Newbies Try Novice Triathlon

by Maurie Hill on October 15, 2014

Maurie, Arden and Annabelle at triathlonAs summer was winding down, my daughter, Arden, and I headed to the town pool to cool off.  As we left, I noticed a poster advertising an upcoming novice triathlon.  Hmm… though I’ve always wanted to enter one, this one was slated to start within 24 hours!  Sure, I had been jogging and biking on and off throughout the summer but a triathlon?  Moreover, Arden’s friend, Anabelle, was sleeping over and I was quite sure it would be a futile attempt to convince them to not only give up their morning sleep, but then to swim 200 meters, bike five miles, and run two miles.  Just as I was giving up this dream for yet another year, they surprised me in their desire to give it a whirl!

I rose from bed extra early to adjust the bike seats and fill the tires with air.  Off we went to the rec park pool to register.  Mingling around the pool for the start, it was clear that this was a casual, family-friendly event.  Thankfully, it didn’t look like many were in it for the win.  Still, I wanted to give it my best shot while still keeping my eye on the girls.  They were going to smoke me in the swim, and maybe even the run, but with their small kid bikes, they had no chance against my old trusty 10-speed Motobecane.  Read on!

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iPhone 6 Options from a Low Vision Perspective

by Maurie Hill on October 9, 2014

Picture of the iPhone 6Mainstream opinions on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are abundant. Although valuable, they leave us wondering about low vision usability. One small change in color, size, or VoiceOver behavior can make or break our attitude about the latest iPhone. That’s why the hosts of Serotalk’s “High Contrast” podcast, all visually impaired, dove into the topic feet first with our latest episode entitled “It’s All About Byron”.

Rodney tore open his new, neatly boxed iPhone 6 Plus and started exploring the new look and feel. His exploration allows you to virtually try it before buying. Byron on the other hand walked to an Apple store and chose to hold onto his wallet for a little longer and I have been using iOS 8 for a few weeks on my iPhone 5. Between the three of us, you’ll probably form an opinion on whether the latest iPhone is for you, and which size will fit your needs. Enjoying photos on the bigger 5.5-inch screen may outweigh the fact that it has grown larger than your pocket. Or maybe, the 4.7-inch option is the right size if you can’t appreciate the larger font anyways. There’s a lot to consider and we cover it all from the low vision angle. I even learned a few new things about iOS 8 myself! Byron explains how to use the new “Speak Screen” feature for those who don’t need full-time VoiceOver chatting. So instead of taking public transportation to an Apple store (if you are so lucky to have one in your area), just sit back and listen to our experiences first.

To round out the podcast, Joe does an app review of Doctor Who Legacy. There is also a great comment in the Mailbag that you may relate to as well. Check out the podcast now!

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Many of you have been using ZoomText Mac and its reading tools with great success, but we wanted to share some tips to make sure that you are using WebReader effectively.

WebReader is designed to make it easy to read online articles, but did you know that you’re also able to click any links within the content WebReader is reading?

Today’s tips and tricks video will show you how you use WebReader in a variety of different ways to make consuming content even easier.

Watch the video right here by clicking on the play button below, or go onto YouTube and watch it there.

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Your Chance to Try Blind/Low Vision Hockey

by Maurie Hill on September 23, 2014

U.S. skater Christine Osika receiving “Rookie of the Year” award at last year’s Courage Canada Blind Hockey Tournament

U.S. skater Christine Osika receiving “Rookie of the Year” award at last year’s Courage Canada Blind Hockey Tournament

If you’d like to help expand blind hockey in the United States and satisfy your curiosity about the sport, come to Newburgh, New York (just south of Poughkeepsie), on October 18th and 19th. You’ll have the opportunity to try the sport on for size, taking the ice with U.S. and Canadian blind hockey veterans. I plan to step on the ice with them despite the fact that I gave up my hockey skates 12 years ago. My hope is to join the U.S. contingent going to the annual Courage Canada National Blind Hockey Tournament in Toronto, taking place February 13th to 15th, 2015.

Check out the following detailed announcement about next month’s event. If you’re still as excited as I am, then please contact the New York Nightshades Captains, Christine Osika and Kevin Shanley, at nynightshade@gmail.com for further details.

Read on!

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ZoomText 10.1 Tips & Tricks – Windows 8.1 Hotkeys

by Derek Bove on September 16, 2014

Microsoft made many visual changes when they released Windows 8, which can be difficult to adjust to. Luckily, if you memorize a few critical hotkeys, you might find that you can get around your computer faster than ever!

Today’s tips and tricks will go over several hotkeys that are designed to help you navigate around your Windows 8 or 8.1 system.

Watch the video right here by clicking on the play button below, or go onto YouTube and watch it there.

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Google’s Futuristic Driverless Car Fleet

by Maurie Hill on September 10, 2014

Picture of Maurie behind the wheelA couple of things have increased my investigation into alternative transportation options as well as re-ignited my itch to drive again. For one, my daughter is now heavily involved on a gymnastics team located about 45 minutes away. We have a complicated carpooling system set up, picking up gymnasts in various towns as it rolls along. This process would be infinitely simplified if I were able to take my turn as driver. Yes, I can provide snacks instead but the ability to contribute a driving shift would not only make me feel better but cut down on the amount of email communication in order to work around this gap in the rotation.

At the same time, my husband just purchased a used Toyota Sienna for his taxi business. We are not lacking in vehicles, just drivers. The new vehicle in his fleet was so inviting that I asked him to bring me to an untraveled private road so I could take it for a spin. After 14 years of not driving, I can tell you that it’s like riding a bike, you don’t forget. I did need his company to warn me of any dangers ahead.

So, with autonomous mobility on my mind, I wondered if there would be an alternative transportation choice in my future? After hearing about a new futuristic mode of transportation called Hyperloop, I investigated a bit. Hyperloop is a super-fast train-like mode of transportation that has been proposed alongside a stretch of I-5 in California. An interesting and hopeful solution for mass transportation, but I don’t see this coming to Vermont in my lifetime.

What about driverless cars? We all watched the video a few years ago of Steve Mahan, who is blind, go to Taco Bell and run some errands using a self-driving car. Even then, there was another person in the front seat who has a driver’s license. While this demonstrated the technology, it didn’t fit the definition of autonomous driving any more than does calling a cab. Don’t despair; perhaps we need not worry about how to pass the vision requirements to get a driver’s license back. Google is leap frogging other planned manufacturing of self-driving cars by completely taking the driver out of it. They are so committed to this new tact that they have removed the steering wheel and brake pedal from the new prototypes. The vehicle is capable of delivering itself to you, unmanned; or delivering you (or you and your gymnasts) somewhere all by itself.

Read on!

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If you’re looking to read small pieces of information, like a paragraph of text, or the label of an icon, the best tool to use is Mouse Echo. With this tool, your mouse pointer becomes a powerful spot reading tool – any text that’s underneath it can be read back to you.

Today’s tips and tricks video will show you how to get the most out of Mouse Echo and how you can tweak it to your liking.

Watch the video right here by clicking on the play button below, or go onto YouTube and watch it there.

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A Letter to the Editor: SLOW DOWN

by Maurie Hill on August 28, 2014

Picture of Maurie on her bike, ready to cross the streetI usually bike to work during the tail end of the morning rush (if there is such a thing in Manchester, VT). I arrive calm and refreshed from the cool morning ride. One day last week, however, I had to go home and then return to work around noon. As my luck would have it, the traffic light turned for the worse just as I approached the crosswalk, so I had to wait for the next cycle. When the pedestrian light started flashing and beeping, I proceeded briskly across. Two cars snuck ahead of me as they took their right hand turn over the crosswalk. OK, more power to you. Then as I was rolling along, trying to get on my bike, a car barely squeaked in front of me to enter the corner store, a popular local spot.

This same car suddenly started backing up quickly, as a pickup truck was in the unusual process of backing straight out into the street. In the meantime, my sandal had fallen off, but not onto the ground. I squeezed the sandal against my leg into the side of my bike as I rolled past the small parking lot’s entryway. The truck screeched out just as my back passed the entrance, took a quick left and then bolted forward. Needless to say I glared at him as he passed by, hands spread out and said “really?!”

Just as I thought to myself, “what is going on in this town?” it hit me – it’s lunchtime.

I entered the store in a huff, grabbed myself a snack, and watched as others were cavorting and cajoling with each other while standing in line. After paying, I stomped away in the same mindset as countless others (even that blasted truck driver) who just want to get to where they are going. Unfortunately, most in this country live with a half hour lunch, where they’re expected to find and eat some food, go the bathroom, do errands, and recharge for the afternoon.

I get that; been there, done that. If I were to write a letter to the editor of our local newspaper to try to break people out of this dangerously hurried mindset, it might go something like this…

Read on!

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Round Table Chit Chat on “High Contrast”

August 19, 2014

It’s not often, if ever, that you have the opportunity to shoot the breeze with people who experience life through a low vision lens. In the latest High Contrast podcast, you’ll feel like you’re sitting around the kitchen table laughing with Rodney Edgar, Byron Lee, and Joe Steinkamp, as they swap stories centering around common […]

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ZoomText Mac Tips & Tricks – Reading Email with WebReader

August 13, 2014

Did you know that ZoomText Mac’s WebReader allows you to do far more than just read on the web?  You can use it to read back any text in your clipboard, or all the text in an active application window. Today’s tips and tricks video will show you how you can easily read your email […]

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