Visually impaired 'like' Facebook - Republica

Visually impaired 'like' Facebook - Republica


Visually impaired 'like' Facebook  

UPENDRA LAMICHANE KATHMANDU, Nov 26: The increasing popularity of Facebook is managing to reach out to everyone, including the visually impaired.

JAWS (Job Access With Speech) is a software that is helping the visually impaired to have fun on Facebook. 

A resident of Balkoti in Bhaktapur, Laxmi Nepal is visually impaired but has been using Facebook for two years. She claims that the social networking site has brought fun and excitement in her life. She adds that social media helps in “personal relation buildup” and is useful in life.

“It wasn’t possible for us to go to many places and talk,” she said. “Facebook has placed us in the middle of the crowd.” The fact that she can sit in one place and chat with many friends has brought a lot of pleasure, she says.

Downloading JAWS software has made it easier for her to use the computer. She explains that the program speaks out the words on the screen.

“After we start to use the up-down keys, the computer speaks out the words that the cursor is pointing at,” she said. “We follow that voice and go forward.”

As soon as Facebook opens, the computer lets them know what is going on. “Notifications, requests, comments: everything is narrated to us by the computer,” she said. “Then we choose the ones we want to listen to.”

Out of more than 300 friends on Facebook, 50 of them are blind like Laxmi. “We get to know the recent news of our friends through Facebook,” she said. “We then enjoy chatting with each other.”

She says that many sightless young people are using Facebook. Downloading different software that read out words on the screen has enabled them to use the Internet to access emails and social media.

Narayani Dawadi, a student of Kanya Multiple Campus, says, “I’ve been using Facebook for a year now. This has added excitement in us.”

Born blind, she says that it’s easier to study with the help of email and Internet.

“What you can see, we listen to it,” she says, explaining the difference between a visually impaired person and a normal person using Facebook. “We can’t see pictures, but we experience them with the help of words,” she adds.

Narayani is preparing to write her thesis. Sshe chats with her friends and teachers on Facebook and receives news from them.

“Sir attaches important documents in email and sends them to us,” she says. “Then I use Microsoft Word to convert and listen to it.”

It’s been more than four years since Sushil Adhikari started using Facebook.

“When it started being popular, I also opened my account,” he says, adding, “Now just like a white stick, it has become a part of life.” Sushil, whose Facebook name reads “Gloomy Sushil,” says he has found happiness in life through the social networking site.

According to him, more than 70% of visually impaired people in the capital use Facebook. The majority among them access it through their mobile phones. Since 2001, JAWS has been available in Nepal, making it easy for the visually impaired to utilize computers.

Mostly using the software in computers, they now carry it around in their pen drives.

“There’s another software called Non Visual Desktop”, says Sushil. “If you have it in your pendrive, you can use it in any computer.”

He says, “With the help of the software, we read our friends’ statuses and comment on them. We also ‘like’ the status.” There is no big difference between their conversation and that of other people, he says. “Many people don’t even realize that we’re visually impaired ,” he states. “Those who find out are interested to know how we use Facebook.”

Sushil says that vulgar comments can also be heard on Facebook. “We can’t see what kind of pictures are there in front of us, but some comments are very embarrassing to hear,” he says. He urges people to be careful with their comments on social sites as they are open to everyone. “Your comments can be heard by us,” he laughs.

Using a speaker at home to listen to comments on Facebook has embarrassed him and his family members many times. Initially, he couldn’t understand words written in Unicode but with the help of Drishtibachak software he can understand them now.

Bhim Prasad Gautam is partially blind. He created this software two years ago.

“I created this software for myself and it’s helping everyone now,” he says. “I have also created another software called Drishtibani which speaks in Nepali.”

He states that the western countries started creating software for the visually impaired since 1995. However, its development sped up from 2000 to 2005.

“These software started coming to light with the development of Windows 95,” he says. “It took a lot of time before it came to Nepal.”

He says that many different companies in the world are now working towards creating useful software for visually impaired people.

On website : Published on 2012-11-26 11:08:04
On Newspaper : Page 5, Monday, November 26, 2012



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