Beyond Assistive Technology — Recent Changes

Changes for assistive tech, accessibility, mobility, and a guide dog

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Here’s an update on how my world has changed recently: emphasizing the wonders of assistive technology; continuing disappointment in accessibility; an enthusiastic organization for local change; , the continuing challenge of city walk ability; and integration of a guide dog into my regime. Information professionals, please take special notice of my feedback and wishes.



  • Our computing field should be proud of its assistive technology products. People like me with vision loss are avid users of text-to-speech, screen readers, labelers, hearing aids, and recognizers. iPhones and iPads set the standard for built-in “VoiceOver” and extensible capabilities, like “Speak Screen”, that blur the senses of vision, speech, and gesturing. International community NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) frees my thoughts to flow into PC files. Assistive technology works!

  • However, too many products and web sites fail to apply accessibility principles that enable our skills to productively use that assistive technology. Shame on software developers who don’t employ even the simplest of accessibility concepts, the labeled button or image description or heading hierarchies or TAB order or described links (NOT ‘click here’ or ‘read more’). Now is a good time to check your products and web sites. Thanks for including accessibility in your processes and tests.

  • Isn’t it ironic that people with disabilities provided the market that makes features like “speak screen” usable? “Natural voices”, speak-o removal, “, and 3x speed listening, plus electronic book formats and optical character recognition advanced over decades through feedback from and the pocketbooks of print-disabled readers. You’re welcome!

  • Orientation and mobility remain challenges, as pedestrian deaths rise from poor walk ability designs and maintenance of our built environment. GPS apps may tell us our surroundings but sidewalk glitches and street crossings and never-ending construction are even more scary when you cannot read signs nor perceive obstacles. Concepts like Project Sidewalk, applied in Seattle, assess requirements for accessibility invisible to hapless walkers and poorly supported city street crews. Walk ability matters!


Sometimes life as “an independent information professional” needs a special boost to stay interactive and to continue sharing one’s knowledge.



  • My technology life is complemented by my guide dog Corky, a 2 year-old white retriever mix with a brain full of images of street curbs and evasive actions around objects and people. We trained at Guide Dogs for Blind to learn the rules and mechanics of complex buildings, sidewalks, street crossings, foliage, and decorations. Now I can attend my vision support groups after a bump-free door-to-door trail through book stacks and carts and library patrons. We’re gradually deciphering the safest walking routes that combine our orientation and mobility skills.

  • I’m looking forward to expanding our “low vision techies at your service” organization, “Catch The Vision”. We advise and support community members losing vision, often through macular degeneration. Assistive technologies, notably iPhone’s, can bring back their abilities to read and communicate, although the steep learning curve is hampered by medical interventions that lack social context. We build on the local public library accessibility initiatives and now branch into advocacy to city services and medical professionals.

  • I’m resuming my writing on computing history from the perspective of a female-led team concerned about computer science ethics and reviving valuable ideas from before the Dawn of Web Time. This story features a feisty character with low vision interacting with the world via her white cane. Book Notes and synopses are available at “A Chip On Her Shoulder” website. Soon there will be no generation that remembers life before the Internet (quoting Michael Harris) while so many stories remain to be told.

  • I benefit from peer learning classes at Yavapai College OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) . Recently I co-facilitated “2 women of imagination” (Ada Lovelace, Mary Shelly) and short stories about climate change. Retiring soon? Continue and expand your technology life through your local OLLI.


Want to catch up on assistive technology, accessibility momentum, and disability culture? Podcast “Eyes On Success” is a great source for stories of technology benefits and individual experiences.


So, kudos to the assistive technology industry and the accessibility consultants who bring those tools into our hands, albeit through a fragile rehabilitation system overwhelmed by promises of Medicare-paid medical cures. And, looking beyond assistive technology, let’s support the organizations that build our skills, bring us together online and in person, and foster the long tradition of inter-species problem solving.


Susan L. Gerhart, Ph.D.

Rebooting This Blog — — Reorganization and Future


Welcome to another decade of “As Your World Changes” about adjusting to vision loss using technology, plus a few other topics.


I started this blog in 2007 to reclaim my authoring skills, including the essential tasks of writing and editing. “Print disability” is not a handicap when spoken reading and writing are available and one has the time and stamina to build necessary skills. However, writing required a monumental amount of work, concentration, and frustration, because no technology is effectively accessible all the time.


After venting about limited local facilities to help my vision rehabilitation, I got serious and learned what I needed through podcasts and disability expos like CSUN. By 2008, I’d experimented with many assistive devices and settled on NVDA screen reader on Windows and the mobile Levelstar Icon (now defunct). Local iPhone service arrived in 2012, after a miserable experiment with an Android phone. My directory of services is called “Talking Assistive Technology”, available on this website.


After getting up to speed on assistive technology, my computing background led me to dig into the “science of accessibility” expounded in articles driven by troublesome use cases. Thrilled by the opportunity to vote for a wise man in 2008, on an accessible voting system, I wrote up my experience, later retracted. Invitations to professional venues led to several position papers.


For ten years, I’ve advocated for the local facilities I was denied, and now may be coming to town. Stay tuned!


The purpose of this ReBoot is to:


Below are posts organized by ‘Adjusting To Vision Loss’ human factors, ‘Getting Up To Speed with Assistive Technology’ to drive that adjustment, ‘Espousing On Assistive Technology and Accessibility’ to salve my professional desires, and ‘Becoming a Local Advocate for Living with Vision Loss’, plus a few posts that needed a home.


Warning: the blog is riddled with rotted links, to be fixed in time. As I now hang out with other retired active writers, I’m horrified at my wordy earlier posts. As the passion for vision-related topics waned and as my world changed, I’m now absorbed in the craft of writing.


Thanks for visiting this blog. Your comments are welcome. Let’s see where this phase takes me, my writing, and the local transformation we’re undertaking.

Learning to Live with Vision Loss

Getting Up To Speed With Assistive Technology

Expounding On Accessibility and Assistive Technology

Accessibility

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  • Web Inaccessibility: Are Muddled Use Cases the Culprit?

  • Is There A Killer App For Accessibility?

  • Hear Me Stumble: Web Accessibility Observations

  • Hey, Intuit! What You Got Against High Contrast?

  • Listen Up! Technology, Strategy, Materials for Non Visual Reading

  • Hypertext Considered Harmful! On To Structured Reading

  • Synthetic Voice Shock Reverberates Across the Divides

  • Literacy Lost And Found: Keystrokes, Pie Charts, and Einstein

  • My Accessibility Check: Let’s All Use Our Headings

  • The Techie Care-Giver Conundrum

  • My Accessibility Check: Images and Their Surrogates

  • Twitter Has Less To See and More To Hear

  • Amazon Kindle, Arizona State, What a Mess!

    Could Text-to-Speech Beat Kindle and Smart Phones?

  • Story: A Screen Reader Rescues a Legacy System

    Computing Related

    Accessible Voting And Assessing Government Accessibility

    I retract my voting zeal in deference to the Verified Voting argument requiring paper ballots. An unregulated and un-trustworthy votingregime is not worth privacy and independence of disable voters like me. Sad!

    Becoming AA Local Activist

    When I began losing vision to the point where I needed Rehabilitation, I scanned for centers of activity away from my home in Prescott AZ. State services were hard to find, not reacting on my time scale, and disconnected from the world I knew existed from pod casts and MDSupport. Eventually, I received orientation and mobility training in 2008 while I taught myself about assistive technology thanks to the CSUN Exhibit Halls, then meeting near LAX.


    Living in a “rural” “best place to retire”meant that I performed self-rehabilitation for my vision loss. Existing “blind centers” had closed and vision rehabilitation specialists moved to Tucson due to lack of referrals. Device re-sellers and low vision specialists came to town intermittently. While I was able to afford technology and to learn on my own, I’ve realized too few other area Vision Losers could cope as well. I began a concerted effort to collect links to resources and deliver demos of “Talking Assistive Technology” to an intermittent seminar on “Confident Living With Low Vision”.


    I hope to post more about the progress of a local grant at the Prescott Public Library, dubbed “You Too!”, launching in February 2018.

    Side Interests

  • Charles Bonnet Syndrome — A Public Service Announcement

    When Charles Bonet Comes Calling: A Public Service Announcement


    Here’s an experiment. Close your eyes and cover them until you see a blank screen. Your eyes may flicker a while then settle down. For some who are losing vision, sometimes this blank screen turns into a picture show. Our brains switch modes when our sight changes. We have a saying, “Charles Bonnet came calling!”


    The real Charles Bonnet was a natural scientist and philosopher in the 18th century. Bonnet studied his grandfather’s descriptions of animals and objects he “saw” despite dense cataracts. The name Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS) stuck for two centuries, joining the medical vernacular in the 1980s.


    However, few people losing vision learn about the condition, or believe what they read — until CBS visits them. It’s hard to imagine what our brains are doing unless they “show their work”. That’s the theory behind CBS. The brain’s vision processing area is busy tracking movement in the external world then informing the rest of our brains for action and storage. When fewer visual signals flow through the optic nerve, the visual activity keeps going, looking for something to work on. Other parts of the brain supply memories and patterns that cause visual fantasies. Another description is that CBS is like “phantom limb”, only more entertaining!


    A person with CBS now has a little secret about those visual illusions. Does one tell? Do you fear that you’re on the dementia or mental illness trail? For most of us, the condition is transient, internal, and pleasurable. Some suffer if their illusions interact with their external world, like seeing chorus lines of dancing figures, extra people, snakes, etc. Misdiagnosis threatens as most mental health practitioners don’t have CBS on their symptom and causes lists. Reports tell of CBS leading patients through psychiatric wards and useless prescriptions. Eye doctors have trouble finding the right time to talk about something they haven’t experienced and cannot treat. CBS is an orphaned condition, yet rational and natural for enlightened Vision Losers.


    Are you ready to hear about my internal visual world?


    One evening, relaxing on my deck, three faces swirled into my line of sight. Having read about CBS, I welcomed my visitors. But, they weren’t what I expected. Each resembled the bust of a statue, gray, molded, with vague facial features, hairlines, silent, just there. But, none was identifiable in my memory gallery of real human faces. These abstract images hung around a while, then swirled back into darkness. I felt no other sensation, knew I was watching an illusion, and soon became accustomed to their coming and going.


    A more emotional person might have dubbed them spiritual guides, reincarnations, aliens, or calls to artistic pursuits. I was fine with the simple CBS explanation, not that I told anybody outside my online vision group. Later in this first phase, the heads dissolved into masks with big eyes and huge teeth that slowly melted away. By then I was identifying persons in real life by stature, voice, and guessing rather than facial features. For me, These abstract images were simply illusions welcomed back into my inner world.


    Next came another common CBS format, something graphical. I often saw a calendar like chart with one date bold and standing out, frustratingly unreadable. Sometimes I saw a page of justified text, blurred, with a caption, also illegible. This image brought a reverie back to my early career fifteen minutes of fame for finding embarrassing errors in a text justification program published by a famous, elegant European computer scientist. Our dinner in Denmark is another story.


    The graphical images were annoying when they blocked other vision and disrupted my thoughts. Blinking and rapid horizontal eye movement usually dispelled the graphics.


    All my images until then had been colorless. Months passed,with more vision loss, then appeared, and reappeared, a single realistic picture. A bright yellow tall notepad filled the image, with two fleshy pink hands writing as if adding a note. OMG, this must mean something I’ve forgotten to complete my life!


    So, here’s my Public Service Announcement, offered to vision support groups and occasional tweets:

    “Vision loss can lead to visual illusions that are harmless, incurable,and dissipate over time. Look up the condition called Charles Bonnet Syndrome, and enjoy its visits.”

    Notes:

    Living Visually Impaired in Prescott Arizona — The 2016 Story

    Resources for ppersons losing vision in the region around Prescott AZ.

    Living Visually Impaired in Prescott Arizona — The 2016 Story


    If your vision is beyond correction by traditional medical and optical procedures, if you are anticipating this situation, or you are assisting someone like this, you need resources and training known as “Vision rehabilitation”.


    Good news! Technology and well known practices offer affordable techniques to reduce many vision limitations to inconveniences if you’re willing to tackle the learning curve. Bad news! Prescott is limited in its access to rehabilitation personnel, awareness of possibilities, and diffusion of people who can help each other.


    Below are resources collected by a Prescott resident who maintains vision loss coping skills after reaching legal blindness a decade ago. There’s plenty of room to improve the community resources. Please consider action, suggestions and collaboration for everybody losing vision in these days of abundant technology and information sharing.

    What is Vision Rehabilitation


    Useful techniques range from marking appliance settings by sticky dots through using a smart phone to read books, identify money denominations, and participate in social media. “Active Daily Living” refers to these sticky dot tricks and myriad organizational tasks formerly taken for granted. Serious safety concerns are addressed by “Orientation and Mobility Training” for climbing stairs, walking with the miraculous long white cane, and crossing streets. Gaining or maintaining computer communicationskills requires adapting to magnification or audio interaction or gesturing on a touch screen smart phone.


    Sensitive interpersonal skills come into play when a conversation partner must be identified by voice or when sighted assistance must be requested. All these are conquered by learning and practice, leaving only the misery of transportation until the day of civilized public transit or safe, affordable driverless cars.

    Where does one start recovering from vision loss?


    When the page text becomes wiggly or haze surrounds you or objects jump into your path, eye doctors may help for a while, but there’s no miracle cure for effects of aging, sunlight, and genetics. Struggling to drive, read, walk, recognize faces, or see computer screens tell you it’s time to find vision rehabilitation. Medical interventions (except for cataract removal) rarely restore vision. Don’t deny, bargain, get angry, or become dependent when it’s time to learn new ways of doing things.


    A great starting place is Macular Degeneration Support (mdsupport.org). You’ll find ongoing discussions about treatments, vitamins, iPads, good lamps, photography, travel, smart phones, and just about everything a Macular Degenerate lives with. We share secrets, such as the frequency of visual hallucinations called Charles Bonnet Syndrome. Guide books and tips abound. The community is international and multi-generational.


    Another great resource is the “Eyes on Success” weekly podcast interviews with vision loss survivors, eyesight professionals, technologists, hobbyists, sportsters, and employed workers. A friendly pair of retired scientists in Rochester NY, one blind and one sighted, have compiled a library of easy listening MP3 files and show notes.

    Where do I go for local help?


    Locally, here are resources beyond the vision medical professionals who do not customarily offer vision rehabilitation as described above. Veterans have great residential training in Tucson. Students grow through school disability services and special education programs. People seeking jobs have state Department of Economic Services special programs and assistance to work. Otherwise retired people must generally develop and implement their own rehabilitation programs.



    1. The ‘People Who Care’ nonprofit offers “Confident Living” introductions to topics in Vision Rehabilitation and Causes of Vision Loss. Limited transportation and other elder support services are also available. Six-week seminars are presented when funding is available.
    2. Georgeanne Hanna is a contact with and certified rehabilitation contractor for state services that also assist retired individuals. Her phone is 928-775-5857. Watch for Public Service Announcements. Orientation and mobility trainers can be imported at state expense upon request.
    3. The Disability Empowerment Center (formerly New Horizons Independent Living center) provides independent living services for people with various disabilities, and a transportation system based in Prescott Valley. Call and ask whether vision rehabilitation services are currently available.
    4. Yavapai Library Network sites have assistive computers for people who know how to use magnification and audio assistance. Contacts are available for the National Library service “talking books” program.
    5. YC OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) offers occasional workshops on vision and hearing loss adaptation.
    6. Prescott Fine Arts Theater honors requests for front row seating for visually impaired people and companions.
    7. Lions clubs underwrite medical and optical services for low income persons and occasional publicized events. Clarification of their services would be appreciated in the comments of this website, especially to identify matches with needs expressed here.
    8. Warning!!! Former organizations now defunct include: Northern Arizona Vision and Hearing Loss, “old blind center”, Yavapai Association for Blind and Visually Impaired (YABVI), “new blind center”. Check out carefully Daily Courier articles for dates referring to services gone from the troubled trail of Prescott vision supporters.

    In summary, People Who Care Confident Living Seminars and state DES rehabilitation coordinators are the primary currently active resources. A mobile person losing vision should also consider relocating to gain a full multi-month training program from a facility such as Southern Arizona Association for Visually Impaired.

    What help is available from government?


    • AZ Department of Economic Services supports a local vision rehabilitation professional (see above), special services for vocational training, and limited assistive technology. An online directory is available.
    • In 2014 Prescott established Disability and Accessibility coordination mandated by the 1990 American Disabilities Act (A.D.A). Call the city information line or http://www.prescott-az.gov/accessibility/. The federal ADA.gov website expands on citizen rights, organization responsibilities, and procedures for grievance.


      Many cities have a Disability Services Coordination council based in the Mayor’s office, alas not Prescott, but maybe in Prescott Valley. Audio alerts for street crossing are available only on Willow Creed Road near Embry-Riddle but not downtown. Sidewalk barriers, icy patches, overhanging branches, and unsafe construction should be reported to City Streets and Code Enforcement (they do respond). Visitors to downtown Prescott should not expect comfortable, safe walking conditions.

    • with A.D.A. enforcement, airlines, banks, and hospitals have trained personnel for providing equitable services. PHX airport provides walking guides through TSA to your gate (tell before checking in). Notable within Prescott are bank “talking tellers” for automated cash withdrawal (e.g. Chase Bank). Checkout devices at stores are now equipped for accessibility and privacy, e.g. typing in a PIN, but may not be enabled or known to checkout personnel.
    • social Security offers documents and transmittals in electronic formats on CD.

    What do blindness support organizations offer?


    The following groups are knowledgeable about all aspects of vision loss and advocate for improvements that benefit people with disabilities. Organizations that accept charity contributions are not necessarily well informed about Active Daily Living, Orientation and Mobility, assistive technology, the A.D.A, or the interface between medical and social service systems (but they should be). “Helping the visually impaired” requires education, awareness of needs, and accountability.


    • The American Council for the Blind (ACB) and National Federation of the Blind (NFB) advocate and educate on blindness issues that benefit people with all kinds of vision loss. State affiliates hold annual conferences and support local chapters (but not currently in Prescott).
    • The American Federation for the Blind (AFB) has special websites for seniors and is affiliated with the Vision Aware service. A monthly newsletter evaluates technology
    • MDSupport.org specializes in macular degeneration with myriad free downloadable guides and an ongoing support mailing list.
    • Books and newspapers are available from Bookshare.org, with a library of over 400,000 fiction/nonfiction, adult/adolescent volumes readable on the website or downloadable to book readers. The NFB NewsLine offers national newspapers and magazines in various formats and reading services, available also through BookShare. National Library (NLS) provides narrated books played on free) devices.

    How about technology?


    • PC and Mac computers have built-in magnification and voice support. For Mac, VoiceOver is a click away while for PC a free NVDA package is easily installed. Various $1000 commercial products offer versatile magnification and audio with support and training. These “screen readers” enable a synthetic voice to speak web pages, documents, and buttons or typing. The technology is great, but the learning curve is steep and trainers are scarce.
    • Elegant hand-held devices can read books from NLS or Bookshare, notably Victor Reader Stream and BookSense. Amazon Kindle and Nook devices are not usable without sighted assistance.
    • The smart phone has put mainstream devices into the hands of people without full vision but with sufficient hearing. The iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch have Voice Over built in to read buttons as fingers glide across the screen as well as text in mail and web pages. Book reader apps from Bookshare, Apple, NLS, Amazon enable downloading and listening to books, magazines, and documents.

    • Smart phone apps provide walking navigation, location awareness, remote identification of photographed objects, reading money, and other assistance. Many games and apps are fully accessible. Speech recognition increasingly replaces keyboarding. Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) are fully accessible by voice (use Triple Click Home to start). Android devices lag Apple in both capabilities and training, varying across models and manufacturers. Verizon and Apple store personnel can assist in turning on these devices but only practice will determine whether they meet vision needs.


    • The blindness communities maintain a “Internet radio network” of interviews, demonstrations, and advice on all topics related to vision loss and especially technology. Accessibleworld.org, EyesOnSuccess.net, and Hadley.edu have highly informative weekly updates. These are MP3 files for subscription and downloading as podcasts via iTunes or podcatcher apps.
    • Hand-held readers also serve as recorders for presentations, memos, and bookmarks. Some also provide radios with audible controls.
    • Apps can remotely recognize and label record contents of files and food cans. Color identifiers, GPS systems, and talking thermostats exist to overcome daily eye sight annoyances. The coming Internet of Things offers in-home devices that recognize speech, read out device information, and operate remotely. Be sure you understand the surveillance capabilities of such devices as well as how failures can lock you out or inadvertently activate other devices.

    • Twitter social media is a river of news about technology and blindness under the keyword #accessibility and people like slger123 and all major vision-related organizations and federal agencies.

    See the “Talking Assistive Technology” page on this website for links to products.

    Where can I get more information on vision rehabilitation in the Prescott region?


    This web page is your current best bet for information. Its author is a legally blind technologist. She survived the sparse services available in Prescott by seeking resources for self-rehabilitation. She has attended national and state assistive technology exhibitions and visited vision rehabilitation centers in Tucson and San Diego. She’s a user of assistive technologies and a constant tracker of external services. Ask her anything about vision rehabilitation and she’ll find an answer.


    Please add comments with additional services, corrections, or opinions. Anyone interested in taking over this web page and keeping it up to date is welcome to the information compiled so far.


    Isn’t it time Prescott had full service vision rehabilitation for retired people with vision loss? Following the MDSupport motto “No one should leave an eye doctor’s office thinking their situation is hopeless”, vision loss is a journey of learning and adaptation and challenges that build on established rehabilitation practices and abundant technologies. Why can’t Central Yavapai have a branch of such a facility? Advocacy needed!!!

    Send corrections and additions to slger123@gmail.com or leave a message 928.445.6960.


    Links to Resources

    Other Posts in “As Your World Changes”

    This blog started as a way to reclaim writing skills. These earlier posts convey the spirit of a changing world as vision degrades and skills increase.

    Warnings About Web Misinformation


    • Web searches in Google, DuckDuckGo, Bing often link to misleading or outdated web pages. Sometimes links go to local white/yellow page directories driven by advertising.

    • The following organizations are defunct: Northern Arizona Vision and Hearing Loss Center; Yavapai Blind Center; YABVI Blind Center;; and related terms. There is no blind center on Washington Street, vacated in 2007. The phone number 928-778-0055 is disconnected. If you receive a brochure or read an article about this location, facility, or phone number, please correct the mis-informant. YABVI (Yavapai Association for Blind and Visually Impaired) appears to be a restructuring of a previous organization, now managed funds by a group of eye doctors.

    • No attempt is made here to assure accessibility of web sites beyond ascertaining content using Firefox with the NVDA screen reader. Some resources use PDF documents difficult to use with a screen reader.

    • Resources here focus on “vision rehabilitation” rather than medical treatments typically billed to Medicare or insurance. Vision Rehabilitation includes: Orientation and Mobility Training, walking with a long white cane and safely crossing streets; Active Daily Living, tricks and techniques for optimizing remaining vision in everyday life; reading newspapers and books; and using technology by magnification or voice interaction.

    National Level Organizations

    Vision Information and Support

    Federal Government

    Under the Americans with Disabilities act we can claim equal access to most resources. However, “civil rights are not self-enforcing”. The following websites address issues of equality and offer many paths to further public information.

    1. Disability.gov, connecting the disability community with information and opportunities drill down by state and topic, e.g. to Arizona and Transportation.
    2. White House Disabilities Coordination including monthly conference calls
    3. Federal Elections Help Americans Vote Act implemented by Yavapai County, supporting private and independent voting on site
    4. FCC 21st Century Communication Act covers cell phones,audio and video descriptions, and PLAN, the Personalized network for public safety alerts
    5. ADA.gov, the law, policies, enforcement’s.Dept of Justice and YRMC settlement on training citizen complaint invokes A.D.A. to change procedures and train staff

    State Level Organizations

    Government

    1. Directory of services from Department of Economic Security

    2. AZ Governor Council on Blind and Visually Impaired

    3. SunSounds Reading Services
    4. Assistive Tech Training Center (Cottonwood)
    5. National Library Service Talking Book Arizona contact

    Resource Centers

    1. SAAVI (Southern Arizona Association for Visually Impaired (Tucson), website describes full service vision rehabilitation
      Arizona Center for Visually Impaired (Phoenix)
    2. (PDF) ViewFinders Low Vision Resource Directory (PDF)

    3. VRATE, Vision Reabilitation and Asstive Technology Expo is held annually in Phoenix, free, excellent coverage of state-wide capabilities

    4. Arizona Assistive Technology Exchange

    Chapters of national organizations

    1. AZ Council for Blind azcb.org
    2. NFB (National Federation for the Blind) Arizona Resources

    Yavapai County and Prescott Area

    Government

    1. State Department of Economic Security Rehabilitation sustains local vision rehabilitation and coordinates orientation and mobility training.
    2. Prescott Public Library may have screen readers on notebooks and vision aware Computer
      Mentors. Also provides membership with National Library Service.

    3. City of Prescott Accessibility and disability coordination (A.D.A) Meeting the A.AD.A law!!!

    Nonprofit and other services

    1. Georgeanne Hanna Certified Vision Therapist and Certified Low Vision Therapist, georgeannehanna@gmail.com, phone 928.775.5857. Contact directly to arrange state rehabilitation services.

    2. Disability Empowerment (formerly New Horizons Independent Living) Center (Prescott Valley)
    3. “People Who Care Confident Living Seminar (

    Technology Assistance


    1. Verizon can turn on iPhone VoiceOver, Triple-click-home
    2. Best Buy sells Apple products with good accessibility (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) and Android tablets with unpredictable accessibility
    3. Chase (and maybe other) banks have “talking ATM” machines that read menus into earphones to dispense cash and perform other services.
    4. Yavapai College Osher Lifelong Learning Institute offers a track of technology courses.

    5. Prescott MAC and PC clubs have held programs on assistive technology


    Revised July 25 2016, slger123@gmail.com
    “As Your world Changes” article on “Living Visually Impaired in Prescott AZ” — 2016 http://AsYourWorldChanges.Wordpress.com

    Sandwich Board Signs Are Dangerous!

    The Costs of Sandwich Board Advertising Signs


    1. Are wooden sandwich board signs dangerous? Are they safe when placed according to city code?
    2. Who pays if there’s an accident between a pedestrian and a sign? How much liability insurance is required of sign owners? How much liability insurance is apportioned to pedestrian accidents within the city budget?
    3. What is the cost/benefit to merchants? citizens? tourists?
      What is the risk/benefit to merchants? citizens? tourists?


    Submit your answers below:

    Accident report: Sandwich Board Sign Injures Pedestrians on Downtown Prescott Street, October 14 2016

    Deceased was walking along Whiskey Way on a nominal weather day using her mobility cane. A careless runner pushed through a crowd of children leaving their school. Several people bumped into each other, with a few falling down.


    Deceased attempted to step aside while untangling her cane from a sandwich board advertising sign. Such open wooden frame barriers are positioned approximately every 10 feet. Other pedestrians were also injured as signs broke apart or flattened on the sidewalk. A cascade of signs and bodies caused many additional falls.


    Deceased struck her head on a sharp sign edge and a second time as she fell onto the street, unconscious.


    Since the signs that caused injuries were legal under the city’s ordinance, no citations were issued. Liability remains to be determined. Lawsuits are expected against the city, merchants, and sign distributors. The careless runner has not been located, probably ducking into a local bar after the chaos, perhaps not even realizing its cause.


    Let’s prevent this accident from happening! Any pedestrian is vulnerable to unsafe signage, anywhere. And, about those saw horses and barriers that warn of unsafe pavement, they’re dangerous, too! Tell Prescott City Council to ban advertising sidewalk signs and fix sidewalks that need fixing.


    Living Visually Impaired in Prescott Arizona — The 2013 Story


    !!!
    Update!


    !!! See the 2016 Update above!!!


    Living Visually Impaired in Prescott Arizona — The Story

    If your vision is beyond correction by traditional medical and optical procedures, if you are anticipating this situation, or you are assisting someone like this, you need resources and training known as “Vision rehabilitation”. Good news! Technology and well known practices offer great techniques to reduce many vision limitations to inconveniences if you’re willing to tackle the learning curve. Bad news! Prescott is limited in its access to rehabilitation personnel, awareness of possibilities, and diffusion of people who can help each other.


    Below are resources collected by a person who maintains independence and vision loss coping skills after reaching legal blindness 8 years ago. With plenty of room to improve the community resources, please consider action, suggestions and collaboration possibilities for everybody losing vision in these days of abundance of technology and information sharing.

    What is Vision Rehabilitation

    Useful techniques range from marking appliance settings by sticky dots through using a smart phone to read books, identify money denominations, and manage phone contacts. “Active Daily Living” refers to these sticky dot tricks and myriad organizational tasks formerly taken for granted. Serious safety concerns are addressed as “Orientation and Mobility Training” for climbing stairs, walking with the miraculous long white cane, and crossing streets. Gaining or maintaining computer skills requires adapting to magnification or audio interaction or the adventure of mastering assistive apps on a touch screen smart phone. New interpersonal skills come into play when a conversation partner must be identified by voice or sighted assistance must be requested. All these are conquered by learning and practice, leaving only the misery of transportation until the day of civilized public transit or affordable driverless cars.

    Where does one start?

    When the page text becomes wiggly or haze surrounds you or objects jump into your path, eye doctors may help for a while, but normal aging effects and eventual vision rehabilitation should not be denied. A great starting place is MDSupport.org with ongoing discussions of treatments, vitamins, iPads, good lamps, photography, travel, comfort, and just about everything a Macular Degenerate lives with. Care-givers and eye professionals are welcome and guide books and tips abound. This member since 1998 checks in daily on a mailing list and refers everybody in low vision land to this community.

    Locally, here are resources beyond the vision medical professionals who do not customarily offer vision rehabilitation as described above. Veterans have great residential training in Tucson. Students grow through school disability services and special education programs. People seeking jobs have state Department of Economic Services special programs and assistance to work. Otherwise retired people must generally develop and implement their own rehabilitation programs.


    • People Who Care offers seminars introductions to topics in Vision Rehabilitation and Causes of Vision Loss. Limited transportation and other elder support services are also available.
    • Georgeanne Hanna is a contact with and certified rehabilitation contractor for state services that also assist retired individuals. Her phone is 928-775-5857. Watch for Public Service Announcements. Orientation and mobility trainers can be imported at state expense upon request.
    • Yavapai Guidance Clinic has offered disability emotional support groups.
    • New Horizons Independent Living center provides a broad spectrum of independent living services and a transportation system based in Prescott Valley.
    • Yavapai Library Network sites may have assistive computers and computer mentor training. Contacts are available for the National Library service “talking books” program.
    • YC OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) offers occasional workshops on vision and hearing loss adaptation. Summer 2013 includes “Using Things That Talk” demonstrations and a documentary movie.
    • Prescott Fine Arts Theater honors requests for front row seating for visually impaired people and companions.
    • Lions clubs underwrite medical and optical services for low income persons and occasional publicity events. Some localities may provide grants for assistive technology and vision rehabilitation trainers.
    • Former organizations now defunct include: Northern Arizona Vision and Hearing Loss, “old blind center”, Yavapai Association for Blind and Visually Impaired (YABVI), “new blind center”. Check out carefully Daily Courier articles for dates referring to any possibly defunct vision organization.

    In summary, People Who Care Confident Living Seminars and state DES rehabilitation coordinators are the primary currently active resources. A mobile person losing vision should also consider relocating to gain a full multi-month training program from a facility such as Southern Arizona Association for Visually Impaired, see saavi.us.

    What help is available from government?


    • AZ Department of Economic Services supports a local vision rehabilitation professional (see above) special services for vocational training, and limited assistive technology. An online directory is available.
    • Many cities have a Disability Services Coordination council based in the Mayor’s office. Is there a Prescott contact?
    • The American Disability Act (A.D.A.) has been in law over 20 years, although “civil rights laws are not self-enforcing”. Websites disability.gov and Disability Scoop track federal government A.D.A. developments.
    • with A.D.A. enforcement, airlines, banks, and hospitals have trained personnel for providing equitable services. Notable within Prescott are bank “talking tellers” for automated cash withdrawal (e.g. Chase Bank).
    • social Security offers documents and transmittals in electronic formats on CD.

    What do blindness support organizations offer?


    • The American Council for the Blind (ACB) and National Federation of the Blind (NFB) advocate and educate on blindness issues that benefit people with all kinds of vision loss. State affiliates hold annual conferences and support local chapters (but not currently in Prescott).
    • The American Federation for the Blind (AFB) has special websites for seniors and is affiliated with the Vision Aware service. A monthly newsletter evaluates technology
    • MDSupport.org specializes in macular degeneration with myriad free downloadable guides and an ongoing support mailing list.
    • Books and newspapers are available from Bookshare.org, with a library of 200,000 fiction/nonfiction, adult/adolescent volumes readable on the website or downloadable to book readers. The NFB NewsLine offers national newspapers and magazines in various formats and reading services. National Library (NLS) provides narrated books played on special readers (free) or mobile devices.

    How about technology?


    • PC and Mac computers have built-in magnification and voice support. For Mac, VoiceOver is a click away while for PC a free NVDA package is easily installed. Various $1000 commercial products offer versatile magnification and audio with support and training. These “screen readers” enable a synthetic voice to speak web pages, documents, and buttons or typing. The technology is great, but the learning curve is steep and trainers are scarce.
    • Elegant hand-held devices can read books from NLS or Bookshare, notably Victor Reader Stream and BookSense. Amazon Kindle and Nook devices are regrettably not usable without sighted assistance.
    • The smart phone has put mainstream devices into the hands of people without full vision but with sufficient hearing. The iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch have Voice Over built in to read buttons as fingers glide across the screen as well as text in mail and web pages. Book reader apps from Bookshare, Nook, and Amazon enable downloading and listening to books, magazines, and documents. Special apps provide walking navigation, location awareness, remote identification of photographed objects, reading money, and other assistive tools. Many games and apps are fully accessible and speech recognition increasingly replaces keyboarding. Alas, the Android family of smart phones lags Apple devices, but does provide many limited capabilities. Verizon offices can set up these products but trainers and patience are required for full mastery.
    • The blindness communities maintain a “Internet radio network” of interviews, demonstrations, and advice on all topics related to vision loss and especially technology. The iBlinkRadio app on iPhone and Android is a great portal. Accessibleworld.org, EyesOnSuccess.net, and Hadley.edu have highly informative weekly updates. These are MP3 files for subscription and downloading as podcasts via iTunes or podcatcher apps.
    • Hand-held readers also serve as recorders for presentations, memos, and bookmarks. Some also provide radios with audible controls.
    • Audio labelsing devices provide means for recording contents of files and food cans. Color identifiers, GPS systems, and thermostats exist to overcome daily eye sight annoyances.

    • Twitter social media is a river of news about technology and blindness under the keyword #accessibility and people like slger123 and all major vision-related organizations and federal agencies.

    Where can I get more information on vision rehabilitation in the Prescott region?

    Further links and updates from this handout are online at https://asyourworldchanges.wordpress.com or search for “visually impaired Prescott Arizona”. Essays depict the vision self-rehabilitation and personal lessons learned from the world beyond Prescott substantiating the selected resources here, notably MDSupport, Bookshare, and white cane travel.


    Isn’t it time Prescott had full service vision rehabilitation for retired people with vision loss? For an example, see saavi.us, the Southern Arizona Association for Visually Impaired. Following the MDSupport motto “No one should leave an eye doctor’s office thinking their situation is hopeless”, vision loss is a journey of learning and adaptation and challenges that build on established rehabilitation practices and abundant technology if only the community realizes these potentials.


    By mail and email, we are attempting to provide a more thorough, accurate, and timely resource page. Please send corrections and additions to slger123 @gmail.com or leave a message 928.445.6960.


    !!!
    Update!


    !!! See the 2016 Update above!!!


    Links and Other Posts

    See the accompanying Links for Living Visually Impaired in Prescott.


    Relevant posts:


    !!!
    See the update “Living Visually Impaired In Prescott AZ — the 2016 Story”


    Why is accessibility so hard? Glad you asked!

    Dear President of ACM Vint Cerf:


    In your article “Why is Accessibility so hard?” , you invited comments and received many valuable references and opinions from other non-members of ACM. However, anonymous comments like mine seem not to be appearing since submitted for review after November 8. I worked hard on this little piece and have some constructive suggestions along the lines of an important ACM computing themes, namely “computational thinking”. As a former member of ACM, thoroughly disgusted by the un usability of the ACM Digital Library and haphazard HTMl of acm.org, I was hoping to find a genuine thread of change. So, not knowing if my submitted comment below is stifled or just dropped off your radar of comment reviewing, here’s my advice anyway.

    Analyzing the computing field accessibility deficit

    Thanks for asking. My “As Your World Changes” blog has myriad suggestions for overdue change to accessibility practices within computing:

    My favorite resources — great reading

    As a late life vision loser,and ex-ACM member, I hope the previously commented resources expand your frames of reference. Please add my favorites:(1 Wendy Chisholm and Matt May, “Universal Design for Web Applications” book; (2) WebAim.org screen reader user survey, WAVE accessibility checker, and pages of excellent practical advice; (3) the “accessibility virtual water cooler” linked by #a11y and #accessibility on Twitter; (4) the iBlinkRadio Android and IOS app portal to podcast and communities for visually impaired tech users; (5) a personable informative Rochester-based Viewpoints radio/podcast on products and daily living tips for vision loss. at http://viewpointsplus.net

    Quintessential challenges: computational thinking and omitted requirement accelerating costs

    Why do some think accessibility is hard? The good news is that we have at hand the quintessential “computational thinking” situation and mental tools for tackling much of accessibility. The bad news is another quintessential situation: the software economics of increasing cost of re mediating a missing requirement. Furthermore, attitudes are exacerbated by ignoring maturing web standards and disengagement from high performing professionals with disabilities in the assistive technology industry. ACM has also fostered an image of social exclusiveness through its misguided touting of the wonders of the “NO BLIND ALLOWED” symbol CAPTCHA (as if these magically warded off intruders other than us). How much of the difficulty is social rather than technological?

    Remediation opportunity: learn by fixing your own website

    Luckily the remediation opportunities for learning through and fixing accessibility flaws are readily available. Start with typing your institution, personal, or favorite web page into http://wave.webaim.org. This free and instantly usable analyzer will highlight the semantic structure of the page meaningful to screen reader users like me. It’s highly likely you’ll also expose accessibility deviations from standards. Common zits are: unlabeled form elements leaving me wondering what to enter in the edit box; non informative link like “click here” that require reading the context; missing or mis-ordered headings that obscure the page outline, forcing me into tabbing among HTML elements linearly without a comprehensive outline for discovery and navigation; or graphics without descriptions as to purpose and content. Does your experimental analysis make you wonder why web developers didn’t follow even these simple rules of accessibility? If you’re accountable for the page, like this very one from acm, then how should you change your process, contractors, or attitudes if better accessibility is really a goal?

    Remediation Opportunity: Establish CSEdWeek challenges

    Here’s another experiment I’ve performed myself (see blog posts). Computer Science Education Week is a big publicity deal for prestige and recruitment into a presumably non-discriminatory profession. Are there at least minimal standards for accessibility of partner web sites? Is the language inclusive, at least recognizing that pedagogical tools like Alice are problematic and that CAPTCHAs on the contact page are offensive? A little bit of shame and accountability can be shared by all if we no longer act like accessibility is always hard but rather start fixing simple problems, learning along the way.

    Remediation Opportunity: Listen to people who daily conquer accessibility challenges

    One more opportunity is to cross the disability social engagement boundary and actually sit down with somebody who uses the wondrous technology available. You can familiarize yourself for freeze by installing the world class NVDA Windows screen reader, turning on VoiceOver on a Mac or IOS device (triple click home). Here’s a “computational thinking” experiment: can you gain the same information sighted or blind folded? Why not? what do you have to learn to communicate, hold in memory, sequence differently, or give up on? How do you feel when offered an unlabeled button? Where do you go to learn new Techniques and good practices (hint: applevis.com and iBlinkRadio app)? Really, visually impaired folks can talk, explain, and share their joy using technology as well as constructive frustrations. Just ask!.

    The Remaining Challenge after Remediation: absorbing complex information

    Ok,there is one class of challenging problem beyond myriad simple accessibility rules and negligent process instances mentioned. Complex data structures like tables are memory taxing without vision and graphs and charts and animations require alternative sensory representations. Again, this is computational thinking as in concrete or multiple representations of the underlying information and semantics. Why doesn’t ACM offer a prize for advances here, which also might help everybody better consume visual information?

    Take heart, all you future vision losers, as resources abound

    Finally, to the many of you who will be losing vision in late career or retirement? Take heart, there’s never been a better time! You must locate whatever vision rehabilitation services are available locally, like Lighthouse or Independent Living but don’t let the strange web of state and charity “helpers” limit you. Macular degenerates can find a veritable wikipedia of practical and emotional sustenance at http://mdsupport.org. The podcasted media of Main Menu ACBRadio, Seratech perspectives (iBlinkRadio), and the TechDoctor can ease you into product assessment and sharing the joys of now abundant mainstream products. An iPod Touch is a great “gateway drug” into this world if you haven’t already been bitten by the Apple bug. Becoming print disabled isn’t all bad, because you are now eligible for near free daily newspapers and libraries of thousands of easily downloadable books for synthetic speech reading on devices and apps far better than sighted users buy. Yes, there’s a monster learning curve, but we technologists are well positioned for this one more life adjustment. If we can now get our profession into the solution side rather than producing more generations of uneducated students accepting such poor role models as acm.org, then we might even be able to contribute better our valuable experience to a professional society that understands disabilities as computational thinking differences.

    summary from my decade of adjustment to vision loss using technology with class:

    get cracking on learning about accessibility by fixing simple, obstructive, instructive problems. Listen to accessibility professionals and high performing persons with disabilities who offer their spirited advice through social media. Only then will the goals of ACM style research be brought to fruition and we will identify the intrinsic difficulty of accessibility.

    Yours, in respect and hope for change, finally

    Susan L. Gerhart, retired visionary computer scientist and myopic macular degenerate
    slger123@gmail.com
    blog on adjusting to vision loss: https://asyourworldchanges.wordpress.com