Getting my first Guide Dog – recap

Blind Travels dog logo

I love to hear from my readers, and one comment I get often centers around my Guide Dog Files blog posts, where I talk about the process of getting my first guide dog. Finding the next post among all the blog entries is difficult, so I have assembled them in one spot and given a little update now that my guide Fauna and I have been together for over a year. If you have any questions about my expieriences feel free to drop me a message here, on twitter or Instagram @nedskee

Getting my first Guide Dog


Three questions with a blind person #2

Blind Travels dog logo

A big thank you to my readers for submitting the great questions via my Twitter! @nedskee Here is a link to my second Three questions with a blind person article. I love taking time to educate the fully sighted on day to day life of  a blind or visually impaired person. This type of article is important, because it gives those who may be embarrassed about asking a question a forum. If you are a fully sighted person and have a question feel free to drop me a message here or on my Twitter and ask away, I will answewr it in a future installment of my article series. 

Three questions with a blind person #2


Accessibility for the visually impaired amid Covid-19

Blind Travels dog logo

My guide Dog Fauna and I ventured a trip to the store yesterday to pick up some much needed provisions (cookies for my son and oranges for me). We had only been in the store for a few minutes before some person was yelling at me for going the wrong way. This seemed odd to me because I have been in this store a million times and never knew about one-way traffic. Once we got home, I took a look at the news and apparently Colorado stores are implementing traffic signs on the ground of the store aisles to keep traffic flowing and more importantly maintaining the six-foot social distancing for everyone’s safety. 

This is a great idea, because people are silly and don’t adhere to social distancing guidelines so signs reminding them of proper distancing etiquette is a positive thing. The problems arise when you can’t see the signs, and they seemingly appear out of nowhere overnight. If I could see traffic signs, I’d be driving a car instead of walking with a guide dog. I don’t know about you all, but I am a creature of habit, I expect things to be in a certain place and it is tough when they change things around on you. Last year when we won (?) the ability to sell pull-proof beer in the stores here in Colorado, the stores moved everything around to make room for the big beer aisle. This meant location changes for the normal items I went to the store for, as well as removing many of the brands I commonly bought to make room for the beer. These kinds of changes take time, and people need to be understanding about it. Especially for a guide who is used to traversing the grocery store in a certain pattern and stopping at specific locations for items. 

This brings me to today’s article which focuses on accessibility for the blind and visually impaired and the Covid-19 virus. The article mentions the newly implemented signs for grocery stores, however, it seems as though other states have implemented the signs more accessible-friendly than Colorado has.  The other big issue is the drive-thru Coronavirus testing facilities. What are you supposed to do as a blind person if you can’t drive a car? Finding a friend to drive you is usually an options, however I would not want to ask a friend to sit in the car for hours with me to wait and get a test. This defeats the purpose of social distancing and could potentially put a well-meaning friend’s health at risk if I did indeed have the virus. 

It can be said that this same issue is present for fast food establishments. Right now, most of the fast food places here in Colorado are open to drive-thru traffic only. With no curbside pickup option available this is another difficult situation for those of us who are not able to drive a car. I totally get that these are unusual times and that the drive-thru option is available so that there is one way people can get the goods, but that doesn’t make it accessible to all. I am patient, and I understand that this virus thing hit us out of nowhere and that there were not solid contingency plans in place for an event like this. We are all figuring this new normal out together, but we need to make sure that our voice is heard and that services are accessible to all. Here is the article, I would love to hear your thoughts on ways businesses can make their services more accessible in these strange times.

https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2020/apr/20/pandemic-steps-pose-difficulties-for-bl/

Hey! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to contact me via my social media sites I would love to hear your thoughts on this or any of my other articles! If you follow me, I will happily follow you back.  

My Photography site: http://www.tahquechi.com/

My Bodyscapes project: http://www.bodyscapes.photography/

My travel site: http://www.blindtravels.com/

Instagram and Twitter: @nedskee

 


Guide Dogs and social distancing

Blind Travels dog logo

Guide dogs are trained to be working dogs, not pets. These dogs are ready to go until they retire. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused everyone to change their daily routine, people are staying home and guides are not working nearly as much as they used to. My guide Fauna is always ready to go. On a regular (non-Covid) day, we can go out to a restaurant for breakfast, do a short morning walk, go to the store, play in the backyard with her favorite toy in the whole world the Jolly Ball and then she still has more than enough energy to go out to dinner, hit Starbucks or go for an evening walk. We are really going all the time and the lockdown has impacted that greatly. We still walk every day, and play in the backyard, but her normal routine is certainly odd just like all the rest of us. 

Today’s article talks about how The Seeing Eye, National Federation for the Blind and Guide Dogs for the Blind are dealing with the impacts to the changes in schedule for guide dogs, and how the pandemic is affecting blind and visually impaired people as a whole. 

https://news.streetroots.org/2020/04/19/guide-dogs-draw-complaints-failing-follow-social-distancing-guidelines

Misunderstood

In the article, the author cites someone who called into The Seeing Eye complaining about a guide dog team not practicing social distancing, and that the guide brushed up against her as they passed on the sidewalk. The operator at The Seeing Eye explained that the person was likely blind, and this seemed to cause a blinding flash of understanding for the caller. I can totally understand this, I have a tiny amount of vision, and have been told that I don’t “look blind” whatever that means. So, the first thing people always ask me is if my guide is in training. I always smile and tell them that she is my guide and keeps me from getting into trouble. This reaction to the comment always starts a conversation about Fauna and her role in my life, and I always explain the process that Guide Dogs for the Blind goes through when training a new guide dog. People always find that fascinating. 

What can we do?

Be patient, be understanding and be human. Social distancing is important to keep us all safe, but realize that people with limited sight often have problems determining how far they are standing from you. This is also a good time to learn/realize that limited vision is very often an invisible disability. Not every blind person wears sunglasses, not every blind person “looks blind”, and not every blind person has a guide dog. Social distancing is important for everyone’s safety but so is understanding that some people have limitations especially in terms of vision. 

Hey! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to contact me via my social media sites I would love to hear your thoughts on this or any of my other articles! Follow me and I will happily follow you back! 

My Photography site: http://www.tahquechi.com/

My Bodyscapes project: http://www.bodyscapes.photography/

My travel site: http://www.blindtravels.com/

Instagram and Twitter: @nedskee

Here is a link to my Guide’s favorite toy, the Jolly Ball.

 


Three questions with a blind person #1

Yesterday I was out walking with my guide dog and had someone ask me some questions about being blind. I thought it might make an interesting addition to my education section here on Blind Travels. Let me know what you think, and please drop me a message if you have questions you would like answered in a future edition of this new series.

Three questions with a blind person #1


5 apps that help the blind and visually impaired travel easier.

Blind travels logo, text with a silhouette of a guide dog in harness.

Flighthub overviews a few different apps that might make your travel life a bit easier. 

Be My Eyes

Be My Eyes is an iOS and Android app that connects its users with a community of over 500,000 unpaid sighted aids. By using device cameras and speakers, blind and visually impaired people can communicate with helpers who in turn provide assistance. For example, one of the app’s users might ask, “I’m having trouble connecting my new sound system, can you help me?” The camera would then be aimed at the sound system. From there, a volunteer can guide the blind or visually impaired person until the setup is complete.

Blind Square

Blind Square syncs with the built-in GPS system of a user’s iPhone. Once connected, audio information is then relayed in real-time. As the app runs in the background, the current location, upcoming intersections, addresses and important landmarks are mentioned. Blind Square’s search function also allows the blind and visually impaired to find shops, restaurants and other establishments “near me”. It’s an essential travel tool.

KNFB Reader

Equipped with optical character recognition (OCR), the Kurzweil—National Federation for the Blind (KNFB) Reader is a powerful text recognition app. It features text-to-speech, text-to-Braille and text highlighting functions as well. It has won several technology awards for best assistive mobile application. Lastly, it can be used in multiple languages.

Look Tell Money Reader

As the name indicates, the Look Tell Money Reader does just that. With the help of this app, the blind and visually impaired can use their smart device cameras to read and determine the denomination of paper currency. An LED light function within the app helps users to effectively read money in low light settings as well.

Seeing AI

Designed by the Microsoft team, Seeing AI is a powerful application that rivals the KNFB Reader app in terms of functionality. However, unlike its counterpart (currently priced at 139.99), Seeing AI is completely free. It reads bar code, snippets and larger portions of text and can identify friends and family from within photos. Descriptions of the user’s immediate environment can also be provided through the app. New features that read currency, light levels, cursive and even colors have been added in recent updates.

Technology is changing the travel industry. The blind and visually impaired are one of many categories of travelers who stand to benefit. The above listed apps go the extra mile in terms of facilitating travel for those who sometimes need a little more assistance. 

About FlightHub

FlightHub makes travel accessible, allowing more than 5 million people per year to visit new places and explore different cultures by offering the cheapest flight on worldwide destinations. This is achieved by investing heavily in both technology and people, ultimately streamlining and optimizing the customer experience. Visit flighthub.com to book online or call an agent at 1-800-900-1431 for 24/7 service. For inspiration on travel destinations, tips on budget travel, and the latest travel news, follow FlightHub on FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest and LinkedIn.

SOURCE FlightHub

Original Article:

https://www.benzinga.com/pressreleases/20/03/n15695827/flighthub-and-justfly-on-apps-designed-to-help-the-blind-and-visually-impaired-travel

FlightHub and JustFly provide insight into 5 apps that help the blind and visually impaired travel more easily.


Visually Impaired Students play curling

For some strange reason, whenever my sighted friends hear about adaptive technology for sporting events they are amazed. Curling while visually impaired makes total sense to me.


Ideas to stay busy during the COVID-19 outbreak

Fauna the black lab guide dog wearing a st. paddies hat.

Many of us are sequestered at home (some voluntarily and some not), in an effort to quell the spread of COVID-19 – nearly all of my traveler friends have cancelled their upcoming travel and are hunkered down at home. This is a tempting time to travel with the deep discounts the airlines are offering, but I have concerns that if I jumped on a plane to head somewhere fun I might get stuck there quarantined, or even worse if the airline industry decides to take a 30 day pause like the cruise industry did. Many of us are spending our time looking for something to do. I have compiled a list of ideas to direct your time toward while we wait for this all to blow over.

Learn a new skill

Many companies including Adobe are offering one or two month free subscriptions to their services while we wait for the virus to run its course. Embrace this and head over to YouTube to find a multitude of tutorials and classes to help you learn a new skill. I am taking time to hone my skills at illustrator CC, it is something I have always wanted to learn more about and that has been occupying my days. Right before the virus hit, I happened to buy a Udemy.com course on illustrator CC and I have been working my way through it. As a travel blogger and photographer, I never saw the real draw for illustrator other than making logos. It may not be a skill I use every day in my creative life, but it is something I wanted to learn to do.

Research your next trip!

Wanderlust will hit all of us sooner or later. Take some time to research your next destination on this site or others. I have been to lots of places and will be putting up new location reviews as I have time to write them during this quarantine.

Learn a Language

There are a million resources to learn a new language. Phone apps like memrise work well with screen readers and can teach you a new language in a very comprehensive way. If you always wanted to go to another country, take this time to learn the language of your destination country so you have a leg up when you get there. I have personally used and had great results with https://www.rosettastone.com/ They have a ton of different languages and like memrise teach in a very comprehensive way. If you don’t want to go the paid route, there is always YouTube. Free language tutorials are all over YouTube. The quality is hit and miss, but it is free so what do you expect?

Learn a musical instrument

Pick up that guitar or recorder that has been sitting around for years and learn to play. YouTube has a ton of comprehensive courses for free that you can take at your own pace. Many have weekly challenges and are laid out just like a class you would take in school. If you want a higher quality education option, check out Udemy.com they have a variety of classes on most instruments.

Speak to relatives

Make some calls and talk to the people you don’t talk to often. This can be a great time to catch up on the events of the day as well as keeping you both occupied for a while.

Take up yoga or meditation

YouTube or Udemy offer a ton of options on yoga and meditation. If you are anxious about the quarantine or what is going on in the world in general, meditation can be a great tool to help you get focused and find your center. Yoga can also be a wonderful way to stretch the kinks out and build that core up like you have been meaning to. Be warned, once you start, you will fall in love with the results. The only bad thing is that you will hurt in places you had no idea could hurt at first.

Be patient

This will pass and we will all get back to our normal lives. Don’t waste the time you have during this quarantine – when this is all over, look back on this time with fondness for the time you spent learning a new skill – whatever that may be.

What do you think? I would love to hear your ideas about projects or other constructive uses of your time that you are employing to keep busy during these crazy times. Drop me a message on my social media links below.

Hey! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to contact me via my social media sites I would love to hear your thoughts on this or any of my other articles! Until then, get out and get shooting! 

My Photography site: http://www.tahquechi.com/

My Bodyscapes project: http://www.bodyscapes.photography/

My travel site: http://www.blindtravels.com/

Instagram and Twitter: @nedskee


Covid-19 and Travel

Blind travels logo, text with a silhouette of a guide dog in harness.

As the coronavirus (covid-19) continues to spread around the world, many concerns have arisen about travel, especially with a guide dog. This blog is non-political, so don’t expect me to “bash” the current administration for their effectiveness in dealing with this virus. Instead, I would like to share with my readers what I have learned about the virus (from friends who are in the health care industry), my plan to weather this biologic storm and how it affects my travel plans in the near future.

First, let me state that I am not a physician or associated with the healthcare industry in any way, therefore you should take my advice with as much caution as you would from anyone else in your life that has an opinion but is not a doctor. I will say that the first thing you will hear from me and anyone else writing about this virus is the importance of washing your hands and not touching your face. Whether you are looking to keep yourself healthy during flu season or if you have just attended a sporting event at your local stadium, it is a good idea to wash your hands often and thoroughly. There are opportunities for infection all around us, and it doesn’t hurt to take a moment and wash your hands after going to places like the grocery store where you are touching carts that others before you have handled.

Traveling visually impaired with covid-19 (coronavirus)

It is tough to tell what and where you are touching when traveling to an unfamiliar location, so tossing a small container of hand sanitizer in your pocket is a good idea. Remember that there are restrictions on the size of liquid you carry with you on a plane. I carry a small one-ounce bottle with me. If you use eye drops, the smallest bottle is usually one ounce, so gauge the size of your purchase by that. When standing at a counter paying for your purchases, be especially present about where your hands are. I am paying with cash whenever possible to avoid touching the ATM and debit card machines. According to the CDC, there is no need to wear a mask when traveling, the only time a mask is best is when you might be sick. Using a mask at this point will help to reduce the possibility of infection to those around you. If you are a cane user, be wary of where you set your cane down and don’t be afraid to disinfect it with Clorox or other disinfectant wipes. Remember that if you set your cane down on a counter to pay for your purchases then pick it up its no different than touching the counter yourself. I use a belt cane holster, which gives me a place to store the cane when not in use that I can be relatively sure about the cleanliness.

Where we are currently

With a rapidly developing virus like covid-19, by the time an article like this is posted things could have changed radically, so please refer to the cdc.gov website for the latest data. As of this writing, March 7, 2020, these are the current statistics for the covid-19 virus for the United States. This is according to the CDC, which I consider to be a reputable source for this kind of information.

  • Total cases: 164
  • Total deaths: 11
  • States reporting cases: 19

* Data include both confirmed and presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 reported to CDC or tested at CDC since January 21, 2020, with the exception of testing results for persons repatriated to the United States from Wuhan, China and Japan. State and local public health departments are now testing and publicly reporting their cases. In the event of a discrepancy between CDC cases and cases reported by state and local public health officials, data reported by states should be considered the most up to date.

What are the symptoms and severity of the virus?

From the CDC.gov website:

The complete clinical picture with regard to COVID-19 is not fully known. Reported illnesses have ranged from very mild (including some with no reported symptoms) to severe, including illness resulting in death. While information so far suggests that most COVID-19 illness is mild, a reportexternal icon out of China suggests serious illness occurs in 16% of cases. Older people and people of all ages with severe underlying health conditions — like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example — seem to be at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness.

Learn more about the symptoms associated with COVID-19.

There are ongoing investigations to learn more. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.

How does this relate to travel?

The reason I have only added cases in the United States in this article is because I would not recommend traveling internationally at this point. I have cancelled my international travel plans through summer. This is not due to CDC recommendations, I choose to do this to minimize my potential exposure to the virus. I think that cancellations of large public gatherings and entertainment festivals is very telling. South By Southwest and Ultra Music Festival have both been cancelled as of March 6, 2020. The CDC and WHO have not issued shelter in place or other recommendations, however participating in large public gatherings like these in my personal opinion are not worth the risk.

I have reservations for a trip to Vegas this month, but at this point I have not decided whether I will be traveling. I have a friend who works for T-Mobile and he has told me that they have suspended all travel internationally and domestic. I think this is also telling in that they are not panicking, but rather suspending travel out of an abundance of caution. In particular, Vegas seems like a poor choice given the close proximity of travelers and the potential for infection from all the slot machines and other surfaces we touch regularly when hanging out in Vegas. I’ll let this go for a bit longer and see what next week brings in terms of new cases and the direction of new infections.

What about a Guide Dog?

My guide came from Guide Dogs for the Blind, and they do a great job of keeping their program alum appraised of concerns like covid-19. They don’t sensationalize the data and offer practical advice for their clients. Recently, they sent out an email with a message from their Veterinary Medical Director, Dr. Kate Kuzminski, DVM, on the subject:

“As you may know, dogs (and cats) do get coronaviruses which cause short-lived respiratory and gastrointestinal signs. To be clear, the COVID-19 strain we are now seeing in people is not the same strain.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), no animals in the United States have been identified with the virus, and there is no evidence that dogs or other pets can contract or spread COVID-19.  At this time, experts have not expressed concern about transmission to or from animals and many health organizations have indicated that pets and other domestic animals are not considered at risk for contracting or spreading COVID-19.  Since animals can spread other diseases to people, appropriate hand washing is always recommended when handling animals.” 

There you have it, earlier this week there were stories about animals in China with the disease, but at this time the CDC is not concerned about our animals getting the virus. This can change, and I will of course update this article if the situation changes. If I end up going on my Vegas trip I will bring my guide.

Stay safe out there, make good decisions about your exposure to public events. Make sure that you are getting your information about this virus and it’s progression from a valid source, and above all don’t panic. This isn’t our first rodeo with a virus like this, and we will get through it. I would love to hear your thoughts on travel with the virus concerns looming. Are you cancelling your flights? Are you stockpiling food and toilet paper? I would love to know where you are with this. Oh! and wash your hands!

Hey! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to contact me via my social media sites I would love to hear your thoughts on this or any of my other articles! Until then, get out and get shooting! 

My Photography site: http://www.tahquechi.com/

My Bodyscapes project: http://www.bodyscapes.photography/

My travel site: http://www.blindtravels.com/

Instagram and Twitter: @nedskee


Flying on Southwest with a Guide Dog

Fauna the guide dog on southwest plane

We arrived at the airport very early for our flight on Southwest to San Francisco from Denver. I was traveling with my wife and Fauna my guide dog, and we checked in at the kiosk without issue. The attendant asked if Fauna was a service animal and I stated that she was. I was ready for the other question, what service she provides, but that question never came. This was perhaps because the harness with Guide Dogs for the Blind was clearly visible. After completing our time with the TSA, we took the tram to concourse C, which is where Southwest is located.  As you exit the tram and enter the main foyer of the concourse, there is a pet relieving room located on the left just past the McDonalds. We relieved and headed to our gate. They automatically marked us for early boarding, and we settled into the bulkhead for our flight.

I have always found Southwest planes to be comfortable, and Fauna always has plenty of room even when not sitting in the bulkhead seats (she only weighs 59 pounds). The flight attendants were attentive and respectful, and we arrived in San Francisco without issue. I know many read these blogs to comment about the mishaps that happen when traveling with a Guide Dog, but in this case the flight to and from San Francisco was flawless. My only comment is that compared to other airlines, Southwest employees don’t tend to ask if you need assistance getting to your destination/gate like other airlines like United and American do. Good Job Southwest.

Stay tuned for more tips and feel free to contact me on any of my social media links below if you have a tip to add for hotel week! 

Website: http://www.tahquechi.com/

Charity Work: http://www.bodyscapes.photography/

Travel & Review Site: http://www.blindtravels.com/

Instagram and Twitter: @nedskee


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