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 🙂

Cash-free society

I live in Sweden and I am getting more and more frustrated that this country is becoming a cash-free society which, for the visually impaired in particular, is a big problem. More and more cafes and restaurants do not accept cash and even “normal” shops. I have a bank card that I can “blip” for amounts up to 200 kronor, over that amount and you have to use your PIN code. The big problem is that not all card readers are the same design with differing layouts of numbers etc. Sometimes the number pads are so close too so I cannot differentiate between them. At the same time, I cannot see or read the small display so have no idea of the amount I am agreeing to pay! I have been told that one can ask for a receipt to be printed out and then you can sign that. Sure, but that receipt from the card reader is a tiny slip, I see no numbers so I still do not know the amount I am saying OK to or see the tiny line to sign my name!!! It is not only the visually impaired that finds this so challenging but other groups such as the elderly who may find it easier to have their weekly budget in cash rather than keeping a tab of expenditure via tiny card reader receipts etc.
Today I even discovered a new, very cumbersome method of payinng to go to the toilet! Fortunately, there was a lady to help guide but not the simplest of payment systems! First, “blip” your card on the display to the left of the entrance. take the paper receipt to a reader on the right side of the entrance to scan and then you can finally be let into the toilets! Just putting a coin into a slot was so much easier!!!
How is it where you live? Do you still have the choice to pay with cash or by card?

A light at the end of the tunnel

Living in the Nordic countries, the winters are long and very dark. Once the clocks change at the ed of October, I feel I enter a somewhat murky cave that slowly, slowly gets darker and darker as the weeks go by. However, around December 21 I can feel happy that slowly, slowly the days will get lighter and brighter and Spring WILL come 🙂 For us with visual problems, the darkness can be overpowering at times …. one has to find small ways to make darkness your friend. Outdoors our mobiles can lead the way and indoors we can light candles and add a softer atmosphere around us. How do YOU cope with outdoor darkess?

Assistance at Heathrow

When I last flew back from Terminal 5 at Heathrow, upon check in I asked for assistance. I was told to go to a special area to “book” for assistance. There they took my boarding pass as I was going for a farewell coffee with Karen. When I returned I sat and waited for my turn to be assisted. I was most impressed by the confident and professional manager of the area. She introduced me to the young trainee that would be escorting me through security. The manager explained to the trainee that it was important to ask a passenger who has a visual impairment what they actually needed help with and how they would like to be guided. Her approach and courtesy to me was excellent. It put my female trainee escort at ease and we could chat whilst she fast tracked me through security. I was then led to a dark waiting room that had MANY people needing assistance waiting. It all seemed a bit chaotic in there but, after a while they called out my destination (not my name) and I was then led to the gate by another escort. This took so much stress off of my usual airport experience. I will certainly ask for assistance next time too. What are YOUR experiences of airport assistance?

At the eye clinic

I have had Stargardts for many years and know what I have and how to live with it so, I feel, regular eye checks are not really necessary. However, I began to see “floaters” and a white halo in my right eye when it was dark so made an appointment to make sure all was as it should be.
I met a really pleasant eye doctor who had a look in my eyes after the drops had done their work. He said there was nothing to worry about and it was just yet one more wonderful stage in the ageing process 🙂 He wanted to hear about who did the original diagnosis etc. and we had a lovely chat. I said that the back of my eye kind of looked mouldy to me (I had seen photos after various tests, e.g. flourescein angiography) and he laughed and said that sounded negative. He said I should say that the back of my eye looks like a Jackson Pollock painting … wow! that sounded much better! After looking at some of his paintings, I agree so the reference to mould in my eyes has gone forever 🙂

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 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.

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 🙂

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 🙂