My Take On The Prodigi Connect 12

Let’s start with one of the big boys, the Prodigi Connect 12. A recent addition to the VI product market and a very welcome one. Straddling the immense power of a Samsung Galaxy Tab 12 Pro the Prodigi Connect 12 is a very powerful android tablet that is packed full of features to help anyone with sight loss. The main aim of this super advanced computer is to allow users to read documents in either crystal clear print or have it read to you in one of two synthetic voices. Using the Galaxy’s camera you are able to take a picture of any printed text and within seconds you will have it on your screen, ready and raring for you to make sense of. The Prodigi’s powerful text to speech engine gives you word for word accuracy beaten by no other text to speech reader around.

The text is grabbed into a separate screen from the usual live view and is then presented to you almost as if you were a newsreader reading out the latest news about something we probably aren’t too concerned about. This feature is great as you do not have to move anything, the machine does it all for you. All you do is sit back, or in my case as close to the screen as possible and relax whilst you read. Brilliant work from Humanware.

If, like me, you suffer with fatigue and can’t actually read for too long before your eyes start to itch uncontrollably after seconds of opening them, or if after a few minutes of reading your documents you wonder why you even bothered to get out of bed that day, why not have the information read to you. A couple of button presses and you are away. If you have ever seen the comedian ‘Lost Voice Guy’ you can even have his voice read things to you. If you haven’t seen him, then go to YouTube and check him out, he is hilarious. Of course these synthetic voices aren’t perfect but they are starting to convey emotions. It’s actually quite scary.

Another reason to go out and buy yourself one of these great devices is the fact that you can pull text from the internet, save it to the Prodigi software and get Graham to read it back to you whenever you wish. I realise this is the first mention of Graham, don’t worry, Prodigi Connect doesn’t come with some crazy stalker, Graham is the synthetic voice that comes along with Prodigi, nice chap.

As well as having the ability to get any printed material read to you, Prodigi Connect 12 is essentially a 12inch android tablet. The Samsung Galaxy Pro which in itself is an impressive piece of kit, I will not go into details but to have the ability to use all of the android apps as well as the extremely powerful text to speech software makes the Prodigi Connect 12 a must have if you are a visually impaired tech geek just like me.

That’s it for now, until next time – take care



A VI Man’s Driving Dream Realised

It was a cold and wet day in early March, a day I had been looking forward too for quite some time. Since losing my sight I had wanted to experience the thrill of driving one last time. Of course this was never likely to happen. So I learnt to deal with the fact that I would never drive again. But then one day I was introduced to Mike Newman. Mike is officially the fastest blind man in the world on four wheels. He holds the land speed record for driving a car reaching speeds of over 200 miles per hour and also over 140 miles per hours in a truck.

I first met Mike at one of Insight Gloucestershire’s events held several years back in Pittville Park in Cheltenham. The event known as Bark in Pittville Park saw the charity hold an annual fundraising event featuring things such as dog agility shows, all sorts of activities for children, sponsored walks and there was even a flyover from the Red Arrows one year. No mean feat for Insight to put such an event on. Mike was invited to come along to promote his new organisation Speed of Sight. Turning up in the two of the nicest cars I had seen in person I had to go and have a look. If memory serves, he had a BMW and I think a Jaguar. It was some time ago so I could be wrong. After spending some time talking with Mike about his ideas for his new charity I knew one day I had to get involved.

Speed of Sight was Mike’s brainchild, its purpose is to give disabled people of all ages and abilities the chance to experience driving a motorised vehicle. For many this would of course be the first time they would have done so. For me, I had taken lessons in driving before losing my sight at the age of 19.

The concept is quite brilliant and after speaking to several of the people who took part on the day that I attended, you can tell the sheer overwhelming joy they had experienced. On our way into the pit lane from the car park, my friend Pete and I were approached by a fellow visually impaired chap who couldn’t contain his excitement with the fact he had just been able to drive a car around a race track. A feeling I imagine he never thought he would have experienced since losing his sight again and I feeling I have no doubt he will ever forget. I had all of this excitement to come.

It had been raining most of the day, we were in Wales, and I am told this is not unusual for the area. It was windy, but it was exciting. After a bit of a wait due to some unforeseen circumstances it was finally my turn. I was about to drive for the first time in over 12 years.

Climbing into the car my heart had already started to pump faster and faster, nerves had taken over slightly but this would soon turn into adrenaline. I was familiarised with the controls, my helmet was put on and I was strapped in too the seat which felt like I was on the floor. Very low down, I had never been near a race car before let alone sit in one. I was now about to drive one. With my instructor strapped in next to me we had a quick check of the speakers and microphones and we were set to go.

The cars are dual controlled, my instructor sat to my left took control of the car to put us into the start position and then it was over to me. He ensured me he had control of the brakes which did help to allay my fears, I didn’t fancy crashing off course and aiming for the side barriers or rolling one of Mike Newman’s prised possessions. So with my new driving friend having a foot on the brake pedal and with my right foot primed and ready on the accelerator, we were ready to go.

Starting slow to familiarise myself with the track and for my instructor to fully understand my sight levels we were off. A sharp right followed by a quick left quickly followed by a long sweeping right picking up speed and building excitement as we progress further round the track all the while with my instructor calling ‘‘left, right and ease off’’. All the commands to ensure I knew what I was doing with expert precision. Then firing down the home straight and reaching speeds of near 70 miles an hour. The 0-60 speed was something I had never experienced before. Of course when you are learning to drive on the roads in a Vauxhall Corsa, the instructors are not interested in reaching such speeds.

We did lap after lap, I lost count of how many we covered, and I was getting too excited with going faster and faster with each lap. Then before I knew it, my time was up and I had to go back to my normal non racing driver lifestyle. But for at least one day, I felt like the VI Schumacher.

With many thanks to Speed of Sight and all of their volunteers for putting these events on. An incredible organisation that really does provide less able people with an experience they will never forget. I urge any of you with sight loss to give it a go. The thrill is quite amazing.


What Did You Just Say

​A mishap with voice recognition software can land you in a spot of bother. 

For those of you who have read my blogs in the past you will know that I am visually impaired and I love technology. That hasn’t always been the case. I only really got into tech as a VI adult, when I was younger I was more interested in girls and football to care much about it. I did have a Playstation but then again what young lad didn’t in those days. Technology has become such an integral part of everyones lives these days and it is such a good thing that the market leaders in many of the tech fields are including us visually impaired people in their developments. Apple, Android and now Amazon have all made a massive effort to include such features as TalkBack and magnification gestures which make life a lot easier for those of us that need it. Gone are the days that we have to try and read our phone screens with a tiny magnifier and trying to type with your nose pressed up against the screen entering some rather odd words as you go with your oversized snout.

Not everyone however will be so used to using this kind of tech as I am but even I make mistakes. I have been using voice recognition now for some time, nine times out of ten it is brilliant and works seemlessly. However today, whilst I was trying to tell my girlfriend 

‘you will only  bend’ it came out as ‘your a lonely bender’. To give this some context I was telling her she would only bend some screws she was trying to install and by no means did I ever want to call her a lonely bender. I quickly called her to rectify this situation. Thankfully this isn’t the of error my voice recognition has made and I am sure it will not be the last. I thought  I spoke quite clearly but apparently not. 

As good as the voice recognition is on my Galaxy Note 4 phone, I can assure you it doesn’t even hold a candle to the Amazon Echo. Known as Alexa as many of you will know, she sits proud in my house and is ready and willing to answer my every request. Her voice recognition is better than any other I have ever come across. The technology  built in to the Echo is simply amazing. This device wasn’t exclusivley designed for VI folk but it has the potential to be life changing for us all. The sheer simplicity of it is incredible and it’s potential is limitless. 

 I am slowly putting together a full review of the Echo but I want to experience her full power before I do so. It won’t be long and  I will have it finished. 

The morale of the story is not send your partner a message calling them a lonely bender. Always check your message before you send it when using voice recognition. The results can be catastrophic but hilarious at the same time. These mishaps always make me laugh. You just can’t write it. 

Please share your unfortunate voice recognition mishaps, I do enjoy reading your comments. 

That’s it for now. 

Until next time



The Power Of Social Media

So these days social media has almost taken over the entire world. You can’t go anywhere without checking your Facebook or seeing whats trending on Twitter. I have to admit, I do the same myself so I talk from experience. But every time I do, I see a stupid status like New Year new me!!! All I can think is, stop trying to fool yourself. We all know that you say it every year. Just check back on your Facebook feed using the on this day feature and you will see. For the last 10 years, every January, the same thing. New Year new me. Either you have changed every year, or the more likely situation, you woke up on January the 1st and all of a sudden, you slip back into the same old you. I mean seriously, what can you change. Be more confident, a New Year doesn’t bring new confidence and you can’t just wake up and feel better about yourself. You have to work towards the new you. Go to the gym, take up a sport or just stop being a miserable old git. 

Checking the trends on Twitter, this is a thing now. You open the app, you see a name of a celebrity, the first  thing you think is ARE THEY DEAD? It’s a horrible thought but with the way celebrities are dropping like flies this year, its almost what Twitter is now used for. I was having the very morbid conversation not to long ago with my girlfriend. Asking the question let’s see if anyone else is knocking on the pearly gates when George Michael’s name popped up. IS HE DEAD? This time the suspicious was true, funny though how Twitter has become my first thought when it comes to checking the state of whether or not celbreties have indeed bitten the dust. A very odd thought I know but hey. 

I love YouTube, I havent taken the time yet to make videos myself, maybe one day I will, not sure I really have the creativity and who wants to see my ugly mug chatting rubbidh to you. I think I will stick to writing. I do enjoy watching the creative minds of others such as the WhatCulture wrestling. I am a big wrestling fan and have been since I was a kid, nothing like watching to big muscle men fight over a shiny pieece of gold. The WhatCulture boys and their unique take on wrestling is always entertaining. Especially King Ross, the man is a genius. 

When social media first came to be, I wasn’t planning on jumping on the band wagon, but now that it has reached some incredible heights, you can’t seem to go a day without learning what someone has cooked for tea, or seeing that they have made a point of sharing the fact that they have just been for a walk to fetch a pint of milk. I am sure that some people are worried about this information. Staggering as that may be. 

I use social media to share important stories, to promote my blog and to share events such as the beer festival at our cricket club. It is a wondeful tool to spread information all over the world at a rate of knots that can’t always been quantified and long may it continue. 

That’s it for now.

Speak again soon



Are You Independent?

Not so long ago the powers that run our country decided to change DLA to PIP. For those of you who don’t know what this means they are as follows –

DLA = Disability Living Allowance, this means for those of us that are unforunate enough to have a disability, we get paid for it. Sort of a pat on the head to help you on your way through the hassles that come about from being less abled than other ‘normal people’. 

PIP = Personal Indendance Payment, this means that the more independent you allow yourself to be, the less help you get to lead a ‘normal life’. 

So, lets be frank about this, the change was made because the government wanted to ‘save money’. Well if spending millions on the change is saving money then fine. This change was not needed. It means that people with severe disabilities are forced to go through the stress of an assessment centre and speak to someone who chances are havent got much of a clue about your condition. Not many doctors know much about my issues. I am currently going through my PIP application and I am finding it very stressful. Just making the initial phone call was hard enough. Its mad that the systems arent in place with for someone with sight loss to be able to fill out the form themselves. You simoly get a paper form in the post which you can’t read. So you have to find someone to go through the form with you, unveilling every part of your struggles. My girlfriend has helped me to fill out mine and has been amazing but it is difficult to have every part of your life and struggles being written down on paper. It is not easy as a proud Englishman to explain to someone everything you have trouble with. Opening up is hard a the best of times, but my advice to you all is to be open and honest when filling out the form. It is essential that everything you struggle with is made clear and that you do not put a brave face on things. 

I was given a life long DLA but the first thing on the letter that came through states that even if you have a life claim, this is no longer valid. Well im sorry Mr Government official, my sight is not going to get better any time soon. If you want to cut costs, don’t attack those of us that need it most. There are far more people that claim money that don’t actually need it. Being fat for example is not a disability, these people have chosen to eat more than elephants, I didn’t ask to be as blind a bat. 

That’s it for now

Until next time



I Wish You A Merry Chirstmas From Mr Bah Humbug

​My Christmas poem – Wishing you a Merry Christmas, each line starts with the letters from this phrase, why not write your and send it in to me.  I will post the funniest ones on my blog and give you a name check, wish I could offer a prize but read on and you will see why I can’t.
Wish I didn’t I have too

I  don’t see the point


Hurry hurry must do this 

I don’t have the patience

Nor the the will

Go buy your own presents
You won’t like what I buy

OMG I hate shopping

Ugly decorations do my head in
A horde of people in my way
More on to New Year

Energise again

Return to work

Right lets go

You know the year will fly by
Christmas again

Hanging with friends

Retire from work

Indulge some more

Sing to your hearts content

Try not to argue

Moan about the weather

Annoy the family

Succombe to the joy of Christmas day.
There is a message to my words, I am not a big fan of Christmas, I never have been, To me it is over commercialised and you can almost guarantee that the most people who celebrate Chistmas don’t actually know why we celebrate it in the first place. It is a holiday to celebrate a birth but nowadays we use it as a way of gift giving for the sake of gift giving. There is so much pressure to buy things that you just can’t afford. I am sorry but when you struggle to make ends meet at the best of times it is not really a good thing to expect presents from me. This Christmas I feel hibernation is in order. Otherwaise I will be made to feel bad by the tribe of extended family that this year has been a tough one not only mentally but also financially. Sorry fam, I just can’t afford it this year. 

I Wish You A Merry Chirstmas From Mr Bah Humbug

Don’t Get Wet, Get Equal


Disability is a massive word. It is an umbrella to say many things but I can’t help but think that so many people that should be dry under the umbrella are instead soaking wet because their disability is not a seen one. For example, take a partially sighted person using a cane, you see the cane you think blind person. I see that and think that person has a sight problem. Doesn’t have to be totally blind but merely an issue that restricts them from having the illusive 20/20 vision. But on the other hand, if you see someone in a wheelchair, you say that person can’t walk. That may not be the case, it I see that I think, that person has a impaired mobility. Disability is not black and white. There isn’t one condition that effects everyone and has the same outcome. If it were that simple the world wouldn’t be in such a mess.

What really gets me though is that when people consider disability and accessibility they don’t consider what should be under the umbrella. Predominantly, wheelchair access is addressed and that seems to be enough. I can almost picture the conversation between the decision makers, oh yeah we will put a ramp there, a lift there and disabled toilet there. Smile and pat themselves on the back for helping all of the poor disabled folk and drink a cup of tea from the same mug they have probably been using for 25 years on the rise to important man in big building. Well let me tell you sir, how am I to find the ramp with no tactiles? How am I to press the correct buttons in the lift with no indication of which one does what and how do I find the button that opens door without groping around like a complete idiot?

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the efforts of wheelchair access to places. But, it isn’t just wheelchairs that need access. Ok I don’t need wheelchair access to walk into a building but what I do need is clear directions when I am in the building. This is a very general assessment and I am not pointing at any particular place but the issue is far and wide. Think about where you live, I bet it’s the same where you are.

Disabilities of all shapes and sizes should be considered in everything when developing anything, could be a website, could be a museum. The example I do want to use is the Wilson Art Galleries and Museum in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire UK. A few years back millions was spent to redevelop it. Great I thought, a perfect time to incoorporate accessibility for all. When I turn up there to have a look around, there was nothing there for blind and partially sighted people at all. I realise I am not doing much for the tourist trade of Cheltenham here but I don’t really care. The horses will be back soon anyway. I want  to make clear, there is excellent access for wheelchairs on every level and disabled toilets a plenty. But it just goes to show, covering disability is a box ticking excersize whereas it should be seen as a total accessibility for all set up, the publicly owned gallery should be open to all to enjoy.

I am not ranting without attempting to do something about it either. I am a visualy impaired advisor to the visually impaired. I have worked with other museums in the past to make them accessible and I did offer to do this with the Wilson. However after offering them a less than £500 solution to the problem, it was swept to one side of the desk and never followed up. Not only wasting my time and effort but also not giving access to the museum to some of the 2million or so people in the UK that could make use out of it.

So, the next time you are considering ‘making your business disabled friendly’, consider the umbrella and don’t leave people outside to get soaked.

That’s it for now.

Catch you soon.


Don’t Get Wet, Get Equal