Blind engineer college student finds new ways to learn

SWARTHMORE, Pa. - March 28, 2014

Hayden Dahmm, a junior at Swarthmore, doesn't going anywhere without his seeing-eye dog Fathom.

And it never occurred to him that he couldn't become an engineer.

"Blindness is not necessarily a limitation to studying whatever you want to study. You just have to find some new tools," said Swarthmore Engineer Professor Carr Everback.

That is just what Hayden's professor did, becoming as determined to help Hayden as Hayden is to succeed.

"What you've just seen is the way that some data from an engineering lab, which a sighted person can see as a graph, Hayden can now hear," said Carr.

Using a data valve-to-sound conversion process, Hayden is mastering computer graphs.

Hayden has experienced vision loss since birth, but his eyesight began to deteriorate significantly in since 8th grade, and by the time he came to Swarthmore, he was totally blind.

Some of his biggest challenges were the complex diagrams shown in class.

"There is no way I could possibly remember where everything is located," said Hayden.

But with a few K'nex toy rods, his professor and classmates make braille dials for Hayden.

"Each side of the dials has little braille bumps on it, and then the little side pieces here tell me that this is a register. So it will have a voltage source over here, a resistor over here and a capacitor over here," said Hayden.

Engineering student Gautam Mohan takes notes for him in class.

"He types up what the professor talked about, then sends me the files," explained Hayden. Hayden reads them using a screen reader.

"There might not be too many blind scientists or engineers out there, but there definitely are, and that fact is very inspiriting for me and encourages me every day," said Hayden.

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