Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Disability

I wasn’t going to write about negative things on my blog but after a recent post I put on the VI Talk Facebook page I thought I would put my personal spin on what is a serious issue. So here goes.The post read – ‘’How many VI staff does the RNIB employ?’’ A simple enough question that merely was attempting to find out what proportion of RNIB staff are VI. But the reaction was quite different to what I expected. I don’t want to pay too much attention to the disappointing figures but what I do want to do is to champion the cause for the abilities of those of us who are visually impaired.

Just because someone has sight loss it makes them no less able to do many jobs than our sighted counterparts. I know VI people that are computer programmers, office managers, chefs, care workers, cleaners and work in many other fields. I know of visually impaired pool players who are better players than most sighted opposition. I know of lecturers who have lived in the real world with sight loss and can teach people with sight loss because they have experienced it.

The abilities that many disabled people have are extremely underrated. It is not a case that just because someone is perceived to be less able that they are. In actual fact, give the person a chance and you will probably be surprised.

I don’t think I am too far wrong by saying that if you employ some who is VI that you will find they work harder to overcome their difficulties and will take nothing for granted. You will find that they are loyal because jobs are hard to find . but most of all, you will find that people who have the get up and go, and the drive to not sit on their backside living off the state will be more dedicated to working hard than most of the sighted team you already employ.

It is a simple fact that people are often scared to employ those of us with disabilities for many reasons. It is my view that this has to change. The potential for all of these people is huge and the adjustments needed are minimal. If someone has the will to get up and wants to work, they will be more than capable of explaining what support they need. Then you have access to work which is there to support people with disabilities not only get into work but to retain jobs as well.
Adjustments for sight loss are not major overhauls, it is not as if the whole of your building and staff will need to cater to a disabled person. We know how to live, what you think we do the rest of the time. We don’t just sit in the corner bobbing our heads up and down to the beat of a talking book. Many of us play sports, many of us have sighted friends that we go and see and I am sure many of us consume the odd drop of alcohol. Dare I say it, most of us are just like you. We don’t want and in most cases do not need special treatment. We just want the chance to prove ourselves and not be left to feel unemployable and useless in the job market.

I myself have a job, I have been employed for over 8years doing the same job. I am now also at university. People say I am lucky to be where I am, truth is, I am not lucky. I work extremely hard to do the things I do. I have spent years building my knowledge and reputation, but all it took was for me to be given one chance all those years ago and that gave me the ability to make a real impact. If you have read any of my blogs before, then take a look back and have a read over some of the things I have done.

I hope this message gets spread through as many outlets as possible, I wouldn’t normally ask you to share this but as this is not designed for laughter, I urge you all to spread the word as far and wide as you can.

That’s it for now.
Until next time
MRWG

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Pavement Dweleers and Broken Canes

We have all been travelling in cars or buses when they have suddenly and without warning juddered up and down due to a pot hole in the road. The horrible sink holes that develop due to wear and tear that the councils never seem to get round to fixing. I am sure you can all name a few roads that, when you drive down, feel like you are on a small rollercoaster but without the same level of excitement.
I can think of one that, when my friend Dave and I were training for a tandem bike ride, felt like I was being attacked with a large metal pole in a place you don’t want that feeling ever. The bumps were at times so harsh you wonder why on earth you are making this journey and why on earth the tarmac Gods haven’t come along to save you from this incredible discomfort caused by the decaying roads. But at least drivers have the comfort of suspension and decent seating. The bike on the other hand was quite the opposite.
But it isn’t just roads that have this issue. Pavements are very much the same. As a visually impaired man that walks everywhere due to the lack of driverless cars, I notice this increasingly prevalent problem more and more often as I am meandering through the streets of Cheltenham. It could be a tree root, it could be just the fact the pavements have been poorly maintained. Whatever the reason, there is more often than not an evil little blocker that is just waiting for my cane to feed into its obstructive and sometimes destructive brickwork torture.
The problem is: I am a quick walker; not quite speed walking, but if you are in front of me and I don’t spot you then I may well bruise your ankle. Not on purpose, I might add, but sometimes these things just can’t be helped. When you walk quickly you have less time to react and your Moses stick is sweeping the ground in front of you at such a pace that when the dodgy terrain decides it wants to attack you, that’s it, you’re stuck. Your roller ball hits the obstruction, the pain goes shooting up your arm, your wrist is jarred and somehow you are a pace or two ahead of your cane. Your shuddering arm waves backwards trying to correct the error but for some reason your legs decide not to stop. Then with one swift wave of your magic wand of mobility, you straighten back up and boom, there’s another crack and the same predicament falls on you again.
The state of the pavements has caused me to bend and break more canes than I care to remember, and lord only knows how many times my balls have broken clean off mid walk. I wouldn’t mind, but I already carry enough things around and carrying a spare roller ball in my pocket may well look a bit odd given the size of them.
Wouldn’t it be great if everything was tarmacked? That lovely smooth run you get every now and then. It’s a bonus when you do come across the lovely, non-interrupted bliss that is a tarmacked pavement. Only to find it was merely a few feet of heaven before you’re back on the cobbles. Like giant braille dots slowly tearing the muscles in your wrists to pieces and bending the aluminium rod that is guiding you, into an un-collapsible and eventually un-useable pointless piece of metal.
The morale of the story is: it isn’t just roads that are in a poor condition and need sorting. Many pavements are as well, and we non-driving pavement dwellers would appreciate a bit of a fix up too.
That’s it for now,
Until next time
MRWG

Pavement Dweleers and Broken Canes

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

MRWG

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Is Humanities Laziness Making Life Easier For Us Blind Folk

Over the last few years there has been a whole range of smart devices that have incorporated the ability to use your voice to control all sorts of devices. It started with Sat-Navs which made perfect sense, not a good idea to use your hands to set a device when you are driving. This then moved onto the smart phone. Now people are using smartphones in cars and the Sat-Nav is becoming more and more unused as time passes. Why would you have a Sat-Nav when your phone will do it for you? Your phone can pretty much do anything for you these days. But this is not a bad thing. What people see as convenience as a sighted person, as a blind person, we see it as essential. The same device that sighted people use to get them from A to B, we can use to control a huge part of our lives. It could be adding reminders, it could set your morning alarm or it could be searching for information on Google. The advent of voice control on smartphones has not only allowed convenience for the lazy humans, but it has opened up a whole world of easy access to the ‘smart world’. Ok so it’s not only lazy humans granted. It is also for those who are so busy that everything needs to be done at once. So, you are driving along in your car, making calls, sending emails and checking the weather all with your voice. Well guess what. I am walking with my Moses stick and doing exactly the same. It probably looks like I am going mad whilst doing so but still. I know the truth and that’s all that matters.

This may not have been the intention with the likes of Siri, Ok Google or Alexa but I for one am very glad this has happened. The task of using a digital radio to many may seem like a simple task, but when you can’t read the screen to select the station, it is a real frustration. I now own an Amazon Echo and it is quite possibly a revolutionary device for the blind and partially sighted community. Simply say Alexa – play TalkSport and within seconds, there it is. You can adjust the volume with your voice so the lazy humans don’t even need to get off the sofa. Alexa is also very intuitive and will learn all the time. Her limits are endless. Talking books are seen by many as a life saver, if you are a member of Audible from Amazon, simply ask Alexa to play your book and she will, and she will do so from the place you last left off and she will smile whilst doing so. Not literally but you can tell she is happy. A very good voice tells you that. I have been using synthetic voices now for years and most of them are dull and very uninspiring. Alexa however, if you didn’t know any better, could well be mistaken for a human voice, and not the lazy human either. She sounds emotional, she actually sings, and sings well too.
I will be doing a full review of Alexa’s features in a later blog, I just want to realise her full potential before I write about her.
So, with Amazon, Google and Microsoft all ploughing vast resources into lazy humanity, I say keep up the good work It can only enhance the lives of us with bad sight.
Humans, be a bit more lazy and let’s see if Apple can catch up. Stay on the sofa use your voice, they know what you do, the more you do it the more they will develop it.
That’s it for now.
Check back soon for my review of the Amazon Echo.
MRWG
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