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Article Title: Nishiyachi Critiques New Bridge WebsiteEdition: June 2001
Category: General Interest
Author: Nat Frothingham
Capital city resident Etsuro Nishiyachi was one of the first people in Montpelier to test out the new website of The Montpelier Bridge. Nishiyachi, who is blind, is a Japanese native with much more than a passing interest in modern technology.
Nishiyachi had a quick reaction to the page one story featured on the new website from the recent May issue of The Bridge. This is a story about the popularity of cell phones at Montpelier High School.
Yes, Nishiyachi agreed, cell phones are a hot item at Montpelier High School. But, he pointed out, they're a much hotter item in Japan where half of all adults and 80 to 90 percent of high school and college students own and use cell phones.
Nishiyachi was surprised, even perhaps offended, about talk of a flap at the high school over student cell phone use. He had a single commonsense comment to offer about problems related to student cell phone use, "Turn them off during classes," he said. After they're turned off, he said, there would be no problems, no surprises.
On the afternoon of our visit, Nishiyachi appeared at the front door of the house on Spring Hollow Lane in Montpelier that he shares with his wife, Suzanne, and called out a friendly greeting. It was already late on a Friday afternoon when I arrived and for Nishiyachi, clearly, the weekend had begun. A well-built, handsome man in his mid-40's, Nishiyachi was wearing an old sport shirt and a pair of shorts and we talked and laughed in the downstairs living room before going upstairs to his home office.
It was almost twenty years ago as a 24-year old college student in Japan, that Nishiyachi became blind when a car that was being driven by a friend crashed into a guardrail during a heavy rainstorm.
Today Nishiyachi is a rehab teacher and low vision therapist for the Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired and he works out of the Association's Montpelier branch office.
Home VisitsDuring four out of the the five days of the working week Nishiyachi and a driver go out on the road and pay home visits to clients all across central Vermont and the Northeast Kingdom. These home visits take him to where his clients live: in upscale houses, small efficiency apartments, nursing homes, trailers, sometime to an old Vermont farmhouse at the end of a dirt road.
On a typical morning Nishiyachi and his driver can be seen leaving the Montpelier office carrying a heavy bag loaded with everything he needs for these visits: from eyeglasses, lenses, magnifying glasses, right down to the tube of bright pink, quick-drying plastic that forms a helpful bump on a light switch, or on the buttons of an electric range, or on the control panel of a space heater.
During these home visits, Nishiyachi often works with clients from the other side of a kitchen table or at a bedside. He is always listening, evaluating, asking questions, offering a pair of eyeglasses or a magnifying glass, trying one thing, then another, something else, until he finds a match that is right, that will give his client improved sight or greater ease in coping with reduced vision.
Many of his clients are older Vermonters, often older women, who are suffering from macular degeneration, an age-related deterioration of the central portion of the retina, as well as diabetes, cataracts, glaucoma, and a host of other vision problems that can lead to diminished sight, sometimes to blindness.
Teaching by ExampleBecause he is blind himself, Nishiyachi offers a powerful example of someone who has faced and overcome adversity. In his field, he has won a deserved reputation for his quiet, patient, ever cheerful and optimistic, professional manner. Many of his clients are struggling to come to terms with the physical fact of diminished sight, sometimes blindness. Many are contending with the psychological trauma of feeling unjustly visited by disability, of having to face and accept a life setback they never imagined would be their lot.
In recent years there have been impressive advances in modern technology to assist people who are blind or have diminished sight .Today there are reading machines that look like TV sets that can take a line of ordinary printed type and enlarge that line of words by a factor of twenty to sixty times its original size.
Hardware & SoftwareUp at his home office, Nishiyachi discussed the machines and software programs that are giving him increased control of the printed word. These machines and software programs have been supplied to him by the Vermont Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired (D.B.V.I.) as devices that make him more effective in his work.
Using the JAWS (Job Access Wordprocessing System) Nishiyachi was able to gain access to the new website of The Bridge at (www.mpbridge.com).
A touch typist, as Nishiyachi tapped out the required commands on his keyboard a voice from his computer confirmed to him what actions he had taken. In a matter of seconds, Nishiyachi had booted up his computer. He tapped on the keyboard again and presto, up came The Bridge website. He tapped once more and the JAWS speech program read out a story from a recent issue of The Bridge.
Nishiyachi can read braille and D.B.V.I. has supplied him with a system called "Refresh-able Braille." If he wants to read Braille he can run the pads of his fingers across a flat display strip at the base of his keyboard. As the program reads the text a number of little plastic pins go up and down. These pins are producing Braille and Nishiyachi can follow the text as it proceeds at 100 words per minute.
Nishiyachi has a scanner in his home office that is linked to a software program called "Open Book." He can place a page of print onto the scanner and using Open Book software he can listen to a voice from the computer read the text of the printed page aloud to him.
New Bridge WebsiteNishiyachi gave high marks to the new Bridge website. He said it is better than some other websites that contain complicated graphic displays. These graphic displays are not very accessible to speech programs.
About the new Bridge website, he said, "It's very friendly, very easy to get into and get around in. Everything is straightforward." All of which is good news for The Bridge and good news for anyone who has low vision or who is blind and who wants to have the paper read to them instead of struggling with ink on newsprint or having to find someone else to read the paper to them.
Nat Frothingham drew some of his observations in the story from having served as Mr. Nishiyachi's driver and aide for about two years.
For a related story about Nishiyachi's accident, please follow this link Etsuro Nishiyachi His Accident and the Aftermath
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