Young dyslexic entrepreneur uses latest mobile assistive technology to compete in the business world.
Twenty-five year-old businessman, Arran Smith, set up his IT company five years ago to provide computer services and support to local businesses and individuals. Diagnosed as severely dyslexic at eight years-old, Arran's condition historically prevented him from reading and processing information. Now managing director of a successful business, Arran spends considerable amounts of time on the road, so has invested in CapturaTalk v2, the UK's first mobile phone software which converts text to speech, enabling him to access to emails, digital documents and proof read vital documents on the go. With Oxford English Dictionary definitions at his fingertips, Arran is able to access and make sense of difficult information from one handset quickly and discreetly.
Arran began his IT career at Bosworth Community College in Leicester, where he studied for an IT GNVQ, which he then furthered with an advanced GNVQ at North Warwickshire & Hinkley College. "When I was diagnosed as dyslexic, technology was no way near as advanced as it is now, so I struggled immensely with my reading, writing and spelling. Moving on to college, I was given much better support which enabled me to get to grips with computers and discover my passion for IT. I find typing a lot easier than writing by hand, so using a computer gave me a lot of confidence to try new things and further my career."
Fresh out of college, Arran's first job as Project Officer for a local charity involved designing and managing the charity's web site and designing a mobile computer project. Arran comments: "As a very imaginative and creative person, web site design and branding was a dream job, however, my dyslexia meant that I relied heavily on my friends and family to proof read all my web copy which is incredibly frustrating. Assistive technologies such as text-to-speech and speech-to-text have really changed my life; I no longer feel like a burden to people as I can check my own work."
Arran's work with the charity then inspired him to set up his own business, Azco Services. As managing director, Arran spends considerable amounts of time traveling to and from jobs; so much of his communication with clients takes place on e-mail. Perfect for accessing information on the move, CapturaTalk enables text-to-speech for Pocket Word, Notes and tasks, SMS, e-mail and Pocket Internet Explorer applications. Arran said: "As I am out and about a lot, I need a quick and effective way to keep in touch with clients. As I still often rely heavily on pictures and colors to understand information, having a solution which will instantly read out my e-mails, texts and even Word documents is invaluable. The fact that it is on my mobile is ingenious as I always have my phone on me and never need to worry about lugging a laptop everywhere I go. As my phone's got Windows Mobile, I also don't have to worry about being without my calendar and simply sync my phone up to my laptop when back in the office."
As many as one in 10 people in the UK workforce have dyslexia, however many people are unaware of the impact it can have on a person's daily life. Arran comments: "Many people simply don't appreciate just how much of our lives rely upon being able to read. Like any ambitious businessman, I like to keep up with industry and competitor news but before I had CapturaTalk, a simple task such as reading a newspaper was time consuming and stressful. Often I used to find that it took me so long to read an article that I had forgotten half of it before I'd even finished. Now, I simply take a photograph of the text I want to read and the software reads it back to me. It's also great for capturing important snippets of information I don't have time to write down such as website addresses or phone numbers."
As Arran's CapturaTalk software works on his mobile phone, it provides a very discreet way for him to access information. "I can listen to it using headphones so it's very discreet allowing me to remain professional in all situations", says Arran.
Arran has also found that assistive technology has helped him build better rapport and relationships with work colleagues and clients. Arran comments: "Often in meetings, clients will bring along documents or contracts they expect me to flick through on the spot. This was a nightmare in the past as I simply couldn't read or understand things fast enough. Now, I can understand information at the click of a button, which means I'm freed up in meetings to do what I'm good at - giving advice and guidance on improving business performance using IT."
Arran's passion for raising awareness of his condition has also led him to become involved with his local dyslexia group - The Leicestershire Dyslexia Association and The British Dyslexia Association (BDA). Over the years, he has helped to teach other young dyslexic people fundamental study skills including the use of mind-maps, flowcharts and advice for note-taking. Now Vice Chairman of The Leicestershire Dyslexia Association, Arran is an integral part of the charity's committee, contributing to many high-level decisions. Arran comments: "My life has been truly transformed by technology and I want to help others get to grips and make the most of what is available to them. Working with students at a young age, I hope to instill confidence in them to make use of technology and not let their dyslexia hold them back from achieving their potential."
Arran feels very strongly that his dyslexia has helped shaped the ambitious person he is today and has the following advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs: "Never let your dyslexia rule or limit your ambitions. Using assistive technologies frees you up to focus on your strengths and will help you to work independently like everyone else. There is so much advice and support out there, talk to experts who can tailor technologies to suit you and go for it!" Arran plans for 2009 include the expansion of his business and continuing to help young dyslexic people get to grips with technology through his work with the Leicestershire Dyslexia Association and BDA.
CapturaTalk Version 2 can now be purchased as a stand-alone software product to be loaded on a Windows mobile phone at just £275.00 + VAT. With compatible phones costing as little as £159.00 + VAT, CapturaTalk is an incredibly cost-effective solution to support adults with reading difficulties. CapturaTalk Version 2 is eligible for VAT relief for people with a disability.
For more information on eligibility and how to claim please visit www.dyslexic.com/vatdec Find out more at the CapturaTalk website www.capturatalk.com