I lost my sight as a teenager in 1980. And, that was just before computers began to be everywhere and for everyone. But as I went off to college, even though there were computers available at my university, this blind young woman couldn’t access them. I couldn’t type yet and they couldn’t talk yet so computers just weren’t an option.
I made it through college by listening well, hiring readers to read my text books to me and I recorded a lot on tape so I could listen, rewind, listen again, rewind, and well, you get the idea…that’s the only way I could study. (And, if you’re wondering, I hadn’t learned Braille. In fact, I was in too much of a hurry to stop and learn!)
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It wasn’t an easy time to be blind. And, though blindness isn’t easy even on a good day, this is one of the best times to be blind — there is so much available to make information accessible.
I no longer need to rely on readers or audio tape to research and write. For my past 10 books, I’ve written with JAWS.
No, that doesn’t mean I use my jaws to dictate! I type. And, I’m not referring to Jaws — the shark of the 70’s that devoured everything in its sight! This JAWS is software developed by Freedom Scientific which reads everything in its sight! JAWS stands for “Job Access With Speech.” It’s installed on my laptop –it can be installed on any computer — and it is incredible! It can read me anything on my screen!
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It tells me every letter I type. JAWS helps me email, navigate the web, and do social media. As I arrow and tab, it reads me sentences, finds paragraphs, switches pages and lets me edit my work.
So, just think about it this way, anything a sighted person uses a mouse for, I know a key command for! If your mouse ever goes out, I’m your girl!
I can “control f” what you’re looking for, “control z” to undo what you may have accidentally done, and “alt f4” yourself out of a place you don’t want to be!
Now, I bet I know what you’re thinking — especially if you are under the age of 40… what about a Mac? Isn’t a screen reader already built in? I tried the Mac — and with total respect for all Mac lovers — it just wasn’t for me. I learned on a PC with JAWS and it just works best for me.
I do, however, use VoiceOver on my iPhone. It reads to me and I use the dictation feature within my Notes app often. That took the place of that old hand-held tape player I used in the 80’s! I just email myself the note I dictated and then turn it into a Word document when it gets to my laptop. I also use the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard with my iPhone to take notes and write emails when I’m on the road.
If you want to see and hear JAWS at work, you can watch a video of JAWS reading Hosea to me in a recent blog post here.
Some other resources I use that work well with JAWS are:
Olympus Sonority: The Olympus Digital Voice Recorder along with The Olympus Sonority software lets you connect your recorder to a PC to transfer, manage and edit audio… it turns my dictation into a document!
OpenBook: OpenBook converts printed documents or graphic-based text into an electronic text format on your PC. In other words, it’s a really, really smart scanner! This helps me with mail and books. Once they’re scanned, Jaws reads the content to me and then OpenBook even has a filing system for me to keep my scans organized.
If you want to learn more about my journey with blindness, you can watch my interviews on Good Morning America and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
If you want to read about what I learned in blindness, check out Lessons I Learned in the Dark and God Is Just Not Fair, available in our online store.
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Yes, being blind is difficult, but I am so thankful for all of these resources available that make life so much easier. It’s an amazing time we live in, isn’t it?!? My hope is that if you too are blind, or you have a loved one who is, this will be great information for you as well. The Lord has an incredible plan and purpose for each of us, and each day is an opportunity to use our gifts for His glory! How thankful I am for that truth.
Got any other questions about blindness that I could answer for you?