Congratulations Raman, a really awesome achievement.
In late 1997, my life was turned upside down after I woke up in the hospital to find I had lost my sight. At the time, I had just completed the 2nd year of my Phd in comp sci. Life had been pretty darn good. I had discovered something I really enjoyed (programming) and found I was also reasonably competent at it. Overnight, everything changed and the future seemed very bleak.
One of the many frustrating aspects of sudden blindness is that you need to re-learn all your life skills - how to dress, how to get about, how to cook, how to handle money, how to clean etc. At the same time, you also have long hours of being able to do almost nothing except sit and wait and try not to be overwhelmed with self pity.
The thing which stopped me from totally going off the deep end was that thanks to emacspeak, I was able to occupy many hours learning how to use my Linux system again. I had never been a Windows user and the thought of trying to learn both Windows and something like Jaws was too much to stomach. I wanted to get back into the system I knew and enjoyed. Emacspeak allowed me to do this. It wasn't easy as I'd never used emacs. The combination of learning emacs and emacspeak without sight was at times very frustrating. I sent numerous messages to the list with crazy newbie questions and was often very confused. The list responded and patiently pushed me in the right direction.
I ended up giving up my Phd. This was partially because I found many other aspects of accessibility, such as access to academic papers in an accessible format, too difficult and partially because it took long enough for me to get back up to speed that my research topic became outdated and I would have needed to start from scratch. However, I was able to get a job as a programmer fairly quickly, all thanks to emacspeak. I've continued to be lucky enough to have constant employment since - all of it in the technology sphere, much of it as a programmer and until recently, all of it on Linux.
So thank you Raman for the excellent contribution you have made and the creation of what is till a unique audio desktop. Without emacspeak I would have undoubtedly found another career path, but it would most likely have involved less palatable technologies and greater compromise.
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