Mar 31, 2016
Radio Talking Book can be found at www.MNSSB.org/rtb and the password is rtb.
Berkeley scientist designs tools for the visually impaired
By Berenice Freedome • Mar 2, 2016
Dr. Joshua Miele's morning commute to Smith-Kettlewell Eye
Research Institute takes about an hour—as long as no one gets in
the way. In fact, most people move out of his way when they see him
coming, because Miele is blind.
He’s one of about 140,000 blind and visually impaired people in the Bay Area. Less than three quarters of those people are employed, and only a few work in tech, like Dr. Miele.
His office in Pacific Heights is full of tactile art, project binders, awards, and audio equipment. On a round meeting table, magnetic building toys sit in a cluster—just something to fiddle with on long calls. This is where Miele does the work he’s uniquely suited to do, designing accessible technologies for the blind.
“If you want to design a good boat,” he says, “you don’t ask somebody who doesn’t know the first thing about sailing. Blind people must be integral to the design process, not just as users that do the testing at the end, but as designers and engineers who do the thinking at the very beginning.”
Miele says most developers don’t even think about accessibility until it’s too late, because so few are trained in universal design. That’s a design principle that says, ‘find a single solution that will consider the broadest possible spectrum of human ability.’ It’s something Miele strives for every time he takes something on, though he mainly focuses on visual impairment.
“I want to build cool stuff for blind people that gives them the ability to do the things that they want to do, and I feel incredibly lucky that I'm given that privilege and opportunity.”