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Kenneth Spector - Coding without seeing the screen

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Kenneth is working as an intern here at Microsoft for the summer on the Office team as a tester. He uses Visual Studio to find bugs (and to code on his own time). He writes emails in Outlook. Does all the usual stuff that most developers or testers at Microsoft do. With one difference.

He can't see the screen because he's been blind since he was three years old.

He invited us over to see how he does his work -- you'll see how he uses a screen reader and a braille keyboard to use Visual Studio.

For more information on making technology more accessible to everyone, visit the Microsoft Accessibility page.

He's a student at Arizona State University. Wired Magazine has an article on the accessibility programs there.

Another good resource for developers is Joe Clark's "Building Accessible Websites."

Do you have any other examples of how computers are improving people's lives and giving them new opportunities?

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  • John Melville-- MDJohn Melville-- MD Equality Through Technology

    Congrats.  I am also disabled, though not blind, and have been similarly liberated through technology.  Its good to see others succeeding against some common challenges.

  • DEEETERDEEETER KEEP CODE ING ING ING !!!
    V inspiring... great great great...
  • clint_hillclint_hill C-x,C-f

    This is a great story. I admire Kenneth's "abilities".


    It is something that makes me feel small and makes me humble.

  • What a nice guy! I hope the Visual Studio team sees this, and starts thinking harder about accessibility. Blind programmers can be as productive as sighted ones, since most programming and debugging is text based. Only the tools are lacking.
  • The Channel 9 TeamThe Channel 9 Team 5 guys from Redmond
    We sent this video all over Microsoft, including to Sara Ford, accessibility expert on the Visual Studio team. In fact, she's been on Channel 9 too: http://channel9.msdn.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=5382
  • Truly awe-inspiring! All the best to Kenneth. Hope he returns to Microsoft as an FTE soon!
  • qwert231qwert231 M Kenyon
    Back in the late 90s, I knew a fella who was blind and ran/owned and ISP. He was the first in the area, and ran on Linux/Unix, which was all text based.

    It's good to see people overcoming seeming adversities. To us, it's a big deal. To them, it's everyday life.
  • We have a very strong focus on accessibility in our Visual Studio 2005 release.  In addition, we have been working and testing with both JAWS, the screen reader Kenneth mentions in the video, produced by Freedom Scientific, and Window Eyes, a screen reader produced by GW Micro.  If anyone has any feedback regarding accessibility of either Visual Studio .NET 2003 or Visual Studio 2005, please feel free to contact me via my blog at http://blogs.msdn.com/saraford.

    Thanks!
    -sara

  • njonssonnjonsson Bad hair life
    What a stud. Interesting that his name connotes ‘one who sees or watches’ in Latin. Seems to me he’s not so much a spectator to development as a contributor.
  • Johannes Edstoft HansenJohannes Johannes Hansen, Denmark
    Wow, that's amazing. This vid really shows how important it is to use the available accessibility features when making websites or regular programs.
  • cwoodruffcwoodruff Just call me Woody

    Thanks Kenneth for your Honestly during the interview.  I am not only impressed by your abilities but by your dedication.  Pleasing yourself first is a thing that most people seem to not grasp.  I bet you made a lot of people think including myself.  Thanks.

  • Stevan VeselinovicSteve411 Me, all suited up!
    I can not play the video:::

     Windows Media Player cannot play the file because the specified protocol is not supported. In the Open URL dialog, try opening the file using a different protocol (for example, "http://* or "rtsp:").
     
     Ok, i tried all of them

    http://
    mms://
    rtsp://
    mms://server/sami.asf?SAMI=http://server/sami/sami_demo.smi
  • Wayne TaylorKryptos Backup People!
    Everyone here has said it. This is great!
  • ironjazzironjazz ironjazz

    Wow... this is really an inspiring post.

    It also helped me to make a career choice move too.

    Thanks

  • JazJaz From the depths of Wales I come
    Intresting that MS doesn't have it's own internal screen reading software (well the one in Windows included).  out of the 56k employees you have i wonder what the percentage is that are blind or deaf and that have contributed to the many things that we all take for granted inside the various applications that Microsoft produce.
  • Technology is enabling people with disabilities?
    Correct. If you have the money that is. Just to give some info:
    A. A good screen reader such as Jaws, Supernova, etc, costs about 1500 dollars and above. Plus imagine having to pay that much or perhaps a bit less every year or so for updates to screen readers, just to make them work correctly with a new software, like the new version of Office or a new Windows service pack. The new Visual Studio for example, might work with the latest version of the mentioned screen readers. All users with previous versions of these readers however, who are 90% of the users, are stuck. Also, imagine having to pay that much for screen reader technology or for screen magnification technology for every partially sighted person at your school and for every computer that he/she uses just because the screen reader/magnification companies want to make even more money with their licensing. I am not saying that the effort that is required to build these software is not much. However, prices are usually too high and whatever you do there is always that newest update that you have to get.
    B. A Braille display costs around 4000 dollars and above. Where will disabled persons find the extra cash? From a rich uncle’s inheritance perhaps.
    C. The problem with the Windows platform becomes even worse, since most of the programs on that platform do not have a text command line based interface. Visually impaired persons have difficulties learning a graphical interface, especially if after each new version of the application their screen reader breaks. Also, the Narrator screen reader available in Windows is highly inadequate, although contrary to other popular and costly screen readers it seems to recognize screen elements correctly, even with new and graphically “difficult” applications. This should be an issue for Microsoft because the Linux based operating systems with their text interface seem to be a better choice for blind people. Not only that but there are Linux distributions which have a built-in screen reader in the kernel itself and even those distributions that do not come with a free screen reader, you can easily patch the kernel with free open source screen reader solutions. Even Emacs has its own screen reading solution called Emacspeak. For Linux you can find more accessibility aids for free such as software speech synthesizers. Compared to the high cost of Windows accessibility aids, the lack of functionality in Narrator and the gui only nature of Windows, other operating systems such as Linux might appear a better choice for a blind or partially sighted person at least at first glance.

    I think that Microsoft should start making their software even more accessible from the ground up and try to add accessibility afterward. Also, MS should definitely improve the accessibility aids provided in Windows for free, such as Narrator.

  • Impressive stuff. I find people like Kenneth inspirational. Let's hope people like him can continue to encourage Microsoft to help people with disabilities ensure disability aids are available to all who need them

  • amazing Smiley
  • I have just tried to watch the video, however I can not find how to turn sub titles on. At work I can not hear, as the PC do not have a sound card.

    What is the ‘access story’ for channe9?

  • The Channel 9 TeamThe Channel 9 Team 5 guys from Redmond
    Ringi: sorry, some things in life require sound.

    We're working on transcripts.
  • gyldagylda INTJ
    Thanks for this great video - I code and/or teach programming for a living, and find Keith's perspective personally inspiring and often show this video to my students to broaden their
    'world view(s)'.
  • sram_83ksram_83k Cocktail Geek
    I am truly amazed and ashamed. I have some inferiority complex of not being a fast coder and used it as an excuse to put off coding work but after watching this video everything has changed. The purpose of people like Kenneth is to give inspiration for the rest of us. This is the BEST VIDEO on Channel9 ever.
  • Barry Andrew HallPace What do you see?
    OMG I feel like crying...

    Truely inspiring... not just from a software development or acessibility perspective but this guy truly is a star! Human nature at its finest... he wants to do something, and he is doing it. He is bridging everything which holds him back... I think that EVERYONE no matter what you do, could learn from this video...

    Good luck to you Kenneth, I take my hat off! Happy Coding Wink

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