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Useful gadgets for visually impaired folks

 
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I know a person who is 100% visually impaired. He is in India. To give you an idea of how hard life is for handicapped people in India, imagine this - there is no way a blind person can cross an intersection by himself. There is no "Push to walk". Traffic doesn't stop for any one...not even for the red lights! Elevators don't have braille marking for floors. No beeps/voice indication. It is a very tough place, specially for the visually impaired.

So I was wondering what can be done to so that he can also take advantage of the information age. I was wondering what devices people use in the developed countries that can enable blind folks to effectively "browse" for content. I know there are some s/w that "speak" whatever is there on the page but I felt they are practically useless. A blind person has no orientation as to where he is on the page or what is it that is being read. He has no idea where and how to type in even the URL. The best thing I found was audio books but even for those he is actually dependent on people finding those books and giving them to him. He also needs some one to open the audio book that he wants to read.

So as of now, informational TV channels such as Discovery, NatGeo, news channels, is how he gets most of his information. But internet is the greatest learning tool for someone who wants to learn. So in short, how can it be made more accessible to people who can't see at all?

Any thoughts or ideas?

 
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For using a computer, I've personally seen a blind person be very productive using a screenreader called Jaws. I tried it myself and did medium. (It requires training and practice to use. Rather than invest that tim, I cheated by looking at the screen periodically.) There are keyboard shortcuts for things like typing in a URL. There is a braille reference guide to learn the shortcuts. This helps for many websites. However, a large number of websites just plain aren't accessible to blind people.

In the United States, we have a law called the Americans with Disabilities Act. It requires physical disabilities to be accommodated in public structures (ramps and the like.) IN 2006, there was a class action lawsuit against target requiring web business to provide some level of accessibility as well.
 
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Have you tried asking for advice from charities who work with the visually impaired? For example the RNIB is the relevant organisation here in the UK.

Incidentally, it is certainly possible for a blind person to become very competent with a computer, given the right support. In my first IT job in 1987 we had a blind analyst-programmer on the team, and I'm sure the technology must have improved since then!
 
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chris webster wrote:In my first IT job in 1987 we had a blind analyst-programmer on the team, and I'm sure the technology must have improved since then!


I'm not sure all the development was positive in this context. Back then, there were no Windows. Most applications ran in text mode, which allowed screens to be easily - and fully - read by the screen reader software, or "viewed" using braille lines. Nowadays, if a picture is displayed, it won't be read/shown unless the alt text is provided. Unfortunately, not all applications do this.
 
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Paul Anilprem wrote:I know there are some s/w that "speak" whatever is there on the page but I felt they are practically useless.



Have you ever watched an expert blind user using a screenreader? I have once, and it was astonishing - I'd seen people using them for testing plenty of times (and had played with one myself), but this was the first time I'd watched someone who clearly used them all the time. The first thing you noticed was the speed he had it tuned to. I couldn't even understand the voice, it was so fast. He had no trouble. He was also completely fluent in a large number of keyboard shortcuts. I've seen plenty of sighted people who are less productive with a computer.

However, all this is dependent on software and websites being written in a way that supports this (or at least doesn't actively get in the way), which is where the legal requirements come in. The UK has similar laws to the ones Jeanne mentions in the US.
 
Paul Anilprem
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Thank you for the suggestions!
 
He was giving me directions and I was powerless to resist. I cannot resist this tiny ad:
Java file APIs (DOC, XLS, PDF, and many more)
https://products.aspose.com/total/java
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