Archive for January, 2010

ICal quick guide for your mac

January 29, 2010

ICal: Quick guide
[mac!]

Once you know how this app works you will love it. I’m running Snow Leopard up to date and only use the keyboard.

Ensure a few things first.
1. You’re in month view. hit cmd-3 to ensure this.
2. Make sure mini view is turned off.
3. You use VO rather than Tab.

To create an event first open ICal from the doc, [unless you moved it, its there]. Otherwise open from apps in finder.

To create a new event vo to the calendar list and vo to the calendar you want your event to be filed under, I.E. Home/work. uninteract with the table and vO to the calendar canvas and hit cmd-N, type what you want the event to be called, I.E. doctors’ App. Then VO right and interact with the events scroll area. The first edit box is location, fill or leave it, it’s up to you. Then if its all day, vo right and check the check box with vo space.
To set the start date, vo right again until you hear the date and interact. You have to use VO and not just the arrow keys here otherwise setting the date does not work. So VO and change the dates as follows.
Year. [to change use VO up and down]
Month: [again VO-up/down]
Day: [VO-up/down to change day]
Next you change the time in the same way. Once you’ve finished stop interacting and move over with VO to set an end day and time if necessary in the same fashion by interacting, VO to the left or right to set each field and use Up or down to change the field. Think of it like a table. You VO across to highlight the year/month/day/hour/minute/Am or PM and then you move the increments with your VO–UP/Down. I guess it looks a little like a graph for those mathematics out there.

the next selection you can make is the time zone. Mostly this would be left at the default which would be your local mac’s time.
Then it’s the repeat option.
VO-space to open the pop up menu and select at your own preference.
Then if its repeated the next field is when you want the repetition to end. vo-space to select this.
Our next field is show As which will display if you’re free or busy at this time. VO-space to change the setting with the pop up menu.
Then if you haven’t selected which calendar you wanted to select you can do it here, whether its work/home/school. It’s another pop up menu so go ahead and use VO-space to open the menu and vo-up/down to change your setting.
You can set an alarm next. Default Ical sets a message with alert but you can set an email if you prefer.
The next field will be when you want your alarm to go off if you have set one. This is just a text edit box to put the number of hours or minutes, days. The next pop up is minutes/hours/days.
You can then set a second alarm if you like so if you want an email reminded and an alert sound at different times you can set a second alarm next in the same way as you did previously.
The next field is invitees so if you want to invite friends to your event you can hit the button and it will give you the option to do this.
You can then add a file if you desire. [I’ve not used this feature so I cannot give guidance here]
Url and notes are the final two fields and are both text areas.

Once you’ve edited the information stop interacting with the events scroll area and VO-right and hit done. If your event changes then highlight it in the calendar scroll area and hit cmd-E to edit and do it in the same way I just demonstrated.

You can get the entire information of your event by highlighting it in the canvas scroll area and hitting CMD-I.

The important thing to remember in this app is to use VO as much as possible and the app will work for you very well.

To delete an event.
Highlight the calendar you want to view in the calendar table and then vo-right and interact with the calendar canvas. Highlight the event and hit backspace. If the wrong month is in view, hit cmd-left/right arrow and it will take you to the previous or next months.

Starbucks, Allergies and my Dog?

January 28, 2010

My friend and I went to Starbucks today to catch up and use their wifi. We were about to head upstairs when an employee called to us we couldn’t go up there. When we asked why, she said the dog wasn’t allowed upstairs. I said yes, he is, he’s a guide dog. She then proceeded to inform me that it wasn’t her but a company policy as someone may have an allergy. So I learnt a new thing today, people with allergies clearly sit upstairs in Starbucks.

As you can imagine, I was very unhappy. When we started to argue with her she told us it was OK but by that point, principle had kicked in and so my friend and I started to proceed downstairs. She said that she’d okayed our upstairs visit and I bluntly informed her that we would be taking our custom elsewhere and that she needn’t fear, I would be reporting this incident. When she said, again, it wasn’t her but the company policy I informed her that it was discrimination and my friend works for the Citizens Advice Bureau and my friend added that a strongly worded letter would be winging its way to headquarters.

I’ve always found Starbucks accommodating and cannot understand this sudden change. And the reason, wow, unbelievable. Allergies? OK, so the dog being down stairs where everyone orders drinks is so much better. And what on earth will they target next, people with perfume? Because there are thousands of allergens in the air at any given moment, my guide dog, a service dog, will not be the only thing that could cause an allergic reaction.

And They Did it Again! IPad is here!

January 27, 2010

This revolutionary device was announced today boasting amazing surfing capabilities, along with music, Television and movies and gaming on a completely new level.

An impressive processor with models in 16, 32 and 64 gigs available. Wireless or wireless and 3G models will be rolled out over the next three months.

Much of what was rumoured was true. Ibooks is available only in the Us at the present, let’s hope that is rolled out.
Battery life is up to 10 hours.
surfing in full view with a whole page being viewed in safari.
Amazing features for photograph fans.

And yes, as it is using the multi-touch-pad technology alongside IPhone OS voice over and zoom and contrast along with close captioning are available on the IPad.

An impressive device that will undoubtedly change the way we view technology.

Imagine, reading a book then switching to a movie with a few taps. Let’s just hope the Ibooks will be accessible for voice over users and they will roll that much anticipated app out over other countries. This is a potentially great thing for visually impaired users and I hope Apple can encourage that gap to be bridged for the visually impaired community.

Amazing job once again Apple.

Anticipating The Big Bite?

January 25, 2010

And it is that time of the year again where we anticipate what Mr Jobbs and his buddies over at Apple have cooked up for us. As usual the rumour mill has been filled with all kinds of teasers and the grand unveiling is two days away but I had to report what I’ve learnt.

There is a rumour of an Apple tablet. a device that is somewhere in between a computer and a smart phone, all touch screen. But along with this piece of information, Sky News today reported that Apple are supposedly in talks with publishers, magazines and news Papers to allow the new Tablet to become some kind of reading device on the go. This of course is not new in itself but what is potentially interesting is the potential for Apple’s increasing scores of Visually impaired and Dyslexic users.

If as Sky News predict, and Apple are in talks and continue their dedication to their own policy of universal access then this could mean that books, news papers and magazines would be as readily available to not just their sighted users but to all of their users.

As a student, I really hope for this tablet to be three things.
1. accessible
2. the ability to buy and read books with voice over.
3. Relatively affordable.

If Apple can pull this off, surely some of the educational hypocrites could change their attitudes. But as I just told someone on Twitter never get complacent.

I hope for all of these things and would be shocked and very disappointed if the tablet isn’t in the least accessible to Voice Over users. So we will see.

Other trinkets of goodies may include an Iphone 4.0 update. That may be very interesting. Wish they’d sort the battery lives out, seriously. I’m tired of charging mine. And I personally suspect a new shuffle but we will see.

I’ll update when I know more.
Later Apple heads!

What’s Best?

January 19, 2010

People with disabilities are presumed by the majority of society to be “incapable” and “needy” of a “able bodied” person to help them in every day tasks. This is just one of the stereotyped beliefs that the majority of society beholds about disabled people. And while some of us, along with friends and family attempt to fight this stereotype, there are some within that community who do nothing but prolong that stereotype.

I’ve been visually impaired since birth and totally blind due to complications since I was six and a half years old. My mother found it difficult to come to terms with my blindness but after she realized that my sight was not miraculously going to come back, she decided that she would not always be around and so tried to give me as normal of a childhood as possible. This included not spoiling me, punishing me if I was bad, and ensuring I was educated as most of my other piers were in mainstream education. And above all else providing me with the tools to become as independent as possible. Her theory of not being around forever and ensuring my independence and integration into society meant I grew into the independent, open minded, all rounded individual I am proud to be now.

I dread to think how things could have been so different.

During the past few years, social networking has meant I’ve come across many people who are also blind. While some of them have seemingly grown up with parents who had a similar notion to my own mother, a lot of them completely play into the stereotype of helpless, strange individuals.

I say strange because most of these people have only been around other visually impaired people and their families their whole life and social rules I learnt throughout school and extracurricular activities have never entered these people’s lives. Depending on others for the menial tasks of every day life is “normal” to them and having the world handed to them on the plate is taken for natural. Asking for an expensive piece of equipment and receiving it is an almost every day occurrence to these people and actually having to wait for something is beyond their existence. Finding ways of doing something that the sighted world does with no issue for themselves is unthinkable. why do something with a little effort if you can have someone else to do it for you? And their sense of reality is completely distorted.

Some of the extreme behaviours that are perceived by society to be related to blindness are not always visible. These people believe they are not among the stereotype but often you have to speak to an individual and learn their attitudes toward the rest of the world to appreciate if they are indeed categorized within that stereotype.

Generalising anyone is not always a positive act but these individuals can be spotted a mile off. They hardly use a mobility aid and expect a friend/relative to walk everywhere with them. They daren’t venture anywhere alone.
They have every “blind specific” product on the market and will not try anything unless its been recommended by another like-minded person or an organisation.
They have their family weight on them hand and foot. Making a drink for themselves is just never going to happen let alone cooking a meal for themselves.
Cleaning up after themselves is “impossible” as they “can’t see”
And subsequently they use that “I’m blind card” constantly.
They think cyberspace is reality and never attempt to form “real life” relationships.
They really believe they are like “everyone else”.

Overall, they are almost incapable of coping in society independently.

So, who is to blame?

In my humble opinion it’s the organisations that pamper these individuals. Some charities and institutions reinforce this notion that they are visually impaired and “need help”. I’ll be the first to admit, certain things, I’d like help with. Everyone’s needs are different but my want for help is so I am able to live my life as independently as possible. I.E> labeling food helps me not to waste things so when the shopping arrives home and its labeled, I will correctly open a can of baked beans rather than a can of spaghetti hoops when making a casserole. If my pills aren’t labeled and there’s only one way to identify two lots of medication apart by labeling then I’ll have a sighted person help me label my medicine. Luckily for me, most of the manufacturers are helping this issue but if they didn’t my health is too important to warrant a risk. But in order to live as independently as possible those are minor sacrifices to make. Instructions for food should be read and noted down so you cook food properly. If you buy the same product often enough you’d remember it but say you wanted to try a new brand of something, its likely the cooking time may be different. No one wants food poisoning. And lastly, not all companies send things in accessible formats. True, with the advancement of technology, we can receive a lot of things via email and over the internet which has proven vital for most visually impaired people but just say a doctor’s letter came and it won’t scan or read properly, wouldn’t you want a sighted individual to just read over it for you. scanners and reader software have advanced greatly but not everyone has those pieces of equipment to do so but those small things just help someone to live independently.

Some parents however, seem to have the misguided notion that they will be around for their “poor disabled” child forever. I have news for you, you probably won’t. Giving them everything is not going to benefit them in society. Locking them up with other visually impaired kids with teachers who pamper their disabilities will only hinder their growth as a human being. “protecting” them as you believe you are doing from society will only make it worse when the day comes when they are forced into society’s cruel realm. And if your child is lucky enough to go to a school where being independent is a compulsory factor is great until they get home and you do everything for them. Your guilt cannot hinder your child’s progress.

Give them the tools to live within society and function effectively because the world is a hard enough place regardless of disability. If you don’t prepare them then what chance do they stand? Some would say mothers like mine were cruel and hard for allowing us to walk into doors, burning ourselves on a hot stove while cooking but she was kinder in the long term. I’m able to live independently and travel with confidence with my four legged friend because she gave me the tools to do so.

And there are some wonderful individuals that despite having overbearing parents still manage to be independent through their own spirit and belief in themselves, congratulations. You did it. And to those who enjoy being catered to, you’re a disgrace to the rest of us who constantly fight against this stereotype. And to those parents of disabled kids who believe your child needs you, yes they do, to show them how to be a human being.

Bailey’s Tale

January 7, 2010

Bailey’s Tale!

My name is Bailey. I have two soft ears, four legs, golden fur, a wet nose and a wagging tail, can you guess what I am?

That’s right, I’m a dog!

i’m no ordinary pet dog though. I am a special dog. With a very important job to do.

I where a harness that has a long handle attached to it that a person can hold onto. That person is visually impaired which means their eyes don’t work properly. My owner is completely blind so she cannot see a thing so she depends on me to walk beside her and make sure that she doesn’t walk into objects.

Can you guess what those objects might be?

[dustbins, lamposts, traffic lights, things left on the pavement, holes in the ground, roadworks.]

I listen to my owner and she tells me where to go. I just ensure she gets there safely. She’ll tell me to find left, find right, go straight on, forward to start, wait to stop, stay to wait, and find doors or the crossings or kerbs. I wait at the kerbs for her to tell me to cross when she thinks its safe or the beep sounds. I never know where we’re going so its always a surprise.

I’m five years old and have been a working guide dog for three and a half years. But before I qualified with my owner, I had to be trained to do all of the things I can do now.

When I was born I had eight brothers and sisters. we were checked over to make sure we were healthy and sent to a family to learn how to do all of the doggy things, like go to the bathroom outside, sit on command, lay down, stay and walk nicely on the lead.

I had to wear a jacket to show I was a guide dog puppy and in training to become an adult guide dog. That meant people couldn’t pet me without permission in case I got too excited and silly. I wasn’t allowed to be fed scraps of food or anything that wasn’t my puppy food to maintain a good, healthy weight. No one wants an unhealthy dog to guide them.

My family took me to restaurants and encouraged me to lay under the table and made sure I behaved myself while they ate. they took me on buses and trains and in the car to get me used to the sounds, smells and sights. The outside world is a very scary place so as soon as I began to learn all of the different sights, sounds, smells and environments, the better. I was taken to busy shopping areas, train stations, into lifts and up and down busy staircases. People would come from guide dogs to check I was doing OK and when I got to a year old, I was taken away from my family. The curiosity of learning new things, playing with my family was over and I was taken to kennels to start the next part of my training.

When I was in the kennels, it made me sad. I didn’t like having all of those other dogs and I missed being with a family. The kennels were nice enough with a comfortable bed and blanket, fresh water and clean floor. This training was much harder. The commands of sitting, wait, down, up were now used all of the time and we were trained to explore small areas, go over unfamiliar feeling ground, or walk near flashing lights or loud sounds to get us used to things we would come across once we became grown up guide dogs. Whenever we did something good, our trainers would pat us, tell us we did good and give us a treat which was usually a piece of our dried food.

We were only a year old when this training began and it only lasted between three to four months before we continued onto our last stages of training which was called advanced training.

The harness was put on us and the human trainer held onto the handle which felt very strange at first. They started using other commands to instruct us on where to go. We did all of our training outside on the street and within public buildings as we would be doing once we qualified.

Here are some of the commands my trainer and eventually my owner would use.

find left, which would tell us to find left.
find right, would tell us to find right.
Straight on, which would mean to continue to go straight ahead.
Forward, which would mean to start walking.
Wait, which meant to stop.
Find an object, such as a door or a crossing.
steady, which meant to calm down or slow our speed.

There are more but those are just a few to mention. But remember, don’t use these commands with a guide dog, they are only meant to be used by the owner. If we start listening to other people, we may not listen to our owners as well and this could be dangerous to them. So please don’t use any command on a guide dog either in harness or out of harness.

My trainer was good and firm and when I was a year and a haf she took me to meet a lady who might become my new owner. my trainer let me out of the van and we walked into the house. I was so excited to meet someone new and so my instructor harnessed me up and we went out for a walk together.

Suddenly, I had another person on the end of the handle which was very strange. But we worked well together and a few weeks later I was at the training hotel with her and we worked as a team to become qualified dog and owner.

Once I moved to her house, I got a nice comfortable bed and whenever I didn’t have my harness or lead on, I was able to play, cuddle and be a regular dog. I just wasn’t allowed to eat anything but my dog food and the occasional pigs ear, carrot or apple. My owner gives me those once a week and she takes me for a nice long run where I can sniff and generally be a regular dog. I have lots of toys to play with and chew on a bone to keep my teeth clean. I get brushed every day or so so my fur keeps shiny and its always a nice time to spend with my owner. She takes me to the vets to make sure I’m healthy and always takes care of me when I’m sick. She’ll tickle my tummy along with the rest of the family who always give me nice pats and tickle my ears.

I sometimes am mischievous but my owner will tell me off when I’m bad but she loves me very much. We go into busy shopping malls, walk down busy streets, go on the buses and trains together and my owner can do all of this because she has me to see for her.

All those months where I was learning different environments helped me to take her wherever she wants to go and we always do it safely. i’m not allowed to be stroked in my harness unless my owner tells the other humans they can do so, so always remember to ask. And never feed me because it encourages me to eat food off of the ground and that might make me sit. ever give me commands because I should only listen to my owner. I’m a friendly dog and as long as you ask my owner if you can pet me and she says yes, then I would love the petting and attention.

Thank you for listening to my story and I hope you are always nice to guide dogs, we do nothing but help those who cannot see to get around just like you!