Edwin Khoo, 43, surprises friends with the speed at which he types on his phone.
The reason? He's been blind since birth. "When I correspond with friends, sometimes they ask me, 'eh Edwin why you type so fast ah?'" shares Edwin Khoo, 43. "It's because of the braille input in the phone. Sometimes I can reply even faster than sighted people."
Edwin, a braille transcriber, cannot perceive any light or colour and his world is enveloped in darkness. So since young, he has honed his sense of hearing, and picked up braille and the use of text-to-speech technology. For him, the game-changer was having braille input on a touchscreen phone. "10 years ago, who would have thought a blind person can use a phone without physical buttons? But this touchscreen mimics a braille keyboard and translates my input into words that you can read," Edwin shares.
The phone also reads out emojis and text in other languages. In this way, Edwin is able to stay connected through social media platforms like Facebook, scrolling through his newsfeed and commenting just like any of us.
Prior to such technology, Edwin and other visually impaired people had to pay additional costs for a third party software that enabled speech output in mobile phones of older models. "True inclusiveness is when I can use a phone just like anyone else, without paying extra."
Global Positioning System (GPS) and other transport mobile applications that help Edwin pinpoint his exact whereabouts have also allowed him to travel confidently, not just within Singapore, but also to other countries like Hong Kong.
"It was an unfamiliar environment, but I could confidently get off at the right bus stop. It gave me a sense of independence," says Edwin of his trip to the bustling city.