Archive for February, 2011

ESPN and Major League Baseball Still Failing the Blind and Visually Impaired

February 25, 2011

It’s an exciting time to be blind. I can’t believe that I just wrote that sentence, but compared to five, ten, or twenty years ago, technology has really improved the lifestyle for the blind and visually impaired. Four years ago when I could still see a little, I thought it was the greatest thing in the world to ride the subway home from work and be able to access my email on my blackberry. Wow, times have changed a lot in four years. As my vision has deteriorated greatly, technology has improved vastly. Two years ago I had to ditch my blackberry for an Iphone and its Voice Over technology. I was so excited as soon as I took the Iphone out of the box, and heard that voice speaking to me. I had seen the flurry of commercials about all those amazing apps available on the Iphone and couldn’t wait to get started. While it did take some getting use to navigating the Iphone and learning to listen to my emails instead of reading them, I was quickly on my way. Being a big fan of trivia, the first thing I did was buy the Trivial Pursuit app for the Iphone. In a matter of seconds I had it installed. Wow, this is amazing. Then reality set in as I opened Trivial Pursuit on my Iphone,, ran my finger around the screen and heard nothing. What am I doing wrong? I closed the app, and went into my email, and sure enough the phone read me my email. So I went back to the Trivial Pursuit app, and again, it read nothing to me on the screen. This is when I learned that even though the Iphone was the most accessible phone on the market, not all the apps offered in the Itunes store were accessible. Major disappointment. My first year with the Iphone was pretty much just phone calls and emails, but as time went by, something incredible began to happen, more and more apps began working with the voice over technology. First there was Facebook and then Twitter reading my messages and feeds to me. So you could imagine my disappointment that ESPN’s score center and Major League Baseball’s At Bat were completely unaccessible to me. It was 2010 and even a blind guy could get his news on the go, and follow his friends on Facebook and Twitter, so why not ESPN and Major League Baseball? Considering that Major League Baseball makes a point on its website talking about how their website is accessible to the blind and visually impaired, you would think they would do the same with their mobile applications considering that we are living in a mobile world. It is now February 2011 and Spring is around the corner, pitchers and catchers reported over a week ago, and ESPN just broke out their Fantasy Baseball 2011 app for the Iphone. I installed it last night, crossed my fingers that they remembered there are people out there who are blind and visually impaired and play fantasy baseball. I started up the app, and got that old sound of when you run your finger over an app that doesn’t work with voice over. It did offer me the option to sign in to my account, but after that nothing. Today I noticed that Major League Baseball had released its 2011 app, so I updated it on my Iphone, and got what I got in 2010 every time you run your finger over the screen all you hear is the voice over technology saying, “button, button, button.” I do realize that a corporation making its app accessible is not a requirement, but you would think with vision loss being so common these days and the technology being available to them, that they would make use of it. I believe Apple is encouraging their third party providers to make their apps accessible, so it surprises me that two of the biggest and most popular apps ESPN and Major League Baseball are failing so miserably to implement these changes. If Fox Sports can make their app accessible why can’t these two giants do the same. Well, here’s looking to 2012. For those of you who are visually impaired or blind and do use an Iphone here is the best most updated site that I have found that lets you know how accessible an app is with the voice over technology http://www.applevis.com. A truly amazing site.

Choose Your Friends Wisely

February 20, 2011

I wasn’t the best listener as a kid, and didn’t listen to a lot of my parents advice, but who does as a kid, as we all think we know what is best, and only learn the lessons that our parents teach us as a kid are valuable when we are adults. One of the lessons I do recall that my parents taught me as a kid was to choose my friends wisely, which of course I completely ignored as a kid, as we all want to be friends with the popular kids. I still talk to a lot of my friends that I grew up with mainly through social networking and on Facebook as we are all so busy these days. So I think that I did pick my friends fairly wisely as a kid, but am now confused on how to accomplish this as an adult and using modern technology. I pretty much agree to almost everyone who friends me on Facebook, and do not consider them real friends, just my virtual friends, and of course I am much more popular in the online world than in real life, but hey aren’t we all? My idea for this blog topic doesn’t even come from an incident on Facebook, but rather from Fantasy Baseball I am in a bunch of leagues, but have a couple that I really enjoy. My oldest league is a ten year keeper league where we keep a lot of the same players from year to year. Now in the real world, I only know one of the guys in the league. The rest while I have communicated with over the years, I have never met in person, but they seemed like a good bunch of guys. Since we have been doing this league for ten years, I guess I considered these guys one step above my virtual Facebook friends. Now for those of you not familiar with fantasy baseball, yeah it is a great waste of time, but I really love it, as it is a way for me to connect to the game I once loved to play. The best part of the season is the draft, and the most important part. For the last ten years, we have drafted this league through email, which allows us all the time in the world to make a pick, and is very blind friendly as you do not need to be in a java window with only 60 seconds to figure out who is out there, where the link is to the player you want, then where the select plater button is. as you can imagine not only is this pretty impossible for a blind guy to do, but it is quite frustrating when you can’t do it. So there is a little background on fantasy baseball but now back to my point. I have been preparing for my league draft and ranking my platers, and was completely blind sided when my league decided after ten years of email drafting to participate in a live draft. I emailed my league commish and told him about my situation and not being able to participate in the live draft. I also emailed the one guy I know personally in the league, and asked him to help get the word out there, and figured it would only be a matter of time before we would be back doing an email draft. So you can imagine my surprise when I didn’t receive any league messages from the commish or my buddy letting the league know that we have a blind guy who couldn’t do a live draft. All of the sudden I went to the site, and noticed we were set to live draft. I figured this was a mistake, as how after ten years could these guys not understand my situation, and be compassionate. Its not like I was asking for them to go out of their way for me, just to do exactly what we have been doing for the past ten years. So last night when I heard that the league decided that they were going to do a live draft, I was pretty angry. How could they do this to me. Then I realized its not like these guys are friends of mine. Even though I have known them for ten years, all they are are email accounts spread throughout the country that I do not send to my spam box. So I consider my dilemna. While I love doing fantasy baseball and this league that I have done for ten years, do I really need to be in a league with people with no empathy, class, or character? If they cannot even respond to a message about my situation, why should I even bother with them? Yes, I do love my players, but with all the every day aggravation that I go through why should I even let this affect me? Because I love doing it, but I must have grown up over night because I am thinking about telling them all to go fuck themselves, and I think I would actually be in the right. I’ve yet to make my final decision, and am weighing my options, good thing none of my fellow league members read my blog. After all, it’s not like they are friends. Now the fun part comes, locating them on my Facebook page, and deleting them there should I not continue with the league.

I watched the movie Social Network yesterday. Thank God finally a movie with a story line that even a blind guy could follow.The worst thing that has happened to blind people and movies over the last decade is CGI technology. As movies have become impossible to follow, and it is strange to think that 15 years ago I would watch a movie a day, and now I am lucky if I see 3 in a year. I have been told that some moves have a narrative track on them, but have yet to come across any of these DVS. You would think with the general public living longer and more and more people having low vision that Hollyweird would have more DVDs with a narrative track, but of course not. Once again this is something the blind lobby should be looking in to, but of course, our lobby is fairly nonexistienct. I think the only way our lobby will ever grow and get stronger is if My. Fischler Goes To Washington!

No Title Needed

February 15, 2011

I don’t know if I am suffering from writers block, or if I am just running out of great titles, but I had a lack of an idea of a title for this blog entry. Well, I went in for my eye check up yesterday, and it was very disappointing. Ends up I had seen this eye doctor about ten years ago, and thank you doc for stating the obvious when you said, “wow your vision has gotten a lot worst. Really, no kidding doc, I could have told you that, and I don’t even have a medical degree. I went in to get checked to see if I had cataracts, as I have been reading about a lot of people who have RP and are going through similar things that I have been going through with severe light sensitivity issues, bad glare from computer screens and TV, and brightness issues. All of what has been going on with my eyes the last few years. So of course, I expected and hoped to get a similar diagnosis of having developed cataracts, as that would be a simple fix to help improv my eyes a little, but unfortunately, I have to do everything the hard way, and cataracts is not the cause of my deteriorating vision. Of course, Nash got a big compliment at the eye doc, as he was examining me he commented that Nash was the most mellow dog he had ever seen! Of course a simple thank you from me would have been lame, so I said, “Yeah he smoked a big fatty right before we came in!” Good thing the doc didn’t have something sticking in my eye when I said that, because he was in hysterics. No, Nash is not a toker, and neither am I. Too bad, because I could probably score some pretty strong weed for my eye condition. This was Nash and my first visit to the eye doc together, and when the doc first started examining me, Nash was anything but mellow, as he kept poking his head up and checking out what the doc was doing Now Nash and I have been to the doc before but never to the eye doc together. I think Nash realized that the doc was checking out my eyes, and he has gotten used to being my eyes for me so he was a little concerned that he may be getting replaced. Not to worry Nash, even if they cured my RP tomorrow which would be an amazing day, I would still find a way to keep you buddy. I think Nash and I have grown really attached, and there is no seperating us now. It is hard to believe that I still don’t even own Nash as we have not been together for two years yet. Come April 29th I will officially own Nash.

It has taken me awhile to get used to using the new mac computer, but I am happy to say that this is the first blog entry that I am writing on the mac. Unfortunately, I still have a lot to learn on the mac, but I am using it primarily now as my main computer. It does take me longer to do certain things, as I am still not fully used to the voiceover technology and using all of the keyboard shortcuts, but I am getting there. It amazes me that the mac is the best computer on the market, yet the Commission for the Blind cannot find an organization or third party provider to provide training for me with the mac. Go figure our government at work just wants to train me on a Windows PC, and not the best computer for a blind guy. That’s our tax dollars hard at work. I can get training from one organization, but get this, I would have to bring my desktop in and leave it at their office until the training is fully completed. That doesn’t pass the smell right test to me. I would have no clue who would be using my computer and all my personal info. Plus I would not be getting to learn things on my own. Very strange offer. So I will continue learning the mac on my own, and going to the Apple store one on one training sessions where they are by no means experts in using the voiceover technology. I guess I am saying that I find it kind of funny and sad that we have this technology out there to help us, yet no one to train us using it.

After the eye doc yesterday, Nash and I took a nice long walk down the east side. It was a gorgeous day in NYC, and although Nash is in great shape, I really needed the exercise. It was the first time in awhile that Nash and I had a nice long walk together. It has been a brutal winter, so the long walks have been kept to a minimum. He did pretty good, but there were a few hiccups. He decided to turn left instead of going forward on one street, and of course he was trying to sniff everything in sight. I am going to be contacting Guiding Eyes to see if I can get a trainer to come out as we could use a refresher as Nash is doing a few things that I don’t think he should be doing. He did make the 15 block walk in good time, and for the most part avoided all the peopl, but most importantly we avoided all objects and didn’t have any falls or stumbles. So overall I would give him a B plus for the walk, but it was far from perfection ,and I expect perfection out of the Nasdhee.

Pray For Cataracts

February 12, 2011

It’s been over two years since I have been to see my eye doctor, as he is in Philadelphia at The Scheie Eye Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. Between my 2010 schedule and my doctor’s schedule as he is leading the way in gene therapy research, I just wasn’t able to get to Philly last year. I have been following the emails on the RP list, and as I have one of the topic threads that has been interesting to me is all the people discussing cataracts. Last time I saw my doctor, I was a little disappointed as I did not have cataracts, and I was having the beginning of my severe glare issues. Since my last visit, my vision has deteriorated greatly, as I have had to increase the magnification from about a 2X to a 3X and even a 4X at times, but more importantly, I went from being able to see the computer in a normal viewing mode, to having to use screen filters to see the computer. What this means is I do not look at the computer in its typical normal color as the glare causes me not to be able to see it. I use three different kinds of filters, a reverse brightness, yellow on black, and on the mac white on black. These screen filters can be great, as they do allow me to see text on the computer, but forget about being able to see any pictures anymore, and it does get frustrating, as the filters make it near impossible to see links and some sign in areas on web sites. Additionally, I went from being able to see a baseball game on tv at least a little to follow some of it, to not even being able to tell what is on tv. Yes, it is quite frustrating, and makes you pretty angry. Amazing how you can wish to have your bad vision of a few years ago, and not even wanting to be completely cured, just have it go back a little to where it was a few years ago. Over the course of reading all of the people in the email list who have RP and have been diagnosed with cataracts, they have all experienced very similar symptoms to me, and once they have had the surgery, they have not experienced a miracle, but the glare issues have gone away, and their contrast and ability to see brightness has improved.  Since reading these other people’s stories is like looking into a mirror, you would expect me to go in on Monday, and hear that I have cataracts, which would be a great thing, but of course, my eyes always have to do everything the hard way. So not having cataracts will be a pretty big disappointment. You would think I would be praying for cataracts, well I do not pray regularly anymore like I used to. Hey, I used to pray all the time, but nothing ever improved, and I found praying on a nightly basis made me a bit of a hypocrit, so I stopped. I went a long time without praying, and then at the start of this year, I thought I would renew my faith, and I prayed, and you know what? The following week was the worst Fucking week I had in over a year! I guess either that was the man upstairs getting back at me for being a hypocrit, or I have crossed over to the other side. Regardless, I learned my lesson, and I will not be able to pray for cataracts, so I ask you my readers to pray that I have cataracts. Will let you know the diagnosis.

Smarter Than Your Average Dog!

February 9, 2011

“Hey Booboo, I’m smarter than your average bear,” Yogi Bear would say. Well, Nash is much smarter than your average dog. Sorry to all the average dogs out there who read my blog, but he is. I know that I have touched on this before, but it still continues to amaze me. Each morning we head downstairs and some mornings they are still doing construction on my lobby, the never ending project from hell. Other mornings, are just a regular morning. The difference is we either use the lobby doors, or have to vear off through the mail room, and through the service hallway to the building when there is construction going on. I am not a morning person, and am usually up to three or four in the morning, and am so groggy when we head out to walk Nash that even if I could see, I am half asleep and would probably not even pay attention the construction, but Nash knows. He spots the construction, and immediately realizes that we have to use the service entrance to get outside. There is zero hesitation by him, he doesn’t contemplate what to do, and he does all of this without having any coffee! You would think that Nash would see the construction in the lobby, stop, and wait for me to tell him to make a right and then tell him to make another right, but he does it all on his own! I know it might not sound like a ig deal, but it is very impressive, and Nash is not only smarter than your average dog, but rather much much much smarter, and he knows more than a fifth grader!

I was hoping to say that this was the first blog that I had written using the new mac computer, but unfortunately, I am still very slowly getting used to the mac. It amazes me how difficult it has been to get going on the mac, but I have heard that even sighted users have a tough time getting going on the mac. I am using it more and more each day, but still have a long way to go, as every little thing takes getting used to keyboard short cuts and gestures. They call it muscle memory, and I guess my brain has been on a very long siesta, because it is taking very long to get used to the mac. I can see the trees through the forest, as I can tell how beneficial the voiceover and zoom functions will be once I can get going fuilly on the mac, but for now, I am still most comfortable using my ancient PC. It’s funny though, because I recall a lot of people saying that using a mac is much easier than using a PC, and I have found that not to be true. I did finally get my contacts imported in to the Mac address book, and figured out how to use Mac mail a little better. I also got Microsoft Office installed on the Mac, and was a little surprised at how long it took to install. The good thing is I have at least installed my first program on the computer. It is like a full time job learning the mac. I hope to get some of my files on there today, and then figure out how to get my Iphone recognized by the mac, as I tried it yesterday, and I guess the phone can only be recognized by one computer, so I will have to figure out how to deauthorize it on my old PC, and then make sure I don’t lose my info when connecting it to the mac. What a pain all of this has been.

On a more pleasant note, I have been getting a lot of great use out of Optelec’s Compact Flash. Without it I would not be able to see any of my bills, or any paper work. For those of you with low vision, I would highly reccomend getting the compact flash, as it is a great tool, and easy to carry around with you where ever you go. It would be highly useful in a restaurant for those of you with low vision in reading menus and of course those darn bills at the end of the meal. I also use my compact flash to help me see dollar bills, as without it I can’t differentiate between dollar amounts, and last time I checked we don’t live in the most trusting of societies. So please check out Optelec and all their great low vision aids at ShopLowVision.com.

It’s A Mac World, the Rest Of Us Are Just Visiting

February 4, 2011

I guess I can look at this positively as my desktop and laptop computers have both lasted five years, but as my vision has deteriorated, it has become harder and harder to use old technology. I use Zoomtext on both computers, but cannot see the laptop screen anymore even with Zoomtext running, and I can barely make out the desk top screen. I spent about five weeks researching new computers and  doing my due diligence to find out what the best option for a blind guy is. Here is what I learned. While Windows 7 has made great strides with their built in accessibility features, they still have a long way to go. I wanted to look at Dell laptops, but unfortunately, they do not have any stores in NYC that you can go into to play around on the computers. It was important for me to be able to play around on the computer I was purchasing, as I like to be able to use the limited vision that I do have, so not being able to check out a Dell personally was disappointing. I spoke with Dell on the phone, and was not happy that every time I called, I was speaking to someone in India. I don’t mean to sound like an asshole, but I have a problem understanding people with a thick Indian accent, what made it more frustrating, is the people I would get on the phone, had no clue what I meant by built in accessibility features. They just read from the script on what is built in to the computer system, which was not what I was asking. I did attempt to go in to a Best Buy to check out Windows 7, and what a surprise, no one in the store that I went to new about the Windows 7 built in accessibility features. All of this turned out to be a big strike against Windows 7, especially after my experience at the Apple store. I went into the Apple store and was blown away by their knowledge about the built in accessibility features. They took the time to walk me through the Voiceover and Zoom features that are installed on every Mac computer. I knew about Voiceover being a Iphone user, and love it on the Iphone. As my vision continues to deteriorate I need to use more and more of the voice, and less of the zoom. While Zoomtext is a fantastic program, it doesn’t always work on all sites. Once I finally decided that Mac was the way to go, I settled on a desktop and Ipad for travel instead of getting a laptop, as the cost was a little much. The only problem with Mac is they are more expensive than Windows, but for someone who is visually impaired, mac is definitely the way to go. On another Mac plus side, you can go in to the store for one on one training. For $99 a year, you have unlimited training sessions to use. With Applecare, you can call their 24 help line, and you are not calling India, as Apple does not out source their customer service, and they are opening a new service center  every 90 days. Additionally, one of the Apple stores in NYC is open 24 hours. So on a customer service scale, Apple destroys Dell and Windows 7. Now heading into going Mac, I knew there would be a giant learning curve, and still I didn’t expect it to be this bad, as I am still writing this blog on my PC a week into having the Apple desktop. I will be going in for my second one on one session tomorrow, and am hoping from then on out I will be able to use the Apple. I guess what I am saying is that Mac is the way to go for someone who is visually impaired, but if you have been working with a Windows computer like I have for the last 20 years, don’t expect to get started on your Mac right out of the box. What I have learned is even though I am an expert with Voiceover on the Iphone, it is completely different on the Imac. Patience, patience, and more patience will be needed to get started on the mac. I know a lot of people who are sighted, and made the transition from PC to Mac, and it took them awhile to get going. If you have been using a PC and primarily using the keyboard short cuts, you will be able to make the transition easier, as a lot of the short cuts, are the same on a PC And Mac, but I am starting from scratch. Another plus on the mac, is the blue tooth keyboard that came with the desktop syncs to an Ipad, and is miniature enough to travel with. So when on the road if you have an Ipad and keyboard it is still less bulky than a laptop. Hopefully the next blog I write will be from the Mac.