T.V. Raman

T.V. Raman

T.V. Raman, born in India, lost his eyesight to glaucoma at the age of 14.  The teens years can be hard enough without losing our ability to see.  Raman never lost his passion for math and puzzles.  Relying on volunteers to read him textbooks he graduated from a top technical university in India, to a PH.D. at Cornell University and work as a highly respected computer scientist and engineer at Google.

In the world of the 1940’s that I grew up in being blind was considered a serious handicap.  Some statistics from 2006, at the web site of the American Foundation of the Blind, http://www.afb.org , show it still can be a handicap to getting work.  The unemployment rate for all people who have sensory impairments, including the blind and the deaf, was 47.5%.

However as T.V. Raman demonstrates blindness does not have to limit the scope of our dreams for a better life.  My guess is that more often then not the limitations we experiences in life are those we have placed on our selves.

Which of the five senses would you guess might be the hardest for you to live without? Sight? Hearing? Taste? Smell? Touch?

From an article in the New York Times, by Miguel Helft, about Raman:

 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/04/business/04blind.html?_r=1

“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.

“What Raman does is amazing,” said Paul Schroeder, vice president for programs and policy at the American Foundation for the Blind, which conducts research on technology that can help visually impaired people. “He is a leading thinker on accessibility issues, and his capacity to design and alter technology to meet his needs is unique.”

Some of Mr. Raman’s innovations may help make electronic gadgets and Web services more user-friendly for everyone. Instead of asking how something should work if a person cannot see, he says he prefers to ask, “How should something work when the user is not looking at the screen?”

Such systems could prove useful for drivers or anyone else who could benefit from eyes-free access to a phone. They could also appeal to aging baby boomers with fading vision who want to keep using technology they’ve come to depend on.

Mr. Raman’s web site:

http://emacspeak.sourceforge.net/raman/

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