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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Improving Communication: Part 1

TGIF! Greetings from the land of organized chaos, aka my life!

I have not been writing as regularly as I would like. For one thing, as I keep pointing out, there are lulls in the action with AMD. You adapt to a certain level of loss and things are calm until the next loss of vision occurs.

Crank up the magnification and soldier on until the yet next disaster. Lulls are not all that page worthy…and I don’t need a disaster right now.

The other reason is my days have been flying! I am taking more counseling clients and my days are jam packed. Nothing like being busy to make the time fly!

All of this by way of saying, I am sliding into a holiday weekend (Happy Memorial Day!) and I am going to try to pound out a few pages over the next few days.

We stopped for deep dish pizza on the way home. (The new comfort food!) I walked the Beastie Baby in the neighborhood and the field. She drank from every rain puddle (mud flavor! Yum!) and we investigated what looked to me like bear scat (poop, no bear. Life is good). Well fortified and with the ‘adventure’ out of the way, I guess I am ready to go.

The topic was suggested by one of our readers. She is located in Massachusetts and has just helped to launch a new, vision loss support group. (Kudos!) The topic had come up in her support group: vision loss and social isolation.

The short answer is “yep”. Problem is, I rather doubt I can make a page out of that. In trying to flesh things out a bit, I came upon a publication by the Thomas Pocklington Trust. Published in 2013, this literature review contained 44 pages on the topic. Good resource. [Lin/Linda: it’s 44 pages if you download the Word version; 8 pages for the PDF version which is what I’ve linked to.]

The review starts by pointing out loneliness is not part of natural aging. Loneliness and social isolation are also not inevitable for the elderly, visually impaired population. (So maybe “yep” is not the short answer?)

That said, however, it is easy to see how vision loss, loss of function and depression can lead to social isolation and how social isolation can loop back around and cause more depression, etc. People with vision loss can really end up in a nasty downward spiral.

The review acknowledges the problems that can come from not recognizing faces and facial expressions. Without nonverbal cues to go by, communications can easily breakdown.

Lack of good social communication can break down social relations and lead to a drop in feelings of self-efficacy. Feeling you are not able to adapt and cope with your loss once again leads to all sorts of issues and perpetuates the downhill slide.

I think I mentioned before that feelings of self-efficacy are exceptionally important to mental health. The “I can do it myself” attitude can be reinforced by success in using assistive devices. In another page I believe I quoted something that said one of the best predictors of life satisfaction is access and use of assistive technology, both high and low tech.

OK. To be continued. Since some of us have trouble reading long text, I will stop here for now.

Continue reading “Improving Communication: Part 1”

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Parts Is Parts

Today was sort of an ‘eye day’. Spent most of my day talking about vision or dealing with my ‘toys’. “Mama said there would be days like this.” [Lin/Linda: I don’t know if Sue intended this but this song came to mind!]

Toys first: my CCTV is broken again.

Apparently when they say portable they don’t mean what I mean: hauled everywhere and set up and torn down twice or three times a day. I lost another pop rivet so my document tray does not slide properly.

Also, my vertical hold comes and goes. Remember Outer Limits? “We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical.” Whoever is controlling this is not me. It gets flipping enough to make me sea sick!

For future reference should you have this problem, we think it might be a loose wire. When I flipped the camera to distance viewing and brought it back, the flipping stopped.

Needless to say, it is going into the shop. It is going into the shop as soon as I get a loaner; that is…..Oh, and I am not paying the $50 diagnostic fee either. The cursed thing has a two-year warranty.

What can I say? I am hard on parts.

[Lin/Linda: if you were wondering about the title, when I read the above sentence, my mind went to the Wendy’s TV commercial where the catchy line is “parts is parts”.  Click here for the commercial.]

Today was also the vision loss support group. As anticipated, I was the youngest one in the group. I was also the most informed. I am half ashamed to admit that I ‘held court’ and lectured on my toys and some of what I considered to be AMD basics. The ladies – and they were all ladies – seemed receptive and asked me back.

I was a bit disturbed that several of the ladies admitted to owning iPads and having shoved them in a drawer!  They have no background or understanding of computers and they are afraid of them. The lack of knowledge about basic electronics – especially things that can make your life 100 times easier – was scary.

When I said you could get things in the app store I was asked if that was in this town or a town nearby! Oh my….

Which made me think some of you may be in the same boat.

The App Store is a blue and white icon on your desktop. It has a big A right in the middle.

Touch the icon/symbol and you will get a page of whatever apps they are featuring, often games. In the upper right hand corner there is a gray box that says search. Touch that and you should get a keyboard. Type in a keyword or phrase and then touch enter. Examples of keywords might be magnifiers, low vision apps, or knfbreader. Remember many apps are free but some like the knfbreader are for a fee. The ones for a fee you will need an Apple account. Actually, I think you need an account no matter. I always have to put my password in to approve the download. Lin, what do we have about opening an Apple account? [Lin/Linda: I’m posing that information below.]

That is about it for now. I have to email the group leader and remind her about passwords. Next month they are bringing their iPads!


Click here for a good place to start learning about your iPad.

Click here for instructions on how to create an Apple ID.

Click here for the ‘Dummies’ series For Seniors: Use the iPad Online User Guide.  There are also topics on this website about iPhones and Android devices (smartphones & tablets).

Continue reading “Parts Is Parts”

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Funny Glasses

Hi! In real-time welcome to March, 2017. It came in like a lamb. Very mild. I have heard the robins calling although I have yet to see one. Does not mean the end of Winter, of course. I dug a robin out of a snow pile one year. Bird hypothermia.

If anyone is keeping track, the washer is done, kaput, dead. We could resurrect it for $400 or buy a new one for around the same price….yep. Going shopping after work on Friday.

The repair man said I should have run the clean washer cycle regularly. He said I should have known that from reading the manual. Read the manual? What planet is he from? Does anyone actually read the manual?

And to segue off from that, I have been reading about eSight glasses these past few days. A couple of pieces on them have been in the media. People keep giving me the articles and suggesting I look into buying a pair. For $10,000.

My friend who – bless her – cares about my welfare and has so far thought both the Argus 2 and statins would be just the ticket for me, said I should not worry about the money because the eSight glasses could give me my independence back and allow me to drive again. Wrong. No, no, no.  Although later reading I have done confirmed what she said about the image focusing on my intact section of retina, that same reading also confirmed what I said. To wit, the glasses use magnification as well. Magnification screws up your perception of distance and of speed.

You cannot use magnification and drive. Very often you cannot even use magnification and walk fast. Long paragraph short? Do not buy the eSight glasses and think you can drive. Not happening.

Otherwise, though, they sound promising. American Federation for the Blind did an article on eSight glasses, along with Smart Glasses, for the AccessWorld magazine. The eSight glasses magnify up to 14x. You can make color and contrast adjustments. You can also determine if what the camera is picking up should take up the entire display or just a part.

I refer you to the AccessWorld article for more information. The newspaper article on the glasses was for the Associated Press and written by Michael Liedtke.  The online article I was given was entitled High-tech Glasses are Helping Blind People See.

Of course, unless you have discretionary funds coming out of your ears, $10,000 is quite a bit to spend on a pair of funny glasses. While the price has been coming down, the burden of cost remains all on the consumer. Insurances pay nothing.

A possible loophole I found is clinical trials. eSight has already done one clinical study with the results due out this spring. If the company decides to do more studies, they will need test subjects and test subjects will be given glasses. Are you following my devious, little mind? Some of us may be able to get free glasses in return for being in the study. Not sure it is even remotely possible, but if you are interested, check it out.

So, that’s that. Who wants to be in the Geordi LaForge look-alike contest?!? Continue reading “Funny Glasses”

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Call Tech Support!

Hey, there! Hi, there! And the sun sets on another Wednesday.

Had a small crisis today. My ZoomText went down. Just about gave me heart failure and put me out of commission for over an hour. I just get so much done when these things happen!😭

Apparently they were hacked and a slew of certificates (proof you purchased the product and are allowed to use it) were stolen. They told us weeks ago and I thought our techs and I had put the proper things in place. No such luck! Today they pulled the plug and my ZoomText went ‘poof!’ Arrrrrrrrrrgggggghhhhhh!

Note to self: write the tech support number in BIG numbers and file it. When they wrote their contact and help pages, they apparently assumed ZoomText would be working for that consumer to read them.

Honey, if I need help, my ZoomText is not working and I cannot see that teeny, tiny font on the support page. I mean, really. These people make software to support the visually impaired. Don’t you think they should think of these things?

Anyway, once I scouted out the support number and waited on hold – long distance and no toll free customer number; fix that please – for about 20 minutes, I got a lovely person who took over my machine and fixed my problem. Yippee!!!!!!

Made me stop to think, though. I had a minor panic attack and I have resources. I have techs at both jobs and I know enough to search for support numbers. What do people with no ready tech people do?

Granted I pay for the – nom de plume here – Nerd Brigade to consult with me when I have a tech crisis at home, but they cost $$$$$. Lots of people do not have money to pay for tech support.

Maybe we could get some of the colleges to set up free, tech support for the visually impaired. Maybe they could get a grant to set it up and man it!

Maybe I see the germ of a great, new project here for somebody. Anyone know somebody who knows somebody who would like to take this on? Free idea! Service project! Someone has to know a college sophomore somewhere.

So that was part of my day. Teaching our absolutely wonderful DBT group was my morning. Can’t exactly say the day improved as it went on but all is well that ends well. I got my ZoomText back in commission.

Get to do the one at school tomorrow. One delightful challenge after another. Oh well, keep on keeping on. Somebody’s got to fight the dragons! Continue reading “Call Tech Support!”

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Can An Old Dog Learn Braille?

A reader made a suggestion I could learn Braille. At first it sounded sort of fanciful. I am 63 years old and she wants this old dog to learn new tricks! I am sure it is REALLY hard. I am sure it will take me FOREVER.

Then I thought I should practice what I preach. Turn the mind and be willing. I could at least look into it….besides, it is good for a page and I am running out of ideas. Anyone else out there willing to share? I could use a little more, wonderful help like we got from Lara, Jennifer, Rick and Andrea.

VisionAware has a page on All About Braille. They tell us Louis Braille invented the system in France in the mid-1800s. Braille ‘cells’ are made up of two columns of three rows. Each letter and symbols is made up of a pattern of one or more dots.

The letter ‘s’ is dots in the second column-first row, 1-2 and 1-3. U is 1-1, 1-3 and 2-3. E is 1-1 and 2-1. There! I spelled my name!

I probably would want to learn alphabetic Braille first. That is letter by letter Braille. There is also a form called condensed Braille in which whole words are represented by one cell of dots.

Being part of the special education system, I know a little bit about sign language for the deaf. American Sign Language is not just standard English you ‘speak’ with your hands. It is its own language with its own rules and specialized characteristics. Condensed Braille reminded me of that. It is also just one of a number of systems, just like ASL.

Problems with learning Braille as an older adult include finger sensitivity. Some people are blind because of complications of diabetes. Diabetic nerve damage may interfere with learning Braille.

Right now, I really don’t see Braille as an option for me. Not totally because it would be difficult and time consuming to learn, although those are factors. The major reason is right now I have options that work for me just fine.

I have magnification through my CCTV, reader and iPad, as well as ZoomText on my work PC’s. My computers and my phone also have options that allow me to be read to. I don’t use those options simply because they are so dang irritating! However, if I get to the point I cannot navigate around my desktop or my phone, I may be happy to have them.   [You can review how Sue uses these by going to her pages A Day in the Life and A Day in the Life: Work Day.]

And speaking of being read to, don’t forget my KNFB Reader. Then there are BARD books and the newspapers on my phone.

If I want to write as opposed to read, I do have a few touch typing skills. Speech-to-text is also available to me. Of course, we all know some of the things that happen there.

For example: I tried to speech to text the text “we find our adventures where we can” and the message my friend got was “we find our dentures where we can.” Took a while for her to stop giggling.

OK. Gotta go. I have a staff party tonight and I still have no idea what I am going to wear. Could be worse. At least I don’t have to find my teeth!

Click here for an article on how Braille is useful on the job in case Sue changes her mind. ::smile::

Continue reading “Can An Old Dog Learn Braille?”

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