So let’s see if I can explain this. I got so frustrated with my computer that I couldn’t finish the last post. I was trying to write a simple blog entry, but my computer chose to erase whole sections and mix up everything else.
I have a special computer. It is a standard PC, but it is equipped with all kinds of bells and whistles because I am legally blind. I have a very large monitor, and on top of that I also have software that increases the size of the print and also allows me to magnify anything on the screen. If you want to see what it’s like, go to aisquared.com and try the free demo. The software I use, which they call Zoom Text, is rather expensive, about $1000, but there is not a lot of competition to draw down the price. I have bought several versions of it to keep it upgraded. Fortunately, at least now I can afford it. When I first got it, not so much. One person described it as looking at your computer screen through a toilet paper roll. You can only see what it wants. But that’s not the problem. My eyesight has gotten worse since my stroke, and I might have graduated out of Zoom Text. I might need JAWS, which is for people who are totally blind. I would really rather not do that. Besides having to pay for the whole thing over again, I am not quite yet ready to give up the eyesight I do have. At 65 I’m not sure I want to have to learn to use new complicated software. But at least for now, Zoom Text will do.
The other problem with using Zoom Text is that my eyesight has taken a blow from the stroke I had three years ago that complicates seeing at all. I can look at a page on the web and just not see whole sections of it there. Either part of my central viewing, which is gone, just doesn’t work to compensate for missing data. For instance, I am looking at part of the paragraph I just worked on. I can see from the word “work” “for” and then again from “am” the first two letters of the word “C”. And just now the next line of that starting with “letters” to the C. If I move my mouse takes me around to the rest of what I typed, but for a couple reasons that’s not the easiest thing in the world. My mouse likes to jump so that I am not sure whether I’m in the same section anymore. Let’s just say moving around gets really complicated.
I have a bad feeling that even though I’m trying to explain this logically, none of it is making any sense to you. Maybe I will try to videotape a session.
Okay, you know about my vision. My hands also don’t have the facility they used to have. I might have a touch of arthritis or something like it. So when I try to type, which I know how to do, I constantly hit the wrong keys. This, of course, means words are misspelled, but it also means I’m constantly opening software I didn’t mean to. I might open the calculator. I might hit and try to save what I’m doing. I constantly misspell words with “b” like cut or but or vulture instead of culture. I constantly open the calculator. Or I start to do some other program that I didn’t even remember was there, but I couldn’t see when the screen was open to what I was trying to type.
And you can imagine that I occasionally highlight whole sections of what I typed and managed to hit a key and erase every bit of it. If I don’t catch it fast enough, I can’t undo it.
Now add the need to use software like Dragon NaturallySpeaking to the mix. The fact is that you can’t write intellectually and verbally at the same time, at least I can’t. I am struggling as it is with nonfiction prose. One idea I heard was to tape-record my stories and then let Dragon transcribe them to text, but that doesn’t seem to work the same as typing a story. I remember when I was learning Braille, I was able to listen to a recorded book and read the braille at the same time with my fingertips. Clearly the information got into my brain in different ways, but that doesn’t seem to work with narrating or dictating.
Believe it or not, I am not complaining. I am simply trying to explain why I’m having so many difficulties. I am more likely to sigh and shake my head than acted bitter or angry when I describe all this. It’s frustrating and exhausting. I know if I kept trying and got more practice that would be alleviated to some extent. I am getting better at dictating. I don’t know how far I will be able to take it. I have a short story I have to write for the second volume of TIMES RAINBOW and will be able to see how things are going when I type that up.
So those are basically the problems I’m having with the writing. I think I can still come up with the ideas in the content in my head, and it is therefore the process of actually writing it down that I’m having trouble with.
Do I want suggestions? Oh yes I do! The hardest thing for you with this will be understanding what it’s like to have low vision. It’s not seeing black all the time. In fact, blind people don’t see black; they just don’t see anything. I used to train volunteers and one of the things I did was have everyone put their hand behind their head. Then I said, “Look at your hand without turning your head.” I said you don’t see black. You just don’t see your hand. And that’s as close as I can get telling you what it’s like to be blind. The difference is that with my spotty vision I’m not seeing black where I don’t have the needed rods and cones. I’m seeing either smudges or just not clearly enough to identify the letters that make up the words. There is more to it than that, but that’s it in a nutshell.
Take a look at this picture:
It is a poor effort to show you what macular degeneration is like. The tree is too big to really mean anything to you about my own vision. For one thing, my eyes constantly move around so that that big dark section in the middle is constantly moving to other parts of the tree. And what I’m talking about is looking at a computer screen, which has a lot more information on it. But it might give you an idea.
My purpose in writing this is just to explain my frustration and what actually gets in the way of my accomplishing any writing. I could also tell you that when I’m cooking I can’t see what’s in the middle of the frontal. I can’t read packages. I can’t read cookbooks. But for the most part, I can still manage to cook. So long as there is not a large spider in the middle of what I’m starting, we are all okay.
So I invite you to ask questions or make suggestions. I’ve had this vision problem since I was about 16 or 17, and I am now 65 so very little is going to get me excited or make me feel insulted.