Do you ever wonder how we did without our everyday technology, like cell phones, lap tops, and email? I have, and I hope I never have to face a day without any of these, unless I go on a hiking trip.
As a visually impaired person, my cell phone is my life line when I’m away from home and waiting for a ride or trying to connect with a friend in a crowded conference. Many of my blind friends have Iphones that have the voice-over feature, and they love them, but I’m not quite ready to tackle that learning challenge. It’s enough for me to conquer the myriad challenges I face with my old technology, let alone take on new hurdles to jump. For instance, today, my netbook has decided to cut itself off from the wireless connection, for no reason at all. I am completely flummoxed. My desk top is working just fine, but it’s a Windows 7 monster, and I much prefer working with my little XP netbook. You might be wondering, “How do you operate a computer at all, with no vision?”
I use a program called Window-Eyes, which translates print into synthesized speech. I can navigate around a document or an email message by pressing various keys such as the up or down arrows, the num pad keys, the enter key, and holding down the control key in combination with other keys. I don’t use the mouse at all, which makes using certain websites a little tricky, sometimes impossible. You can control the way the computer speaks to you by arranging the settings. I have mine set to say each key as I press it, so I can catch typos as I make them.
Another challenge I’m dealing with these days is also a blessing. I just purchased a scanner and downloaded a program that will allow me to hear what I scan. Then I can save the document into my desk top computer, and if I choose, I can send it to a portable digital reader. This is exactly what I plan to do, once I get a certain book scanned. It happens to be one of the hundreds of novels my Aunt Lynn wrote before her untimely death many years ago. The book I’m going to read is called Hay Day, which is set in the real town of French Lick, Indiana. I never thought I’d be able to read any of Aunt Lynn’s books, because they never made it to the talking book library. More about that in a future post. But here I am, scanning one page at a time, hearing the words of my beloved Aunt Lynn. Only it’s not her voice I hear. It’s synthesized speech, but it beats just holding the book and wishing I could read it.
Sometimes, I feel completely overwhelmed by all the rules, commands, keystrokes, and combinations of keystrokes that I have to remember. My brain is fried, and my fist is bruised from banging it on the desk in frustration and impatience, but it’s all worth it at the end of the day. Composing on a computer is so much more efficient than fighting with a typewriter. Listening to synthesized speech is far better than having to wait til I can find someone to read to me. And flipping open a cell phone to make an immediate connection with someone gives me the feeling of security that was not possible back in the days of having to find a phone booth. Yes, it’s all very complicated, and it takes effort to keep up, but I much prefer that than to be isolated and left behind. I don’t want my grandchildren to think of me as old-fashioned. That reminds me, I’ve really got to get busy and learn to text.