The Blind Leading the Blind ... Into the Future

Ron Hideshima sits at Judi's Place on Market drinking his Ouzo. He just got off work and is talking to a friend about a trip he is making to Boston tomorrow. Ron is going to speak at Harvard and MIT about a piece of hardware called the DOTVIEW that makes it possible for sightless persons to access email, do web research, learn Japanese and "see" Windows icons through the help of over 1,500 Braille pins that move in and out of the DOTVIEW forming the equivalent of a Braille computer screen. Ron lost his own sight in a car accident when he was 25, and immediately taught himself Braille.

[Ron is an instructor at the Living Skills Center for the Visually Impaired in the East Bay. The center teaches people 18 and older how to live in society while visually impaired. He said they center averages approximately 30 students a year. "Last year we had a student who turned sixty during the program," said Ron. "When he came to the school he was so 'protected' he couldn't even use a phone, now he is emailing." The DOTVIEW is not quite as mainstream as Ron would like it to be. Mostly because of the cost of the retracting Braille pins. The first model with 768 pins was $6,000; the current model Ron uses with twice as many pins is more than twice the price. He said the largest DOTVIEW, with 3,072 pins is used by a NASA scientist in Japan.]