UK Volunteer Wanted!

I am looking for a volunteer in the UK. This is an audience-participation event. Thinking it should be painless, but you never know 😎.

To explain, I was surfing around, looking at some links Lin had sent me and found a bit of wearable technology called Sight Plus by Give Vision. Apparently this is a startup company that is doing pretty well. They have a Twitter page with a number of glowing commentaries. I found a couple of videos about a paralympic athlete and an eight year old boy with Stargardt’s. Pretty good stuff according to the clips. These goggles are supposed to be comparable in quality to other wearable technology and cost much less. (I cannot find a price, though). They are made with parts easily available. [You can click here for their Facebook page.]

But my point – and I do have one – is they give free demonstrations! I tried to sign up for one but they will only accept you if you live in the UK. Really! However, I have my ways to find things out.😎

That is where you folks in Britain come in. I emailed the company and asked if we could send a ‘spy’ to try their product and report back to us. Just sent it and it is the middle of the night there so I don’t expect anything immediately. Just checking with you guys beforehand.

Presentations are on Liverpool, Sheffield, Exeter and London. The next one in London is June 19th. I realize that is cutting it close but I think they do their demonstrations monthly.

Any takers? Sign up is through givevision.net. Continue reading “UK Volunteer Wanted!”

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App Update

Back to the Daniel Roberts article. Actually sort of back to Roberts himself. I just watched a video of him using the LowViz Guide.  [Lin/Linda:  we published Sue’s page Comparison Shopping on June 5th, 2017, where she talked about Dan Roberts.]

The LowViz Guide was basically Roberts’ brainchild. It is an indoors navigation system. Can’t find your way around the hospital or the cruise ship? The LowViz Guide may be able to help.

I say maybe because the venue – be it conference center, hotel or hospital – has to have been tricked out with iBeacons. Your smart device ‘talks’ to the iBeacons, the iBeacons talk back and your device tells you where to go.

(I find that only fair since I have told my devices “where to go” on numerous occasions!)

In the video Roberts demonstrated the app has not only VoiceOver capabilities but also gives you ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ signals. The ‘cold’ signal is very irritating as, I guess, befits a message that is saying “wrong way, buddy!” It would make me want to go the proper direction just to shut it up. (A perfect example of negative reinforcement for you psychology students.)

There is an informative article on the LowViz Guide on the American Federation of the Blind website. It does not say where the iBeacons have been installed and I got the impression the cost of installing these things is not small.

The LowViz Guide app is downloadable for free from the app store. [Lin/Linda: I don’t see an Android version yet.] If you can get a list of places with iBeacons and you are actually going there it might be fun to see how it works.

Another new technology I found interesting was Aipoly. The ‘Ai’ in the name stands for artificial intelligence, of course. Funded by Google, according to Natasha Lomas in a 2015 article, Aipoly uses computer vision and machine learning technology to recognize what is going on in photos you take with your device. Aipoly is supposed to be able to identify multiple objects in a scene. It is also reported to be able to identify the relationships between things in the photo. For example, Aipoly would say something like girl eating ice cream. It is sort of like BeMyEyes minus the thousands of volunteers.

The whole process can take as little as five seconds to have a scene described. The longest time is said to be about 20 seconds.

The most seriously cool feature of Aipoly -and one that will undoubtedly interest our readers in Massachusetts – is the system has the beginnings of the ability to identify facial expression!

As of the writing in 2015, the system was starting to be able to recognize very exaggerated facial expressions! It is not yet ready to describe subtle expressions but there is hope.

Be aware this system does not work in real time, but they are trying to get there. They are also trying to get it into as many hands as possible. I am downloading a free version from the App store even as I am writing this. They have also come out with an Android version. Not sure if there is a cost for that or not. [Lin/Linda: It is free, too.]

I will let you know how it works later. Taking some time to load. And, by the way, I don’t have to be the only product tester. Feel free to download it and experiment yourself. Continue reading “App Update”

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How Many Favors?

One of the problems with being a cockeyed optimist and a Pollyanna is I always expect good things and relatively easy sailing. When that doesn’t happen, frankly, I become perturbed. I HATE to be thwarted.

Last evening I started downloading Golden Prey (book by John Sandford) from BARD. It has stopped several times since then.

I think it has to do with too much in my iPad memory. My ability to clutter up my environment extends to technology and cyberspace!

Another case of “do as I say, not as I do”. Deleting books you have already listened to is fine. You can always get them again. FYI for you non-technical savvy folks, your devices will run faster if you do.

My schedule is changing for the summer and I have to figure that out. Transportation will only pick up until 7 pm. After that my coach turns into a pumpkin! (Of course, for some of the ‘lemons’ I have ridden in, that would be an improvement!)

I have been picking up signs a woman who has dutifully transported me up for the last 15 months has gotten tired of it and needs a break. Changing my schedule so that I can ride my bike at least some of the time and take up some of the rest of the slack with transportation should work. I also have a co-worker who has started to take some of the same classes and who has offered to haul me. Also another gym friend.

People truly are wonderful and generous but they are not saints. Problem becomes they hate to let you down and will keep on helping even when it is no longer convenient.

I am starting to think I need some sort of rotation system. I already try to limit how many times I impose in one week. I try to keep it under three rides – counting someplace and back as two – a week for any one person. Except my husband, of course. He drew the short straw when he married me!😜

Once again there needs to be some sort of etiquette book for this! Any ideas about the ride dilemma? How many favors for the old, visually impaired chick is too many?

Still haven’t got the new pool liner. Got that call at 7 am as the rain poured down.

And my frustration that you may actually care about….Aipoly, or at least the free version I downloaded, did not live up to its hype! My diet Pepsi bottle was “a wine bottle” (however, that is a thought!) and my glare glasses were “one string of headphones”. I got too close to my sandal when I took the photo so that was “a basket” although when I pulled back and tried again, Aipoly got it right.

Now, in all fairness, I am cheap. The word free can be music to my ears. There is an Aipoly version for slightly less than $5 per month. That one is supposed to be much ‘smarter’. Since I am cheap and not in need of such a service yet, and since I can never remember to cancel those damn ‘free’ trials, I’m not downloading it. If you are in need of such a service and can remember to cancel a free trial, try it and get back to us please.

Type at ya later! Continue reading “How Many Favors?”

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Comparison Shopping

Good evening! I am doing some comparison shopping here. Lin and I were looking at some TV magnifying glasses at the request of a reader. We found the Eschenbach ones I have for $164 and another pair for $49.

What the hey, for $49, I will order them. The truth of the matter is, I am REALLY hard on parts. My CCTV has been replaced and then repaired. My handheld reader was smashed and I had to replace it. My max TV glasses have also been replaced once. And we cannot forget the crack I have in my iPad screen. Can you say “bull in a china shop”? The day is going to come that the people repairing and replacing my stuff are not going to be so understanding. Better have a spare available.

So, the $49 max TV glasses came today. I gave them to my husband to be my “comparison shopper”. Then we compared notes.

The Eschenbach pair is the superior product. They are heavier, possibly because they had solid temple pieces. The inexpensive glasses are not quite as “solid state”. When I leaned forward the telescope part slipped and I had to readjust my focus.

That said, I can see just as well through the $49 pair as I can through the $164 pair. Nice and clear at 2.1 magnification, same as the Eschenbach ones.

Moral of the story: if you are not hard on parts, you don’t mind adjusting the wheel regularly and you do not have $164 to spend the more inexpensive pair may be for you. They are manufactured in China by Joyutoy and are available, of course, on Amazon.

Those of you who are using assistive technology and have any comments on it, please share. I would like to do more of this but there is a limit to the funds and we still have not found a multi-millionaire corporate sponsor (although we remain forever hopeful😎)

Moving right along, Lin sent me an article written by Dan Roberts, the guy who wrote The First Year: Age-related Macular Degeneration. Roberts apparently does a yearly wrap-up on the progress, medical and technical, that has been made in fighting and dealing with vision loss. I followed one of the links to Living Well with Low Vision and glanced through some of the technology.

Under text-to-speech readers was something called the Aries Smart Reader. Available from Enhanced Vision, the Smart Reader weighs under 5 pounds. The cost is $1800.

That is pretty much what I know about it. I have not seen it nor do I have a clue how well it works. For me, personally, it is going to stay in the warehouse. Two big sellers for me are portability and price. I have enough to carry and I do not have a spare $1800 to burn.

I have limited need to have text to speech capabilities at this time. When I do need them, I have my KNFB reader on my iPad. Zero additional weight and a $100 price tag. Of course, for some unbeknownst reason my KNFB ‘girl’ is Australian! No problem. The couple of Aussies I have met have been good people.

Again, I am speaking totally personally about preferences and have never laid eyes on this product. Different opinion? Let us know and we will publish it. Continue reading “Comparison Shopping”

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Housekeepers and Cooks

Memorial Day, 2017 and it has been raining off and on for all three days of the holiday weekend. Right now it is ‘on’ and raining hard.

I have been taking the opportunity to do some other things. For example, I pulled out all of the furniture in the sunroom and ‘really’ cleaned. All the while I was doing that I was listening to the latest Jeffery Deaver book, The Burial Hour. Good ‘read’. Love my BARD.

I also wrote the questions for the review game for DBT class. Wednesday is the last day of distress tolerance and we go right into mindfulness. Get ready for more ‘thoughtful insights’! Ha!😎

And in other news, I have done some very basic cooking. Gasp!

If you have been following along you know some basic and not always flattering things about me. For example, I am a slob. Also, if God wanted me to cook, He would not have invented restaurants! Domestic goddess? Not me!

While I am not planning on retiring (and as of last week, no one was planning on letting me go! Praise be!), I am cognizant the time is coming I will be home with time on my hands. Also, on a budget that may not allow regular restaurant meals. Maybe it is time to practice (how about start to develop?) my culinary skills!

To that end – and also for a page! – I came upon what looks like a nifty little web site. The title of the site is BlindHow. This thing has links to other sites with cute little monikers like Cooking Without Looking and The Blind Chef.

But the site also has other stuff. There are links to just about every practical skill you can think of. Shopping? Laundry? Personal finance? They have links.

Speaking of audiobooks as I did above, I found a link entitled 91 places for free audiobooks online. If you do not quite qualify for BARD, you could probably find an audiobook site that is not as ‘exclusive’. La di da.

The site also has links to information on movies with ‘descriptive audio’. From what I gather, this is a system aiming to keep the blind guy in the back of the theater from asking “what’s happening now?!?!” in all of the suspenseful or sexy parts of the film when everything has gone quiet.

Anyway, following a link, I found a site called MoPix and sponsored by the Media Access Group. They have a list of about a dozen movie theater chains in the US offering headphones and devices that will allow you to access the description apparently embedded on certain flicks. The list of those was pretty long, too. [Lin/Linda here:  I found this link that says that MoPix has shut down. Their Facebook page had no recent posts. Sorry.]

I would volunteer to go and check it out for you but our local movie chain is on a short list of chains that do NOT offer the service. (Did you notice the local paper was not available over the phone either? What the…..?)

Oh, but if you don’t have cooperative local providers (dig, dig), the American Council for the Blind sells ALL of the DVD and Blu-ray discs manufactured with descriptive video since 1997. Do you need any special equipment? Not sure. Links for some of the movies take you right back to Amazon. I did not see a special offering of DVD with audio descriptions but I am legally blind; remember? May have looked right over it. [Lin/Linda here:  I do not think that you need special equipment for DVDs & Blu-ray disks but check here first to be sure regarding particular devices. ]

Anyhow, BlindHow looks like a winner. Problem is, it probably just took away all my arguments for a housekeeper and a cook! Dang. Continue reading “Housekeepers and Cooks”

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Caveat Emptor

So we have come to the middle of another week. Hump day, Wednesday!

I looked up funny hump day jokes and found a slew. You can take your pick. Some of them are giggle-out-loud quality.

Anyway, I taught today and then went over to the sight loss support group. My low vision person was presenting the latest in low vision technology, the MoJo monocular.

Mojo monocular

I cannot give you much of a spiel on it. I have not done much more than glance through it and pass it on. Therefore, as usual, this is just me telling you what I read. No recommendation.

The MoJo is a magnifier that works both near and far point. The price for the handheld monocular itself is about $1500. Add the part that can turn it into a CCTV and you are looking at $3000 or so. The manufacturer, Enhanced Vision, advertises a large field of view and autofocus capabilities.

This may be a great addition to the list of low vision tools. May not be. The MoJo has only been on the market for two or three months. If you are interested and have the money, try it and give us a product review.

And continuing in the interested and have the money vein, I have started to see articles suggesting that, in spite of its celebrity endorsements in the UK, the Eyemax Mono may still have some bugs to work out. The Daily Mail reported the Macular Society is suggesting caution before you agree to undergo this expensive procedure. The cost being quoted is £15,000 which at present exchange rates is approximately $19, 480. Ouch. And if you are an American, remember the Eyemax Mono is not FDA approved and added to that cost would be a trip across the pond.

In short, it sounds promising, but remember caveat emptor. Use extreme caution before committing to any new procedure. Do your homework. Nothing is ever as good as it sounds at first blush.

The newest implant this side of the pond is a miniature telescope. This one is FDA approved so it should be both effective and safe. The manufacturer is VisionCare.  The surgery is Medicare eligible according to the article so we are not talking about huge out of pocket costs. That is a plus.

Now, once more, on the minus side, this is not a cure and will not halt the progression of the disease. All it is is magnification and a spreading of the image to intact parts of the retina. They have moved the magnification system from the outside in.

They also will only do the implant in one eye. That is because there is a ‘tunnel effect’ in the vision of the treated eye. The untreated eye is used for peripheral vision.

Another problem with the telescope is the need to train the brain. There is a period of several weeks during which the patient is learning to adapt to a new way of seeing.

Bottom line, things are progressing but not necessarily in the areas of treatment or cure. All three of these things mentioned magnify and move the image to intact retina. Close, but no cigar.

My personal preference is to find something medical that will stop the disease progression in it’s tracks. Barring that, magnification and relocating the image may bring you an undetermined period of better sight. You pay your money and you take your choice….just do it wisely. Continue reading “Caveat Emptor”

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There IS Help

I got lots of help from Blindness and Visual Services of Pennsylvania. Lots. Part of the reason for this was I was in the vocational rehabilitation program. They wanted to get me back to work so I could continue to be a tax paying citizen. I shared that goal with them. At least the back to work part. Paying taxes maybe not so much!

People who are not planning on going back to work get a lot less help. According to my low vision special, Pennsylvania has now reduced funding for those clients down to $600 per individual. That does not buy much. My handheld magnifier was $600.

Since the government is, once again, not bending over backwards to help us, where can you go for some basic assistance? It turns out there are several private agencies that stand ready to help.

Again, the disclaimer: these are leads I got off the web. I have not used any of their services and I have not a clue how valid their advertising is. At least two of the three I am mentioning here are run by nationally known organizations. Hopefully that makes them good. Maybe not. If you have familiarity with these programs or others, please let us know.

If you live in Dallas or near to that city you might find some services at the American Foundation for the Blind.  The website advertises all sorts of seminars and community outreach programs. They also advertise an ‘apartment’ called Esther’s Place. Esther’s Place has all of the rooms outfitted with products and appliances either designed or adapted for several, different levels of vision loss. Hands on demonstrations of these things can be arranged.  AFB Dallas also offers help by voice at 214-352-7222 or email at dallas@afb.net.

If you live in Duluth Minnesota try the Lighthouse Center for Vision Loss. The Lighthouse also has an impressive list of services. They have such things as training programs for adjusting to vision loss, independent living and workplace adaptations. They also over free radios for listening to audiobooks and local newspapers. Their onsite low vision store has customer service people to help you with your purchase.  Contact number for the Lighthouse Duluth is 218-624-4828. Email: info@lcfyl.com.

In eastern Pennsylvania there is Center for Vision Loss with offices in the Lehigh Valley as well as Monroe County, my old stompin’ grounds! They advertise a speakers’ bureau as well as escorted transportation. This is in addition to the ‘usual’ services. Their contact numbers are 610-433-6018 and 570-992-7787.

That should give you a start. If you’re located elsewhere in the USA, I would suspect AFB could give you a few leads. Find anything – worthwhile or not – let us know and we will publish your impressions. There is help out there.


Continue reading “There IS Help”

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