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

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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.

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