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 »