Learn about the Brazilian man who helps blind people to use the internet
Fernando Botelho is the creator of the F123, a software for visually impaired people
By clicking above, you can listen to a recording of this article produced by the software F123. In normal speed, people normally don’t understand what’s being said. 'Blind people usually listen at high speed, as we all read faster than we talk,' explains Botelho.
At the age of 4, Fernando Botelho started to lose sight and was diagnosed with a degenerative disease – when he was a teenager, he went completely blind. His desire to study and have a career was hindered by one obstacle: the lack of technology in Brazil, preventing visually impaired people from seizing good opportunities. “My concerns were no different from those of so many other people with disabilities,” he says. “I wanted to show the world what I was capable of and go beyond the label of blind.”
As such, he seized the opportunity to study in the United States. “Suddenly, my efforts were yielding results,” he says about the time he studied at Cornell University and, later, at Georgetown University. “The library had thousands of adapted books, a complete structure. This gave me the chance to truly test my limits.” High limits, which resulted in a position as a development consultant for a United Nations office in Geneva, Switzerland, and a passport with stamps from Argentina, Spain, France and Chile – countries where he lived.
However, when Botelho returned to Brazil, he decided to settle down. In 2007, he and his wife (dentist Fla´via de Paula) moved to Curitiba (PR) and created the F123. “There are two pieces of software: the F123 Visual is a complete operating system for visually impaired people, which can enlarge the font size and convert text into audio,” he explains. “The F123 Access is applied to websites: often times, people employ codes with minor errors that don’t allow the user to identify what’s on the screen. Access corrects these errors and increases the number of websites and apps accessible to a blind person.”
These pieces of software (available in English, Spanish and Portuguese), which are cheaper than the competition, help users in over 70 countries. “Technology is essential in people’s lives. It affects the opportunities for education and employment, as well as personal relations,” says Botelho. “But it doesn’t automatically benefit man; except when it’s designed in an adequate manner. All I have done is simply design it with the intention to improve the lives of people like me.”