Reading The Report Without Eyes

Is the AOSA Report a closed book to you? About thirteen years ago I was forced to answer ‘yes’ to that question. My sight was failing rapidly, and eventually it disappeared completely, so that I am now completely blind. Your Editor asked me to write this short piece to explain how we overcame this difficulty over the years.

The solution has changed with the advance of technology. At first audio tape appeared to be the answer. I was told that it is the practice to record the President’s address, and Mary Robinson’s address was the first I was able to listen to in this way. Though it was not a complete answer to the problem, it was a welcome advance.

Then I became computerised, liberating me from my illiteracy. These were the days of the old MS DOS system, before the sophistications of Windows. I acquired screenreader software, and a robotic voice could read to me the text on the computer screen. I could receive material on floppy disks which I fed into the computer, which obligingly read the contents to me. I read a number of Reports in this way. The computer also enabled me to type and print letters, so that communication could be two-way.

With Windows things are similar but even neater. Your Editor sends me the Report on CD, and when I feed it into the computer, I take it for granted that I will be able to go through it in its entirety. E Mails also make it so much easier and quicker to communicate.

Surely I am not alone in being without usable eyes? I wonder whether there are other OSs in the same boat. Perhaps some of them too have speaking software as I do. Or, for those with still a little residual sight, perhaps they have software which enlarges the text on the screen to make it readable. What about those who have not taken the plunge into computers? Perhaps they could receive the report or at least a part of it on tape or CD? Sadly, however, there is no stratagem which will allow one to see the photographs, and ponder on how one’s school friends are faring over the passing years. They remain ever youthful in one's memory.

Jeanette Crookes (1943-1950)