iPhone

Be My Eyes – A Helping Eye for the Blind

Bme logo rgb lightSo, here we are at blog 200 – if anyone had told me back in June 2015 that I would surpass the 200 blog point I’d probably have laughed at them. I kind of thought blogging was something I’d do every now and then when I had something important to share. And maybe that’s still true. It’s just that I seem to have a fairly constant supply of important things to share with you.

Like the subject of today’s blog – an app called Be My Eyes. Here’s the description of the app taken from their website: “Be My Eyes is a global community that connects people who are blind or have low vision with sighted volunteers. On the app, volunteers assist blind and low vision users through a live video connection and work together to tackle challenges and handle a wide range of tasks. The app harnesses the power of generosity , technology, and human connection to help blind and low vision people lead more independent lives. Be My Eyes is accessible in more than 150 countries worldwide and in over 180 languages. The app is free and available for both IOS and Android.”

You may be wondering how Be My Eyes benefits the lives of those with visual impairment. Well, here’s my response to that.

Even though it doesn’t happen often, there are times when having sight would simply make my life a little easier – finding something I’ve dropped on what suddenly feels like a huge expanse of open floor space, reading a document that isn’t in an accessible format, , or an actual print document. I’ve used Be My Eyes to find out what colour an item of clothing is – yes, sometimes I buy the same item in different colours because they’re just so comfortable. Or finding out the contents of a tin, without having to open it.

I agree totally with whomever it was who said that blindness is not about ability, it’s about access to information. And sometimes having a helping hand – or a helping eye – like Be My Eyes is what we need to access that information.

Here are some of my favourite things about Be My Eyes. Not only is the added access to information great, so is the range of languages spoken by the volunteers – including many of our Southern African languages. It’s quick and easy to get connected to a volunteer –there are about 15 times the number of volunteers as registered blind users. There’s no limit to the number or duration of data calls you make, though I’d think it’s only fair to tell the volunteer if you think it may be a long or complex task.

And here’s a personal story – a few weeks ago Be My Eyes was featured quite a lot on Facebook and several of my friends shared one of their videos on my wall. Another of my friends watched the video and signed up as a volunteer, though she told me she doubted she’d ever be called on to assist someone since there were so many volunteers already. Her first call came in a day or two later…

If you’re interested in finding out more about Be My Eyes, either to sign up as a visually impaired user, or as a volunteer, simply download the app from either of the app-stores find them on almost any social media platform, or take a look at their website – www.bemyeyes.com

I Couldn’t Believe My Eyes… Umm, My Ears!

NewImage

Isn’t life unbelievable? Mere weeks after I posted a lament that I couldn’t find an accessible word search, I found one, and a whole lot more great word and trivia games – all in one place!

It happened like this: a blind friend of mine posted on Facebook that she was looking for a word game she could play on her iPhone using Voice Over (the in-build screen reader app on IOS products). Of course I replied with a suggestion to try Seven Little Words, a word builder game I’ve been enjoying for some time. Someone else mentioned something called Huboodle and I couldn’t resist downloading the app to take a look….

Huboodle is a game pack designed by AppA11y Inc. , which currently includes 8 different games, though more could be added in the future. It’s a free app with some in-app purchases but these are in no way necessary for you to play any of the games. It’s available in several languages: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Malay, Simplified Chinese, and Spanish and is completely accessible using Voice Over. But don’t be misled into thinking the games are only for people who are visually impaired. There are many sighted people who also enjoy playing – the accessibility is just an added bonus.

Amongst those 8 games are two accessible word search games. I was so surprised when I saw that I almost fell off my chair. Then I almost jumped to my feet and danced with joy.

Strangely enough I’ve only played one word search so far. I’ve been enjoying some of the other games, Word Builder and Trivia Trail.

Word Builder is a game where you build as many words as you can from a selection of letters you’re given. Each level has different letter groups and a different target of words to find. You also gain extra points for finding words that aren’t on the list they give you, so it’s a great game for anyone with a fair vocabulary. I must admit I get particular pleasure every time I find those bonus words.

The other game I’m really enjoying is Trivia Trail. The goal is to work your way through 10 multichoice trivia questions within a limited amount of time. I’ve heard the time limit is 50 seconds but it feels a lot longer when I’m actually playing. The added trick is that you go back to the start of the level if you get a question wrong which takes extra time.

Sure, Huboodle also has some games of chance and I’ve dabbled with poker, blackjack and the wheel of fortune but none of them have really grabbed me. I guess I’m just not a gambler by nature. Other games I haven’t tried so far are a memory game, Simon Says, a multiplayer Ludo board game called Ludo Palooza and, of course, there are the two word search games which attracted me in the first place.

Okay, enough time writing… I’ve got some more words to build!

Proposed New Accessibility Emoji

NewImage
I love using emoji – sometimes they so exactly capture what you’re trying to convey, where you’d need a whole bunch of words.

So I was intrigued when I listened to a recent episode of the Assistive Technology Update podcast and heard an article about some new emoji that are being considered – including emoji of guide and service dogs, people in wheelchairs, people with white mobility canes, hearing aids and prosthetic limbs.

I was interested to note that it is Apple who have put these new emoji forward for consideration – well done, Apple!

Here’s a link to the article about the new emoji from the Assistive Technology Update podcast show-notes. Why not take a look and tell me what you think.

http://bit.ly/2IQaIoq

A Mash-up of Accessibility

2018 02 12 16 44 21At first I was thrilled when my bank, First National Bank, released an iPhone app. For years I had been using telephone banking but increasingly it wasn’t serving my needs. The thought of being able to use technology to do all my banking appealed to me. So I downloaded the FNB app and started to play…

At first I was fairly happy with the usability of the app, especially since the in-built screen reader on my iPhone allowed me to access most of the information I needed to complete any transactions. Then FNB updated the app and it all went a little crazy.

Now the app is a mash-up of accessibility and inaccessibility – I know which button I need to tap to log in (though I had to get sighted help so I could label it rather than simply having a screen full of things simply invitingly labeled as “button”), I can sort of get to the point where I’m ready to make a payment to a beneficiary… though I can’t access which account I’m paying from, and I can’t see the details of the transaction I’m about to make on the screen with the equally inviting button that encourages me to confirm the payment- hey, is it too much to ask that you show me the details you want me to confirm?

Two months ago I tweeted FNB to engage with them about the problems I’m having accessing the app. Their support guy was very quick to reply and assure me it would be investigated… and I’ve heard nothing since.

Which is why I’m writing this article in a fit of extreme frustration – I’ve banked with FNB since I was seven years old… but maybe it’s time for a change!

Words, Glorious Words

I’ve always loved word games. Back when I was still sighted one of the best things about working part-time at a local book shop was that I had first access to any new word search magazines that appeared on the shelves. Since losing my sight I’ve occasionally found myself thinking back to those word searches with nostalgia – heavens, on occasion , I’ve even caught myself wondering whether it might be possible for me to create an accessible word search of my own.

I’m sure you can imagine my delight when I found a podcast reviewing an accessible iPhone word puzzle called Clever Clues -so what if it wasn’t a word search, at least it was an accessible game involving words. Of course I downloaded it at once and started playing…

7 little wordsI happened to mention the game to a few friends who, to my absolute delight, introduced me to a second accessible IOS game, Seven Little Words – again, not a word search, but another word puzzle. So I downloaded it as well…

What it so great is that neither of these games have been specifically designed for the blind community. Their structure and the way they were designed and created makes it possible for both visually impaired and sighted word-puzzle lovers to play them with the same ease. So now I’m back to spending a little of my free time indulging that love of word games, playing both Clever Clues and Seven Little Words on a regular basis.

If you’re like me and enjoy games that get you thinking, stimulate your vocabulary, and provide hours of entertainment why not give these games a try?

If you decide to give them a go and can’t figure out how to play… drop me a line and I’ll be happy to offer a few suggestions, though I can’t promise you won’t have to decode my instructions first – after all, I do love word games!

What Do You Mean It’s a Two Hour Interview???

Cds b6e41c7b 3b79 4649 9ca8 9331b6dd54d5I’ll happily accept almost any opportunity to share my story and talk about my books, but I’ll admit I was somewhat daunted by the thought of being the only guest on a two-hour radio interview. Fellow speaker and friend, presenter Cindy Pivacic assured me the time would pass before I knew it, and she ought to know – she’s been presenting the Entrep-A-Who Show on Hashtag Radio for several months.

Regardless of my anxiety, Fiji and I arrived at the Hashtag Radio studios at the appointed time and were ushered into the studio. And Cindy was absolutely right – the two hours flew by and all too soon we were done.

We covered a broad range of subjects in the interview – my speaking, my writing with special reference to my latest book, “A Different Way of Seeing”, the technology I use to help me accomplish everyday tasks and a little about the realities of living without sight. I even got to demonstrate (umm, audiostrate?) The voice over app that I use to access my iPhone. We also spoke about the difference Fiji has made in my life… all while she lay blissfully slumbering at my feet.

The photo shows Cindy, myself and Fiji standing beside the Hashtag Radio sign.

Listen to Hashtag Radio here: www.hashtagradio.co.za

I’d definitely recommend tuning in to one of Cindy’s Entrep-A-Who Shows each Wednesday from 12:00 – 14:00 – she always has fascinating guests!

You Have to be Kidding – Me Doing Tech?

The other day I was finishing off editing a recording I’d made of one of my presentations when I stopped dead in my tracks and realized what I was doing. Now, that may not be a shocking statement to you, but try to see it from my perspective. I… was editing…. A recording…. I had made – me, the woman who revealed in her book, “A Different Way of Seeing: A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an ‘Ordinary’ Life in an Extraordinary Way”, that she had a love-hate relationship with technology and was secretly terrified of breaking the internet… editing a voice recording of a speech totally without sighted help – wow!

I’m not saying I’ve suddenly become a total wizard at technology. Nor am I claiming to have the (to me) remarkable skills that some of my blind friends who are web developers, podcasters, musicians, and assistive technology trainers do… but I feel justified in feeling a little bit proud of my ability to keep learning and growing my skills.

Over the next few weeks I’ll share some of my recordings with you – a few of my speeches and a few radio interviews. Some of those I’ll share will be ones I’ve edited and others will come from other sources.

I hope you enjoy them!

What Did You Do with Your iPhone Today?

I guess I’m so used to using assistive technology to make my life easier that I often forget how remarkable it can appear to others. It’s something that always seems to fascinate my audiences when I speak, so I try to include a little about how my iPhone and my computer help me do things.

Anyhow, the below link is to a playlist of videos created by Apple to show how their standard devices are making a difference in the lives of people living full and productive lives with disabilities. Why not take a look and see what you think. And, if you’re really feeling adventurous, try the second half of the playlist where the videos include audio descriptions for people who can’t see what’s happening on the screen… and do so with your eyes closed!

Looking for Your Suggestions

Over the past few weeks I’ve posted links to a few videos showing how I accomplish simple, everyday tasks without sight, often with the help of my beautiful guide dog, Fiji.

I’m curious to know what other videos you’d like to see – anything that would help you learn more about how a visually impaired person does things. Or, at least, how I do things as a visually impaired person – I’d never presume to believe that my way is the only way… or even the best way… to do something.
I’ve already had a few suggestions for more videos: how I apply make-up, shopping, cooking, pouring coffee (or wine, for that matter), how I use my computer and mobile phone, and how Fiji and I cross roads and how we catch Ubers.

If you have additional ideas of what you’d like to know about, please just let me know.

To give you an idea of what the videos may be like, here’s a few links to previous videos I’ve done:

Using an escalator

Walking in Tokai Forest

A Solution in Sight (pun intended)

Cds IMG 3733Have you ever thought about how much of your life is spent looking at things?

That may sound like a silly question, but just take a moment to think about how often you get photographs on WhatsApp or on Facebook, how much print material you encounter whether on paper or on a digital device… and then imagine the frustration of knowing it’s there but not being able to see any of it

Recently I’ve become aware of various apps for my iPhone that give me access to some sighted items that I couldn’t access before. They are broken down into 2 categories – object recognition (to identify objects) and character recognition (to identify text).

I was amazed to discover how many apps there are that can be used for either object or character recognition, and was even more amazed to find out how many of them were available for free. So I started testing a few.

At the moment I’m playing with an app called Braigo, which is one of the few that does both object and character recognition. I can either take a photo on my iPhone and Braigo will try to identify its contents, or I can upload images from other sources.

I’ll admit I’ve had mixed success with the app – when I took a test photo of one of my dogs standing on a wooden floor it told me that the image was of a dog jumping into an oven (say what???) and when I took a photo of a rolled up mat leaning against a window I was told that it was an image of someone sitting on a window sill. On the other hand, when Craig took a photo of me at a restaurant Braigo not only correctly identified that the image was of a woman sitting at a table, but even correctly translated the handwritten menu on the chalkboard on the wall behind me – wow!

From the research I’ve done, I understand that an app called KNFB Reader is considered the best available for character recognition, and that Identifi is popular for object recognition. I also know that there are a number of apps available that make use of human volunteers to help identify objects and locations for those of us without sight… but more on these another day.

The point I’m making is that using technology there is a solution in sight that will allow blind and visually impaired people to do and see far more than we previously could … and that is going to make a vast difference in our lives!

Now, I wonder if I can get that person who was sitting on my window sill to help me with the housework… Hmm…

Email updates
Lois shares updates on her book, speaking and the reality of living with blindness. Find out what Lois is up to – subscribe here.

Facebook