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Meet the Team That Makes It Possible for the Blind to Use Facebook
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Jessie Lorenz can’t see Facebook. But it gives her a better way to see the world—and it gives the world a better way to see her.

Lorenz has been blind since birth, and in some ways, this limits how she interacts with the people around her. “A lot of people are afraid of the blind,” she explains. “When you meet them in person, there are barriers.” But in connecting with many of the same people on Facebook, she can push through these barriers. “Facebook lets me control the narrative and break down some of the stigma and show people who I am,” she says. “It can change hearts and minds. It can make people like me—who are scary—more real and more human.”

She uses Facebook through an iPhone and a tool called Voiceover, which converts text into spoken words. It’s not a perfect arrangement—Facebook photos are typically identified only with the word “photo”—but in letting her read and write on the social network, Voiceover and other tools provide a wonderfully immediate way to interact with people both near and far.

“I can ask other parents about a playdate or a repair man or a babysitter, just like anyone else would,” says Lorenz, the executive director of the Independent Living Resource Center, a non-profit that supports people with disabilities in the San Francisco Bay Area. “Blindness becomes irrelevant in situations like that.”

Lorenz is one...

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