Friday, October 29, 2010

Tandem Technology

On October 23 I rode in the Lighthouse’s Double Up 4 Vision Tandem Bike Event with my favorite Pilot Neil at the controls. He guided us briskly down the 3 mile track from 125th Street to 77th along the Hudson River on New York’s west side. Without concern for the road ahead I was completely absorbed by the beautiful scenery.

Neil, as if under the impression we were in a race, was busy speeding by our fellow tandem bikers. We got to the finish line way too fast and wanted to go back and start again. We wished for a 10 or 15K ride --- maybe next year.

The tandem bike is a fabulous piece of accessible technology and it reminds me that impaired vision should not prevent you from connecting with the things that bring you joy. Sometimes you just need a little help from your friends.

This event supports the work we do every day to help people get back to doing the things they love when affected by vision loss and we thank everyone for the very generous support that made this event a great success.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Technology Overload Syndrome

When it comes to learning new technology my advice is always --- one thing at a time. It is good sound advice, but even I cannot always take it. This booming technological world does not always allow me to be comfortable with my current “one thing” before dropping another right on my head.

I am the one who refuses (almost all) software updates because I cannot stand the thought of things changing place on a screen (that I already have trouble seeing). I do not get giddy when the newest version of anything is released, I get nervous. It does not keep me from wanting all the hottest newest things --- I just do best when they come in measured doses.

For the last several weeks I have been sometimes overwhelmed with too much new tech, most of which was not my choosing. It is not a good feeling when everything you need to do takes ten times longer than (the five times longer) it usually takes! Progress moves to a snail’s pace and the anxiety mounts.

It started out with a budget proposal in Microsoft Excel, a program I had not used to any great extent in years. Well it’s not like riding a bike, I can assure you. The last time I used Excel it was 6 versions ago and my computer screen was not quite so magnified back then. It was unrecognizable and quite difficult to navigate at 8 times larger than norm.

It’s a good thing I did not get too cozy with whatever Excel version I was on because the very next week my computer at work was upgraded to Microsoft Office 2010 and all hell broke loose, I mean we were practically leaping from the past into the present. It was a hard landing. Everything in the toolbars looks different --- the drop down lists I had so become accustomed to now look like a lot of cartoon icons I cannot identify. My comfort with Outlook and Word is under siege, but I am certainly not alone in this, all of my colleagues are also adjusting. My adaptation is a little different because when the screen is magnified 8x you can only zoom into about 1/8 of it at a time.

My challenges transitioning to Office 2010 were compounded by the prickly and often outright unfriendly nature of assistive technology. ZoomText (software) the lifeline to my PC which gives me the magnification and speech I need was undergoing its own issues adjusting to this new environment. Text was disappearing when magnified (too much) and the speech now had a funny accent and was mispronouncing every few words. Work was becoming hell -- proofreading a total bitch! Now everything was taking me 15 times longer.

While all this is going on I have to deal with fundraising for Double Up 4 Vision the tandem bike ride I am participating in to support the Lighthouse. I am participating in tomorrow to support the Lighthouse. It is to be set up online using a program by Convio which is not accessible to people using screen readers --- and not that accessible to anyone else either. Following two sessions guided step by step through the many, many steps required to register and start the fundraising process I discover there are two options for fundraising --- the easy way or the hard way. I choose to minimize the torture on this one and instead of using the complicated Convio system I simplify --- sending email notes with this link to my donation page:

To keep your brain healthy and sharp I know it is essential to keep learning, challenging, stretching your mind. But does it have to give you a headache?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Field is Growing

Today President Obama signed the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. I have referred to this bill as A Field of Dreams (posted on July 25, August 3) and it is safe to say this field is growing into a reality.

I love when two parties come together and agree on something very important to me --- and millions like me. Accessibility for all! Let's applaud our representatives in Washington for this one and let's embrace all that it promises to deliver.

Here's what I'm looking forward to:

  1. Required accessible onscreen cable television menus and program guides.
  2. Required accessible features for mobile devices.
  3. Required access to accessible Internet services built into mobile phones.
  4. Requires a clearinghouse of information on accessible products and services and public education and outreach.

I wonder if they can get those accessible cable TV menus up and running first --- I need to DVR Oprah!