In today’s world, there are many people who live each day with some sort of a disability. Some individuals are born with some sort of ‘handicap” or another–whether it be blindness, hearing impairment, a speech problem, or some other physical or mental impairment. Others become disabled later in life due to different circumstances ranging from poor health, genealogy, accidents, and so forth. Even in our technologically advanced society in which we live, it is sad to see that, although technology is advancing, these individuals who are disabled are left behind. We have seen many nifty devices arrive in today’s market, but many of these devices lack the necessary means for people with disabilities to be able to use them. the frustrating part of this is that the technologies which could be used to make devices accessible do exist and are available, but many companies refuse to use them.

The following question may drift through the minds of some readers of this article: Why can’t you disabled folks just use technologies which are specifically designed for you?

Here are my thoughts on these questions. Please keep in mind that I am not trying to open a can of worms here; my hope is that everyone would learn to stop and think before making one-sided, and sometimes even hateful remarks when the subject of accessibility arises.

If you were to order a computer system in your favorite color, would you be willing to pay hundreds more to purchase the system? The system would have the same exact hardware and operating system as systems of other colors, but because you want to use a system which is exactly the way you want it, you have to pay more. Would you be willing to pay $500 or more for your dream system? This may not be the best analogy, but I think that you will see my point here in a moment.

When I bought my first computer system, a machine which had 128 MB of RAM and which ran Windows ME, the latest version of the Windows operating system at the time, I was very excited. I thought that I was heading down a bright and exciting new path in my life. Then I turned the machine on. I couldn’t see what I was doing. I could not tell what was on my screen. I had to have my younger brother narrate everything to me. A feeling of helplessness loomed over me.

I was later told about screen readers and screen magnifiers. I was filled with a surge of hope, but then I found out the horrible news: a screen magnifier could cost about $500, and a screen reader would cost $900 – $1,200. Oh, and I would have to pay for upgrades in the future. Being brought up in a home where the household income put us below the poverty level, I knew that neither myself nor my mother could afford these technologies. I eventually received help to purchase the technologies I needed, the technologies became useless as time went on, and I could not afford to upgrade to the newest version of them.

Is it right that a person with a disability has to pay the price of two to three computer systems just to use an already purchased system? In most cases, technologies which are designed specifically for disabled users come at a much higher cost; in many cases, the price is so high that individuals simply just give up on trying to get a foothold in the technology world.

Let’s face the facts! In order to gain employment nowadays, it is vital for an individual to have a working knowledge of at least one computer operating system as well as numerous computer applications. If these operating systems and/or applications are inaccessible to disabled users, then it will be difficult, if not impossible, for those in the disabled community to have any bit of an advantage in finding work.

In the “Fighting Forward” series of posts, I am going to try to focus on different organizations which are fighting to make technology accessible, not just for blind users for also for users with other disabilities. Why “Fighting Forward” and not “Fighting Back”? The fight is not a fight against companies, although it may seem like it at times, but rather a striving together with cooperative organizations to make technology accessible to everyone.

ENTER THE ACCESSIBLE COMPUTING FOUNDATION (ACF)

The Accessible Computing Foundation (ACF) realizes the need for technology to be accessible. This organization was started by Jonathan Nadeau, a blind husband, father, free software and accessibility advocate, and student at Worcester State University. Some of the goals of the ACF include the following:

  • The promotion of free and open source assistive technologies and operating systems as an alternative to high-priced proprietary products
  • Beginning the development of accessibility frameworks which can be used to make software more accessible
  • The building of the Accessible Freedom Wiki, a place where individuals can learn about the accessibility features of various flavors of the GNU/Linux operating system, as well as how to use these features and technologies
  • Starting of a Support and a Devices mailing list. anyone is welcome to these lists, and all questions and ideas related to the accessibility of operating systems, applications, and devices are welcome.

The Accessible Computing Foundation stands for a very worthy cause. Please consider supporting this organization by either becoming a member or by making a financial contribution. Any contribution which is made is an investment in the future lives of many disabled computer users, of which I am one.

Kind regards, and thanks for reading.

IT’S CLICHÉ, BUT IT’S TRADITION–THE “INTRODUCTION” POST

Hello, everyone! My name is Robert (feel free to just call me “Bob”), and this is, in essence, my first *real* blog. I have written brief snippets on blog sites in the past, but I always just went back and deleted them. Well, I’m turning over a new digital leaf! I love to write, and write is just what I will do.

I am a partially blind geek, short and simple. I am a husband, a father, a student, a technology enthusiast, and so much more. Am I a guru? Not quite yet, but I hope to be in the future. The first step to becoming a guru, in my opinion, is that of learning that there is always more to learn. learning is a process which should never be discontinued. When one stops learning, one loses the potential future value of living an educated life.

I am a Linux user, so there will be many Linux-related posts on this blog. I believe in software freedom–not piracy, but freedom–and for this reason as well as many others I made the switch to Linux in 2007. I have no regrets, and I live with the joy of knowing that I OWN my system. Never heard of Linux and want to know more? Here is a Wikipedia article about Linux for your reading pleasure.

“I’m not blind! ” That’s okay. Feel free to follow this blog anyway. Even if you yourself are not blind, you may find information within this blog which could be helpful to someone you know who is blind, or someone whose path intersects yours in life. Also, many topics here may not be written just for blind individuals (though many will be). I delve into a lot of different areas, including but not limited to some of the following:

  • Using Linux as your primary desktop operating system
  • Using live Linux media to back up, diagnose, and repair damaged computer systems
  • Using free and open source technologies as replacements to commercial software
  • Using your computer with your eyes closed (literally)
  • And so much more!

I hope that you will find this blog insightful and helpful. If you enjoy what you read here, please let others know about this blog’s existence.

I know how valuable time can be, and so I sincerely appreciate the time you take to rad my blog.

Thanks for stopping by!