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National Coding Week - A visually impaired developer's setup

September 20, 2017

Continuing with our series around National Coding Week, here is an insight into the coding world of our back-end developer, Ian Brooks.

 

Ian has been registered blind since the age of 5 and had a total of 32 eye operations to bring his sight up to the level it is now - just 10% with glasses.

 

He has always enjoyed using computers and started to program in Basic at the same time as he learned to read and write.

 

Conspexit Founder & CEO/CTO, Eirik Moseng, says: "To quote Sir Winston Churchhill, 'success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm' - Ian is one of those".

"Ian adds a lot of value to the business and in addition gives valuable insight into the life of people with visual impairment. Ian is a perfect fit for the company", Eirik Moseng continues.

 

Ian adds: “I think working with Conspexit is rewarding and challenging, and I am highly determined to make the most of my work and achieve my ambition to become an experienced software developer. I am very grateful that Eirik Moseng has given me this amazing opportunity.”

 

When Ian joined Conspexit, we matched his home desk setup as much as we could (new joiners can choose their work setup and equipment). We thought it might be interesting to share details of the equipment and thought process behind Ian’s setup here in our London Studio.

1. A 32-inch monitor (1440p resolution) on a monitor arm to bring the screen as close to Ian as possible.

Ian sets the display scaling settings in his operating system so that the default text and window size is larger without losing the sharpness of the display.

2. A split keyboard (Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000) to space Ian’s hands further apart, which allows him to move as close as possible to the screen without discomfort.

3. A programmable mouse (Logitech G502) - This allows Ian to trigger custom commands from the extra buttons. For example one button re-centers the mouse on the display so that if Ian loses track of the mouse pointer, he can bring it back to a known point.

4. An audio headset - As visual notifications usually pop-up on the edges of the screen (outside Ian’s area of focus), which makes them impossible for him to see.

5. Code editing software - Ian’s most commonly used editors are Visual Studio Code and Brackets, predominantly because they give him the ability to change to a high contrast theme, something that unfortunately not all editors have.

6. Operating system terminal - As Ian can only focus on a small section of the display at a time, the OS terminal (also known as a shell or command prompt) is his predominant interface as it is linear and text driven. No ‘head bobbing/searching’ is needed to hunt around the desktop and focus can be kept in the centre of the screen.

7. Digital/online learning resources - As Ian continues to learn new skills and technologies, services such as Udemy, Amazon Kindle and Safari Books Online allow him to access resources that used to be in physical books, which he can no longer read. These services have the benefit of allowing him to increase the layout, font type, font size and more importantly, change to a high contrast theme to make reading easier.

So there you go - a number of small tools that together make coding possible for Ian. We're always amazed and inspired by the ingenious ways visually impaired individuals adapt to live their lives without limitations. There really are no barriers to coding that can't be overcome!

 

If you enjoyed reading about Ian's setup, here are some other inspiring stories from visually impaired coders:

 

Saqib Shaikh - A developer working for Microsoft using Visual Studio with a screen reader
 

Tuukka Ojala - Software development 450 words per minute without a screen

 

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