Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Another Look: Adaptive Technology Helps Blind People Work in Manufacturing

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Another Look: Adaptive Technology Helps Blind People Work in Manufacturing

Article excerpt

OKLAHOMA CITY - Adam Higby is working to change public perception with every piece he creates from a milling machine.

The computer numerical controlled machinist at NewView Oklahoma learned new skills from a job training program at Francis Tuttle Technology Center. He is legally blind and was the first visually impaired student to complete the CNC machining program.

"Going into a sighted-person's world is scary, but I'm changing the way people view a person with a disability," Higby said.

Julius "Dean" Baker, precision machining and CNC instructor at Francis Tuttle, said he made a few modifications for Higby, including adding a 24-inch monitor to his computer screen. Baker bought an electronic edge finder, a type of measuring device that gives an audible signal for the length of the material being measured. Higby has been an outstanding student, Baker said.

"My first impression was, if he is willing to learn, I'm willing to teach him," he said.

At first, Higby's supervisor attended night classes with him. But he has since progressed on his own, with the occasional help from another student. He likes technology and enjoys learning how to program the machines, he said.

At work, Higby uses his smartphone to help him see the controls on the CNC mill machine. Using the video camera's zoom function and by inverting the colors, he can see the text on the screen. He inputs the coordinates on the computer and closes the doors. Higby said he relies on vibrations from the milling machine and sound from the lathe machine to detect potential problems.

Higby's experience is as much an opportunity for him as it is the solution for NewView, said Chief Operating Officer Randy Hearn. The nonprofit formerly known as The Oklahoma League for the Blind bought a used CNC mill two years ago. NewView makes wheel chocks for the Air Force, but the company needed to diversify its customer base, Hearn said. …

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