Blind Information Technology specialists, Inc. (BITS), a 501(C)(3) corporation, was first established as Visually Impaired Data Processors International (VIDPI) in 1968 at an American Computer Machinery (ACM) conference in Charlotte, North Carolina by a group of data processing professionals who were blind. In 1974, after much soul-searching and debate and under the leadership of the two original founders, Brad Burson and M.J.Schmitt, the organization convened in Chicago at the national convention of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and voted to become an affiliate of ACB. Through the years, as a special interest affiliate of ACB and as an advocate for computer professionals who were blind, it has kept its members abreast of developments in the field, especially in regard to adaptive technology.
In recent years, the nature of the field of data processing has changed and so also has VIDPI to best serve its membership. In this process of change, in 2004, VIDPI was reorganized and reincorporated in the District of Columbia as Blind Information Technology Specialists Inc (BITS). Later, in February of 2006, through the efforts of its treasurer, Robert Rogers, and the ACB notable, Oral Miller Esq., BITS obtained its 501(C)(3) non-profit status with the Internal Revenue Service. The objective of this new organization of BITS is to serve all visually impaired persons who use computer and information technology to better themselves in their personal and professional lives.
BITS members offer their services and time individually or collectively to all and are available to participate in seminars, surveys, research, or any activity that will aid in the development of adaptive technology, educational techniques, or employment opportunities for visually impaired persons.
BITS meets each year for its annual business meeting in conjunction with the ACB national convention. At that time, its members and friends also have a bonus with the opportunity to participate in BITS sponsored seminars on topics of interest, to exchange ideas, to learn about new adaptive hardware and software, and to make new friends and contacts.
At the time of its annual meeting at the ACB national convention and as a part of the BITS convention program, BITS sponsors the Vendor's Showcase in which major venders of adaptive technology leave the noisy confusion of the exhibit hall to make brief presentations of their wares in the confines of a much quieter meeting room. Attendees greatly appreciate the show case because venders come to the attendees assembled in one place, a quiet meeting hall, with this environment making it possible to have orderly presentations after which there is the opportunity for questions and answers.
Membership of this organization consists of people who are legally blind, as well as those who are sighted, working together in partnership to attain its goals and objectives. However, with BITS being affiliated with the American Council of the Blind, a majority of the membership must be legally blind.
BITS offers three classes of membership to accommodate the differing needs of its members.
BITS members represent a broad spectrum of interests and professional experience. From the hobbyists or those who work from home using a computer in personal activities right up to professionals fully employed in the workplace, members can be found doing a wide variety of work at all levels in the field of computer and information technology, from the humblest of jobs such as data entry up to the development of hardware and software. Over the years, BITS members have been successfully engaged in all manner of tasks such as:
BITS members work with equipment ranging from personal computers right up to main frames and nationwide networking systems. They hold positions in network administration and technical support. They use various programming languages and commercial software packages. Thus, visually impaired persons are familiar with and use a broad spectrum of adaptive hardware and software. Indeed, many of the adaptations for blind and visually impaired persons were even designed and developed by visually impaired persons, themselves.
Generally speaking, most people use computers in a visual mode such as with graphical screen displays and printouts, and they also use that odious, ubiquitous mouse.
There are several kinds of adaptive hardware and software that enable blind persons to work effectively in this field. For those with a small amount of usable vision, there is software to enlarge the character display on digital displays and, with the options of word-processing software, documents may be produced in large print. Those with little or no vision can use speech synthesis and talking screen readers which speak the screen content, or they can use devices that display the screen content in Braille. They also use key strokes in the place of mouse clicks.
The qualities that suit one for a career in computer and information technology depend upon the specific tasks performed, but those in the field of computer and information technology tend to have the following characteristics in common:
While some contend that a bachelor's degree is not necessarily required for a career in computer and information technology, or in jobs using it, it is highly recommended, that is, if one is to open up opportunities above entry level employment. students should prepare for careers by learning information technology and/or Computer Science. A good background in Business or finance is also quite valuable. Familiarity with various programming languages, operating systems, and or commercial software packages is important for work with information access and technology. In short, since a background in computer and information technology is important to so many professional fields, it can be the gateway to many other opportunities if one has a good educational background.
BITS is dedicated to the improvement of the lives of blind and visually impaired persons through equal access to information, to education, to employment, and especially to equipment and appliances so readily available to all others in the market place. Through all legal means, BITS strives to level the playing field for blind and visually impaired persons, particularly in the area of information and computer technology, because so much of the society is increasingly allied with its use. To accomplish its mission, BITS: