The Moose and the Goose

by Maurie Hill on July 9, 2015

The lack of acute eyesight can lead to some dangerous situations as well as some humorous ones.  And then there are adrenaline rushing encounters that end up being both dangerous and humorous.  I have two of those tales to tell.

Image of Placid Pond

Placid Pond edge where Maurie encountered a mother goose.

There is a path that links our elementary school to the recreation park, which passes by a peaceful pond.  I needed to go sign my daughter up for the swim team.  Being dinner time, I just wanted to check this off my list as quickly as possible, so the shortcut and my beloved 10-speed bike were the perfect combination to get the job done.  Going a little faster than I usually might, I turned the corner at the edge of the pond and heard a loud squawking.  Without the audible cue, I don’t think I would have stopped in time to avoid the puffed up mother goose squaring off with me in the middle of the path.  Its brown feathers blended into the brown pathway.  I didn’t actually see any baby geese but I wouldn’t have been surprised if they were right behind her.  I was concentrating on going back in the other direction and ensuring Mama that I was no danger.

After retreating behind the bend, I waited a bit to see if she would vacate the path for me.  Didn’t happen.  I didn’t want to take a chance, so I went around on the road, the long way.  In fact, I was so intimidated by this protective mom that I took the long way home as well.  Having an irrational fear of birds, the thought of slamming into that goose’s huge chest head on, feathers spewing everywhere kept me focused on my long, relaxing detour, and brought my mind back to a bike encounter with another mother.

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Connect with Ai Squared at NFB 2015

by Rebecca White on July 2, 2015

NFB LogoAi Squared would like to congratulate NFB on 75 years of dedicated service and advocacy for the blind and visually impaired community. We are proud to support NFB and look forward to participating in this year’s record-breaking event. In honor of NFB’s 75th anniversary, Ai Squared will be giving away a very special prize to one lucky NFB 2015 Convention Attendee. Please find below additional details about Ai Squared’s NFB 2015 prize drawing as well as information about our educational sessions and exhibit hall technology showcase.

Prize Drawing

Read Easy Move With Food PacketAi Squared will be giving away a second generation Read Easy Move reading machine that has a retail value over $2500. This stand alone device is lightweight, compact and easy to use. Simply place your printed reading materials under the camera, press a button and within seconds, the Read Easy Move will be begin reading the text out loud with a human sounding voice. This Read Easy Move unit also includes the keypad feature pack plus support for visual output to a monitor and touch screens. Don’t miss out on your chance to win this powerful and feature rich reading machine! Stop by the Ai Squared booth (A16) in the exhibit hall to enter for a chance to win. The only requirement is that you sign up for the Ai Squared mailing list with a valid email address. After the convention, Ai Squared will randomly select one winner from all of the entries submitted. The winner will be contacted by email and given instructions on how to redeem the prize. The Read Easy Move will be provided as is with no manufacturer warranty.

Educational Sessions

Ai Squared’s special sessions will take place in Salon 17, level 2 from 1:00 AM – 5:00 PM on Monday, July 6

1:00 PM – 2:15 PM: Window-Eyes Offer for Users of Microsoft Office and the paid version of Window-Eyes
2:30 PM – 3:30 PM: Spoiler Alert! ZoomText and Window-Eyes are Getting Married!
3:45 PM – 5:00 PM: ZoomText, ZoomText Mac, ImageReader and CamReader

Exhibit Hall Information

The table number for Ai Squared is A16 and the exhibit hall can be found at the Convention Center, West Hall Section WA2, level 2.

Exhibit Hall Schedule

Monday, July 6
9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Tuesday, July 7
8:30 AM – 5:00 PM
Wednesday, July 8
12:00 PM – 1:45 PM and 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Thursday, July 9
12:00 PM – 1:45 PM

Social Media

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @aisquared or like us on Facebook for up-to-date information about all of our activities at NFB 2015. We’ll use #NFB15 on Twitter, and also share posts on Facebook.

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Megan and I will be at booth number 14 in the exhibit hall at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront during this year’s Foundation Fighting Blindness Visions 2015 Conference. While the exhibit hall will be open from 2:00-7:45 PM on Friday, June 26, and from 10:00-1:00 PM on Saturday, there are also some great sessions going on both days. This conference, for me, has become the gold standard, for everything you want to know about low vision but were afraid to ask.

In fact, I’ll be ducking out of the exhibit hall at 3:45 on Friday to present a session on “Your Low Vision Toolkit”. At last year’s conference in Denver, I presented this topic and was stunned when no one raised their hand when I asked if they know about NFB-Newsline. I realized that there are always new people coming into the low vision arena, whether it’s themselves, a spouse, a parent, or a child starting to cope with a new reality. So this year, I will come more prepared with a resourceful handout and share ideas for beginner and well-seasoned pupils alike.

If it’s not enough just to see me, here’s a sampling of some of the other presentations at the conference:

  • Sighted Spouses: Techniques for Ensuring Your Vision Loss Does Not Impact Your Relationship
  • Increasing Your Independence Through Tablet and Smartphone Technology
  • Parents of Children Experiencing Vision Loss
  • Cane vs. Canine: How do I Ever choose?
  • Joining the 21st Century Workforce

And there are the ever-popular topics on clinical trials, gene therapy, stem cell therapy updates as well as “Doctor Is In” sessions tailored for specific retinal conditions.

Plan your day with the Visions 2015 schedule and come visit the Ai Squared booth 14 in the exhibit hall! We look forward to meeting you in person!

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When sitting at my desk, whether at home or work, my goal is to complete as much as I can in one sitting. With perfect vision, it is probably seamless to jump from one medium to the next – open a bill, pay it with a checkbook or online; read an events list in a physical newsletter; and then add an event to your electronic calendar.  The pile of tasks gets enviably shorter.  But when you can’t read normal text, you run into roadblocks, leaving unfinished business for later.  Setting aside unfinished business when you’re visually impaired can be an endless cycle because now that piece of paper you just put back in the pile becomes an illegible blank slate once again. Your attempts at keeping organized fly out the window.

While several tasks can be done solely on my computer using ZoomText for Mac to magnify, most tasks involve looking at both printed material and the computer screen. My first step before tackling my work is to check the mailbox because “Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail” prevents the important and unimportant mail from finding me.  To sort the good from the bad, I put the envelope or package under my new CamReader camera to display on my computer screen, and make sure it’s for me before I throw away the junk.

With text styles and colors becoming smaller, fancier, and invariably less legible as marketers of printed material get more “creative”, I now have a quick way to control how I see and read them.  The Reader tool, previously called “WebReader”, is included in ZoomText for Mac enabling easy reading and speaking of such things as email, web page articles, and PDF documents.  But purchasing the new ZoomText CamReader add-on, which includes a stand-up HD camera, makes it quick and easy to view and read printed text on paper and objects as well.

How does this synergy save me time?

Image of CamReader workingI view my insurance bill under the camera, then go online to pay it.  Next, I place a fancy printed newsletter with inexplicable, low contrast colors under the camera and press the space bar.  Instantly, the text appears in the color, size, and style that I can visibly see and it starts reading it aloud with my favorite voice to really give my eyes a break.  I note the interesting events and add them to my Calendar app while I’m right there at the computer screen.  I can save the file and even send it to a friend. Like I said, making the most out of one sitting is my goal.  I hope my rainy day work will be rewarded with a sunny day and shorter task list.

I only had to customize the Reader tool once, although I sometimes change things on the fly, like text size, using the + and – keys.  My favorite keyboard of all time, the Apple large-print keyboard, makes it easier to find those keys.

Like a CCTV, you can put other things under the camera to comfortably view such as photos, pill bottles, your fingernails, new wedding ring, or whatever!

But actions speak louder than words, so take a look at this video to understand how it works and how it might streamline your daily duties . . .

ZoomText CamReader was specifically designed for those with low vision and  is available as an add-on to ZoomText for Mac.  But please let us know if you feel there is a need for this product to be further adapted for those who are blind, if its features are not currently being served by another Mac OS product.

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Keeping Them Honest at the Cash Register

by Maurie Hill on May 19, 2015

iBill Money Reader

iBill Money Reader

You can fold your bills a particular way based on its value but if you can’t see the value of a bill handed back to you after a sales transaction, you hope that people are honest but sometimes you discover otherwise. Although the U.S. Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing is not going to change our currency anytime soon to make sightless identification indisputable they are offering a few free alternatives. The iBill® Bank Note Identifier is a physical device that fits in the palm of your hand. Or if you already carry a smart device, you can, download EyeNote for iOS, or IDEALCurrency Reader for Android.

I tried both the iBill® and EyeNote and was fairly impressed by both in their accuracy and ease of use. One being physical, and one being an app, they operate quite differently. The iBill®’s one purpose in life is to identify U.S. bills of any denomination. To do this, you slide the short side of a bill, front or back, into its slot and press a button. It indicates the result by saying “one”, “two”, “five”, “ten”, “twenty”, “fifty”, or “one hundred.” If you don’t want everyone to know the answer, you can either use headphones or change the indicator to a vibration or tone pattern that you’ll want to memorize. If a corner of the bill is folded, either unfold it, or slide in a different corner. But make sure it’s the short side of the bill, not the long side. If the device can’t read the bill it will say “error” instead of giving you a false result.

The EyeNote App uses your device’s camera to see the bill and tells you the answer as soon as it can, which passes in the practical range for me.  It doesn’t seem to be too fussy on what part of the bill was presented to the camera.  You must hold the camera about 6 to 8 inches from the bill.  Make sure it is done telling you the result before placing a new bill underneath.  I recommend practicing a little before venturing out to test humanity at your local merchants.

Here is how you can get your free money readers:

iBill® Bank Note Identifier application form

EyeNote for Apple iOS

IDEALCurrency Reader for Android

For more information on thi s topic, read:

Nationwide Release of the BEP’s U.S. Currency Reader Program to Help the Blind and Visually Impaired

 

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Learning without Leaving Home

by Maurie Hill on May 11, 2015

One of the many benefits of technology is that you don’t have to trek across town or country to participate in continuing education. Live, real-time learning is possible even if you had to give up your car keys due to low vision. If, for example, you’d like to learn how to use ZoomText or Window-Eyes more effectively and have the ability to communicate with the experts at the same time, then perhaps you should check out our periodic webinars. You’ll have to provide your own coffee, but we would love for you to join us!

Are you a teacher of the blind or visually impaired? You could direct your clients our way. Once you get them started, we can help to keep their skills current. Meanwhile, you’ll be free to focus on finding solutions to their specific environment and needs. All webinars are free.

We use our in-house experts to cover topics from installing to advanced tips and tricks. Simply sign-up and attend!

For webinars relating to ZoomText products, click here or go to: http://www.aisquared.com/learning/more/webinars/

For previously recorded webinars, click here or see: http://www.aisquared.com/learning/more/recordings/

To check out Window-Eyes webinars, click here or go to: https://www.gwmicro.com/Training/Webinar_Training/

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Despite the exceptionally frigid air of winter 2015, my daughter Arden and I headed north to Toronto, then on to Image of Courage USA at Courage Canada Tournament 2015Niagara Falls, Ontario during winter break.  Heading north for a mid-winter escape was not the only thing out of my comfort zone on this epic journey.  After taking the bus to Burlington, VT, we checked in at Porter Airlines.  Despite my inability to read signs, I instructed Arden to follow me.  This is the airport I grew up near.  But I confused it with the equally small airport in Albany and we found ourselves in parts unknown on the second floor.  In retrospect, nothing could be simpler – turn right after check-in and the few Porter gates are less than 50 yards to the right on ground level.  But it’s only easy the second time.  How foolish I must have looked desperately looking around this tiny concourse for any visual confirmation that we were in the right spot to board the plane to Toronto.  After I relaxed, I could appreciate the beautiful large flakes of snow falling outside the large windows.

Landing on a spot of land on frozen Lake Ontario, it only took a bus, plane, ferry ride, and taxi to reach our first resort destination – a very nice Holiday Inn “Downtown Centre”. It is located barely 100 yards or so from the legendary Maple Leaf Gardens, now the Mattamy Athletic Centre of Ryerson University.  Shortly after arriving at the hotel, men and hockey bags took over the lobby.  It’s a big load when toting regular luggage, hockey sticks, and a white cane as well.  Some would become my teammates for the next 3 days of hockey in the 2015 Courage Canada National Blind Hockey Tournament, the main purpose of this semi-arctic adventure.

Eighty people from all across Canada, five of us from the United States formed six teams.  Four games would determine Gold, Silver, Bronze medals, and a whole lot more.  Trying to squeeze in some last minute conditioning and skating time the week before, my muscles and body already felt out of whack from a hard fall on my home rink.   There would be four games in three days with and against these men that I was silently observing as they checked in.  What on earth did I get myself into!?

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1Touch Self Defense PhotoLast summer, I met Jim Pilkington while visiting the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in Denver. I observed Jim, an Assistive Technology Specialist, as he gave his client tips on using her computer and cell phone without sight. The facility has a full kitchen where she could practice safe cooking techniques. But the class where Jim could really sense a client’s renewal of control and self-esteem was in the 1Touch™ Self-Defense class he taught. A bit emotional, like a proud parent, he recounted the story about Margie . . .

She was one of the first group of students to receive the 1Touch training, and had been studying the system for about seven months. She was very enthusiastic, and often helped the newer participants practice their techniques. In 2012, Margie was travelling on the city bus, her laptop computer and other items in a rolling bag sitting at her feet.

Margie has Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), with a very small field of usable vision, but she noticed a man sitting across the aisle from her. He seemed to be paying rather too much attention to Margie and her computer bag. Because of his apparent interest, Margie kept an eye on him. Because she was wearing dark glasses and carrying a white cane, she probably appeared to be an easy target for theft.

As the bus pulled up to a stop, the man grabbed Margie’s bag and headed for the door. When she felt her bag being carried away, she caught his wrist and used an arm lock technique to force him to the floor. She then yelled to the bus driver to alert the police.

The bus driver hit the panic button, which summons the police, and Margie kept the Perpetrator pinned to the floor while another passenger held the man’s legs.

Within a few minutes two police cars had arrived and the man was taken away, charged with attempted theft. All the time he was on the floor, Margie reports that he was yelling and threatening her, but she kept her cool and controlled the situation without any injury to herself or the bad guy.

Later, Margie was informed by the police that the perpetrator had multiple previous arrests for theft and assault.

Margie is in her early 50’s, is under 5 feet tall, and weighs less than 100 pounds. I mention this to emphasize that size and strength need not be decisive factors when using the 1Touch™ techniques properly.

1Touch™ Self-Defense was specifically adapted to be taught and learned by those with visual challenges, as described in the 2012 article, 1Touch™: New Self-Defense Program Trains Blind Instructors.

Like Margie – since giving up my car keys, I find myself navigating through interesting places and situations. My daughter knows all too well the route of unlit streets we walk just to go to the movies while others park their cars in the lighted parking lot mere the door. I always wondered what both of us would do if ever confronted by an unsavory character like Margie did.

This feeling of unease, at best, is one obstacle I’d like to overcome in 2015. My quest to find 1Touch™ Self-Defense training led me to Miranda Brown, U.S. Secretary for the 1Touch™ Project. She received certification to teach and now conducts 8-week classes that meet once a week in her hometown in Iowa. Iowa is too far from here so she suggested I attend an upcoming 2.5 day intense 1Touch™ Self-Defense instructor certification training coming up March 13-15th in Secaucus, New Jersey. That way, I could not only learn it myself, but teach it to my daughter, and perhaps all her friends too!

“What’s cool about the 1Touch™ system is that it is so adaptable”, Miranda said. But when a student with cerebral palsy and no feeling on one side signed up for her class, she wasn’t sure what to do. Miranda called Steve Nichols, founder of the 1Touch™ Project who walked her through some adaptations over the phone, and it worked! Miranda has also heard success stories from other trainers who had students in wheelchairs, were both deaf and blind, or were challenged in other ways. An 85 year old woman who was blind was pretty tickled when she skillfully brought her instructor to the ground. Miranda, blind herself, further commented, “I never saw myself being a teacher, but I love this.”

The 1Touch™ Project website, where you can find upcoming events, instructors, and training opportunities, is currently being updated. But until then, you can contact Miranda Brown to inquire about trainers in your area or becoming certified in 1Touch™ Self-Defense. They have a goal of providing a dozen certification courses in the U.S. in 2015. Check out the 1Touch™ Self-Defense Facebook page for the latest announcements.

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Low Vision Problem Resolutions for New Year 2015

January 20, 2015

This weekend, after thinking about it for a year, I finally screwed a pegboard to the side of my kitchen pantry and hung my pots and utensils. Now searching for these everyday items in the dark bowels of my cupboard is last year’s game. Here is a challenge for the New Year. Look back at […]

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When you can’t see the puck…

December 29, 2014

Many years ago, Kevin Shanley was learning ZoomText and I was there to help him.  He was persistent in learning new ways to use his computer despite his diminishing vision.  During our conversations his description of his favorite sport, blind hockey stayed with me.  Who would have thought that years later, I would be attending […]

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