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Computer usage: blind Vs sighted; keyboard Vs mouse

This has been reproduced from another article on the web, to which is referenced at the end of the article. I have added my thoughts and some change to the structure to express this topic so that it becomes an interesting read and all of us can get a good understanding of how a sighted person uses the computer Vs a screen reader user; an assistive technology for the blind. This article has to be read with the perception of understanding both types of users; it's not a competitive analysis where one has to judge between the 2 types of users i.e. who is the better one...


I "a screen reader user" sat with a sighted computer user, who primarily drove the workstation with the mouse, other than typing into edit fields. I knew what applications she was using, as I use them with my screen reader I understand, the mental application layout, at least from a screen reader and keyboard command prospective.


Knowing where they were going, what they were doing, I found myself in ah, of how quick they drove around, as well as ease of use. I understand there are a lot of us, competent blind computer users. I believe myself to be one. I believe I am quick, and have a lot of keystrokes memorized. We as blind users have to trust, and think ahead much of the time, we don't allow the screen reader to finish reading the output of the commands we are giving the computer before moving forward because we know, trust what it is going to do. What I believe I realized yesterday, is, it may be, one or two mouse clicks as a sighted user, to 5 to 10 of our keystrokes. It's as if your, listening to an entire song as you look at the screen, and gaining information, vs, listening to each stem of that song as you move line by line with a screen reader.


*Screen reader: an assistive technology used on digital devices to make them accessible to the blind/ visually impaired. Sighted: Someone with no disability with the eyes and good sight.


I am so thankful for all of the work that has been done in the accessibility arena, so blessed because of it on a day to day basses, and I realize I am sounding, perhaps somewhat selfish, but in the future, might there be a quicker, less mind bending way for us as blind users to navigate a computer?

No, I am not trying to wine or complain, I truly promise, I don't mean that it is mentally hard for me to drive a computer with the keyboard and accessibility, of course not, but seeing the ease of use that a sighted user navigated yesterday, it is, in some weird odd way, maybe, so, and for some accessibility users more than others, as we are all on a different level.


Take Microsoft Edge for example. As I have navigated it with a screen reader, and may get lost as I am tabbing through, f6 brings me to the list of tabs. I believe this list is at the top of the screen. As a sighted user, I didn't verify, but I believe one may be able to quickly jump to the top with the mouse curser, click on a different tab, and in a split second be there, instead of control tabbing through all the open tabs, or cycling around with F6, to get to the tabs list, hitting left or right arrow, and then hitting space or enter. As I mentioned above, it may be, one click to several keystrokes. I do also realize this doesn't hold true in every app, everywhere.

I don't know what the answer is, if there is a different answer than we already have, but it's interesting and fascinating to ponder.


In conclusion to the thoughts expressed above: A mouse user puts in less effort in using and navigating their computer compared to a keyboard/ screen reader user. The author is pondering if the same computing experience can be made possible in the future.


I acquired my disability late in life; I was at the age of 35 years; by then I had a good understanding of the Windows OS and the applications visually. The biggest change post sight loss in being able to use my computer has been mainly being able to navigate webpages, applications and the OS using the keyboard and not the mouse. It was also critical that I master the screen reader software get used to it's voice output as I cannot visually perceive the screen and it's glossy GUI. All that said, I also mastered many keyboard shortcut keys that help me perform many actions on the applications that I use on an everyday basis on my job.


What I feel is there is an evident need to drive the message of accessibility across the industry as my skills don't limit me from working with different applications on the computer but the way they are designed become a barrier. This is the digital divide that I face in many situations for example from simple things like ordering groceries on an app. to booking a flight on my smart device. Technology can be a game changer and bridge that divide between being abled and having a disability. It's up to us to work towards creating the awareness and driving that change. Businesses should also shoulder this responsibility and there is a good reason to encourage that:

1. The ROI on accessibility

2. Loyal customers who trust your business because you have been inclusive

3. Implementing international standards of design and quality of your product

4. Meeting legal and social obligations

5. Better brand image

6. Diverse thinking leading to innovation


I have also said this before and will say it again; population ages and with age there are good possibilities of a disability at that age. Do you want such a population to be dependent; just think about it each time you have to take a prescribed pill, you need to take help from someone sighted to read out the labels on the bottle. What if I said, you can do it yourself by using an app. on your phone? Would you believe me on that? Do you think it can actually be done? If yes, you are thinking in the right direction and about accessibility.


Footnote: Dear Readers, I write these kind of posts not to fill space on the internet but to impact the lives of so many by creating awareness on disability and accessibility. I expect you after reading to reflect on what has been written/ said on such posts and drive positive change in your network. You can talk about accessibility in your organization, with your application development teams, in your social and professional network or by simply sharing this post across your social networks. Thank you for reading, have a good one!


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