KILKENNY -- Tomorrow morning, anyone walking past Langton's pub in Kilkenny will have to make way for the double-wide stack of kegs stacked three high after the All-Ireland celebrations. I took that walk last year and met Michael Brown and Quita head-on. Michael Brown walks the Kilkenny pavements every morning, helped along by his guide dog. Michael works in the Office of Public Works. He uses computing technology to do his job. He is not alone.
Misty notes that "it's amazing to think how everyone is the same behind a computer. You could very well be in a chat room with, or interacting in a web class with a deaf person and not even realize it." Likewise, it's difficult to tell that Michael Brown is blind, just using his computer clues as reference.
More than any other device in my kit bag, Michael liked my Nokia Communicator. He knew the Communicator accepted plug-ins that would read his e-mail to him. In that way, Michael is like JV, a deaf guy with a mobile phone. Misty explains how that works.
We laughed at him and asked why he had a cell phone, and apparently, it's one of those multitasking everything-in-one phones. He didn't sign up for any minutes or talk time; he just uses it for everything else. This "phone" is about 3"x4". The screen can be rotated up, and when the screen is flipped up, you find where the keyboard is. It's a mini keyboard. You can play with the screen without rotating it up, but as soon as you need to keyboard and rotate it, the screen flips with the rotation. JV gets AOL IM on this thing, and every email that comes will vibrate it so he can check it immediately. He can surf the web at his leisure. He can receive text messages from other cell phones. He pays $30 a month for all of it; he has unlimited text messages, IM conversations, emails, and web browsing. This wireless internet is cheaper than it would be for him to have a laptop in the apartment that is connected to internet, and it's probably faster than that Internet would be.Like Misty, I think enabling technology is the best technology. It gives blind and deaf browsers a fair chance. I want to get more specs on the "mini walk-around computer" that JV has because it would be good to design elements that plug into this technology.
Misty V'Marie -- "Technology in a deaf world"