At age 25, Bryan Duarte never thought he’d be at home raising six-month-old twin sons and two daughters, two and nine, using all his senses except sight. He looks after preparation of meals, naps, diaper changes and playtime – all while working on his passion of accessibility for the vision impaired.
Accessibility is a new interest for Bryan, because he hasn’t been sightless his entire life. At 18, he was blinded in an ATV accident in Arizona. While riding with a friend on the back of the vehicle one night, he came upon an unmarked culvert that literally caused a head-on collision.
“Luckily, my head was there to break the fall,” he jokes. His friend walked away with only scratches and bruises, but Bryan suffered many injuries including a broken kneecap, shattered foot, wounds to his arms, and most detrimental, a cracked skull.
“I had a ridiculous amount of stitches in my head and went completely blind in both eyes, but by God’s grace, I left the hospital in 16 days, which was really good because they didn’t think I was going to leave.”
Over the next months, after suffering through physical rehabilitation, Bryan became frustrated, angry and depressed and realized he had to do something. “I got in touch with Vocational Rehabilitation and went through training that taught me how to walk with a cane and do household things, and then I enrolled at Central Arizona Community College. I didn’t really think about the fact that 90 percent of college is reading, and I had no idea how I was going to get my textbooks.”
“There needs to be more tools like programming languages that will make the blind more employable in the computer and technology fields."
Thankfully, a friend introduced him to RFB&D’s audiobooks. “I was blown away!” he says. “The part that got me was how easy to use they are. Being able to jump by page, to put in bookmarks and reference back to them, use the table of contents, get to the glossary. . .They describe the pictures and diagram, and when there is a word you might not be able to spell, they spell it for you! It is amazing, honestly!”
Bryan goes on to explain how having that much navigation is critical during open-book tests and quizzes. “As a sighted person, I would just skim-read, but for a blind person, you can’t skim read even if you read Braille, so being able to reference back to things with bookmarks and have that form of a textbook is crucial.”
Today, Bryan is thriving in his passion for accessible technology for the blind. He is writing a blog called Accessibility Insights, helping out at Arizona State University’s Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing and working on a grant application to raise money to create a microprocessor that will give the blind the independence to do programming.
“There needs to be more tools, like programming languages, and things that will make the blind more employable in the computer and technology fields. I’m dedicated to making things more accessible.”
Recently in his blog, Bryan wrote a helpful how-to piece about the new ReadHear software, which he uses on his Mac. He also uses a Victor Reader Stream to listen to RFB&D books. Lately, he’s been reading books on HTML coding, the stock market and on how to self-patent – all in his effort to work in the technology field in the future.
Bryan is also very active in martial arts, beep baseball and, of course, helping his wife raise their four children. Since his accident, he has journeyed to Colorado Center for the Blind, Metropolitan State College of Denver and he’s earned a Colorado State Scholarship through the National Federation of the Blind. Eventually, he wants to complete his college degree.
“With college, you can do anything; you learn, you grow, you develop, you gain independence. You see that you can be successful in things. And without RFB&D. . .well, that’s almost impossible. It's the place to support because their volunteers do great work. I don’t know if there is another word for it but amazing! Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart and I love you. It’s a true blessing what you do for your members.”