Computer vision
Date: Thursday, November 25 @ 07:21:04 MST

Khaling, Trashigang: 25 November 2004 - When visually impaired students of the National Institute for the Disabled in Khaling use Braille to type and read books, Kuenga Chhoegyel writes on a computer which also reads to him books and novels.

Kuenga Chhoegyel on his computer

An English language teacher at the institute, Kuenga Chhoegyel, 38, from Yurung, Pemagatshel is the first visually impaired Bhutanese who can operate a computer.

He uses Microsoft word and excel computer programmes, chats on-line, browses web sites, and zaps off e-mails. He even refers to encyclopedias which he has saved in three compact discs and installed in his computer.

Kuenga Chhoegyel is able to do all that with the help of the software called the Job Access With Speech (JAWS) designed for the visually impaired which converts text on a computer screen to a synthesised voice.

“It reads every alphabet and sentence that I type into the computer and also checks spelling and grammar,” said Kuenga Chhoegyel. “The quality of my work has become finer. When I’m bored I can sit back and have the computer read me on-line stories and my mails.”

He spends two to three hours everyday at home with the computer he bought from Bangkok where he was on training.

The English teacher said that it was tedious to read stories and novels in Braille, which consists of patterns of raised dots that are read by touch.

“Half of our institute’s library is filled with encyclopedias in Braille,” said Kuenga Chhoegyel. “Now they are just a touch away from the computer.”

Kuenga Chhoegyel said that, even as a student he was fascinated by computers and the wonders they could do. When friends told him about the e-mails that could be sent overseas within seconds and books that could be read on-line, his fascination grew.

“I used to dream how interesting my life would be if I could write, read, learn and communicate through a computer,” said Kuenga Chhoegyel.

His interest in learning computers took him to other countries on short term training courses in computers for the visually impaired. Despite all the training, he could not get his hands on a computer until 2002 when one of the teachers of the institution returning from his training brought him the JAWS software.

“The trainings I went for were all on basics and they weren’t practical,” Kuenga Chhoegyel said. “But with the software I was able to do everything a normal person could on a computer within few days, except design web sites.”

“There is a misconception that a special kind of computer is required for the blind,” said Kuenga Chhoegyel. “An ordinary computer with a sound box is good enough. All we need to do then is to have the JAWS software installed.”

Kuenga Chhoegyel has spent all his life at the institute in Khaling. He and two other friends were the first batch of students to join the institute in 1973. Then he was six. He lost his mother at three and was raised by his father who is now 80.

Today Kuenga Chhoegyel is a father of a 14-year old son and an 11-year old daughter both with normal vision.

The English language teacher has set himself a target in life. He wants to teach every visually impaired person in the country to use computers starting from his students at the institute to his colleagues working in other parts of the country.

But to do that the institute will need more computers. It only has four at the moment.

By Samten Wangchuk in Khaling, Trashigang

This article comes from Kuensel Newspaper

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