I Don’t Read Books, I Devour Them!

Between last Christmas and my birthday, Steve created a monster; a book-devouring monster. Here’s how.

First, he bought me Aftershokz Bluez2S headphones. Those things, although not perfect, are pretty cool. I can walk around, still hear, and listen to stuff from my phone. This made me realize just how much time I spend on the bus and walking that I could be listening to things.

Then, for my birthday, he bought me a 3-month subscription to Audible.com and the monster was born.

Man, they have a lot of books on there, and they tell you right away if they are abridged or not. Yea, no more of the rip-off scenario of buying abridged books. And they have some very very cool narrators. There’s only one narrator I wasn’t so fond of, but funnily enough, she read another book and I liked her better.
And the prices aren’t bad either! I remember when I would buy a book and it would cost me 30 or 40 bucks! I remember getting a massive Stephen King book and it was highway robbery…and that book was freaking dumb. That’s when it hurts to have to pay that much for a book.

With this, I pay a subscription every month, and with each plan, you get a certain number of credits which you can use on the books in the catalogue. I have never seen a book take more than one credit, and I just finished reading one that was 43 hours long. If you go over your credits, you can buy more, and each one is at a discount if you’re a member, so they’re pretty decent prices. And they have lots and lots and lots of sales where you can buy two books with one credit, or you can buy books for suuuuper cheap, and then they have the daily deals. So, there are lots of options. And you can download them to your phone or an MP3 player or whatever! No more sitting there listening to CD’s. I know, I’m late to the party.

First, I discovered that one credit a month was not a big enough subscription for me, because of that whole ability to listen on the move from my phone thing. So after I blew through the subscription Steve bought me, I got my own where I get 2 credits a month, with the ability to roll them over if you don’t use them all, and that’s worked well. Because of sales and this system, since February, I think I have read 32 books, and some of them were not small. I have read books about brain research, and old phone hackers, and people who sailed around the world alone, and people’s experience with mental illness, and weird sci-fi books, pretty much anything you can imagine. I discovered there are a lot of cracks in my day where I can put a book. Riding the bus? Turn on a book! Doing laundry? Brighten it up with a book! Grooming the dog or taking her for a pee? Put the book on! Getting on the rowing machine? Take in some book! It’s crazy how many opportunities there are to listen.


Then, I joined a book club. I have always wanted to, but I said “Who has the time to sit down and just take in a book?” Me, apparently, if I do it right.

And now, they’ve started Audible Canada, so if all goes well, I won’t have to worry about my subscription fee going through the stratosphere if the dollar tanks. I’m just trying to make triple quadruple sure that switching to Canada won’t shut me out of the American catalogue. I know I won’t lose the stuff in my library, but I don’t want to lose any potential that I already can access. The help says that in one teeny weeny spot, but I want to make sure I understand it.

I’m having a little trouble switching over, namely, the link referenced in their help doesn’t seem to show up on my homepage, but the good folks at Audible Canada are offering to help me.

At any rate, Audible is a very cool way to take in books if time to sit down and read is in short supply. If you’re like me and haven’t already figured it out, give it a try!

Take WebAIM’s 2017 Screen Reader User Survey

If you use screen reading software for any reason, you might want to take this survey and have your say about the directions that accessible technologies may head in the future. It’s 30 questions long and should take you 10 to 15 minutes to complete, it says here.

The following survey is a follow-up to previous WebAIM Screen Reader User Surveys conducted December 2008, September 2009, December 2010, May 2012, January 2014, and July 2015. This survey is primarily intended to collect new information and track updates/trends from previous surveys. By completing this survey you will help inform development choices for those creating accessible web content and web standards. All screen reader users, even those who use screen readers only for evaluation and testing, are invited to participate.
The survey will remain open through November 1, 2017. No personally identifying information is collected. When submitted, your browser version and operating system will be collected. Results will be reported as aggregated summaries and will be published late 2017. Your participation is purely voluntary and you can choose to stop at any time. This is a research study that is of minimal risk. It has been approved by Utah State University’s Institutional Review Board (#8809). There are 30 brief questions that will take approximately 10-15 minutes. The benefit in taking this survey is that your experiences and opinions could help the field better design for accessibility. The risk includes the time you will take away from your day.

The data collected here is widely read by and very valuable to many organizations, so that risk is certainly one worth taking.

A Survey On The Use And Accessibility Of Touch-Screen Devices Among Individuals With Visual Impairment

This one could take you a few minutes, but it’s fairly interesting.

One of the angles that stood out to me was whether or not smartphones and such are replacing your need as a blind or deaf person for dedicated assistive devices. I’ve been saying for a long time that they absolutely are. Why, for example, would you pay several hundred dollars to a company like Humanware for a GPS device when for the cost of the phone you were going to buy anyway and the $30 or whatever that Blindsquare costs now you can team it up with Google Maps and have essentially the same thing? Or why bother springing for a colour identifier when you can slap TapTapSee on your phone for free? Smartphones have done a lot to remove cost as a barrier to equal access and while I imagine that scares the bejesus out of the device builders who are used to being able to charge whatever they want, it’s hard to see that as a bad thing.

The aim of this study is to assess which mainstream touch screen devices and installable apps are being used by persons who are blind, deaf-blind or who have low vision, and whether these mainstream devices are replacing the role of conventional assistive aids.

We are looking for individuals who are 18 years or older, have a visual impairment and who have been using a smartphone or a tablet computer for at least three months. Since the survey is available in English, French and German, you should understand one of these languages to participate.

Netflix And Audio Description Ease And Satisfaction Survey

I’m not a Netflix subscriber so I can’t really help out here, but if you are and can, you have until September 20th to take part in a survey on its described video offerings.

Sara Brennan, a Masters student at the University of Montreal in the Vision Sciences program, is exploring the ease and satisfaction of use of the described audio description available on Netflix. She is looking for blind individuals who are users of screen reading software to learn more about their experience with online television watching.
The survey should take no more than 10-15 minutes and is completely voluntary.
For more information, please see:
• In English, https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KL3CPXX
• In French, https://fr.surveymonkey.com/r/9JFWKFX

Wild Orchard Restaurant

Gill is back, and she comes bearing food recommendations!

If you’ve ever wanted good Portuguese food, but simply can’t afford the flight, I have the place for you. Tuesday I went to this hidden gem while on a grocery shopping trip. Amidst a sea of sandwich and coffee shops this hole-in-the-wall provides a refreshing break from the every day. The decor can best be described as rustic, kind of like what one might experience in the countryside of Portugal. That’s not the best part, Wild Orchard’s food is truly something to try. I ordered the Perry-perry chicken. and I must tell you that even with the slightly steep price tag it was well worth it, the chicken had a char broiled flavor that put me in mind of all those times my parents described and made it on the BBQ. So if your looking for a place with delicious food, charming atmosphere, and a break from the usual eats, Wild Orchard won’t disappoint.

Rama Tropical Foods

Have you ever been to Africa, or eaten at a restaurant, or at a friends house? I haven’t been to Africa, but I have been to an Ethiopian place to eat lunch, and had Nigerian food at a friend’s house. This time I decided, largely inspired by International Day at church, to try something different and cool. Rama Tropical foods is a small grocery store in midtown Hamilton specializing mainly in all things Nigerian and Ghanaian. Great customer service and ideas for great recipes are just part of its charm. You walk around the small rectangular store, and feel like you are in an actual market in a West African city. I even tried a non-alcoholic beer called Malt. This was quite refreshing, it tasted kind of like iced-tea.

Conclusion

If you get the chance, try something similar, and you might just find something you like. I recommend Rama to my Hamilton readers, and if your ever in the area stop by Wild Orchard. Wild Orchard is closed Mondays.

Guide Dog Lifestyle Survey

This survey was sent around a little bit ago. It seems GDB is looking for people to talk about the ups and downs of having a guide dog, specifically to do with pedestrian travel, ride sharing, airlines that are good and not so good, businesses that are good and not so good, that sort of thing. They want to raise awareness about what having a guide dog means, and perhaps get the media involved. If you want to add your thoughts, fill out this survey. You could win a $50 Amazon gift card.

The survey closes August 1, so you have a bit of time, but not a ton.

Sendero Wants To Know What You Would Like Out Of An Indoor Wayfinding App

It’s really nice to see GPS app makers start to focus on indoor navigation. If you’re blind I doubt I have to tell you that getting around in giant buildings can sometimes be its own special brand of pain in the ass, so being able to use the same apps that work so well outside inside is going to be pretty great as the technology improves.

Welcome to Sendero’s user survey. This study is part of a two-year project in which Sendero and partners are attempting to develop an indoor wayfinding application.  The project, entitled, an Accessible Environmental Information Application for Individuals with Visual Impairments, is funded by a federal grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), (grant number 90BISB0003-01-00).  The Project PI is Dr. Paul Ponchillia.
The survey may be completed in the comfort of your own home, at your leisure. The survey will include 27 questions about challenges, barriers, technology, access to information, and general user needs input for independently navigating indoor facilities. The survey will be used to assess two things: (1) the perceived barriers of indoor orientation and navigation through a series of questions such as: What information should it provide? What are some of the value-added features? And (2) preferred delivery of information, specifically in output of information (tactile, verbal or audio) and exact phrasing of information. How should the device provide information to assist users as they navigate independently from store to store, gate to gate, and point to point within a variety of venues?

The survey is here. Assuming you’re not currently lost in an airport, take a few minutes and help them out.

I Found A Good Yoga Class

So, I’ve mentioned a few times in passing that I’ve tried yoga and liked it. It’s been a long time since I’ve done it. I’ve wanted to, but I’m not going to lie, I was nervous about the initial introduction where the instructor potentially freaks out and says she can’t teach me and I’ll take so much help. I know that only happened once, and we ended up being pretty good together, but it’s the fear that it’s going to happen that discourages me. I don’t know what it is, but as I get older, I become less willing to put myself out there and fight for what I want. I hate that about me, but it is what it is. If I really need something, I will fight tooth and nail for it, but I don’t feel like fighting for something that’s supposed to be fun and stress-relieving.

Then, I saw a note on my awesome job’s announcements page saying that we were going to have yoga over lunch once a week in the office. I have seen it before, and thought about it, but I never wanted to give up a lunch hour. My secondary reason was I did not want to humiliate myself in front of coworkers…yeah, because that’s logical, sure.

This time, when I saw it, I gave it a little more consideration and read the description, and the description actually said they teach to all abilities, and even mentioned vision impairment. I was so moved I almost cried…and I took the plunge and signed up.

And I don’t regret it. The instructor is friggin great! She says she teaches so that people can actually follow along with their eyes closed, and it works. And if I get it wrong, she’ll just come over and sort of help me out a smidge. During the most recent session, she actually told me that I was doing super well…so you know that she’s explaining things really clearly, because if anyone is going to get confused, it’s me. Does anyone else find some yoga teachers explain poses in a really strange way? They talk about scooping and lifting your heart and opening your chest and all these really strange descriptions that don’t make sense if you’re not watching them…at least for me. This instructor is really straightforward and finds a couple of different ways to describe the same thing…until we get it.

I’m noticing a few things. I can definitely feel I’m getting older, because it’s harder to do the things that just felt good when I did it the last time. Or maybe I should say I can definitely notice I haven’t done yoga in 12 years. That’s probably more the thing. I also have to remind myself to get in the right breathing rhythm more than I did before. But it feels good to be doing it again. Maybe when this class is over, I’ll find an evening class to keep it going…or maybe check out those Yoga for the Blind mp3’s you can get. All I know is I don’t want to stop doing it just because I’m feeling kinda shy.

Shmans even seems to enjoy it…although she really hopes that my yoga mat is her bed. No. Good guess, but no. I’m happy to say that I’ve never found her compelled to get up and give me a great big smooch while I’m in a downward dog or something. I guess she was giving the instructor funny looks some of the time. I wonder what she’s thinking. Maybe it’s because, at the end of the session, the instructor goes around and puts a little dab of essential oil on the hands of people who want it. Maybe the Shmans thinks it’s some kind of treat. Weirdo! I do know that she’s extra wiggly after we’re done.

If anyone in the KW area is interested in yoga, they should really check out Active Souls. They’re pretty awesome.

A Survey On The Accessibility Of PDF Forms

I haven’t done this yet and to be honest I may not since it’s been a shockingly long time since I’ve had to fill out a PDF form or deal all that much with PDF documents in general, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of you won’t have perfectly relevant or at least recent thoughts and opinions on the state of things. So if I’m right and you do, have at it.

The purpose of this survey is to gather information from people with disabilities who are using adaptive technology to access PDF forms on various devices, platforms and environments. Although there have been murmurings for several years about the accessibility of PDF documents, there has not been a concerted gathering of what is working for those of us using adaptive technology and the frustrations that we might encounter. If you have a disability but choose not to use adaptive technology, you can also take the survey so that your voice is heard. This is your chance!

The intent of the survey author is to gather feedback to support the advancement of accessible/PDF/UA conforming PDF by document designers, PDF reader/viewer developers and the developers of adaptive technology.

Some of the questions in the survey require long answers.

Help Kate And Andrea Get A Tandem Mountain Bike

So I joined a book club. I need to write a whole post about that, but the reason I mention it is someone else in the book club wants to do a triathlon. Go her. I take my hat off to anyone who can do all of that. But, she’s been at this for a while, and has teamed up with someone else who wants to do the same. Being blind, she needs to use a tandem bike for the biking part, and for this, she needs a tandem mountain bike. As you can see from her Gofundme campaign goal, those suckers aren’t cheap. I commend her for taking it on, and am definitely rooting for her and Andrea. I get tired even thinking about doing a triathlon.

It looks like they have a good chunk of funds already. If you’d like to give to their cause, you know what to do.