Vision Impaired Electronics Engineer Shows The Way To Get Things Done

Urgon solders close up to see the work

A funny thing happens as the average electronics hobbyist gets older: Their eyes- well they just don’t work the same as they used to. But what if your life started out with compromised vision? In this epic forum post (Google translated from Polish to English), we meet nearly blind hacker [Urgon]. He goes into great detail about his condition and how it affects not just his daily life, but also his abilities as an electronics engineer. Or conversely, how it doesn’t.

[Urgon]’s origin story is familiar. At eight years old, he disassembled his first television. His self-education continued by using his remaining vision to soak up every bit of literature about electronics that he could get his hands on. A well-intentioned but protective mother kept him away from soldering irons, fearing that the close proximity to his good eye might not bode well for his remaining vision.

If Urgon can solder 0805's, so can you!
If Urgon can solder SOIC’s 0805’s, so can you!

Despite a failed eye, and his other having quite severe glaucoma, [Urgon] has persevered. He uses assistive technologies as you’d expect, but notes that in more recent times some excellent free software has surpassed some of the commercial products he used in the past.

While even the sighted among us often shy away from SMD components, [Urgon] dives right in. SOIC packages and 0805 parts don’t hold him back. Bright LED flashlights, zooming in with his smart phone, and surely a healthy dose of patience make his hackery possible.

That’s not to say that [Urgon] hasn’t had some noteworthy incidents. He’s suffered electric shock from the 400 V capacitors in an ATX PSU, burned his face with his soldering iron, and even managed to step on a DIP package. Barefoot. Yes, the pins were facing up.

But wait- there’s more! In this follow-up post, [Urgon] discusses more assistive/adaptive technologies and how hackers like you and I can focus our efforts on things the vision impaired will find most helpful.

Our hats are off to [Urgon] and those like him who persevere despite the odds. We can all learn from [Urgon]’s hacker spirit and his dedication to the craft. We recently covered some blind software hackers who have taken it upon themselves to fly passenger jets– virtually, of course!

Thanks to [Moryc] for the excellent tip!


18 thoughts on “Vision Impaired Electronics Engineer Shows The Way To Get Things Done

  1. Man, this guy is an inspiration and deserves a lot of credit for not letting anything stand in the way of his interests.

    ….And I really have no excuse to not get better at soldering smd devices…

  2. Kudos!

    The line “If Urgon can solder SOIC’s 0805’s, so can you!” instantly reminded me of that line of that old Scatman song..: “If the Scatman can do it, so can you”👍

    1. Actually the smallest parts I soldered were 0402 resistors in broken quadrocopter controllr and tiny voltage reference in SOT23-5. Currently I’m working on a microscope made from a webcam an and old camcorder optics to help me with TQFP-100 package.

      1. I guess that makes the smallest thing I’ve intentionally soldered a sot23-5, not on a board but adding wire wrap wires to it so I could test it. The name of that package didn’t have the same scare factor as “0402” does so I had failed to realize just how tiny they were…

  3. Smd is easy. After my first try with 1206 i thought: is this all? After that i never looked back and i only use the through hole parts on a bread board or a proto board. But then again, i have -6 in both eyes. I just take off my glasses and most of the time i use 0603 and tqfp.

  4. Vision issues can be challenging and they can be overcome. I am visually impaired, eyes at -2.50 and I havbe to use magnifying glass clip on to my glasses to see small parts properly. To make it worse, I am also diabetic and if my number gets too high, my vision drops even more.

    I can still hand solder fine pins from TQFPs and TSSOPs IC, and have worked with resistors and capacitors as small as 0402 though I prefer 0805 if space isn’t an issue.

  5. There was a story in the fifties about a blind ham that buikt. I think CQ but maybe QST. For some reason, I’m remembering it was a woman, but I don’t know.

    Those were the days of big iron, not just a massive American Beauty soldering iron, but steel chassis and big transformers. But somehow it was done.

    1. It would be actually better to solder big components point-to-point, with eyelets on vacuum tube sockets and wires between posts as power and ground buses. My brother who is blind (he can “see” light) made a video, where he is soldering wires by feel.

      1. Urgon,

        A. US company called NuEyes Technologies makes “Removable Visual Prosthetics” that might be able to help you see. Basically their products are glasses or a virtual reality headset that can zoom in x18 and, if you like, add a high contrast filter to what you see. Their devices allow the user to be hands free.

        I hope that this information is useful to you!

        Wes Patton
        Envision Yourself Empowered, llc

        1. Thank you for the tip. But I don’t think I could afford it, and I don’t think polish government would finance it via one of their state programs for support of people who are impaired. I once applied for a pair of glasses with magnifying lenses to help with SMT. National Health Fund for Mazowsze region, where I live refused because it’s not their jurisdiction. National Health Fund for Lubelskie region, where I was born and lived for 25 years, responded that I’m too blind for these glasses to help me, so no refund. Glasses costed an equivalent of $200, and refund was only 75%. I decided not to bother fighting “the system”. Recently my brother decided not to bother with any state refund programs because it was too much work to deal with brain-dead bureaucrats and idiots.

          I’m currently writing a third part of this series about my daily life, income, things that happened to me, etc. also recently started a series about photographing electronics on a budget, first part (Google Translate) is here:

  6. Bravo!

    This reminds me of Charlie Trimble, one of the founders of Trimble Navigation (I worked there many years ago). Charlie was so poor sighted that he would sit in the front row of his college classes and use binoculars to read the blackboard!

  7. This is inspiring and humbling. Way to go, Urgon!

    I just have the usual visual deficences that come with age. But with reading glasses, magnifying glasses, watchmaker’s magnifiers etc. I can still stuff done. I only recently started doing surface-mount, but I prefer that some far-east robots do most of that for me and just sell me the finished module. ;-)

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