How an iPhone is helping a legally blind athlete prepare for the Paralympics

Katie Kelly’s life has always revolved around sport, and living with a disability has not slowed her down.

In her twenties, Kelly was diagnosed with Usher syndrome, a degenerative eye sight and hearing condition. Today at 41, she is aiming for a spot on the Australian team for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. “I’m a living example that it’s never too late to reach your peak,” Kelly told Mashable Australia.

Working in sports marketing for more than 20 years, she had participated in marathons and Iron Man challenges but remained a “weekend warrior.” That changed around 18 months ago when her ophthalmologist confirmed Kelly was now legally blind.

While she had worn a hearing aid since age five, Kelly decided to find out if she could continue to compete in races as a vision-impaired athlete. She was recruited into Australia’s elite-paratriathlete team and won the 2015 World Triathlon Grand Final in Chicago.

To compete in paratriathlons, which include a 750 metre swim, a 20 kilometre ride and a 5 kilometre run, she has been paired with a guide, Michellie Jones, herself an Olympic medallist. The two women are tethered together during the swim, use a tandem bike and then run together.

Next week, Kelly will know if she’s been selected for Australia’s Paralympic team.

Bringing tech into training

For Kelly, a range of technology has had a significant impact on her training, which takes place two to three times a day in sessions of up to three hours.

Training in Canberra, the iPhone 6+ with its Listen Live function has been a consistent asset. The smartphone feature can be paired via Bluetooth with a hearing aid.

“It’s effectively a built-in microphone,” Kelly explained. “I’ve now got a mount on my coach’s bike and I put my iPhone on his bike. So if I’m doing sessions where he’s guiding me directly in front on the bike and I’m sitting behind him … it means that when he’s talking it goes straight into my hearing aid.”

“When I’m just doing sprints around a track, he can actually speak to me through the phone and tell me if I’m meeting the times,” she added. Jones can also use Listen Live to communicate with Kelly when they ride together on the tandem bike.

To read the rest of this article, published in Mashable, please click here.