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A walk with Aira

I was very skeptical about how Aira would work for me. my thought process was if I could get a lot of what I needed from free apps, why would I need anything from Aira.

Well, I was surprised when my mom purchased a subscription for me as a birthday present. For the first few days I used the service for small things like reading labels and figuring out where the pop tarts were in the cabinet and what flavor they were. Then the day came where the true test began.

On August 14 2018, my family and I went out for my birthday. While out I had an Aira agent read me some of the menu which was awesome to say the least. After the meal was finished and the bill paid. My mom told me I should really test out Aira with a walk. Going to a bakery which was right across the street but had some construction in the way. I took the challenge head on.

Firing up Aira on my iShone and connecting to an agent, I was pleasently surprised how much detail was given to me. The street name and cross street, current state of the crosswalk sign and the feet were all things that impressed me greatly while on my walk. If I didn’t want or need any this informofation, I could just tell the agent that I didn’t need any of the information.

As I hit the cross street to get closer to the bakery, the Aira agent goes on to tell me that the construction is on my left and right, the agent also gives me instructions to keep moving forward towards my destinN however disremains quiet when I am was crossing the street.

After getting cross the constrution that was in our way the Aira agent tells me to turn left. As I am walking down the street. Something amazing happened. The agent tells me to my left there is a potted plant with a vine sticking out on my left.

When we finally made it to our destination, the Aira agent couldn’t see the hours of operation on the door. They then proceeded to look up the hours for me and tell them to me. I then asked the agent to get me bam to my original destination. Everything the agent told me he said again. After the call I was so impressed that I had a hard time explaining anything to my family who asked about my experience.

I like having somebody on a call with me when I am traveling, bringing a sense of security to me as well as others in my family. I also like being able to call any time of day and ask for anything I need help with. What are your thoughts? Have you used Aira?

I can honestly say that for the month I have using the Aira service I have become a believer in the service. As of this writing I have not yet received my glasses but will update you all with another article explaining the glasses in detail when I receive them.

Transitions to Blindness: Don’t be Mad At The World

Introduction

We all have situations and things to deal with in our lives. You can either deal with these problems the right way or the wrong way. In this post I will talk about dealing with them the right way as that is the only way to get anywhere in life.

It’s Okay To be Upset For a Little Bit

Everyone gets upset from time to time. I myself get that way when I want something to go a certain way and can’t get it to work out that way. Going blind is something that you don’t have any control over. You feel like the things you used to do are now impossible to do because of blindness. Therefore you get mad and frustrated and don’t know how to handle this new phase in life. I know many blind people who are mad at the world because of their blindness. You don’t have to be one of those people. Letting go of your anger and frustration long enough to realize the positive int eh situation is best.

You can’t stay mad forever because you will not get anywhere in life. The way you treat people is the way you will be treated. Likewise you can’t just say everything that you feel to anyone. Take a deep breathe and take a minute to step back from the situation and learn from it. You can always learn something about yourself or the situation that you are in.

Learning things over again

Many times you will have to learn simple things over again. The washer that you knew how to use with your low vision. Well, now you will have to put tactile dots on it. Furniture that you used to move around easily. Will now have to stay in place. You can’t be tripping inside your own house or apartment. Learning to ask for help can be one of the hardest things. You may feel vulnerable and insecure or even stupid asking. However, let your pride go and remember that everybody asks for help. The only difference between you and somebody els is that you have a vision issue.

Torture Testing The Apple Watch: Experiences With Water

Introduction

There are a ton of benefits wearing the apple watch. I have been seeing the benefits of using one and wearing the device every day. I rarely pick up my phone anymore because I can do most things through the watch. However, when I purchased the device I got the Apple care plan along with it. This was a first for me to ever purchase the care plan with an Apple product. There is a reason I did purchase the Apple care plan. Read more to find out.

Water Stress Test

One of the main reasons I purchased the Apple care plan for my watch was because of work. I had called a few weeks ago before the purchase date to talk to a representative about water resistance of the Apple watch. The rep told me that the watch should be fine however, to go ahead and purchase the care plan because it would bar me from a expensive replacement if water damage were to happen.

A few weeks later I had gotten my Apple watch in the mail. I was excited to put it through the paces of life. Through 7 months of nightly water dunking while doing dishes at Chick Fil A. The watch was and still is impressive. Sometimes the watch would get water inside the speaker unit. I never worried because there is a nifty little feature on the watch. This feature literally pushes water out of the speaker unit. This button is a toggle on the watch but it works. You may end up having to do this water lock feature a few times but it does work getting all of the water out. Another option is to let the watch dry overnight. This to allows the speaker unit inside of the Apple watch to be completely usable the next day. Note that you can put the watch into the water locked state but the touch screen will be completely unusable. However, water may still get into the speaker unit of the watch. Again, this is not a problem at all.

What Do We Do We Swim, Swim

Another opportunity presented itself this summer. I had and still have the occasion to swim in a few pools around my wife’s family. I was interested to see how the Apple watch would handle these various types of pools and situations. Needless to say the watch did perfectly. I never knew how much exercise a person could get just by swimming for 30 minutes.

One of the first tests I did was to put the watch into the water lock state. Just like working with dishes at Chick Fil A the same situations occurred.

Conclusion

I’m very impressed with the Apple watch series 3. I’m even more impressed by how water resistant the watch is. I have no doubts it will last for a long time no matter how much water I throw at it.

What are your thoughts? Do you own an Apple watch? How have your experiences been with the device?

Why I Don’t Use AIRA

Introduction

A few months ago I switched my Focusrite 18i20 audio interface for something different. The hardware was awesome however the software was not accessible to me while in the transition of loosing my vision. So, I now have a Behringer UMC4x4. This change had to happen due to a circumstance that I couldn’t control.

I use this story to say that the AIRA smart glasses may not be for everyone. Here are a few reasons in my opinion why I am not using them at the moment.

Price

I had to bring this point up first. I agree with the price. You are getting a lot for your money and the product and service provided are always getting better. AIRA is like having your own personal assistant in your back pocket that also tells you what’s going on around you. From what I have read and heard in podcasts, I would think that I would enjoy these glasses. However, right now they are out of my price range but I am okay with that.

Apps Do A Lot Of This Already

As I have been listening, reading, and thinking about AIRA and how they could help. I started to think about the services that are already out for the blind. Services like BE My Eyes and Bespecular, Tap Tap See, Seeing AI, KNFB Reader just to name a few. All of these apps I have access to whenever I may need them. I am not limited by not having AIRA at this point in my life. If I need something scanned I can either pull out my phone for a quick look or do it when I get home for a more robust look.

Some Many Devices So Little Battery

Then there is the battery and device issue. Where you have so many different devices to charge and not enough time, or even worse very little battery left on your mobile battery charger. Or you always charge a device at night and then you forget just one time. Now, what will you do? I don’t want that to happen to me. I always have a wireless charger in my office and by my nightstand. So, I can lay my phone down on the wireless charger and know that my battery will be ready to go. Along with charging another device keeping track of one more thing will drive me insane. At current on my person when I leave the house I have. Phone, Apple watch, Sunu band, cane, wallet, Braille Sense U2 (depending on if I need it for a meeting.) So many devices I don’t need another one.

Conclusion

What are your thoughts? Will you purchase an AIRA device? Have you tried the AIRA glasses? Let us know in the comments below.

Transitioning to Sight Loss: Learning music through YouTube, Finding the right videos

Introduction

Learning braille music is amazing. It allows you to “see” the music as written on paper. Just as a sighted person learns to read printed music the same concepts apply to braille music. An E note for instance is not the character in braille for the letter e. That character is the letter f, you have to throw out everything you know about literary braille. Ok, so what about learning music by ear? Braille music is great as stated above. What about learning when braille is hard to come by or not even produced for your instrument? That’s where YouTube comes in. However, there are some pitfalls with this strategy.

So Many Videos

One of the problems with looking up music how to videos on YouTube is the massive amounts of videos. Some of them are just covers with no illustration. Many have poor audio or video quality. Yet others are great in terms of audio and presentation but lack the understanding of an individual not looking at TAB.
So Many Instructors To Little Time
Another pitfall of learning through YouTube is the many instructors and different ways of playing a particular tune. We also circle around to the above problems of audio, instructor clarity and detail of instruction. Ok, so what do I look for in a good video? I’m glad you asked.
Good Instructional Videos Are?
The answer to this question is somewhat hard to answer. The main things you will need to look for are as follows:
Great audio- without good audio you can’t hear anything the presenter says.
Clear detailed directions- the presenter should be able to tell you what string or key he is hitting and what finger or fingers they are using. This allows the visually impaired or blind person to clearly follow along with the instructor.

Notes for Video Instructors

Please for the love of music don’t do the following things
Try to instruct while playing your instrument. Most times talking over a sustained note fading out is fine. However, make sure that you can be heard over the instrument. Especially for a fast song.
Go over parts more than once.
Don’t just reference your tab or say you can download the tab from my website. This helps nobody. Think of it as you had no time to download tab and learn it. The only thing that you were able to do is watch the video.

Conclusion

I hope this post explains what a user who is blind looking for youtube videos needs to watch out for. I also hope that instructors of such videos gain some ideas on how to better implement their awesome content.

Transitioning to Sight Loss: What to do while you’re loosing sight

Introduction

One of the hardest things a person can do is loose something that they’ve had for a while. It gets even worse when you have only had vision out of one eye. Dealing with loosing vision is hard however, it can be done.

Great that you’re positive, how is positivity achieved?

Let me tell you a secret. Before I started loosing my vision I took it for granted. Yes, I was considered legally blind but I could still see the tree to use it as a landmark for instance. I could read regular print with the help of a magnifier but strained my neck to do such a task. I knew braille but had enough vision to see signs. I could go on and on about what I could see and how I used my vision for granted. Forward to now, at the time of this writing my vision is changing. How, well, in short, my vision has become unstable. Due to many factors the vision will sometimes become blurry, and the pen hole that I could see out of just went smaller to nothing. There is no pattern to the craziness and it make last for a few days as well. TheRegardless to say that this is not fun at all. However, I am dealing with it.
I make myself look at my situation this way. Here is an opportunity to do the things that you’ve told yourself you couldn’t do because of your vision. Things like remove the monitor from your computer, learning the advanced feat;features and advanced mental understanding of a screen reader, use braille for everything including silencing speech and just using braille etc. This is a chance to learn how to use technology to the fullest potential. I’ve gone as far to turn down my screen brightness on my iPhone an just using speech. Something that I have been sturggling with for years. So, if you are struggling with loosing your vision. Make it a game with yourself. I totally understand if you need time to mourn the loss of your sight. I totally understand and get that. However, loosing sight doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. Make your new life without sight a game. Learn how to do the things you do without sight. Loosing sight will enhance your life in more ways than one.
Conclusion
What do you think? How has loosing your vision improved your life? What do you do differently now that you’ve lost your sight?

Reuniting with a braille notetaker, my experience so far

Introduction

I’ve said many times before in different articles that braille is important. I will not go into any of the reasons here. If you’d like to read why braille is important. Go check out some of my other posts. Now on to the actual article.

Reading at night

For the past few years, I’ve had the ability to read at night with speech. However, hearing speech all the time gets annoying and is the last thing you want to hear. Having a dedicated braille display allowing me to read books, surf the internet, write for Linson Productions, etc. gives my mind a break and ears from synthesized speech.

surfing the internet

While surfing the internet on a computer is more effective. Being able to look up the day’s news or read your favorite forum topic for updates is awesome. When I don’t want to sit by my computer and surf the internet. I can do it with my braille notetaking device instead. The braille notetaker is not as powerful as a dedicated computer or mobile device. Though it gets the job done at hand. Mainly allowing me to find news stories for upcoming podcasts and general reading.

Keeping the phone hidden

Another advantage of a braille notetaker or even a display is hiding your phone from other eyes. Let’s face facts here. Blind and low vision people are more likely to get robbed or stolen from. The last thing you want to loose is your communication device to the outside world. Having a dedicated display or notetaker ensures that this will most likely not happen. Plus the device adds the benefit of no speech and silent operation of your iOS device.

Spelling and grammar

I’m heading to the student and teacher inside of me now. Having a dedicated braille device allows for one to check their own spelling and grammatical errors. Yes, you can use the google home and even Alexa however, this is not really the best practice. Being able to see how a word is spelled is the best thing to get it in your memory. I can remember when I was reading braille a lot during school. I would virtually see how to spell hard words. Some of these words I would figure out myself. I’d then double check with a computer and a lot of the time was spot on. I eventually got to the point where I could see words that I didn’t know how to spell in my mind. Before having a braille device I had to rely on google home or amazon Alexa. While these options are nice and help with spelling. They are no substitute for reading and engaging the brain. Braille just has that quality about it which allows for a student to be more interactive and engaged in the story, lecture, study session, etc. While speech is great, braille brings awareness and professionalism to a whole new level.

 

Braille display makers and readers rejoice, there is a new standard interface coming.

Introduction

Braille display makers and users of those displays have had an interesting time. Display makers put a lot of bells and whistles on their particular display. Allowing for maximum usage with a given screen reader or mobile device. Users have had to learn many different displays and along with that comes learning different key combinations. Not just for one screen reader and one mobile device however, for many different screen readers and mobile devices. That is all about to change.

New HID standard announced

Microsoft, Apple, and Google came together to create a new standard for braille display makers. This new HID allows for manufacturers to put common key commands and other switches, knobs, and buttons. All of these could be different and still provide the user with the same experience across all the different manufacturers regardless of display type and length. The new HID would also allow for any display to work on any computer with a screen reader like NVDA, JAWS, or even windows narrator. Allowing for any blind person to connect their display without having to worry about drivers or having the right screen reader.

Conclusion

This initiative between Microsoft, Apple, and Google is an awesome thing for both braille display manufacturers and blind people alike. What are your thoughts about this new HID development? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Braille Note Takers: Are they still useful?

Introduction

Back in 2001 or so the Braille N’ Speak exploded on to the scene. Allowing the ease of use for students like myself to be more productive. Carrying the small device with me everywhere. I kept track of my day and homework. I even wrote papers and embossed them for proofreading by myself and other students to read as well.

2018, is there still a place for them?

Many people including myself have told readers, and listners that dedicated braille note taking devices are no longer relevant due to the explosion of mainstream technology. Well, getting a dedicated note taking device for my job as a blogger and audio engineer. I believe there is still a place for these devices. Braille display technology has gone down from where it started. Allowing access to braille for under $500. However, these displays are still only displays. Not allowing for even basic word processing or simple math calculations. A dedicated device whether it be android or Windows CE based like the Braille sense U2 from HIMS. Allows for much more flexibility of tasks. Such as facebook, twitter, reading books, accessing media, Playing podcasts, and messaging friends and family all through one device. This all can be done on a smartphone. However, what if you need your phone for an emergency or want to ave the battery power you have left. Plus as phone’s age their batteries become less and less efective. Having a dedicated device for note taking and reading can severly increase ht the battery life of your smartphone.

Conclusion

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you still have a note taker you are using? What are you using your note taker for? Let us know in the comments below.

Android notetakers: Are they the future?

Introduction

Thinking back to my first note taking device a braille n’ Speak from pulse data. The device was revolutionary for the time. I took my little note taker everywhere. When I say everywhere I always had it with me. I was able to do so much while in school. Keep track of my assignments, write in the word processor for certain classes etc. The Braille n’ Speak opened up a world of possibilities for me.

Braille Lite

Fast forward a few years enter the Braille Lite. A Braille n’ Speak with an attached braille display on board. This made me even more happy. A world of refreshable braille was now introduced into my life and I was happy that I could access anything I wanted through braille. Hooking up the Braille Lite to a computer for the first time was invigorating for me. Allowing myself to finally see what words were spelled. Even allowing me to browse the internet with braille only. Reading long news articles without speech is completely awesome. This feature alone made my brain quiet down. Concentrating on what the display was saying.

Pulse Data and the Braille Note

The evolution of braille technology and note takers was the Braille Note from Pulse Data. Giving the user access to the internet and email without the computer. Allowing a student in the end of a middle school career into the realm of high school to jump in head first. All iterations of Braille Note devices being better than the last.

Android evolving on Note Taking Devices

Android as a open platform allowed manufacturers like Humanware and HIMS to blast their products into the future. Gaining the power of android and allowing the user to download anything and everything they wanted. Blowing past their Windows CE competition into an era of mainstream like devices. However, android may not be the right direction for note taking devices like the Braillenote Touch and the Polaris.

Android has its faults

If android were to crash then these devices would be harder to reset and get back up into a working condition. That’s just one reason I’m skeptical. Another reason is the security of the android platform. You can have different versions of android but the security patches are what make the difference.If Humanware and HIMS do not keep up with security patches for the OS. The user will be vulnerable to attacks outside of downloading applications from the google play store.

Conclusion

What are your thoughts on using android for these specialized devices? Are they a flop or not? Comment down below.