I am a writer with a degenerative eye disease. I see shapes and shadows but no detail. For instance, I can see where my face is in a mirror, but I cannot see my lips to put on lipstick. This may seem a trite problem, but my husband keeps introducing me as Ronald McDonald.
Writing blind can be challenging. Typing is not a problem—typos are. My computer helps solve this. Computers offer new abilities to sight-impaired people. Screen brightness, color contrast, and font size can be manipulated to meet special needs, opening a world previously inaccessible. Verbose computer programs can read aloud everything from web pages to email—even regular mail if you have a scanner.
When I first began writing, I used a word recognition program with playback capabilities. This is not a foolproof solution. Word recognition is at best 90% accurate, which means that nine out of ten words will be right. That's fine for a sighted person, but all I could hope for was that the word that was wrong was not a really important one. And if I was tired and slurred my words, I ended up with sentences like hatchet fizz in the goop bandana.
Today I use a computer program that echoes the keys I press and reads the screen to me. The robotic voice took a little getting used to, but I've come to rely upon it. My computer is a frustrating and essential partner. It does more than help me write. It helps me research and promote—and it connects me to other writers.
The support of other writers is a tool no writer should be without. Online forums and writer chats abound on the Internet. It is a simple matter to create a buddy list and exchange chapters to critique. But nothing beats a face-to-face meeting for immediate embarrassment. I have belonged to the same writers’ group for thirteen years. Their criticism is sharp and to the point. (One of their axioms is name three ways this chapter furthers your plot.) But their support is also freely given, and they never let me quit.
The greatest tool a writer can use, however, is the ability to read. Writers learn to write through reading. In this, electronic publications are indispensable to me. EBooks give access to a wider variety of books than can be found in the local bookstore. They permanently archive not only classics but also potential classics, preserving them for the future. And my screen reading program turns any eBook into an audio book that I can listen to at leisure.
People are resistant to change, and both computers and the Internet can be daunting. This slows our progression to the electronic word. But I believe electronic publishing is the next stage in communication. It grants access to the illiterate, the infirm, and those of us with special needs.