56 Comments

  • Trying to understand the clips of synthesised audio was more or less impossible for me. The fact that someone can glean meaning from, or even better, fully comprehend, is mind blowing.

    I guess this is something to do with sensory compensation, but regardless what an incredible story! I too have always wondered what the full workflow for a no-sighted developer would be like.

    Thanks for this!

  • Dude has a real talent for writing. I’d like to read more blog posts by him.

  • This is a really great video if you want to see a blind developer in action.

    I met this guy once a couple of years ago, and he’s truly inspirational. I’ve done live coding demos in front of audiences before, and it’s hard enough when you have 20-20 vision.

  • Nothing to see here, and it’s awesome!

  • Title little mis leading, but a nice read. I’ve always wondered how bring a blind developer is like.

  • I must admit, I thought “there is no value at coding at 450 words per-minute”, but as it turns out it’s listening, sure go as fast as you can.

    I often speed up non-leisure content between 1.25 – 2x because it sounds like everyone is drawling, or waffling, but I couldn’t understand most of the 450wpm

  • Really cool article. Just some thoughts of mine. My experience is with listening to narrated audiobooks.

    > I use a robotic-sounding voice which speaks at around 450 words per minute. For comparison, English is commonly spoken at around 120-150 words per minute.

    For comparison, average reading speed is 250-300 words per minute – for non-technical text.

    Interestingly audiobooks tend to be about 150. As of a few years ago I started speeding up all my audiobooks. If you speed up audiobooks to 300 and listen for a while, then reduce back to the default speed you will feel the pain.

    My comprehension starts suffering at 500-600 wpm. Lying down and closing eye’s helps. Mental fatigue starts after a while because you need to constantly focus. Using [sox](https://linux.die.net/man/1/sox) you can reduce the spacing between words and sentences which can help. Some narrators leave obnoxiously large gaps between sentences.

  • Reddit has apparently some restrictions on how much I can post as a new user. I have collected answers to most of the questions in this comment. I’m humbled by all this positivity and interest towards my way of working. Thanks again.

    – Listening at fast speeds comes only through practice. It isn’t some kind of magical skill I was born with. This is something that any of you could totally do as some of you have pointed out. Back when I used a computer with speech for the first time I was listening it at a “normal” speaking rate, maybe ~200 wpm. I just gradually increased the rate over the years until the Finnish synth I use wouldn’t go any faster. Believe me, this isn’t even the fastest I’ve seen (heard?) blind people to use their computers. Conversely, there are blind computer users who prefer slower speaking rates.
    – Unfortunately braille can’t be used to visualise diagrams. The reason for that is that braille displays can show only one line of text at a time. Multi-line braille displays don’t exist as of yet, and even if they did they would be prohibitely expensive at the current prices.
    – People have been thinking about using different voices for announcing different kinds of messages. Something that has also been discussed is replacing punctuation and other similar information with so-called earcons, which are essentially really short pieces of audio. It would be a lot more effective to hear a small ‘blip’ than ‘right bracket’ or ‘semicolon’.
    – Abstractions are indeed hard for me to pick up. I’m a visual thinker and I can ‘draw pictures’ in my head up to a point, but it doesn’t really help if I haven’t got a clue about something in the first place. Then my background isn’t really theoretical. The school I went to had a really practical way of teaching different programming concepts.
    – The title… Sorry about that one. I’m absolutely not working as fast as I can read. I guess I’m working slightly slower than some of my sighted peers if anything, but there’s enough variation among sighted programmers on how fast they work that it doesn’t really matter.
    – Bash via WSL is just like using Git Bash. In fact I use both for different things. I guess I just can’t be bothered to move my configs over to WSL.
    – I actually use OCR in apps that I can’t get to via other means. It’s still not reliable enough that it could be used very effectively but it’s better than nothing. For example, getting text out of screen shots is what I use OCR regularly for.

  • It would be cool if the reader used different voices, pitches, and timbres for different kinds of text (as a form of syntax highlighting), does anybody know if that’s ever done? Surely there must be ways to improve the information content per time unit beyond just speeding it up.

  • This post is very well written and a great insight into how people with accessibility issues develop software. A follow-up about how they are able to collaborate would be also very interesting.

  • Man, I have enough existential crises and moments of crippling self-doubt in the software development field already. I can’t imagine how much harder those must be for someone who isn’t sighted. Good for him for having a way tougher shell than I ever would and not letting a silly thing like sight stand between him and his goals!

  • I’m the author of this post. Thanks for all the questions. I’m just going through the comments and will try to answer to as many as I can.

  • Soooo…. how does a screen reader vocalize red squiggly lines? I’d be lost in programming without my red squiggly lines.

  • Getting abstractions must be a hard task. For example, it should be very hard to understand a shortest path algorithm without having an image of a graph. I wonder how he handles these issues.

  • >Python was the first real programming language I picked up (Php doesn’t count)

    what the fuck

  • I want to read a piece of code written by him, it should be amazing

  • Repetitive pop-up ads must be a nightmare for this guy.

  • This is the best programming related blog post I’ve read all year.

  • > I have worked in full stack web projects with a focus on the backend.

    You don’t say?

    In all seriousness, I couldn’t even begin to imagine the struggles of developing a front end without sight. I have two functional eyes and I can’t even develop a nice frontend.

  • This is mean not in a non-patronising way: Very impressive. I can barely figure out programming with full eyesight. If I lost my eyesight I’d probably never escape the depression let alone do anything useful ever again and certainly not programming.

  • Wow, this is so impressive! Kudos to the guy, and also great writing skills.

  • So much respect dude. That is fucking awesome. As the first comment suggested, you must have an incredible RAM going on up there.

  • This guy is a superman. It’s amazing that he can comprehend the speech synthetizer to the level where he can code well and can move around. Hell, I’m a programmer and can see and I know that this guy is far superior to me. Kudos, you blew my mind.

  • Your thoughts aquire speed! A mentat without the juice of sapho! On the real thanks for sharing.

  • Like Matt Murdock but instead of fighting crime he writes software. Like a depressed Matt Murdock.

  • Wonder if using Bash via WSL would be better than Git Bash?

  • My question for blind people is always “where is the software deficient?” Screen readers were my first open source contributions, and I always find myself going back to keep working on them. There’s something really rewarding about it

  • > Php doesn’t count

    Why? Just curious?

  • Extremely misleading title.

    Are we just not mentioning this because the author is disabled? Is that the bar we set to allow sensationalism?

  • >There are more advanced lightweight editors out there like Sublime text or Atom

    Atom counts as lightweight now?

  • Kudos!

  • This is mind blowing.

  • Very well written and very interesting article. I have a question though.

    Would using something like OCR work a little better for screen reading? I’m assuming (Don’t actually know) that the reader is grabbing the window handles of the active windows and re-routing the standard input and output. Could OCR fill in the gaps left by apps that cannot be read or manipulated?

  • The thing that would be worst for me would be the inability to write down thoughts into little diagrams and sketches. Maybe being blind helps your short term memory and helps you visualize abstract concepts better? In any case I think that’s one of the things that would make it very hard for me to code, I just love my trusty pen and pencil too much.

  • This is fascinating. Thanks for sharing!

  • I helped on a project a few years ago called [brails](https://github.com/techvision/brails) that aimed at teaching blind students how to code in rails

  • Dang that’s cool. I do accessibility QA (not because I require it) and being able to develop with a screen reader has always been impressive to me. One of the guys I’ve worked with is blind and he was on the team that wrote JAWS. All super interesting stuff.

  • And that was answers to several questions I’ve sometimes pondered. Interesting. Thank you!

  • I bet he hates wasting his time on a line that only has an opening or closing curly brace.

  • I’d love to know what kind of key switches he prefers and what mech keyboard he uses.

  • How do you really know he’s blind? The blog is near the horizontal center of the screen, but not actually centered.

  • I’d love to try working with my eyes closed for a while, but the screen readers I found are abysmal. Orca is nearly halfway usable on Linux, but unusable on my favorite distro. Tried using it to read a text file in vim. God I love my eyes.

  • I played the clips and it summoned a baphomet from the depths of hell. BRB goat want something…

  • His power rating is OVA 9000!!!?

  • > (I am looking at you, Gerrit.)

    I hear you

  • My stackoverflow-dwelling programmer self is humbled.

  • > I can perceive sunlight and some other really bright lights but that’s about it.

    Atleast he could observe the eclipse without glasses

  • This is a fine article and all but I’m just giggly at the thought of what the speech synthetizer sounds like if his program does some sort of infinite recursion and prints something.

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  • Daredev – the Dev of Helsinki.

    (yes, I know he’s in Tampere – artistic license)

  • Is it true that when people go blind or were born that way, that their other senses like hearing seem to become better than those of a normal person?

  • Oh hell yeah! I had a colleague who is blind, too. He is damn good at his job, taught me a bunch of things and never was hesitant about making jokes involving blind people.

    He did have a screen, though – if a colleague is coming over for questions or help, it can help to look at the screen.

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