Blindness is not a sentence. How a Ukrainian programmer codes on par with sighted colleagues

Ukraine

Denys Reveha loved programming from school, mastered his first computer when he was ten, and created his first website when he was 13-14. His disability – blindness – didn’t interfere with the professional choice he made and his quick progress in it. Today Denys is 25 and he is a programmer with a Lviv company dealing with the European market. In an interview to Tvoemisto.tv, which we have translated and summarized, Denys told about which technologies are adapted to meet the needs of the visually impaired, which programs allow to work on par with sighted people, what attitudes employers have towards the blind, and what should be changed in the west Ukrainian city of Lviv’s infrastructure to make life easier for people with disabilities.

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He decided to be a programmer from school

I studied in Kyiv, first in a specialized school, and then four years in a regular school. I think that studying in the same environment with sighted children influenced my attitude to life. I realized that I can live on par with people without physical limitation, communicate with them, be socialized like them.

It was in school that I started to seriously think about becoming a programmer, and grew with the thought that this is the area in which I would like to work. After graduating from school, I entered the Faculty of Computer Science of the National Aviation University. While studying, I did all the tasks on my computer, even at the lectures I could work freely with my computer and write down everything I needed.

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Worked as a freelancer, but quickly got tired of it

When I returned home to Kamyanets-Podilsky, I started working as a freelancer, but eventually, I got tired of it and decided that I should look for a job I would go to each day, work in a team, have live communication with other programmers. For this, I moved to Lviv last year and I am already working in the second company that employed me.

A special program converts everything from the screen into sounds

Today, it’s not difficult for the blind to work as programmers. There is a special program called “NonVisual Desktop Access” which turns virtually everything on the screen into speech. It reads not only text but also different characters and images. This is why I sit in headphones and listen to the translation of what is shown on the screen. This way I also write my colleagues in the chat. It’s not that hard because I’ve already known the Ukrainian, English, and Russian keyboard layouts for a very long time.

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There’s nothing super complicated in programming for the blind

I can’t say there were moments on my path to learning programming which I couldn’t master for a long time. Of course, learning something new is always difficult, but it does not depend on whether the person can see or not. Regarding the code itself, I write it on par with all the programmers, because when the barrier between you and the information source disappears, you can find and learn almost anything.

For the most part, I do functional programming, in particular, back-end development. I work on what I can realistically do, taking physical constraints into account. And other programmers work to create the layout of the site, the front pages, and the interface.

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There are a lot of technological opportunities for the visually impaired – just keep track of them

Technologies which help make life easier for the visually impaired are developing all the time. I am certainly motivated to follow such innovations. The same Android and Windows constantly embed new technologies, applications that increase their accessibility for disabled users. And today, in reality, there are a lot of opportunities for the blind, especially what concerns working with computers or telephones. The whole secret is in mastering novelties as needed because learning something that you don’t need is ineffective. If you don’t use knowledge, it becomes forgotten.

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Employers were interested in my professionalism, not my lack of vision

I went to many interviews, but everywhere there were certain conditions, work  requirements which I technically couldn’t perform because I can’t see. I didn’t become upset but just continued to study further and concentrated on what I could offer and which functions I could do.

Probably there are employers who pay attention to physical disabilities and don’t want to employ such workers, but fortunately, this didn’t happen to me. Everyone was interested only in my professionalism. At the company where I work now, I passed an online interview through Skype, having pre-submitted a resume. The director asked me what I knew, what I studied, which functions I can program, what I don’t know etc. My blindness didn’t really concern him, I did a test task that everyone liked and started working.

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How can Lviv become more comfortable for blind people?

Lviv is quite comfortable to live in. I have no particular problems with travels in the city, especially since I have a special navigating program in my phone. I can wish for the same things as most of Lviv’s residents – repaired roads, lowered curbs, and more traffic lights with voice-overs. Today there exists also a good initiative to announce which number of the tram is arriving at the stop. Even an electronic petition was launched to implement this initiative. I also voted for it, but unfortunately, it didn’t get enough votes.

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Only those who don’t want to study should be pitied

People with special needs expect some support from the authorities and society, but they can learn to handle life based on their capabilities. It is not necessary to dramatize their position too much, because in reality it is really necessary to pity those who do not have the desire to develop and study. And if this desire is in place, then no physical flaw will stop you. Of course there are blind people, and among my friends too, who sit at home and don’t work anywhere. I try to talk with them, explain that sitting in one place and not striving for anything is the worst thing that may be. Everyone has his own way and should just do what he likes without concentrating on the bad things.

Intervew by: Oksana Lisna
Photos by:  Mariani Valko
Video by: Romb.tv

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Translated by: Alya Shandra
Source: tvoemisto.tv

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  • MichaelA

    smart kid

  • Screwdriver