BLIND AM­BI­TION

There’s no stop­ping en­tre­pre­neur Jamie Teh. He and a friend, also vis­ually im­paired, joined forces to fa­cil­i­tate com­put­ing for the blind

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - ORDINARY PEOPLE - AMANDA WATT

The doc­tors didn’t pick it up for quite a while but Mum knew in­stinc­tively there was some­thing wrong with my vi­sion and pushed for tests

My wife Jennifer and I have two kids: Joshua, who’s 4, and Leo, 16 months.

Be­ing blind makes some ar­eas of par­ent­ing more chal­leng­ing. It is much harder, for ex­am­ple, for me to take the kids to the park by my­self. Learn­ing to bathe a baby was also a nerve-rack­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. But in most cases, it’s just a mat­ter of com­ing up with a dif­fer­ent way of do­ing things.

I look af­ter the boys solo when Jen’s busy or at work, and if you were to think of any ridicu­lous fa­ther-son game, I’ve prob­a­bly done it: Josh’s favourite pas­time with me is be­ing picked up and spun around, or dangled by his feet or car­ried around in a wash­ing bas­ket. I know our house so well that play­ing chase with them down the hall­way and in and out of bed­rooms is also not an is­sue.

I’m one of four kids. I was born with cancer in both reti­nas. The doc­tors didn’t pick it up for quite a while but Mum knew in­stinc­tively there was some­thing wrong with my vi­sion and kept push­ing for tests un­til the cancer was di­ag­nosed when I was four-and-a-half months old.

It was so ad­vanced that both eyes had to be re­moved. That was a big shock to my par­ents but they just got on with it. They raised me with this at­ti­tude of: ‘You are go­ing to learn to do things; we aren’t go­ing to do every­thing for you’, which has made a mas­sive dif­fer­ence to my life.

I went to As­p­ley State School and then high school at Nudgee Col­lege be­fore com­plet­ing an IT de­gree at Queens­land Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy. I got a good job with a soft­ware com­pany af­ter I grad­u­ated in 2005. Around the same time I was help­ing my long­time friend Michael Cur­ran, who is also vi­sion-im­paired, write a piece of screen-read­ing soft­ware.

Screen-read­ing soft­ware takes what’s on your com­puter screen and trans­lates it into syn­thetic speech so that a blind user can hear what is in front of them, which gives us in­cred­i­ble in­de­pen­dence.

At that time there were a few screen­read­ers on the mar­ket but they were ex­pen­sive, whereas we wanted to come up with a prod­uct that was free to use.

Ten years on, our prod­uct NVDA (NonVisual Desk­top Ac­cess) is used by around 80,000 peo­ple in 150 coun­tries and has been trans­lated into 60 lan­guages.

Mick and I work on it full-time as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tors. Be­cause it’s free to use, our fund­ing comes from a com­bi­na­tion of grants, do­na­tions and con­tracts with com­pa­nies like Google and Adobe.

When money gets tight – and there have been some tough times – I some­times think about mov­ing on, but we also feel a mas­sive re­spon­si­bil­ity to keep go­ing with it be­cause we know 80,000 peo­ple are de­pend­ing on our soft­ware every day.

Jen, 32, and I met 11 years ago at a party. We just clicked in­stan­ta­neously. She’s a mu­sic teacher and has her own suc­cess­ful busi­ness teach­ing mu­sic classes to chil­dren and their par­ents.

She’s phe­nom­e­nal. I’m a lucky man.

Jamie Teh, at home in Bris­bane’s north­west, has helped de­velop speech recog­ni­tion soft­ware for the vi­sion-im­paired.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.