A Career in Coding
Software developers with visual impairment want to interpret data quickly. But how can they if the data is displayed visually in charts and graphs?
"I’ve been a software developer for more than a decade now. It’s an exciting and lucrative career, and contrary to what you might think, you don’t need vision to do it. I use a screen reader to operate my computer – it reads aloud the text and code displayed on my monitor – and a regular keyboard.
Still there are challenges. Lots of programs deliver important data in the form of graphs or tables, which are difficult to interpret without vision. Unless they’re accompanied by text description, my screen reader can’t give me a sense of what is being conveyed. Instead, I’m stuck listening to every data point being read out loud – not exactly a revolutionary solution. I’d love a tool that could identify trends or patterns in visual data and communicate them to me efficiently."
Finding a Seat
Academics? No problem. For college students with visual impairment, a major challenge is the dining hall.
"When I was in college, I dreaded going to the dining hall. There were four or five food stations, all with constantly changing menus and disorderly lines. I usually asked someone what they thought looked good that day and if they would mind helping me find the correct line. I would have loved to know all my food options, but I never wanted to take up a lot of someone’s time.
Once I got my meal, the next obstacle was finding a place to sit. On a really good day a friend would call out to me to come sit with them. On an OK day, I’d manage to find a chair at an empty table. On an absolutely horrific day, I’d end up finding a chair at a table full of cheerleaders or some other exclusive clique who was mortified to have an outsider ask to sit with them. I wish there was a better way to read the menus, locate the right lines and find a seat independently."
Completing personal medical forms shouldn’t involve the rest of the waiting room.
"Recently I went to a new dentist and was told I needed to fill out a whole sheaf of forms. I have an app on my iPhone that will read text out loud if I take a picture of it, but there was no way I could fill out the paper forms without help.
Fortunately, one of the staff sat with me for half an hour, asking me all sorts of personal questions, and completed the forms for me in the waiting room. I was glad there were no other patients in the room at the time.
It made me uncomfortable to have a total stranger fill out forms for me, especially in a public place like a waiting room. I wish there was a better solution."
Making a Meal
'Smart' appliances can make simple chores into impossible tasks for people with visual impairment.
Kim and Brian's story
"Appliances all around us have digital displays. Most of the time, even though I can’t see the display, I can memorize where the buttons are or use tactile stickers as a reference. But now more of these displays are becoming context dependent: the display on my oven looks different when I’m setting the timer than it does when I’m starting to cook a meal.
These changing displays make it difficult for me to use my oven, stove and crock pot on my own, like I used to. I wish there was an alternative to having a sighted friend on hand to read the options out loud!"
Going the Extra Mile
Inaccessible treadmills and fitness trackers make workouts more challenging for people who are blind.
"To me, being healthy means eating right and exercising regularly. I like going to the gym, but there are many navigational challenges that make it difficult for me to work out independently. Finding a free machine is always hard, especially when the room is noisy and I can’t hear well. Using my white cane to navigate around other guests and equipment can also be tricky.
I want to be able to do everything independently, but also take advantage of the features of fitness equipment. I use a fitness tracker, and would like to have a way for it all to work together and be accessible."