I have written and scrapped a few different blog post ideas over the past several weeks. I still do plan to write on a weekly basis. My excuse is that three weeks ago I had knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in my right knee, so I didn’t write one. In reality, I was responding to feedback on my first blog post and having conversations with lots of different people as I started to dig deeper into what is going on. I’m embarrassed to say that I might have fallen prey to some amount of messaging around the numbers of braille readers and perhaps misunderstood some of the blind employment numbers.
I wanted a better understanding of the Federal Quota system, as well, since in the United States, that would seem like a funding system already in place that could be enhanced. While looking into this system, I have more clarity around how I perhaps misread the statistics.
At this point, I could probably write volumes about what I have learned. I understand why so many parents and educators are overwhelmed with trying to figure everything out for blind kids. I guess that is why I need to write more often, rather than storing it up to where I have a million different threads to write about. Before I dig too far into the numbers, I also had conversations within ViewPlus about helping me figure out how to solve the problem of blind students learning and finding careers in STEM.
I was put to task that we haven’t had a blind engineer working in the office every day for many years. In fact, the only blind scientist regularly in the office is my father. General consensus is it might be beneficial to have someone a little bit younger to help educate us on how we could make our products better for blind users and assist in the enhancements.
This thought process sent me down a whole other line of inquiry. I don’t want to use too many names without permission so I can only say that I’ve asked other much larger tech companies about some of these things I’m wondering. Would they be interested in a program to help create the next generation of employees who just happen to be blind? Do they have any blind engineers or scientists today that might want to help? What about tech nerds like me that want to help? Are all of their products and systems accessible?
I’m not casting judgement on anyone. In fact, it is making me look in the mirror. What more can I do at ViewPlus to model this type of behavior? I have picked up quite a bit about tactile graphics, still feel like a neophyte around braille, have only scratched the surface with screen readers and don’t really know anything about mobility or making sure workplaces are accessible for blind people. It seems daunting to even think about it, so that must mean I’m on to something. I’m going to need some help from a lot of other people to make any progress.
While the planning for the next 25-30 years is creating more questions than answers, I am staying true to working on the short-term and the long-term simultaneously. I made some progress on texture fill libraries and I’m hearing there is some buzz around that topic. We also have a new product about ready to announce.
Back to my epiphany of confirming how naïve I am. I assumed the term blindness was much easier to define, and maybe it is compared to things like autism or dyslexia, where there is a spectrum. Isn’t it the ability to see or not? It turns out most government agencies, including most schools, use the legal blindness definition: a visual acuity (central vision) of 20/200 or worse in the best seeing eye or a visual field (peripheral vision) that is limited to only 20 degrees. I guess I should have known there is never an easy answer to any of my questions. I had to then look at how to compare low vision to blindness, which is when I saw the term total blindness used. I also heard many kids prefer visually impaired to blind, even if they fit the legal definition, so please excuse me if I’ve offended anyone. Since the Federal Quota system provides money for every blind student, it would make sense most states and schools would cast the net as wide as possible to have the census show as many blind kids as possible. That would also explain why braille literacy would be so low in blind students since many of them are not likely totally blind and may be able to read with magnification software or equipment. It also makes sense that there is not a clear set of best practices for how to teach STEM to blind kids.
As usual, please reach out if you have ideas on how I can help.