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Dear brain trust,

I have some vision-related problems with my computer setup at work and our IT and HR departments are ill-equipped to help. I've got a configuration -- a combination of OS settings (Windows), monitor settings, application settings, and lighting -- that kind-of sort-of works, but it's all stuff I figured out on my own. There may be better ways to solve my problems, and some of my problems are currently unsolved and getting in my way. Meanwhile, IT really wants to push me to newer versions that seem to be worse for me.

I would like to find a consultant who is knowledgable in both vision stuff and tech stuff, someone who can sit with me for a few hours and give me informed advice about changes to make. My ophthalmologist of course knows the vision stuff but is not a techie; the techies I know don't grok the vision stuff. I need to find someone who can hear "photo-sensitive" and "restricted focal distance" and "astigmatism" and the rest, understand what that means, and suggest approaches that have not occurred to me from walking the application menus and Windows control panel and Firefox extensions. Technical areas will include the gamut of Windows display settings including custom color themes, CSS overrides in Firefox, configuration of Office and (if possible) Adobe reader, and monitor settings, among things. (Bonus points if this person can make Eclipse suck less.) Once I find this person, I intend to push my employer to hire that person for a consultation. I don't expect to have to push very hard, but I also don't expect to get multiple chances on the corporate dime.

The problem is I haven't been able to find that person. My Google searches have turned up many many consultants who will help employers comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act -- they're compliance people, not usability people. (Also, most of them are about mobility issues.) And I've found folks who will build you accessible web sites (they say). This does not help. Clearly I'm going about this wrong.

So, dear brain trust, can you help me figure out how to search for help with this? And in the "hey, I might get lucky" department, do you, dear reader, know someone who could provide this service in Pittsburgh?
Having just gone through this with a vision-impaired coworker, I've concluded it's way easier to train a geek to understand vision problems than the other way around.

That being said, the best we did was a person from Perkins (local school for the blind) coming out to assess basic stuff like screen contrast, proper magnifying lenses, on-screen magnification, etc. Computer savvy, but not to the extent of CSS overrides/etc.

Do you know kestrell? I wonder if her network of contacts might be able to help you.
I second the referral to Kestrell. Also in the Boston-local area is Rachel T, a friend-of-a-friend with vision issues more similar to Cellio's, AND she used to work for the appropriate Federal department.
Thanks. I hadn't thought of a school for the blind providing adult services; I'll try that. I don't know kestrellwhy</em> it's hard to see. Do bright white backgrounds hurt my eyes because I'm photo-sensitive (so I should use reverse video), or because the contrast is all wrong (so I should change monitor settings and use light-but-not-white backgrounds), or something else? I, being something of a geek who understands the effects but not the causes of my vision issues, poke around until I find something that sucks less than what I was doing before. I sure hope it's possible to do better than that. :-)
Unfortunately it may *not* be possible to do a lot better than "try and see". It feels like this area is underfunded and doesn't have a lot of "if this, then that" guides. Heck, it might be worth it for you to record your experiments, to share with other folks who are less savvy and less good at breaking down a situation into its constituent elements.

White backgrounds might be causing problems in a few other ways, too. It might be a glare issue--perhaps your cornea or aqueous humor is less-than-perfectly transparent, so the glare interferes with your ability to read. Or you might have an unusual pupillary response. Or your glasses (which I recall as being rather strong) may be magnifying the effect. You could do further experiments, like cutting out paper and making a mask where you can only see through the center of your lenses, and seeing if that helps the glare. Or wear sunglasses and see what happens. Dunno.

(Personally, I prefer green text on a black background, both for glare--I'm just really sensitive to light in general--and because my glasses' chromatic aberration means that white text gets split into overlapping red, green, and blue texts.)
Luckily reverse video is easy to trigger on OSX. For a lighter white I use DarkAdapted to make "white" more like 75-80% (I prefer a bit more blue). It's well worth the miniscule price and is freeware for the simpler version for trying it out. It maintains those settings even in inverse video so you don't have glaring white text on a black background.