Posts Tagged ‘A11Y’

Nash Got To Enjoy A Weekend With His Grandparents

August 20, 2012

So I found a way that Queens isn’t all bad. Have your parents who can see and have a car with them stay with you. That’s right Queens and getting around isn’t terrible if you have a car, now I just have to figure out the blind thing, and get a car. Some of you might have heard about a Google Self Driving Car which is being tested out on highways in Nevada and California. This is a very exciting development. Of course me being a cynic, I have to assume that even if this Google Self Driving Car becomes a reality for blind people, the government won’t put a disclaimer at the bottom, only for legally licensed drivers, as we know the government will still want to have some kind of control over who is on the roads. Additionally, considering how inaccessible Google Docs, Google Plus, Google Groups, and many other aspects of Google are, can I really trust them putting me a blind guy behind the wheel? You would think they would first want to get a track record with something as simple as properly designing something accessible that you can use in the comfort of your own home when you are not going 65 miles an hour! Here is a link to the Google Self Driving Car, http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/technology-blog/google-self-driving-car-logs-300-000-miles-014608510.html

Another innovation in the blind community currently is something called Google Glass. From what I understand this is a pair of glasses you would wear and they would have a chip in it that would tell you everything around you. Rumor has it that these glasses are currently being tested, and might be available to the consumer as early as 2014. Again, I am sorry, but Nash has a much better track record than Google when it comes to leading me around, but these glasses could be a nice add on to walking around with your guide dog. Not sure if you will need to be connected to Wifi for these glasses to work, but I know Nash doesn’t need any kind of fancy technology to get me near my destination. Here is a link to the story on Google Glass http://www.techradar.com/us/news/video/project-glass-what-you-need-to-know-1078114

Got to love how I intended to write a blog about the nice weekend that Nash and I got to spend with my parents, and of course I turn it into a technology focused story. So for my Nash fans, here goes. My parents drove up from Florida, and arrived on Friday. We went over to Austin Street in I believe Rego Park. It is actually a very nice area of Queens, and would be a much more ideal area for me to live in as there are a ton of restaurants and stores. The area actually felt like New York City. Those of you who are not familiar with Queens are probably thinking, well can’t you just take public transportation there? Not exactly, as I would first need to figure out where both bus stops are to get there, and then here is the kicker, when I get off the bus near Austin Street, Nash and I would have to cross Queens Boulevard. That doesn’t sound so difficult. Well, Queens Boulevard is ten lanes, and I just found out today from a friend that Queens Boulevard has a nickname, The Boulevard of Death. No thanks, as I have said before, the one thing about living out here is I definitely don’t want to die in Queens. We had a real nice dinner. On Saturday, I put my parents to work, as we got tons of laundry done, and than ran plenty of errands. Nice to have access to that car. Nash also got his new bone that my parents bought for him. He was in heaven and really loved it. I think Nash enjoyed getting up in the morning, and my Mom taking him out for a walk. I am normally still half asleep when I wake up, so we just go out for a quick jaunt for him to do his business, than I have to drink a pot of coffee to wake up and get going. Sunday we got more things done, and as the weekend was coming to a close, and it was time for the parents to leave and head off to New Jersey to see the Grand Kids, I think Nash was really sad to see them go. Not to worry though, we are off to New Jersey next weekend for my nieces birthday, and Nash will get to see his Grand parents again.

Does Your Guide Dog FaceTime?

April 1, 2012

Guide Dog work is not all work and no play. For years, guide dogs have been tasked with leading blind people around. They are trained to go from corner to corner. Now I have no idea about the history of guide dogs. I am sure there was some caveman out there who was blind and slapped a harness on the back of a T-Rex. And that is how it all began. When dinosaurs became extinct, blind people had to find a new animal to lead them around, and who better than the family friendly dog? Then came guide dog schools to train the dogs, and the great people who raise the dogs before heading off to the guide dog school, the puppy raisers. And things have pretty much progressed since there.

With technology being what it is these days, and everyone having a camera and GPS system on them at all times, I am sure the future of guide dogs will be interesting. Guide dogs already have GPS chips in them in case they get lost, so they can be found by satellites. Pretty amazing, try explaining that one to World War II vets. With GPS becoming more and more advanced. I can see a time pretty soon where the guide dogs harness comes with a chip in it that will help a blind person navigate even down to the slightest millimeter. With my great guide Nash now, I still have to rely on the kindness of strangers to help me find the door to a business, especially a place that I have not been before. If there are a bunch of stores in a row next to each other, and I tell Nash left to the door, I can still be at the wrong store. With a GPS system built in to his harness where I can click a button and have a bluetooth earpiece in, I could find the door on my own, if GPS directions get down to it. That would be quite a nice world to live in.

Now that we have covered the work part, lets get to the play part. Does your guide dog FaceTime? For those of you not familiar with FaceTime, it is a program built in to all macs, iPhones, and iPads, allowing you to chat via video with someone else running FaceTime. I believe it is the same concept as Skype. The problem with Skype is it is no longer accessible, meaning that a blind person who uses a screen reader, in my case, voiceover over the mac cannot use it. There are several programs and websites that are inaccessible and we are not going to get in to that today, as that is a long topic. When a site or app is inaccessible it means that the site or app has not been properly designed where a screen reader cannot read the page elements. That is a novice understanding of it. I am sure a computer programmer could explain it in much more detail to you. You do have to remember I was in college at a time when the internet and email hadn’t blown up quite yet, and we were still just using it to download pictures from Entertainment Weekly. Remember Prodigy?

So now that you have a basic understanding of FaceTime, what good is a video chat to someone who is blind? None. Yes, the person you are speaking with can see you, but you can’t see them, but to a guide dog, it can be quite fun, and a way for him to see those family members and friends that do not live near you. I have Facetimed a few times with friends and family. And I know what you are thinking, how does Nash get anything out of it? I didn’t think he was either, until I noticed that every time I FaceTime with my Mom, someone who Nash knows quite well, he wants to lick the screen of the iPhone when he sees her face! Sorry to let you other people know, Nash doesn’t do that when he sees you. Pretty amazing, as I know he is color blind, but he is obviously differentiating between my Mom and everyone else I have Facetimed with. So, yes, my guide dog does FaceTime!

When You’re Blind, Technology Can Be An Amazing Thing

December 23, 2011

We all have those days when nothing seems to go right. Being blind this seems to be most days for me. So tonight when I got ready to walk my guide dog Nash and went to put my sneakers on, it was no surprise when I went to tie my sneakers and the shoelace ripped right off in to my hand. UGH! Lately I have been wearing sneakers most days, so what am I going to do now. I went in to my closet to find another pair of shoes, as I don’t think Nash is going to understand, sorry pal my shoelace is ripped so you can’t go out. I hadn’t worn another pair of shoes in quite awhile, so I was a little flustered, as I wasn’t a hundred percent certain the shoes I was putting on were the same pair. Yes, my vision has gotten so bad, that I can’t tell if a pair of shoes match. Then I remembered an app I had downloaded on my iPhone awhile ago called VizWiz. I had never used it, but I recalled, that you could take a picture of something and then add a question to it, and send it out in to cyberspace. Well, no time like the present to give this thing a whirl. I took a picture, but then when I went to ask the question, nothing happened. Great yet another app that doesn’t work properly. Then it hit, try turning a light on, as maybe the camera needs a little light. When you are blind, you do not sit around with a lot of lights on, especially when you have the severe glare issues from light that I have. Every time someone comes over to my apartment, I have to remember to turn a light on, as I could imagine my apartment without light could be a little creepy to the sighted. Hey at least when it is just me here I am saving on that damn con ed bill. So I turned a light on, relaunched the app, took the picture of the shoes again, then asked are these the same pair of shoes? After that VizWiz took me to a screen with a few options, AI for artificial intelligence, web worker, I assume for a human to answer the question, Facebook, sorry not hitting that one, as I do not want my Facebook friends to see this, and twitter. I selected the first two options. Immediately VizWiz sent me back an AI answer that said black leather shoes. Ok, cool, I guess that means they are the same pair. Then a few seconds later I got an answer from a web worker that read, yes they are the same pair, but on the wrong foot. I was like whoa. How do they know what foot they are on. The shoes were sitting on the floor, and not on my feet. Then I tried to put the left shoe on, and sure enough it was the shoe for the right foot. Wow, this is unbelievable. And the best part, VizWiz is a free app. Now most of you who read my blog are probably sighted, and will not need an app like VizWiz, but I implore you to pass this along to your blind or visually impaired friends. The only that disappointed me about the app, was there was no way for me to send a quick thank you to the web worker for answering my question. So I guess this blog entry goes out to all the web workers for VizWiz, and the creators of the app. I definitely will be getting a lot of use out of this app and sharing it with all of my blind friends. Now if there was just an app that could replace my shoelace.

Since I was having such good luck with technology tonight. I decide to try on the new sweat pants and sweat shirt my Mom had just bought me. She was so nice to buy my two pairs, one black and one gray. Now she did do a great thing and put a pin in the grey pair, but I wanted to test out the new color identifier that I recently downloaded. Why did my Mom buy me new sweats? Well, I guess my old pair was pretty worn, and even though I am living in Queens now, I guess I don’t have to look like I live in Queens. And just so you know, I do not wear sweats out to the store or anything, just to lounge around the house, and walk Nash. I have fallen in to the category of giving up which you let the world know once you start wearing sweats out and about. So I put on the black pair, and fired up the color ID, and sure enough I ran it over the sweat shirt, and the app said black, then I tried it over my old sweat shirt, and it said dark yellow. Wow, yes, it was a dark yellow shirt, and wasn’t that way from being dirty. Wow, technology has really come along way, now if they could only find a way to cure my retinitis pigmentosa that would really impress me!