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Transcription training writes new futures for the blind

CNA--Wearing a big black headphone, Lin Shu-chi adjusted herself to a comfortable position and started to type swiftly what she was listening to, word by word, sentence by sentence.

One may find it difficult to believe that Lin, 38, is blind, especially after seeing her use the computer so skillfully.

Starting from booting her laptop computer to opening files and starting transcription, Lin does not need any help but starts and finishes the whole task completely on her own.

The software which reads the screen can allow Lin to listen to every move or click she makes, and to use the computer like people who can see.

“Thanks to advanced technologies, visually impaired people can use the computer to browse the Internet, search information and what's more, dictate and transcribe for a living,” she told CNA in an interview.

Reversing the stereotype that visually impaired people can make money only by working as masseurs or masseuses, Lin said she can make an average of NT$7,000 (US$233.58) to NT$8,000 a month, good enough for her own expenditure.

“I simply wanted to find something to do during the daytime, and I found it easy to get this job,” said Lin.

The Taipei-based Technology Development Association for the Disabled said that Lin is not a rare case, and that a lot of visually impaired people prefer to work at home and to have a flexible working schedule.

Since the association launched a transcription team in 2009 to help visually impaired people find job opportunities, it has trained and helped 60 people learn this skill, Eric Yang, the association's public relations director, told CNA.

The number is small as many people, even the visually impaired, find it hard to believe blind people can do this job, Yang added.

However, people who are visually impaired can learn this job skill after months of free training, including general computer lessons, inputting methods, software installation and application, he said.

The team transcribed 504, 829 and 1,019 hours of recorded files in 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively, including lectures, telephone interviews, or some TV and radio programs, according to the association.

However, it only received 448 hours of work during the first six months of 2012, a slight decline over the same period a year earlier, the association said, urging more people and groups in need of transcription services to contact the association.

“We'd like to help people pursue and realize their dreams,” Yang said.

There are 60,000 visually impaired people in Taiwan, but less than half have joined the job market, according to government figures.

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