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 🙂

Covid constraints

This sure has been a testing time for us all with restrictions and worry. It is hard to take in that over 4,500,000 have lost their lives and others have been left with longstanding issues due to their bout of Covid. Who knows when it will end? I have kept close to home but have walked hundreds of kilometers on my daily long walks listening to books that help me escape from this reality. I hope you have all found ways to cope. Keep well and safe.

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