iOS 14 great new feature for the visually impaired

I’m an iPhone user and have been since the iPhone 5. I have always been happy with their accessibility features and I know the operating system inside and out, so I stay with iPhones because I’m comfortable with them and can easily navigate. Because of the maturity of the platform, innovative features seem exceedingly rare especially in terms of accessibility. Most companies require you to buy the latest greatest hardware to get new features, but not so with the really great back tap feature in iOS 14. In your settings under accessibility > touch you can now activate the back tap feature which allows you to double or triple tap on the back of your phone to activate a feature. You can set up the double and triple tap to activate separate features as well. 

Like most of you that frequent this blog, I use a screen reader. On iOS you slide two fingers down from the top of the screen to activate the screen reader function. Most times when I’m in a hurry, I end up bringing up the notifications or some other function instead of activating the screen reader. With the new back tap feature I set the double tap to activate screen reader and it has made the phone 100% more useable for me and makes the screen reader function orders of magnitude more reliable. You can also set the back tap feature to activate zoom, mute the phone bring up spotlight or a myriad of other options. 

The back tap uses the accelerometer in your phone and works very well on my older iPhone X, my son has a iPhone 8 and it works equally well. The options you can set the feature to are a bit limited as of right now but I’m sure it will expand with time and future releases. 

There isn’t much more to say about this new feature other than I’m interested to hear if you are using it and what you think ab out it. Drop me a message and let me know.

 


Voting as a blind or visually impaired person.

I hope everyone had a safe and fun Halloween. We are roaring towards Thanksgiving and Christmas at a breakneck pace. What I would like to talk about today is not the holiday season thought, I would like to talk about taking the time to vote tomorrow. This is an inherently non-political blog so don’t expect me to tell you who to vote for, instead let’s talk about the act of voting as a visually impaired person. 

Obstacles

No matter which side of the political spectrum you fall on, one constant for my readers remains the same – the concern over the act of voting. There is always a bit of concern, when you go to the polling station and ask for help, how do you really know that the person you are getting aid from doesn’t have an agenda and will purposely mismark your vote to their ideal? Many visually impaired and blind people I know don’t even bother to take the time to vote in person for this very suspicion. I think this is a valid concern at any time, but especially during this election cycle with the rampant divide we have in our country. 

The answer to the question for now becomes trust. If you don’t have someone you can trust to go with you to the polling station, then you just must trust in the credibility of the people volunteering at the voting stations. Because the states are responsible for the way voting is handed in each district, it is difficult to create a cohesive plan for making the act of voting more accessible to the blind and visually impaired.  

Added to the suspicion that your vote might not be recorded as you request, are the concerns over COVID-19. We have all lived this new normal for a while now and I am sure I don’t need to remind you to bring your hand sanitizer and wear your mask. If you are a guide dog user like I am, make sure that you have some sort of sign attached to your dog dissuading people from petting him or her which will reduce your potential exposure. You might be waiting in lines so be sure to bring yourself and your guide a snack and a drink. 

Make your voice heard

Regardless of your political affiliation, take the time to get out and make your voice heard. We get the governmental representation we deserve. If you don’t like the sitting administration, then you have the right to volunteer to make a change. If you vote tomorrow and things don’t go the way you expected them to, then at least you took the time to let your voice be heard. 

Moving forward

Voting is a lot like daylight savings time.  Twice a year, we complain about daylight savings time and say we should do something about it. We suck it up and have a week of terrible sleep, then things go back to normal until the springtime when we must go through it again and complain all over. Voting is similar, there are a ton of things that can be done to change the next voting cycle for the better in terms of accessibility for the blind and visually impaired, but by the time the presidential election cycle is over the last thing we want to think about is dealing with issues around voting. This election cycle has been the longest in history and if you are anything like me, there is a lot of fatigue. When this is all over, we should all take the time to start calling our local representatives and start working toward making voting more accessible. If we can’t fix the national issues, perhaps we can make local troubles better. If that doesn’t work and the voting process just can’t be changed on a national level, then perhaps we can build a group of volunteers that can be trusted to go with those who don’t have someone in their lives to help out. Maybe a smaller step like this could help to bring change to a system that is not accessible by nature (in most areas).

Get out there

It is too late to make any tangible changes to the voting system for this election cycle but let’s get together and start working toward the 2022 elections. If we work in steps, then maybe the 2024 presidential election cycle can be a bit (or a lot) more accessible.   For now, take a deep breath, and do your duty and let your voice be heard!


Supporting the disabled community

I love to support organizations that focus on making a positive difference in the lives of the disabled community. Over the last five years, I have been working with Access Gallery located in the Denver Santa Fe Art District. Access Gallery offers fantastic art-centric programs especially tailored to the needs of the disabled. Each year, they host a fundraiser where 99 artists come together to support this worthwhile organization.     

Each year I donate a print to Access Gallery for annual fundraiser. This year for the first time the event will be held virtually, so my friends from all over the country can participate. I don’t sell my work, so the only way to get one of my prints is through a fundraiser like this. The print they will be selling is a limited-edition print from an upcoming body of work.  I invite you all to attend the free virtual fundraiser starting at 5:00 pm on October 23rd.
 
My wife, Carrie Tahquechi who makes handmade custom jewelry has also donated an amazing piece for the event Help us support Access Gallery, they have changed so many people’s lives with the work they do.
 
If you end up getting a piece of art, I’d love you to send me a message about it!
Here is a link with more information about Access Gallery and the 99 pieces of Art on the Wall fundraiser. 
 

Be my eyes and Guide Dogs for the Blind team up to help alumni

Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) and the BeMyEyes app have reamed up to offer specialized help via the app for their blind and visually impaired clients. If you have never used the BeMyEyes app, it is a wonderful smartphone app which allows users to connect to a volunteer who can help in a variety of visually oriented situations. If you need help reading the ingredients or cooking time on a package, or label on a medication bottle, this service can be a lifesaver. Now, the GDB staff will be able to field questions specific to Guide Dogs and other matters via the specialized help section of the application.

from the press release:

Beginning September 14, 2020, GDB support staff will field calls via the “Specialized Help” section of the app, allowing GDB experts to remotely help clients who are visually impaired with relevant issues regarding their guide dogs or other situations that might require live visual assistance. Such assistance could include reading labels on their dog’s food or medication packaging, addressing problems with harnesses, inspecting a dog’s physical condition, or helping interact with GDB’s website. Clients can ask questions Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. through 4 p.m. PST. For questions not requiring GDB staff expertise, users can simply tap the “Call the First Volunteer” button on the app to get answers and assistance. 

If you would like to read more about the collaboration here is an article:

https://www.streetinsider.com/Business+Wire/Guide+Dogs+for+the+Blind+Partners+With+Be+My+Eyes+to+Give+Real-Time+Video+Assistance+to+Alumni+via+Innovative+App/17357264.html

The Be My Eyes application is available in the Google Play and Apple app stores and works with most models of smartphone. Guide Dogs for the Blind is a San Rafael California based organization which provides guide dogs and training to blind and visually impaired clients. Be my eyes is an app which helps the visually impaired see. Be my eyes is a volunteer-run program and they are always looking for volunteers from those who are fully sighted – check out the link below for more information. 

Guide Dogs for the Blind: https://www.guidedogs.com/

Be My Eyes: https://www.bemyeyes.com/

I love to hear from my readers! follow me on social media and I will happily follow you back. 

My photography: https://www.tahquechi.com

Twitter and Instagram: @nedskee


The British Museum and VocalEyes team up for upcoming exhibition

We all want to get back to traveling, and especially going to museums again. Many in the visually impaired community have concerns about the dynamics of COVID-19 and returning to travel destinations like museums. In the meantime, it is great to see museums like The British Museum offering virtual options to visit and learn about their exhibitions.  

Tantra: Audio Described talk Describing ten prominent pieces from the collection is an online event happening this October. from the article: 

VocalEyes(Opens in new window)‘ Lonny Evans leads this audio-described event, which provides evocative visual descriptions of 10 key works from the Tantra enlightenment to revolution exhibition, alongside images of each object. Lonny will be joined by exhibition curator Imma Ramos as we explore this radical South Asian philosophy from its birth in India to the present day.

VocalEyes is a London-based charity that provides blind and partially-sighted people with opportunities to experience and enjoy art and heritage.

This event is designed for blind and partially sighted audiences, but all are welcome. The event includes live captioning delivered by Stagetext(Opens in new window).

Part of the public program accompanying the special exhibition, Tantra: enlightenment to revolution (24 September 2020 – 24 January 2021).

To attend this online event

Click ‘Book now(Opens in new window)‘ to secure your place. We are hosting the event on Zoom – a free video conferencing system that requires users to register in advance. If you do not already use Zoom, you can sign up using this registration link(Opens in new window).

If you have any access requirements or need assistance booking this event please email access@britishmuseum.org or phone 020 7323 8971.

The event is being held via Zoom, a video service which I have personally found to be very easy to use. Once you register, they will send you an email with a link that will bring you directly into the virtual stream on the day of the event. 

If you would like more information, here is a link for the event from the British Museum:

https://www.britishmuseum.org/events/tantra-audio-described-talk

And here is a link from the Museum Association reporting on a survey VocalEyes, (a London-based agency helping to make content more accessible for sight impaired viewers) recently conducted around the concerns of returning to normal activities amid the COVDI-19 pandemic.

https://www.museumsassociation.org/museums-journal/news/2020/09/blind-and-visually-impaired-people-share-access-concerns/#

I love to hear from my readers, connect with me on social media or through the contact form here on Blind Travels. Follow me and I will happily follow you back!

My Photography: https://www.tahquechi.com

Twitter and Instagram: @nedskee

 


‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ just got more accessible to blind audiences

It makes me happy that many of the streaming services are catching up with audio describes content for the sight imp[aired. Apple TV has always been a bit ahead of the curve in that department, but now Netflix has taken the first step to making a popular animated series more accessible. Avatar: The Last Airbender is now available with audio description. I’m looking forward to watching the series again and hearing what I missed on my initial viewing experience. 

I’m personally overjoyed that streaming companies are taking the audio described content to heart, and even game companies are taking audio content by the reigns with the new The Last of Us which can be played completely without sight. Now, if we can only solve the issue of dialogue in another language. I have always found it difficult to wat5ch shows like Breaking Bad which have a large non-English component to the stories. While the addition of non-English language adds context to a show, those of us who can’t see find it a bit difficult to read the subtitles. Listening to the way the actors deliver the line allows for picking up some context of the story told in a non-English language, but I’m sure much of the story that is driven by non-English subtitles is not on the sight impaired. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining about the lack of accessibility and I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth I am happy that there is change happening and that content is becoming more accessible. It is just something that should have happened a long time ago. 

Here is an article on the Last Airbender series, which can be watched on Netflix now with audio description. 

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2020-09-14/avatar-the-last-airbender-just-got-more-accessible-to-blind-audiences


Google adds new accessible functionality to Docs

If you are a Google Docs, Sheets or Slides user you will be happy to learn that Google has added a new shortcut command to instantly toggle Braille displays:

Google is making it easier for visually impaired people to use its Microsoft Office alternatives. The biggest change is a new shortcut — Ctrl+Alt+H on Windows, and CMD+Option+H on Mac — to instantly toggle Braille support in Docs, Sheets and Slides. 

The free Google productivity applications have long been a step behind Microsoft Office in terms of overall accessibility. The last big accessibility access update for the suite of applications was in 2018, when they added magnifier and voice over functionality. I’m glad Google is still working toward accessibility and making it easier for their blind and visually impaired users to surf the web and be productive using their applications. 

I love to hear from my readers! if you have questions about this or any other article here on Blind Travels, feel free to use the contact form on this site or friend me on Instagram or Twitter. I’ll happily follow you back and we can converse there. 

My Photography: https://www.tahquechi.com

Instagram and Twitter: @nedskee


Staying fit during the new normal

Depending on where you live, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult or worrisome to get out and get that much needed exercise. Just watch TV for a few minutes and you will be inundated with apps and companies offering virtual options for getting fit in this crazy new normal we are living in.  The biggest downside to these virtual (and most in-person classes) is they aren’t geared toward those of us who are visually impaired.  I don’t know about you, but taking a yoga class and learning how to do all the poses correctly was a big challenge. I have found that having an instructor that is aware that it is difficult or impossible to see what the instructor is doing is the difference between being successful and frustrated. The Lighthouse for the Blind is offering some great virtual options for getting rid of those pandemic 15 pounds. 

To maintain a safe environment, the classes require pre-registration and are held over Zoom. Lighthouse is offering classes in Cardio, which happens every morning and a weekly yoga class. Lighthouse for the Blind also offer many other interesting virtual meetings on a variety of topics like technology, Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Virtual board game night and meditation. All you need to do is contact the instructor for the class and they can set you up. Here is a  link and some additional information:

Lighthouse for the Blind article on the Cardio class, which has a link to the calendar where you can sign up for all the great classes. You can contact and RSVP for Cup of Cardio and find out about other LightHouse Health and Wellness events by contacting Amber at ASherrard@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7353.

Get Your Cupful of Cardio Weekdays with LightHouse


Japan’s tactile paving helps visually impaired travel.

visually impaired easioerThis is such a great innovation. Seiichi Miyake came up with the idea for the two types of paved stones after seeing a visually impaired man with a can almost hit by a car. One of the two types of pavers has long shapes to denote travel direction and the other has the bumps we are used to seeing in the states at corners to represent caution. I often wonder what kind of support would be required to see this sort of innovation or implementation in the United States, then I remember than we don’t even have a viable way to represent bathrooms for the visually impaired who don’t read braille. I love that the paths created by  Seiichi Miyake are bright yellow, making it easier for those who are not completely blind more able to travel a safe route. 

Japan has always been on the forefront of supporting their visually impaired citizens, it would be amazing if the United States adopted even some of the ways other countries support their disabled citizens. Please take a moment to read this interesting and informative article on this innovation. 

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/08/22/national/social-issues/tactile-paving-visually-impaired/#.X0FUWshKiUk

Do articles like this interest you? follow me on social media and I will happily follow you back. 

Twitter and Instagram: @nedskee

My photography: https://www.tahquechi.com


Are you blind? dealing with social distancing as a visually impaired person.

Before I got my guide dog Fauna, walking into objects and people was a fact of life. I would often lose focus while walking and veer off my line especially when I was in a store trying to find a particular product. Blindness is often referred to as the invisible disability. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard the classic “gee, you don’t look blind” line in my life since the car accident which robbed me of all but a tiny portion of my sight. Before this year, brushing up against someone while wandering through the store was no big deal. Picking up a piece of fruit to feel for bruises was something I just did every time to ensure that I was not buying a bruised up apple or banana. Since the lockdown and subsequent easing of restrictions, being blind in a visual world has become even more difficult in so many ways. 

The signs

One of the best parts of getting a guide dog is that my “invisible” disability has become a whole lot more visible. My white cane did indeed identify me as someone who was visually impaired, but with the guide dog it is a whole new experience. Just this past weekend, my wife and I were in the store and a middle aged couple with the man pushing the cart quickly ran up and stopped in front of me. My wife explained the situation: “They walked up to you and slammed on the brakes, the man gestured with his hand in a waving motion for me to move past them. He had a look on his face that he was clearly put out and didn’t understand why I wasn’t moving. The female member of the couple looked at the male and yelled at him pointing to my guide dog”. He apologized profusely knowing that he was in the wrong. I graciously accepted his apology and moved on about my business. The moral here is that we are all in our own world and all have things to do. But perhaps taking time to consider what others are going through with this pandemic might make you a bit better person in the long run.  I can’t see the arrows on the floor, and I often wonder what it would be like to be forced to traverse the world with a cane or worse, if I had enough vision to travel on my own but not be able to read or see signs on the floor denoting the proper direction for a given aisle. 

Another story

I always enjoy reading about the way other people with visual impairments solve the problem of living day to day with vision loss. Here is a great article I found written by MARY MAMMOLITI about the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and how she learned to to deal with the situation around her. 

https://www.refinery29.com/en-ca/2020/08/9953679/social-distancing-for-the-blind-visually-impaired

I love to hear from my readers! if you have questions about this or any other article here on Blind Travels, feel free to use the contact form on this site or friend me on Instagram or Twitter. I’ll happily follow you back and we can converse there. 

My Photography: https://www.tahquechi.com

Instagram and Twitter: @nedskee


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