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 JΓΈrgen 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 πŸ™‚ 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?

Paying problems

I have just read an article in the national Swedish newspaper that there is going to be fewer and fewer bank machines/ATMs here where one can get cash from one’s bank account. This is due to the fact that Sweden lies ahead of many other countries when it comes to paying by card. As a visually impaired person, this fills me with alarm! I tend to use cash a lot as I find the bank/credit card readers in stores, restaurants etc. too intimidating and hard to use! First, there are so many card reader models and just to find the slot to insert one’s card can be hard! I then try to focus on the number pad to insert my PIN number but, again, models differ in the number of rows of buttons so I am never quite sure if I am hitting the right combination. Text and/or figures obviously then appear in the tiny, little card reader window and then one is expected to press the OK button … but what am I saying OK to?! I cannot see a thing in that little window! So, I dare to press the OK button (once I have found it) and, sometimes, given a small receipt to sign under … again, for me, hard to read so not sure what amount I am signing for let alone find the line where I am supposed to sign! I do not wear glasses and, most people tell me, do not look like I am visually impaired so, on the few occasions when I have asked for assistance or explained about my visual impairment, I notice a sigh of annoyance, a look of disbelief and rarely, service with a smile.

On the other hand, bank machines/ATMs in Sweden (and in other countries although I, once again, tend to take cash with me when going abroad!) are larger in every sense of the word …. larger keypad, larger text on screen, lights to indicate where to insert card, where receipt will appear and where money will emerge! There is also a place where you can insert a set of headphones (if you can find it and just happen to have them with you!) if you want help via verbal prompts. Not all of us who are visually impaired can read braille but I am sure it is welcome by those you can! I often wonder what kind of test group they had for advice when designing new bank machines?

I will now recall a sad little story (for me!): A new model of bank machine was introduced in Sweden in the past year. I had never used it before and not been given a “guided tour” by my kids but decided to be brave and entered my PIN code as usual after choosing that I wanted to withdraw cash. However, the card was ejected from the machine … but no cash. Silly me, I thought, I had somehow accidentally pressed the cancel button. I still had some cash in my wallet so walked away, no other people stodd in the queue. What I did not realise was that the new machines were MUCH slower than the old ones and, in fact, my money had come out after I had left! A nice “bonus” for the person using the bank machine after me πŸ™

That ends my grouch for today!

Concentrating on what I CAN do

As I have a disability, it is all too easy for me to wallow in self pity and dwell on what I CANNOT do due to the disability with regards to sporting activities … or, that I think I cannot do. I can get so much more out of life by just trying but also concentrating on what I CAN do instead. We are all aware of our limitations due to Stargardts but, as my dear Mum used to say to me “Your eyes do not work that well but everything else does and you have a voice”! In other words, ask if you need help. It is wrong to totally rule out things that we think we CANNOT do. With a little bit of help from our friends, maybe we can! It does not mean that we cannot TRY things that maybe are out of our comfort zone or beyond our physical limitations … give it a go! Some years ago I was asked if I wanted to be in a darts match … ha!ha! I thought but went for it anyway. I could just about see the actual dart board but could not see the numbers or line up and aim at the desired number etc but I threw the dart and just hoped it landed on the board .. and I had fun! The others told me my score and gave me instructions as to the right or left if I wanted a particular score but the main thing was that I gave it a try. There is no way we can get the same challenge and have the same ambition level as the normally sighted, but we can have fun nevertheless πŸ™‚

The same applied to when I played boule. A friend stood with his toe near the little jack when I should throw my boule …. again, I had fun just trying.

I love to run. Jogging is something that you do not need great vision for. OK, so I choose where to run and avoid the paths in woods with many small roots that can bite feet or trip up. I invested in good running shoes as I tend to run on roads that obviously have a flatter, but harder, surface. It is also important to wear a reflex vest so one can be seen, I never run alone when it is getting dark. When a friend suggested runnning in a 10 km “fun run” I thought it would be too hard … I may get lost! … but, never fear, always MASSES that run in fun runs and I just play “follow the leader” πŸ™‚ But, if one does not feel comfortable running alone, find a running buddy.

I have never tried golf myself but found Lefty’s account truly inspiring (he has Stargardt’s) … read it yourself.

So, what sporting activities have YOU tried that you thought would be hard because of your Stargardt’s? Share with us πŸ™‚

Eye contact and facial expression

“Across the crowded room, his dark, sultry eyes gazed into her smiling, blue eyes and showed that he was indeed interested in her. She in turn, fluttered her lashes to show that the feeling was mutual …” – I just wonder how that would be in Real Life?! πŸ™‚ With the inability to have eye contact with others (unless they are standing/sitting very close) due to Stargardt’s from about the age of 14, one can feel cut off and a bit of a social outcast when totally missing out on this type of contact. OK, so not only the girl/boy meeting scenario but the subtle signs/messages that can be shown via eye contact and facial expression are lost on me. When, across the room, they raise their eyebrows in shock or frown in disbelief, when they wink in agreement to something I have said, when they indicate a direction by the shifting of their eyes to the right or left, when they have a poker face but smile with their eyes … all of these are lost on me.

Across the street, someone you have met a couple of times but have not told that you have a visual impairment, smiles broadly and they are met by your blank expression …. what do they think? Will they smile next time they see you? … I do not think so! πŸ™ Friends who can wear glasses but hate wearing them for one reason or another, laughingly say they have that problem too … but they CAN put their glasses on …. if only I could!

How have you coped with the inability to have eye contact? Any smart tricks/tips?

Using a white cane

I am just wondering how many of us who have Stargardt’s actually use a white cane? I have talked about using one in my post about airports but thought I would post on the subject once again.

Hospitals are another place where I use my white cane a lot. However, in one of the comments to a post, it was mentioned that the medical profession is most unsympathetic when it comes to disabilities … and I concur! Hospitals tend to be real rabbit warrens with a maze of corridors, small room numbers, name plates etc. placed high up and out of visual reach of (probably) many visually impaired. I have had a number of medical appointments in the past couple of months which have involved visiting various departments in local hospitals. There is usually an information desk placed near the main entrance when one can get directions … if one can just remember them all! Once you get to the relevant department and find the reception desk to check in and pay, a number needs to be taken but a) the number on the slip is usually very small and b) the number on the digital monitor high up is neigh-on impossible to read/decipher! Some very kind nurses do shout out the next number which is of great help … IF you have been able to see that little number on the ticket! If you are first called up by a nurse, they can often offer great assistance and even offer to guide you by your elbow or politely ask how much you can see. However doctors on the whole simply expect you to folow their (usually fast) pace back to their office. They invariably point out results/graphs etc. on their computer screen or on a printed paper … so one quickly has to point out that one is unable to see such items. When it is time to leave and you ask politely for them to show you the way out (they know their maze of corridors very well, first time for me), they invariably wave a hand in the general direction of the door and corridor!

Another instance when I find the white cane does help is anywhere a queue number ticket is necessary – and boy! there are a lot of those places today – banks, drug stores, train ticket offices, liquor stores and many other shops. In the “olden days” we just formed an orderly queue and waited patiently in line! Nowadays, after having determined which of the buttons I should press for the ticket for the relevent service/queue, I usually ask a nearby person what is the number on my ticket and what number are we on now. I then carefully count the “buzzes” as a new queue number appears on the digital monitor. Of course, it is also impossible to see the number of the desk/counter one should go to in order to get service! Thankfully I usually get great help from fellow queuers who tell me as my number approaches and, finally, show me which desk/counter to go to.

I cannot say that I need to use my white cane too much in order to avoid obstacles along the way .. my field of vision is pretty good so I am able to see such. However, a white cane helps me a great deal when going DOWN stairs/steps … people then accept that I will go slower as stairs can be a nightmare if edges are badly marked. Even though I know each step is of a uniform size, I still falter a lot.

I found an interesting article on VisionAware that raises some good points, What Will People Think About Me if I Use a White Cane?. I think it is probably true what is said here about thinking that everyone stares at you just because you are using a white cane. I do feel very self-conscious when I use a white cane but, hey, anything to make Life a little easier (and safer), right?! πŸ™‚