Monday, June 7, 2010

Tech Wreck

Let's talk a little bit about the blindness thing, in terms of Media accessibility.

Now, on the one hand, I'm going to a school that is quite forward thinking, technologically-speaking. Many of the Tech teachers are familiar with the Macbook, and they are willing to teach me how to use one with Universal Access programs. They are also excited about iPads and smartphones, just like you might be, and they are looking for ways to make those newer gadgets accessible to blind individuals. I kind of love them for that.

However, since becoming aware of the options available to people with visual impairments, I have felt, slightly, like I might be falling through a wormhole that could very well be taking me backward through time. It started, maybe, with the notion of using a typewriter to write braille. A step up from the traditional slate and stylus used for writing, but still... a typewriter. With the ding and everything. There's nothing wrong with using a typewriter. All the best hipsters do it. But it was weird knowing that that's where technology stopped in terms of writing tools for the blind. Typewriters. That works. Now, where did I put my BeeGees record?

Then I signed up with the State's Talking Book Library, because I had an assignment due which required that I listen to a biography using this free service. And a week later, I get a cassette player in the mail. And the truth is, I can barely remember how one of these things works. It's probably a good thing I was born in the 80's, because I'm pretty sure I have cousins who would need a user manual for this sort of thing. They have VHS tapes with descriptive video, on loan at the library of the school I attend. Not that I don't have a VCR. I do. But, really? VHS? Okay. And all you have available right now is Dick Tracy and Honey, I Blew Up The Kid? Um... Sure.

I'm not really complaining about this lack of advancement in media forms for the blind. It's maybe more like concern. I consider myself to be fairly "with it" even if I am approaching 30. Okay, maybe not "with it" because I've seen nicer looking cell phones than mine at the toy store, and those come with the added bonus of candy inside, and yeah, okay, my TV is ancient. But I'm at least AWARE of "it." The resources for the blind are kind of in this place where Deborah Gibson still goes by Debbie. And that's not going to help anyone.

Right? Or...

I don't know. Maybe I'm totally wrong about the way I'm thinking about this. The cassette tapes still work just fine. Digitizing everything is going to take time and effort and money. And Steve Wynn can't do EVERYTHING. Besides, I got the exact same information from those talking books as I would have if it had come from a fancy piece of thin aluminum with an LED screen. The braille writer gives me just as much access to written communication in paper form as a computer printer would. The free radio service that broadcasts news, magazines, and books for the visually impaired is as effective as television (I even get The Onion, Monday nights at 9pm), and really, it's all just Bonus, anyway.

If I am dissatisfied with the accessible technology, I could just go without. Or I could find improvements or alternatives. (Kindles/Blu-Rays with descriptive video/digital books on tape/etc.) I could also volunteer my time to digitizing information (or support my friends who already do it... thanks Jason). And/Or I could learn to appreciate the things I HAVE been given, rather than focus on what I'm not getting.

One more reason it's super weird to have a foot in the sighted world, and a foot in the blind world: Knowing what I'm missing. Not being sure if I have the luxury of caring.


Becky said...

Its been a rough day -- really needed to read this post. Funny, sad, so true!

Richard Dunn said...

Is there a place where the friend-of-a-blind-hottie can go to help digitize material? Or otherwise volunteer for our favorite blind lady's favorite blindness organization?

The Wizzle said...

They're going to be so glad they have you on their team, Hip Motivated Aware-of-the-Injustice-and-Maybe-Can-Do-Something-About-It Blind-ish Lady.

Anonymous said...

I would totally volunteer time and energy to digitizing stuff. Good suggestion, ghost of Richard Dunn.

Anonymous said...

I read the first half of your post and was all ready to donate half of our savings to technology for the blind. Then I read the second half and changed my mind, you greedy, selfish, blind whore.