Peter Torpey

Peter A. Torpey

Co-Host and Producer at Eyes On Success ProductionsEyes On Success

Eyes On Success ProductionsEyes On Success

General Information


Ph.D.  - engineering physics , 


Research Fellow  - Xerox Corporation

Recent News  

Nancy and Peter Torpey
The Tables were Turned Nancy and Peter Torpey at Cootes Paradise, Royal Botanical Gardens, Ontario Nancy and Peter Torpey are both physicists. The story this month is different because Nancy and Peter Torpey's story is recorded and available as one of the ViewPoints audio interview programs. Nancy and Peter Torpey standing with a natural tree sculpture in Cootes Paradise Nancy and Peter are anomalies (different from the norm) - approximately 6% of physicists are female, and an even smaller percentage is blind. Prior to graduate school Peter had some functioning vision, however an operation that may have improved his vision wasn't successful, in fact it resulted in the loss of most of the vision he had. Peter started right into working for Xerox after he completed his PhD. Nancy and Peter also like to dance - even though they both worked at Xerox, they actually met at a dance about a week after Nancy had started working for the company. Peter is also a musician - he's studied piano when he was a child and as time passed he found that jazz was what he most loved to play. His jazz band, the Peter Torpey Trio performs standards from the 1930's and 40's locally, preferring small to medium-sized venues. ViewPoints is a half-hour weekly interview show. Nancy and Peter interview a different guest each week and discuss products, services and daily living tips for people with vision loss. The show is hosted and produced by Peter Torpey and Nancy Goodman Torpey in partnership with WXXI Reachout Radio in Rochester, NY. The "signature" opening of the show is in synthetic speech and the theme song was written and performed by Peter. The podcast of the interview with Nancy and Peter begins with some tips and information about previous shows. The introduction to the interview with Nancy and Peter begins about 4 minutes in.

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At Xerox, in Rochester, New York, research scientist Peter Torpey is living proof that you do not need to see images to work with them.Born with glaucoma, Torpey had some functional vision until about age 20.He was able to read a book by holding it a couple of inches from his nose and could read a blackboard with a monocular telescope.Shortly before he entered graduate school at the University of Virginia, Torpey lost almost all his vision.He switched to braille, a closed-circuit television (CCTV), and an extensive number of books from Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D) and earned a Ph.D. in engineering physics.He also began using a cane for mobility.Now, at age 52, his vision is limited to being able to tell where lights and windows are located.Major moves were required for attending college and graduate school and working at Xerox, none of which proved particularly difficult.Torpey credits his parents for raising him to be independent.Photo of Peter Torpey at his desk with a computer, braille display, remote control, braille book, and Dilbert doll.Caption: Peter Torpey in his office.In the late 1980s, Torpey got more into image processing, and in the 1990s, he managed the image-processing group that developed the drivers for Xerox's ink jet printers."It was kind of interesting having a blind guy lead the group," Torpey said with a laugh."People got to learn to be verbal and to look closely.I think it improved other people's perception skills.I think it worked to everyone's advantage."Torpey enjoys his job, specializing in image processing, modeling physical phenomena, and printer operations."I love computer programming.I'm a geek," he admitted."I do mostly individual contributor stuff now, and that's fine with me."Throughout the years, Xerox has been accommodating with regard to Torpey's lack of vision and has provided all the assistive technology equipment he needs.An ALVA refreshable braille display assists Torpey in writing computer programs because he likes to "see" the details of what he's writing at his UNIX workstation.His computer has the JAWS screen reader, and Torpey uses the OmniPage Pro OCR program for scanning.He points out that so much material is now accessible by computer that there is less of a need for an OCR (optical character recognition) program.The Imp, from Voice Diary, is his choice for taking quick notes and he uses the PAC Mate for giving presentations, taking notes at meetings, and scheduling appointments.Torpey also enjoys trying new assistive technology products and then giving feedback to the manufacturers.He said, "I guess they get feedback from an engineer, and it's kind of in a language they can understand."Acceptance in the WorkplaceAcceptance has never been an issue.Torpey said that his coworkers respect him.He added, "I'm a research fellow.Out of a company of 60,000, there are only 20 of us.I've done pretty well here."Xerox runs a science consultant program in which Torpey and his wife participate.About once a month, they go to a school and bring items, such as liquid helium and dry ice, and give the students an opportunity to do some "hands-on" science experiments.Torpey always does an additional experiment: "Here's What It's Like to Be Blind."He shows the students his adaptive equipment and then asks, "You've seen all my stuff.Now think of something you think I can't do, and let's figure out a way we can do it."In his free time, Torpey, the father of two, and his wife like to exercise.He jogs and has started swimming again.Reading is another favorite pastime, and piano playing is one of his passions."I love playing the piano," he said, "but it's a lot easier to make money as an engineer."Words of Advice"I think the higher-tech jobs are easier for blind folks to get into," Torpey said.

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