(3) Relearning The Computer The Sightless Way

Before reading on, please read Part 1 and Part 2 of the Story of My Life series.
The 11-year-old me continued tinkering with the buttons on the keyboard, depressing the keys only to perceive the stubborn thing instantaneously coming back up, ready to input a new character into the text document on the computer. Despite my friskiness as a child, I was always solemn when the 1 minute typing speed tests on the Talking Typing Teacher culminated, earnest to know whether or not I had managed to up my previous typing speed record by at least a few WPM (Words Per Minute). For many happy days, I was allowed to derive pride and pleasure in simply polishing and ameliorating my typing skills.

However, my position back then was analogous to that of an aspiring mathematician – he may have memorized enormous tables, tortuous formulae, and was able to perform gargantuan multiplications – but what use was such knowledge when its owner was inexpert in applying it? The mathematician may have succeeded in inculcating all the numerical, algebraic and geometrical concepts available in the sphere of mathematics, but he still had no clue as to how he would comingle and colligate these ideas to sit down and actually solve problems. I, too, had matched even my assistive technology trainer’s typing speed uncommonly early. But innocent me was absolutely oblivious of the long and bumpy road that lay ahead of me; the road I had to cross to convert my life from boring to buzzing, from ambiguous to purposeful, from helpless to computer proficient, independent, and self-confident.
So finally, Calveena Ma’am; my AT trainer, special educator, and guide for everything, started my expedition through the computer by giving me a walkthrough of the Microsoft Windows OS interface – the Desktop, Taskbar, Start menu and the System Tray. Since I had been a hooked computer gamer in my sighted days (I still nostalgically remember you – Miscrits and Farm Town!), I did have fairly vivid impressions of the Windows GUI, thus lessening my learning curve somewhat. As a consequence, refreshing my memory and teaching me the keyboard shortcuts corresponding to each area of the screen – Windows+D/M for Desktop, Windows or Ctrl+Esc for Start menu, Windows+T for Taskbar, and Windows+B for System Tray – sufficed in renewing my computer literacy.
Due to my late blindness however, I was fortunate to already have a visual conception of the computer screen, the Windows GUI, and all the other little things in the world which functional eyes take for granted. As far as I recall, the main screen of Windows of which the Desktop is a part, is a big rectangle split into four unequal rectangular parts – three horizontal rectangles of varying length but fixed breadth located at the base of the larger rectangle, and the entire remainder of the larger triangle forming the fourth one, wherein this fourth rectangle houses little icons each of which corresponds to a certain program, document, or other file. A born blind must be patiently explained the structural composition of the screen by using such oral descriptions complimented by tactile diagrams for any fundamental visualization of the computer to develop.
At the time, my instruction took place employing JAWS (Job Access With Speech) as the screen reading software, an expensive commercial screen reading product that was deemed to be the best in the market. Today however, in India as well as around the world, free screen readers are being viewed much more positively as they have dramatically proliferated in terms of feature set and performance efficiency and garnered comparable user bases. Fearing that I may come off as biased and seeing that my personal opinion on the screen reader market is irrelevant right now and inconsequential, I shall keep that to myself for the time being.
Concluding the day, Calveena Miss taught me how to jump between open files and programs (Alt+Tab) and also how to close them (Alt+F4). My young mind was excitedly consuming all this information as my hands pressed varying combinations of keys to command the computer as well as to regulate what the engaging ETI Eloquence speech synthesizer spoke. I felt like an indefatigable mountaineer trying to conquer a peak; I had only managed the first base so far, and word processing, Internet browsing, and e-mailing were just a few of the many remaining stages in the trek, but my gutfeel told me that I would definitely return day after day to practise some more, learn something new, and persevere till the very end.

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Author: Bhavya Shah

I am a 16-year-old techie, quizzer, debater and Potter+Musk-head from Mumbai, India, and I am Passionate about STEM, world politicss, and disability rights. When I am not burdened by school homework (which I never bother doing anyways) nor busy blogging, you might either find me programming in Python, reading a contemporary classic, or aimlessly perusing the Internet. Also, by the way, I forgot to mention something; I can't see a thing, lost all my eyesight by the age of 11, and I'm totally blind. That's me.

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