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”

by Maurie Hill on August 19, 2014

ATM Gurad provides barrier from weather, germs, and visual access

ATM guard provides barrier from weather, germs, and visual access

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 low vision situations. At home, Joe sticks to black and white coffee mugs so he gets good contrast whether he’s pouring a dark or light colored beverage. Byron hates getting served steak on a dark plate, and Rodney struggles with sneeze guards over buffet tables.

While sneeze guards may prevent germs from spreading over a buffet of food or the number pad on an ATM machine (which is a good thing), they also prevent us from getting close enough in order to see what we’re selecting. Speaking of ATM machines – evidently some have headphone jacks, so you can plug in your headphones and get voice feedback while using the machine. It’s all good in theory, but Joe’s experience is that some buttons on the screen are not spoken so he ends up needing sighted assistance anyway to complete his transactions.

My daughter recently suspected that instead of a visual impairment, I just didn’t know how to read. Well, at times I do feel illiterate but that’s where our vision can sometimes be hard to explain, even to adults. When some photoreceptor cells are executing their intended purpose beautifully and some are asleep at the wheel, you get disparity in what you can and cannot do. Who better to share how that impacts us in different situations than those of us on the High Contrast podcast?

As always, there are a few travel tips and app recommendations to share. Some people with low vision not only listen to the podcast themselves, but also have their loved ones listen in order to help explain the mystery of why some things are hard for them while other visual tasks might not present an obstacle. So sit back, listen, and you’ll surely relate to the latest episode of the High Contrast podcast.

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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 using WebReader.

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

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Visions of Vancouver

by Maurie Hill on August 7, 2014

A view of the Vancouver skyline from the water

A view of the Vancouver skyline from the water

My daughter, Arden, and I recently traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia, with other family members to attend my nephew’s wedding. It was a great reason for a mini family reunion and for touring a spectacular city in the meantime. Four of my six siblings attended, including all three of the Stargardt-affected ones. So what is different about planning and enjoying a vacation when seeing and reading are not as easy?

First, I use maps to acclimate to the new surroundings before arrival. Whether viewing an electronic or paper map, needing to magnify in order to discern intersections and read street names creates a dilemma. You lose context as you zoom in on your target area. It’s like magnifying one word in a book, without knowing the rest of the sentence or even what chapter you’re in.

I prefer viewing electronic maps on my Mac mini as I can zoom in using ZoomText Mac with no noticeable degradation. This way I can still read the text on the map even at very high magnification levels. I also purchased a good fold-out street map of Vancouver and marked our lodging location with a big X. I memorized the closest cross street names. Using my desktop CCTV at home to familiarize myself with the printed map before I left, I can then use my i-loview portable video magnifier as needed while vacationing.

Read on!

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It’s Time to Go Mobile

August 1, 2014

Who would have thought a decade ago that a smartphone or tablet device with a non-tactile touch screen could be operated completely non-visually? With Apple’s VoiceOver and Google Android’s TalkBack as the major players in touch-based screen reading, one can slide, swipe, and tap on the screen to make a phone call, check the weather, […]

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50 Shades of Shades

July 16, 2014

Recently Byron Lee, Rodney Edgar, and I sat around on our respective patios for another edition of the High Contrast podcast. We talked about everything under the sun, quite literally. Though sunshine is the last thing my retinas need, this is not going to prevent me from hanging out on my deck on a gorgeous […]

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