SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — New technology is helping the blind and visually impaired compete in the social, educational, and economic mainstream of today’s world.
Several new devices were on display in Kanawha County Friday during the National Federation of the Blind of West Virginia convention. The event was held at the Holiday Inn in South Charleston.
The expo featured devices such as computers that talk, paperless Braille and smartphones that can be accessed through speech. Computers were also on hand for people with low vision. The devices allow people to zoom into text and enlarge pictures of print.
Ed McDonald, vice president of NFBWV, said it’s important to make sure technology developers make devices accessible to blind people.
“If we can’t use it for some reason or another, we either can’t take advantage of that educational opportunity, it closes us out of a college course or a school course or a job, so while we benefit from technology, we’re also vigilant to make sure the technology is accessible to us,” he said.
McDonald was born blind. He’s worked as a radio broadcaster for most of his life, so he understands the importance of keeping up to date with technology.
Sometimes, he said, people have misconceptions and myths about people who can’t see. He said the goal of the NFB is to overcome those barriers.
“Until we can overcome society’s misunderstandings of what blindness is all about, we really won’t be fully integrated into society,” he said. “What we’re really all about is changing public attitudes and even changing our own understanding. Sometimes we fall victim to what society tells us.”
Friday’s event was presented in collaboration with the West Virginia Assistive Technology System — a project of the West Virginia University Center for Excellence in Disabilities.
The NFBWV is the state’s oldest and largest consumer organization of blind persons.