7 Life-Changing Inventions by Blind Inventors
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” - Helen Keller
Despite being unable to see, these 7 inspiring inventors surely did not let their disability stop them from making a difference in various fields. What they lacked in sight, they surely made up for in their ability to "look" ahead and find solutions to many common problems in technology and education.
Next time, when you feel down and uninspired, think of these seven (7) people who did not let their personal struggles get in their way of succeeding and making a change.
1. Dr. James Gale
Invention: Dr. Gale invented a unique way of mixing and storing gunpowder which would have made it very effective in warfare. His system also lessened the dangers of transporting and storing gunpowder.
Although Dr. James Gale's inventions benefited the arms trade, his efforts to revolutionize how gunpowder was manufactured and stored would have helped in the success of many gunfights and wars fought by his home country. Dr. James Gale lived in Devon, England during Queen Victoria's reign, a time when minor skirmishes over colonial lands were being fought and effective weaponry was an important commodity.
According to historians, Dr. James Gale proposed a very intelligent and a seemingly effective manner in storing gunpowder to the heads of state of England, the USA, and several other countries; however, his proposals were never adopted. Still, Dr. James Gale achieved celebrity status for his unique idea and the fact that a blind man had devised them!
2. William Moon
Invention: William Moon invented a unique reading system for the blind which was based on Roman capitals. The invention, which was named after him, the Moon System of Embossed Reading, is still widely used today.
The Moon System is considered to be one of the easiest and most popular reading systems for the blind but its popularity was only eclipsed by the widespread use of the Braille System. The Moon System is still widely used today; however, it is commonly taught to visually-impaired learners who find it difficult to understand the Braille System.
The Moon type reading system was developed by Dr. William Moon who lost his own eyesight at the age of 21 years old due to Scarlet Fever. Prior to developing the Moon type reading system, Dr. Moon worked as a reading teacher for blind children, but noticed that those unfamiliar with the alphabet could not easily understand how to read embossed alphabet letters. As a result of his experiences, he designed a new embossed reading system based on shapes and lines.
Today, the Moon type is used to teach blind learners who lost their eyesight at a later age since it is much easier to understand and memorize, as well as blind students with learning difficulties.
3. Louise Braille
Invention: Louise Braille invented the popular reading system for the blind known as the Braille System.
You've probably heard of the Braille System before, but not so much about its blind inventor, Frenchman Louise Braille. Like Dr. William Moon, Louise Braille was not born blind and only lost his eyesight after an accident with a stitching awl as a child. Still, the accident which changed Louise Braille's life did not stop him from learning and helping others with the same plight as him live better lives.
In 1824, the 15-year old Louise Braille devised a more simplified manner of embossed reading... and writing. Instead of shapes and curves, Braille's reading system utilized dots or cells which turned out to be more efficient and easier to 'read' with the touch of a finger.
Ironically, Louise Braille made his first Braille patterns using a stitching awl, the same tool that blinded him as a child!
4. Ralph Teetor
Invention: Ralph Teetor invented a common automotive feature known as cruise control.
If you drive a modern vehicle with an automatic steering option, chances are, you've also used speed control or the cruise control feature of your vehicle once in a while. Most vehicles today are configured to maintain an average speed automatically in order to save fuel and make driving a more convenient and safer experience.
Cruise control, as this feature is commonly known, was invented as a solution to a very common inconvenience which Ralph Teetor hated: irregular speeds. His own lawyer was guilty of slowing down and speeding up as he talked; this annoyed Teetor but later gave him the idea of designing an automative function that would maintain speeds in cars. The result is the automatic speed control feature found in most cars today.
Cruise control was first installed in the 1958 on several Chrysler models, but by 1960, it was a common feature in all Cadillacs.
5. Mohannad Jibreel Abudayyah
Invention: He has more than 20 patents and inventions to his name but his most popular creation to date is a submarine that can go 5,625 meters below sea level.
Mohannad Jibreel Abudayyah is one of Saudi Arabia's most prolific engineers and has at least 22 registered creations to-date, but one of Mohannad's greatest inventions yet would be a submarine that can go 5,265 meters below sea level. Mohannad dubbed this deep sea-diving vehicle as the 'Arabian Falcon' and dedicated it as a gift to King Abdullah.
Today, Mohannad Jibreel Abudayyah delivers lectures to young aspiring inventors like himself and through his work, has continued to inspire other young men and women in Saudi Arabia to further their studies and pursue science further.
6. James The and Michael Curran
Invention: The and Curran invented a useful voice-to-speech system known as NVDA or NonVisual Desktop Access which "reads" text on a computer screen dependent on mouse movement.
Both James The and Michael Curran suffer from visual impairment to a certain degree, but you would be surprised to know that these two gentlemen still managed to create a voice-to-speech program that aims to assist blind computer users with their day-to-day computer usage. NVDA or the NonVisual Desktop Access program has been considered a technological breakthrough for the blind by many outlets, and the best part about this program is that, it's free.
Basically, NVDA "reads" whatever your mouse touches on your computer screen. If you hovered your mouse over the start menu, the program will tell you that you are now touching the 'Start' button.
The audio instructions of the NVDA have helped blind computer users use computers to independently and to their full extent. In fact, around 1.5 computer power-users, or computer users who are online for more than 8 hours per day, today are actually visually impaired.
Want to give NVDA a test drive? You can download a full version of this program on SourceForge, the world's largest freeware sharing website.
Unlike other speech readers that require customized computer gears in order to function properly, NVDA is an independent program that does not require any specific hardware to function. That means, you can use NVDA with a regular QWERTY-keyboard and even an ergonomic keyboard and it should work just as fine.
7. Sam Genensky
Invention: Sam Genensky created a device that magnifies and projects texts on video screens.
Sam Genensky was not born blind; however, an accident at the hospital where he was born left him blind in one eye and with very weak vision in another. Still, his visual impairment did not stop him from designing a camera that would magnify figures or texts onto a screen. Growing up, Sam Genensky had to use his father's WWI binoculars to see texts on the board and read his textbooks, but his father's old binoculars were not enough to help him in his work. With a little assistance from various companies and his own workplace, Sam Genensky and a co-worker, Paul Baran, designed a camera which would project and magnify anything it was focused on to help blind users.
This contraption, which was famously dubbed by the media as "Sam Genensky's Marvelous Seeing Machine" has helped nearly-blind individuals see figures and texts much better and have also assisted nearly-blind scientists and engineers, like Dr. Genensky, with their work.
If there are any values we can learn from these 7 inspiring individuals, they would be perseverance and patience. No matter how life seems to make things harder for us, giving up should never be an option.
Now, it's your turn to share your story: who is the most inspiring person you know and why?