A look at how blind people use technology differently from those who are sighted.
We live in a world that is designed for sighted people. I do not mean that in a sarcastic way but rather to give you a sense of how the world has evolved using sight.
According to an article in Community Eye Health Journal, about 3.44% of people across the world have low vision. From those stats, 0.49% are blind. As a result, about 99% of the world is sighted.
As a blind person myself, I can attest that one of the challenges of not having eye sight is the frustration of getting around in unfamiliar areas due to their visual orientation positions. The alternative solution is to explore the area at a slow pace with my walking cane and the GPS function of my iPhone.
As you noticed in my description of my physical navigation skills, something similar can be said about the use of technology as a blind person. Us blind people use technology in a different way from sighted people in which auditory speech is prevalent in our lives.
Computers, smartphones and tablets are a few items that have made a change to our lives as blind users. The alternative way that we use these gadgets is by using a special software that is referred to as a screen reader.
A screen reader is a program that allows a blind user to navigate a screen by hearing auditory commands and to explore it by dragging the user’s finger across the screen or the use of hotkeys via a keyboard of a computer or laptop. Speech synthesizers are easily comprehensible when the speech output is spoken by the screen reader.
The use of this software on a computer enhances users’ ability to navigate the internet, write documents on word processors, create PowerPoint presentations and do other tasks that require the use of productivity systems in this day and age.
The most popular screen reader on a computer is called JAWS, which stands for Job Access With Speech. The screen reader is installed to any Windows computer. The software is the most robust screen reader in the market and has been the primary choice for many blind users across the world. It is utilized in schools, workplaces and for personal use.
For me, JAWS has been a useful tool to get a lot of stuff done in my daily life. It is so vital for me to use this software because it enhances the independence of getting a job, applying for school, ordering food online, reserving spots for adventure purposes and so many other facets of life.
I get to do the same things a sighted person would do on his or her computer but, of course, in a different way in which I have to rely on speech output from speakers or the use of earphones.
The use of a smartphone or a tablet is pretty much the same as if I were to use a computer with a screen reader. For these devices, touch screens are heavily relied upon. Screen readers are preinstalled into IOS and Android systems. The screen reader for IOS is called Voiceover, and for Android it is called Talk Back.
The good thing about these two operating systems is that the screen readers are able to be used with the touch screen. The user drags their finger across the screen and listens what is being spoken. To perform an action, the user must double tap the screen in order to select an app.
There are other commands that are related to finger swipes to navigate the device at a fast pace. With different finger gestures the user is capable of using the touch screen to perform any task that a normal sighted person would do on their smartphone or tablet. Using my smartphone has enhanced my ability to text, surf the web anywhere and use my smartphone as a GPS receiver in order to get to places that I am unfamiliar with.
I truly believe that assistive technology has done a lot for us as blind people. The functionality of using these tech gadgets demonstrates that inclusion has come into the tech world as well. Everybody gets to enjoy the aspects of being connected online regardless of disability or ability.