Joseph Lee is an 11th grader at John Marshall High School in Los Angeles. He writes to an email list with such knowledge and expertise regarding his BrailleNote mPower PDA (personal digital assistant) that some people have thought that he was a member of the HumanWare staff. Born in Seoul, South Korea, Joseph came to the United States in 2001 and then enrolled as a fifth grader. In 2003, at a summer workshop at the California School for the Blind, he was introduced to assistive technology. His expertise seems to have grown exponentially since then.

On a laptop and desktop computer equipped with the JAWS screen reader, Joseph writes school papers and does research on the Internet. At the time of the interview, he did not own a cell phone or MP3 player but seemed familiar with various products and was hoping to get them in the future. He uses Skype frequently and in the same way that others do instant messaging.

The piece of assistive technology that Joseph talked about most and has assimilated into every aspect of his daily life is the BrailleNote mPower. He uses mPower to take notes, send and receive email messages, and surf the Internet. He keeps his contacts with its KeyList contacts list and his calendar with KeyPlan. It is the mPower’s alarm that wakes him up each morning. Joseph uses the infrared port at school to print work for his teachers and the wireless capabilities to download books and read them in braille. He said proudly that he has memorized every BrailleNote command for both the BT and QT (braille-style keyboard and qwerty-style keyboard) versions as well as some commands that relate to hidden Keysoft features. “I have learned,” he said, “to use the mPower to its full potential,” and he wants to eventually study computer science and become a teacher of assistive technology to help spread the word of such tools.

This piece first appeared in “Staying on Course: Interviews with Students Who Are Blind,” by Deborah Kendrick, AccessWorld®, July 2007.

Editor’s Note: Since this AccessWorld article was published, the BrailleNote mPower has been replaced with the BrailleNote Touch.