I know there are blind software engineers out there. My main questions are:
- Are there blind frontend engineers?
- What kinds of software engineering lend themselves to someone with limited vision? Backend only?
- Besides a screen reader, what are some of the best tools for building software with limited vision?
- Does your company employ blind engineers? How well does it work? What kind of engineer are they?
I'm really trying to get ahead of this thing and prepare myself as my vision is degrading rather quickly. I'm not sure what I can do if I can't do SE as I don't have any formal education in anything. I've worked really hard to get to where I am and don't want it to go to waste.
Thank you for any input, and stay safe out there!
Thank you all for your links, suggestions, and moral support, I really appreciate it. Since my diagnosis I've slowly developed a crippling anxiety centered around a feeling that I need to figure out the rest of my life before it's too late. I know I shouldn't think this way but it is hard not to. I'm very independent and I feel a pressure to "show up." I will look into these opportunities mentioned and try to get in touch with some more members of the blind engineering community.
I knew a blind software engineer that was decent, he'd use Eclipse and have his screen reader speed turned very fast.Reply
I started my career at Bell Labs in the 80's and one engineer there made a huge impact on me. I learned more from him that any other single person I have worked with since. He suffered from progressive myopia so he had a rig with a camera and a big screen and a huge monitor. He coded slower than everyone else, but in a way, that was his secret power because his code almost never failed in testing. Also, he was brilliant and I learned more about hardware and software from him that I did in Masters EE program. Also, he had this insight about the balance between when to use hardware and when to use software that I think is somewhat lacking today (discussion for another day). A lot of people have said that he was the inspiration for the character in the movie Sneakers (Whistler) could be he was really well know but passed away some time ago. I recall a time when we had a big meeting with a lot of executives and he had long hair and a beard and after the meeting one of the big wigs said to me "who is the guys that looks like Jesus, he is a genius". Sorry that I am going on a bit, I cannot even begin to understand what you are going through, but I can tell you that you should not underestimate the impact you can have on others. I wish I had better words here, I wish I knew more about what to suggest to help you technically, but all I know is that someone dealing something with something similar to you meant a great deal to me personally and professionally. Best wishes.Reply
I am also a coder in the professional world with Ushers. I have Type 2A. I have found some employers don't answer back if vision loss is mentioned. I try not to mention in during the interview process, but I made sure to discuss it before accepting an offer. You will likely have to quit driving at some point with Ushers. You'll still be able to stay active, but you may decide that you don't want to wield 2 tons of steel when you could easily miss a cyclist or jaywalking pedestrian. Driving is something you have to prepare for exception not the rule. Long term, you will likely have to look in cities with good public transportation or a walkable commute to work.
Besides learning to manipulate screen readers at a rapid pace. One skill to practice is reading braille. When I was receiving assistive training at the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center, I met MANY instructors who had personal experience coding without much vision at all. While they themselves chose to transition to a career helping others of all skill levels improve their access to computers, they reassured me that I would be able to be productive in a work environment with the right tools. The reason why I encourage learning braille is that in place of or paired with a screen reader, you could use a braille display connected to your computer. This allows you to employ more rapid mobility parsing a document than you might with a screen reader. I have not gotten fast enough at reading braille that I have justified the expensive purchase of a braille display nor has the need arrived currently, however, that is part of my long term plans for dealing with the situation.Reply
I don't have information to share on where to look, but some positions to consider relate to a11y. I've met and worked with some consultants in the past that their entire position was dedicated to making websites and apps more accessible - audits and on-going. He also did training for teams to bring them up on best-practice so the dev teams can do this proactively.Reply
While I don't yet know a ton about the accessibility software development community, I've discovered Deque Labs while looking into some accessibility tooling.
They have really good resources and training around accessibility for the web, and some of the software they develop is incorporated into Google Lighthouse.
Their guides and videos might help you get a sense for how other people use alternative access methods to interface with the web.
With both the skills to write software and a deeper understanding of the use cases you'll be well-positioned to help improve things for a lot of people - I'm sure it could be tough at times, but stick with it, and best of luck to you.Reply
Unorthodox suggestion 2: Practice Yoga or exercise (seriously)(not meditation rather physical & breathing). Eat healthy food (not just meat but veggies) . You are still young & your body can hold a lot more than how you thought it to be & would recover for sure.Reply
Blind since birth full stack software developer here. I might not be able to relate to your situation completely but here are some of my experiences:
>Are there blind frontend engineers?
I don't think so. It's not that you can't do frontend at all, just that you can't do it completely. Something like copying the layout from a visual mockup doesn't really work unless someone describes the mockup to you, and even then it might not be 100 % correct, though i'd say your experience as a sighted frontend developer would definitely help there. Thankfully (in this case anyway) SPA's tend to be so complex these days that there is plenty of work to do without touching the actual layout. My frontend work has consisted mostly of refactoring and writing various integrations. Occasionally I've written some complete features where I've laid out a rough version of the UI and someone sighted in the team has finished it off for me. This strategy has worked out relatively well for me in the past. However I'd say doing solo frontend work is sadly a no-go.
> What kinds of software engineering lend themselves to someone with limited vision? Backend only?
Basically anything non-visual works out. Backend, yes, but also the business logic of SPA apps as well as devops work.
> Besides a screen reader, what are some of the best tools for building software with limited vision?
- A good editor which is accessible and has an extensive set of keyboard shortcuts. Visual Studio Code and Eclipse are the two editors that I use in my day to day work.
- Terminal. It's often much quicker to do things like text manipulation, version control and devops administration there, since you don't have to waste so much time going through information that you don't need. I've found git gui's to be particularly useless. Web browsers and editors/ide's are basically the only gui tools that I use.
Feel free to hit me up if I could be of any help.Reply
I don't have any experience programming without visual aids; and you've probably already thought of this aspect though I'll mention it just in-case: if I were facing a similar situation, I would look into long-term disability insurance and see if there's anything I can do on that front. That way, I could still pursue being productive with blindness or deafblindness, but would have less economic pressure while doing so.
Many employers offer a combination of short-term and long-term disability that will provide income (in some cases until you retire) in the event that you can no longer work.Reply
I recommend using a tiling window manager - they allow you to organize windows logically, rather than spatially.
I have also written some plugins for using Vim (text editing) and Weechat (IRC chat) with speech synthesis:
And I have a script for Sway (a tiling window manager) which also gives you audible cues:
All of this is somewhat incomplete, but it's a good starting point if you want to get used to them and work on improvements while you're still sighted. Good luck, and let me know if I can be of service.Reply
I’m really sorry that you have to face that and wish I had better advice.
My employer is the U.S. federal government and I would highly recommend considering looking at government (or contractor) jobs: we take very seriously the need to serve ALL of the public and front-end engineers who deeply understand and value accessibility are extremely valuable contributors since they can provide the subjective guidance which no level of automated tool or guideline can provide.
The GSA’s 18F has a great guide to building accessible websites:
(The BBC guide is also good: http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/futuremedia/accessibility/)
I’d treat that as both an area to learn the tools for personal reasons - e.g. get comfortable with the accessibility tools in your favorite operating system - and as an area to learn more. There’s a pretty good story for web accessibility these days but a lot of people do not make much use of it and someone who can make an entire team more efficient has a somewhat uncommon selling point.Reply
I have hired blind developers in the past and would do so again. Happy to share thoughts on an accessible workplace or discuss a position any time: firstname.lastname@example.org
I would also echo the comment made regarding government positions. There are quite a few compelling coding jobs in the public sector and the government seems to take their responsibilities with regards to workplace needs quite seriously.Reply
I work with many engineers who became blind in a variety of ways. If you provide your email address, I can introduce you to them. Here is my temporary email (docesar172 at lagsixtome dot com) if you do not want your contact to be published.Reply
It is so incredibly heartwarming to me to see this thread stay as one of the top submissions/threads as long as it has.
Thank you HN community.Reply
Last year I did a course on learning braille, run by two blind friends.
Definitely get a refreshable braille display, and learn it and set up your usual development workflow while you can still see.
I was amazed by how plug-and-play the braille display of my friend was. I plugged it via USB into my Ubuntu laptop with brltty and it worked out of the box: I could read my terminal output on it, and it even did the "blinking cursor" of where the cursor is on screen without any configuration.
Within 2 days, I learned basic Braille (we simulated learning it fully blindly, that is with closed eyes), could read things slowly, and also learned typing Braille with the 6-chord keys present on the refreshable braille display.
The blind friends that taught me can use both text-to-speech and the braille display at insane speeds.
They can give free-standing presentations, talking at high speed for an hour in perfectly sophisticated language while looking at the audience with the laptop apparently closed, when in fact they are just reading it off the braille device with a finger! Reading the braille device certainly has the chance to give you apparently-superhuman abilities. I found that so cool that I considered getting good at it already just for that purpose.
So, in summary:
1) I think you have very good chances of staying very proficient even if you go fully blind.
2) Play around with the tool set already now, and fix apparent pain points ahead of time that are easier to fix while still seeing.Reply
No advice, just offering moral support and letting you know that you're not alone. I have macular degeneration so I'm not going completely blind, but I'm losing my foveas so that still presents some significant challenges when it comes to coding. At the moment I'm compensating with larger fonts. I don't know what I'll do when that's not enough any more.Reply
This one quite old article about a blind software engineer at Google, may not directly help in any way, but thought to share it here https://www.businessinsider.com/how-blind-google-engineer-wr...Reply
Hey, I'm a legally blind engineering manager (stargardt's macular degeneration). The accessibility community was hugely welcoming when I started to lose my vision at about the same age you are. I'm happy to talk through my experience and be helpful in anyway I can. chrmaury at gmail.Reply
How about focussing on communication methods for people who are (almost) blind and deaf, leaving all communication to touch. I don't know if you can make a living from that, but given your intelligence, your programming and tech knowledge, your determination, you may have what it takes to make this work.
Thinking about it, this type communication might work in dark and soundless environments like when you dive in muddy water. Another target group is people in a coma. Just a suggestion. There are probably more use cases than people with Usher.Reply
I recommend you work on your support network now. As you get less able you begin to retreat more on to yourself and your family and less towards the people outside your comfort circle. Make an effort to meet new people and make new friends, now. Also, you will want to stay home more as you feel less comfortable with your abilities, so create habits that will force you to go out and interact with people. For whatever reason, many people are uncomfortable with the disabled, they aren't trying to be jerks but it's hard for many, so if people get used to you early then it will be so much easier on you in the long run. One advantage of knowing what's coming is that you can change your behavior now so you can better deal with your changing abilities.
If you haven't yet, get in contact with the local Braille Institute so they can help you.
An interesting thing about humans is that we get used to whatever life brings us. Problems that seemed impossible to accept and deal with when you are facing them will suddenly be very manageable once you have to deal with them directly.
Be strong and good luck!Reply
I had a professor in university who was blind.
To this day, I'm amazed at how I could read code to him, and he's spot where the mistake was.
He coded with a screen reader. AFAIK, accessibility on Linux is pretty poor in general (I'm a fan of Linux, but I get the impression that's the truth), so you might want to consider well what you main OS will be.
Frontend might be tough -- but then, you're a perfect candidate to give feedback on website accessibility. There might be a career there if well-planned.Reply
I think you should consider reading this book
and/or listen to these talks
or anything from within this realm.
Personally I believe there is cure and way out of suffering only in meditation. But don't believe me - try it out.Reply
24y only? hm. comeon. Have u ever tried getting out of the rat-racing wheel for a while (7-8 months to 1 year maybe)? Apart of physicaly not-doing-that, some physiology actualy depends a lot on psychology. But u need, really, away.. in more aspects than just geographical. (btw Human eyes have evolved for looking far, not close. Which we keep ignoring, progressively)
here some maybe related occurence to me...
20y ago, i had been given a 24 inch tube (no lcd's then), which had very thick glass upfront, for some reason, wasn't very flat.. and guess, one eye on mine kept focusing on the image painted by electrons on the inside of the glass but the other eye kept focusing on the outside on the glass (on whatever reflection there was or wasn't). It took only a week and i could not drive a car anymore - one eye focused on the landscape, the other focused on the windshield glass...
Fixing things back took me 1 month, every day sitting for 1-2 hours on the beach looking into the sea. Or equally far away things (apart of getting rid of that tube, and anything resembling that).
have fun and dont give up, a diagnose isn't a sentence.. unless u make it so..Reply
You can definitely continue as a software engineer. I'm living proof. It won't be easy, especially at first. For a while it will feel like you're working twice as hard just to keep up with your sighted peers. But eventually, the better you get with your tools, you'll find you have some superpowers over your sighted peers. For example, as you get better with a screen reader, you'll be bumping the speech rate up to 1.75-2X normal speech. You'll be the only one who can understand your screen reader. You'll become the fastest and most proficient proof reader on your team. Typos will be easily spotted as they just won't "sound right". It will be like listening to a familiar song and then hitting an off note in the melody. And this includes code. Also, because code is no longer represented visually as blocks, you'll find you're building an increasingly detailed memory model of your code. Sighted people do this, too, but they tend to visualize in their mind. When you abandon this two dimensional representation, your non-visual mental map suffers no spatial limits. You'll be amazed how good your memory will get without the crutch of sight. Good luck. If you're a Mac user you can hit me up for tool recommendations. My email is my username at gmail dot com.Reply
Try and read Borges’ essay on blindness.
There were the books, but I had to ask my friends the titles of them. I remembered a sentence from Rudolf Steiner, in his books on anthroposo phy, which was the name he gave to his theosophy. He said that when some thing ends, we must think that something begins. His advice is salutary, but the execution is difficult, for we only know what we have lost, not what we will gain. We have a very precise image-an image at times shameless-of what we have lost, but we are ignorant ofwhat may follow or replace it.
I made a decision. I said to myself: since I have lost the beloved world of appearances, I must create something else. At the time I was a professor of English at the university. What could I do to teach that almost infinite lit erature, that literature which exceeds the life of a man, and even generations of men? What could I do in four Argentine months of national holidays and strikes? I did what I could to teach the love of that literature, and I refrained as much as possible from dates and names.Reply
Search for Dr den Boer on YouTube. In one of his videos he says: I am no ofthalmologist and a patient that was loosing sight came in and TL;DR his sight came back after 6 months of treatment. Of course I cannot make promises but with loosing sight I would certainly visit him.Reply
I met a blind front end web developer a few years ago. I'm afraid I don't have any details on his setup, but they do exist.Reply
Definitely checkout Emacspeak.Reply
Accessibility testing/engineering is a very important niche within software engineering. You could very easily build a career that will enhance the lives of others in similar situations.Reply
I have been blind since birth. I recommend downloading NVDA, a free screen reader for windows, and getting used to using it for basic computer use. Getting used to hearing the speech as fast as possible is key to being able to use it efficiently.
You said you have hearing loss. Is it bad enough to make speech output useless? If so you would need to learn braille.
I would never try front end design as I have no idea what it should look like, but you may still be able to do it if you have an image in your head of what you are trying to achieve. You would just have to ask someone to check it.
Python is not a problem with screen readers, contrary to what someone else said. The screen reader can be set to report the indentation level. In fact I can't think of any text based language that wouldn't be usable with a screen reader. Tools are a different story. Some work and some don't.
Feel free to contact me if you would like any more information, weather it's about computers or not. rob at mur.org.ukReply
Well, back in 2018 I participated in a event for software engineers undergrads in Paraná/Brasil, I was glad to see that there ware a blind girl there. At first I was afraid to approach her with a thousand questions, cause I was curious, just like you are, to know how is her day to day. I got the chance to talk to her and she seemed pretty normal. Her computer had a screen reader and she was having fun at the event. She and I end up taking a mini workshop about Watson (IBM chatbot). Nice gal, she was doing alright and I'm sure you will be alright as well. Don't give up.Reply
If I were in your position, I'd probably get a job at someplace like Facebook or Google. They're huge, cushy companies and probably have resources for SWEs that go blind. Who knows maybe you can go on disability while you're working there, and never have to work again in your life
BTW, I don't know if asking the internet for advice on this subject is a good idea. I imagine it's gonna be mostly speculation. I'd seek out other people that have firsthand experience (i.e. they went blind) and ask what they did and how they're doing...Reply
I deal with duty to accommodate and I can tell from experience some of the tools that our employees that are blind currently use. They are:
1. JAWS screen reader. They all say this is the best 2. Programmable keys, such as https://xkeys.com/xk16.html 3. ABBY Finereader - to digitize images so they can be read by JAWS. 4. Large specialized monitors (I forget which model) that could help.
And yes, like someone already mentioned, you will be listening to your screen reader at lightning speed.
All the best!Reply
Unrelated to the question:
> "I'm a 24 y/o full stack engineer (I know some of you are rolling your eyes right now..."
As a 35 year old full stack engineering manager I can say that anybody rolling their eyes at that statement needs to check themselves. Lately I've been getting smoked by a 21 year old software dev. She's constantly teaching me things and improving my code. Frameworks and technologies evolve so fast that age is a very poor metric of practical knowledge.Reply
I suggest you to learn meditation. It can help to relief your stress.Reply
My mother is blind and was a rehab teacher. Learn to use a screen reader now, while you can still map the words to the visual structure on screen. The structure applications expose to screen readers is often drastically different than what we intuit from looking at it.
Learn braille. It's hard, resources are scarce, lots of people don't do it any more. This is why, with practice you can read braille off a computer braille display about as fast as sighted people read text. No screen reader can ever be intelligible that fast. Braille is also a much better way to read code syntax.Reply
> - Are there blind frontend engineers?
I know one frontend dev who is entirely blind from birth. He specializes on making websites accessible for blind people, and he's got a good reputation.Reply
We do offer a custom version of our OCR reader app for Vision Impaired persons. The app require minimal interaction with the user. Just a single will trigger the phone camera, you have to take a picture and the text language is automatically recognized and played back aloud in your default language and accent with built-in translation powered by Google.
The OCR is powered by PixLab and is damn good. The application homepage is https://i2s.symisc.net. If you are interested in trying the Vision Impaired version, let me know via chm at symisc dot net.Reply
>Are there blind frontend engineers?
I'm sure this has been mentioned, but front ends need to be usable by blind users so I would imagine a blind front end developer would be extremely useful in that case, at a minimum.Reply
Definitely checkout emacspeak.Reply
Late to this discussion, but witnessing the amazing community support is uplifting and I thought I'd drop a couple of links I don't think I saw in any other comments:
1. Talon - Writing code by voice: https://www.blakewatson.com/journal/writing-and-coding-by-vo...
2. Gordon Gund - Blind later in life, conquered the market by speed listening. Quote: "Meanwhile his (acquired) blindness seemed to pour gasoline on the fire of his life, and he began to flourish in unexpected arenas." https://vimeo.com/296637627 (TED-style inspiring video, speed listening at ~8:45) https://n-magazine.com/blind-curing-blind/
3. CRISPR holds promise, never stop hoping for a cure. It's an amazing time to be alive, keep building amazing tech for the world, and perhaps even learn to program the big data tools used to find the solution. https://www.cell.com/molecular-therapy-family/methods/fullte... Unfortunately, can't link directly, but search for jobs at "Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard" with the title "Bioinformatics" or "Python" in the query.Reply
So sorry to hear this! I have no expert advice to offer, but have you thought about developing a very high level of expertise in some area (preferably in some areas of back end architecture) which allows you to consult without having to write code (unless that is what you truly want to do).
Best of luck!Reply
You might want to check out some things like
and also contact some individual programmers with visual impairments.
I don't have particular expertise in this area but I remember meeting a completely blind software developer in 1995 or 1996 (when presumably the tools available were much more limited!). He said that he had successfully pursued this career for a number of years already at that time. However, I think the things he was working with would be things that you'd consider more to be backend engineering.
I also know a computer scientist who is blind and who has continued researching, publishing, and teaching, but as he works in theory, his work might also feel more backend-like.
> - Besides a screen reader, what are some of the best tools for building software with limited vision?
If you decide to learn Braille well, Braille terminals are still a thing:
(You might have seen one used in the movie Sneakers!)
Some fluent Braille readers can use these terminals at very high speeds (although people who use screen readers also often get used to using their screen readers at extremely high speeds).
> - Are there blind frontend engineers?
I know you might not want to pigeonhole yourself and work specifically on disability-related projects, but a lot of companies are trying to ensure accessibility of their web sites and so are interested in having developers with specific disabilities to help make sure that that works out properly. I believe there are consultancies of people with specific impairments who develop (and test) UI for accessibility to users with similar disabilities.Reply
Would you be willing to chat privately with a colleague of mine going through a similar lost of sight transition?Reply
In a similar situation though as not as bad as what you have and have thought I should prepare for the worst. I have CSR(Central Serous Retinopathy) for the last 3 years. It come and goes but my eyesight gets worse every time it comes back. Stay strong.Reply
I read a blog post a while ago that was quite remarkable. From memory it was someone going blind (your age) while studying law, and halfway through couldn't read any more.
Determined to finish his degree he developed the ability to listed to audiobooks ludicrously fast, way faster than reading, and it opened up a whole new world to him that was previously hidden.
Chumhumming around today I'm pretty sure the man's name is Isaac Lidsky. He's done TED talks and been interviewed on podcasts, written blogs posts, etc.
Go check him out and even try and contact him.
Good luck. I reckon you'll be strong enough, prepared enough, and with a little help from lots of people be able to thrive.Reply
> I'm a 24 y/o full stack engineer( I know some of you are rolling your eyes right now
It can be tough some times being a younger person in the industry, but know that there is no reason anyone here should be rolling their eyes at this. I was working full time in software development at 17 myself.
> What kinds of software engineering lend themselves to someone with limited vision? Backend only?
There is a growing market for front end web accessibility. Especially for software that meets the needs of both sighted and non-sighted individuals. Not only do I think there is a place for non-sighted individuals in front end software development if that's something you are interested in, but I think it's vital to have these individuals having a role in developing front end software.
> Does your company employ blind engineers? How well does it work? What kind of engineer are they?
We do not currently employ any blind engineers, though we would be very happy to hire one. We have customers that require visual accessibility compliance and right now this compliance is largely being implemented by sighted people. I would consider this a non ideal situation.
With this said, I also don't want it to be felt like you have to specialize in your own disability either. I have known some really badass back end engineers that are entirely blind. With the right tools and some experience, they are able to consume content at the same speed as any sighted person. Hell, in some cases... significantly faster.
> I'm really trying to get ahead of this thing
I think this speaks for your character. It's easy to get caught up in denial and to hold out until the very last moment.
I can't personally speak to how it feels to deal with going blind, so I'll let those with much more experience in this area speak to that. One thing I can say though, is to start using the available tools now and full time, even if you don't require them yet. By the time you find yourself depending on them, you will already be accustomed to using them.
I'd be happy to speak about my own personal struggles with disability (I am rapidly becoming deaf), but honestly... I'll spare you that unless you actually want me to. It's obviously a very different experience and I don't want it to feel like I am diminishing the significance of what you are going through. :)
> Since my diagnosis I've slowly developed a crippling anxiety centered around a feeling that I need to figure out the rest of my life before it's too late.
This is a very reasonable and understandable reaction to what you are dealing with.Reply
I just want to throw this out there, just in case you haven't deeply considered it. I'm sure others will answer your question more properly.
Have you considered that maybe you don't want to be doing software engineering and with this precious remaining time would rather prepare for something entirely different? Not sure what your financial situation will be or if you live somewhere with sufficient social support, but if you're going to be blind for life (and you're very young), optimizing for employment (ie. "I'm already a software engineer, may as well commit to that") might not be the best way to live a full and fulfilling life.Reply
Doubt my comment will get to you with so many commenters and it's a bit off topic, but are you familiar with savesightnow.org? They are a patient advocacy group specifically for Usher's Syndrome working on finding a cure...good people involved in it.Reply
You should try out a lisp. They have the simplest syntax and the code is quite concise.
> This code turned out to be a lot more complicated than I anticipated. The patch ended up adding a hundred lines of Arc. A hundred lines of Arc! Do you have any idea how many lines of Arc that is? I just looked through the history and the last commit that added that many lines of code was over two years ago when we got Arc to compile to JS. 
Clojure is quite well documented, and you can do full stack development with it (clojurescript). Intellij has good support for it, and it stores the state of code as an ast. I think there are addons for dealing with ast (search/replace) as well.
Also, you might want to "settle down" wrt your dev setup (tech, tools), since jumping from project to project, tool to tool won't be that easy. Maybe pick a self contained environment you can learn inside out (smalltalk, tools.deps).
Emacs seems to check all these points, but it's still visual oriented. Maybe build one yourself.Reply
I am not blind, but as a frontend engineer, I have noticed when myself or my colleges do frontend state, we will use TDD/Component testing using enzyme or react-testing library for days, and only do the final test visually.Reply
Hello! I have Type I Usher myself and my vision tanked when I was 27 (~8 years ago). I'm a writer, so I can't give you much programming advice but I've been through the gamut in terms of technology and life changes. I'm happy to share what has and hasn't worked for me. My email is in my profile.
I do want to say one thing, though: It absolutely sucks at first but you'll adapt. One day at a time.Reply
If you are in the USA then I think the best profession for the blind is the legal trade. Do you have it in you to change careers?
Courts in the USA are by and large accommodating thanks to the ADA.
Your technical background, with the loss of vision, with a legal degree, and I think you’d have a very long, lucrative, and fulfilling career.Reply
Working at big-corp, have worked with several differently abled coders who were amazing. You might look at larger orgs, like Cisco, P&G, IBM etc. Modern tooling may make it easy for smaller orgs, but big corps have been active in these types of issues for a long time.
teamblind.com has forums on employers and hiring info.Reply
> Since my diagnosis I've slowly developed a crippling anxiety centered around a feeling that I need to figure out the rest of my life before it's too late.
I can't imagine how you must be feeling, so take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt.
Losing your sight is undoubtedly going to be one of the top five most important events in your life that will split everything into "before" and "after". Maybe it will be the most important. But it's still one of the top five. And right behind those five there will be another five that aren't quite as important, but still pretty close. Life has a way about it like that. (Some of us get dealt a better hand than others of course, but there are precious few for whom all top ten life events have smooth continuity and are all ecstatically positive).
I'm by no means telling you to take this lightly or not to prepare. It sounds like you're throwing yourself into this thing and doing the best you can to set yourself up for future success. That's great. But do take a long view on these things. You have fifty years ahead of you, and crazy shit will happen that will knock you off your horse maybe every decade or so.
It's not exactly that your anxiety is unwarranted, just that it's not telling you the whole story. This is (hopefully) going to be a long, long road. Aiming to have everything buttoned down at 24 (or 34, or 54) is not a reasonable expectation, blind or not.
Anyway, best of luck to you. If you want, I can put you in touch with a friend who's a developer with no sight. (Also happy to just talk to you for emotional support) My e-mail is in the profile.Reply
Sometime back, I worked with a colleague who was completely blind. As I was introduced to this new would-be-teammate, I instinctively tried to thrust my hand forward for a handshake, only to stop myself short with a horrifying realization that might not be an appropriate form. Fortunately, to my great relief, he was used to such situations and offered his hand first. This moment particularly struck me.
The experience of working with him was exciting and as challenging as it was enlightening, as I think I learnt a bit more about myself and all the things around me I took for granted.
Anyway, here are some of my observations
1. Navigating a busy open-layout office is possible, but hard. My colleague was really great at doing so without using his stick.
2. Often it is the sighted who would hesitate at water-cooler chat for fear of offending or saying something untoward, but the colleague took the initiative to put them at ease, so it was always fun. No one could slip out unnoticed by him. The puns were mortifyingly entertaining, which I think only a blind person can make.
3. The written form of communication goes great lengths in bridging the communication gap (This is applicable in general as well)
4. ASCII diagrams and SVGs are great ways of making content such as flow charts and architecture diagrams accessible. Tools such as PlantUML, dotviz, mermaidjs are helpful.
5. Statically typed languages make it much easier to work within a screen-reader environment. We were working with Go, and he had much better success with it than a language that was used in other parts of the company.
6. Emacs seems to have a lot of tooling to facilitate the use of screen-readers.
7. Open-office chatter (in-person and chat) can become overwhelming very quickly, so setting expectations ahead on how you'd plan to work helps your teammates.
8. Monitoring is hard (in a server-side environment) as the notion of "taking a look" at the graphs doesn't translate for someone who is not sighted. I wish there were better ways that are more accessible.
Losing sight is perhaps one of the most terrifying prospects anyone can face. However, seeing (see what I did there) my colleague also gives me hope that all is not futile. It is possible to live a fulfilled life. It is possible to have a successful career as a software developer. Being blind does not have to mean disabled but merely differently-abled.
I wish you the best of luck.Reply
Legally blind, I'm a full stack engineer (and a solution/security architect) with extensive experience in building both backend and frontend (web) systems. I work on Windows with Jaws screen reader. I use autohotkey extensively to super charge my productivity. I had worked as employee with Microsoft (and others) in the past and have been running my consultancy cum product company since 2016. Email in profile
- You can do frontend coding but certainly some assistance is needed for verifying the UI design. In any decent sized project, Personally I prefer my sighted colleague to handle look and feel (mainly the CSS part - though I know CSS) as I feel it's not a productive use of my time. It's always better to have a UI specialist anyway. FE devs have lot of other things to do especially when it is SPA based.
- Visual studio is good for development and debugging (for .net related languages at least). If you're on windows use autohotkey and setup shortcut keys and hotstrings to automate repetitive actions and text. For instance I prefer bash for using Git and have setup commands like 'gtcom' which expands to 'git add . (newline) git commit -am ''. I just have to type the comment then. Since you'd be working exclusively via keyboard it's important you do more with less hits to reduce strain on your wrists.
- Another important thing is to be able to find alternatives to UI tools your colleague are using but which could be highly inaccessible. Your programming skills and knowledge of system internals will help you with that. Do not settle with any tool which decreases your productivity considerably just because the team is using it, as you'll be judged based on your deliverable and not what tools you used.
I second what @kolanos has written. Programming is mostly a mental job (no pun intended) and everybody has to load a representation of the program in head before one can start fleshing out good code. PG has also written about itReply
I know your situation really sucks, but you are in a fortunate position to reposition yourself as a UI (both web and mobile) accessibility consultant, given your experience in front end web.
A couple of folks mentioned this before - government contractors and federal agencies are required to be compliant with WCAG 2.0 A/AA standards.
I work at a financial institution in front end web. Accessibility is a big deal for us and I can tell you from experience that it is significant pain point for everyone (front end developers and testers). I would estimate that about 70% of the defects I work on are accessibility related. Also, my first job out of boot camp was doing only web accessibility work for a company that was trying to get their site WCAG compliant by 2017.
I toyed with the idea of starting my own accessibility consulting service, given how frustrating it can be. Its a challenge to get a UI to work visually consistent across browsers, operating systems, and devices. Add screen readers and focus placement to the mix, and the work becomes very annoying and time consuming.
I would speculate that accessibility becomes its own niche specialty, similar to how front end and back end work is often viewed as their own specialties. That's opportunity for you, my friend. I hope you can make the best of it. Good luck.Reply
Look up Dr. Chieko Asakawa, who is a distinguished researcher and technologist at IBM for accessibility concerns. Having lost her sight at a young age, she understands this space. I had the pleasure to work with her and her team, years ago, and found them to be incredibly sharp.Reply
I once played World of Warcraft: Classic with a blind man I met on Twitch, if he can do that, you can sure as hell write good lookin' code.Reply
Someone on lobste.rs posted a few days ago that they are doing an month-long experiment programming with their voice. Maybe get in contact with them.Reply
You can also join blind dev works.Reply
I would recommend trying to study up on Section 508 compliance https://www.hhs.gov/web/section-508/index.html. It's a set of rules that all government orgs in the US must follow for making sure their content is accessible. If you do end up becoming visually impaired you'll end up with a unique perspective on building accessible websites.Reply
I have a friend that went through this exact thing. He's helped with Facebook to design better accessibility features at one point. He used to be a developer and did photography and most inspiringly he still does photography even while blind which I think is an inspiration.
Spend time now to learn about accessibility features on different systems, iPhone, android, your PC. Look into how to navigate into them. Look up screen readers as you may use them to have them read content from the web for you. Be an advocate for accessibility features and their standardization as this is often forgotten with developers.
I've posted a link below to a video of my friend, if you'd like to reach out to him, PM me. It's a definitely challenging time. I've known him since before and after going blind so he may give some advice from his experience.
Also reach out to other blind communities now to hear perspectives from many other people if you can. https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2108067789479904Reply
I’m not sure if you’re willing to consider a change of employer, but when I worked at Apple, their accessibility team never ceased to amaze me. They have several blind, as well as deaf and paralyzed engineers on their A11Y team. I’d argue that’s a large part of why the accessibility story on iOS is as good as it is. Having engineers that have various disabilities work on the accessibility of their products helps ensure that solutions genuinely solve problems in an effective way.
I know you may not want to have your disability define your career, but if working to help others that have the same affliction appeals to you, let me know. I’m not there any more, but still have connections I could reach out to for you.Reply
check out TECO as a text editor. It was designed way back in the day when printing minor text edits to paper (or paper tape!) over and over would waste a lot of paper, so it trained you to keep a picture of your text in your head and normal editing was writing little macros in your head to move around and make changes.
EMACS was originally written in TECO. Don't waste a lot of time reading about people remembering TECO today, you'll hear too much from all the people who talk only about LISP's parentheses and not about how perfect the people who love LISP find it. Better to spend your time seeing if you love TECO.
download it here https://github.com/blakemcbride/TECOC
read about it on wikipedia and check out the external links https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TECO_(text_editor)
the guy who created it in the early 60's is still around http://www.opost.com/dlm/#tecoReply
edbrowse(1) is developed by seeing-impaired person - it's a webbrowser with ed(1)-like interface which also does JS. I've heard it's awesome for scripting! Though it requires som ed(1)ucation.Reply
I just learned how to make my website accessible to screen readers (using aria labels, tabindex, etc). You should definitely check it out now to learn how it works. I only did part of my website and it seems like a full-time job. I'm not blind, so I am sure I could have done much better if I was more familiar with tools like Mac's VoiceOver. I am sure there's a market for these skills, especially in any company that has a decent amount of users. Best of luck!Reply
I suggest practice with voice readers without looking e.g. start with web browsing and NVDA. When you get confused, try to resolve without looking. If that fails, use your sight to work out why you went wrong: especially learn what heuristic you could have used to correct yourself without needing sight? You would need someone else to help if you try to learn after your sight went - I found that the accessibility software had a lot of showstopper usability bugs.
If your balance issues are manageable, perhaps start joining blind social or support groups in your area. Potentially you could help them with their technical issues, since maybe you would learn a lot by helping others, and there are always people that really need help with tech!
And a supremely left-field idea: Perhaps investigate changing states or countries if you find that your local systems are not helping you? Some places have better infrastructure for the blind or sight impaired - do you see pedestrian markings locally https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tactile_paving or are they dangerous: https://99percentinvisible.org/article/death-tactile-paving-... also it is rumoured that some wealthy countries with socialised health may help you more?
Good luck. PS: I’m not sight impaired.Reply
I had a complication with my vision where I could have become blind, and was in the same position as you are. There are blind engineers, and compared to 15 years ago, there are many highly configurable and powerful tools at a blind engineer's disposal. After doing some research, I walked away slightly relieved at what options were available. I'm just posting this to give you a bit of hope.
I highly suggest documenting your condition, its progression and your eventual disability, and getting your disability status recognized by the government as soon as you can. Navigating social services and the ADA is a skill in itself.Reply
My father was in a similar situation in his 30's. He went back to school and became a physical therapist. Today he says it is one of the best choices he made in his life.Reply
Use a text editor such as Emacs or Vim.
Migrate from front end development to backend...
Learn to live in the command line.
Take car of your soulReply
I have no real advice. But I want to wish you good luck. And let you know that at my modest level, I will always advocate for good accessibility in software and hardware.Reply
you can work as a conciliar and give some advice to companies.Reply
Hi there! A colleague of mine referred me to your post. I'd love to have a call and help with advice and coaching to reduce your anxiety of going blind. Since I published the post @ssivark mentioned, I got a lot of emails from developers who were afraid of going blind or who were actually like yourself and were going blind, so trust me when I say that you are not alone and people like you have pulled through. Since you value showing up and being independent, I'm certain you will pull through, too.
Please reach out to me on my website (https://www.parhamdoustdar.com/). I'd love to help.Reply
I am a Software Engineer and my spouse has limited vision. These is based on my experience 1. Use your remaining time with vision to be really really good at touch typing. I mean, you should be able to any character without looking at the keyboard. 2. My spouse finds these magnifiers really useful to read small text. Hoping you can use these if you can retain some vision. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01EV0XP8S/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b.... 3. Learn how to use the Accessibility features in Windows, Mac, Android, Linux and ios. Learn the shortcuts. You should think about how to use the tools for low vision (magnifier) and no vision (Audio aids and other stuff) 4. Learn the ADA standards for applications and be an advocate for visually impaired. At my own work, I try to use every opportunity to push for more accessible applications. However there so many software applications deployed to Enterprise every day, without any accessibility considerations. Being a software engineer, I implore you to be a champion for this cause. 5. People who grew up using computers from the 90s are turning older now. Next 10 to 20 years they will demand the applications they use to be accessible. As an industry, we will need to change the way we do business. 6. Know that this is going to be Mental Health / emotional challenge as well. Get help if neededReply
Top comment has a good positive example but if you want another example of success, apparently the head of global macro at citadel hedge fund is blind as well, I don't know if he's still there. There was a story about him from before when he was working at standard chartered as a fx trader blind. He had a similar impairment where he was losing his vision and used the time in between to train himself to work and visualize graphs from data read out to him or something like thatReply
Learn to CReply
Tom and Jerry director Gene Deitch has passed away at the age of 95. 9jacode.comReply
As I'm already an Emacs user, I'd start by looking at what Emacspeak (http://emacspeak.sourceforge.net) can offer. Since Emacs itself is way more than a text editor this package is also much more than that. It isn't just a screen reader, instead it is an audio based desktop that does email, web, news, plays games, keeps notes, calendars, writes computer languages, etc.Reply
Start learning a musical instrument. This will give you something for the soul and heart to look forward to. Especially because developing is exclusively a mind activity and also because playing music activates and connects both sides of the brain.Reply
My name is Isidor and I work on VS Code. Here's some hopefully useful advice:
* Join a screen reader mailing list and get to know the commnity: Program-L is the name of the general list and there is one list for Orca Screen Reader in case you are a Linux user
We try hard to make VS Code accessible so in case you decide to use VS Code:
* We have a gitter channel for accessibility which you can join https://gitter.im/Microsoft/vscode-a11y
* You can file issues and provide feedback as we try to improve continously https://github.com/microsoft/vscode
* Feel free to ping me @isidorn on either of those or on Twitter. And let me know if we can help more.
I wish you all the bestReply
I don't know if this is helpful to you, but recently I stumbled across this post by a blind developer. He's touching briefly on his setup of choice and what tools he chose and why.
I wish you the best of luck.Reply
Consider getting a job at a fortune 100 company or with the federal government, or with a company that does contracting for the federal government.Reply
I have no experience with being blind, and I can't imagine what it's like. I can only wish you the best, and hope it progresses as slowly as possible.
I do know one reason why a blind front-end developer can be very valuable for a company: there are a lot of blind people out there, and they need to be able to use the web too. For this reason, a lot of companies care a lot about accessibility, and so do a lot of developers. But despite those best efforts, those developers keep dropping the ball without even noticing, because they don't experience it. As a blind developer, you will notice when something your team has built, doesn't work for blind people. This can be very valuable in the right situation.Reply
Sorry to hear that! Not sure if you're familiar with algolia, but you can search of all of hacker news for blind programming resources:
Hope this helps and best of luck!Reply
On the question of tools:
1. Emacspeak, a text-to-speech system developed by T.V. Raman (a developer at Google) who was blind since childhood: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emacspeak & https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T._V._Raman
2. How a completely blind dev/manager uses Emacs daily (talk at a recent Emacsconf) -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8dBvssptP0 & https://www.parhamdoustdar.com/2016/04/03/tools-of-blind-pro...
3. Google has an app called "Lookout" which they suggest using while wearing your phone attached to a lanyard around your neck, that uses ML (not fully perfect) to identify objects in front of you.
To the extent that you stay within some homogeneous environment and avoid fragmentation in your tools, you might be able to get good text-to-speech. (The quality of AI solutions will hopefully continue improving drastically over the next few years)
Also, probably experiment with and invest into one of the software ecosystems (Google/Apple/Amazon/etc) so they get comfortable with understanding your voice.
You probably want to avoid the mouse, and get comfortable with a fully keyboard based workflow. To that end, check out browsers like Qute and Next.
Beyond software and tools, would you want to relocate to some place where there is dependable public transport (or cab service)? Once you move, it might take a while to get familiar with the surroundings.
Good luck, and hope you manage to stay ahead of the curve. I'm sure finding community would help. Try reaching out to some of the people mentioned in this and other comments -- I'm sure they would love to help.
PS, HN'ers: It would be great to find a few interviews with accessibility-oriented guidance on "Usesthis". To that end, I've opened a Github issue with this request. Feel free to comment there and add suggestions of people to interview, or other recommendations https://github.com/waferbaby/usesthis/issues/97Reply
What's your timeline? Is this due to a generic issue like Retinitis pigmentosa, Choroideremia, Are you losing peripheral (10 degrees) or central (20/200)? (You can email me directly: faraz.y at iCloud
Different companies have various groups specifically for visually impaired. For example, at Aira.io (the entire engineering is working on software for blinds so they are very open) Ted Drake at Intuit (I personally know him. He is an amazing person and has so much connection specifically for visually impaired) Rio Akasaka at Google (His team is mostly focused on disability related projects)
Feel free to reach out to me on the email above..Reply
Man, I'm so sorry to read this. You are so young, god damn it. You already receive great advice in this thread, I can only wish you the best! Please don't let this bringing you down! Have a wonderful life, no matter the situation! Cheers.Reply
I have just the visual component of Ushers, I’ve got about 5 degrees left of my visual field. I never really did front end work, but I still regularly do back end, and project management.
I haven’t moved to non visual coding yet. Instead I have optimized for the vision I have left. I have a very bright monitor, very bright lights in my office (overhead) and have learned to make a place for everything, and always put things back in their place.
Never underestimate the amount of time you can lose from looking for something that is only slightly out of place. Be it a pen, your glasses, or a USB stick.
So long as you are able, don’t disclose your impairment to anyone in an employment situation during the interviewing or new hire phase. Discrimination is awful and frustrating and illegal, but it is still the norm and it’s easiest to just avoid it if you can.Reply
Vincent Le Goff, the author of the excellent "Apprendre à programmer en Python" (in French) from the french side of OpenClassRooms is blind. There is a picture of him with the Braille reader and headsets in the book version. Maybe he would be of some help ? course: https://openclassrooms.com/fr/courses/235344-apprenez-a-prog... profile: https://openclassrooms.com/fr/membres/prolixe-27218Reply
There are quite a few blind engineers at my company.
Most of the folks I've worked with are either backend engineers or working on frontend accessibility-related features. (Frontend engineering doesn't just include design for sighted users!)
While I don't have any experience myself, I'd recommend looking at braille displays in addition to screen readers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refreshable_braille_displayReply
I don't have any answer for Zach (the poster), but I feel a big need to share my feelings about this.
I'm sipping a decent morning coffee, I'm in Japan, whereas my home is San Francisco. I've been here for ~5 weeks, trying to escape the coronavirus disaster that is unfolding in the US, and trying to enjoy spring in Japan as well. I'm lucky enough to be able to afford a few weeks abroad without too many money worries.
Work is a disaster. The last ~4 years of my life have been both unlucky (e.g. recently I was offered a highly lucrative executive job in SF, only to see the CEO change his mind on the whole operation - not on me specifically - at the last moment) and badly handled by me.
My professional career essentially came to a halt and so far didn't recover. I still keep my cool, but I am a bit worried about what's going to happen in the future, especially given the current situation with the virus.
And now, in all of this, few minutes ago I've read "I'm going blind, how to prepare", and my perspective suddenly changed. It's as if something clicked, and I can now "see" the world as it is.
I'm incredibly lucky. Most of us here are incredibly lucky. Zach, you probably didn't mean it, but today you somehow triggered a very positive reaction in me. I wanted to let you know.
I also wish you best of luck with your condition, and hope that you will manage to have a great life despite a deteriorating health.Reply
For navigation in the real world, make sure to check out echolocation. Some blind people have been navigating the world using sound reflections like bats. I was recently watching  and it blew-out my mind. You could start training now. Apparently after much practice people could be independent to the point of riding bikes.Reply
In the meantime, I would really urge you to travel and see the beautiful sights and places which you might not be able to later on. Splurge a bit and see those places so you can have a memory of them and never have the feeling that you missed out on anything in life. The Great Barrier Reef, The Grand Canyon, visit a space observatory so you can see the other planets, other galaxies, etc.,
Especially considering your age, I would really really urge you to do this. If you dont have anyone to go with you; just do it solo. I hope you consider my suggestion.Reply
I strongly recommend you to consider cybersecurity. I believe that you not only will have a chance to compete with typicals but you will have an edge.
The shell is a pretty awesome place to be in if you asked me.Reply
I'm so sorry to hear that. I'm curious what people's opinions are specifically around frontend. How can software enable someone who's blind to ensure that a frontend matches a design? Can we as a community develop new tools for this?Reply
Just a thought, as I am in no way an expert here, but there must be companies that help implement solutions for people with vision problems. I am sure they would be the most sympathetic to hiring people in your position, you will have unique insights that able sighted programmers won't. Maybe get in touch and see what they recommend.Reply
My one year old daughter is a survivor of bacterial meningitis, she had to have a bilateral craniotomy to help get the infection under control. This left her with moderate brain sesquale. She is with us today, she has cortical visual impairment. While my daughter situation is a little different. These comments give me so much hope. Thank you. It really means the world after a tough weekend.Reply
Look into becoming an ADA consultant for web/mobile. It's a growing market that companies are forced to pay attention to due to lawsuits. There is recurring work every time they redesign parts of the front end, which is often.Reply
I'm not loosing my vision, but I'm dyslexic. I listen to almost all content, but just assumed I couldn't do that with code. This is inspiring me to try.
Thank you OP for asking and thank all of you helpful HN folks for sharing.Reply
Might be possible for you to not go deaf / blind if you get Gates' crispr thing from some greymarket source online for a few hundred bucks and do your own research. https://www.usher-syndrome.org/our-story/all-ush-news.html
I've heard anecdotal evidence online that traditional health care system does FDA-approved gene edits for 1%ers costing somewhere in ballpark of ~$800,000.Reply
I'd suggest making the focus being what you need in order to support yourself as a blind person, not being a software engineer.
There may be particular things blind people excel at and do very well with. Use a list of those things as your starting point.
Perhaps software engineering is on that list, but I'd make sure.Reply
One of my managers during an internship in college was blind. I actually had no idea he was blind until I met him in person; this includes being interviewed by him remotely and have discussions about code I was writing in real time. I was completely shocked.
This was at a very large corporation, and he had been blind throughout his long career there. I believe the primary tools he used were JAWS and a device that would actually generate braille for text on screen. This was pretty incredible to me, as he would do most of his reading via this braille device.
I don't think you will be limited to a certain portion of the stack. In some ways, it may open up certain opportunities like working more on the Accessbility features for front-ends, which is a critical part of a front-end but often overlooked.Reply
Hi, A blind python developer here. You can do the job and though it has its frustrations with inaccessible tools, there're always alternatives. The two best things that you can use for web development are VS Code, because Microsoft are currently in "we love accessibility" phase of their product cycle and doing a good job of it, and emacs because it gives you a text-based os at the cost of a somewhat steep learning curve. People are using braille displays though it is not unavoidable. As a screen reader, you can use emacs speak with emacs, orca in linux, voice over on MacOs and IOs, and NVDA for Windows. Specially for web devs, there is an NVDA addon that can help object positions in web pages and has some other nicities if you are the type to do front end. Developer tools in all browsers have some more work to do before being fully accessible so there will be some issues there. If you need some more info, email@example.com is a blind-dev community with experienced visually impaired devs. Feel welcome anytime.Reply
Please watch this video on the i3 desktop environment. The windows are managed and can be controlled by keystrokes.
From 2015, a blind engineer uses emacspeak to write C++.
I have read some HN comments in the past from blind engineers. Not sure if they are frontend.Reply
I don’t have any experience, but I had a girlfriend in the late 1980s who’s dad was a totally-blind programmer. Surely in the past 30+ years technology has made a lot of strides so that it should be even more doable now than it was back then. Or in other words, if a guy who had been totally blind from birth could be a programmer in the 1980s, you can definitely do it in the 2020s.Reply
Accessibility engineering perhaps.
I'm fairly certain I'm going to get ARMD because of genetics and family history, and won't have anyone to care for me. It's going to suck.
As my late grandfather said: Getting old isn't for wimps, but the alternative is worse.Reply
Sorry to hear about what's happening to you. Read once about this guy who's using screen reader to code:
One of the interesting things here is the mention of web frontend frameworks which may make the frontend work possible even without seeing the frontend.
Hope you'll get through the life change. Take care.Reply
Unorthodox suggestion: build up lots of capital ASAP, so that you don’t struggle later commuting to terms with loss of vision as well as potential loss of revenue.
Some approaches to consider: Algo trading , creating and selling off products, creating stuff for startups for a stake in the profits. Right now, you may want to consider all options rather than regretting not doing so later.
I have seen two blind persons in my work life: one is a guru with emacs and gnome programming and today runs his own Python training and also sells an accounting package ( called GNU Khata). He was born blind.
Another is an architect and advisor at a consulting company. He lost his vision to an accident. He was fortunate to have already built up capital, and used that as a buffer to take a year off to learn how to cope and to continue.
Until I’d met them both, I’d thought that suicide might be the only feasible approach were I to go blind. I am now completely positive about living even after blindness, but I do understand the benefits of having a capital base and being financially independent.
All the best.Reply
I have an (adult) child with Usher Syndrome, and have lots of connections and resources that I'd be happy to share. There is a a decent amount of research going on right now. If you like, feel free to reach me at my username at gmail.Reply
First off, I'm so sorry to hear that you've been diagnosed with this condition. I haven't read through any of the replies to your question aside from a quick read through, so I'm sorry if any of my advice is redundant, helpful or not.
My immediate advice to you as an engineer is to remember that your most powerful and valuable tool is your mind. The ability to solve software engineering problems starts with the cognitive aspects of your knowledge, intuition, experience and who you are. An engineer's cognitive ability to solve problems and guide outcomes is the most valuable thing that we bring to any project we join or undertake.
Look for a team or project that values critical thinking to drive execution over just banging out code. Don't sweat being hands on in the long run, i.e. writing code and pushing features. Make the most of the work you're doing now to start honing your skills to be able to drive things like architecture, implementation choices, etc. based on experience, lessons learned, people you enjoy working with etc.
Also, keep in mind that you have a unique albeit unfortunate set of circumstances that can bring a perspective as you're going through this to what works and doesn't for others in similar circumstances that want to have careers in software technology. Be open to an awareness for areas where you can help solve problems and be involved in building solutions for others in a similar circumstance as you're in. Look for ways to develop products, tools, advisory groups, training, etc. that can help engineers with similar disabilities.
I wish you the best and again, I'm very sorry you're facing this. I hope that my thoughts help in some way.Reply
Quit programming and get a job at delivery or Walmart. This job is killing you.Reply
Only tangentially related to your question perhaps, but it's good time to become a musician, and to learn all the various software and digital elements involved in making modern music.Reply
Curious, when doing your research on the syndrome, did you encounter following article in Nature: https://www.nature.com/articles/jhg201029
And did you read majority of articles that cite this article? https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5&q=Gene...Reply
A couple of years ago I was staring down the barrel of giving up a 20 year career in software development due to a degenerative eye condition.
I can't tell you how many hours I wasted chasing parse errors in PHP code because I literally couldn't see the difference between a "." and "," anymore.
My solution ended up being transplant surgery to replace one of my corneas, which has largely restored vision in one eye. I still use a lot of large fonts, high contrast, etc, but I'm able to manage much easier on a day to day basis.
I had a wonderfully supportive employer, so when it was clear to me that unless something changed dramatically (i.e. surgery) I would no longer be able to do my current job we sat down (at my instigation) and discussed what this might look like in terms of both what sort of role I could continue to do, and what I wanted to do (not always the same thing, and the latter is important).
My manager at the time said something which has stuck with me. He said that (paraphrasing) the thing he really valued was the care, thought and attention I paid to the work I did. And that the way that had been expressed was through fingers on keyboard writing code. We just needed to find a way of capturing that thought and turning it into code a different way.
We never fully made the transition into a completely different role because my surgery meant I was able to continue (after 20 years I still love coding and didn't want to entirely give that up). But for me, that was going to mean spending more time with junior developers, coaching, mentoring, etc. I didn't want to manage people, so moving up the chain into management wasn't an option for me. But Project Management, might be an option that allows you to leverage some technical skills, but be less dependent on your vision.
So, if your employer is amenable, don't try to do this alone. See what changes can be made to accommodate your needs. Having a degenerative condition where you're not going blind overnight is an advantage, because it means you can work with your employer to adapt your role over time to suit you.Reply
I only have a little to offer:
First, in college I knew a guy with RP. He was hands-down the most brilliant coder I knew at the time. Aside from blowing up the screen (screenreaders did not yet exist), he ended up simply memorizing his code. He held the whole thing in his head.
I also knew -- internet-only -- a woman with the more severe form of Usher's (born deaf, go blind) -- who was quite techy even in the early 1990s and now works doing tech stuff for libraries, last I checked. She, also, had it going on.
In short, I can tell you this: other people have done it, so you also have a shot at it.Reply
When I interviewed at Google a few years ago, my lunch buddy was a blind software engineer (sounded like L5). He navigated multiple floors, guided me to the cafeteria, checked his emails completely on his own. It was impressive to see him navigate hallways, going through doors and taking stairs up and down effortlessly. It can definitely be done by anyone with training and effort. Best of luck!Reply
Look into local blind center resources for immediate help in the transition process. The earlier you start working with the Department of Rehabilitation, the sooner resources can be made available for training, education, and tech you'll need moving forwards.
I was an animator and VFX artist and lost my vision suddenly in 2014 in the span of 30 minutes. I can no longer do that work, but started learning orientation & mobility white cane training from the Lighthouse for the Blind in San Francisco and worked with the Dept. of Rehab to figure out life moving forwards. I received training in how to use a screen reader in iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows. I learned about accessibility and dove into my background as a former QA engineer for animation software and my UX/UI experience from VFX and motion graphics and started learning development on my own time. Figured out Python using TextEdit and Terminal on my Mac, am in the process of learning JS, used Xcode to learn Swift, and I tend to code websites by hand, then share them with someone with sight to check out my CSS.
There are a lot of resources out there to help you adapt, but it will take baby steps. I highly recommend you learn braille as blind coders tend to use braille displays to quickly check through lines of code, although I primarily just use VoiceOver to listen to code line by line at a very fast speed. Braille will help you type a lot faster on your phone when you find a collaborative work experience to be inaccessible; we use Slack at work, but the desktop version is awful in terms of accessibility, so I only use the iOS app and can quickly and accurately type out very detailed messages using Apple's braille screen input.
It's all about adaptation and not being afraid to ask for help. Zoom and Google Meet work great, and Microsoft products have gotten much much better in terms of accessibility. Google Suite takes a lot of getting used to, but is doable and functional with enough practice.
If you are on Windows, Jaws and NVDA will be essential to learn, and I've heard that Visual Basic studio is very accessible. I haven't found Sublime, atom, or other text editors to be accessible on the Mac, but TextEdit and Xcode work just fine for all matter of filetypes, and of course emacsspeak and Vim work in Terminal or iTerm.
Check out the /r/Blind sub reddit, Applevis.com, and know that you'll have support. It's a huge transition but you'll make it through!Reply
There is this guy who is pretty well known in the spanish dev community:
He often talks at conferences about his situation and setup, so if you understand spanish you might be able to find quite a lot on this. Also it might be worth a shot contacting him for more info.
Best of luck with your new adventure.Reply
First, I'm very sorry this is happening to you. I hope to later read where you have been very successful.
I work for Red Hat, we have a successful executive named Chad E. Foster (https://chadefoster.com/), he has some recorded talks that outline some of the pitfalls he's encountered and the ways he found around them. Maybe his advice can be of use. (You might even consider reaching out. He seems a very approachable guy.)
I worked closely with another person who went blind. He relied on big monitors and monitor settings to help him.
Good luck, we'll all be rooting for you.Reply
You will survive and thrive in the remote era; that said, make a note of the areas for which screen readers lack coverage (i.e., BIOS screens, stack traces and the like) so that you can work around or call out a need for said tools.
Good luck, and do reach out if you need anything; PVL is real and more people suffer from it than you'd realize at face value.Reply
Hi! My name is Peter Sherman. I have been a software engineer for 20+ years. I have also engaged in regular meditation for 20+ years. I would suggest that what you're going to experience in the future may turn out to be a blessing, rather than a curse, as daunting as the idea of future blindness seems.
Now, before I am tarred and feathered alive by pretty much everyone here in the HN community, please give me a moment to explain!
You see, most people spend their lives, their entire lives, searching for something which is outside of themselves, something which they believe will make them happy.
If they find it, it very well might, but unfortunately, it's only for relatively short periods of time, and then desire kicks in, and then there's a new set of goals, a new set of priorities. Nothing lasts forever. Nothing that grants happiness, even for many years -- will continue to do that for many more. Everything changes. (This is Buddhist philosophy incidentally).
What you're searching for, might very well be within -- rather than in the external world.
So how do you find this thing within?
Well, the first step is that you have to close down the external world.
You do this by closing your eyes (note that this is no different than blindness -- but it is less permanent), and relaxing, observing the mind and its flow of images.
If you see nothing but black... don't worry, I promise you, there's a ton of stuff in there -- more than you could ever imagine, more than 80 Zillion Internets' worth of data.
You'll see black for a fairly long time, maybe it will be months, maybe it will even be years, but eventually (with continued regular meditation) is that you'll start to see pinpricks of light, bits of sound, and you'll start to get intuitions and ideas from the higher mind, and you might see flashes of images. You might also drift off into lucid or semi-lucid dreams.
The trick is, don't try to use any force whatsoever to try do any of that, or those things will disappear. The harder you try, the less success you'll have (it's paradoxic in this respect), so a relaxed gentle focus is the key.
Becoming blind, at least the knowledge that that's going to happen to you -- could be compared to knowing that one day in the future you're going to be pushed into the ocean -- and you don't know how to swim.
Meditation, closing the eyes for at least 20 minutes a day, at a regular time every day, and relaxing, letting go, but maintaining a teensy bit of relaxed, gentle focus, gentle presence ("be here, now"), is not unlike learning to swim.
By the time you are pushed into the ocean... you want to be a champion swimmer, not someone who doesn't know how to swim.
Meditation then, is like learning how to swim, if the knowledge of future blindness is like being forced into an ocean...
Anyway, if you'd like, we can talk more about this. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let's chat!
Oh, and here's a great song, by the way:
Billy Joel - In The Middle Of The Night (The River of Dreams) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9HFYNITCSs
OK, NOW the HN Community -- can tar (-xvf) and feather me! :-)Reply
I am a totally blind software engineer. Was also not born blind, but our difference is, I am already blind when I became a software engineer.
However, I made a career shift a few years back due to my frustrations to inaccessible work tools, plus the company where I worked before is not that inclusive. I was disheartened, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because the interesting world of digital accessibility opened up for me.
Just thinking.. maybe we can collaborate. From someone who was once sighted and became blind in a not so very young age, maybe we can collaborate. I am very willing to teach you the ropes. not being a software engineer of course. I believe you’re already an expert in that. But more of learning how to be comfortable with being blind while growing in the tech world.
Hope to chat with you soon.Reply
I was wondering if you might have a LinkedIn profile so I can review your experience and skills. Maybe in the near future, we can use someone with your abilities in our company.Reply
I can't imagine how hard it is to keep positive in this situation and I think it's great that you're asking these practical questions to help your future self out. I hope you get some really useful answers from the rest of the community.
I don't have the answers to those questions but I did want to drop a line of encouragement and say this; your hard work up until now will not be wasted, whatever you end up doing. You can — and will — find ways to continue to stretch and apply your engineering mind, and most likely in ways that you can't predict right now.
Later on, you will look back and find that nobody would be better placed for whatever you're doing at that moment than you.
Finally (and I'm not saying this to deter you from continuing down the SE route, there are plenty of examples online of partially-sighted or blind SEs doing very well and you're attitude is indicative that you should experience no different), but everyone of us has so much more to give to this world than just our skillset, and you don't need a qualification for the things that truly matter in life.
Keep going and I echo the other commenter, take car of your soul, it's important.Reply
There is a lot of good advice here, and I know you can continue to do SE if you’re committed. In addition to the advice here, you could consider
- finding businesses who would benefit from employing a blind SE. I have no idea who, but probably companies who care a lot about accessibility
- you could become a tech project manager or another career that is tangential to SE. I know there will be obstacles to overcome, but maybe not as many as in SE, idk.Reply
Get off the computer and enjoy the sensory world while you can. You will have adequate time to hone your comprehension of process, formalism and other manner of abstract erudition thereafter, which will have its own beauty. Travel is a bitch if you can't see. Get out there now. I can recommend from first hand experience cycle touring with a tent and sleeping bag as a good way to see much of the world at a leisurely pace and very cheaply which does not require you to waste time saving money. Having that geographical reference to hang subsequently acquired knowledge on is golden. Get out there. http://www.artoftravel.net/Reply
My company (prgmr.com) gave a presentation about hiring our first blind engineer at SCALE last year:
We hired another blind developer who occasionally does some frontend work. If any sort of visual layout is involved, that obviously needs review, but he's able to add on to existing pages. He's also trying selenium for testing the visual layout.
It will probably be more of a challenge for you since you're having to learn to deal with lack of vision as an adult rather than having been blind since a young age. In your position I'd seek out advice specifically from others who have gone through the same process.Reply
Seek out HN user CAMLORN. Quoting from a response in an old thread about screen readers:
I'm the blind dev who refactored a huge chunk of the Rust compiler . I'm at roughly 800 words a minute with a synth, with the proven ability to top out at 1219. 800 or so is the norm among programmers. In order to get it we normally end up using older synths which sound way less natural because modern synthesis techniques can't go that fast. There's a trade-off between natural sounding and 500+ words a minute, and the market now strongly prefers the former because hardware can now support i.e. concatenative synthesis.Reply
Perhaps off-topic: if you have not read "The mind's eye" by Oliver Sacks, you may find it helpful, emotionally. Keeping an (audio) journal might help also to cope with anxiety.Reply
Thanks for this question and for everyones answers. I am a software engineer, and have a friend, female, aged 30 from a different department at work who is going blind and afraid to research anything. I think this will help a lot.Reply
I have heard anecdotally that Apple in particular does hire a lot of blind software engineers - in large part to help make its products accessible to the blind.Reply
I've been blind since birth, and much of my life and work is possible through the use of technology. I've used screenreaders on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android (both speech and Braille output). Many blind people are employed in various technical professions. I'm happy to answer whatever I can, and direct you to smarter people who may be able to answer what I can't. My Twitter and gmail username is the username on here.Reply
At the company I work for UI accessibility issues are automatic high priority bugs. You'll be an asset (as a frontend developer) to any company that values accessibility (and I'm certain that many do).
Contrary to your concerns, I think that being visually impaired and being a frontend developer will most likely open up opportunities rather than close them down.Reply
> Are there blind frontend engineers?
I have zero experience in this area, and don't actually know any blind engineers, but I have two thoughts: 1. A lot of frontend development isn't necessarily tied to the UI itself. especially in more complicated apps, where a lot of the logic is in the frontend. 2. I think a blind developer has an advantage when it comes to building websites that are usable by other visually impaired people. Maybe consider looking into a11y development, if that interests you.Reply
No idea on how to prepare, but one of my colleagues is blind and is one of the most detail-oriented backend engineers we have. One thing I've learned from him is that Apple products are MUCH less accessible than PC.Reply
If i went blind tomorrow I would invest heavily in:
1. Emacs and Emacsspeak in particular. Emacs is the richest text-based user experience out there; imagine if all Terminal apps were configurable and scriptable under the same coherent framework. This is why Emacsspeak is an incredibly valuable asset that I would lean heavily on in the event of vision loss.
These two things mean that you could do most of your job as-is, with assistance from colleagues.
As you’re a full stack developer, you’ll find point 2 easy. And point 1 is hard but a worthy investment. Emacs is older than the web and will probably outlive it.
I would probably also look at using tree sitter to make screenreading code more efficient at the AST level, because code is parsed linearly but we read it with random access.
I’d start working with my screen turned off or covered with paper if I knew ahead of time, that way I could start training. Honestly, computing-wise I wouldn’t be that worried about losing my vision. It’s the rest of life that’s harder.
Best of luck to you! Drop me a PM if you’d like some pointers on my two bullet points.Reply
Do you have a LinkedIn page by any chance? I would like to review your resume and skills.
We will need some additional force in our company in the near future, and you might fit =)Reply
bye bye youporn muahahahaReply
While I don’t have this my grandmother became blind so there could be a genetic disposition and I’ve wondered (worried?) about what would happen if I did. I would focus on the things I could manipulate with my mind rather than a keyboard and monitor. Basically this boils down to the algorithms and mathematical aspects, they are more about thinking and logic than writing code.
All too often we get stuck in the tools and not the thing we are trying to do. I remember a quite about photography (sorry for a story about vision): “I wanted to become a photographer so I took a class. We learned all sorts of things shutter speeds, aperture, film types, etc. But of all the things we learned, we never learned where to point the damned camera!” The computer science take on this quote is “Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes." I try to keep these in mind when I feel myself drifting towards the tools side of things and come back to what’s important.
As also noted, there’s never been a better time for accessibility than now. It’s an opportunity to advance that area and become an expert.Reply
I see you got a lot of great technical suggestions here. I am in no way able to comprehend what you must be going through mentally, but to tackle your anxiety, please consider meditation. If you have never done that before, there is an excellent 10 day course that can be followed, onsite, on a donation basis. If you're broke you don't have to pay. It's a 10 day silent retreat, which means you don't have to talk to anyone and can just focus on "showing up to do the work". https://www.dhamma.org/Reply
I'm not sure about the technical parts, but I was a member of an organization which aims blind people to ride bicycle by using tandem bicycles. So the concept is, non-blind person riding the bicycle and blind person pedals while sitting on the back. I did a lot of rides like that and we became very close friends with some of them.
They are (blind people) is very good in reading (listening) and also in speaking. I believe being a person who's easy to communicate is very importent in our industry and you will be a very good asset for your team.
You can email me if you'd like to hear more about that organization and maybe you can find something like that in your city as well.
i hope the link can help you trials of new medicationsReply
I have a colleague who has RP (Retinitis pigmentosa).
He is a SAP front end developer and uses normal laptop/ keyboard running Windows 10 with the addition of a screen reader called Jaws and an IPhone.
He lives close to work and lives on his own and walks to the office unassisted or uses uber further out ... the only issue is when there is a crowd and then we help him get to the canteen for example.
Obviously his audio acuity is way above the norm , his screen reader is probably set at over 300 words per minute.
Also another thing is we make sure the office layout remains the same as he has memorized the layout.Reply
ProQR is working on some -RNA based gene editing treatment for Usher's syndrome. Stay updated with its result,hope for best. They are recruiting new patients for trial if interested.Reply
I have a relative who is blind. I have told her I think there are 2 strong opportunities in technology that I can think of that might suit her. Granted she is not tech savvy so may not apply for you.
1) educating other blind people in how to best utilize technology. She was always "legally blind", but has been 100% blind since the 90's so picking up technology has not been easy for her.
2) Accessibility QA. I know this probably could feel like a "step back" from being a developer, but I think the world (especially large companies who are becoming more and more dependent on their web presence) NEED more people who can help their teams understand the world from the perspective of a blind person. There are people in these positions obviously, but I was surprised to learn that most of them can see, so I don't put much faith in their ability to do justice to their jobs.
Finally, this sort of goes with #2 above, but I think there's opportunity and a market (think government subsidies) for people who want to build accessibility technology to make it easier for blind people to use technology. I think this probably should start from standardization. There are a lot of standards out there, but I think not enough.
PS. I think one of the best first steps will be to start to learn Braille. It likely will be easier to get started while you can still see.Reply
I am blind and I have been working as a software engineer for almost 3 years. My formation was as an economist with a Master in management, but I went into a 10 month reconversion course to IT, focused on java programming. I am working at a Portuguese international company called Critical Software (I am Portuguese), and it is really inclusive and I feel great. When I was looking for a job in economics./management I felt that no-one wanted to employ me because of my blindness, it was a little depressing, but in IT what matters is your brain, so, usually, there is no discrimination. Sometimes some creativity is needed to overcome some visual challenges, some inaccessible documents or less navigable websites, but with a good team spirit and no problems in assuming when you need help, everything is doable. My experience is fully as a backend developer, but I had an internal workshop on React and I could make things happen in frontend during that afternoon. I am a Mac user (using VoiceOver) and I've used Windows with Jaws and NVDA before 2013. Now I am starting a new challenge at work, because we have to use Linux to run the test environment and, after having a very inaccessible experience with Mint in the last days, I will now install Ubuntu and try to completely figure it out with Orca, its screen reader. I am also doing a Master degree in Software Engineering since September, I've encountered some challenges, but where others visualize, I tend to create mental representations and, sometimes, I have a broader mental picture of things than my colleagues. I also agree with the user about the super-powers, I am realizing that my reading speed is priceless when there are things to learn at work or to study.
Regarding life itself... you can prepare in advance, I knew that I would become blind since I was 8 (I am 29), I still see a tiny bit, irrelevant to work or study but useful to figure light and some walls. I started to try to get around my room at night with no lights and I developed some confidence in myself during my teens. I also learned how to walk with the cane before I thought I needed it, it gives you extra security to know that you are prepared for the inevitable. And walking independently on your own is a requirement to have a guide dog.
I am an independent blind person now and, besides driving, I do everything I want. I play guitar, drums, go to the gym, hear the books I want with my screen reader and I've lived alone and cooked on my own for one year and I still have all my fingers. I know blind people that watch Netflix with audio descriptions, others that run marathons, play futsal...
My biggest challenge was when I wanted to change to software development and my first trial was a failure, and I lost hope of doing it. Since you have that part already, my suggestion is to be calm, believe that, like others, you are capable of overcoming the challenge and try to be yourself and believe in your problem solving capabilities, because in the en that is what life and blindness is about. And trying to prepare in advance and believing it is possible is a decisive first step, believe me!
Try to familiarize yourself with screen readers - NVDA on windows, Voiceover on all Apple things, Orca on Linux, talkback on Android. Know how to turn yours on and off and try to get familiarized with hearing things. There are other tools but I am not an expert on neither: braille displays, tactile printings, haptics also.
Also, try to have some mobility lessons (I don't know if it is the right English term), it is important to learn to feel and hear instead of seeing and to "activate" the capabilities you already have but never needed.
Sorry for the essay, but I wanted to assure you that you can live your own life and be independent despite being blind. If you need anything, email@example.comReply
I used to work at a healthcare navigation (insurance contractor) company. My biggest advice to you is to start acquiring copies of and saving all of your medical records, and keep them filed and organized.
Years down the road, if you need disability, it can be an arduous process and some of the doctor's visits and notes may be gone (health care companies come and go, have mergers, lose medical records due to old out of date systems, etc). If you need to show a history of decline over the years and don't have that all to submit, they will use it as a reason to reject you.
Getting disability in the US isn't easy- we joked it was "like trying to join the Jewish faith" because they reject everyone three times. Most of our patients would apply multiple times and end up having to hire attorneys to help them apply.
Keeping your records and building a trail of evidence will save you a lot of grief in the long run- even if you don't think you will need it- I would say start saving your documents just in case.Reply
Even as someone who isn't blind, I think popularizing more screenless tools (or even tools with just fewer visuals) could be useful for the dev community as a whole. My eye strain is getting especially bad now that we're in quarantine since I'm sitting in front of a monitor nearly the entire day.
Hope to see some cool suggestions, tools, and software posted in this thread!Reply
You should consider setting up a well known and repeatable folder structure for your email inbox.
You will need to file everything into a phonetically distinct structure for efficient navigation through your folder hierarchy. Nested directories in this case is not a bad idea.
I have seen this type of structure used very efficiently with a screen reader and Outlook in person.Reply
I'm in a similar boat to you as I'm about your age, also have Ushers (type II, which is what I'm assuming you have), and programming features heavily in my work (although I'm not in SWE).
I'd interested to chat with you; you can drop me an email at (awwoof) (hotmail) (com) To be honest, I am not very up to date with assistive technologies. I think my plan is basically pick stuff up when I find it useful.
Also, on a lighter note, while it's impossible to tell what the future holds, in my experience many people retain good central vision into their 50s (although that might be a self selecting sample). RP is also a key research area (easy to administer things to the eyes) so it's always possible there will be a treatment at some point. Obviously you still have to prepare for the worst, but it's not necessarily an absolute. It's very que sera sera.Reply
SAP had or has a blind developer at their Walldorf, Germany headquarters. As of 2000, he was using a Braille line.
Perhaps back-end work is easier without vision, in particular databases.
I hope you get to travel a bit whilst you can still see - catch some beautiful memories (nature) while you can... that's what I would do. All the best!Reply
One small detail: when your hearing will get worst you'll probably have to have a cochlear implant. The newer models have a "neat" trick where you can connect them to your phone / pc by using bluetooth so they can act like sort of headphones. Keep your head up and keep walking the path, you can do it!Reply
Good luck man. I'm mildly visually impaired myself and the average person gives it no consideration whatsoever.Reply
I've been very low-vision since birth and having glaucoma (since birth) meant that I lived with the very real possibility of going blind. I knew this from the time I was a child and preparations were made. Thankfully my glaucoma has been under control for many years at this point, though I'm still extremely low-vision. So what follows is just some random points, as I don't really know how to keep this post reasonably short, nor what should go in what order. So hopefully this doesn't devolve into rambling :) Anyway, some observations and lessons:
- Others have mentioned touch typing. I was taught touch typing from an early age with the help of an educational support teacher. I can say that it's one of the most valuable skills I have and I'm really, really thankful to the special teachers that put in the effort with me over those years.
- I naturally gravitated to computers. I don't know what it was, but after seeing them in school, I had to have one! I never got into blind sports as a kid and couldn't play most regular sports at school, so my parents saw the opportunity of computers as something I could get into. Something else I'm really really grateful for (I've been incredibly, incredibly lucky). The rest is history.
- I'll stress again - if you love software engineering and computers, there is no reason at all that it can't be your profession.
- Tech-wise, I use a magnifier on my Android phone and I use the magnifier on OSX. On Windows, it's easier to sit close to the screen. If you're at the stage where you need screen magnification, I can say that I've found the OSX built-in magnifier along with the trackpad a stellar combination.
- I find it difficult to locate the mouse pointer, so I use an extension called Saka Keys in my browser, which allows me to follow links on pages without having to use the mouse. I primarily use the command line for things if I can, especially if I might be on another machine that I can't get as close to as I need (eg- helping a friend quickly). You get to a point with touch-typing where you can feel when you've made a typing mistake. You also get really good at memorizing stuff, as others have said.
- At work, don't be afraid to speak up about what you need. This is tough. For many years I was embarrassed about needing help. It's illogical, I know, but it happens. You want to be independent and prove that you can be 'just as capable' as everyone else. That's a double-edged sword though. People WILL forget you are vision-impaired. I had a friend that I've known for years ask me why I sit so close to the webcam a few days ago when we were video chatting. My webcam is on top of my monitor.
- Believe it or not, people WILL forget you are vision impaired or even blind. I have plenty of experience with the former. If you're fiercely independent, people won't think to offer you help. You need to get comfortable with asking for help when you need it. It's a long, long process and something I'm still not 100% on myself; it's difficult.
- A case in point: At work, for the longest time if somebody wanted to show me code or talk me through code, I'd feel too self-conscious and awkward to say anything as we sat there and they started talking through their code. You get really good at memorizing stuff and going off what they say along with the broad 'shape' of the code. It would only be when I needed something specific, like they were pointing to a value or something, where I would lean in and say "what was that value again?". Nowadays I'm much more comfortable in my own skin and I simply ask them to either enable the magnifier on their machine, show me code through a remote desktop connection or I go to my machine and I have them talk through the code while I'm sitting as close to the screen as I need to.
- On a more philosophical note about other people; you're going to come across some strange, but well-intentioned behaviour. I've had new co-workers ask me why I sit so close to the screen; people assume if you're wearing glasses that your vision must be fine. You'll get really annoyed at the "sitting close to screens ruins your eyes" crowd; yes, I've been told (with good intentions) that sitting so close might damage my eyes.
- The way I think of this is that people are generally good and I'm happy to answer questions from anyone, as long as they're made in good faith. Often I think that people are just uncomfortable with talking about disability. Being a kind of a taboo, they think it's better to 'not say anything', or they're afraid of being rude. I'd rather people ask and I've also become a lot better at being forthcoming about what I need.
- I'm still learning not to shy away from being a 'vision impaired' person. There are some YouTubers that I recommend which I find really inspiring and helpful in this regard:
- The Blind Life is a YouTuber (who if I recall correctly has RP) who focuses on assistive technology and gadgets.
- Molly Burke does some great stuff. She is also blind, RP I think.
- For disability more generally, I cannot recommend 'Special Books By Special Kids' highly enough. It will literally change the way that you react to people. It is utterly incredible.
I know it's very different when you haven't grown up with a disability and suddenly you have to deal with it vs it being "the way it's always been", but I hope some of this might help and I wish you all the best.Reply
Sorry to hear this Zach. Best of luck and I hope you will pull through this stronger.
I would look into positions at Microsoft. Since the current CEO Satya Nadella took over, there has been a big push to improve the accessibility of Microsoft products, and I know that there are quite a few blind developers working there.Reply
One thing to consider is to write a blog on accessibility - it’ll help expose issues to those who develop developer tools which is great but it’ll also help you get exposure for getting work.Reply
A news website provides a decent amount of information that we all should read regularly. Do you know any channel that provides bundles of information?Reply
I agree with those that reference the govt policies that all orgs are suppose to follow. This could really turn into your career. I went to school with a blind network engineer and he was top of the class. Stay strong brother.Reply
I have worked closely with Nicolas Pitre, a kernel engineer who is blind and is one of the most amazing people I've worked with. I'm happy to put you in touch with him if you like -- my email is in my profile.Reply
If you haven't already looked into it, your state probably has some kind of "services for the blind". I have RP and was able to get help from them. Definitely look to see if your state has a govt dept like that. They offer tools and training to those in need to get jobs or keep working.Reply
At my university computer science course, there was a student who had sight issues. He was actually one of the better students. Most of the time he was writing the code with high-contrast theme enabled and extreme zoom, like see only few words at a time kind of zoom.Reply
It could be good idea to learn about accessibility API-s (MSAA, UI Automation, Accessible 2, ATK), in case you want to contribute to improving the screenreaders and/or create new accessibility tools, now or in the future.Reply
Not sure if anyone has mentioned plover. A few years ago a dev was able to use it audio wise to code. Programming by sounds. openstenoprojectReply
No time to read the whole thread right now, but feel free to get in touch (email is in my profile). I'm blind since birth and have had various software development jobs. These days I shifted a bit and started my own company doing digital accessibility consulting.
If you'll become totally blind (e.g. need to transition to a screen reader some day), I would advise you to leave the Mac platform. The built-in screen reader seems good at first, but falls down in complex work. Support for web browsing is suboptimal (Firefox is a no go) and the screen reader is only updated in the regular OS X release cycle. This means bugs will stick around a long time and it's totally unclear what the status of a bug is. Also, hackability of VoiceOver is limited. I find that a must for a tool that I am 100% reliant on.
I'm very sympathetic to Linux and run it in many places (Raspberry pi, home server, some stuff on VPSs), but I think Windows is a better accessible desktop experience now. Microsoft is trying tu push accessibility hard in most of their projects, this is often lacking in open source projects. Even if OS projects want to do a good job at accessibility, they usually miss the manpower of knowledge to do so. Especially given Docker and WSL (Windows subsystem for Linux), it is easy to run Linux-based development workloads on a Windows box.
My editor of choice these days is VS Code. That team is also very active on the accessibility of their editor. I use the free and open source NVDA screen reader. If something in NVDA is broken, I can at least look at their Github if any work is being done and if needs be throw in a few patches myself.
So, summing up I would say: find out a set of accessible tools to do your job, learn them before you get blind. Relying on vision until the very latest moment will give you an enormous productivity hit when the switch to 100% screen reader use comes (based on my experience training low vision and blind users in a previous job).
From what I've seen from the thread, others have already touched on some advantages of being a blind coder. You'll get a better mental model of your code out of necessity and depending on your team/employer you can be a more valuable team member because you also bring knowledge of software accessibility.
Hope this helps and good luck!Reply
Please do eye exercises including: - Eye rolling (Make full circles with eyes) 5 times each day -- Eye roll one eye at a time (e.g. roll left eye right eye closed) -- Eye roll both eyes together - Near far eye exercise: Watch your hand switch focus to an object far away (based on how clear you can see progressively watch further away) - Palming (Google it) - Sunning (Google it)Reply
Biggest advice, start programming with your monitor covered up by a sheet or turned off now while you still have the option to turn it back on to figure out what you just did.
Gradually have it turned off for longer periods without turning it on to see what's happening until you can do it without seeing it at all.Reply
Like some of the other comments, I’d focus on developing skills in web accessibility and areas that will help you be more productive.
I’m not sure how severe your hearing loss is but if podcasts are your style check out https://drunkenux.com/. The hosts have done a lot of episodes speaking from their backgrounds building education sites, where accessibility in development is required (also it’s funny and who doesn’t need a little levity).
More than anything, experiment with the suggestions here, different input methods, track your progress, Etc. For managing the anxiety especially, dedicating time weekly to work on your system can lead to some of the biggest rewards and occasionally, key insights.
Carpe Diem and keep us posted as you find the hacks that work for you!Reply
I'm very sorry to hear that.
I'm not sure where you're based, but I've heard of Usher's Syndrome after hearing a talk from someone named Molly Watt, who also has Usher's Syndrome. It might be worth dropping her a line, as in her line of work she might be able to either give some advice, or point you towards someone in your situation that can help.Reply
I know I'm not helping you with your original question but I hope this can be well received anyway. Have you looked into or tried extreme diet interventions in the way of recovery? Red light or other type of light therapy?Reply
Hey, there you have a few references that could be of some help!
Visual Studio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94swlF55tVc
Wishing you the best, JReply
Maybe focus more on software design / general architecture. Or teaching programming concepts. Or some other job that you would be using your knowledge while not having to stare at code for hours on a screen.Reply
I had a coworker this happened too. He was in his late 40s when this happened and so had to use a screen reader instead of a Braille display. He used edlin over putty on Windows. Since Jaws ran best there for him. He had to stop working on languages like Python where a screen reader is of little help.Reply