That one thing to pack for your next trip

Packing for your next trip can be an exciting but daunting process. The first thing that always goes in my suitcase is a collapsible white cane, even if I am traveling with my guide dog. A white cane can be invaluable asset while traveling for a couple reasons.

Identification

If you are traveling to a destination where the residents do not not speak your native language, you may find yourself having trouble asking for assistance from those around you. A white cane in hand will clearly identify you as a visually impaired traveler and can make those situations where you might need some assistance easier to navigate.

If I am not traveling with my guide dog, I always at least carry my cane, in case the person traveling with me needs to excuse themselves for a short time.  

Down with the sickness

Imagine traveling to a foreign destination and your guide dog or traveling companion falls ill. It is for this one reason alone that I always have a cane with me when I travel. It allows me the freedom to venture out on my own even if the worst case scenario happens. 

Use caution

No matter where you travel there will always be those with nefarious intentions. The white cane can also be a double-edged sword of sorts, while it clearly identifies you as visually impaired, it can also clearly identify you as a perceived easy target for muggers. I always carry my money and passports in waist belts/wallets and have a wallet with a small amount of cash for easy access. I only put what I would be willing to lose in the wallet. If someone grabs my wallet then I’m only losing a small amount of cash, the thief gets what they came for and I can go about my business with my documents and money safely carried on my person.

Before you go…

I love to hear from my readers, feel free to drop me a note on my social media links below or right here on blind travels. follow me and I will happily follow you back.

My Photography: www.tahquechi.com

Twitter: @nedskee

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Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blindtravels/


New device uses haptics to allow the visually impaired to sense their surroundings.

Using 3d printed goggles holding stereo infrared sensors, scientists have developed a system for the visually impaired to navigate more effectively.  Users wear arms receptors which inform the user of objects in their path, according to the developer: “Distance information from the camera is mapped onto a 2D vibration array on a haptic feedback sleeve on the forearm which communicates the information to the wearer as sensations of touch“. Since the user wears the haptic sleeve, the hands are left free, unlike when using a cane.  The prototype of the system is said to work well and users could avoid objects and navigate an internal course. The study (and system?) is yet to be peer reviewed, so this technology could be a ways off but seems very promising. 

This reminds me of the backpack from years ago, where the user would get a vibration sensed feedback of their surroundings delivered to their back. Technology has of course come a long way since them, it would be great to have a sleeve that could deliver object notifications and object identification (which is slated for a future release of the system.).  It would not take much to get used to a haptic sleeve which could give feedback about your surroundings. 

Image of black goggles sitting on a wooden surface and Image of a person wearing black goggles

New device uses haptics to allow the visually impaired to sense their surroundings.

Link to original Yahoo article:

https://news.yahoo.com/scientists-build-device-may-help-065738213.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAL2XiCQgmEvrYXzhol9-P8HB-9kM6J61bVSc8OStbZc0MsSmB2PaYsnSiaV0vjQZuOYpAxlbWmu-GJRsCwlKgRdq0gpriVe2HfiCRDCwsJkVqgo-k1bccI1XpR5O4DRgSHaA1h7RzsoemKTfPuX5eYLoQ_N1RntibP-HITXsDrdx

Before you go…

I love to hear from my readers, feel free to drop me a note on my social media links below or right here on blind travels. follow me and I will happily follow you back. 

My Photography: www.tahquechi.com

Twitter: @nedskee

Instagram: @nedskee

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blindtravels/


New York becoming more friendly for the visually impaired!

While it is a great thing to see cities making their streets safer for the visually impaired to travel, it is certainly sad that it has to be by court order. According to the article in the New York Times, the ruling will fundamentally change the face of the city. Until now, the pedestrian crossings were predominantly flashing red lights and the walk symbol. I for one hope that this case rolls out to other cities, making them safer for their blind and visually impaired inhabitants. From the article: 

A federal judge on Monday ordered New York City officials to install more than 9,000 signal devices at intersections to make it easier for pedestrians who are visually impaired to safely cross the streets.

What do you think? is this a good use of city funds? Do you think that making the streets safer for the blind and visually impaired pedestrians will impact the population at large? 

Here is a link to the full article:

Why New York City May Soon Be More Walkable for Blind People – The New York Times (nytimes.com)


Winter World Book 1 by A.G. Riddle Audiobook

We love reviewing audiobooks, here’s our latest: 

Winter World Book 1 by A.G. Riddle Audiobook – in-depth review of the story and performance for Winter World book 1 by A. G Riddle

 

Winter World (audiobook) by A.G. Riddle

 


CVS expands it’s accessible prescription labels program

CVS is rolling out it’s accessible talking prescription labels program to all of it’s nearly 10,000 locations. The program is available in-app and users must be enrolled to access the feature. This move is great news for those who use CVS and are visually impaired. According to CVS: 

The solution, called Spoken Rx, was designed in collaboration with the American Council of the Blind. Patients enrolled in the program can scan the labels on their prescription containers and have their information, including the medication’s name and directions for use, read out loud to them in either English or Spanish

I always love to see companies taking accessibility seriously, especially when it comes to prescriptions. I use another pharmacy but would love to hear your thoughts about this new program and how it is working for you. A program that tells you the prescription name, when it is to be taken and perhaps the shape of the pills would be great (and if it doesn’t have these features it should!). Having to rely on the sighted when it comes to mixed up prescriptions can be a pain. Readers certainly help but having official accessibility features like this is a great idea. Come on other pharmacies, time to step up your accessibility game! 

https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/digital-health/cvs-expands-talking-prescription-labels-to-all-locations-to-support-visually

Before you go…

I love to hear from my readers, feel free to drop me a note on my social media links below or right here on blind travels. follow me and I will happily follow you back. 

My Photography: www.tahquechi.com

Twitter: @nedskee

Instagram: @nedskee

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blindtravels/


Malaysia making their vending machines accessible

Malaysia is launching a program to tackle one of the most difficult things to navigate as a visually impaired person: the vending machine. According to Mashable:

The Southeast Asian nation’s biggest F&B vending operator, ATLAS Vending, recently collaborated with the Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB) to roll out a pilot program that sees 11 machines rolled out in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital.

The new machines have braille plates to help buyers navigate the system, and motion sensor triggered audio instructions. For so many of us who are visually impaired, vending machines are a mystery. The prices are located below the items for sale and are usually poorly lit. Even if you can figure out the price and number-letter combination usually required to purchase the item, users still have to figure out how to use a series of buttons which are not labeled in braille and often not in large print or high contract lettering either. Often, the entire process of buying something in a vending machine is a frustrating one where the visually impaired are required to rely on the sighted for assistance. 

I’m always an advocate for making daily life more accessible, but vending machines are especially troublesome. If they had any consistency in stock or functionality, then at least one could remember the combination of buttons required to purchase an item. As it stands stock rotates and often when you have it all figured out and you know the button combination for the item you want, the stock will change and you end up with something unexpected. I hope the changes Malaysia are attempting inspire vending machine companies in other countries (like the US) to make the next generation of vending machines at least somewhat accessible. 

For more information, you can read the Mashable article here: 

https://sea.mashable.com/social-good/18405/malaysia-gets-its-first-braille-enabled-vending-machine

Before you go…

I love to hear from my readers, feel free to drop me a note on my social media links below or right here on blind travels. follow me and I will happily follow you back. 

My Photography: www.tahquechi.com

Twitter: @nedskee

Instagram: @nedskee

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blindtravels/


This week in accessibility and technology

This week in accessibility and technology is an ongoing series of articles focused on news about accessibility and technology for the blind and visually impaired. This week’s offerings include accessibility for visually impaired Virginia voters and more complaints registered about the “devil’s bumps” on curb corners. 

Accessible voting

First up this week, West Virginia voters who are blind or visually impaired will now be able to use a complete Voter’s Guide in Braille reports AP News. The Secretary of State Mac Warner released the guides earlier this week, and the guides were created in conjunction with the Virginia State Elections Commission. The nonprofit organization Disability Rights of West Virginia will provide the guides. The first question that should come to mind is: why is equal accessibility to voting for all citizens not defined? Did you know the right to vote is not in the constitution? There are provisions for not limiting voting based on sex and race, here is a great article which outlines the current state of the right to vote based on the current constitutional amendments. 

https://theconversation.com/the-right-to-vote-is-not-in-the-constitution-144531

Should voting rights be defined for all? yes. however, deciding on the wording for that definition is going to be a long difficult  process. To have proper accessibility, all voting materials should be available in both large print and braille, just like they are available in different languages. Likewise, the process of voting should provide nationwide provisions for the visually impaired. Depending on the state you live in, you can have totally a accessible experience or one where someone reads the options to you and votes for you. There should be clear unifications in the way the process is handled and it should be accessible to all. It never hurts to contact your local representative to help the ball get rolling for this important process. 

Bumpy road ahead

The Mercury News weighs in on the bumps present at curb cuts, the article below contains different people’s opinions on the usefulness and necessity of the bumps. Many weigh in on the dangerous nature and difficulty they introduce in navigation for those in wheelchairs. Even those who are not disabled comment on the dangerous nature of the bumps – they are slippery when wet and can cause fall hazards. 

More complaints (and the official response) about the ‘devil’s bumps’: Roadshow

I’m happy to weigh in on these bumps, they are an important unified landmark for the visually impaired. Unless you are visually impaired or know someone who is, the importance of permanent landmarks may well be lost on you. When a blind or visually impaired person navigates their route – say to Starbucks, they are walking and using a process called time-distance estimation to get from one landmark to another. Sometimes landmarks move – this recently happened to me. I was on my normal route on Monday morning, sometime between Friday afternoon and Monday morning, the city works crew decided to remove a planter that has been in the same spot for as long as I have been walking that route. My guide dog Fauna had no issue because she side-stepped the debris and I didn’t realize the landmark was gone until we reached the corner cut with the bumps. I doubled back and investigated and found that the planter which I usually ran my  foot along was gone. I wasn’t in an danger – I knew I was at a corner because my guide stopped me and I felt the bumps, but it was a bit confusing. If I had been using my cane I would have also detected the bumps, they may be an inconvenience to you, but they are great for the blind and visually impaired. 

Very often when changes roll out for the visually impaired, like talking or beeping signs for crossing streets, they are a benefit for the fully sighted as well. Having a unified landmark infrastructure which allows me to confidently travel my route from point A to B makes a big difference in my daily life. You can see them and avoid them, I’m sorry they are an inconvenience, but they keep me on track and keep me and many others like me oriented in our travels. 

Before you go…

I love to hear from my readers, feel free to drop me a note on my social media links below or right here on blind travels. follow me and I will happily follow you back. 

My Photography: www.tahquechi.com

Twitter: @nedskee

Instagram: @nedskee

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blindtravels/


Shooting Lake Marie Wyoming, at sunrise

The most difficult aspect of shooting Lake Marie Wyoming, at sunrise was the frigid cold temperatures. Just like everything else when you are visually impaired, taking the time to research, plan and orient yourself before attempting something pays it forward when the day arrives. How did I get this fun shot? Read on for the story and an in-depth image description. . 

Image description

Lake Marie is a small mountain lake that sits at approximately 10,505 feet (3,202 meters) above sea level. It is not uncommon to get snow at tis altitude even during the summer months. This image was taken at sunrise, and you can see the lake, some majestic peaks above it and a few puffy clouds scattered around the sky. The sunrise light has turned the normally grey rocks into a blazing orange and that light is not only reflecting off of the water, but also the bottom of the clouds. A light snow shower the day before left a light layer of snow all around the shore of the lake and a bit up the peaks behind the lake. A small evergreen tree can be seen at the left side of the frame, which is almost completely devoid of branches and foliage.  

The location

Lake Marie is located in Wyoming’s Snowy Range and as mentioned above sits at a bit over 10,000 feet. Temperatures can be chilly even in the summer months. Due to the large volume of snow, the road that gets you from Centennial to Saratoga (the way to get to Lake Marie) is closed in late fall and winter. The lake is located right off the road and the path to get to the edge of the lake is well paved and accessible. I had no issues walking with my guide dog, but a cane would also not be an issue and there are no large obstructions. Travelers using mobility aids, such as wheelchairs or walkers should have no issue getting to the lake to take a photo, assuming there is no snow – which can happen at any time. 

Planning ahead

This shot was taken in the fall, and we visited the location a couple of months before to take some test shots and plan our sunrise shoot. I always find sunrise and sunset shoots tough because of the lack of light. I like to visit a location and determine where the sun will be and of course find my composition so on the day of the shoot I can head to the spot, get my shot then take time to explore other compositions and angles. When shooting at altitude, always wear or bring warm clothes because you never know what kind of weather you will encounter – even during the summer. 

The gear

For my landscape photography, I shoot with a Canon 5D mark IV camera and heavy Manfrotto tripod. I tend to veer toward heavier tripods because there is always a chance I am going to bump into my gear, and the heavier tripod has saved my camera on more than one occasion. This shot was taken with a 24-105 L lens. I find this lens gets wide enough for landscape work and close enough for portrait work if I am in a situation where I don’t want to drag my 70-200 portrait lens with me. I will often bring a 17-40mm wide lens with me as well. All of my lenses are equipped with a B+W circular polarizer to bring out the skies. I also carry B+W UV filters for times when I’m not using the circular polarizer.  I’ve had a lot of requests to detail the gear I use, hopefully that covers it. If you have any questions about gear feel free to drop me a message here on Blind Travels or on my social media link at the bottom of this post. 

 

What do you think?

I always love to hear from my readers, and I would like to hear what you thought about this presentation.  My goal with this series is to tell a bit about the story behind the images I take, as well as provide a better description of the image. The blog forum lets me explore a bit more detail than would be available on twitter or Instagram. Feel free to drop me a message here on the contact page or on my social media links below. Follow me and I will happily follow you back.

My Photography: www.tahquechi.com

Twitter: @nedskee

Instagram: @nedskee

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blindtravels/


What the blind community wishes you knew.

Anyone who is a regular reader of this blog or website knows that I love to write articles centered around education, for the visually impaired and the fully sighted. Recently USA Today published an article focused on things the blind community would like to pass on to those who are fully sighted. The biggest takeaway from the article is that just closing your eyes does not mean you know what it is like to be blind. There is a lot more to it than that. The other misnomer is that blind people always need help. If I am trying to cross the street, I am paying attention to the direction of the traffic and when someone comes up and grabs me and plops me on the other side of the road knot knowing which way I’m facing, it makes them feel better and me feel disoriented. Lastly, it is perfectly ok to be curious about being blind. Engage with a blind person and ask them questions. 

I offer a series of articles here on blind travels that off an opportunity for those who are fully sighted to ask questions about being blind (Yes, I have questions ready to be answered things have been bonkers lately.). If you have questions feel free to ask away on social media or send me a direct message here. My education section has articles on everything from what it is like to be blind, to tips and tricks to interact with visually impaired people and even what it was like to get my first guide dog. You can read more at the education link above or click here

If you would like to read the USA Today Article follow the link below. 

https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/health-wellness/2021/11/17/what-blind-visually-impaired-people-wish-you-knew/8637271002/

I love to hear from my readers, feel free to drop me a note on my social media links below or right here on blind travels. follow me and I will happily follow you back. 

My Photography: www.tahquechi.com

Twitter: @nedskee

Instagram: @nedskee

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blindtravels/


Abandoned lakeside resort in Wyoming

While wandering the unpaved backroads of Wyoming, we came across this really cool sprawling lakeside resort which had been abandoned in the 1970’s. The cabins are all in various states of decay. Most of the cabins are being held up by boards and look unstable to venture into. 

Location

Located fifteen miles off the road between the cities of Centennial and Saratoga in Wyoming is a great site with lots of abandoned buildings to explore. Visitors can go right up to the buildings and even go inside if you are brave enough. Unlike most abandoned sites, the presence of debris to navigate was not bad, but I would still either go with a sighted guide or a guide dog. It should be noted that this road closes after the first snow and is closed until spring, making this location inaccessible except by snowmobile during the late fall and winter months. 

The photo

This image is a sepia toned black and white image of two cabins surrounded by trees. On the closest cabin the roof is sagging in the middle and the whole structure is being held up by long boards. There is no glass left in the two small windows, but otherwise that cabin looks to be in decent shape. The far cabin is in much worse shape, The back appears to be all but completely broken and you can’t see the roof. The front of the cabin sits at a forty-five degree angle away from the viewer as it is almost completely fallen down.  

 

The experience

There is so much to experience tactilely here at this site. The size of many things is unexpectedly small like the aforementioned windows. There is a lot to feel and it should be noted that some of the cabins are not smooth and there is a risk of splinters or cuts as is the case with all abandoned places such as this. I would not recommend going into the cabins are they are largely unstable. The surroundings are generally flat but the ground does undulate a bit between the cabins. There were tripping hazards, but my guide deftly avoided them as we explored this deserted lakeside resort. I would plan a couple to a few hours to explore this site, there is a lot to see and feel. The lake is not far away from the buildings and my understanding from speaking to a couple of the locals is that fishing there is quite good. 

What do you think?

I always love to hear from my readers, and I would like to hear what you thought about this presentation.  My goal with this series is to tell a bit about the story behind the images I take, as well as provide a better description of the image. The blog forum lets me explore a bit more detail than would be available on twitter or Instagram. Feel free to drop me a message here on the contact page or on my social media links below. Follow me and I will happily follow you back.

My Photography: www.tahquechi.com

Twitter: @nedskee

Instagram: @nedskee

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blindtravels/


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