Friday, 14 June 2013

WHY MUST THE BLIND BE LEFT BEHIND?

It seems as if every technical innovation leaves blind people in the dust. This is especially so with computers. In the early days, microcomputers often used TVs as monitors. A good example of this is the Vic-20. For totally blind folks, it was useless.

Then the IBM personal computers came along. They used dedicated monitors but were useless to those with no sight.

Inv enters, such as Ray Kurzweil devised screen reading software and voice synthesizers to read what was on the monitor and what the blind computer user typed. This worked well in MS DOS.

Twenty years ago, a man from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind visited my house and installed a voice synthesizer and its software on my second-hand IBM clone. For the first time in my life, I could type and know the results immediately. I could also backspace and  retype without having to mess around with liquid paper or correction ribbons. With my dot matrix printer, I was able to print documents easily.

Then along came Windows. My screen reader was unable to read in a graphical environment. Many other blind computer users were also left out in the cold by this new operating system.

A few companies developed Windows-based screen readers, once again allowing folks such as myself to access computers. But our problems weren't over. As web sites became more complex, Flash animation and Portable Document Format (PDF) files refused to work on our computers. Once again, we were left behind until programmers at screen reader software companies found a solution to the problem.

Likewise, all these smart phones and tablets were inaccessible by people such as myself. Then developers found work-around solutions to make these devices speak to us. At times, blind advocacy organizations had to pressure manufacturers to make their devices accessible.

I mentioned my frustrations with visually-oriented devices and activities in my new book called How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. Attending church was particularly embarrassing since I couldn't read the tiny print in the hymn books or read what was on the overhead projector screen. Please check out Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers to learn more about this testimony of God's faithfulness.