[bct] Re: Podcast on comparing JAWS and Window-Eyes

  • From: "Neal Ewers" <neal.ewers@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 2 Feb 2006 21:14:41 -0600

Slithy, you bring up so many good points.  thank you for talking about
the hearing aids you have used.  It's a real incite to try to figure out
how one would deal with conversation, for example, in a world of
microphones which, even at their best, find it hard to tell paper
rattling from the sound of someone's voice.  I suspect that much of what
you and others have to do is to learn to concentrate on discriminating
between those sounds even when they are not really presented to you
correctly in the first place.

On another point, I believe one reason why people who are blind are
pitied and thought of as perhaps less able than people with other
disabilities is that sight is the sense which people who see use the
most.  Some psychologists say as much as 80% of people's perception is
visual.  OK, so maybe it's only 70 or 60 or even 50%, but the point is
that without it, especially if one looses one's sight later in life, one
is suddenly without at least half of one's perception.  I had it the
easy way.  I have been blind from birth.  Although it's no picnic, I did
not have something I lost.  Thus, I never had to miss what I lost, and
my world was never one which needed me to come up with ways of some how
compensating for a sense I knew.  Compensate, yes.  I have to come up
with ways of dealing with what I am told people who see have, but having
never had it, it is more like a scientific experiment for me than it is
a readjustment to something I will always wish I had.  I have gained
immeasurably from being blind.  Had I been sighted, I would still be
back in Possum Holler Virginia, yes, you read it correctly, and I would
probably be doing what everyone else does there.  They work in the paper
mill.  Of course, it could have been worse.  A wee bit further west and
it would be the cold mines.  But, because I was unable to attend public
school, I went to a school for the blind.  It was not the best school in
the world academically, but I had teachers who taught me so very much
more than what I could have ever learned in books.  They are the reason
why I am the only person in my entire extended family who ever went to
college, much less graduate school.

But, to many who see, I am just another person who can't see.  I think
you're right though in that even though I am blind, I have the ability
to speak.  There are indeed people who believe that people who are hard
of hearing are dumb simply because they cannot speak everyone's else's
language.  But isn't that where so much of hatred and political unrest
and discrimination come from anyway?  Many people seem to think that
everyone should speak like they do, think like they do, and act like
they do.

One of the things we were charged with at Trace where I used to work, is
to develop technology that was cross disability accessible.  Can you
imagine how hard it was and still is to get agreement on how something
should be designed when different disability groups have their own very
strongly held ideas and their own fears that if they bend just a little
in order to allow the product to fit the needs of other disability
groups, the product won't work as well for them?  Where does it stop?

Oh well, I'm just mumbling along here on a stream of consciousness.
There are so many things a person could say, and still there will be
people who never will accept people who are disabled as being human.  Of
course, there are some wonderful exceptions to this way of thinking, and
I am happy to know many of them.  And as for your message below, thanks
for making me think.  I like people who do that.
-----Original Message-----
From: blindcooltech-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
[mailto:blindcooltech-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Slythy_Tove
Sent: Thursday, February 02, 2006 8:20 PM
To: blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [bct] Re: Podcast on comparing JAWS and Window-Eyes

Hi Neal,

Nothing can replace normal hearing.  At least not now.  Maybe in a
hundred years, providing technology continues to advance, but not now.
The first time I wore an aid it was like listening to someone holler
down a rainbarrel and it fit so badly I had a sore on my ear.  Now it is
a godsend to me and I have a new hypoallergenic ear mold that doesn't
give me ear infections.  Still, I don't know what it is like to hear
like normal folks because I can't remember a time when I could hear with
both functional ears, although before 18 months of age that was the
case.  My mother did not confirm my hearing impairment until I was about
three - they could not decide if I was deliberately disobedient or a
space cadet until she played the "whispering game" with me and I kept
asking her to whisper in my other ear. 

A good hearing aid specialist (not a discount store) will have an
audiologist with a master's or doctorate in the field who will
realistically describe what you can and can't get back.  It is easier
for those who lose hearing as adults because at least their brains
understand what sound is and can accomodate more of it, unlike folks
like me who never really knew.  In my case I am also losing the ability
to discriminate fricatives (sh, th, etc.) but I seem to be rebounding a
bit with the new aid, so that's great. 

Hearing aids augment everything.   The rattle of a newspaper - boy, was
I suprised how much noise they made - and human voices.  The good ones -
the highly expensive computer adjusted aids - have the best filtering on
them but can cost several thousand dollars and ear and can do a lot to
home in on the sound spectrum of the human voice.  Since I only have one
functional ear I get by with a lower cost but I have no stereo hearing
and the bi-cross aids are not available in the very high end digital
aids.  I have had bi-cross aids before and it was wierd to look to my
left to respond to a sound when I have never done that before - but the
wire running through my hair got old and then they got lost.  

As to why the government favors the blind with jobs, I suspect the blind
have long been considered so incompetent that the government has to give
them jobs and they need tax exemptions.  That's an awful thing to say,
but it is likely the truth. I don't know why the loss of sight is
considered so much worse than the loss of hearing.  Maybe because way
back when the deaf guy could outrun the saber toothed llion but the
blind guy could not.  Who knows?  I do know, however, that being deaf
(total) is like being dumped on Mars without knowing how to speak
Martian and there is not necessarily a rosetta stone to find out.
Still, people have managed to cobble out trade languages from signs for
time out of mind, so deaf are probably considered better able to cope
than blind.  

The deaf were more likely to be considered retarded or mentally ill and
were more likely to be locked up in insane houses because they can't
talk and they can't communicate with hearing people unless some parent
or some enlightened person along the way has figured out that they are
deaf.  I used to date a man who was considered retarded until age 7 -
when they found out he was completely deaf.  The blind were not treated
well either, but at least they could communicate in the same language as
those around them - unless they had the misfortune to be deaf as well -
a double whammy.  I still hear people refer to deaf persons who use sign
as "dummies" as if they are mentally retarded.  

Unfortunately, both deaf and blind are sometimes impaired in
communication skills because the deaf have sign language which is not
the same as English and the blind have braille, which in its higher
forms, is also not the same as English.  Many of the deaf and blind
don't use the same gramm ar and spelling as the rest of the country and
are therefore considered uneducated.  It is not true, it is just the
perception, just as the uneducated foreigner is a myth.  Were the
sighted to have to deal with braille they'd be illiterate.  I'm probably
one of the few sighted people who ever learned braille because I had a
blind friend I wrote to.  And he was so kind he never told me I punched
the braille in backwards.  (wince)  I never found out until Dan learned

I don't know why the nation does not give the deaf or quads or paras or
retarded folk the same sort of treatment, but it does not.  I don't see
it happening any time soon, so I am not really going to sweat it more
than I have to because I've had to struggle with this all my life and
I'm sorta used to it - although somewhat irate from time to time.  

On the other hand, I think the deaf get better accomodation regarding
closed captioning whereas the blin d get the shaft on descriptive video.


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