The Osgood File --February 11, 1999

Commentary: Computer software for the blind

Osgood File
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(Copyright (c) 1999 CBS, Inc. All rights reserved.)


THE OSGOOD FILE, sponsored in part by Michelob Specialty Ales and Lagers, and by Total cereals. I'm Charles Osgood.

Computers have become a part of almost everyone's lives. But most computer programs leave blind people out. Most, but not all

Mr. T.V. RAMAN: I basically bit the bullet and said this can be fixed, by actually building things from the ground up to be used with speech.

OSGOOD: The blind leading the blind. After this for Michelob.


OSGOOD: Could you use your computer if the monitor went out and you couldn't see the screen? What if you couldn't see the screen or the keyboard? What if you were blind?

Mr. RAMAN: Many things you do on the computer assume a core set of capabilities. They assume that you can move the mouse, they assume that you can point at specific things.

OSGOOD: T.V. Raman has been blind since he was 14. Computers weren't designed for the likes of him.

Mr. RAMAN: The average software engineer is 25 years old, has 20/20 vision, perfect hearing, perfect hand/eye coordination.

OSGOOD: So Raman, who works for Adobe Systems, took matters into his own hands. He designed special software for the blind. All the queues are audible.

Mr. RAMAN: That's what you hear when you delete something.

OSGOOD: Raman uses his program for everything from balancing his checkbook to surfing the Net.

Mr. RAMAN: If it makes that sound, I know that it wants to offer me help.

OSGOOD: Computer programs for the blind have been around since the 1980s, but they were very slow and hard to use. John Gardner

Mr. JOHN GARDNER: I couldn't write equations or read equations.

OSGOOD: Gardner is a physics professor at Oregon State University, who lost his sight 10 years ago.

Mr. GARDNER: I couldn't see the graphs. I couldn't see the big analysis. And getting access to that was no easier in 1989 than it was in 1889.

OSGOOD: Raman's program can't handle every kind of graph or equation but Gardner says it has made his life easier.

Mr GARDNER: Raman's influence in trying to change the way that computer software is fundamentally constructed, I think, is a ray of hope for the future.

OSGOOD: And one other thing: blind people can't buy Raman's program. He gives it away for free. Visit his WWW site for more details.

THE OSGOOD FILE, Charles Osgood on the CBS Radio Network.

Last modified: Mon Feb 15 13:34:20 1999