The White Cane Wiz

This is about a different meeting I attended some time back, on the 15th of October 2006. The monthly general meeting of Lions Club of Colombo Circle (which is the parent club of my Leo club – Leo Club of Colombo Circle) was held at Hotel Western, Colombo 4.

As it was the “World White Cane Day”, which has a very close relationship with Lions, the organizers had invited two guest speakers to the event. The first speaker is a famous Tamil writer, and the second one works at the Social Services Department, and both of them were visually handicapped – blind.

Here I’m going to share some of my experiences and knowledge I gained from their speeches, specially the second speaker, Ashoka Bandula Weerawardane. His speech was about how technology and computers could be used by blind people. We are in a world where we run for colorful GUIs and run behind ‘Mr. Bill’ to get his so-said ‘USER-FRIENDLY’ operating systems and I thought they would be doing some typing and easy stuff like that.

He started his speech by saying, “You all would know many more things than me on computers, but I’ll share the fraction I know”.

First point he started with was the narrator software, and his choice was JAWS. He said that with this software, the blind can understand the interface which we see. When he mentioned the words, “Dialog boxes, Check boxes, OK buttons, etc”. I was stunned. I was surprised to here that he uses a ‘CRACKED’ version of JAWS which is a proprietary software and the crack was also done by some ‘blind-programmers’.

His thoughts about office packages was, “They are easy for us (blind), and I hope nothing for you all (sighted)”. He had used all of them and “I can even insert pictures and effects to slid shows, but you only can see…” was his comment about them. He also mentioned about many other latest tools for graphics, monitoring, navigation, printing, trans-coding, etc., but I was unable to grab those, simply because I didn’t understand those. He also know some basics of Linux and open-source software. (Mr. Bill, you might lose another guy, so bring in some more ‘crazy’ laws to CLOSE the doors, ASAP.)

Another important point from his speech is – blind people and Internet. He said “I have browsed many sites on the Internet, and I think Firefox is a good browser, having used browsers like IE, Netscape and Opera”. He said that we can chat with him when he is online, and he had also used Skype, which he thinks is ‘blind-friendly’.

The final point was about a web site, which is meant for blind computer users, www.blindprogramming.com, where they teach from ‘assembly-to-Java’ specially for blinds.

Quoting him once again – “You all would know many more things than me on computers, but I’ll share the fraction I know”. Who know the fraction, me or him? The answer is ME..

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