Posts Tagged ‘legal blindness’

God Takes It Away, but Technology Gives It Back!

April 27, 2012

Now since I have been an adult, I have not been a real religious fellow. Maybe it is because for most of my adult life I have lived with a visual impairment and for the last few years pretty much total blindness. Of course being me, I have had to find someone or something to blame for my life situation. That blame has landed at the feet of the invisible man upstairs. If there is a heaven and hell, lets just say hopefully the good that I have done in my life will outweigh all the times I have taken God’s name in vain. To keep this a family oriented blog, lets just say I have called the man upstairs several four letter names. There has been a lot of anger directed at him. Don’t judge until you are in my position.

Maybe there is a better way to view this, but this is the way I view things. God has taken a lot of things away from me. He took my ability to play sports, my career in the movie business, my enjoyment of watching sports, my ability to watch and enjoy TV, my ability to read, my ability to read and see things on the computer, and my ability to watch and enjoy movies. That is just naming a few things off the top of my head.

Now I am not throwing my hat in to the ring here for the whole God versus science debate. That would be an endless blog. I am just touching on things that I personally view that God has taken away from me making me the way he did, and now the things that technology is given back to me. The whole spiritual versus science debate is something that goes way over my head, and I can see parts of both sides of that argument.

Last weekend, after listening to yet another amazing instructional podcast by David Woodbridge of Vision Australia, I was alerted to Samnet now being accessible to the mac. Samnet is an application built and maintained by blind people for blind people. I first became across Samnet about 8 months ago, but was disappointed at the time to learn that it was a windows based application. Samnet is an application that you can run on your computer and it has a screen reader functionality it also has several topics with links for blind people, some of the topics include News, Entertainment, Sports, Weather, Social Networking, Email, and many more. When I first heard about Samnet, it really peeked my interest, you could imagine my disappointment when I found out that at the time I could not access its content on the mac. Fast forward to a few months ago. Google who has really ignored the blind community as most google applications are quite inaccessible released googlevox, an extension that you could plug in to their web browser, google chrome. A few months ago, I played around a little with googlevox to my disappointment it wasn’t that easy to use on a mac. I went back to using my built in Voiceover on the mac, and didn’t give Googlevox a second thought.

Last week, after listening to David Woodbridge’s podcast where he walked me through using Googlevox with Samnet, my interest was peeked again. I went back to Googlevox, and was pleasantly surprised by the improvements Google had made in their latest update to GoogleVox. It took some time, but I took the tutorial and played around with GoogleVox learning a lot of the keyboard shortcuts. I then signed up for a free trial of Samnet. Samnet is pretty simple for use even for someone who is blind and not a computer whiz. You can easily navigate the entire site using the tab, shift, arrows, and enter keys. I of course have learned some quicker ways to navigate the site, as I am impatient and a much more advanced computer user.

My main interest in checking out Samnet was for one particular area, Descriptive Video Content. What is Descriptive Video Content DVC? DVC is very similar to close captioning for the hearing impaired, but for blind people. It is a track that is set to a movie or television show that describes all the action that is going on, making it possible for a blind person to follow along. I expected to go to Samnet’s DVC area and get what I usually get not a lot of movies to choose from, and a fairly old and outdated library. Well, quite the contrary. I was pleasantly surprised to see New Release section with the label of uploaded in the last 30 days. I then went to the comedy section and was amazed that there were over a thousand movies to choose from. The movies range from classics to the latest releases. WOW. I watched my first descriptive Video movie The Ides of March with George Clooney, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ryan Gosling, and Paul Giamatti. It took some getting used to listening to a movie with DVC, but compared to the alternative of not watching movies at all, it is amazing.

I am now on to my third movie, the latest Mission Impossible movie. Another great thing about the site is you can bookmark any part of the movie, and come and pick up where you left off. Great for me, as I am always doing a million different things. So thank you David woodbridge, thank you Vision Australia, thank you Google, thank you mostly Samnet. Technology has now given me back something that God has taken away from me! my ability and enjoyment of watching movies!

Please make sure to follow the people I mentioned in this blog on twitter David woodbridge @dwoodbridge, @Googleaccess, Samnet @SeroTalk, @VisionAustralia, and of course Nash and me @blindgator, @NashtheGuideDog, and @LaughForSight

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!