New WordPress theme

Stargardts Net is now using a new WordPress theme that should work on desktop as well as mobile devices. You will notice that it is not a drastic design change but a change nonetheless. I have received notes from Google telling me that the old format did not meet up to their very strict criteria … so changes were needed. The theme does not work exactly as I would like … but, on the whole, pretty good.
Many of us using Stargardts Net probably have the disease and so have very limited vision and thus we are not so keen on using mobile devices (or if we do, have to use all the accessibility/magnification tools available). I think Google does not take into account the subject and main user group of websites but that they should be adapted for mobile devices no matter what.
Anyway, I would be very grateful for comments/feedback on the new look and feel of Stargardts Net :)

Using a white cane – 2

Here I go again, about the white cane! My brother also has Stargardts and visited in the summer. I asked him if he now used a white cane, he is nearly 64, I laughed at his answer, “I am in denial”! We have both had Stargardts since our early teens and have found ways to cope with it. However, when he gave me that answer, I asked myself whether I was in denial too … I am to a certain extent, as maybe we all are. Nobody wants to be different, unable to do certain tasks etc. and so we have our “tricks” to try and cover up that fact. I do use a white cane in places I do not know but, then again, I do not use a telescope device to look at notice boards for train times etc. I feel that there are so many people around who can see well so I can just ask to “borrow their eyes” :) I do not need to be super duper independent.
I visited my son in South Korea recently and did not sleep the night before the long journey home which I would do alone. My son could not understand my nervousness. He said “just ask” which is so true but is easier said than done. However, at the check in desk I did indeed ask for assistance and was accompanied by a sweet, trainee air stewardess who fast tracked me through security and took me right to the gate. She even came back to take me on board to help me find my sear even though I said I could manage! It was wonderful and I can highly recommend asking for assistance :) They even offered to organize assistance for me when I had to change in Helsinki … but I assured them that it was not a large airport/terminal and I would be fine.
Helsinki was a different experience. OK, I did not have to change terminals and the gate numbers are large but I still stood below them, with my white cane, peering up to see if it was indeed a 12, or was it a 13? … and not one person of the many that walked past, asked me if I needed help …. hmmmm ;(
How have you found the general willingness to help … either when asked for or not?

Dictation and text-to-speech on iPad

I really am a slow learner! Or, should I say, it takes me ages to get to know the full potential of anything. As you know, I have had my iPad for some time now but have only just discovered the Dictation capability! (See link below for finding it on your iPad) I have had so many laughs trying this out as my accent must be really strange as the text result can be pretty bizarre. But, as they say, “practice makes perfect” and I am not giving up. One of these fine days I will be able to dictate my message via Messenger on FaceBook or even dictate a whole e-mail to a friend instead of slowly typing out each word.

Another great feature is having long texts read to me instead of straining the vision I have. Has anyone else found any good dictation and/or text-to-speech apps for desktop or mobile devices?

Some good links:
How to Use Text to Speech on the iPad
How to Have iPhone or iPad Read Emails To You & Speak to Write Back
Take a Memo: Ten Tips for Successful Voice Dictation
iPad Voice Dictation: Commands List & Tips

PLEXTALK Pocket

PLEXTALK Pocket is my constant companion …. when I travel to work, when I am cooking, when I go to sleep …. because then, I am listening to my beloved books!

As with my iPad, I have not investigated all that my PLEXTALK Pocket is capable of – I am just too busy listening to my books :) The main reason for acquiring one was to replace my old Victor Reader Classic that had also been my faithful companion for many years. However, as I used it via the main electricity supply, not as easy to transport as the PLEXTALK Pocket.

Read how it could help in your daily life on Plextalk Pocket official website

Freedom Scientific’s page about Plextalk

Low vision aids

I guess it depends on what country you live in as to what vision aids are offered/available or within your price range. I have lived in England and Canada and now live in Sweden and have always been offered great vision aids that work well for me. In all of these countries, I was able to have the adaptive equipment on long loan, returning them when they were no longer of use for me, or replacing them with modern alternatives. As my vision has deteriorated through the years, I have had to try new devices. At first I could easily read text with a loupe but now I need a CCTV. No two of us have the same visual acuity so, of course, one has to try out the device(s) that could help with just your acuity/needs.

Maybe a good start would be to read the Guide to Buying Low Vision Magnifiers and What are Low Vision Optical Devices.

Loupes
A good selection of these can be seen via Magnifying Aids as well as many other options.

Other hand-held magnifiers/vision aids
One that I now have is the i-loview 7 HD which is a nifty device I can have in my pocket/handbag. The i-loview 7 HD is a high definition video magnifier that has a 7 inch screen which can be used for both close up and distance viewing too. For example, if I cannot read a street sign, I can take a photo of it and then zoom up to a size that I can read … great for anything that is hard for me to see, e.g. bus numbers and any type of signage. See a demonstration video on You Tube. I also use my iPad in the same way, take a photo and zoom in for detail … but my iPad is heavier :)

CCTV
I have used a CCTV to read text for many years. Right now, I use one from Low Vision International which I am really happy with. Check out their other great products too.

At work, I have used a desktop CCTV system that goes via my computer that divides the normal computer screen to show one half as your computer work area and one half as the document that you are viewing via the CCTV. See a list of camera units which share a computer’s monitor on via the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired website.

Another piece of adaptive equipment that I acquired recently is the VisioBook. This I can take with me to meetings/courses and read even text on the white board. However, I do find that I have to have such a high magnification that not everything fits on the reading screen therefore I have to move the whole device around to read everything …. a drawback. However, this could be a super choice for those of you who do not need a high magnification. It can even be used when seeing to apply make up!

This information just scrapes the surface of what is available for us with low vision/Stargardts. As I mentioned, after trying out various devices, I am sure you will find a device that suits just your acuity/needs :)

Windows Magnifier

I have been a dedicated user of Zoom Text for many, many years. However, my daughter (who also has Stargardts) introduced me to the built in magnifier that comes with Windows … I love it! In fact, on my new computer, I use it more than Zoom Text these days. I am sure most of you have already discovered it. With my new computer that has Windows 8, I have had problems with Zoom Text compatibility with some programs … but the Windows magnifier works with them, no problems.
Windows Magnifier

Read more about how to turn on and adjust Windows magnifier on the Microsoft website.

Be My Eyes

If you own an iPhone, this is a super new app to have. By activating Be My Eyes to launch a video chat with a sighted helper, you get help in seeing signs, expiry dates on food products, train times/platform numbers, the exit door, navigating new surroundings etc. etc. … we all know of many situations when we mutter to ourselves “if only I could borrow somebody’s eyes” as our own vision fails us. Hans Jørgen Wiberg is the founder of Be My Eyes and you can read more about it on their website.

iPad for the visually impaired – useful links

Here are some helpful links with regard to being visually impaired and using the iPhone and iPad:
35 Apps to Help You Get Started with a New iOS Device at AppleVis
Apple’s accessibility options for iPad regarding vision
Apps For Blind And Visually Impaired
ZoomReader for iPhone/iPad
iPad Accessibility Tip Sheet – District of Columbia Public Library

What “time wasters” (i.e. games!) do you have on your iPad or iPhone that work well if you have Stargardts?
These three word games remain my firm favourites and I find them easy to use:
Wordfeud
Ruzzle
Word Solitaire

eSight eyewear

I received a note recently from Shane in Ottawa, Canada about the much talked about eSight eyewear:
“My wife and sister in law both have Stargardt’s (they’re now in their 50’s).

I wonder if you’re aware of this new breakthrough high tech device for people with low vision just launched in both Canada and the U.S (in the U.S through Chicago Lighthouse)? Stargardt’s patients, in particular, benefit tremendously from the technology (including those in my family).

Here is the website.www.esighteyewear.com/

In particular, please watch the videos and read the news stories which are inspiring and have received national attention over the past few weeks and months.”

Has anyone else tried eSight eyewear?

Visual aid for cooks?

I tend not to use my recipe books now due to my inability to see the text but one can find all sorts of recipes on the web. This is a real bonus for us who are visually impaired as we can see the recipe with ease using Zoom Text or other magnification programs. I usually copy the recipe text and paste it into a Word document enlarging the text size to REALLY big :) I saw this little nifty idea on Facebook: By using an everyday skirt/pants hanger to clip the recipe into and hang on a cupboard handle, one avoids back ache if recipe is on the counter and the splatters from ingredients or messy fingers!

Anyone else care to share other tips and tricks to use when one is a visually impaired cook?