and I outside on the balcony with a view of opera house and ferries. It was raining and we walked around balcony in the wet. We walk around cruise ship and it is long far. We look at shops with toy cruiseship, chocolates, biscuits, postcards and magnets. The pool is empty. We enjoy around cruise we had good day. Cabin is lovely have couch chair bath shower. I like cabin Michael.”

Michael zorbing

Above: Michael “zorbing” on his cruise holiday.