Reading Challenges of a Visually Impaired Writer in the Digital World: Guest Post by Kerry Kijewski

Visually Impaired Writers

I recently met author Kerry Kijewski on my Facebook page. She commented that she really enjoyed the writing- and publishing-related posts on my page, but she couldn’t always access the links because she is blind. After some back-and-forth discussion, I learned that if I just added the links to the comments section, Kerry could access them with her reading software for visually impaired writers.

That conversation got me thinking about the other accommodations a blind reader/writer might need, so I asked Kerry to share her thoughts with us. Before I met her, I’d never considered how technology helps or hinders the creation and consumption of digital content. Now I know a bit more, and so will you:

Kerry Kijewski @TheIWanderer talks about the challenges of being a visually impaired writer. #blind #writers Click To Tweet

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I was born blind, but I had enough sight when I was younger to read and write large print. In the beginning days of computers I could use large print magnification programs. That seems like another lifetime to me now.

Over time my sight worsened to the point where I was unable to read a screen at all. I had no choice and moved to speech programs, one in particular called JAWS.

I learned braille when I was very young, at the same time I learned how to read print. I used them in unison until my vision worsened and I was strictly a braille user. Braille is less and less common these days with technology everywhere, but braille displays are still used. These are devices that produce electronic braille, like little typewriters. They can be connected to computers and used wirelessly with most phones and other devices.

A few years ago I moved to Mac and I now use my MacBook laptop to write my blogs and search the Internet. The speech program Mac uses is called VoiceOver and is built right into the operating system. This allows better function than others such as JAWS.

I discovered iPhone a few years ago and have been hooked ever since. Again the VoiceOver is built right in and all I had to do was go into “Settings” to activate it. I touch the phone’s screen and move my finger around, from App to App. The phone speaks as my finger moves and I double tap where I want. I am able to text and type with the touch screen keyboard.

As a blogger, writer, and book lover, I seek out people and resources that relate to these things. I came across Change It Up Editing and Writing Services and Candace, and I am glad I did. I was pleased to find a warmth and personal connection from the start. I hesitate sometimes to lead with my blindness and the problems that can cause because I don’t like to seem like a nuisance. When I wanted to read her helpful posts about writing, I found I was often unable to click on the links, mostly on my iPhone. I don’t pretend to understand why it works sometimes and not at others, but I believe it has something to do with screen shot vs. strictly a link. I am glad I spoke up and let Candace know that I was only able to click on her posts if she put them as a link in the comments. She has continued to do this ever since, and I very much appreciate that she took the time to listen to my concerns, but she never would have known if I hadn’t spoken up and explained it to her.

A lot of the Internet is visual. Photos and images are everywhere. This is the part of the Internet I am unable to access. Many sites are not set up to interact with VoiceOver. A mouse is useless to anyone without sight. The keyboard shortcut keys and commands work out most of the time. Sites aren’t set up for strictly keyboard commands. Maybe in the future they will take blind people into account when designing their websites, but Instagram is a reality and phone cameras are everywhere. The world is sighted and visual. I try my best to work and live alongside this world and to make technology work for me as best I can.

I am a shy person by nature and am always learning to speak up more for myself. Writing is the best way I have found to express myself and make my voice heard. I don’t wish to be defined by my disability, preferring to focus on what I have to offer the world. However, I am not ashamed, and I hope to educate people on these things they might not otherwise come across in their own lives. There are plenty of stereotypes out there about people with disabilities such as blindness. I hope to do my part to dispel such myths and make a difference and find a way to contribute to society in a positive way.

I use my ability to express myself through words to let people know I am here and I have something to offer the world. I fear that I won’t fit in and that I will be lost in the mix. I think I face all the same worries and fears about putting myself out there through my writing as anyone else. Some fears are universal. Writing is a frightening thing because you must open yourself up and let people in. It is a risk. I try not to hide behind my words, but instead to open up and be myself. I use words to let the world know who I am and what’s in my heart.

I want to thank Candace for giving me this opportunity to share my story here.

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Kerry Kijewski has a Certificate of Creative Writing and is working on her first novel, which she started writing during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

  • Visit her blog: kkherheadache.wordpress.com
  • Follow her on Facebook: facebook.com/herheadacheblog
  • Connect with her on Twitter: @kkherheadache
  • She’s also on LinkedIn: Kerry Kijewski

 

Thank you, Kerry, for sharing your thoughts. I’m glad you let me know how to easily share information with you, and I invite everyone to visit your blog at http://kkherheadache.wordpress.com to learn more.

—Happy Writing,

Candace

If you enjoyed reading this, please subscribe to my blog and never miss a post! It’s easy: Just enter your email address on the right side of this page. And please know that I’ll never sell, share, or rent your contact information—that’s a promise!

Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Learn more here.

For more great writing and publishing information, check out Change It Up Editing and Writing Services on Facebook, where I share interesting articles and links about writing and publishing.

Join Me at "Her Headache" for a Guest Post About Becoming a Freelance Editor

Becoming a Freelance EditorI recently met author Kerry Kijewski when she visited my Facebook page, and she was kind enough to invite me to guest blog at Her Headache. I invite you to join me there to learn a few never-before-shared tidbits about becoming a freelance editor and my personal philosophies. You’ll read about my involvement with the Chicken Soup for the Soul franchise, how I began working in the editing field, why I left traditional publishing, and how I’ve dealt with, er, “difficult” authors.

How I began working in the editing field and why I left traditional publishing. #editing… Click To Tweet

Here’s a preview:


Most of the posts on my own blog are for writers about the writing and publishing, so I was pleasantly surprised when Kerry invited me to guest blog and answer some personal questions. While I’ve written about myself in terms of my work as a professional editor (as in this post), I haven’t written too much about my background or my personal philosophies. Kerry asked some great questions, so here goes:  

“I read something on your website about your involvement with the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. I used to love those when I was a kid and always dreamed of writing something and having it published in those. What was your role?”

Like most people, I’d heard of the Chicken Soup for the Soul franchise, so when I applied for an internship with their book publisher, I looked forward to learning more about anthologies in general and those books in particular. You can imagine my thrill when I was invited by to try my hand at writing back cover copy and catalog copy for several of the books in production that season—and my greater thrill when most of my copy was used!

During my internship, I tried my hand at many publishing tasks and found I was a pretty good proofreader. At first, I only did second proofs; a more experienced proofreader did the first proof pass, and I was the “clean-up” proofreader. After I finished my internship and graduated, I continued to work as a freelance proofreader for a year before I was offered a position with the same publisher as assistant to the managing editor. Over the course of those several seasons, I proofread several more Chicken Soup books as well as many others.

Several years later, the franchise was sold, and the publisher I worked for was no longer involved, but the editorial director recognized the popularity of anthologies (A Cup of Comfort was a popular, competing series) and lobbied for creating a series to replace Chicken Soup. That series became the Ultimate Books, and I was tapped to be the project manager for one of the first titles in the series, The Ultimate Teacher. Working on that first project was the epitome of trial by fire; I learned so much from putting that anthology together.

I continued to build on those skills over the next few years as I worked on several more titles in the Ultimate series and later began acquiring my own nonfiction list. The variety of jobs I handled and the skills I learned is quite varied, so I’ll save that discussion for another post, but suffice it to say I had quite an in-depth education.

“When did you start your own editing business and what made you want to try going out on your own?”

My passion has always been working with writers and their words, and sadly, the economics of traditional publishing caused my job to morph into something that left me little time to do that. My days were spent on many things other than editing, and I grew more and more frustrated.

I finally realized that if things were going to change, I would have to be the one to change them.

So I did, and I’ve never looked back. Was it scary? Yes, it was. But in hindsight, I only have one regret: I wish I’d done it sooner. Becoming a freelance editor and writer is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Finish reading the full interview here.


If you enjoyed reading this, please subscribe to my blog and never miss a post! It’s easy: Just enter your email address on the right side of this page. And please know that I’ll never sell, share, or rent your contact information—that’s a promise!

Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Learn more here.