For the Blind, Technology Does What a Guide Dog Can't
Posted in: Internet Use/New Technologies at 05/01/2009 04:38
T. V. Raman was a bookish child who developed a love of math and puzzles at an early age.
That passion didn't change after glaucoma took his eyesight at the age of 14. What changed is the role that technology -- and his own innovations -- played in helping him pursue his interests.
A native of India, Mr. Raman went from relying on volunteers to read him textbooks at a top technical university there to leading a largely autonomous life in Silicon Valley, where he is a highly respected computer scientist and an engineer at Google.
Along the way, Mr. Raman built a series of tools to help him take advantage of objects or technologies that were not designed with blind users in mind. They ranged from a Rubik's Cube covered in Braille to a software program that can take complex mathematical formulas and read them aloud, which became the subject of his Ph.D. dissertation at Cornell. He also built a version of Google's search service tailored for blind users.
Mr. Raman, 43, is now working to modify the latest technological gadget that he says could make life easier for blind people: a touch-screen phone.