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  • Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. I'm Neil.

  • And I'm Georgina.

  • What do Homer, Ray Charles and Jorge Borges all have in common, Georgina?

  • Hmm, so that's the ancient Greek poet, Homer; American singer, Ray Charles;

  • and Argentine writer, Jorge Luis Borges

  • I can't see much in common there, Neil.

  • Well, the answer is that they were all blind.

  • Ah! But that obviously didn't hold them back -

  • I mean, they were some of the greatest artists ever!

  • Right, but I wonder how easy they would find it living and working

  • in the modern world.

  • Blind people can use a guide dog or a white cane to help them move around.

  • Yes, but a white cane is hardly advanced technology!

  • Recently, smartphone apps have been invented which dramatically

  • improve the lives of blind people around the world.

  • In this programme on blindness in the digital age we'll be looking

  • at some of these inventions, known collectively as assistive technology

  • that's any software or equipment that helps people

  • work around their disabilities or challenges.

  • But first it's time for my quiz question, Georgina.

  • In 1842 a technique of using fingers to feel printed raised

  • dots was invented which allowed blind people to read.

  • But who invented it? Was it: a) Margaret Walker?, b) Louis Braille?,

  • or, c) Samuel Morse?

  • Hmm, I've heard of Morse code but that wouldn't help blind people read,

  • so I think it's, b) Louis Braille.

  • OK, Georgina, we'll find out the answer at the end of the programme.

  • One remarkable feature of the latest assistive technology is its practicality.

  • Smartphone apps like 'BeMyEyes' allow blind users to find lost keys,

  • cross busy roads and even colour match their clothes.

  • Brian Mwenda is CEO of a Kenyan company developing this kind of technology.

  • Here he explains to BBC World Service programme, Digital Planet,

  • how his devices seek to enhance, not replace, the traditional white cane:

  • The device is very compatible with any kind of white cane.

  • So, once you clip it on to any white cane it works perfectly to detect

  • the obstacles in front of you, and it relies on echo-location.

  • So, echo-location is the same technology used by bats and dolphins

  • to detect prey and obstacles and all that.

  • You send out a sound pulse and then once it bounces off an obstacle,

  • you can tell how far the obstacle is.

  • When attached to a white cane, the digital device - called 'Sixth Sense' -

  • can detect obstaclesobjects which block your way,

  • making it difficult for you to move forward.

  • 'Sixth Sense' works using echo-location, a kind of ultrasound like

  • that used by bats who send out sound waves which bounce off

  • surrounding objects.

  • The returning echoes show where these objects are located.

  • Some of the assistive apps are so smart they can even tell what kind of

  • object is coming up aheadbe it a friend, a shop door or a speeding car.

  • I guess being able to move around confidently really boosts

  • people's independence.

  • Absolutely. And it's challenging stereotypes around blindness too.

  • Blogger, Fern Lulham, who is blind herself, uses assistive apps every day.

  • Here she is talking to BBC World Service's, Digital Planet:

  • I think the more that society sees blind people in the community,

  • at work, in relationships it does help to tackle all of these stereotypes,

  • it helps people to see blind and visually-impaired people in a whole new way

  • and it just normalises disabilitythat's what we need, we need to see

  • people just getting on with their life and doing it and then people won't

  • see it as such a big deal anymore, it'll just be the ordinary.

  • Fern distinguishes between people who are blind, or unable to see,

  • and those who are visually impairedexperience a decreased ability to see.

  • Assistive tech helps blind people lead normal, independent lives

  • within their local communities.

  • Fern hopes that this will help normalise disability

  • treat something as normal which has not been accepted as normal before

  • so being blind doesn't have to be a big dealan informal way

  • to say something is not a serious problem.

  • Just keep your eyes closed for a minute and try moving around the room.

  • You'll soon see how difficult it isand how life changing this technology can be.

  • Being able to read books must also open up a world of imagination.

  • So what was the answer to your quiz question, Neil?

  • Ah yes.

  • I asked Georgina who invented the system of reading where

  • fingertips are used to feel patterns of printed raised dots.

  • What did you say, Georgina?

  • I thought it was, b) Louis Braille.

  • Which wasof course the correct answer! Well done, Georgina

  • Louise Braille the inventor of a reading system which is known

  • worldwide simply as braille.

  • I suppose braille is an early example of assistive technology

  • systems and equipment that assist people with disabilities to

  • perform everyday functions.

  • Let's recap the rest of the vocabulary, Neil.

  • OK. An obstacle is an object that is in your way and blocks your movement.

  • Some assisted technology works using echo-location

  • a system of ultrasound detection used by bats.

  • Being blind is different from being visually impaired -

  • having a decreased ability to see, whether disabling or not.

  • And finally, the hope is that assistive phone apps can help normalise

  • disabilitychange the perception of something into being

  • accepted as normal

  • ...so that disability is no longer a big dealnot a big problem.

  • That's all for this programme but join us again soon at

  • 6 Minute English

  • and remember you can find many more 6 Minute topics

  • and useful vocabulary archived on bbclearningenglish.com.

  • Don't forget we also have an app you can download for free

  • from the app stores.

  • And of course we are all over social media, so come on over and say hi.

  • Goodbye for now!

  • Bye!

Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. I'm Neil.

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B1 blind georgina braille cane technology apps

Digital help for blind people - 6 Minute English

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/03/18
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