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How Do Blind People Use SQL Server?



I can just see people skimming that and doing a knee-jerk reaction, “What a cruel and mean title! You should be ashamed of yourself for even discussing such a topic! You should be blacklisted and publicly shamed immediately on social media!”

Bring it.

There was a point at some time in the past where I didn’t know anything about SQL Server. Nada. Zero. At that moment it could be said that I was blind. A metaphor for not being able to see things directly or to not understand how things work.

In this post I am going to explore the issue of how do people who really are legally blind use technologies, me as a sighted person and what is my virtual reality (VR) interest in it, and why people should be hired for their brains and not their perceived limitations.

Consider this: what if I told you there was a group of people who are intelligent, hard-working, have incredible memories but they were being discriminated against in the workplace? And this group had 80% unemployment? You would think if that is true then where is the public outcry?

Back in January 2015, I had the chance to see Mike Hess of the Blind Institute of Technology in Denver Colorado give a presentation that I will never forget. Here is a short promotional video which was made for that event:

With the blinders on you do get some increase in the sensitivity of your other senses and I imagine with practice it can become much more fine-tuned.Blinder

When I talked to Mike after the presentation he was passionate about placing people into meaningful employment. We chatted about databases and how with screen-reader technologies like JAWS visually impaired people can do almost anything with a computer. It just takes workplace accommodations and the leadership to give people a chance.

A few months ago Microsoft published a story about their partnership to explore their 3D soundscape technology for people with vision loss: Independence Day

SQL Server is a 100% visual environment. There is no audio component outside of system beeps. In a video game the audio is a huge part of the experience but most people don’t think of it that way. It is only when there is no sound that it becomes obvious something important is missing.

After recently listening to the Rev VR Podcast (Ep.101): Delivering VR Video Content I thought about the recent advances in sound for VR and they mentioned using blinders and a VR headset to help test audio in an environment. I followed my hunch and did a little bit more digging on this idea and came across this video: Virtual Reality for the blind – Lorenzo Picinali

It has been mentioned on Twitch that Unreal Engine 4.8 will include the Oculus Audio SDK. Why is this exciting? 3D spatial audio will provide a much more realistic sound experience. See binaural recording or HRTF

With the addition of sound cues, markers, ambient sounds, leitmotifs, and voice, we can now build VR environments with audio that can track with our head movements and appear to be emanating from what we are directly looking at. One of my new goals as a result of all of this is to incorporate 3D soundscapes as part of a VR experience. I believe that if you can navigate a virtual architecture just by using sound alone one will be able to better remember where things are located.

Audio focuses the attention in a different way than visual does. For example, at times I like to listen to #Pluralsight SQL courses on my commute via their mobile app. I am not watching my phone but I am listening to the audio component of the course. It is another way to help one learn the material besides just sitting in front of a computer at a desk.

How can blind people use SQL Server? With sound. I hope this post gets people thinking about how sound can be intelligently used especially as it pertains to VR.


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