Possible: A day in the life of Wilson
I have attempted to use one dating app, signed up a profile, of course with the help of a friend because it wasn't very accessible, but I think I hit a snag when it required me to identify people, like see people's faces and then swipe them right if I like them or I think swipe left if I do not like or maybe I want to pass to the next one. So my desire to study human rights began from way back when I was still young, I had good career anchors at home and a strong support system and I would watch this programme which was like a legal show but in Swahili, which is the national language in Kenya. It's called 'Vioja Mahakamani' (Swahili for drama in the Court ) and I always used to say that I m either going to become a lawyer or a judge when I grow up, and I had very strong career anchors because my parents, my siblings and many people around me believed that my dream would come true. My name is Wilson Nderitu Macharia and I am a doctoral candidate at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, where I also work as a tutor and a project researcher at the Disability Rights Unit. I come from Kenya and perhaps I should also mention that I am visually impaired, in other terms blind.
There are many varying degrees of visual impairment: there are people who are totally blind, meaning people, who cannot see at all, and then there are those who are blind, but they have some perception of light, which is where I belong. And there are also people who are partially sighted, it's like a glass half full, or a glass half empty, however you choose to see it. I would be considered in other jurisdictions as somebody who is legally blind because in as much as I have some perception of light, that the light that is around me, to mean that I can tell when it's dark and when there's light, I am still visually challenged to the extent that I cannot do a lot, my abillities that I would do with my eyes are sort of limited. For instance I cannot
read small print, standard print on books, I cannot walk alone especially when it's dark and even when there is light and then I am in an unfamiliar location and have to walk with somebody or with the white cane or with the guide dog. Trust for the self-saying thing is God who also has given unto us the earnest of the spirit therefore we are always confident knowing that whilst we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord but we walk by faith not by sight but the love of Christ constraineth us because we thus judge that if one died for all then were all dead, and that he died for all that they which lived should not henceforth themselves Bible verse being played on device. For me technology means the world, first of all i say that because I am a tech enthusiast and I also consider myself to be tech savvy to some extent, based on the things that I have taught myself using technology. I often like telling my colleagues and friends and people I interact with, that for persons without disabilities, technology makes things easier but for persons with disabilities, technology makes things possible. And it has made a lot of things possible for me. For instance, there are a number of things, quite a number, that I do independently that in another world, without the technologies that I use, I wouldn't be able to do them, so that is the difference between having technology and not having it for me.
It was meant to be something of a game. I think the way a spelling bee is a game but you could see a subtle sorting going on [device audio in the background]. Many people assume that once a person with visual impairment is involved then it's only braille that they can use, I do not have anything against Braille but I also prefer when options are availed, you know, because as I said there are varying degrees of visual impairment and some people lose sight earlier than others, for instance I should have mentioned that I was born visually impaired or I acquired my visual impairment when I was very young to the extent that I could not, I couldn't remember seeing better, you know perceiving things better than I do now.
But there are people who lose sight at adulthood and it would be difficult to introduce a reading language, or mode, or format like Braille to someone who is an adult. So technology for me, I was, I went, I attended regular schools for the earlier parts of my life. So between when I was 3 years old and 12 years old, I attended regular school which means I wasn't taught Braille or any other alternative format, mostly because my parents at that point did not know of the special schools around me and braille was only introduced to me when I turned 13 and joined a special school for persons with visual impairment. So that means that for me Braille has been a secondary format of reading and mode. Well I,
I still consider myself proficient in Braille, but when I got into university I realised that Braille itself actually caused a communication barrier between me and my colleagues, or between me and my lecturers, in that the institution was not a special institution for persons with visual impairment, it would be difficult to find such a university. So I had to identify a way in which when I do my stuff, or work on my assignments, or take my notes, I could also share them with my colleagues and they would be able to see them, or to give my assignments to my lecturers and would be able to read them. In fact I remember once attempting to do an assignment in Braille and the lecturer at the time phoned me, and asked me how would I be expected to mark this, so what would you recommend, do I get somebody to transcribe this into print so that I mark it, which then would mean that some information would be lost because most of the things had written were legalistic. And that is when I started exploring the possibilities of using a computer with screen reader which I will demonstrate. And basically, my computer has a screen reader installed that reads everything that is displayed on the screen. And when I adapted this way, it means that the lecturer would send me reading material in soft copy, which I could read on my computer, I could type my assignments and send it via email or print it, which means the lecturers would be able to read that.
I would use, utilise notes that my colleagues have taken, that is if they typed them. And I would also share my notes with my colleagues, which means that when I started using that technology, then the communication barrier between me and my colleagues and my lecturers was eliminated. And I have used that technology from the time I did my undergraduate, my LLB, and up to now for my PHD.
It's the same that I m using now. Of course with time I have gotten to acquire more technology that I can use to make my work easier, but that has been the basic technology that I have been using. I use my laptop mostly for research, that's what I use when I am finding material for writing my work, both for work and school and education, I use it also to type [2 background 3 - Background audio playing] information that I want to reduce into the research.
Of course I use it also for a bit of major playing some music or study music, or something background, but I would consider my laptop to be my basic device. I have a Braille tablet, this is a tablet that has a screen a display that displays things in print format, but also has a Braille display underneath, below it, so it is sort of a universal design tool that displays both in Braille and in print, I use it mostly for taking down quick notes maybe when I am researching on something on my computer and I see a point that is important for my work. I use it also when I am presenting classes, or talks, or presentations for people because it's portable and I can, you know read with my fingers in Braille. And I use it also when I am traveling, to read a book or take some notes when I am on the plane, or even take notes when I am in a conference. And then there's the Focus 14 Braille Display, my friends like calling it a 'Man Pass', because it looks like a pass. It's quite small,
um, this one is hardly used independently, I have to pair it with my phone or my computer and basically what it does is, since there's a screen reader installed in my phone or a screen reader installed in my computer. If I do not want to listen to that information for instance, I don't want to put on headphones, or I am in a public place and it's noisy and I can't hear my phone well, or also just for privacy, if I don't want people to hear what I m doing, I use the Braille Focus, the Focus 14 Display as a Braille display for my phone and computer, so it has a Braille keyboard that I can use to input text on my phone or computer and it also has a display that I can read text messages or information that is being displayed on my phone or computer. So while using it, it most probably means my phone is in my pocket or my computer, I have the lid turned, you know the lid is closed so that nobody sees what is happening, or I have used a function called 'screen cutting' so that the screen is dark, nobody can tell what I m doing unless you can read Braille. And there's the Victor Reader, which I hardly use now, because I mean I, I got it from one of my mentors when I was on campus. He bought a more advanced version, it came in handy to record my classes back then because I didn't have the braille displays, and it was difficult to type, and take down notes in class, and listen to the lecture at the same time using my computer. Remember to send an email to the manager this afternoon [Wilson in the background] so it was easier to record my classes and then put bookmarks in those classes so that if there's an important point I can skip to it and one sometimes even listen to audio books using them. Of course
most of these functions have now been replaced by the current phones that are available. And then there's a Pearl Camera which is a portable camera that can be connected to a computer and the barrier that this one eliminates is when you get physical books or documents or printed material that you need to read, for instance in a library, so what you do is you just open that book, set it up below the Pearl Camera, which has a stand, and the stand has a guide to show you where to place the book, and you manipulate your computer using the keyboard to make the camera or the computer start reading the book using the camera. So this one is very good for libraries and can be used by many people if it is installed. But again this has also been replaced by my phone. Yeah so just by that small information I know that that's the fish fingers and that's what I was looking for and so, what I would have to do is open the air fryer, it is automated, it's an automatic one, but I have to press this button. Then I m going to throw the fish in there, I have taken some pieces so they can use my hand to spread them out, of course I've cleaned my hands, and then what I do after, is press the Start button, which I know is the last button on the right, so I just press Start.
That is to power it on and then un-press the Cook button or this dial in the middle. It will just automatically detect what is in there. Persons with disabilities face multiple barriers when accessing the justice system, these barriers [Background Audio] Technology and love, technology and relationship, that would be quite an interesting subject. But one that would also be important to discuss. I think one of the things that most people learnt especially due to COVID-19, is that the normal ways of meeting people were somewhat prohibited, for instance, when lockdowns were imposed and other regulations implemented by states, people resorted to using technology for literally everything, you know, work, studies, shopping and all that. And to some extent, even meeting people, for instance using dating apps. I have attempted to use one, one dating app, signed up a profile of course with the help of a friend because it wasn't very accessible but I think I hit a snag when it required me to identify people, like see people's faces and then swipe them right if I like them or I think swipe left if I do not like, or maybe I want to pass to the next one. So the interesting thing with that
is that the way screen readers operate is to move to the next gesture or to just have a gesture on the phone, on my phone to do something, I usually swipe on my screen, so I ended up swiping so many people, sometimes even unintentionally, but that was a point when I was even having a conversation with my friends, like okay, how would such an app be made accessible, but outside of that, I would say using accessible technology to access social media, for instance, has made it even possible for me to meet people. For me to interact with people, some of them who know that I am visually impaired, some of them who do not know until we start having conversations and I tell them. And at one point, even you know, had to plan a blind date, you know, meeting people and the ones we meet online like anyone else would do. I guess the only difference between this date and the normal general dates, is that this was a 'double blind date', a double that on the one hand, you didn't know each other before that, and then on the second hand, one party was actually blind.
So over and above my studies and work, technology plays quite a crucial role in my life. I mean there are also fun things that I do using technology, which means that I do not need assistance from other people. For instance, I use my phone or computer to watch movies, or rather listen to movies, um, on platforms such as Netflix, and just look for those which have audio description, and the good thing is with the current movement advocating for digital inclusion, even content providers like Netflix, Amazon as well are now providing content which has audio description for those of us who are not able to perceive what's going on. That's the same case for persons who are deaf, the captions are used very useful to help them follow on the movies. Secondly, I also use my watch quite a lot, when I go to the gym. In two ways, the first is it helps me know how many calories I am burning, right. Secondly it also helps me know what's what my heart rate is especially when I am involved in,
you know, some engaging exercises, physical exercises. And since I do not personally have a gym instructor, what I do is, I use the staff who are in the building and tell them I will do this machine, the rowing machine for 10 minutes, please come back after 10 minutes, to help me move to the next machine. And what happens after that is I use my watch to you know, check the time and make sure that I do the 10 minutes that I have intended. I also use my phone to access social media, I am quite active on Facebook, for instance, Instagram and Twitter, I also from time to time visit my LinkedIn and update my LinkedIn account, and you see this is professional on the one hand, but also on the other hand, it helps me with advocacy and also just you know, see what's going on out there in society. And see what other people are saying, and also connect me with my friends, right. I use the accessible technology to
listen to music, know what music I am selecting, search for music, I can use the keyboard to search for the music, or the content I want to listen to, or even use just audio description or narration, to look for the content that I want. I also use technology, especially that one with my phone, when I m taking walks, it happens to everyone. That sometimes you want to take a walk and you really want to do it alone, what I use is Google Maps, just set a location that I want to walk to, of course it has to be around the environment I stay in, and as perhaps most viewers of this video might have noticed this, when you have Google Maps on for instance in your car or when you're working there's usually an audio feedback, directing you when to take a left and when to take a right, so I use that quite a lot. And when I get to a point where I m looking say for, a restaurant or a coffee place like Starbucks, I can easily just do a video call, a WhatsApp video call to my girlfriend. Baby, or just my friend, and ask them do you see this restaurant, can you see a signboard written this, can you help direct me to it. [ combo a top-rated restaurant with 4.6 out of 5 stars based on 300 reviews delivery fee is from that button create group order button definitely zero dollars delivery with the restaurant info Debonairs pizza people say adjustable search menu main menu] [ Background audio] When thinking of technologies, assistive technologies for persons with disabilities there are two main categories, the first is generally accessible devices, and then the second is specialist devices. Difference,
as the terms may suggest, is that specialist devices are made specifically for persons with disabilities or specific types of disabilities. For instance, I can use my watch, my watch collection to illustrate that so this is a Dot Watch, that's the title of the name of the watch, it is a smart watch that has a display in Braille, for you know it shows 7:04, I m not sure that that is right so it connects to the phone and can display some notifications here that I can use Braille to read it, I can set a timer for it or using it and also create some short memos. But it connects with my phone using an app. So I call this a specialist device, because it can only be used by persons who are visually impaired. This, I would consider to be an accessible watch, because it's a regular watch, that can be used by everyone even without a disability, but could also benefit someone who has a visual disability, because I only use my finger to read it and then close it.
That is the same case with the Apple Watch that I am using, this is a regular Apple Watch which I m sure you've seen on the wrist of many people. But the only difference is that this one comes with a screen reader in-built so I did not have to add any third party software. All I need to do is click the crown press, and it starts speaking to me so it has just said it's 19:09. From this phone watch, I can be able to read messages on my phone, I can be able to check my heart rate, I can be able to create timers, and I can also be able to talk to Siri. I also found something very interesting when I was setting up the watch, it asked me whether I am a wheelchair user, and I checked that online, and so that it asked that so that it doesn't count the steps that you take because you do not take steps when you are using a wheelchair, but it also it still measures how many meters or kilometres you move or roll every day. It is very important to avail technologies, specifically inclusive technologies for persons with and without disabilities. I often use the illustration of
a building that has stairs but doesn't have a ramp. When you construct a ramp on that building, it would be meant for people who have physical disabilities, but everyone else ends up using the ramp, because it is an easier way to access the building. When you design for persons with disabilities, then you design for everyone. And it is for this reason that the #Tech4Rights campaign is being run by the Centre for Human Rights, hoping that it will appeal to you, and other organisations to always have in mind the need for persons with disabilities to access technologies like everyone else. I don't know how much I could achieve without technology and if I think of my life without technology, then I think it would be a difficult one.
Turn volume to 70 percent. [Media volume is 70 percent] It can be quite tricky sometimes [Background audio] Hey Siri