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

  • From: "Jake Joehl" <jajoehl@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 3 Feb 2006 13:27:12 -0600

MessageHats off to both of you. I myself have been struggling to understand why 
it is that some people in the blindness community seem to think that every 
single blind or visually-impaired person is exactly alike. It just doesn't work 
that way, and probably never will. I was born blind, and I have low muscle tone 
and a slight learning disability. Yet I have been unable to obtain the 
assistance I need from my VR agency, simply because I am different in their 
view from their other clients. I admit I'm almost to the point of giving up, 
but maybe that's not worth it. I mean, I can't even get a return phone call 
from anyone at all. Not even the Client Assistance Program. Yet when my mom 
tried to talk with my newest VR counselor, the counselor asked why I hadn't 
been communicating with them? This counselor told my mom that they don't want 
to deal with anybody but the clients. Funny how that works out isn't it? Uh-oh, 
here I go again off on my little VR rant. But i really think the system needs a 
major overhaul.
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Neal Ewers 
  To: blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
  Sent: Thursday, 02 February, 2006 9:14 PM
  Subject: [bct] Re: Podcast on comparing JAWS and Window-Eyes

  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 

    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 braille.  

    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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