Accessibility is very important for all of us, not just for people who are blind but also for people who have other disabilities and people who are sighted. Accessibility is not just technology as some people believe but it is something that makes life easier in any kind of way. It can be anything from a screen reader that lets you navigate your phone, to a puck or a ball with sound to help you play a sport. We think about accessibility at all times. Global Accessibility Awareness Day is today, May 20th, and I would like to share some of my experiences with accessibility, with some information about how I was surprised to learn about these things and some back ground information about myself.
When I was in India I used to learn by literally just listening to my teacher. I had NO IDEA of screen readers and braille. You might ask “how did you learn at all and how were you prepared for tests?” To be honest, I don’t know myself because I asked my mother to read the lesson to me and that is how I prepared. It worked for a while, but I was getting into bigger classes and could not continue to do it that way.
Then my life changed completely when I came to Canada. I learned about screen readers and started learning braille. It feels like that was a 100 years ago, but it was only 2 and a half years ago.
I started using my PC for my homework and braille for math and I felt like a normal student doing their homework and tests without any disadvantages. My braille was at 15 words per minute at grade 1 level and my typing speed was about 10 words per minute. I was learning new things, like there was blind sports and an organization called Blind Beginnings. I was doing great at school (if I say so myself). I learned more about Voiceover and I was thrilled to know that people who are blind could use a phone. In only a year, my life had taken a huge turn from me sitting in a computer class staring at a screen that I couldn’t see, to a person who wore head phones listening to a screen reader while I typed my English homework all on my own.
Books also influenced me a lot. I became what some one might call a “Book Worm.” I have read the Harry Potter books 3 times. Chronicles of Narnia is also special and don’t get me started on how many books I have read. From Harry, Ron, and Hermione to the RedWall series, the 70 or more books about cats and while we are on the subject, the number of books on other animal young adult stories. CELA and the EasyReader app made me feel the joy of entering a world that let me leave behind my problems. I don’t know what I would have done without access to accessible books. I will always be grateful to EasyReader to allow me to enter these worlds of imagination.
But let’s come back into the present.
Now my typing speed is 25 words per minute and braille speed is 29 words per minute at a grade 8 level. This is how technology influenced my life and the change that came over me. Global Accessibility Awareness Day is here, and when I think about what accessibility means to me the thing that comes to my mind is the blog that I am writing right now. I would have never believed that things could be accessible if you would have shown me my present then and said that I would be becoming a “tech guy”. To say this in one sentence – the world needs to be filled with resources that are accessible. The world is diverse and we need accessibility to make the world filled with harmony and for all of us to live happily. I hope I will be one of the people who make the world better, not just for people who are blind but for all people. I am very happy I found things that worked for me because books mean so much to me and accessibility helped me discover the joy of reading.
by Jugaad Sawanr Singh