Shining a Light Into a Dark World

By Gemma Handy

READING a newspaper or sitting down with a good book is something most of us take for granted.

But for 22-year-old Stephen Stubbs it’s a skill that required much dedication and mastery of a host of hi-tech equipment.

Born totally blind, Stephen demonstrated an aptitude for the cutting edge computer software which has revolutionised his life and stunned his teachers in the process.

Now Stephen, from Providenciales, hopes to put his new-found skills to the test to fulfil his lifelong dream of becoming a DJ.

The former SNAP centre student, currently living in Canada where he attended W. Ross Macdonald School for the Blind, returned home last week for several days of intensive training in the pioneering technology.

It included instruction in JAWS (job access with speech), a screen reader for visually impaired users, and the Kurzweil system which comprises state-of-the-art reading technology.

It enables scanned-in text to be read aloud to Stephen which, as tutor Michelle Alway says, has opened up a whole new world for him.

“This is comparable to giving a wheelchair to someone who can’t walk,” she told the Weekly News.

“It has given him independence. Stephen is a fantastic student who is so willing to learn and put the required effort into it.”

Stephen attended the Ontario-based school for the blind thanks to assistance from special needs charity, One World Foundation.

During his two and a half years there he learned an abundance of life skills which enable him to live almost entirely independently.

“Going to school in Canada was the greatest experience I ever had,” he said.

“I had never been outside the country before I went there so I was excited about that.”

Stephen, who said one of the biggest initial challenges was adjusting to the cold weather, even embarked on a wrestling programme often fighting against sighted opponents.

When he first embarked on IT tuition with Michelle in October 2007, he had never touched a keyboard.

Remarkably, he was computer literate within months.

Stephen is now looking forward to returning home where he has already secured a four-day a week volunteer position with Radio Turks & Caicos.

“I’m excited about the job, I love DJ-ing and hopefully this will help me in the long-run,” he said.

“It’s always been my dream, ever since I was a boy, to become a DJ so I want to fulfil that destiny.”

He said the computer equipment and software, which is so advanced he can create his own radio shows, had changed his life.

In addition to allowing him to ‘read’, he can also email and use it to play all his favourite music.

Last week’s special training was a joint initiative between One World Foundation, Providenciales Rotary Club, the TCI Government and Beaches Resort & Spa which provided accommodation for Stephen and Michelle.

Kenneth Barnes, from the Department of Social Development, said the scheme was a “step in the right direction”.

“This just shows how people with disabilities can be independent with the right training and resources.

“We are looking at how we can help people with similar disabilities to become as independent as Stephen.

“I would really thank Beaches for providing the accommodation, Rotary for the technical support and One World Foundation for always being there for people with disabilities.”

Mr Barnes said he hoped to encourage people from the private sector to come on board too.

“We hope other corporate entities can extend that benevolence,” he added.

Anyone interested in helping out is asked to call Kenneth Barnes in Providenciales on 946 4016 or Earl Fulford in Grand Turk on 946 2682.

Reproduced from http://www.tcweeklynews.com/default.asp?sourceid=&smenu=85&twindow=Default&mad=No&sdetail=1526&wpage=&skeyword=&sidate=&ccat=&ccatm=&restate=&restatus=&reoption=&retype=&repmin=&repmax=&rebed=&rebath=&subname=&pform=&sc=2404&hn=tcweeklynews&he=.com