Speaking the language of business intelligence with an Australian accent

Friday, March 30, 2007

Someone I admire

I admire a lot of people. They are people who do things that I aspire to or who do things that I can't. I need to add another to my list as a result of a client I worked for this week.

Kenny's a developer/web designer and all-round IT geek. He's passionate about technology and loves to learn. He is an MCSE, MCAD, MCPD among others, he also has a B.Sc in IT. He's developed some great stuff for the organisation he works for and is a font of .NET knowledge to his co-workers. His next goal is to get certified as MCITP DBA. His skills & passion put him right up there with a some of the best developers I have worked with.

Nothing particularly special so far? OK. What stands Kenny head and shoulders above others is the fact that he is vision impaired. A genetic condition left him with nothing but very limited peripheral vision only so his ability to see the screen directly in front of him is literally zero. So from an IT development perspective you could say he's almost completely blind. All he has achieved in IT, solutions he has built, his knowledge, degree, MS certs he has done without the aid of sight. He does his work using his encyclopedic knowledge of keyboard shortcuts and a screen reader called JAWS (Job Access With Speech) which converts text on the screen to sound.

I learned a lot this past week about making software accessible really means. Kenny gives very high accessibility marks to both Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server Management Studio, which was great to hear (apparently SSMS is a monumental improvement over the old Enterprise Manager in this area). However, he did say that there were several areas where simple, but effective, accessibility improvements could be made on both apps. I hope MS gets in contact with him as he would love provide them with feedback about what can be done here.

Before writing this post I thought about developing without being able to see the screen in front of me. For those who are sighted, development is pretty much all visual. I mean how much of the other 4 senses do we really use when developing something? Smell and taste? Not at all. Touch and sound? Maybe a bit of each. I would say that development is at least 90%-95% visual. Even names of some of the products we use to develop remind us of this: Visual Basic, Visual C#, Visual Studio. When you think about it like that you get even more perspective on just what Kenny has achieved and continues to do on a daily basis.

Kenny, you rock!


csoders@microsoft.com said...

Hey, Nick. Great to see this post and I'll follow up with Kenny. I manage the SQL user experience team and we'd love to add him to a panel of low vision, blind, and limited hand/mobility participants for early prototype evaluations.

Nick Barclay said...

Great! Will email you off-line.