After a little inspiration from a co-worker I thought I’d write this up.
Living with any disability can be difficult. Having that disability affect your day to day work and other life can require more work than others might think.
I have Retinitis Pigmentosa which has resulted in me having 20/100 visual acuity in my good eye and 20/120 in the other. The 20/100 is just a ratio. What I can see from 20 feet away a person with perfect vision can see from 100 feet away. That puts my good eye at 1/5th of where it should be.
Unfortunately with RP it’s hard to correct your vision with glasses. At best my vision in my good eye is 20/80 with them. At one point while I was young my vision was registered at 20/300 putting me above the 20/200 point of being legally blind. As I’ve grown older my vision has improved and I’ve learned tricks for reading text to help.
Even day to day life this puts me at a significan disadvantage and I have to deal with challenges on a day to day basis that most people don’t think about. Things as simple as reading a receipt, reading the route number on a bus, reading a menu at a restaurant, reading subtitles while watching a movie and even using my cell phone. I rely a lot on the people around me to help me out but most of the time I have to just go on without reading it. It’s not limited there. Due to my poor eyesight in most states I can’t get my license. I’ve lived since I was 18 without one. Even in WA where I can get it, I can only drive during the day and my insurance rates are about as expensive as the car payment.
A little help from my friends
Technology has come a long way as far as accessibility goes. Browsers now have support for scaling and both OS X and Windows have support for zooming the whole screen. My co-workers lovingly call this “Chad mode”. Without Chad Mode I wouldn’t be able to do my job day to day or comfortably use a computer. Up until recently I’ve always found myself hunched over the keyboard as close to the monitor as I could get straining my eyes and hurting my back in the process.
Atypical day (get it?)
A typical day starts off with me taking a shower. Without my glasses I can’t tell if I’m using shampoo or conditioner. I move onto my half mile walking commute to work where on a bright day I can’t tell the difference between the “Don’t cross the street or death” sign and the “Dance across the street” sign.
Sitting down at my desk I look at the 3 monitors I have and one of which is a 27” display running at 1440x900 on a monitor arm and a keyboard tray. This setup allows me to keep my keyboard under my desk so I can get closer to my monitor without leaning forward. An email comes in and I check it out on my 4.7” display phone with maxed out font sizes.
Time to start working! I boot up my code editor at 16px font size with high-contrast colors. If I run into an app that doesn’t support changing the font size or I need to read something small I press Windows Key+Plus and enter Chad Mode. Panning, zooming and scrolling my way around can make others sick when they watch me. I’ve had to learn how to deal with all of these axis and keep context of where I’m at. If an email comes in while I’m in Chad Mode chances are I’m not in the right place for the notification and now I’ve just missed an important email.
Heading home and it’s raining. If I want to take the Amazon shuttle I have to ask the driver if the shuttle is going the direction I need because I can’t read the sign on the side.
Now it’s time for dinner and pull out the requisite ingredients and have to ask for help reading the nutrition information or instructions. Sitting down to watch a movie or an episode of Homeland I find myself struggling to keep up with subtitles when they pop up even on a 60” TV.
Bed time and after an episode of Colbert I grab my Amazon Kindle Paperwhite with almost maxed out font sizes and spend 30 minutes reading a book at about ¼ the pace of a normal person.
The alarm goes off and another day begins.
At a young age I was told I’d be blind by the time I was 25. The fact that my vision has improved and I’m 27 I don’t take for granted. I want to enjoy my eyesight while I still have it. I enjoy the outdoors here in Seattle and I’m always aware that today might be the last day I can see the monitor I use for work or my family.
One of my goals before I eventually lose my eysight is to complete an Ironman race. I’m sure I could do it blind it that would feel great but I want to see what it’s like to cross the finish line and be able to remember what that looked like.
I can’t be thankful enough for the work other’s do to increase the accessibility of software. Whether it be a code editor or an operating system. It makes parts of my life not only easier… but possible.