Blind Engineer Help

Accessibility Advocacy

Hello Applevis community,

I am a blind college student that is pursuing a degree in computer science. Could anyone give me any advice or suggestions on how to overcome accessibility issues in math, for example calculus and trigenometry. What is the best way for a blind person to keep track of to understand what the instructor is writing on the board.

I look forward to hearing about your experiences,
Thank you all in advance



Submitted by Usman on Monday, November 17, 2014

My school provides a note taker/captionist to record what is being written on the board. As for math and other advance computations, they are doable if you have access to braille and a lot of patience. Most applications you'll be working with are accessible IE c4, fortran etc. Its certainly not easy and I commend you for getting in to this field.

Submitted by Robert A.M. on Monday, November 17, 2014

It's totally possible; I graduated with honors with a Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Notre Dame and have about 1% vision.

As stated before, the college needs to hire a note taker for the student, usually a classmate, who is also willing to read/explain what is on the board during class and help him do his homework. These note takers don't have to be extremely smart or understand the subject perfectly, they only need to be patient and serve as an additional source of information for the student regarding visual material. Often it was I who ended up explaining complex differential equations or thermodynamics concepts to my note takers, instead of the other way around.

It is also crucial that the professor is fully aware of the student's needs and that he provides out loud explanations for as much as possible. Visually impaired students usually have huge visualization capabilities, so we are able to understand and follow very complex computations without actually having to look at the written equations. My professors also frequently provided written or digital copies of everything visual that was going to be shown to the rest of the group at the beginning of each class.

Finally, everyday new technological advancements are being made to help people, and specifically students, with visual impairments. The college should have an office for students with disabilities devoted exclusively to providing human, tech and economic support for them. This office should be in charge of hiring and paying for the note takers, purchasing any devices which could help the student understand and perform better in his classes, and teach him how to use and take full advantage of them.

Good luck!

Submitted by Usman on Monday, November 17, 2014

I also recommend that you ask the TA to assist. My note taker for most of my CS courses is my TA. Not sure for Engineering, but there are usually two or three teaching assistants that circulate around in various undergraduate classes. If you work with them/, you will be in better hands as they will know what you need especially if you have them again in upper level classes.

Submitted by Chelsea on Monday, November 17, 2014

Hi Blindnerd,

Love the screen name! I agree with Robert above. I will give the short version of my experiences, but please feel free to contact me privately if you want to continue the conversation in detail.

I have one more semester left in a physics degree. That amounts to, "I've taken a lot of math." As others have said, having the right tools/people/professors' attitude makes all the difference. I will disagree about the college having to buy absolutely everything; that rarely happens, even with colleges who claim to be up to date and such. so you may have to do some education or research on your own. I can help with that.

For math classes in particular, it is very important that you develop a relationship and system of communication with your instructor so that he reads everything he is writing on the board. I dislike PowerPoint classes for this reason; teachers just look at the slide and don't trite things down on their own. For more complicated calculus, I was able to use 3D printing to model the shapes. While the original research group is not active, there are people who would be willing to work with you and your university.

this is totally doable! I know several blind people--students and professionals alike--who are computer scientists or engineers or information technology specialists, or who have taken those routes in college.

If you want to know more about my experiences, you can listen to this Tech Doctor podcast:

As I do there, I would also make the case for a Mac if you are willing to jump in. I see huge benefits for a CS student, the main two being that you can break things and reinstall without any trouble, and you can run multiple operating systems on a single set of hardware. but it depends on your comfort level, where you are in your studies, and if you can get the money. I don't want to start a debate, as that topic has been discussed elsewhere, but it's something to consider.

I'm wondering: Do people think it may be a good idea to start a forum topic for people in higher technical fields finding cool ways to use Apple tech to help them in said technical fields?

Good luck! We're all here for you.


Submitted by Unuhinuiʻi on Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Would your school - or some blind advocacy education service, or local or national resource offer you possible any tools to learn about Nemeth code?
I am fascinated about how math is taught in Braille, but I'm so newbie that I'm basically craving for children's and early students math books (in several languages in Braille).
Because... well, I've always had huge dyslexia with math (and I can't ever SEE where I go wrong), SO... if I learn more about Nemeth and math Braille, guess what? Eventually that might solve my math problems :)
(Problem currently: too low Braille literacy skills = Braille-math/switch/space dyslexia 8) ha!)

Submitted by Usman on Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Your best bet is probably a blind resource centre or training centre if you're serious about learning nemeth braille. Nemeth only will take you so far especially dealing with higher levels of hard sciences like math and physics.

Submitted by Aaron C on Tuesday, January 13, 2015

If you don't already know it, you should absolutely learn LaTex, at least well enough to be able to write equations, if not entire documents. Almost all of my higher level math instructors were able to provide LaTex copies of quizzes, exams, and hand-outs, because they all used LaTex to produce them, or rather they all used software that could output LaTex.

Knowing LaTex makes the barrier to getting accessible materials much lower!

Of course, knowing LaTex is no substitute for learning Nemeth, but someone else already addressed that.

Submitted by Aaron C on Tuesday, January 13, 2015

In reply to by Usman

Usman wrote:
"Nemeth only will take you so far especially dealing with higher levels of hard sciences like math and physics."

How so? I'm curious what you have found that can't be represented by Nemeth? I'm sure that something exists, but for everything that I've come across, even at the higher levels, it's been far more than sufficient. That's one of the great things about Nemeth. It's simple enough to represent grade-school math, yet comprehensive enough to be useful at the graduate level and beyond.

Submitted by Usman on Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Not sure how much you worked with fortran but a lot of nemeth doesn't cover some of the math you'll need to use it. Moreover, a lot of symbols IE opperators in quantum mechanics are not covered by nemeth. I had to basically design my own code just to be able to use it while working in braille.

Submitted by peter on Tuesday, January 13, 2015

In reply to by Usman

This forum isn't exactly the best place to get the type of advice for what you want, but if we can connect off line, I could point you to many resources that you might find helpful.

I was partially sighted from birth (legally blind), but lost almost all of my vision just before starting graduate school. I went on to get a Ph.D. in Engineering Physics and work at Xerox as a Research Fellow and Product Development Manager. Science is a great field for the visually impaired (assuming you like science and have a knack for it!).

Technology makes many things possible these days that were difficult (if not impossible) to do in the past. Especially if you are comfortable with computers, you should not be disadvantaged relative to your peers. Anything is possible!

Anyway, shoot me an e-mail off list at:
ptorpey00 at gmail. dot com

and/or look for the Eyes On Success radio show / podcast which my wife and I host and produce these days (now that we're retired!) - We cover a wide variety of topics of interest to the visually impaired and have spoken to many blind students and professionals in the sciences.

Good luck.


Submitted by Blind angel 444 on Monday, August 17, 2020

Hi, how can a blind beginner programmer like myself, be successful in getting a computer science and engineering degree? What are all of these resources for us? I need help with learning Braille computer code and programming languages. I need resources, books, videos, groups mailing list and websites to help with this. Since the pandemic resources have been hard to find. I want to be able too master Braille code and programming languages. I’m not asking for a Braille instructor or Hadley. I need recommendations where I can learn on my own pace.
Any help is greatly appreciated

Submitted by Survivor Wolf on Monday, August 17, 2020

The college has to provide accessible materials. Whether they are any good at doing that will be the question, and every university will try to solve this differently.
When I did my computer science degree, this meant braille textbook, one on one instruction for the math so the equations could be written out in braille and the use of several tactile drawing aids for graphs.

These days there are easier ways of doing some of these things with technology if your university is willing to step up. Something like the Orbit graffiti would be helpful if you can get one, as it would turn a digital textbook into braille and also create tactile graphs. An audio graphing calculator may also serve you well.

I found sitting in lectures where I couldn't see the board to be an utter waste of time, hence the one on one instruction, but again a note taker and an Orbit Graffiti or other braille display might help if you can get it set up where the professor shows equations on a computer instead of hand writing them and the display shows them in braille at the same time.

You can also contact other universities that have had blind students graduate from the computer science field or other STEM majors to see what tips they may have. Ones that I know about include:
* University of California at Berkeley
* California State University Northridge
* University of Washington
* Colorado State University at Fort Collins
* University of Colorado at Bolder
* Georgia Tech

I'll see if I can locate where the professor who taught me calculus has gone and PM that to you, in case having your university or professor chat with her is helpful.

Best of luck!