We’ve always believed that vaping should be available to all who want to try it as part of living a healthier life so we’re delighted that today’s post is focusing on vaping and accessibility, specifically vaping while visually impaired.
We were lucky enough to interview one of our longtime V2 customers, Lulu, about her vaping journey and what brands should bear in mind when developing vaping devices to ensure they are accessible to everybody.
1. First of all, could you tell us a little bit about your vaping journey? When did you first try vaping and what steps have to taken to get to where you are today?
I’m 51 and I’ve used nicotine since I started smoking just after my twenty-first birthday. Like millions before me I thought smoking was glamorous, can you believe it? For me it turned into burned holes in my best dress, a house that always smelled no matter how much I air freshened, and a total inability to stop the nicotine craving, even if for a while I was able to quit.
Over the years I tried to quit countless times. I’d manage it for a few days, a few weeks, sometimes even a few months, but I’d always go back because the craving never ever left me. As society’s disapproval of smokers grew and grew I became more and more painfully self-conscious, I hated that I smoked and hated that I couldn’t stop.
One night in 2010, this is going to sound weird but it’s absolutely true, I was dreaming of a cigarette which plugged into my computer. It didn’t give out any smoke, it just tasted like a cigarette. I woke up in the middle of the night, rushed down to the computer, looked up ‘electric cigarette’ on Google and there it was. The e-cig. I was flabbergasted!
The two piece cigalike was what I started with for the next few years. I had two batteries, a charger which I plugged into my computer and I kept my batteries and carts in a carry case. However, I got fed up with batteries and the touch control charger case came into being - a terror to the visually challenged. If you can’t see it’s absolutely impossible, believe me we’ve tried it.
By this time I was back from America, several years on, living in England with my present husband who is also totally blind and who I’d also introduced to vaping. We both got fed up with always running out of batteries, always having to charge them, losing chargers, little flat cases falling down sofa cushions. Why can’t someone invent a nice e-cig that charges wirelessly when you put it back on its little ashtray, we wondered? Then we found the passthrough lead, or the PowerCig.
We live on our computers, they are our work and our social life, so they’re on from the minute we get up to the minute we go to bed. So the PowerCig is perfect for us. Of course, nothing is absolutely perfect. Something to rest it on would be nice, so it doesn’t fall off the desk when not in use. But it’s always charged, you can use carts or a clearomiser with it, it’s easy to replace if you get a loose connection; it’s our perfect solution.
I love it that non-smoking friends can come here, we both vape but our friends can breathe fresh air. I’m much healthier now, my lungs are clearer, I don’t cough anymore, neither does my husband. Vaping has just been an all around good experience for us both.
At the end of last year I took a huge step forward. I had heard of the new flavours of e-liquid from XEO. I adore fruit flavours, hate the taste of tobacco, so I was dying to try them but didn’t think I would be able to fill a tank or a blank cartridge. With amazing help from the V2 staff I learned how to fill an ex-blank. Now I use XEO Aroma e-liquids all the time and I love them. I can even mix flavours!
2. What are a few things you think vaping brands need to understand in regards to vaping while visually impaired?
Vaping is an attractive alternative to smoking for visually impaired people on a number of levels. With rampant unemployment in our community, vaping is not only safer and healthier but much cheaper than cigarettes. I’ve had a lot of people ask me about it. People want to get started, but smoking is a kind of taboo subject that no one wants to talk about much. If you smoke you’re almost looked on as some kind of third class citizen. It’s assumed by non-smokers that you should just be able to stop! Bam! Like that.
In the blind community you can get help on accessibility issues on subjects from computing to eating in public to caring for a baby to setting up your iPhone. But try finding out how to start vaping if you’re blind. What’s out there, how do I use it? There’s no help for us, and staff from the various companies aren’t trained in helping us, they do their very best, but sometimes, as in the case of LCD displays on charger cases, there isn’t much they can do.
Firstly then, vaping brands need to understand that not everyone can use an LCD display. These things are great to have, we’re a tiny part of the world and I’m the last person to think the whole world should pander to our needs, but I have dealt with companies where a touch control charger case was the only way to charge batteries. Secondly, whatever kind of battery charging there is, the indicators are always lights. Some of us may have gadgets that can detect lights; apps on our phones or light detectors which can see LCD lights, I myself do not. Knowing how long a battery takes to charge is important, especially if the battery will discharge again if it is left in too long.
Most importantly, all vaping brands need to understand that when most blind people come to them for help, the most frustrating thing they can ever hear is: “You may need a sighted person to help you with this.” In the vast majority of cases, there is no sighted person to help. That is why they are asking you!
3. In the same vein, what are the main things vaping brands can do to ensure their visually impaired customers can enjoy a rewarding and safe vaping experience?
Vaping is, as far as I have tried it, safe and rewarding for a blind person. I have not entered the territory of box mods and sub ohm, I feel no need to. If brands understand that we need to do things for ourselves and can’t fall back on sighted help we usually do not have, then just raising awareness that little bit would make vaping a much easier road to go down and a much less steep learning curve for some blind people.
One more thought I had concerning e-liquid bottles. The ones I use all have a needle dropper and I rarely overfill, but if I lose count of the drops or am not concentrating I can put in too much. I wonder if a pipette method has ever been tried, where a bulb is used to hold exactly as much as would fill a clearomiser.
4. What would your advice be to any visually impaired people who want to try vaping but aren’t sure where to start?
Firstly, don’t be confused by all the terminology, there is lots of information out there now so research, research, research. Even in 2010, when I was just starting, I did that and it paid off.
Don’t listen to vaping snobs who think that if you don’t have a huge box mod, you’re a wimp. Use what feels comfortable for you. Don’t give up if you can’t immediately find a way to do something.
If the vaping device you’ve chosen seems to be making life too difficult, don’t buy it and choose another. If you’re unsure contact customer services and ask questions, there’s nothing worse than getting that kit out of the box and trying to figure out what all the bits are meant to do. If you ask first, then you’ll know.
There are some really good vaping channels on Youtube. Don’t take everything they say as gospel; opinions are like noses, everyone has one. But they do box openings on a lot of those channels and tell you exactly what’s in a box, and this is often very helpful.
I would say to concentrate on flavour; cloud chasing or big clouds aren’t going to mean anything to us. There are some amazing flavours out there, if you like tobacco you can have some wonderful blends, or just your favourite American Red. If you are a fruit fiend like me, the sky’s the limit.
I would advise always keeping your vaping things in a carry case, I’ve lost more things that I even like to think of by not doing this. Also, if you have a guide dog, make sure you keep anything to do with vaping well out of its way. Things safely shut in a case can’t drop on the floor for interested noses to sniff at or interested tongues to lick.
You might decide to start with the pre-filled cartridges, the two-piece e-cigarette models are the easiest, but don’t be scared of e-liquid like I was, you’re missing out on so much if you don’t try it. It’s really not hard to do, maybe one day I’ll get to go into that more in depth, but you won’t end up with a flood of liquid like I was afraid I would.
Conversely, if you try e-liquid and find it’s not for you, don’t be bullied into using what you don’t feel comfortable with. The most important thing is that you have a safe, easy, rewarding vaping experience and stay off tobacco for good.
We want to say a huge thank you to Lulu for such an informative post. We don’t doubt that this will be a huge help to any visually impaired people who are keen to try vaping and we’re incredibly grateful to have Lulu as one of our customers, she’s a wonderful part of vaping community.
As a company we are always learning and listening to feedback from our customers and from the vaping community as a whole. Want to make vaping an accessible option for everybody who is keen to try it and we are more than happy to discuss any ways that we can make purchasing or using our products simple and safe.