The internet improved my life
There are many technological innovations which have improved quality of life for blind people such as myself. There’s the screenreader, speech synthesizer, refreshable Braille display, notetakers, and even a couple talking GPS systems. It is my opinion, however, that no innovation has had as big an impact as the internet. The internet has opened many doors to us which either weren’t open, or were cluttered with obstacles in the past.
First, the internet, and email in particular, allows for easier communication with friends and family, both blind and sighted. In the past, if you wanted to send a sighted person a letter, you could record it on tape, type it up on a typewriter, or have someone write it in print for you. Now, you can send off an email in a matter of seconds. It’s even made communicating with other blind people easier. For one thing, not all blind people, even those of us who are totally blind, read braille. For another, braille paper isn’t cheap. In short, the internet has made written communication for the blind much more simple.
The internet has made it easier than ever for myself and other blind people to pay our own bills. In the past, you’d either have to use telephone banking, have a friend or family member help you write your checks, or use some sort of cumbersome check guide. Now, I log on to the site of whoever I need to pay, or onto my bank’s website, and set up the payment in a few minutes. No more hoping my friend wrote the right amount on the check, no more mailing the payment.
The internet has also opened up a world of material which used to only be available in printed form. Now, I can read the newspaper, look up phone numbers and addresses, search for information, and research products with just a few keyboard commands. No more having to ask someone to transcribe printed materials for me, or to read them out loud. Now, almost any magazine or newspaper I want to read, or any subject I want more information on, is available online.
Probably the biggest thing the internet has done for me as a blind person is given me more personal freedom in shopping. In the past, I’d either have to go to the store with someone, or go alone and hope the store would provide an employee to assist me without complaining too much. Grocery stores are usually willing to do this, but in my experience, most department stores and non-grocery stores, if they do provide assistance, do it grudgingly. Now, when it’s time to buy Christmas presents for my wife, I can simply go to whatever online store I want, find the products I want, add them to my cart, and order them. Then, I can choose to have the items shipped to me, or in many cases, choose in-store pick-up and pick them up when we’re out and about. I can also take my time picking things out, and not have to worry that the sighted worker assisting me is going to be in a hurry, or not have to take up a family member or friend’s time.
I realize the above items have also made life easier for most sighted people. The difference is, it’s given me more independence; it’s simply given you another choice. The internet is a wonderful thing; let’s never forget it.