Blind Chinese man has written software to help visually impaired people enjoy the internet

Like Beethoven, who wrote some of his best compositions after becoming deaf, a young blind man has become a top programmer in China after learning how to code by ear.

Cai Yongbin, who lost his sight at the age of six due to an accident, had to memorise tens of thousands of coding combinations after having them read out loud to him.

Mr Cai wanted to become a programmer because he had found it hard for him to use the internet. He had hoped to develop software that could let him enjoy modern technology freely.

Today, after spending a decade surfing the internet and coding, Mr Cai, 29, has become a guiding light for more than 12 million visually challenged people in China.

The determined man has created a software programme, called PC Secretary, to enable blind people to use social media, read news and play online games.

Mr Cai comes from Dongguan, south China’s Guangdong Province.

Like many boys, when Mr Cai was little, he was naughty. His fate was forever changed one day when he was six.

His home was being renovated at the time and he played with the cement kept in the house. Tragically, part of the cement fell into little Cai’s eyes, causing them to be burnt.

The accident left little Cai totally blind.

At the age of 17, he quit school because he had to undergo a major surgical operation. That was also when teenage Cai’s aspiration in coding began.

There were screen-reading software programmes for blind people in China, but their functions were basic.

He told MailOnline: ‘It was so difficult for me to read news or play games online at that time. There were few resources to help blind people use the internet.

‘So I thought: “I want to change my life. I want to learn coding.”‘

After he left hospital, he found a teacher to teach him C programming language. He was immediately intrigued.

Mr Cai gave it all. He spent at least 12 hours a day studying, seven days a week.

Because he couldn’t see the computer screen, he had to memorise the coding combinations after asking the teacher to read them out repeatedly.

There was one time, Mr Cai had to memorise more than 300 lines of combinations in one go, which contained nearly 10,000 letters.

Mr Cai started developing his first software, PC Secretary, seven years ago.

At first, he built it for personal use. But after he started sharing it among his friends, who are also visually impaired, the programme instantly became popular.

‘People would come to me and ask if I could make the software do certain things. So I kept upgrading the software.’

Initially, the programme was simple. There were a speaking clock, automatic rubbish-removing system and a timer.

However, after Mr Cai updated it for some 400 times over the years, the programme can now enable blind people access most of the functions of the internet, including social media and multi-player games.

In April, Mr Cai launched Andriod Secretary, the Android version of PC Secretary.

The man currently works at the Information Accessibility Research Association in Shenzhen, China.

Apart from his own programmes, he also helps major Chinese internet-related companies, such as Alibaba, improve their existing software for the blind users.

He said that being a blind programmer, he was able to identify the market demand that other programmers couldn’t.

‘Other programmers have told me that they would never be able to find the bugs I’ve found or design the functions I’ve designed, because they didn’t know visually-challenged people found them to be issues.’

Mr Cai told MailOnline that he wanted blind and partially blind people to be able to enjoy the fun of the digital world.

Source: Daily Mail, 29 June 2017

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