BlindSquare App

When I was at the Summer Academy a couple of people mentioned they were navigating with an app called BlindSquare. They asked if I used it and I was almost sheepish to admit my vision is still good enough to navigate with plain old Google Maps.  It is surprising how social norms change from place to place.  I felt like being blinder would have given me more ‘street cred’, but what the hey, I got by.

BlindSquare appears to be the app VIPs (Visually Impaired Persons) in the know use to navigate. According to its advertising BlindSquare is the “world’s most popular accessible GPS-app developed for the blind and visually impaired.” It is said to describe the environment, announce points of interest and also alert you to street intersections as you travel.

The home page says BlindSquare is self-voicing and has a dedicated speech synthesizer, whatever that means. There is an audio menu that can be accessed with the buttons on the side of your phone. Seeing the screen is not required.

BlindSquare announces your progress towards your destination. It marks your spot (sounds like Beastie Baby! ) and can lead you back should you want to return. The app opens with voice over. BlindSquare ‘understands’ a variety of languages. These include many of the most ‘popular’ European languages as well as some others like Finnish and Romanian. The farthest east they go looks to be Turkish. The farthest south they go looks like Arabic.

Reading the comments it seemed to me the developers of BlindSquare are awesome people. They responded in the affirmative to just about all of the suggestions and have been adding languages right along.  Updates are added regularly.

Now for the bad news. BlindSquare is $40.00 in the App Store. There is a free version called Blindsq Event  available in the App Store but it is seriously pared down from the for a fee version. The pay version featured three or four pages of options and Blindsq Event featured one. I would say what  do you want for nothing, but my answer would be ‘the World!’ so I know better than to ask that question.

I just downloaded the free version and will play with it later. As always, I would love to have others’ opinions. Please download it and let us know what you think.

Those who have the pay BlindSquare, please chime in!

written August 2nd, 2017

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Around the World of Books

Once again trying to be a ‘good’ or at least productive person and I am not getting very far. Only working part time this summer I have become rather unmotivated!

I finished listening to Rick Riordan’s The Dark Prophecy. That was through BARD. Just a note here confirming BARD has books for kids (real kids and kids in old lady bodies, like me!).

Not only do they have ‘chapter books’, they also offer picture books. I just downloaded Goodnight Moon, all two minutes of it. If you can no longer read to the grandchildren, BARD can come to your rescue. You just turn the pages and provide the hugs.

I also looked at Gutenberg.org a little more closely. They have thousands of titles, all in the public domain. That means the great majority of titles is over 100 years old. If you like the classics, they are available on Gutenberg.org and can be read on your NaturalReader. [To refresh your memory about NaturalReader, go to Sue’s pages Jabbering and Whoopsie.]

Oh, and they are looking for proof readers, too. A page a day would be acceptable. Apparently there was a 20 year moratorium on the ending of copyrights and it expires this winter. Gutenberg.org expects to be inundated by proof-reading work.

If you can edit and manage to read a page or two a day, you can help get the classics from early 20th century into the hands of people who may not be able to afford books.

That is in the States….

Looking for more sources of audiobooks, it appears Bookshare would be available to our international readers, all around the globe. Bookshare requires a statement by a ‘competent authority’ that you cannot access regular text. That could be a family doctor for you without access to vision professionals. Low and middle income country citizens – countries like India, Egypt and Guatemala – pay $5 sign up fee and $10 annual membership fee for up to 200 books a month. Jeez, and I used to think I was a voracious reader!

Now, this being an American company, most of the books are in English. If you only understand Basque, you are limited to 110 titles. Could be worse. The Bulgarian speakers get 10. Germans hit the jackpot with 4,590. It would appear you should check their holdings before paying your money. Marathi speakers get 120 options. What IS Marathi, anyway?

Just browsing here it appears the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) has something similar to BARD in their Talking Book program. You must be a U.K. resident with a disability that does not allow you to read standard print. Not sure who makes that determination but the audiobooks look as if they are free.

And they give a tutorial on canes on their site! Nothing like a little ‘trivia’ lesson. White canes are guide canes for only visually impaired. Red and white canes are for the deaf/ blind. A long cane is used to help avoid obstacles and a symbol cane is to let people know you have sight loss and really did not run into them on purpose!

Ok. Now many of us know a little more than we knew 10 minutes ago. Anything else for the good of the order? Bye! Continue reading “Around the World of Books”

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Whoopsie!

Whoopsie. Errata alert. I discovered the NaturalReader does NOT support Kindle like I thought [see previous page Jabbering]. This is because Kindle books are DRM (Digital Rights Management) books. Also iBooks, Nook and Adobe Overdrive. DRM is related to copyright laws. There are ways to get around the software ‘locks’ and you can easily find these offered on the web. However, they are illegal and we try not to encourage criminal behavior. Rumor has it scofflaws use something called Calibre. And that is what I know about that subject. 😛 [Lin/Linda here: I had to look up ‘scofflaws’ in the last sentence.  It is “a person who flouts the law, especially by failing to comply with a law that is difficult to enforce effectively.”]

I looked at Gutenberg.org and found titles like “The Paper Currency of England Dispassionately Considered”. Whoa.

Numismatists study coins AND paper money (thought it was just coins). Hopefully they would be enticed by that title. Me? Not so much.

So far on a cyber search of non-DRM ebook sources I find nuthin’. So for right now for ebooks on NaturalReader I guess it is Gutenberg.org or nothing. Remember if you are legally blind like moi, you can get BARD. I am just finishing listening to John Sandford’s Golden Prey. Love Lucas Davenport. Also, ebooks will zoom on a tablet so those with less of a vision loss can go that route. Sorry I fed you bum info.

And in other news, I passed the 100 mile mark on my bike today! This summer I have been using it for transportation. I realize for many of you your cycling days may be behind you; however, for those of you who can still ride and live in an area conducive to bike travel, it can be an option. Traveling at 7 miles an hour it is easier not to run into things than when you are traveling at 70 mph.

Of course, I almost had my first accident today. I was riding in the street parallel to some guy on a Jazzy (electric wheelchair) on the sidewalk. He decided he wanted to go across the street, swerved right and nearly took me out!

Maybe I should get a bell for my bike…or one of those horns with the red bulb. Anyway, glad I was able to avoid him. How do you explain being taken out by a Jazzy? It would be humiliating.

And because I am again prattling about things totally unrelated and of no great importance – and because I need about 150 more words! – I wanted to ask if you folks knew we are creating great investment opportunities? OK, maybe not us personally but I found a BusinessWire report on Global Age-Related Macular Degeneration Partnering Deals. They are hyping advice about buying into research and development of AMD treatments! They think people can make buckets of money off of us!

Now, some people may think it is rather opportunistic of these potential investors, but I think it’s great. The only way they can make said buckets of money is to invest in treatment we will buy. That generally means something that will work. If research is stirring up enough interest for people to be buying AMD specific investment advice, things have to be happening!

And that is the end of this page😁 Continue reading “Whoopsie!”

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Jabbering

Greetings everyone! First of all, thank you for all of the birthday wishes [July 17th] and kind comments! I am amazed and overwhelmed. I sit here in my sun room, just kind of hanging out and having weird thoughts, and I sometimes forget there are real people reading the stuff. Probably better that way. I might become self-conscious. Not that that has ever happened in 64 years. No filters here. As in really NO filters. My mother used to ask me why I could not just LIE sometimes.

That said, nothing big planned for the b-day. Fighting rot and decay. I have my first physical therapy appointment for the rotator cuff tendinitis. Also, the container for the sand filter cracked and nicely soaked the garage with pool water so I am having the sand container replaced tomorrow.

Have you ever noticed you spend the first 40 years of life building and the next 40 trying to keep everything in working order?

My friend, the exercise enthusiast, and her family treated me to an escape/puzzle room last week. That was fun. We did the ‘tornado’ room. The premise is you have been hit by a tornado and you have to figure out how to open a locked door and escape before a second tornado strikes. This all involves finding clues and things you will need as well as figuring out a lot of ciphers. We ‘died’. We were only about ¾ of the way by the end of the hour and the second ‘tornado’ hit.

It was low light – a problem – and there were clues I could not read, but this is a team (up to 8) activity and I had people to do the fine seeing. I still have a brain and could sleuth out a lot of clues as well as have input on how to solve the puzzles. Enjoyed it. Would go again.

Low vision does not have to mean no fun.

And continuing to just jabber along here, I downloaded the Near Sighted VR app from Google Play. Lin sent me the cardboard goggles last week. My husband cut the hole for the camera to see through so it would actually be somewhere near centered. I downloaded the app. Nothing to that and the app is free, free, free! [Lin/Linda: it worked better for Sam at The Blind Spot and he says with some upgrades which he suggests, he thinks it will be an ‘awesome app’. Click here to see his review of it on YouTube.]

Not as enthralled with it as I was hoping to be. Not sure if the new phone (Hello, Moto!) does not have a decent camera or what the problem is, but I thought the image was pixel-y and a little wavy. Being a great one for motion sickness I am not sure I could use it very long without having an ‘incident’.  [Lin/Linda: there is also an app for iPhones called SuperVision Cardboard.  Click here for more information.]

Once again, although I would love to believe I am, I am not the final word on this stuff. I think we need other input on these products. Please let us know if you have tried anything and give us your input. My pans may be your picks and vice versa.

Last thing: I ran into a little gem called BookBub. They offer free and deeply discounted email books. Lin says she has used it for years and it is a good resource.

When dummy here set up her NaturalReader she failed to click on Kindle as one place she wanted to be able to download from. Cannot figure out how to go back and change the setting so I am in the process of also downloading the free version of NaturalReader. Hopefully I will be able to get into my Kindle account that way and give you info on how it works.

Once again, knowledge, insights, opinions? Please share. Support the cause. We are in this mess all together. Continue reading “Jabbering”

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Wearable Technology for the Visually Impaired

There are many devices and apps that help those with low vision such as handheld magnifiers, apps for smart phones & tablets that magnify what the camera sees, devices & apps that convert text to speech, CCTVs, apps & devices for object identification and more.  There are advantages and disadvantages to these which depend on the needs of the person.

One of the newest advances in technology is the hands free also called head worn devices or wearable technology.  You’ll hear them called: smart glasses,  low vision headsets or goggles.  Some of the technology is referred to as AugmentedReality (AR).

This page will talk about the ones that are currently available: eSight, OrCam, NuEyes and SightPlus. I’ve included IrisVision which will be available soon. There are currently a few smart phone apps for magnification that you can use in a Google Cardboard headset.

Disclaimer:  these are the features and costs as of today (July 5, 2017).  As the technology changes, so will the features & costs so check with the distributors for up-to-date information.


The information in this table is subject to change with changes in functions, available and price.

** photo with table

Availability & where to Get More Information
  • OrCam: http://www.orcam.com/
    • availability: a representative of the company told me “We are available in many countries and expanding all the time – here are the languages we currently have available: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Hebrew.”
    • extensively used & reviewed by Blind Motherhood blogger: click here
  • eSight: https://www.esighteyewear.com/
    • available in 33 countries; click here for exact ones.
    • headset over eyeglass frame
  • NuEyes:  https://nueyes.com/
    • available Australia, Canada, Denmark, Farce Island, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, Scandinavia, Sweden, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States, China
  • Cyber Eyez: http://www.cybertimez.com/
    • mounted on eyeglasses frame (not included)
    • availability: sent msg
  • SightPlus:  http://www.givevision.net/
    • goggles
    • UK only
  • OxSight:  http://smartspecs.co/
    • availability:
    • may be called Smart Eye http://medgizmo.info/news/medgizmo-update-wearable-technology-for-visually-impaired-august-2016
    • http://www.caroncares.co.uk/optical-health/restoring-sight-give-vision/
    • https://www.rnib.org.uk/smart-glasses
  • IrisVision: http://theirisvision.com/
    • goggles
    • not sure when it will be available or where; I’ve requested information
    • http://abc7chicago.com/health/new-iris-vision-technology-aims-to-help-visually-impaired/2114456/
    • https://www.benzinga.com/pressreleases/17/07/p9852046/irisvision-a-new-product-for-the-visually-impaired-available-at-florida
  • Google Cardboard & smart phone apps: https://www.reddit.com/r/Blind/comments/5o5lci/use_your_phone_and_a_google_cardboard_as_a_low/

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Timeline Part 1: Advances in Treatment & Care for People with Macular Degeneration

It’s Lin/Linda.  I created this page to go with Sue’s page Not Your Parents’ AMD.  Like some of you, I had a loved one with AMD.  It was my father who was diagnosed with AMD in 2005 at the age of 82.  At the time, I was living 700 miles away and I did not know much about the disease or at what stage he was diagnosed.  He progressed to geographic atrophy (GA), that much I knew.  He was the sole caregiver for my mother who had Alzheimer’s Disease.  He continued to drive (not safely), take care of her and the house.  He was never referred to vision rehabilitation or offered any help other than being told to use handheld magnifiers.

I wondered how things have changed since then which led me to do this timeline review.  Not only have there been advances in the medical end of the field but also in the technology that is allowing people to remain independent for as long as possible.  That is if a person learns how to use the various devices and apps available.

I’ve based the categories of time on an article Age-Related Macular Degeneration
1969 –2004: A 35-Year Personal Perspective by Stuart L. Fine, MD published in 2005.  He says “In 1969, patients with AMD constituted a small part of a typical ophthalmic practice. From 1969 to 2004, the prevalence of AMD has increased, and the methods of evaluation and treatment have changed dramatically.”

I know I have missed many events that have been critical to the history of the treatment & care of AMD.  There is SO much information out there and I’ve tried to use the most significant dates I could find.  Have a suggestion of what to include? Did I get a date wrong? Let me know in a comment or send me an email at light2sight5153@gmail.com.

1st Era: 1969–1979
  • Emergence of fluorescein fundus photography: test used in diagnosis of retinal diseases
  • Development of ‘hot’ (high power) laser photocoagulation, first treatment for wet AMD
  • Relationship of drusen to age-related macular degeneration
  • Other developments:
    • 1976-1977 first personal computers affordable for home use
    • more low vision aids:
      • 1960s large print books became available
      • 1976 large print calculators became available
      • 1969-1970 CCTV (closed caption TV) for reading aid
2nd Era: 1980–1994
  • Clinical trials to evaluate new treatments, especially laser photocoagulation (1979-1994)
  • Development of risk factor data from large and small epidemiologic studies (epidemology is looking for patterns & causes)
  • mid-1980s term ‘senile macular degeneration’ becomes ‘age-related macular degeneration’
  • Other developments:
    • 1982 Vitreous Society was founded; 1983 first meeting attended by 44 retinal specialists
    • 1991 OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) test used in diagnosis of retinal diseases
    • mid 1980s name changed from ‘senile macular degeneration’ to ‘age-related macular degeneration’
    • 1992 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
    • 1983 first cell phones
    • 1991 World Wide Web for ‘surfing’ the Internet with easy-to-use browsers
    • low vision aids:
      • MaxiAids catalog of aids for orders from people with low vision & other impairments
    • technology/low vision aids:
      • 1982 DragonSystems founded Dragon NaturallySpeaking, speech to text
      • 1988 ZoomText was released which is software to magnify text on a computer screen
3rd Era: 1995–2003
  • Evaluation of radiation therapy for neovascular AMD, not proven to be effective
  • Assessment of pharmacologic interventions for neovascular AMD; Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) “cold” (low power laser) with Visudyne (first drug treatment;  2001)
  • Prevention trials: results AREDS released 2001
  • Other developments:
    • 1995 Amazon sells books online (1998 expands beyond just books; e-books 2000)
    • 1996 Google released
    • 1998 first e-book reader The Rocket
    • 2000 GPS available for civilians; 2001 personal navigation systems available like Garmin and TomTom
    • 2000 Microsoft & Amazon sell e-books
4th Era: 2004 – 2017
  • Completion of ongoing trials for neovascular AMD: FDA approval: Macugen 2004; Avastin 2004; Lucentis 2006; Eylea 2011
  • Earlier identification of eyes at risk: regular use of OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) and other diagnostic tests
  • Prevention trials: results AREDS2 released 2013
  • Increased number of retinal specialists: eg, American Association of Retinal Specialists (ASRS), formerly Vitreous Society (see 1982 above), has 2700 members representing 60 countries.
  • Other developments:
    • 2011 First baby boomers turn 65
    • 2004 Facebook
    • 2013 first ‘bionic eye’ retinal implant, Argus II approved by FDA
    • technology:
      • 2007 Amazon Kindle e-reader; iPhone & Apple IOS
      • 2008 Android 1.0 & Android phone
      • 2010 Apple iPad
    • technology/low vision aids:
      • 2005 Apple VoiceOver for Mac users
      • 2009 VoiceOver added to iPhone IOS
      • 2010 FDA approved implantable telescope
      • smart glasses/wearable technology
      • 2014 KNFB Reader app for Apple & Android; 2017 for Windows 10
    • ongoing research areas:

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Not Your Parents’ AMD

3 pm Monday and so far it is a good day. The pool guy is working on my new liner. The funny thingee on my tummy is a normal, benign growth and the transportation company got new vans with fancy logos painted on them. No more confusion with two dozen, white vans. Life is looking up!

Lin told me there was a conversation thread in the Facebook group about parents who struggled with AMD. People remember what their mothers and fathers went through and they are determined not to become like them.

I am reasonably sure my father’s vision problems were AMD. The more I think about it his father’s vision problems may have been AMD. I remember both of them using a handheld lens to read the newspaper as well as the really strange interpretations Daddy would have when it came to TV shows. I have no idea what HE was watching but it was not the same thing I was watching!

I have said it a couple of dozen times and I will say it again: this is the best time in the history of the human race to be losing our sight. Absolutely the best. You may not realize it. You may remember what you saw and think we are doomed to go there too but we are not. We really are not.

I tried a handheld magnifier for a couple of weeks. Not doing that again. They are very inefficient. I have my CCTV, my handheld reader and my iPad which can go in the Justand.

[Lin:Linda: To see what Sue uses on a daily basis, check out these pages: A Day in the Life and A Day in the Life:Work Day.]

I can get newspapers on my phone and books from BARD (there are other sources, too, as well as magazines which are available).  I’m able to take a picture of pretty much any text I want and my KNFB Reader will read it to me. The zoom feature on my iPad will allow me to read email and research pretty efficiently. ZoomText allows me to work. (refer to the “Day in the Life” pages above)

If I want to look at something a little distance away I can use my max TV glasses or my monocular. Not too bad.

Depending upon when Lin publishes this page, you either have or will be hearing about audio description services (coming soon!). If my father had had those for the TV we would have been “on the same page” a lot more than we were when we watched programs together. Audio description can also allow you to go to the movies and live theater and actually know what is going on.

Do I want to be losing my sight? Hell, no! This is not a walk in the park but it is not what Daddy endured either. Just the same he made it into his mid 80s and managed to take care of himself until other issues brought him down. If he could do it without all of the toys, I can do it.  [Lin/Linda: My dad had geographic atrophy & took care of my mother who had Alzheimer’s using several different handheld magnifiers & a few other low vision aids.]

Yet another reason to be optimistic is all of the exciting research happening. We are poised for a veritable explosion of treatments. Not cures, mind you, but treatments. Thirty years ago there was nothing.

[Lin/Linda: To see what’s in the research pipeline, click here.]

What can you do? Be willing. Use what has been provided. If you put that iPad your son gave you in the drawer you have absolutely no grounds for complains. Bluntly put? Your extra suffering will be your own damn fault.

What else? Volunteer. Sign up for clinical trials. Join support groups. Share your knowledge and skills.

Life – and this vision loss bit included – is the craziest thing you will ever experience and none of us get out alive. Make the most of it while you can.

Continue reading “Not Your Parents’ AMD”

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