A Day Through The Eyes of a Blind Woman: Part 2
In part 1, we followed Lisa, a blind woman and examined what kind of challenges she faces using everyday technologies, such as a coffee maker, an alarm clock or a microwave. In this part, we will follow Lisa to work and see how she uses her computer, her mobile phone, or how she orders from a restaurant.
Getting on the right bus
So, Lisa is ready to go to work, but obviously she can't just drive there. She already put so much effort into finding housing nearby public transportation, and as we know, the better transportation gets, the more expensive housing is, but let's not go there this time. Lisa will take the bus to work. Buses #1 and #2 stop in front of her house. When you take the bus, you look at it, and you know which one is approaching. Lisa will have to ask, but in certain cities as the bus stops, the rout number and information is automatically announced.
She gets on the right bus, and pulls out two bank notes and a couple of coins. She is trying to determine which is the $1 and the $5 in her hand. Most likely she knows it exactly, as she folded it differently when she got change last time she went shopping. Or, she will stick it into her $400 bank note reader to make sure she is not paying more than what she really needs to. Just imagine the line behind her while she is trying to figure this out. Maybe it is a better deal to know what your banknotes are?
Reading the paper
She has a half hour long bus ride, so she wouldn't mind reading the morning paper in the meantime, but they don't have Braille copies at the news stand. Fortunately, she has other options, she can call a service on her cell phone and have it read automatically, or she can even pull out her laptop, but those devices need some special technology, too.
We still have a long day ahead of us, and we don't need to cover everything in one day, so let's just say she takes a nap on the bus.
When Lisa gets to work, taking the elevator is a breeze, most of them have Braille labels by the buttons, so she will arrive to the right floor.
Using the computer
She turns on her computer, which she uses throughout the whole day. She is a financial analyst at a large company. But most of the computers which a company would buy are still useless for her. Nowadays, you can get a Mac, which comes with a screen reader by default. But if she is using a PC based system with the most popular screen reader, it will cost about $1000. Yes, to achieve the same functionality which you do just by looking at the screen. Nowadays, even a desktop computer doesn't cost $1000. And as we established, she is a financial analyst, so it would make sense for her to have larger tables of numbers in front of her, to make it easier than having to listen to speech, which is of course possible, but it is much faster to review a table in context. Just imagine, what if you could read everything one word at a time. It is much easier to look at the screen and see the connections. To achieve this, she could purchase a Braille display for several thousands, or a Braille embosser to print out documents, which will also cost thousands. She could not get any of those in her local computer store, and surely not from one month worth of income which allows most of us to purchase a desktop computer with a screen and a printer.
Using a mobile phone
While the computer is booting up, Lisa wants to make a quick phone call. She pulls out her cell phone. She had a hard time finding a good one, because she is not able to interact with most of the phones by default. She can either buy a simple phone which she can use without looking at the screen, but then she is way behind others, who are able to use all the cool features and functionality. There are more simple phones which have a calendar or a contact list feature with speech functionality, but the problem is that they only speak part of the information. She can navigate the menus, but it won't read her text messages. But if she wants to buy a more complex phone, she faces the same situation as with the computer, she needs to spend hundreds of dollars on a mobile screen reader which works with her phone. However, today she can get an iPhone, which comes with the screen reader, actually a pretty good one. But she feels that she doesn't have options if she doesn't want to spend extra money on the screen reader.
Web and software accessibility
By the time she is done with her call, the computer is running. Lisa very carefully selected the applications she is using, as many of them don't work well with her screen reader. Imagine, after spending all that cash on the screen reader, she needed to find out that many designers don't put much effort into software accessibility, neglecting basic good coding design practices. And this is all it takes for a blind person to have a program which is useless for all practical purposes.
For lot's of her analysis she is using the internet. As her search results come up, she is frustrated because the pages which contain the information she is looking for are extremely difficult to navigate, so she keeps looking until she finds a page which is accessible with her screen reader, and contains the information she is looking for.
Ordering from a restaurant
When it is time for lunch, she joins her coworkers to go out to a local restaurant. If she is lucky, they hand her a Braille menu which she can read, but it is mostly the case at larger chains. Otherwise, she will have to ask her lunch companions or the waiter to read her menu.
In part 3, we will see how Lisa:
- Shops for groceries
- Reads the mail
- Prepares dinner
- Watches a movie
- Turns on the heat (not that simple)