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

  • From: "Neal Ewers" <neal.ewers@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 3 Feb 2006 09:16:17 -0600

Slythy, I have to correct one impression I may have erroneously given.
Most people do not see me as blind and pitiful.  I happen to live in a
very forward thinking town and most of the people I come in contact with
see me as a human being first.  However, it's when I go back to the
holler and visit all the red-necks who live in that part of Virginia
that you really begin to understand who your friends are.  I was with a
colleague in Atlanta a few years ago at a conference.  She and I had
traveled to many such conferences.  We were walking through the hotel
lobby when she said something like, Neal it seems so strange that people
look at the two of us together very differently in different parts of
the country.  I had to admit she was right.  Possum Holler is very close
to Lynchburg Virginia where my mother and I used to go to shop.  One
day, I was standing on the street in front of the store waiting for her
to come out when a person ran up to me, stuck a bag of candy under my
arm, and left in a hurry.  The candy was nice, but I think that might
have been the first time I understood that other people saw me as
In a former life, like from about 3 years old, I played the piano.  I
was going to be a concert pianist.  I actually got to the point that I
was on tour, sometimes alone, and sometimes with a small orchestra.  My
problem was that every night I played, I got a standing ovation.  Now, I
was good, but not that good.  It became really hard to tell if people
really thought it was good, or if they were saying, "Wow! look at what
that blind man can do.  Isn't he wonderful."  Of course, that was close
enough to the holler to spawn audiences who just didn't know any better.
But I have often thought it quite a dichotomy that some people see me as
pitiful, while others put me on a pedestal because just look what I have
had to overcome.  Fortunately, my world is filled with friends and
colleagues who know exactly who I am
-----Original Message-----
From: blindcooltech-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
[mailto:blindcooltech-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Slythy_Tove
Sent: Thursday, February 02, 2006 10:34 PM
To: blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [bct] Re: Podcast on comparing JAWS and Window-Eyes

Hi Neal,

The first time I wore hearing aids it was raining.  The window of the
office was open and I kept telling the audiologist that there must be
something wrong with the hearing aids.  All I heard was horrible static.
Then she closed the windows.  It was the sound of tires on wet pavement.
Who knew that made noise?  Not me.  

The refrigerator can be my enemy when it rattles to life.  Newspapers?
No wonder people use to glare at me.  Car motors.  Escalators.  My world
was a very quiet one before I really got good hearing aids.  Often, when
it is just Dan and me I take them out so I can hear him instead of the
clock making noises that convince me there is a leak in the kitchen.  

When people filter into the classrooms, jabbering away, I take the aid
OUT.  I periodically ask people how on earth they can deal with all that
noise - and I only hear part of it.  I deal with he aring loss by
"speech reading" - watching people talk.  It means refocusing them to
talk to me rather than to my back or side.  If there is a lot of noise
either it has to quiet down or I shut down.  Can't deal with it. 

Mary, no, I don't do better than you in large groups.  I don't go to
large groups.  I'm totally isolated in large groups.  Dan does better
than I do in large groups.  I can see to get him around, but he has to
hear for me.  The noise is overwhelming.  I can't separate anything out.

At the same time, I remember when Dan got me a birder microphone and for
the first time I really heard a bird - lord knows which one.  I got a
real kick out of that.  

Agreed, the blind are pitied more than the deaf.  The deaf are
considered inattentive and dummies - the blind are sort of written off
as pitiful.  Ugh.  

Yes, Neal, a great deal of communication is non-verbal.  The lift of an
eyebrow, the tensing of muscles in the face or shoulders.  Batting of
eyes.  Still, it is not the be all and end all of communication or we
would not have language to communicate the complexity of our life
experience - nor music, which nourishes the soul.  

Possum Holler, I love it.  What an evocative name.  More poetic by far
than Chicken, Alaska and far easier to pronounce than Egegik or

Intriging observation that to most you are another person who can't see.
I have often stated that I am married to a man - a wonderful man, a
brilliant man, a kind man - who also happens to be blind.  But that is
just a small facet of who he is.  I am not married to a blind man.
People who cannot see others as humans first are missing so very, very

Cross disability access would be tough - the needs of various groups can
conflict.  Textured crosswalks make it better for the blind and more
difficult for those who use walkers and wheelchairs.  I sort of
specialize in making websites with variations on a theme of
red/gold/blue/white - all colors that can be easily discerned by men
with the most severe form of color blindness, yet it might trip up
someone who is partially sighted and for them the only option may be
setting the browser to display things in a manner best for them.  I
sometimes despair of the way the web is being developed with flash and
other programs that are entirely graphical.  If there is any hope at all
for the blind in that regard it is that Dolphin finally comes up with
the AI to read the graphics and translate them to text.  

By the way, I was captivated by your podcast of your moments in the
well.  It was evocative emotionally and the use of the words themselves
were powerful and compelling.  You are a natural story teller.  


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