They can’t see, but they can write codes
It's interesting to observe Alok Kaushik at work. You can see him typing on a keyboard but there’s no screen. There's no mouse either.
Kaushik, a senior application developer with an e-commerce platform in the UK who works with complex software, is blind. So he has no use for a screen or a mouse. And he can code just as fast -- and well -- as the next guy who can see. Coming to his aid is an assistive software called 'screen reader' that converts written text into speech. That, essentially, has changed his world.
Thousands of miles away in Delhi, Pranav Lal, a cyber security expert with Vodafone, can code fluently in computer languages like Python, Java, C and C++. He, too, like Kaushik, is blind.
“I started by writing simple programs to help me with my school work," Lal, 38, said. Today, he can write complex code and has developed a computer app – a speech recognition software -- for the visually-impaired.
Lal is an avid photographer and has adapted vOICe -- an AI tool that offers the blind the experience of live camera views through image-to-sound renderings -- for the Linux operating system. Images here are converted into sound by scanning them from left to right. It associates elevation to pitch and brightness to loudness. “I 'saw' the black hole using this tool,” Lal smiled.
“Who would have thought that the visually-impaired could do coding,” said Arman Ali, executive director of National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People, an advocacy organisation. "But with technology, especially screen readers and artificial intelligence (AI), the visually impaired are being integrated into the mainstream workforce and are not limited to desk and accounting jobs anymore."
JAW (Job Access with Speech) and NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) are two popular screen readers while AI tools such as Microsoft’s See AI enables people with low or no eyesight to "experience" people, texts and objects.
"Technology is still limited to a small fraction of India’s blind population," Ali said. “We have to make it accessible to many more and for that we need the government to look at disability as a development issue and not a welfare issue.” He added, "For starters, the government should make it mandatory for all websites to be accessible with screen reader."
Mohammad Afzal, 36, who lost his eyesight in a car accident when he was just 14, said programming for the blind these days "is no rocket science". Employed as a counsellor with Saksham, an NGO that works with the visually impaired in Delhi, he is busy teaching himself to code. "I want to get a degree in cyber security," he said. "I am learning Python, a programming language that’s similar to English and, therefore, easy to pick up.” Afzal added that he uses apps such as Ola, Swiggy, Google Maps, Twitter with ease on his smartphone using screen reader.
To an untrained ear, the screen reader text sounds like a robot reading out the hurried disclaimer at the end of insurance TV commercial -- "Insurance is subject matter of solicitation…" -- but the speed can be adjusted and so can the characters that you want the reader to pick up. English is normally spoken at a speed of 120-150 words per minute. Screen reader can read up to 450 words per minute.
Dinesh Kaushal, a 43-year-old NVDA development manager with Publicis Sapient, an MNC in Gurgaon, didn't have access to such technology while completing his school education, but he made the best use of what was available at the time.
As a student in a special school he was told that he couldn’t study maths after Class 9 because of his impairment. He was born blind.
Kaushal believes that students with visual impairment should be encouraged to study maths and english so that they too can get a chance to make a career in fields such as engineering and finance.
“I missed out most of the curriculum from classes 6-8 due to the lack of braille text books,” said Kaushal, who went back to studying mid-school math using audio books provided by the National Association of Blind while preparing for an MCA (masters of computer applications) exam. Today, he's a successful programmer with impressive credentials, like developing the first open source screen reader, Screen Access For all.
While technology has made great strides in opening up the world for the blind, some blips still exist. For example, the coders we spoke to complained that many websites, including popular applications, are screen reader-incompatible.
“Most developers do not have a good understanding of web content accessibility guidelines. The end result is a software that cannot be used fully by screen reader. This could be significantly limiting, and we are forced to either move to alternative solutions or rely on sighted assistance,” said Kaushik, an IIT graduate who lost his eyesight in his 30s due to a rare genetic disease. Kaushal adds that including persons with disability in creating design and technology solutions for them can help in overcoming this challenge.
译文来源：三泰虎 http://www.santaihu.com/47615.html 译者：Jessica.Wu
Keysman K• Unknown • 2 hours ago
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