Greg Kearney

I am profoundly dyslexic and one of the few adults you will find who admits to it.

Dyslexics disappear if not in school. I run into adult dyslexics who were missed by their school systems, and who end up functionally illiterate.

I was lucky that I got one of the best educations in North America, since I was sent to the Landmark School in Massachusetts. I can read at a 4th grade reading level, but no one can realistically get through college on this.

You have no idea how much I wish I had DAISY in college. I had teachers in college who'd say turn to page 48 and I couldn't, fast enough. I can with DAISY books. I do all my reading with DAISY. That's the only way I can get through material. All of my recreational reading comes through the Library for the Blind. That's why I wrote DTBMaker, for myself and for the hospital that I work for, where it's well known that the sicker a person gets, the less able they are to read. People should not assume that a screen reader is just for the blind, there are so many who can use it, such as people with Parkinson's, shaking so much they can't turn the page.

Interviewer: What does a printed page look like to you?

It's hard to say because it's all I know. Dyslexics have to decode every word every time. You sit there trying to figure it out, symbol by symbol each time: that's an a, that's an e. Reading is an incredibly laborious process. Dyslexics have a very hard time with directions and are infamous for getting lost. I can only tell left and right because I wear my watch on my left hand, and check constantly. Reading is an activity which requires you to track left and right across the page, but I get bored working out letter by letter & then lose track which direction am I going. There are many letters that are different only by direction: b's & d's, q's & p's, so sorting them out each time they are encountered becomes an incredibly time consuming process. If I know I will have to read something out loud ahead of time, I make sure I have time to memorize it.

Fortunately most dyslexics don't have it in such a profound way that it is such a debilitating disorder. I don't read books, any entertainment reading has to be done with Library of Congress materials.

As a group, dyslexics are not as organized as other disability groups; our parents are more organized than the dyslexics themselves. There are no real rehabilitation centers to go to. All of the little tricks that I've learned on my own; there's no real place to go. One trick is to read the first and last sentences of each chapter of the book, because if writer is any good he will state his thesis in first paragraph and again in the last.

I did get my design degree, BFA in design. But as to what a page looks like, don't know if it looks any different than to anyone else.

Interviewer: I suppose it's like looking at Russian, where the alphabet is different but some of the symbols are the same; after years of not studying the language, I now have to look at each occurrence of each letter and try to remember the different sounds and usage.

So, I've been told that a good sign of dyslexia is when a person spells the same word differently every time.

Of course it's going to be different, because it looks different every time. That said, I do pretty well with road signs. I am now taking Swedish & for the first time in my life I can read a language better than I can speak it.

dyslexics untie!

Interviewer: How do you do with writing?

I was taught to type at a very early age, so am coping well with writing and will have a children's book published soon. Even though I spell terribly the writing process is not as laborious, but writing by hand is.

Dyslexics drive school teachers crazy, because the first thing they say is you should use a dictionary, but a dictionary is no good if don't know how to spell a word.

The special education bunch has fallen in love with this idea of DAISY, that you can follow along in the text with synchronized text and audio. But face it, it's like being forced to sit through a subtitled movie and read along; no dyslexic would want to do that. No matter how slow you can make DAISY play, it's not slow enough (to track the text) & that would defeat the purpose of trying to keep up. DAISY full text/full audio books are a cool thing, but I'd never use them that way. It's always the first thing I turn off. I don't want a bunch of text but what I do want is to include pictures in DAISY; that's really useful to me, to display the image on the screen.

Interviewer: How do you explain how you do so well with computers?

Computers are very non-judgemental. Also when most people try to describe and solve a process needing computerization, they start from the abstract. Dyslexics start with the concrete, and that's what I do. I tore apart a DAISY book and that's how I built my first version of DTBMaker.

Dyslexics and blind readers are kissing cousins in terms of their needs for processing information. Slightly different but we can learn from each other.

The DAISY Consortium would like to express sincere thanks to Greg Kearney for this interview which is our first outstanding "Your Story". This will help so many people understand how important the DAISY technology is, and the different ways that it can be used.

Greg lives in Wyoming and works with computers for a local hospital and several newspaper groups. In his spare time, he likes to hack, do cartooning at the Pulitzer Prize level, and implement DAISY products and other software. He and his wife, who is blind, have 2 grown children and an 8-year-old son.