Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Member Spotlight’ Category

When her imagination runs wild, Yaminy does exactly the same. She runs along with it and makes sure she a story to tell. Her love for the written word stems from her pursuit towards becoming a good orator, writer and translator. Yaminy enjoys playing the Veena – a music instrument, reading fantasy novels and feasting on chocolates.

A simple conversation about her views on Inclusive Planet  lead to this wonderfully creative article. Watch out for this young woman, she is a bestseller in the making.

Inclusive planet: My home sweet home – by Yaminy

Hey Guest,

Don’t go away looking from the outside. The external appearance is such that we can only go on a quick tour around the home along with brief glance. Our home is the best, the most beautiful planet. When you come in, you can stay for as long as you want. Once you start, nothing will stop you from experiencing the hospitality all around. Welcome Home!

At the beginning of your quest, you are given a special key which is the email ID and a secret code which is the password to enter or to log in. We then enter our home, the first thing we notice is the mailbox which shows the messages received. We can either reply immediately or move further depending on the mood.

Later, we enter the lounge where we find the members engaged in different discussions. If some are reading, others would chat away!  The best part is that we have all the rights to interfere in these chats or come to know what additional furniture (posts or comments) are there at home. Another brilliant feature is that, once a member states anything, it would be displayed along with the name tag which makes it easy to know who has said what.

If you’re not in a mood for that, just by clicking the toggles (links), you can contact the new members from earth, connect with recent conversations, and find the things at home, check what’s recently shared, respond to requests made by sharing things and so on. Do you know? Our home looks simple and small.  It is our humble abode, where we learn to love and live happily. But, it’s built using modernity and so, accessible through buttons or toggles.

We have more than 50 superb Channels; each one catering to different areas of interest.If one is set for humor, another is for food.  At one stage we can play, while on the other, we may get special education through online classes.  Have a flair for the language, then surely must have a love for literature and walk into the poetry world.  Wish to conspire on anything? You can discuss in various clubs or even the computer science has advanced so much that bloggers and content writers are ready to publish the same in the websites. You must speak out either in your voice or planeteer speak out.

Do we have to watch a movie? Need not.  If we just read or better participate in the planets on goings, it becomes a movie for any amount of time we spend. Full on action packed entertainment guaranteed. So sit back, relax, bring on the popcorn my friends.

This is the place where I learnt the art of expressing and even the meaning of unity and friendship.  Be what may, the arms are there to support in any kind of crisis and need not feel shy or worried to express something. Whenever I find time, I just come home, and even many a times get the stuff necessary for my class studies.

Oh, my friends and fellow inmates are so cute, charming and lovable that we just feel like interacting either through private messages or on spot dialogues. I’ve found many friends here who have no issues and have accepted me as I am.

This is our gorgeous habitat and my home sweet home!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Katty Gelt Meyer is a member from Belgium. As a new user, she is now familiarizing herself with Inclusive Planet. She enjoys reading folklore and also blogs about various topics.

This is her story so far …

  • Tell us something about yourself…

I’m Katty, 33 years old, and have and I have been in a relationship for the last ten months. I studied History at the University of Gent (with a year at the University of Leiden). I was lucky enough to have had a teacher who gave his subject in such a way, that it seemed he had been watching what he was telling: Storytelling was his method to give history. In the past, I thought he was able to foretell the future, but now I know how I could do this: he knew the past, saw some conflicts coming, So knowing the past could help you to foresee the future (in a limited way, of course, it isn’t as logical as Maths).

I really wasn’t good at Maths, but I was lucky to have had a teacher that knew me better than I did and who motivated his pupils, even if they had difficulties with his subject. Both he and the history teacher tried to see the person behind the student, and so they gave me confidence. I’m fond of cats, fairy tales, lore & myths, reading and listening to stories.

  • Where are you working now? What do you enjoy about your job?

I’m working for the “luisterpuntbibliotheek”, the Dutch Library of Belgium for people with reading disabilities. What I enjoy is helping our readers find a book they like, or helping them solve a problem with their daisy-player (if I manage it to solve the problem, I have a lucky day).

  • Last book read?

A book about folk tales & legends of the region I live in – Waasland

  • Which country would you like to visit?

I’d like to visit Greece, because of the fact I was fascinated by the myths my History teacher told me.

  • A person who inspires you and why?

Louis Braille – He was able to collect some tidbits of knowledge, and combined them to compose the Braille-system. With this invention, he made it possible for blind people to read, write, to study and to participate in the society.

  • Three of your favourite websites and why?

www.ccleaner.com : Here you can find an accessible tool for cleaning up your pc.

www.birthdayalarm.com : a website where you can compose a birthday calendar, it helped me to remember the birthdays of my loved ones, something I always forget.

www.hp-lexicon.org : one of the best websites dedicated to Harry Potter, made by a competent team.

I also own a blog (written in Dutch, my native language): http://kattykrabbelt.blogspot.com

  • What would make Inclusive Planet better?

If I could give my google-account access to inclusive Planet (and others could do the same with their primary account), there’s no need for us to remember another username/password.

  • Where would you like technology for the blind to head towards?

To make the internet and other aspects of our life as accessible as possible, so that everyone can participate in everything in the same way. That’s why I was so delighted when I saw the new verification method in the alpha-version of Inclusive Planet.

Read Full Post »

On the Front Foot, is the name of George Abraham’s blog. George Abraham or Georgebhai as he is popularly is one of most well known visually impaired persons in India. A trail blazer in the true sense, George set up the Eyeway Project to “Inform, Inspire and Include” millions of visually impaired in the country. An Ashoka fellow, a brilliant debater,  a career in advertising, an athlete with a passion for cricket, George has donned multiple hats.

I  met George at Techshare, and we had a great chat where he shared his experiences in advertising and his passion for cricket.  A visit to Dehradun’s National Institute for the Visually Handicapped led George to experience the blind playing cricket.  He realized that cricket would instill confidence amongst the blind, and also enable society to see a non-stereotypical image of blind people which is positive and action oriented.

In March 1990 Abraham wrote to noted cricketer Sunil Gavaskar informing of his plan to hold the first national cricket tournament for the blind. Gavaskar responded immediately saying that he would help in anyway he could. By December 1990, George launched the first cricket tournament for the blind,  which then became an annual event. And in 1998, under his leadership, the inaugural Blind Cricket World Cup was held in New Delhi!

I was just amazed about his passion and enthusiasm for the game. Our conversation then moved to IPL 3, and I told him about the tell all audio book on cricket, which is due to hit Inclusive Planet during IPL. George will be helping us spread the word about the book to blind cricketing fraternity across the world. To make the IPL even merrier for the planeteers, George had an idea, he volunteered to take time out from his busy schedule and write a guest column about the IPL matches.  Now thats a double treat this IPL season!

You can catch George’s reviews of the IPL matches on the channel ” On the Front Foot” on Inclusive Planet.  You can also read them on his blog http://georgebhai.blogspot.com

Read Full Post »

Im sure those of you who visit http://www.inclusiveplanet.com regularly would have discovered the numerous interesting posts by Deon. We decided that we will get Deon to share more about himself so all you out there can get to know him better. We sent him some questions and the answers we received are absolutely fantastic – Deon has had such interesting and varied experiences that he should consider writing a book about them. But our readers can find his answers here and read about bits of his life…

Heres what Deon has to say……..

One of our nice lady-buddies [sorry guys, she’s already married!] sent me the following questions, and that got me going, as you can see:
1. A little bit about yourself and how you grew up……..

Born in the bushes, [the closest people were staying about a mile from us]  named Deon Boshoff, I attended your typical one-man Primary school, where the old spinster-teacher tried in vain to teach me to be a farmer.   Although the grownups tried to send me to a School for the Blind, I got my way, and was accepted in a Technical High School, which was not yet finished when my high school days started.  There was only one classroom ready, but we were 70 twelve-year old boys, all interested in Technical affairs.   So, we helped completing the school.  Some started bricklaying; others did the woodwork, while I started electrifying the school, as this was my biggest fascination at the time.  My interest in electricity came from the small library we had at Primary school.  Our school days were longer than others, but it was so interesting!   And I learned so much.  Of course, in those days, electricity was a new thing to us; it had just been introduced in our country.

The teachers I had in high school were not the most educated people I have known, but they were mostly the greatest teachers you can imagine.  Most of them were technicians, motor mechanics, woodworkers, welders, fitter-and-turners, electricians, and so on.  They had a passion for their subjects, which, obviously rubbed off on me, as they instilled a great love inside me for everything around me, including literature.   Of course, those were difficult days, but we were so involved, and so busy, that we had no time to waste pondering about our problems.

In those days, money was scarce, toys had to be made by ourselves for ourselves, you couldn’t buy any. No sweets, no computer games, no cell phones, no TV, while the radio was just coming into use.  Of course, we ourselves built the first radios we had, as we didn’t have the money, or the shops to buy them from.

Food was scarce [this was too shortly after the Second World War] but we had a cow and some chickens. Coffee was something we had to produce ourselves, tea was unknown.   But we had REAL milk, REAL butter, NOT THE KIND THAT COMES IN PACKETS OR PLASTIC BOTTLES, AND BUTTER WAS ACTUALLY BUTTER, NOT IMMITATED MARGERINE.  We knew people who could make shoes, clothes, donkey carts, ox wagons, tobacco, and all we needed.  And we all helped each other; for free!

Yet, we survived, we didn’t starve, and we were so happy.  You see, as there was no entertainment; the people from all around always visited each other, where we would spend a lot of time with those around us.  And, all the stories!!!

As you can imagine, I was not as holy as the Pope; no, no, I was always a little rebel, very naughty, and I also had this teacher who was forever trying to catch me out in doing things he regarded as wrong.   That’s a story for another day!  But I also survived him, and matriculated.

After that, I was drawn into the Army, which, in those days, was no joke.  It was very difficult for me, my eyesight was really not good enough for that, but I had no way of getting out of it, as I had Metric.  Yet, this was a very important part of my education.  They had a way of breaking your pride [which came because you believed you were good for passing school] after they had broken you down completely, they could then start to build you up.  Sometimes I wish they would still call up all boys and give them Military training; it would do them so good!

Then I had to get a job.  Of course, I started work as an apprentice technician at the Railways, where I could start saving money at last.  Unfortunately for me, my eyesight had deteriorated so much that I lost this job, which I so much enjoyed.

So, using my savings, I went to University [Called a College in some other countries] I must have been mad to think that I, who could by this time, not read any more, could get a degree!   Yet, I worked harder than the others, used tape recorders and typewriters, attended all classes, and eventually graduated in three years, in Social Sciences.  This gave me courage, and I then afterwards continued my education at a second University, and got another degree, this time in Communications.   Still there were no computers.

By this time, I, like all of my mates, was used to doing things for us, furniture, and welding, building, electronics.  We designed, built and maintained.  I grew up amongst very poor, but very funny people. The fact that we could always find humor in every situation of life and we could share it amongst ourselves made life bearable even enjoyable.

I have never had to buy a new car; all the cars my wife has been driving all these years, were built up and maintained by myself; at a fraction of the cost to others.  The computers I have at home at present, were ­also all designed and built by myself; at a much lower price, and built the way I want them to be.

Not being a sports man, I have always been a sport.  Always ready to try out something new.  In 1979 I became the first blind person to do a solo-skydive.  Others did it after me, but they were all strapped to the back of a trained skydiver.  Of course, I had to do the training first.

2. About work…..

After this, in 1980, I was looking for a job again.  At this time, Society believed that the only job a blind person may or can do, is to work at a Switchboard.  So, I got me a job as a Switchboard Operator.   And, somehow, I liked it; I was interested in people, so I enjoyed it.  They were always very open towards me, as they seemed to think I’m stupid.  It was then always so nice when they discover that I am not stupid, just blind.   And my technical interest could be enjoyed here.  So I stayed at this humble job, enjoying it, as it played around tricks on all my emotions.

Then the Computer came; and the rest is history!    We at the Switchboard were the first people here at work to start using computers, at this time, MS DOS.   And when Windows came, things really started going well for me.  I was also the first here to get Internet, and e-mail, and these things have meant a lot for me since then.   I, and some of my colleagues, grew up together with the computer.  We had no formal training, we did not grow up using computers from birth, but we adapted to the advancement in computers.

Today, I manage the whole Telephone system here; I have a team of people under me, and even more electronic equipment to maintain.  The computer/server/network problems I experience every day, heep me happy, as I can solve so many of them, and when I can’t, I can learn even more by finding out.  And I can share with others, and I can help others with their computer problems.  And, all along, I’m learning!
My computer skills, as result of trial-and-error, is well-known around me, and I have been offered better-paying jobs, but I enjoy my work, feel that I do it well, and also feel that I’m at least worth my salary, that I am needed, so I’m still here.

3. Last programming language learned…

I haven’t even learned to understand one, let alone a “last” one!  Of course, I’m trying to learn it, have downloaded some books, but at this stage, it’s all-Greek to me.  What I do succeed in, I don’t even understand; sometimes they ask me, how did I do it, or what did I do/ but most of the time I don’t really know myself!

4. Issues about accessibility…

Well, I think we should try harder to make all computers really user-friendly!   “Keep it simple, Stupid” [KISS] is what I believe.   Many programs, I found, are inaccessible to even “normal” people….   Of course, I like Web pages without pictures, and lots of links better than the more graphic ones.  See, I listen to the words, and laugh at the pictures, while others look at the pictures, and laugh at the words.  Windows, especially XP, I find very accessible, as you can customize it so nicely to make it easy for you.  I would really wish all Web-designers and Program writers to keep screen readers in mind when they design things, but I fear that most of them have no idea what a screen reader is!  The other day I had a highly educated, highly computer skilled lady in my office, who writes programs herself, but wanted to know from me what my “special, talking computer has cost me?”    She was amazed how easily I could operate my computer, which actually uses the same programs as that of everyone else, although the screen may look so different to theirs.

5.   Favourite Screen Reader and why?

My workplace provided me with Jaws 4.5, several years ago.  This opened a new world for me.  Before this, I was using some other screen readers, but soon found that Jaws was a lot better, and it was easy to adapt to.  I got so used to Jaws that I tend to compare all other new screen readers with Jaws.  Of course, I test all other screen readers I hear about, and I found NVDA a fantastic second, as you can use other synthesizers with it, but, unfortunately, it does not work with all the applications I use daily.

Jaws 4.5 is activated by a dongle, so I can use any of my computers here at work with it by carrying the dongle with me.  We have two copies of J4.5, and we are still using them with good effect, although I often encounter problems; which are there to be solved.

6. Who is better Arthur C Clarke or Robert Heinlein?

Oh, hell, another two souls I haven’t had the pleasure of discovering their souls!   Yes, I like people, especially their souls.  And there are so many I still need to discover and explore!  You see, I don’t much care what someone looks like, his legs can come out his ears, for all I care; but there is a soul in each person, which is amazing!

7. Blind groups / organization you belong to?

No, not many, I’ve always been independent.    I always tried to adapt in the “Normal” World, and believed that I have to adapt to the World around me, not it to me.    I have often visited the S A National Council for the Blind, but was always, although very nicely treated by them, mostly a guest.  I once attended a Rehab.-course, to learn Braille, Typing and Switchboard operation.  I am a member of an
E-mailing group called Blindza.  And now I’ve come home to the Inclusive Planet!

8.      What do you suggest for generating interests for sci fi on inclusive planet?

What once was Sci Fi, has become reality in my lifetime!  I have a collection of Tom Swift books, which I’m looking forward to read.  I find it amazing to look back at what people like HG Wells and others could dream up in the past, and on looking back, I see their dreams had come true.   When I read some of the stuff people come up with these days, I get scared!   Yet, it is a fascinating subject; I think we should look back, put these books on, and enjoy!   Science fiction seems to give the ideas, and then others make those ideas reality.  As I have asked on the Computer Science channel before, I wish the Planeteers to come up with ideas they can think of, put it to the Computer Wizards, and I’m sure they will take it further! They can design it, all they need is the basic request; for example;” Make me a program that can convince my computer to make me a cup of coffee.” [HAHAHA]

9.    What would make Inclusive Planet better?

Difficult question; can I win a prize?
The only thing that will make this already BEST thing better, will be the active participation of all it’s many, intelligent, lovely members!   As we go along, it will improve, as it is already doing, every day.

I find it interesting that so many of the Planeteers are collecting “Buddies” As far as I am concerned, EVERYBODY on the Planet are my Buddies!!!  So, I don’t want to choose.   The nice thing about logging in, is that, as soon as you discover a new Channel, you can go there, read everything that’s on there so far, and then go back to your Home page, where you will be reminded of all things happening since you were last here.   However, all I would like to be reminded of here is: Any new posts, with the link to it, the link to that channel, and a link to the member who posted it [just as it is at the moment, so please keep this]
Secondly, I would like to be informed of any Comments, as at the moment.
Thirdly, I would like to see any new channels, also as at the moment.

But it would save me a lot of time, and help me not to miss something, if I was not told who-and-who else are now Buddies.   And, I would like to preserve the space taken here by telling what who is reading, to rather hear what who has shared!

While I’m on the Complain-train:  Is it possible that, when I log in, I don’t get to a channel [as at the moment; SANCB Braille template], which I have already been looking at, and instead, directly go to my Home page?  This kind of advertising only makes it more difficult for me to go there, especially when I use my cell phone to connect to the  I Planet.

10.     Where would you like technology for the blind to head towards?

You cannot imagine what difference the computer has made to my life!   I would like each and every blind person to be as computer literate as some are Braille literate.  I feel that each child with low-vision should learn from the beginning to use screen readers, as the eyesight of all people deteriorates as they become older, anyway, and, the sooner you can use a screen reader, the better.  Unfortunately, these things are so expensive!   We should try to make screen readers more affordable.  Of course, there is NVDA, the best Free screen reader, but I find that it doesn’t work well with all the applications I am using.  Here the developers should give more attention to disabled people, as they form a large part of their customers.  And, there are such brilliant computer wizards on the I Planet, why don’t you all start helping the NVDA project? The computer is already more advanced than us; let us make it user-friendlier to all!!

Read Full Post »

Jacob is a member of Inclusive Planet.  This article is a must read for everyone who wants inspiration!

I pondered for a long time on how I could capture the essence of an interesting, multi-facetted man that I was introduced to. Which box could I put him in for a clearer description? I soon realised though that 36 year old Jacob Kruger does not fit into any box. In fact, Jacob casually sums up his whole existence in four words: “I am just me.” He has been blind for just over four years now, but losing his sight never changed who he was. This is Jacob Kruger…

Getting Back on the Bike:
Let me start here…the accident. Jacob is a motorbike enthusiast and loves to drive around on his bike. In November 2005 he had a major accident with his bike when a motorist in the lane next to him, swerved into him. Jacob and his wife, who were both on the bike, were thrown off. He sustained serious injuries and was in a coma for almost a month, taking just over three months to become lucid again. The serious physical injuries resulted in his loss of sight. Sadly, Jacob’s wife was killed in the accident.

Doctors told Jacob that his brain moved around so much inside his skull during the accident that his optical nerve tore where it was attached to his brain – this caused his blindness.

He eventually left the hospital in March 2006, and started orientation and mobility training, which included getting used to walking around with a white cane, doing some cooking and so forth. The orientation and mobility training helped Jacob, however, the greatest enlightenment for him was finding out how to make use of technology without his sight, and getting back to using a computer. Since Jacob is a web developer and had basically lived on the internet since it became available in South Africa around 1996, re-learning how to use a computer was very important to him.

Raising Hell with the Hellrazors:
After his accident, Jacob did a Google search for ‘blind motorcyclist’ and came across a write-up about Billy Baxter, who was part of the UK army’s motorcycle stunt team before he became blind. Billy is now in the Guiness Book of Records for doing 180mph on a bike after losing his sight. Jacob found Billy to be very inspiring and wanted to get back on a bike himself, but just sitting at the back was never an option for him.

When Jacob recovered, he was back at work and back in the biking scene. He is a member of a bike club called the Hellrazors (named after the Ozzy Osbourne song). The club members support Jacob in many ways, including guiding him when he rides his bike.

Once a year, normally in November, the Hellrazors organise their own track day at the Phakisa raceway in Welkom, and this is where Jacob gets on his favourite motorbike (a Suzuki Bandit 1200 Streetfighter), puts on a radio headset, full leathers and a good helmet, and rides up and down the main straight with his friend giving him instructions via a cellular phone.

Jacob enjoys this so much that he says: “Although I have a dark visor on my helmet since I don’t need to let the light in, I reckon the 50 or so people watching me, cheering, shouting and taking photos must have known that I was smiling so broadly inside my helmet that it almost hurt my face.”

IT Enthusiasm:
Jacob, who is an IT-fundi, designed the Hellrazors’ website (www.hellrazors.co.za), his own website (www.blindza.co.za) as well as some interesting pieces of programming for and about blind people.

Although he knows only basic braille (he only uses it for labelling things like pills, spices and food), Jacob has written his own talking computer software, including a braille reference feature which gives instructions on how to write letters in basic braille as you type them on the keyboard. He has also invented his own talking version of snakes and ladders for the computer – using the original board, along with sound effects and speech output. The idea behind the game, as explained by Jacob, is for it to be used even by sighted kids so that they can form an idea of how visually impaired people use computers.

Jacob started the first e-mail mailing list for ‘bikers’ in South Africa in 1997, called BikerZA. He has now also started such a list for visually impaired persons and anyone interested in supporting them, or even just for people who are interested in learning about their lifestyle. The link to the page for that mailing list is: www.freelists.org/list/blindza

Dog Tags and Tattoos:
Above all, Jacob is an excellent advocate for blind people. He is very approachable and carries the ‘signs of blindness’ with pride. As he puts it: “I wear leathers and have tattoos, so people are not afraid to ask me questions”.

True to his style, Jacob sports braille tattoos on his forearms, which consist of black raised ink dots. He is a firm believer in balance and therefore he has two words of equal length – one positive and one negative- on his arms. The left arm’s tattoo spells out the word “depression” and the right one balances it with “positivity”. He also wears a silver dog tag plate around his neck with his name brailed on it. Jacob uses his dog tag and tattoos to show people what braille looks like. I must say this is definitely more interesting than having braille explained on an alphabet card!

Jacob is also working on a set of instructions for newly blinded people. This will include who to contact, where to go for assistance and so forth. On this he added: “I refer people to Council as some people do not know about its existence.”

Motorcycle Gloves and a Dog called Inzamam:
Jacob, who lives in Kempton Park, is still designing websites, but also started a new job in October 2008, programming in a Windows environment. He adjusted to his new world quite fast. Jacob also told me that he uses his motorcycle gloves for cooking, since they’re thin enough to still be able to feel what he’s doing without really having to worry about getting burnt. Although this is very ingenious of him, I wouldn’t advise trying this at home!

A big black Labrador guide dog named after the great Pakistani cricket player – Inzimam ul Haq, joined Jacob in February 2009. Jacob and Inzamam are already getting along nicely.

On Playing ‘Happy Birthday’:
In his already busy life, Jacob still has time for hobbies! He says that he plays drums as a form of exercise as well as a way to vent his frustrations. Well, at least he’s thought of a melodious way to vent… Jacob also recently acquired a mouth organ which he carries around in his bike jacket. He feels that this is one instrument where being able to see or not, has no impact on your playing of the instrument. He is practising whenever he has time, and has already mastered playing Happy Birthday, although I’m sure a few more interesting songs will be added to his repertoire very soon!

Author: Lindie van Zyl

Originally published in Imfama Magazine. The official magazine of the South African National Council for the Blind PO Box 11149, Hatfield, Pretoria 0028
Web: http://www.sancb.org.za

Read Full Post »

A couple of days ago, I got to catch up with one of our members who is working on the NVDA project. Tamas Geczy. Tamas has been helping us for a while now and the we made him take some time off to answer some questions we were dying to ask. So there you go ladies and gentlemen, Tamas and what he has been up to, a Bookbolé member spotlight.

Me: hey Thomas, what’s happening 🙂

Thomas: well, I spent most of it sorting through my old CDS and I came across a whole batch of books which I’m slowly uploading to BookBolé. How was yours?

Me: I saw that, thanks a ton Thomas that was a brilliant three pages of uploads

Thanks a ton

Mine was good, I had to work on a better uploader tool too

Thomas: oh it’s quite alright. But I’m very flexible when it comes to technology 🙂 been around it since age 6.

Me: I had not been too keen on tech till I joined college

Thomas: ha-ha there’s more coming down the pipe 🙂 and BookBolé desktop was a help in getting some of those up as well.

Well you see I used to love technology but somehow I realized that while it’s good, I would never be able to program in front of my computer all day (I know 3 programming languages to date) because I like being outside and around people a lot. So now I’ll probably major in communications and maybe minor in programming or networking. 🙂

Me: what do you think about the BookBolé Desktop

Thomas: well. You see I only have a very low speed internet at home, I live in a wooded area and usually use dial-up or my cell phone’s internet, so it takes about 5 minutes to upload 1 mb of data anyway.

Thomas: hmm. The Application would have to accommodate people with a wide range of visual impairments.. The application is simple to use with the keyboard shortcuts (I think that’s what most people will be using) so I’d for sure keep those. Maybe instead of having a table listing file status you could have 2 lists in the window one showing queued and the other chosen files, and the user could navigate to and from these lists with alt+1 and 2. The lists could have headers which show the status/file information. The only reason I can see the tables as a bit confusing is because of navigation and while most screen readers support web applications, there might be exceptions with others.

And of course, in general the window should pop to the for ground with a cancel button until it has logged onto CIS. Overall though, it’s a great tool 🙂

Me: ok, tell us a bit about yourself, and what you were up to in the last few days?

Thomas: As always, I would first wish to thank the team for conducting this interview – for me it is an honor because of the potentials I see in the service. I was born in the country of Hungary with a visual impairment known as ROP (retinopathy of Prematurity) and can only see light with my right eye as a result. With the help of my mom I moved to the US in 2003, having visited it for half a year in 2000. So I not only had the chance to see how accessibility progressed/progresses in my home nation, but also have the opportunity to live in the US where a lot of laws and technologies are in place and at work. That’s why I try to help the Hungarian blind community, and I translated the free NVDA screen reader into Hungarian as a result. Because my Hungarian language skills have declined however I gave the project to Robert and a few of my Hungarian boarding school friends, and to this date they work and do a great job in maintaining the translation. As for my latest projects… Well, I do my radio show three times a week as always, am working on getting more books for BookBolé, and there’s always school to worry about 🙂

Me: thanks Thomas, how is school coming along, what are you studying currently?

Thomas: Just your average high school as of yet 🙂 I’m in the 12th grade, so it’s my last year. I do however take vocational classes half the day, so I spend half of my day at another school doing computer programming credits for college and the other half of it at my home high school. Overall I’m doing well academically but socially even here I sometimes feel how the sighted perceive me because of my disability.

Me: so Thomas, when and why did you start working on NVDA?

Thomas: It was during the middle of the night that I got the idea for translating it, I was thinking of the visually impaired people back there. I think the date was sometime at the end of February 2007, so actually a while back. I already knew some Python which is NVDA’s source language, so I got to working on it that afternoon and by that night had an ok prototype of it. In Hungary, JAWS exists, but it is quite costly compared to the average salary of a Hungarian which is about $600. So NVDA was the perfect free alternative and I at least wanted to provide a screen reader to the VI of that country which was usable day-to-day and easy to navigate. NVDA of course has grown quite a lot since then and I didn’t know enough of the Hungarian language to be able to translate technical words like “tear-off Menu” which screen readers use, + my grammar wasn’t the best. So in Early 2008 I gave the project to some of my boarding school friends and to this day they maintain it frequently with newer and better Message translations.

Me: sweet, so how many iterations have you gone through till now?

Thomas: with NVDA?

Me: yes

Thomas: Well, at first there was no Hungarian eSpeak, which is NVDA’s Text to speech engine. So I worked with Jonathan in getting that speech engine to be in Hungarian. Then there were lots of updates to the actual NVDA translation and a lot of it was re-written by the community with better grammar. 🙂 I know a lot of people use NVDA today in Hungary, and actually our next project will be to get a better speech voice which is more clear, so my eventual goal will be to raise a couple thousand dollars in college and spend it on working with the Hungarian universities towards a natural, free, open-source TTS engine which speaks Hungarian.

Me: awesome. All the best for the venture Thomas

Now about your friends, how many are involved in the project! How did you meet them?

Thomas: Most of my friends are actually spread across the country. Sweden, Croatia, some in India, Columbia, but those who worked with me on NVDA was mainly friends who I met in 5th grade, when I attended the Budapest boarding school for the Blind for a year. I kept in touch with them, and there was another person from Hungary who they introduced me to, Robert. He also went to the US and so his English and Hungarian is very good. For a total, I’d say about 7 or 8 people are working on fixing things, with Robert being the main English translator. I also try to keep base with Aaron and Istvan to see what’s happening in the country and with NVDA over there. 🙂

Me: interesting. You read a lot right…

Thomas: yes, I love reading 🙂 I know English, Hungarian and Spanish Braille so sometimes I read Braille and electronic books.

Me: what genres do you specifically like? Any authors that you love? And why would you suggest them to your friends on BookBolé

Thomas: hmm. There’s a vast of them 🙂 I don’t have a limit on what genres I read, although I’m not too fond of horror books much. I’ve read Science fiction, historical books, some dealing with new-age/spirituality, some romance and fiction… It really is endless. I think my favorite Scifi/fantisy books were the City of Ember series, the Animorphs books, H. G. Wells, and Steven Hawking. I’ve read a lot of children’s books like all 7 Harry Potters, the Inheritance series, and a series of Unfortunate Events – they are all excellent ones 🙂

Me: we loved the city of ember series. Why did you like it?

Thomas: It was a good book which relayed I think a plot that could happen in our world today – where wars and plagues cause the government to build a city underground, in order to preserve Humanity. I’m an optimist, so I don’t think that such a destruction event will ever happen and the need to build an underground city, but I suppose it has a very small possibility always.

Me: I agree. I found the series to be defiantly positive and eager, something I found missing in some other books of the same genre

Thomas: 🙂 It also was as I recall one of the first American books I read in 7th grade.

Me: oh, well

I read it recently.

Thomas: did you also read the continuation (The People of Sparks)?

Me: yes, that’s when they realize the scale of the destruction, but

somehow the book was still lilting

Thomas: by the way I’m going through my cell phone for internet access when its battery dies so does my internet go. lol.

Me: you use a cell phone to access the internet for your computer?

Via Bluetooth?

Thomas: yes exactly right 🙂

Me: sweet, which

phone do you use?

Thomas: it’s a Windows Mobile phone, called the Motorola q.

Me: a lot of friends who have visual impairment, use the nokias, you are the first person I know who uses a windows phone

Thomas: yes, in India and other European countries Symbian phones are very popular. It’s very interesting, I’ve never used one, since in the US the blind can only use Windows Mobile powered phones.

Thomas: I do beta testing work for Code Factory who makes Mobile speak and there were some rough beta builds in the past ha-ha.

Me: sweet, so Thomas, about your favorite authors, who would you recommend?

Thomas: Well, a lot of the books that I’m uploading to date come from my own personal collection and I’ve read most of them through the years. So as a 7th grader the Chronicles of Narnia was my big book series (that’s by C. S. Lewis), in 9th grade I’ve read all 54 Animorph books by K. A. Applegate, in 10th the Series of Unfortunate events books… I’m not sure if any of them are “favorite” over others, they’ve all written great books. I know I’ve Mentioned some of my recommend author’s before, and all of them have also written some great works 🙂

Me: now about BookBolé, how do you expect it to evolve over time?

Thomas: hmm. I feel that the service has a lot of potentials because of the great team that’s behind it, as well as the honesty of it’s community Members. A lot of friends here in the US have complained about not having any disability checks in place (so that there is no way to know if someone who signed up is blind or not), but I’m sure that a solution will be made for that, either through the community or a dedicated team. Since BookBolé has so many people around the world, I know that a multi-language interface will also help it’s growth. I’m not sure how things are when it comes to copyrighted books, but I feel that as the BookBolé grows so will publishers extend rights to keep the copyrighted books on the site, since their removal would make an impact on the number of books people can download being visually impaired.

Me: rightly put Thomas, we really are trying hard for that, it

doesn’t make sense otherwise

Thomas: well, I’m not sure what the public domain copyright limit is in India, but in the US it takes over 100 years for a book to be put in the public domain, and to date I’d say there are only a few thousand books listed as public – most of which are really old.

Thomas: I think the saddest part of it is that we have the technologies and laws in place here in the US, and still only about 5 to 10% of books are digitalized or accessible. Of course bookshare.org and other sites are working hard, but it’s a slow process. Again that’s where I see BookBolé’s future, because it’s worldwide, I have no doubts that it will outgrow the collections of many major digital/Braille libraries that exist even here.

Me: text books are tough to come by, imagine if we could start sharing books on programming, we could get a substantial chunk of the blind employed

Thomas: I have most of my textbooks on CDs from the publisher – some, like my physics book, are actually online so you need internet to access the material.

Thomas: yes, employment is a universal problem, though I’d imagine with 17 million Visually Impaired in India versus the about a million here, it is probably a bigger issue there. I think our unemployment rate is 70% or more, though it probably rose because of the economic recession we had.

Me: exactly, anyway, one more question before I let you go to bed, Thomas. What inspires you help people

Thomas:

I think it’s what I’ve gone through in life just growing up… You know, in boarding school, because I went to America for half a year, some kids felt jealous. Not all, but some. So they would often box my lungs and beat me up (I was a shy kid) and so I would have high fevers and would be stuck on the train back and forth from the school to my dad’s house which took four hours. When I returned to the US in 2003, I was traumatized as a result. But eventually I faced the past and told myself that NO VISUALLY IMPAIRED child should ever have to go through some of the experiences I had living in poverty and with old technologies. In my mind there exists no racism, so I made this vow for any blind of any nation, or even any person. I try to stick to it as much as I can 🙂

Me: Sweet thought man, thank you so much for contributing to BookBolé. Sure hope we get to work with you more often and help change a few things around the world. Thank you so much Thomas, was great talking to you.

Thomas: 🙂 Thanks for the interview, and I will always try my best to help out Bookbolé with anything I can, as well as anyone from the community who requires help.

It was great Meeting and talking with you as well and I hope to send lots of feedback to you guys as time goes by.

Me: Thanks Thomas, your help is more than appreciated, Thank you.

Read Full Post »