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Blog - March 2012

Are Blind Drivers Going to take over the Roads?

A video of a blind man piloting one of Google's self-driving cars has swept across the Internet over the last couple of days. In case you missed it, the video is available with audio description here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?src_vid=cdgQpa1pUUE&annotation_id=annotation_979835&feature=iv&v=peDy2st2XpQ

Count us in

In early February 2012, a certain Canadian Federal agency decided to run some very important surveys but there was a bit of a twist to this.  For whereas these surveys should have been made accessible and available to all Canadians, it was not and why not?  Because it appears that some blind persons and persons with hard of hearing challenges were turned away. 

What did I learn today - Remember to play!

Last night I was reminded of the joy that play can bring.  

Read2Go: DAISY Reader Application for iPhone/iPod Products

On March 22, 2012, I downloaded a DAISY player application for the iPhone called Read2Go.  I simply went to the app store on my phone, and in the search box gave the query “Read2Go.”  See http://read2go.org/ for more information.

Instantly I was presented with a search to this application, and was told that it only costs $19.99 out of my iTunes account.  I figured that this was a pretty good bargain for a DAISY player for my iPhone.  After hearing about it through Vision Australia’s web site through their tutorial section, I figured that I’d give it my two cents worth in accessibility.

Listen to our kids

In the normal scheme of things, we feel that it is our kids who need to listen to us but sometimes; we need to listen to our kids.  Whenever we think that they are not paying attention then guess what?  They are and much more than we think.  Whenever we think that they are shutting us out, it is we who are doing it, not them.

An Excellent Description of Audio Description

In a recent post at the Blind Spot Blog, Hannah Thompson provides an excellent and thoughtful description of her experience watching a film with audio description for the first time.

Thompson identifies three visual aspects of film that are conveyed through audio description and that, when conveyed, greatly enrich the experience of watching a film. I'll quote liberally below, but I urge you to read the entire post for yourself.

iPhone App - Garage Band - Review

On March 16th, 2012, I was simply browsing the app store on my iPhone and came across a music application called Garage Band.  While all Mac computers today with OS Lion come with this music app I was curious to see how accessible this app was on the iPhone and iPad.

Lets take some time to describe what Garage Band is.

Garage Band is a simple software which allows a musician to get their feet wet in composing and recording music.  This app is also capable of taking regions of audio, and looping them together to create a simple piece of music.  In the last couple of months an update patch to Lion made Garage Band on the Mac very accessible.

Conservatives Block Amendments Aimed at Increasing Access for Canadians with Perceptual Disabilities

On March 13, the legislative committee considering Bill C11 finished its clause-by-clause review of the bill. Some forty or so amendments were proposed altogether, the majority of which came from the opposition parties. Approximately half a dozen of the amendments were directly related to the ability of people with perceptual disabilities to access copyrighted works. All but one of these amendments—the one put forward by the Conservatives—were defeated by the Conservative members of the committee.

Are blind adults being ignored?

This is the question that I am asking myself as I write this.  I know!  In so many cases, society tends to gravitate much more easily towards the needs of our kids—and rightfully so.  They are our future, and we need to do all in our power to ensure that theirs will be a bright one, nurtured and jealously safeguarded and protected at all cost. 

Learn to Become and Entrepreneur through the Hadley School for the Blind

In a recent post by Anthony, he talked about the strategy of going into business for oneself as a potential response to an unsuccessful stretch of looking for employment.

I've known this approach to work for some in the past, and, since reading his post, I've come across a resource that may prove very helpful to anyone considering the path of self-employment.

The Forsythe Center for Entrepreneurship (FCE) is part of the Hadley School for the Blind's Adult Continuing Education Program.

According to the website:

Access technology versus mainstream technology

This topic is very near and dear to my heart.  To put things into perspective:

  • Access technology is much more expensive than mainstream alternatives, and much less available on the market.   
  • It is extremely challenging to have access technology repaired as opposed to its counterpart.
  • There are few manufacturers of access technology hardware and even fewer developers of access technology software.
  • The profit to be made for those who develop and sell access technology is much less than for those who do the same for mainstream technology.
  • Access technology has to be developed in such a way as to adapt to the mainstream world.

So there is the picture.  Now where do we go from here?

V-Studio 100

On March 10th, 2012, I downloaded a driver for my Roland v-studio 100 audio sound card to install on my new IMac which I received last Tuesday March 6, 2010.  I have been using this audio card for two years for music production and recording on the Pc platform, and, after receiving my Mac, I wanted to install the Mac driver to operate the card on the Mac OS platform as well as the Windows Platform on the same unit.

What did I learn today - Little Free Libraries

Today I learned about the “Little Free Library Program”.   Little Free Libraries is a grassroots outreach movement to promote literacy, libraries, a love of reading and a sense of community through free book exchanges.  

Todd Bol, from Madison, Wisconsin, wanted to find a personal and unique way to honour his mother after her death.  His mother had been a school teacher, an avid reader, and a believer in sharing her favourite books.  He built a small wooden replica of a library, filled it with books and placed it outside his home.  From that single act hundreds of other Little Free Libraries have sprung up in eight countries.  The web site lists five in Ontario!  

Please Sign the Petition on Bill C11

The Federal Liberals have started an online petition regarding Bill C11. The recommendation promoted by the petition matches one of the recommendations the AEBC made in its presentation to the committee considering Bill C11 on February 27.

Here is the link to the petition, which I found very easy to fill out: https://petition.liberal.ca/user-rights-trump-digital-locks/.

And here is the related recommendation from the AEBC presentation to the committee.

Recommendation 1: Technological Protection Measures

Is the Smart Phone the Interface the Blind had been Waiting for?

This article in the Minnesota Daily describes an app that could significantly aid blind travellers.

The app could indicate not only what street a person is on, but could tell a person when traffic lights have changed and how much time is left to cross the street.

A legitimate concern raised in the article is that, if such an app becomes very popular, there will be less of an incentive to install audible pedestrian signals. This issue is an interesting one that goes well beyond traffic lights, and it is one we are going to have to grapple with over the coming years.

Marco The Clown: Making Your Own Way

Marc Proulx is a member of the AEBC's Brantford chapter.  Blind since the age of 12, Marc has tried time and again to secure employment and end his dependence on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) for survival.  He has not had much success with that effort.  But rather than simply complaining about the discrimination that employers often exercise (intentionally and otherwise) against blind and partially-sighted applicants, Marc has essentially gone into business for himself - as a clown.

In a recent profile published in Brantford's The Advocate, Marc is quoted as saying:

Notable Improvements to the NVDA Screen Reader

On March 2, I did some investigating on a free screen reader called NVDA.  Although this screen reader has been discussed in earlier conferences and reviews, I was curious to find out if there had been any improvements to the software.

To my pleasant surprise, I found out that, Sure enough, NVDA, in the last year or so, has made significant improvements when using Microsoft word.

The most noticeable change is that the user now has the option to be able to check if there is bolding, underlining, and tab spacing in their document.  These features do also exist in other screen readers, such as Jaws and Window Eyes; however, there is a reason, which I will come back to later, as to why I am so happy that this has now been implemented in NVDA.

Innovative Competition Challenges Ontario Students to come up with Accessibility Solutions

This recent condo.ca blog post describes an innovative challenge to university students in Ontario. The "Innovative Designs for Accessibility" (IDEA) is a contest organized by the Council of Ontario Universities and the Ontario Government and includes a cash prize for the winner. The challenge is to consult with industry, government, and the disability community to identify access barriers and to come up with creative, cost-effective, and practical solutions. The winner will be announced at an event at the Ontario Centres of Excellence Discovery Conference in May 2012.

The web access software dilemma

There used to be a time not too long ago when it was so difficult to find any company willing to develop web access software that could be used by blind and partially sighted persons to surf the Internet without sighted assistance.  Within the last few years, however, this picture seems to have changed, and, within the last few months alone, I have had both sighted as well as blind and partially sighted persons tell me that more companies seem to be developing software that would make it possible for us to be more independent surfers.

What did I learn today - CAPTCHAS

What Did I Learn Today

I am enrolled at Ryerson University, taking part-time distance courses towards a degree in Disability Studies.  I am registered with the Access Centre, Ryerson’s accommodation provider for students with disabilities.  This week, the Access Centre circulated a survey to students in an attempt to evaluate and improve the services they provide.   I thought to myself, here is an opportunity to recognize those things the Centre does well, make suggestions about those services where improvements should be made, and to discuss my views on accommodation versus accessibility.

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