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Programs Make Online Browsing Possible for Blind

Programs Make Online Browsing Possible for Blind


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John Hollenhorst ReportingMost of us like to browse, whether it's at the shopping mall or on the Internet. But imagine browsing the Net if you are blind. Yes, surfing the web is still possible for the blind, and some of them have surfing skills that are downright amazing.

When Brenda Owens first started coming for training at State Services for the blind, she wouldn't have imagined where her fingers would be taking her.

Brenda Owens, Visually Impaired: "I didn't know how a blind person could navigate the internet, until I came here."

She's still learning, with the expert teaching of Cindi Vega, and with a computer voice guiding almost every move. Special software reads aloud what she types and it reads aloud what she finds on the Internet. A 3-D braille display changes constantly, allowing fingers to feel the text on the screen.

Owens did get lost on one web site, trying to look up a phone number.

Cindi Vega, Teacher: "Yeah, it can be frustrating to people because each web site is designed differently."

Brenda Owens: "I have to practice and practice until I get it right, but once I get on track it's quite easy."

Teacher Cindi Vega is the real whiz kid. Fingers flying, she browsed up some medical info on the cause of her own blindness.

Cindi Vega: "And then it says Adjenochrotipotrophic hormone."

We thought maybe Cindi was making it easy on herself by going to web pages she was already familiar with, so we pulled a trick question on her. What date, we asked, did the famous creationist Bishop Ussher calculate for the birth of the Earth?

Computer: "Bishop Ussher dates the creation of the world at 4004 B.C."

Thirty seconds flat, from an off-the-wall question to an off-the-internet answer.

The state's Internet training has a dual purpose. It opens up the web to the blind for information and enjoyment, ut it also helps prepare them for jobs in our high-tech world.

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