Student Profile: Vincent (AccessComputing News - January 2013)
My name is Vincent. I have been using computers and computing systems to solve accessibility problems for more than twenty years. I'm currently working towards my master's degree in human-computer interaction (HCI) at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. After I graduate, I plan to attend a Ph.D. program in human-centered computing. HCI is a unique area in the computing field that studies the human perspective in the design and use of computing systems.
What I've enjoyed about graduate school is that I have the autonomy to study almost anything I want. Getting to know the other people that are in graduate school is what makes going to class and the lab every day a truly enjoyable experience.
I am blind, with only light perception. I have a genetic eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa that started to affect me in my early teens. At school, I have to help my professors remember that I cannot see any board that they are writing on. Getting them to routinely vocalize what they write is the most difficult task in any class. I stay ahead in all my classes to help me better understand the lectures. I read ahead and then visit with professors before they cover a topic. There are several classes in object-oriented programming languages that just are not accessible with screen reading programs. There are also several programming environments that have a lot of trouble working with screen readers.
To be successful, I utilize an enormous amount of assistive technology. I have an HIMS Braille Sense notetaker and a BrailleConnect Braille display, and I use the Freedom Scientific's OpenBook Reading System for scanning documents. I have five different screen reading programs: JAWS for Windows, Window-Eyes, HAL, Non-Visual Desktop, and System Access. I also have an Apple Mac-mini, iPad, and iPhone that all use the VoiceOver screen reading system.
Computing systems have allowed me to have a career and to solve a myriad of problems—most importantly allowing me to access information and increase my ability to communicate. I have also gained the skills to give people with visual impairments the tools that they need to navigate the visual world by applying technical and computing technology in the right manner.