Thank you Pup Talk!

A big shout out and thank you to Pup Talk for the great article on BlindTravels! You guys are awesome. 

https://pup-talk.com/article32.html


Guide Dogs UK celebrates 90 years!

With Guide Dogs UK celebrating their 90th birthday today, the Shropshire Star took some time to publish a great article and shout out how amazing guide dogs are. The article emphasizes just how much independence working guide dogs give their handlers. I write quite often here on BlindTravels about my guide dog Fauna, who was raised and trained by Guide Dogs for the Blind. She is my first guide and I got her in 2018. I lost my sight in 2000 and waited 17 years before putting my hat into the ring and became a client with Guide Dogs for the Blind. The first time I took Fauna for a route was nothing short f life changing for me, the feeling of being able to travel down the sidewalk knowing that I would not run into anything was exhilarating. The net result of getting Fauna meant that I was now able to travel solo again. We traveled constantly throughout 2019, and took a break for COVID in 20202. Since things have settled down a bit in terms of the virus, we have done more traveling, especially to less-traveled locations.  

Resources

Herse a link to the article about Guide Dogs UK celebrating 90 years: https://www.shropshirestar.com/news/local-hubs/telford/newport/2021/10/11/how-utterly-incredible-guide-dogs-help-liberate-the-visually-impaired/

Support

Guide Dogs UK and Guide Dogs for the Blind are donation driven, and if you are looking for a good place to donate that will literally change a person’s life then either of these organizations are amazing places to help out. Guide dogs for the Blind are totally donation supported, and I support them several times a year by donating prints of my photography to auctions with all the proceeds going to Guide Dogs for the Blind. Click either of the links above and you can donate directly from their pages. 

My story

If you are partially sighted and considering getting a guide dog, you can check out my story at the link below, I documented the whole process of traveling to the Guide Dogs for the Blind campus and spending two weeks learning to handle Fauna. 

Getting my first Guide Dog

Guide Dogs UK celebrates 90 years! Congratulations again to Guide Dogs UK! I for one appreciate everything you do for your clients and wish you all the best on your next 90 years! Follow me on social media at the links below. I always love to hear from my readers.

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

My travel sitehttp://www.blindtravels.com/

Twitter and Instagram: @nedskee

Ted | Blind Photographer (@nedskee) • Instagram photos and videos

 


Blind Badminton

Anyone who regularly follows this blog knows that I am a big fan of travel related technology, and how it affects the lives of f he blind and visually impaired community. But, I love to hear and read about technologies being reimagined for new purposes, especially if those purposes allow members of the visually impaired community to participate in activities that were previously unavailable to them, like sports. 

Blind Badminton?

Recently, Yoichi Ochiai, an assistant professor at the University of Tsukuba challenged his students to devise a way for visually impaired participants to play racket sports. The team set out to make one of the most visually demanding games, badminton accessible. They replaced the traditional shuttlecock with a DJI Tello drone and developed a set of rackets (with the strings removed as not to damage the drone) which allow players to “hit” the done to the opponent. The system is still a prototype, and it works with a variety of sensors allowing participants the ability to swing the racket at the drone and change it’s trajectory in predictable ways. 

Te teams have successfully integrated the sensors into the handle of the rackets, and players use the sound of the drone as an auditory cue like you would with beeper ball. The drone flies with a cage around it so that players are safe from the spinning propellers and the rackets do not impact the drone when playing. The system shows a lot of promise and I look forward to seeing how the final version of the system is to play a game with. As with anything else, this technology should be leveraged to allow blind community members to participate in other similar sports like tennis.

Here is a link to the original article: https://dronedj.com/2021/09/16/dji-tello-drone-visually-impaired-play-badminton/

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

My travel sitehttp://www.blindtravels.com/

Twitter and Instagram: @nedskee

Ted | Blind Photographer (@nedskee) • Instagram photos and videos

Follow me and I will happily follow you back.


Winter is coming!

As summer winds down, and the signs of fall are all around us, it is a great time to think about keeping your dog safe during those wintery walks. While I will gear this article toward guide dog users, this information is appropriate for anyone who loves to venture out and walk their dog in brisk weather. You may be thinking to yourself, but Ted, it was 90 degrees outside yesterday, why are you already talking about winter weather? It is never too early to get prepared for bad weather, and some of the things you do to prepare for cold weather can help you when the temps are toasty outside.

How hot is too hot? How cold is too cold?

First and foremost, do not consider this medical advice, and since all dogs (and people) are different take the information here as informational, and please understand that  I highly recommend that you check with your veterinarian about your specific dog’s health before beginning a walking regiment or considering taking your dog outside in extreme temperatures. My guide dog Fauna is a 60 pound Black Labrador, and fits within the “average” and “medium” definitions set forth by her veterinarian.  She is within a couple pounds of her ideal weight, and we walk and hike regularly for long periods of time. I have coordinated with Fauna’s Veterinarian and the medical staff at Guide Dogs for the Blind, where she was trained to determine that she has a safe operating temperature range between 32 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. In this range she can walk safely, outside of this range however, precautions need to be observed. If the temperature is over 77F degrees, I always carry some water in  a camel back backpack with water and a collapsible bowl for Fauna. I plan stops ahead of time at the halfway point where I offer water and the chance for her to relieve herself. When it is cold is where I tend to err on the side of caution. 

Most healthy medium or large dogs can walk for 30-minutes if the temperature is above 20 degrees F. Smaller dogs should limit the walk to 15 or 20 minutes if temps are between 20 to 32 degrees F. If it’s below 0 degrees, no dog should be out for a walk.

Black Labs love to walk, and especially play in the snow. I have been told that Fauna is fine walking regularly without a coat in as low as 20F degrees. I’m not a big fan of walking in that cold of temperature, so I usually limit our outside times to 32 degrees and above when it is cold. I’m sure they are right, and she would be just fine, I just don’t like to be out when it is that cold. 

Preparation

If I am going to be outside when it is super warm or freezing cold I will usually put booties on Fauna to protect her feet.  In the summer, it doesn’t take long for the asphalt to get over 100 degrees, and icy sidewalks are miserable to walk on, so training our dog to walk in booties BEFORE you need him/her to can be a lifesaver. Even though Fauna is well versed in walking in booties, and uses them year round, we always start our refresher course in September to prepare for winter walking. I suggest buying your booties now, and practicing slowly with them around the house so when it comes time to use the booties in the great outdoors, your dog will be used to them. 

Start by putting the booties on your dog for a few minutes a day and building up to longer wearing around the house. Remember to derail any concerns by offering a high value treat during the time your pooch is wearing their new booties. Build up to wearing them outside and for longer periods around the house. The goal is to have your dog comfortable in their booties before they are needed. During this time, your dog will alo train you in the fine art of checking to see if their booties are still on while they learn the bootie life. 

My brand

Dog booties get lost all the time, even the most careful of us need to replace a missing bootie. This is why I use Ruffwear booties, it is super easy to order one or two booties as they need to be replaced (pro tip if you are serious about protecting your dogs feet buy an extra set.). Note: this is not a sponsored advertisement, I use the Ruffwear booties on Fauna all the time and trust their fit and ability to stay on even during long walks. Guide dogs are notoriously tough on toys and toher gear, and I have had no issues with their equipment. I also carry a Ruffwear collapsible bowl in my backpack. I’ll put links to the ones I use at the end of this article. 

In 2019, Fauna and I photographed The Special Olympics winter games at Eldora Co. The temperature was 20 degrees and Fauna was decked out in her cozy sweater (something I bought at the end of the season on a clearance track) and booties for quite a long time while we shot each of the events. Most times, a sweater is just fine, I reserve booties for when it is especially icy or if the Temperature is close to that 20 degree range. 

Conclusion

If you plan to walk in extreme temperatures, getting your pooch used to the gear they will be waring ahead of time will save you a lot of headaches. This goes for booties, sweaters or even water bowls. I know quite a few dogs that aren’t comfortable drinking out of a collapsible bowl when on the trail, so get them used to all the things they need for a trip out in the weather. 

Now that you know all there is to know about taking our dog out and walking in extrema weather, get out there and have some fun!

Fauna’s Booties: https://www.amazon.com/RUFFWEAR-Waterproof-Winter-Weather-Obsidian/dp/B08H7TD2FH/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&keywords=ruffwear+boots&qid=1631732068&sr=8-4

Fauna’s Bowl: https://www.amazon.com/Ruff-Products-BarkBowl-Tiffany-800ml/dp/B085X4CFX3/ref=sr_1_7?dchild=1&keywords=collapsible+dog+bowl&qid=1631733251&sr=8-7

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

My travel sitehttp://www.blindtravels.com/

Twitter and Instagram: @nedskee

Ted | Blind Photographer (@nedskee) • Instagram photos and videos

Follow me and I will happily follow you back.


Apple adding new disability friendly features to iOS

Apple today is announcing improvements to the iOS operating system, adding new features for users with a variety of disabilities. Of particular interest to the visually impaired community is the improvements to the voice over screen reader which will wil now allow users to identify the contents of images onscreen. If at it’s core, the screen reader will be able to identify people and their emotional state – smiling, crying etc. and be able to read the text on memes it will be a boon to the blind and low vision communities. I know Apple have been working on this technology for a few years now and I for one an happy to see it being implemented as a core feature of the operating system,. 

I’m a huge advocate for accessibility in social media, and as part of that I am constantly on a crusade to educate social media influencers on the importance of proper hash tag usage and how image descriptions can not only make the social media experience better for those who are blind and visually impaired, but can have the added benefit of reaching a new audience for their content. Good job on Apple for continuing to make accessibility in their products a priority

Meanwhile, improvements are coming to Apple’s VoiceOver screen reader to allow users to explore objects within images. Apple Watch will become more sensitive to muscle movement and tendon activity to give people with limb differences control over the device without using touch. And, the company is launching a new service called SignTime to allow customers to communicate with Apple support and retail representatives using American Sign Language.

I love to hear from my readers, if you have comments or questions about this or any other article on Blind Travels, please drop me a message on my contact form. You can read my article about making social media more accessible below, and also read the entire article on upcoming developments Apple is working on for their iOS platform

Disability Scoop’s article

Apple Launching New Accessibility Features For Those With Disabilities – Disability Scoop

My article on making social media more accessible. 

Making your social media content accessible to the visually impaired


Honda creates new shoe-based navigation for the visually impaired

With the rise of vision impairment disabilities in the population, Honda is joining other companies like Microsoft in creating products for the blind and visually impaired market. From Honda on the creation of Ashirase, Inc.

Honda Motor Co., Ltd. recently announced the establishment of Ashirase, Inc. It is the automaker’s first business venture to come up from Ignition, Honda’s new business creation program.

The Product

Ashirase, Inc., has created an in-shoe navigation system (also called Ashirase) which utilizes a smartphone app and GPS to aid the user in navigating a route entered into the app. Navigational alerts are delivered to the user through vibrators in the shoes. If the user is “on track” for their route, the vibrator in the front of the shoe activates. If the user is off course, there are vibrators in the left and right sides of the shoe to steer the user in the proper direction. The product is slated for market availability before March 31, 2023. According to the articles about the new device, it is intended to replace the white ane and free up th user’s hands when traveling. 

Questions

When I hear about new products that are intended to replace the white cane, I always have questions. First, would be obstacle avoidance. According to the available information, the shoes are intended to have a route input into the smartphone app then the vibrators keep you on track to your destination. For me, 90% or traveling from point A to B with my white cane is avoiding things in my path. If I am on a known route, then I know when I am off course and have landmarks along the path to rely on. A navigation aid like this would give a second source of reissuance that I am indeed headed on the proper path to my destination. 

I wonder why there are only three vibration points in the shoes. I pass my destination all the time and having a source of input that vibrated on my heel to let me know that I have passed my destination would be a big help. 

We reported recently on shoes that use LiDAR to detect obstacles in the user’s path and help them get around their environment. It sounds like a navigation system that tells you were you are going combined with a LiDAR system that tells you what is in your path could really be the next step in visually impaired navigation. These two companies should combine their technology and create an all in one solution. 

Conclusion

I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to drop me a message here if you have questions bout this or any other article on blindtravels.com. Follow me on social media – I’ll follow you back. 

Instagram: @nedskee

Twitter: @nedskee

My Photography:  www.tahquechi.com


Follow us on Facebook!

Did you know that Blind Travels has a Facebook page? Come and follow the page for updates on my upcoming trips, meetups, and speaking engagements. I also post a lot of my travel photography there, as well as tips and triks to get better images when you are traveling. See you there!

Blind Travels | Facebook

 


Google I/O and awesome accessibility features coming

Along with all the fun travel and destination reviews I do here on blindtravels, I love to talk about technology, especially when it relates to travel. This year’s Google I/O conference, a gathering of the minds which allows Google to show off all the cool new software and hardware they have developed. The software is generally in development and not ready for consumer use, but viewers of this conference get a glimpse into some of the great features for applications like Google maps that are headed our way. What was on tap for this year’s conference, and how will it help me travel more effectively? Lets dive in! 

LaMDA

The Language Model for Dialog Applications is a natural sounding conversational language interface. Anyone who uses Google Assistant or SiRi will know that there is not much dialog, it is more you asking the interface do do something and it responds. With  LaMDA, Google is trying to get a natural sounding dialog going with the user by delivering dialog and information to the user in a way that invites continued interaction with the interface. Google (and Apple) are continually developing their voice assistants capabilities and improving the way they interact with you. LaMDA seems like the next step in this evolutionary process and I look forward to the increased capabilities and more natural sounding interaction with my assistants. LaMDA is currently only working with text, but Google plans to implement the ability to interact with audio video and images. 

Google Maps

For those of us who rely on our feet for transportation, the new features in Google Maps are going to be great. Not only are they refining the granularity of the data you get, like where the sidewalks are (which is awesome) and pointing out landmarks or even where your hotel is in relation to your location, but they are mapping train stations, transit stations malls and airports, finally making inside travel easer. This is great, and the good news is that the airport mapping features are rolling out later this week. 

I’m not a big android user so I am going to skip the accessibility features for the new phones and OS. Overall the coming improvements are welcomed, especially the airport mapping. Here is a video which summarizes the features I spoke about along with all the new improvements coming for Google phones and photography.

Follow me!

I am running a contest on Instagram right now, anyone who follows me before June 1 will be entered into a drawing for a limited-edition photo print, so follow me now and I will follow you back! @nedskee I love to hear from my readers, if you have a question or comment on this article, feel free to drop me a message on my contact form here or on my social media links below.

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

My travel sitehttp://www.blindtravels.com/

Twitter and Instagram: @nedskee

Ted | Blind Photographer (@nedskee) • Instagram photos and videos

Follow me and I will happily follow you back.


Do blind people use Instagram?

Visual impairment is not black and white, there are many levels between fully functional vision and being completely blind. Hearing impairment, and mobility impairment also have many varying levels, but in the case of mobility impairment, those differences are more clearly visible – or at least you might think they are. Someone traveling in a wheelchair might or might not be able to support their own weight, just like someone traveling with a cane might or might not have some level of functional vision. This applies to hearing impaired as well, just because someone’s primary method of communication is sign language does not mean they are completely hearing impaired. So, if you see me on my phone browsing social media, I might actually be looking at photos, but in a different way than you do.  

It might surprise you to learn that many blind people regularly use Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, but depending on how the content creator posts their information, some of these services are easier to use than others.

What is alt text?

Alt text is a short phrase that is used to identify images, typically on web pages. Screen readers use the alt text tag to give visually impaired viewers information about the image being displayed.  Most social media platforms have options for content creators to use alt text to add accessibility to posted content. Facebook (and soon Instagram) are automatically adding alt text to memes and other images rather successfully. This doesn’t mean that you should rely on Facebook or Instagram to generate the alt text for you, because we all want control of our posted content.

The alt text tag comes historically from HTML web language, you can see it in action on many websites, Hovering over a web image will often display a description, which comes from the alt text entered for that image. The alt text is also used by many content engines in place of an image which does not load. You might be asking how alt text can help content providers expand their audience, but you might need to change your mindset on what alt text is really intended for.

SEO vs. ALT Text

Anyone reading articles about getting started in Instagram, will quickly notice that most of the authors of these articles highly recommend using the image description and/or alt text description as another opportunity to add a bunch of tags for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). However, I will show you that if used properly, alt text and image descriptions can not only increase your ranking on SEO, but it can improve the experience of blind and visually impaired viewers of your content.

Visual Storytelling

Instagrammers are often referred as visual storytellers. Because of the limitations of the platform, you have a finite amount of space to describe your image in a way that the algorithm will bring you to the top of the heap in viewers feeds. Often content creators have to rely on tag clouds (comments with tags) and location tags to add additional information to the image in hopes of getting a better ranking on a very congested social media platform. This is where the improper use of alt text comes in to play for many creators, they will flood the alt text field with tags rather than add useful information for blind and visually impaired viewers as it is intended. As a storyteller, look at the alt text for Instagram posts as another opportunity to tell the story about your image. First, start thinking about what goes into writing a good image description.

Straightforward and clear

Screen readers often break up long text into smaller more manageable pieces. It is easier for those using screen readers if you provide a clear straightforward description of your image. With this in mind, look at the image above. You might be tempted to say something like “girls on the beach” as your description, but does that really tell the story? Don’t just think about whether it is males or females and how many of them and where they are, think about it in terms of the story.  “Six girls wearing rainbow swimsuits facing away from the camera with heir hands in the air sitting on a sandy beach with clear blue sky” is a description that would let you close your eyes and imagine the content of the image. If you were selling a product like swimsuits, you could add the brand name, or the specific colors of the products. This description could also be expanded to include the location of the shot if it were taken in Cozumel, Mexico for example. I opted to not include the location because there were no identifying landmarks or structures in the image, but if you were promoting a vacation property there is no reason you could not include that. Screen reader will read tags is you prefer to put them in #hashtag form, but it is a good idea to limit yourself to a couple. Search Engines will also process this additional information and hashtags when it crawls your posting. Once you have your description done, how do you add it to your new Instagram post?

Adding alt text to Instagram post

  1. Start by uploading (or taking) a photo to Instagram
  2. Add filters and edit the image, click Next
  3. Scroll down, and tap on “Advanced Settings” at the bottom of the screen
  4. Click on “Write Alt Text”
  5. Write your alternative text in the box provided and click Done (iOS) or Save (Android).
  6. To finish posting, click back. Finish your post with caption, tag accounts, etc. as you normally would.
  7. Tap “Share” once you are ready

Revisit old posts?

Is it worth revisiting old posts and adding alt text? Of course. Any post you would like additional SEO for, and to increase your audience for would benefit from properly implemented alt text descriptions.

Why add alt text

  • Makes your content more inclusive for people with visual impairments
  • Adds additional information for the Instagram algorithm
  • Expands your content’s discoverability way beyond Instagram

Follow me!

I am running a contest on Instagram right now, anyone who follows me before June 1 will be entered into a drawing for a limited-edition photo print, so follow me now and I will follow you back! @nedskee I love to hear from my readers, if you have a question or comment on this article, feel free to drop me a message on my contact form here or on my social media links below.

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

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

Twitter and Instagram: @nedskee

Ted | Blind Photographer (@nedskee) • Instagram photos and videos

Follow me and I will happily follow you back.


Railway stations ‘mapped’ for visually impaired passengers

Sussex are taking accessibility to the next level for some of their railway stations. The improvements implemented to make the stations more accessible to blind and visually impaired travelers include some great looking tactile maps manufactured by the Royal National Institute of Blind People, higher contrast markings on stairs and public address system quality upgrades. 

I love to see public transportation accessibility being upgraded. I live in the United States and I wish there were more programs to increase the accessibility and functionality of public transportation here. Granted our transportation infrastructure is nowhere near the UK in terms of quality and functionality, but we can strive to get there. Better quality maps, and higher contest marking for stairs are beneficial to all riders. I really like the improvement of the public address system. Its a simple thing, but making it easier to understand which trains are arriving and departing can reduce stress on all riders, not just the hearing and vision impaired. As they continue to improve their mapping and accessibility for the railway stations I will report back. In the meantime, here is a list of the currently upgraded stations. 

Stations in the south to benefit from the investment

  • Brighton- Update of tactile maps

  • Crawley – ramp enhancements

  • Goring by Sea – stairs enhancement

  • Haywards Heath – update of tactile maps

  • Shoreham – stairs enhancement

  • Three Bridges -New ticket gate wide enough for wheelchairs, buggies and people with luggage

  • Worthing – stairs enhancement

You ca read more about the improvements they are making at the link below. 

https://www.itv.com/news/meridian/2021-05-16/sussex-railway-stations-mapped-for-visually-impaired-passengers

I love to hear from my readers, please drop me a line and let me know what you think of this article on my contact form or at my social medial links below. 

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

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

Twitter and Instagram: @nedskee

Follow me and I will happily follow you back.


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