All 4 entries tagged Disability

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October 24, 2006

the story continues

Follow-up to Lets Talks from Graham Lewis

So finally I get the key number, punch it in and the phone starts to speak. The voice is pretty horrid actually. I prefered the other voice but at least it is working – I can live with this.

oh wht’s this? It says it needs a recharge. No problem, plug in in. There you go…..

It mutters something every few minutes for about 10 minutes then cuts out in mid sentance…. oh oh

It is dead. No response, blank screen. Tried lots of obvious things but no it is dead.

A week later I get it to a Carphone Warehouse and they look at it. No idea. The send it off to the manufacturer.

Three weeks after that I am still waiting.

Tried phoming lots of times but of course Carphone Warehouse does not answer the phone…...

September 21, 2006

Lets Talks

Another Good Grief event this week. Actually it started last wek… or even earlier

backm Backm BAAAAAAACK

A while ago I lost my old size-of-a-brick pay-as-you-go cheap-n-nasty mobile and was about to go to foreign parts for a few days. “I need a phone” thought I and “I may as well get a good one that is accessible”. So I did a bit of research and found that while there was a mobile specifically designed for ‘the blind’ (owlasys or something like that), it was pretty crap.

To get a decent accessible mobile, you need one of two possible pieces of software (MobileSpeak or TALKS) installed on one of a limted range of phones.

With future-proofing in mind, I splashed out on a Nokia N70 which is a pretty sophisticated multimedia phone that I knew would run either software package.

I tried asking RNIB for advice but as usual, unless they are actually selling you something, they were little help. I do see RNIB as one of these far too large, self-perpetuating charities that has lost touch with the people it is intended to serve and is still operating on a midel that was appropriate several decades ago…. but don’t get me going.

Anyway, afer seeking (much better) advice on a mailing list or two, I downloaded the TALKS software 30 day demo and after figuring out how to install it from my PC with the provided cables and software, I was up and running. Pretty good too. It even had a screen magnifier which I am a bit past being able to use but a nice feature that I would have appreciated a few years ago.

There was a bonus pack which I did not explore but that seems to have some nice toys such as a GPS thing that works on your location in relation to network transmitters.

That might be quite useful to me when travelling on rail and even bus as they don’ always anniunce stops and you can set alerts when you reach certain places (apparently).

Of course the 30 days license ran out after… 30 days and then the phone would only speak for a couple of minutes before going mute…. or rather repeating “License has expired” every time I touched a key. Cery depressing as it would go iff in my pocket as I walked about. I basically had to keep switching it on and off to keep using it. Fair enough.

With my future employment being in grave doubt, I did not buy the full license until now – two months later.

So last week I rang up a supplier and this is where the story really begins….

First of all I had to work out my credit card details under my CCTV. Of course the numbers are reflective and on a picture background so the CCTV does not cope well with it. I finally worked it out and gave the number to the guy who is also blind… One of us, probably me, screwed up and the number was not right so a couple of days before he gets back to say sp and this time we get it right.

Next I have to get the phone’s ID. This means typing in a code #06 which I recorded as #96 so another day before the emails resolve it. I type in the right code but because the screen does not wrap properly in the magnifier, I don’t see two of the digits. The phone speaks them correctly but for some reason my brain cannot capture that particular sequesnce and it takes a good 20mins to get the right number. I get the number to him and wait.

End of week one.

On Tuesday this week, I finally get an email with the activation ‘ticket’, a lengthy number.

I follow the procedure but because I have never used texting, did not realise I have to switch modes from letters to numbers. Or rather, I do realise but have no idea how. Another email but while that is getting there and back I figure it out and type in the ticket.

The phone does its thing and then goes silent….... not a good sign.

Under the CCTV, I see that the Speach is set to ‘None’ which I cannot alter.

Another email.

It seems that when Installed the demo, I picked the RealSpeak voice engine and not the Elequence engine which the supplier just assumed I had done. I think most blind users are so used to the Elequence voice that he assumed I had opted for it. The license ticket was for Elequence so TALKS now doesn’t… making all further steps that much more difficult as I have to work under the CCTV.

The easiest thing, he says, is to install the Elequence engine.

Fine. After a bit of a search I find it and dowload it to my PC.

Then I realise that my phone to PC cable is in Wales…..

Another email – can I just have the RealSpeak License instead?

As I wirte this, I am still sitting here woth a phone that won’t speak to me.

What I am getting to, I guess, is that something that should have taken ten minutes for most people to sort out, took me two weeks so far and this is my life.

That is mostly, to me, what disabilities do – they eat up your life. Sure you can eventually do most things but, even with more assistive technology than you can shake a laser pointer at, virtually everything takes that much longer and is that nuch more frustrating. and tiring

The upside is that you develop a lot of patience (or go mad).

The same applies to students with disabilities. Just because they gfet through a task tells you nothing about how hard a journey it was and what it took out of them. I was walking in this morning with my white cane and reflecting that it was just as difficult to walk into walk as it once (when my eyesight was better) was for me to climb a mountain.

This is not to promote the ‘heroic disabled person’ image just to recognise that we should not underestimate the extra time and energy required to study (and just live!) as a disabled student.

The new Disability Equality Scheme will come onto force in December and has a long list of proposee actions. It has not been passed by committee yet so I won;t say what those actions will be but I have hopes that this will do what the DDA and SENDA failed to do – make Unoversotoes take disability seriously and consider disabled people as people.

September 20, 2006

Bendy Stick Syndrome

I had one of those ‘I can’t beleive this’ moments on Wednesday last week. I was crossing the footbridge at Canley station and a bicycle came hurtling down the ramp towards me. I stepped neatly to one side and got my cane stuck in the fence. I and the top end of the cane kept going but the bottom end stayed where it was. Result: Cane bent at 45 degrees. That was stage one – me standing there with the bent stick. “Right – thought I – what worked once can work again” so I stuck it back in the fence and bent it back. At this point the end of the cane went poing! and after bouncing off a few bits of the bridge, ended up, I think, on the railway track.

So now I have a thing like a demented corkscrew with no end on it. Any way I sort of limped the rest of the way into work.

I was them amazed to find that I could not get hold of a replacement cane in Cocentry as I am not registered her but back on Wales. So I have only just got my new cane.

I am going to have to carry a spare.

And the this morning while crossing at the lights, a truck and a car ran the lights and the truck ame within a foot of killing me.

So perhaps I need a gun too.

I have been in touch with George Roberts frpm Oxford Brookes this week and it seems there are some related wiki and other collaborative learning projects going on there. I need to check the sector as a whole. This is obviouslt the new thing.

August 24, 2006

Hello? Anybody There?

One thing that I struggle with in working with a viusal impairment is giving presentations. There are a number of problem areas, but one is in engaging with the audience. I do see a little but not nearly enough to see peoples faces or their body lannguage. In fact, under some circumstances everybody could quietly leave the room adnd I would be no wiser.

If I know I will not get information from looking in the direction of the audience then I tend not to. To do so would be mere pretence for me and when I do stare out st the crowd, it is contriced. I am pretty sure this gives the impression that I am detached from the audience, unaware or rather unconcerned of their reactions i.e that I am simply preaching.

After a recent job interview that icluded a 20 mon presentation, this came home to me again. Actually I thought the presentation went fairly well as such but the questions afterwards were so disconnected from what I had been saying that I wondered f people had been listening or just waiting for me to finish talking.

I know that when I listen to a speaker who fails to engage me – make me feel as if my opinions matter – seems awrae that I am there – my attention wanders.

I think this is what has happened to me as my eyesight has degraded I no longer give the impression that I care.

Others van react to the audience overall reaction but if they all slump forwards or start bleeding from the earsI just carry on in my merry little way.

Yes there are things that I can do like asking questions, getting interaction going. I could not have done that at the interview presentation which was tightly structured but in most teaching situations where I set the structure I could do more. Often when I do try this switching from presentation to question, I find people reluctannt to engage. Something about the timing here – let them settle too far into passive mode and it is difficult to switch them back into interactive mode?

Again this brings me back to the parallels between disabilities and e–Learning. Acheiving this sense that you are aware of your audience is an issue in video conferencing or at any time when teaching is didatic. No dofferent from sitting at the back of a large undergraduate lecture theatre of course but good lecturers can still give the impression that they are aware of each individual. How do you do that with a video lecture when this cannot be the case? This iduea of 'presence' is an area of study that my colleague Mark Childs is using as the basis of a PhD by the way.

Meanwhile if you find yourself in a room where I am presentingm snoring loudly will actually help.


Latest short term contract means I will now be at Warwick until Feb 2008


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