Can a blind man be a programmer

Dresden. Jan Blüher's fingers quickly slide over the display with hundreds of tiny dots. Character by character, Braille shows the blind what is written on the screen of his computer. “I can read e-mails, Internet pages and of course program,” says Blüher. The 37-year-old has been spending a lot of time on the computer since he started his own program as a programmer with his company "visorApps" in Dresden three years ago. His specialty: apps for the blind and visually impaired.

His blindness - often a hindrance in everyday life - helps him develop special programs for smartphones and tablet PCs. “Because I know what is important when it comes to accessibility in the digital world,” says Blüher. “I am perceived as an expert.” The computer scientist with a doctorate in computer science came up with the idea after he bought his first tablet. "I was absolutely thrilled that you had access to so many media at once and wanted to develop that further."

His latest app: a free program with which the blind and visually impaired can use the online offer of the library for the blind via mobile phone and tablet. Braille books and audio books can be ordered with it, the pages scoured for new publications - all with the help of voice control. The development took about half a year. Audiobooks in particular are popular with many blind people. “I like to listen to books a lot,” says Blüher. However, the father of three does not have much time for this.

As a child, Blüher was severely nearsighted, and as a ten-year-old he became blind in one eye after the retina came loose. Ten years later, Blüher had just started his studies, it hit the second eye. Thanks to computer keyboards for the blind and other technical possibilities, Blüher was able to finish his studies.

Blüher has also already developed a type of color scanner app. The “Colorvisor” program reads the color values, compares them with a database and communicates the result to the user via voice output. The mobile phone thus serves as an eye that recognizes the color of the flowers or whether the shirt matches the trousers. This is especially helpful for blind people who have lost their sight due to illness and who know colors. “Apps can change the way we interact with the world even more than they can with sighted people,” Blüher is convinced.

Much has happened for the blind in the digital world in recent years. There are, for example, mobile navigation devices or programs that read timetables or show nearby stops. "This gives us the opportunity to call up information relatively quickly and with little effort," says Angela Fischer, state chairwoman of the Saxony Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Nevertheless, she sees a need to catch up: Many websites or apps are still not suitable for the blind.

According to the association, there are currently around 30,000 blind or visually impaired people in Saxony. "And the number of unreported cases of visually impaired people is much higher," said Fischer. (dpa)