The Blind and Power Tools

The following was taken from a post on the 62nd Street Blog titled Blind guy with power tools and has been posted here for your convenience.

Yes, people who are blind and visually impaired do use power tools and are quite skilled with them too.

"Some tools are relatively easy. A drill, for example, is pretty simple for someone who can't see well. Once you line up the bit with the spot where you want to drill, you don't really need to be able to see to make a hole.

Nails and screws are harder. When I use a drill to put in screws, I do a lot of it by touch: I can tell when the bit seats in the phillips screw head, so then it's just like drilling. (Standard screws are a lot harder.) When driving nails, I often miss the nail, but I've gotten pretty good at figuring out where the nail is, and then whacking it repeatedly. One trick you learn with vision like mine is how to hold the nail when you hammer it: you don't hold it between your thumb and forefinger. Instead, you hold the nail between your index and middle finger, and you put the back of your hand against the wood, so if you miss the nail, you hit the soft part of your finger (not nearly as painful, and you don't end up with black marks on your nails).

The nail gun is also pretty usable by someone with low vision. Again, it's just point and shoot, I don't have to get that close to it. When using the finish nailer, it requires more care, but even that I've been able to do without shooting a nail through a body part.

Some tools I have pretty much abandoned. For example, the circular saw. In order to use it, I have to be able to see the line that I'm cutting, this means I would have my nose within inches of a rapidly spinning blade with no guard. So when trimming doors down or cutting plywood, I let Tom make the cuts, while I hold the work.

Other tools we have replaced. We bought a good chop saw that has a laser line in it. I can put the wood into the saw, and see with the laser exactly where the blade will cut. Once I have it lined up, I can sit back, and just cut the wood smoothly.

I still use our table saw, something which scares anyone who watches - but using the guide really doesn't require me to see it that well.

I wonder about how much longer I'll be able to do some of the work I do. Last weekend's soldering incident kind of brought me up short. I have a pretty severe second or third-degree burn on my right ring finger. On Tuesday, while walking to work, my cane caught in a crack in the sidewalk, and I managed to rip the blister off the finger in one fell swoop (or rather, one round of loud swearing). So I'm feeling a little gun shy around solder, maybe I really can't do it that much anymore.

Wiring is something that I can pretty much do with limited vision. The hardest part is nailing the romex clips down, each one has two tiny little nails that, if you don't hit them spot on, tend to bend over. But the wiring itself is pretty easy, except for getting the neutral and ground wires hooked up at the breaker panel. But so far, all the wiring works, and I haven't electrocuted myself.

Painting requires some close work too, but since we use low VOC paint, and there's no power tool around, I'm pretty safe with that. And window work is the same: I can cut glass, put in glazier's points, and glaze the window without using any power tool, so I can get as close as I need. In fact, most tools that aren't power tools are still pretty usable. I have a large print tape measure that helps me make measurements - but again, for important measurements, I let Tom do them."

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