Meet Abdelrahman Othman, the Egyptian who Defeats Blindness and Technology

Daily News Egypt
8 Min Read

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi participated on Sunday in an event for people with special needs, entitled “Differently Abled”, which took place at Al-Manara Center in the Fifth Settlement. 

On this occasion, Daily News Egypt presents the story of Abdelrahman Othman who was the first visually impaired person in Egypt to introduce his peers to the computer world.

Othman was born in the 1960s. He graduated in the eighties of the 20th century from the Faculty of Languages and Translation at Al-Azhar University, and joined the Research and Political Information Section in the Department of News Programs at the Egyptian television.

At the age of 19, the boy was destined to lose his sight. Doctors told him that he suffers from “Retinitis Pigmentosa”, known in Egypt as “Night Blindness”, so he must prepare well to enter the world of the blind, 16 years, during which he tried to build a part of his future while he was sighted, his eyes were always on his new world It was painful at first, but he tried to adapt quickly, but for this world, he was an inspirer who made a great achievement immortalized by history.

Othman initially applied to join a job as a film translator on television, but at that time the news was dominant in Maspero. The young man passed the tests and won first place among the applicants to begin his journey in Maspero in 1984.

At that time, he was not more than 24 years old, his eyesight condition began to deteriorate from time to time, but he was correcting the matter, especially since his poor eyesight was not an obstacle to him, although he was facing some difficulties in his work, which he overcame by using magnifying lenses, on the one hand, and also Help some colleagues write on the other hand.

“The day I lost the ability to read, I said I am officially blind.” In 1994, the young man’s condition deteriorated and he lost his sight permanently, but because of his successes on television, especially in translating films and news, as well as writing documentaries, no one was able to abandon him, so the officials in the news sector were certain that they would let them go. That talent will lose them a lot, so “Othman” continued his work in the Maspero building despite losing his sight.

The problem with Othman was not in his work, so he used his colleagues to help him write programs, given the difficulty he faced in the beginning, but he got used to it, but the greatest difficulty for him was the psychological difficulty. His work, but fate stood with me in the other.

Othman entered the world of the blind, pained by what they suffer, that category that reads from outdated tools. In schools, students face major problems until they can get their textbooks, which need a large period to be prepared and prepared in Braille.

Also, the cost of books was very expensive, but with the advent of the talking computer, which “Othman” contributed to his entry into the homeland, but also his development on the method of learning from the manual method to the automatic method.

“The first time that a talking computer came to me, I felt its value, and also coincided with the advent of the Internet at the same time. Before that, the blind people had the greatest need for listening to the radio or someone reading a book to them.”

In the 1990s, a modern device that helps the blind appeared in the United States of America, called the “speaking computer.” Othman learned at the time of the invention, despite its great cost, but decided to buy it with the money he had collected since the beginning of his work, and the computer cost him about 70 thousand pounds at the time.

Othman’s journey did not end with his obtaining a computer, but he had a great experience later, as he began working on the development of the device, which had two different programs, the first reading the images through the “scanner” and converting them to sound later, but this voice was in English. Therefore, none of the blind people who do not know the English language will be able to use it, and the second is to dictate his scripts to the computer. . The two programs did not work with each other, so the computer wouldn’t read what it heard.  

In the beginning, Othman’s friends had a great role in helping him learn the computer, in addition to the educational materials that he listened to on the Internet, and within 5 months he mastered the use of the computer.

“The computer was the product of an international company. I called them and told them why not merge the two programmes. They told me it is impossible.”, but there is still another more difficult task, which is to combine two audio input and output programs into one program.

Othman worked on the device until he succeeded on 25 December 1995, the date he remembered from activating the two programs together to be present so far in all computers and phones for the blind.

“The idea at the time was new to the world to the extent that American friends didn’t believe it. They told me to video yourself and send us the video while you were talking.” Everyone was fascinated by the great achievement of Othman, so he was invited to the Mediterranean Media Forum, which was held in Morocco in 1996 when the experience was presented to the public. The world considered it a unique achievement.

From here was the beginning of a new life for the blind, not only in Egypt but in the world. Othman, who contributed to this development, was his main motive for the blind to live like other citizens. They are informed of everything that is going on around them without suffering, they learn without difficulties, they work and contribute to their society like others.

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