Enjoy the Show!

Afraid I am not getting very far in the housework department today. Dishes in. Laundry in. I took Windex and a paper towel to all of the glass in the house. I deserve a break; right?… So glad you see it my way!😀

I am supposed to go to Manhattan next Saturday. Uptown. The person taking me wants to see the Cloisters and the New York Botanical Gardens. Fair enough. I will take it.

It got me to thinking, though. What if I decide to do my idea of the Big Apple? Port Authority, lunch in Little Italy or Chinatown and then a Broadway play.

Just for giggles I did a little digging about audio description and live performances. I am pleased to say, if you live long enough to actually snag a ticket to Hamilton, you can get it with audio description! Also, Aladdin, Wicked and the Lion King! Not to slight the Book of Mormon because they offer it too.

Since audio description is the new kid on the block when it comes to accessibility, it appears that is the list for Broadway right now. If it is a big selling point for them, others will offer it. The law is the accommodation has to be ‘readily achievable’. That means a big budget and available describers.

If you are not planning a trip to ‘The City’, the Audio Description Project provides lists of performing arts presentations with audio description by state. For our friends in Massachusetts there are four, different venues offering audio description for live theater. These are all in the Boston area. Minnesota lists a crazy number of potential offering and Nevada lists…one. Hmmmm.

If you are in London you can experience the rock opera Tommy with audio description. They also have Wicked and the Lion King and a score of others including Jesus Christ Superstar. Most of them are described by a service called VocalEyes although many others offer the services with in-house staff.

VocalEyes? From the little bit I gleaned it appears they are a not for profit operating pretty much all over Britain. They seem to describe everything from Sesame Street to Shakespeare.

So the good news is there is a limited number of venues in many cities that offer the service for live performances. You can continue to go to the theater occasionally. You appear to have a much broader selection in London than any city here stateside. (Fine by me. I’ll go. I like London.)

US or UK though, you still have to ask for the service. For Broadway, Arts Access has a page describing the request process. Once again you have to jump through some hoops and be flexible, including allowing two weeks lead time. Not sure how it is done in London but the Access London Theater site should be able to help.

Hope you enjoy the show! Continue reading “Enjoy the Show!”

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Best Places to Live

Hey, happy Saturday! Feeling a little better. My husband dropped me plus the bike off at the church where the yoga benefit was being held. Second time in two days I was in a house of worship. So far nothing has blown up or caught fire so I guess I am safe!😇/👿

Did two classes. Had a banana split at the ice cream parlor. Got money out of the cash machine. Rode home. I would have gotten some leaf lettuce at the farmers’ market but I forgot they close at noon.

Before I forget, I just want to quickly note my bike mileage is now over 50 miles. Am I going to get my usual 300 for the season? Maybe not, but 50 is better than the seven miles I did last year. Adaptation and increased accomplishment are possible.

Anyway, back on track, as I was puttering around in town it dawned upon me I am pretty lucky to be living in a town that not only has the basics but a few amenities, most of them easily reached from the town center. Then I started thinking about a little concept called livability.

Livability is a “different strokes for different folks” sort of concept. I like having four seasons. I like having a lot of green space and opportunities for outdoor recreation. I also like access to cultural events. Spectator sports? Nope, but for some of us that is an important consideration.

Being part of a ‘special’ segment of the population means we have similar needs, though. That means there should be towns and cities that fit us as a group better than other towns and cities. And that begs the question: where are all the other disabled people moving?

Wallethub.com did a study just generally for disabilities. Generic. This study looked at cost of living, medical facilities, jobs filled by the handicapped, etc. Their overall ‘winner’ was Overland Park, Kansas.

The American Foundation for the Blind did a study in 2003. Not sure how recent the update is (2017?) so caveat emptor once again. Don’t pull up stakes and head for Charlotte, North Carolina, the number 1 pick, until you have checked the current data.

Why Charlotte? Decent public transportation for one thing. City ‘walkability’ is good and there are some audible traffic signals. Such accessibility features allow for more independence for low vision residents.

Don’t want to move to the east coast? Berkeley came in second.

I looked for the best places to live with a visual impairment in the UK. Got nothing although there were some thoughts on where to go for an accessible vacation.

Canada? Burlington and Hamilton got good, general ratings but nothing specific to those with vision loss. If you want, you guys can come on down here. I think there should be room. 😁

And now the discussion questions: what do you need for a town or city to be more livable for you? Can you find those things already in your community? Can you advocate for those things to come about? Change is possible. We just have to be willing to do the work Continue reading “Best Places to Live”

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Mi Depression, Su Depression

We all know adjusting to sight loss is stressful. We are well aware of the times it has freaked us out but how aware are we of the impact our loss has on those around us? How often does anyone notice the stress on family members ?

Back in 2009 – that is 8 years ago, guys. Long enough this report could be in the third grade! – there was published an article entitled Family Function and Low Vision: A Systematic Review. The authors lamented they had not had many appropriate articles to review and – guess what – I found pretty much next to nothing since then. Families of the visually impaired are being ignored!

But yet families are a huge support to those who are losing their sight. Adequate support – both practical and emotional – protects against distress and other negative health concerns. The way we stay functional and sane is by having people there for us.

The problem is sometimes family members go through all of the stages of adjustment we do. Shock, denial and mourning are not just for us. But since we are the identified clients, we (hopefully) get the services and the attention. They don’t.

Visual impairment is related to separation and divorce. (Or at least it was in 1993. THAT study is old enough to vote.) There have also been more recent studies on emotion contagion.

Yep, mi depression, su depression*. And if that is not bad enough, the spouses of the visually impaired even have worse physical well-being than controls. Jeez.

The suggestions from the authors were pretty basic: education and mental health counseling. Family members need to know about visual impairment so they know how and how much to help. Overprotection can be nearly as damaging as neglect. Mental health support is pretty self-explanatory. Find and investigate the negative belief systems and see what you can do to refute them. Provide emotional support.

In short, the fight can be as hard on the guy who holds your coat as it is on you. Family members need to know about your vision loss and be told the level of support you need. They need to have time to do things for themselves and they need someone to support them as well. None of this is easy on anybody but it is easier when we do it together.

*translation of title is “My Depression, Your Depression” as in the phrase “Mi Casa, Su Casa” which literally translated means “My House, Your House”.

Continue reading “Mi Depression, Su Depression”

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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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Wanted: Tech Savvy Teen

On the hunt again. This is what happens when you give me free time…or more accurately when I need to write a psych report and I am NOT in the mood. (Thank you for giving me a reason for my procrastination!)

What I am hunting is how to set your devices to play the audio descriptions on movies. This is actually amusing because I may watch about three movies a year. Netflix? Most people love it but I have never subscribed.

That means we are again in uncharted waters for me. Good luck and may God be with you. Here we go.

Chatty Chelby has a YouTube video on how to turn on descriptive audio on Netflix and using the internet browser, Xbox 360, Android phone and iPad. She completes the job for all devices in a less than five minutes presentation. Seems easy. An example of audio descriptions was included in Chelby’s video and it was detailed all the way down to the ‘arc of light’ going over Cinderella’s castle in the Disney intro. So far so good. Thanks Chelby!

Accessible.org has a page on “How do I turn on captions or descriptive audio in my media player?” For those of you who are not computer literate media players are on computers. The article contains directions for several different operating systems. This article should be helpful if you watch TV or movies on your computer.

I keep looking for articles that will talk about standard DVD players in the USA. Not doing so well for the States but kudos to the Aussies and the kiwis. They have a couple of informative sites on this matter.

Here we are! The Audio Description Project, “an initiative of the American Council of the Blind” has a rather large and imposing but quite comprehensive website pretty much covering everything in the good ol’ U. S. of A. when it comes to getting audio description on your device. DVDs are second row, next to the last. If you are as tech savvy as I am, you might want to borrow someone’s 14 year old son for this project. He should have it done in about 5 seconds. Me? I would swear a lot.

Now on to the UK!

Well, as usual, the Brits are more interesting than us Yanks! June 26th they are having a workshop called “Audio Describing Burlesque”! Intriguing. The workshop “tackles the challenges of describing risque dance performances with discussion and practice”. Is that practice in risque dance????? Fish and chips optional. I guess you don’t want all that fried food if you are practicing risque dance.😜

OK. All fun aside, the BBC is supposed to provide 10% of their programming with audio description. A little paltry right now but I know the people who gave us Dr. Who will improve on that! And they have a website, Help Receiving TV and Radio that has a special section on audio description.

So, here you are, another assignment. Go out on the street and grab the first, tech savvy looking teen you see. Bribe him to set this up for you and you should have some idea what is happening on TV by this evening. Including the risque dance, of course. Caio, caio! Continue reading “Wanted: Tech Savvy Teen”

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