A Guide To WordPress With A Screen-Reader: An Interesting Idea

Here’s something neat that I can get behind.

Amanda Rush has started what could be a super useful project. It will be a behemoth, but what a useful behemoth! She is trying to build a comprehensive guide to WordPress with a screen-reader. What’s more, she is going to try to keep it current. You go, girl!

Man, wouldn’t it be nice, if you’re trying to solve a complicated problem, to not have to decode the instructions that are written up with visual descriptions and screenshots. Sometimes, you can get by because they have added enough description that you can find the links and buttons to which they refer, but there’s nothing more infuriating than getting super helpful instructions, only to bump into a sentence like “You will get to a screen that looks like this. {screenshot goes here}.” Or “Now, drag the icon to…” Baaaaa!

But because it’s a time-consuming, ever-evolving affair, she is trying to get enough money to keep it going. So go to the page linked above and have a look at what she has already done. If you think this could be helpful, send her some dough to help keep it going.

I Remember The Time My Service Dog Chased A Cat, Let The Memory Never Live Again!

When I think of all the concerts, plays and things I have gone to with Trix and Tans over the years, I am very thankful that neither of them has ever taken it into their heads to chase down one of the characters, like happened in this story.

A dog ran amok at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats” this week.
Spies at the Neil Simon Theatre tell us an audience member’s service dog “got away from its owner and ran after [the character] Bombalurina, performed by actress Mackenzie Warren, during the opening number.”
Luckily, a fast-moving usher “intervened and returned the wayward canine to its mortified owner.”

Mortified would be an apt description. I think I would want the floor to open up and swallow me!

I think the closest we came to causing mayhem was when I took Tansy to her first show. I don’t think she was used to such a huge crowd, and tried to leap on a passer-by. That was embarrassing enough, and thankfully has never happened again.

I could be in for trouble. This Saturday night, we’re going to see Handel’s Messiah because a couple of our friends are singing in it. I hope Tans doesn’t get it in her head that she should go visit them!

A Couple of Weird Songs To Haunt Your Nightmares

Somebody posted this list of the 30 weirdest songs of all time to the Dr. Demento Facebook group. Some of the songs on there seemed kind of lame, but there were definitely a few gems on there that I’d never heard of before, and were way out there.

One of them sounded so freaky that I decided to go see if I could find it, and boy did I find a lot of versions. It was called “The Twa Sisters.” Here’s just one version of it. It’s not the best quality I’ve ever heard, but it’s not the worst.

What kind of messed up shit is that. It’s not bad enough that one sister drowned the other because they both liked the same guy, but then some other dude just happened upon the drowned sister and made a musical instrument out of her body! Eeewww! And this wasn’t even the worst part of the song. It was like it was totally normal to pull bodies out of the river and make harps and guitars and whatever you wanted out of them, and show them off to a whole bunch of people. The song had to get extra creepy when the freaky musical instrument started to sing the story of her death. *shiver*. Yup, that’s definitely a weird song, and apparently everybody loved covering it and putting their own spin on it, but I’ve never heard of it before.

In describing the song to Steve, another song drifted into my head and won’t leave, and if the “Twa Sisters” song belongs on there, then this gem needs a place too.

What crazy evil is that? Dude meets girl, dude just straight up asks “how can I get to your bed?” Girl says “you can’t come in the door, but you should sneak into my bedroom via this creel thing at the chimney.” dude says “Ok.” Mom says “Hey dad, there’s a dude in our daughter’s room!” dad goes to look. Girl hides dude under the covers and says “hey dad, can’t you see I’m praying here?” Dad goes back to mom and says “You’re crazy, there’s no dude down there.” Mom isn’t convinced so gets up to see, but somehow kicks the toilet and falls into the thing that helped dude get in. She asks for help, but her husband says “Nope, can’t be bothered, you and your daughter are too much trouble.” She falls down to her daughter’s room, where the dude kills her. And the moral? Mind your own business, old lady! Really?

I’ll admit that making a list of the 30 weirdest songs of *all time* feels like a pretty difficult task, and I wouldn’t want to have it, but I’m sure there are way weirder songs than “MmmBop” or “Summer Girls”. Broaden your musical horizons a little!

Help Support Accessible Media Inc.

As happens often these days, here I am putting this up just before the deadline.

AMI’s broadcast licenses are up for renewal next August, and part of the process of making sure AMI stays available to all involves getting letters of support.

We don’t watch it all the time, but it is a place for programming that might not find a home otherwise. Plus, it’s kind of cool to go there and know that whatever is playing is described, and if it weren’t for AMI, we wouldn’t have all those commercials about described video which, although some of them are ridiculous, make a point and get people talking more. Yes, I’m looking at you, bacon/rainforest commercial.

If you want to add a letter of support, submit it via this comment form. Check the box for AMI, fill out all the required fields, attach any files if you’re that keen and hit submit. It doesn’t look like there are any mean CAPTCHAs lying in wait.

The deadline is Friday, so hurry hurry hurry!

Do You Have My Steak Today?

You know what’s sad? News has gotten so weird that this story of a customer pulling a gun on a McDonald’s employee because they wouldn’t serve him a steak bagel at 3 in the morning probably wouldn’t have caught my eye. As scary as I’m sure it was for the girl working that night, nothing happened, thank goodness, except the poor girl found out how far some jerks will go for a stupid steak bagel. He pulled a gun, cursed at her and drove off. It wouldn’t have twigged me, except it reminded me of another disagreement over a McDonald’s bagel that I personally witnessed. Thankfully, this one didn’t involve guns and wasn’t a real disagreement, but for a second, I thought maybe some of the other customers might have turned it into a real fight.

I can’t remember if Steve has written about the antics that he and his buddy Greg used to do when they were younger, but some of it involved messing with people at drivethroughs. They didn’t do anything harmful, they would just ask for weird things like peanut butter sandwiches or try to ask the workers trivia questions or stuff like that. Well, one night when I was hanging out with them, Greg decided to ask for a breakfast bagel in the evening. The girl was nice, but said they couldn’t give him one. He pretended to be all disappointed, saying that he works during the time they served them, and really wanted one. When she said they didn’t have any, he wondered where they would get them from for the morning. When she said they had the materials but they were frozen, Greg said that was fine, he would warm it up. They went back and forth a little more, and then suddenly, from the car behind us we heard someone yell “She said no, stupid! Move it!” I was sure we were going to become the victim of road rage. Thankfully, nothing happened, Greg gave up the joke and moved on, but I was freaked out for a while.

Getting back to the story, I can’t imagine a steak bagel being so good that not being able to get one would be worth pulling a gun and getting a criminal charge over it. Sheesh, chill out, man!

Service Dog Etiquette Explained In A Simple Analogy

Here comes another quick post.

I saw this link going around Facebook, and after I finished laughing at it, I meant to post it here, but I didn’t. Someone who has a service dog for an invisible disability wrote this post trying to make it clear what would be acceptable and unacceptable behaviour towards service dogs and their handlers. She had a simple but hilarious analogy. Treat service dogs like you would treat someone else’s boobs. It’s funny, but it kinda works.

I have to say the only ones I haven’t for sure had thrown in my direction are the ones about Tans not being real or nothing looks wrong with me. But all the other ones have happened.

Hey, maybe someone will read this and it will help them understand. Or maybe people can add more boobs/ service dog analogies in the comments.

And Trix Adds Another Data Point

You know what’s funny? For years, I commented on Trixie’s grey hair and worried about her being stressed. People laughed and said stress and grey hair in dogs aren’t related. They may have been wrong.

It appears that dogs who show anxiety around strange people and situations or have a fear of loud noises, among other things, are more likely to start going grey around the muzzle earlier.

Trix was always a bit anxious about what she was supposed to do, and really seemed to get sad if she thought she did something wrong. My mom remembers this one route we took where we walked the route, and for my benefit, we did it again to see if it was better to come at it from the other side of the street. Until we crossed over to the other side, Trix looked so sad and moped along. She was sure she had done something wrong and we were reworking the route, and couldn’t be convinced otherwise until we went in another direction.

Anyone who has read here for any length of time is well-acquainted with Trix’s fear of loud noises. We were made very aware early on that she was not a fan of thunder and fireworks, or thunderworks.

As she got older she definitely was afraid of most dogs. It broke my heart when she wouldn’t play with dogs she didn’t know. I know Mylo had a lot to do with that, but it still made me sad.

Also, she put up with them, but I don’t think she was a fan of strange situations either. Every trip we took caused her to have, well, rather squishy poop. She did her best to cope with these trips, but it didn’t thrill her.

And Trix went grey very early on. Trix, again, I’m sorry if guiding was too stressful. At least now, the reason for your greying fur is because you’re pretty old for a labby.

My Dog Shouldn’t Be The Only One Watching For Traffic!

I know this happened a month ago, but it is always relevant.

An acquaintance of mine wrote a post about the consequences of careless drivers to service animals, and I wish I could make this mandatory reading material for people who drive vehicles.

People never take into account that just because they didn’t actually hit the dog, they might have scared the dog so badly that they may stop working. People’s need to get through that intersection illegally may have just given an animal PTSD and shortened their career.

It’s also interesting to read all the comments from other people with similar experiences. I haven’t had many, but I have had a few. One time, Tansy actually had to back up and kind of twist around because a driver had to fly through a tiny stop sign in front of a drug store. Really? That was necessary? Another time that was especially weird, I was at a crosswalk at the mall here. I pushed the button, I waited, I was sure nobody was moving and all the cars I could hear were stopped, and somebody decided that they didn’t feel like stopping after all and drove right through as I stepped off. Without thinking, I said “cocksucker!” Somebody happened to be around, laughed and said I was right.

I’m lucky that none of these incidents have ended Trix or Tans’s career, but the point is they could, and they’re completely unnecessary. If people are crossing the street, people in their cars can wait. And just because I have a dog who is supposed to keep me safe doesn’t give drivers license to drive like assholes.

Guide Dog Questions Answered In Video Form

This video pretty much sums up so many things I have said over the years about having a guide dog. The one question she didn’t answer, which I get a lot is “how do you pick up after the dog?” Totally legitimate question which I swear I answered here somewhere, but I can’t find it. Basically, you stand out with the dog on leash. Then the dog stops moving, you touch their back to see if they’re just standing and sniffing, sitting with back straight, or sort of squatted. At least that’s the way it goes for female dogs. Males squat to poop but don’t sit to pee, they just stand there. If they’re squatted, you line up behind them, wait for them to finish, then bend down with a bag on your hand and pick up what they left you. Then you turn the bag the other way, and woohoo, you have a bag o poop! It’s trickier in the winter but it’s still the same thing.

Her talking about French commands made me think of an old story which I’ve never written down, so why not write it now? This happened almost 20 years ago, woe! I was a camp counselor at a camp for blind teenagers to learn about computers and other fun stuff. I had been a camper, so it was fun to come back. This time, we had someone there who had a dog from the same school as the dog in the video, so the handler gave his commands in French. But there was also another teenager at the camp who spoke French fluently, and picked up on the whole French commands thing. Let’s just call him a prankster to put it mildly.

I was paying attention to the French commands too, and every night after we had finished up, I would hear the handler saying something about “besoin.” Being an uninformed person, I could not figure out what “besoin” could possibly mean. I didn’t get the pattern that this always happened after we finished up and were coming in for the evening.

Later on in the camp, we were trying to get pictures taken, and the prankster decided to have fun with this poor handler’s dog by giving alternate commands. So the handler would say “debout” (stand up), and the prankster would immediately say “assis” (sit). After a few repetitions of this, the dog just flopped over.

I should have reprimanded Prankster a little more for this interference, but I was young and kind of dumb. Then one fine afternoon, I went to come out into the lobby and was loudly told to stop, because there was a large quantity of dog pee all over the lobby floor. Just then, I heard it, “Carin, he told my dog to besoin!” Of course, the he was Prankster, and now I knew exactly what “besoin” meant. I should have made Prankster clean it all up and stay behind from something fun, but I was young and dumb.

But it made me wonder if dogs that learn commands in another language hear that language so infrequently that they respond a little too readily to it.

Anyway, enjoy the video. I don’t know if I agree with the answering text messages bit, but everything else makes sense.

Closed. Not Interested, Blindy.

I don’t use my CNIB card for much, but it has come in handy for Via Rail. Apparently, they use it as proof that your guide dog is a guide dog, which is slightly twisted logic but that’s been the established piece of ID they default to. If you don’t put a piece of ID for this purpose in your file, they won’t send you EBoarding passes and you run the risk that some goof will get all weird about ID when you get to the station. Nobody ever has, but they tell me this is a thing. I have also occasionally used it to get discounted concert tickets, and it’s good in some cities as a free bus pass.

The other day, it dawned on me that I think my CNIB card is getting close to expiring, or perhaps has expired and I should figure out how to get it renewed. Back when I got my last one, I was still getting some orientation and mobility lessons, so I just asked my instructor and she set things in motion. But right now, the instructor I used to have has retired and I haven’t needed lessons, so I don’t have that contact person to go bug. But I never anticipated that the lack of a contact would make the process so unbelievably frustrating!

My first stumbling block was when I called the Waterloo CNIB office. I already knew that when you call CNIB Waterloo, you don’t actually speak to someone in Waterloo. You could be speaking to someone from who knows where. But I thought I could ask to be transferred to Waterloo’s reception or something. No, who you get for reception is who you get. You then have to name a specific person in the office you are seeking in order to get to someone who actually walks and drives and does stuff in Kitchener Waterloo. I’ll talk more about this later.

So, since I didn’t know who the person is who does CNIB card stuff, I told the one who answered the phone what I was calling about. It felt like the person answering the phone knew nothing about what would be required to renew the CNIB card. How much did it cost? Do I have to come into the office or can I email a picture somewhere? Were there requirements for the picture? All they did was say “I’ll transfer you to Waterloo.” This feels a little less than ideal. You would think if these people are going to be put out on the front lines, they should at least have been given the tools to answer some pretty basic questions.

Then, I was transferred somewhere, who knows where. I got what felt like a random staff member’s voicemail. The voicemail didn’t even say what this person did, so I had no idea if I was talking to the right person. So, I left a message and hoped they would return my call soon, because I had this week off, and after that, if I had to go see someone in person, it would get a lot more difficult.

After I left my message, I went looking on the internet, and what I found didn’t fill me with confidence. After seeing basic information from the CNIB about uses of the ID card, I found this blog post detailing the total lack of information about the ID card.

It was through this post that I learned that the charge is $10, which feels like a giant jump in rates since I last had it done, and you have to go down to the CNIB and get the picture done because it has to be a precise size.

So, I went to figure out when the local CNIB office was open, since back a few years ago, it was only open once or twice a week. I found a link which I cannot find anymore that said they were open to the public every Tuesday. Since I wanted to make double sure that was when they were open, I called their number and got transferred to who knows who. I asked to confirm that the Waterloo office was open on Tuesdays and was told that no, they’re only open the first Tuesday of the month from 9:00 to 4:00. When I expressed my disappointment, the person responded with “That’s all the resources they have.” How impressive…impressively pathetic that is.

Let me quote their service description from the Community Links database:

Primary resource for information, public education, programs, services and advocacy for people who are blind or partially sighted.

Should an office that offers such broad services be only open to the public one day of the month? If someone has just lost a massive amount of vision and is coming in off the street seeking guidance, should they be expected to wait for the designated one day a month to just start the process of getting connected? Do they really think that clients have so little to do that they can all come in on the one designated day if they need something from the office? What if, shock of shocks, we work, and getting there on some Tuesday between 9:00 and 4:00 isn’t workable?

I figured out that my card expires on November 6. The next day when we should all march to the CNIB office and graciously accept their assistance is November 7. Although I don’t use the card for a lot of things, it feels stupid to let it expire just because the hours are so restricted. So, I called back to that lovely central reception office and explained the whole expiring CNIB card thing, and the guy actually suggested that I go to Woodstock. I just finished telling him that I can’t drive and am not exactly flush with available time, and he told me to drive nearly an hour to the next city!

Thankfully my story has a happy ending. I left another message on the seemingly random person’s voicemail explaining that my card would expire before the office was next open, so what could we do, and she did respond the next day with options. She was, in fact, the right person to talk to, so I wasn’t deluging the wrong person. I could in fact email her any picture of me, as long as I wasn’t wearing a hat, and then she could take my credit card over the phone and start the process.

I’m sure there are some people saying I could have avoided running so close to my card expiring if I had just planned better. The thing is most things that are going to expire send you letters in the mail warning you that the expiry is coming up, and telling you how to renew. This isn’t what the CNIB does. They don’t even send an email, for those of us who would prefer that over print. I guess they used to, but stopped getting volunteers to do it. It was just lucky that my internal sense that something was due started bugging me. So, if not for my freakishly weird memory, I, the blind one, is expected to look at the small print on the back of my card and check the expiry so that I can go through piles of hoops to get to the CNIB one day a month to get it renewed. Something seems wrong here.

I have a bit of a problem with them consolidating reception to a central location for something like the CNIB. If I am trying to locate a business, and am close by but can’t find it, the first thing I do is phone the place and ask for some guidance, since I can’t very well look for the sign. Sometimes the person on the phone gives me specifics I can use, or sometimes they just keep an eye out for me and help me make the final leg of the journey. If I did this while trying to locate the local CNIB office, the person on the other end of the phone could offer me nothing in the way of help. Considering the CNIB is serving people who can’t see well so might need a little help locating their destination, this feels kind of like a big problem.

I asked the person in charge of CNIB card renewals why the reception person didn’t know anything about the process, and she said they were just volunteers. Volunteers do some pretty intense stuff. I have volunteered on a crisis line, at a women’s shelter, and with people with some pretty serious needs. If volunteers can be expected to do all of that, they can be given some training on how clients can reach services, especially since they are the point of contact.

I was also bothered by the comment that the only reason they were open one day a month and didn’t send renewal reminders was because they didn’t have the resources. So let’s go back to that topic of the CNIB opening up their own guide dog school. How?

I think I’m done now. I guess, of all the services the CNIB offers, the card is not as important as helping someone who is newly blind learn how to live with their situation, but I worry that the troubles getting cards renewed is an indicator of a deeper problem. If the card is this hard to get, what happens when someone needs something more complex?

The first blog post that I referenced had some pretty solid suggestions of how they could improve the process that still apply. Maybe some day, things will improve. Hopefully, in five years when I have to do this again, I will have an easier time of it. At least this blog post will roughly tell me when I did it last if I don’t get a renewal reminder.