Blind junior minister making smooth transition
FLOYD Morris, the blind senator who on November 1 started his new job as junior minister in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, yesterday said that he was adjusting smoothly and, with the help of special software, can conduct most of his business on his own.
"I am fully independent in terms of operations. The only adjustment the ministry has made is to secure a very powerful computer for me, as I will have to store a lot of information on it," Morris told the Observer.
He explained that this computer had been set up with the software programmes, JAWS and Kurtzweil, which made it easier for blind persons to access the Internet and master other computer programmes.
"I have been using these programmes for a while, so it was just a matter of installing them here," he said.
JAWS is a speech programme that reads information from a computer display and amplifies it through a speech synthesizer.
"It helps me to access my e-mail and surf the net. So I can read confidential information for myself without relying on a secretary or somebody that can see," Morris said.
"The Kurtzweil reading programme allows me to scan information into my computer and it reads it back to me. So the prime minister can send me confidential documents from Parliament and I scan and read them with no problems," Morris said.
In addition, he said that he had a Braille and speak machine which he took with him to meetings.
"It is small, about the size of a video cassette, and it records the information and translates it to Braille so that I can read it easily later," he explained.
Morris was appointed minister of state last month, replacing Horace Dalley, who was promoted by Prime Minister P J Patterson to run the Ministry of Land and the Environment.
Morris told the Observer yesterday that he was still getting used to the physical layout of his ministry and would be able to get around on his own once he was accustomed to the building.
"Once I am fully oriented and I know, for example, where the stairs are, then I am fine," he said.
Morris also has a personal assistant who, he said, helps him in emergency situations or when he needs to get around and get things done in a very short time. His assistant has been with him, he said, for several years.
Morris was appointed to the Senate in January 1998, following the victory of his People's National Party in the December 1997 general elections.