Raghava's Blog

Can’t see, can hack Bangalore Mirror

The E-paper article has got many spelling mistakes and is not widely accessible, so i decided to post it here for all those who use screen reader’s and other assistive aids to access the web

Got Highlighted in Bangalore Mirror

Can’t see, can hack

Raghavendra suffers from a degenerative eye disease, but it hasn’t stopped him from doing things he wants to, or drawing up a bucket list that includes paragliding and hitchhiking around the country
Kalyan Subramani bmfee[email protected]

He is 25, stubborn and brimming with life. A self-confessed hacker and entrepreneur, Raghavendra Satish Peri has every reason to complain about life. But then he hasn’t the time. He not only stands tall in a room filled with over 700 hackers at the Yahoo! Open Hack 2012 summit, but also stands out –Raghav, as he is known, is almost blind.

Raghav, an employee of IBM, is learning some of the coding languages and is hoping to find a partner (or partners) at the Yahoo! Hacking event with whom he can work with to develop special apps. “The biggest challenge for a visually-impaired person is networking,” Raghav says.

But Raghav thrives on challenges. He suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic and degenerative eye disease, which turns victim blind. He began losing his sight 10 years ago, but with certain ayurvedic treatments, Raghav has managed to slow the process. Doctors, however, say he would be fully blind in about a year.

Although from Hyderabad, Raghav resides in Bangalore. He has been with IBM for the last three years, working as an accessibility compliance specialist. His work involves ensuring websites achieve certain accessibility challenges, so that users with visual or hearing impairment scan access the information.

“There are several tools today to enable this. From palm-sized Braille embossers that allow blind people to read what is on the screen to voice-activated websites, the options are innumerable now,” Raghav says.
But awareness about these products is low and normal people rarely realize the challenges which people like Raghav face.

“I went into depression a few months back, but kicked myself out of it. Now I can say it’s an experiential learning process. You have to keep learning every aspect of your life.”

Does he miss normal life? “Define normal for me please,” he shoots back. “I do everything I want to do. A person with normal sight takes eight minutes to get breakfast (he eats at a restaurant). I take 29 minutes and 52 seconds. I used to take 34 minutes six months back. I have timed myself.”

His disability hardly slows him down. He confidently texts messages on his mobile phone and proudly demonstrates this skill. He also has his own network called Cause Link Media, where volunteers help charitable institutions build their own website for free.

“I have a list of 101 things I want to do before I die. From paragliding to hitchhiking around India on my own, I want to do it all. I also want to go on a world tour with my wife. But then I need to get a girlfriend first.”

Raghav (right) says despite his disability he gets his breakfast from a restaurant in 29.52 minutes, quicker than he did six months back.

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