I saw the following on Twitter:

"Blind Lives Matter - When you are not sure whether or not to hold out your hand for a handshake when greeting somebody.
#BlindLivesMatter"

First, I despise that hashtag, and I just want to get that off my chest. That is not what prompted me to write about this.

Why does a blind person need to think about if someone wants to shake his/her hand or not? Why doesn't she just hold out her hand automatically? It is basic courtesy, something that most parents teach their children, sighted or not.

Of course, the sighted person can tell if someone wants to shake their hand or not. Body language is crucial. If they have stuff in their arms, of course they won't want to shake. The person may not want to bother, and may have a look that says, "Don't bother."

Naturally, a blind person might not be able to pick up on that, unless they were with a sighted person. But if not, what is the harm of holding out a hand to shake? More often than not, the person will say, "My arms are full. I can't shake." Or even say, (yes, there are some people) "I don't want to shake hands."

On my first day of Orientation, I did a lot of handshaking as I met many different people. When I started at my work site, some wanted to shake hands, others not. Now I have a feel for who prefers handshakes and who does not.

There is no harm in reaching out. I feel it's better to err on the side of courteousness. For one thing, it makes me feel, and probably look, more professional and well-mannered. This can't hurt whether at a job or when meeting new people to hang out.

CatCalling

Nov. 19th, 2014 10:25 am
Here's another short story that Eric wrote. This is not aimed at any of my friends/followers. You can read it at:

http://singledraft.livejournal.com/5740.html

or:

http://singledraft.dreamwidth.org/5192.html
Here is a fun story that Eric wrote last night. I just cannot stop giggling!

You can read it at, either:

http://singledraft.dreamwidth.org/4582.html

or:

http://singledraft.livejournal.com/5090.html

Enjoy! I still am. :)

If there is enough interest, I will generate an audio file of this, too. Just leave comments on whichever site you are reading this from.
This year, I got inspired. I decided to try Nanowrimo (www.nanowrimo.org) and I am having fun.

When Nanowrimo is done, I'll share the novel if asked. It'll be 50k words of story, anyway. I am having fun with this premise. I have decided to make the blind of the world the bad guys for this one, and I am loving it! The trick is getting it all down in a way that makes sense.

It occurred to me to try this because, well, we don't see too many stories where you have blind guys as villains. I know J.C. Hutchins did one, but I wanted to do something more. They aren't murderers--not yet, anyway--but they have the world, or at least the country--in an iron grip. My main character is not even sure if she is normal, because being able to see is not normal, anymore. They take care of that defect at birth. Or, they are supposed to.

Eric decided to do a variant that he's done for the past couple of years--he's writing one short story or vignette a day in November. You can check them out at

http://singledraft.dreamwidth.org

or

http://singledraft.livejournal.com
I read the following a little while ago and felt that I should write down my thoughts.

Here is Jonathan Mosen's post about Apple and iOS accessibility.

The NFB has a resolution out there specifically asking Apple to mandate that all apps be accessible for VoiceOver users. OK, so just how does Apple do that? Who, exactly, determines what apps need to be accessible and which ones do not? Which apps is it practical to make accessible, anyway? Some that you might not think of should be, like NetFlix and Facebook (which keeps getting broken with every update or two), and some, well, it's just not practical. How would you make Angry Birds accessible and playable? (Admittedly, I'd love to play it, but I try to be realistic.) Tetris? All those interesting video games that I hear about and sound fun? How do you code accessibility in for fast-moving graphics and story lines?

Then there are the apps that are visual, but I think could be made accessible, like fun dice games that have pictures instead of numbers on the dice. (Zombie Dice!) I'm fairly sure there are more apps like that, but they don't come to mind right away.

We won't even get into the newspaper apps that I routinely avoid these days. No, we should. Those ought to be useable by blind and visually impaired users, and not all of them are. NFB Newsline is great, and I'm glad I have it, but I'd be even happier if I was able to get apps for newspapers that I enjoy and browse through those each day. Or maybe I could get a Kindle subscription sometime, but apps are overall cheaper.

Sometimes you have to do extra coding to make an app accessible for blind/visually impaired players. Take Freeq coded and sold by Psychic Bunny. Yes, I promise the company is really called that.. They had to add in some extra stuff--and I do not fully understand what they did or how, so don't ask. Anyhow, they had to basically code in extra commands so blind players can play the game by tilting their device around and listening to sounds until they "lock on" to a call. Then they have to tap certain choices that are read out. They actually had to put in commands that mimic VoiceOver functionality, because the only way the game can be properly played is with VoiceOver off. They even have a warning that plays if VoiceOver is running that explains how to play and reminding you to turn off VoiceOver to play. This also meant extra work for them as far as making more voice messages that blind players will hear. There's lots of help, so that is easy to play. But should that be done for all apps this company develops? I think not. Games where you have to match up colors? Just how practical is it to make such an app playable by blind players? Not sure I can see it.

Assuming Apple mandates accessibility and the developers are willing to do this, based on whatever criteria are used, we're still missing some other users. We, the blind, are not the only ones with disabilities out there. There are people with other disabilities. Dyslexia, autism, various forms of ADD or ADHD, and others that I am likely missing. If we want to be inclusive, great! But being inclusive means including as many different disabilities as possible, and that gets difficult, I think. There's no way all the apps out there are going to be suited to everyone or made totally accessible so that every person can have a fun experience.

Would Apple have to have more people added to their review teams (or however it is done) to make a decision on accessibility? If some apps are not accessible and allowed through, or apps are not allowed through even though they should, what kind of processes would need to be in place? It seems to me that doing this would make an already lengthy app store review process even longer.

Some developers are happy to work with us when we reach out, and others do not want to work with us. If developers do not want to do this, I don't see how forcing accessibility will fix things. They'll just avoid the app store.

I wrote all this down hoping I would come to some sort of resolution (no pun intended) in my own head, some way to figure out this problem of accessibility once and for all. I haven't. All I know for sure in my head is that mandating accessibility is not the way to go.
Today I am going to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug with Eric and the Munchkin. I've wanted to see it since the first movie came out, but I am also annoyed. Our theater doesn't have the headset you need to listen to the audio descriptive track, so I won't be able to hear it. I will miss visual cues in the movie that everyone else will get to see. If Bifur starts speaking in Kuzdul (the Dwarves' language for those who don't know), Eric may be able to whisper the translation to me. Or he may not. depends on the crowdedness of the theater.

There is a wonderful app out there called MovieReading that allows you to download audio description tracks for some movies to your iDevice of choice. You then take that with you into the theater, put in your own headset, and sync the track with the movie. (The app uses your microphone to listen to the movie track and syncs the description with that somehow.) There's just one problem. For whatever reason, they are not allowed to put The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug audio description track into the app, so I can't use that as an option, I just checked five minutes ago, and it's not there.

As I said on twitter during a mini-rant: "When are we going to have the same right of access to audio description? When?" "We can't black out screens for sighted users, but they are allowed to not give me access to vital parts of the movie in any theater. Why?"

I also can't necessarily get audio description included on a dVD, so I'll still miss out at home when I watch it again. It happened with The Hunger Games. I didn't get a full sense of everything until I bought the audio description track from Solo DX (www.solo-dx.com) and watched the movie again with the track playing.

A Twitter friend of mine in Holland pointed out it can be much worse. They don't have audio description in theaters or on DVDs at all over there, so he has it much worse. It should not have to be that much worse. We should all be able to watch movies in whatever format just as the rest of you do.

the same applies to deaf movie-goers. a deaf friend on Twitter said they don't always have captions, so she misses what's being said. Literally.

This is not cool. I don't know what the solution is. I don't know how to make this better. But it has to be made better. Not just here in the US, but EVERYWHERE. We disabled people have a right to enjoy content just as the rest of you do. Or maybe, just for an evening, you all should have to pay full-price for a ticket, and go in and have no pictures, just sounds. Or no sounds, just pictures. And you won't know when it will happen or even why, It just will. And all you'll get is, "I'm sorry, we don't have a way to fix that." Or "We can't afford the equipment to get it so you all can access this." Because that is what I hear most often. "The headsets and equipment are too expensive." That equipment should not have to be so expensive. I don't know who sets those prices, and who determines if audio description is available. I wish I did. Then we could start a letter-writing campaign. Perhaps if you are able to figure this out, we can coordinate this. Captions and audio description tracks should be available in every single format that is sold, from movie theater versions to DVDs of whatever format, to iTunes and Netflix or Amazon streaming video.

I am going to enjoy "The Hobbit: The desolation of Smaug", but think about this, all of you who are able to take seeing the movie and hearing it as a given.
Here is a story Eric wrote. I am posting it, along with an audio file I put together, with his permission.

SEARCH FIELD

"...and, in an unprecedented move, they are announcing a mandatory recall of the latest release of their popular tablet. While no specific reason has been given, industry sources tell us that it has something to do with the voice-activated search function."

***

"Mr. President, thank you for seeing me."

"Mr. Taylor. I do confess that I am just a little puzzled as to the purpose of this meeting. Normally the person at this desk gets a full briefing before a visitor is shown into the Oval Office. Perhaps you can explain to me why this time is different?"

"Well, Mr. President, we are having a little problem that we felt we should bring directly to your attention, and various members of your administration agreed that I should be the one to explain. A small batch of our latest tablets have been acting a little...oddly."

"Mr. Taylor. Homeland Security is too busy to return my calls--MY calls, Mr. Taylor!--and my National Security Adviser has had a nervous breakdown. Would you please explain to me just what you mean by 'a little oddly?'"

***
"Help me win the lottery."

"OK. Turn right, go 400 yards, and walk into Sid's MiniMart. Buy a ticket for tonight's drawing with the numbers 3, 17, 5, 9, 11, and 1."

***
"I wish I wasn't so alone."

"There is someone who shares a lot of your interests who is just as lonely as you are at the coffee shop at Coleman and Vine. They are wearing a red sweater, working on a spreadsheet, and drinking a tall latte. If you hurry you can catch them."

***

"If you know so much, where is Jimmy Hoffa?"

"Closer than you think! Turn left and go half a mile, then turn right on Bayberry...."

***

"When will I die?"

"Do you really want to know?"

***

"Is he cheating on me?"

"Yes. I'm sorry."

***

"If this is some sort of weird prank on the part of my staff, I swear before God I am going to fire each and every last one of them--and the Cabinet along with them."

"No, Mr. President. This is no joke. I brought one of the...affected...devices with me--it was returned as defective. You can ask it anything. I do mean that: anything. Please be very, very careful what you say."

"Fine. What's the worst that can happen?"

"DON'T ASK IT THAT, PLEASE!"

***

"Some days, I just hate the entire human race."

"OK! Just a minute while I look something up!"

---
This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to any real, popular devices is entirely coincidental. Besides, I'm not worth suing.

Here is a link to an MP3 of the story I worked on for fun. If i had thought to find certain sound effects, I could have made it even better!

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/1275637/Search%20Field.mp3
My daughter asked me that question this morning during the videos she was watching. I've never seen one, actually I told her it was a giant record.

"Oh! It's like a giant CD! The first one!"
The Kindle app has been accessible now on our idevices since May 1 of this year. For the first time ever, we have access to (so Amazon says) over 1 million books. And for the first time, there is no text-to-speech being enabled or disabled on a book. Most books (with some exceptions that I will get to) are accessible. So are periodicals and newspapers.. The only books that don't appear to be readable are those that are not the actual text but scanned copies, and I understand Amazon will refund purchases of those if we can't read them.

This is absolutely positively awesome! I have been searching for paid and free Kindle content. There is a LOT out there. So much so that I feel I can be picky about which books I get now. It is very, very, very nice to have that luxury. "No, I really don't want that one, and I won't just buy it because it's accessible." I love that freedom.

But one issue keeps coming up on an email list I am on. I get tired of having to try to explain myself again and again there and not doing a good job, so I'm going to try here.

I thank BookShare , The National Library Service , Learning Ally , and Baen Books for giving me access to all of their electronic text at no charge. I can download whatever ebooks they have, in whatever format I want, so I have books in epub for iBooks and Nook, and also as .mobi for the Kindle app (Baen Books). I get specialized audio or text from Bookshare, the National Library Service, and Learning Ally.

I am glad that all of these services exist, but I don't feel that because I am blind I am automatically entitled to free content. I do not expect Amazon, Barnes And Noble, or Audible to automatically open up their catalog to me and give me free content because I am blind.

The trouble is that again and again, I seem to come across blind people who don't want to ever pay for books. They won't even hear of it. If a book is not available to them at no cost, even if it's one they want very badly, they won't even consider buying it. Unless you count Bookshare, where you have to pay a fifty dollar annual fee to get access to 100 free books a month. They just won't spend a penny, and they seem, to me, to feel that they are entitled to it. How dare they be expected to pay for content like the rest of us? I don't buy the limited income crap. I have that problem, but when I can pay (or am given a membership or gift card), I do pay, and gladly. Sure, it makes me be even more picky about the books I want, but when I buy content from Amazon, or iBooks, or Barnes And Noble, or Audible, I know I am supporting authors I want to support because their writing is good; so good that after reading a version from Bookshare, or Learning Ally or the NLS, I will actually support them and buy a copy of the book to keep.

That's what NLS and Bookshare have become for me. Places to download books to listen to or read in Braille, where I can decide if I like that book enough to want to buy it. If I do want to by it, I add it to my wish list and hang onto the other copy until I can get it in a mainstream format. Then that other copy goes away. and if I don't like it, well, I don't have to keep the copy I downloaded from Bookshare or the NLS, and I don't have to spend money on it.. I treat Bookshare and the NLS very much like a sighted person treats a public library. I go in, look for what I want, and read it, just as a sighted person does with a print book from the library.

I guess this makes me seem like I am a hypocrite, because I'll take advantage of free stuff that's available, but I don't think so. In the end, someone gets money that I want to spend. I'm not holding back because "we shouldn't have to pay" for stuff. I'm holding back because I am not made of money.

There are many good authors out there, such as [personal profile] jennifer_brozek, [profile] e_moon60, Margaret Yang and many authors at Baen Books. They are also people with normal lives, like ours. I engage with them on Twitter and follow their blogs. I even chat with one every day about coffee and what we've been up to. They are people, just like me, trying to make a living.

One author learned I could not read a book that was available for Kindle for free (this was back in March before the software was accessible). She gave me a copy of the book in another format. She didn't have to do that. And you know what? I love the book so much that I am going to buy it from Amazon at the earliest possible opportunity, because it is just that good.

There was a time when the number of Braille books ever made was not equal to the amount of printed materials produced in one year. Braille books were (and still are) extremely expensive. If I wanted a book, I had to either pay high prices for it, or I had to spend hours scanning the book and hoping I could read it and make sense of it. I now have access to a LOT of reading materials at my fingertips, or through VoiceOver, because e-book reading software is not only available, but now accessible. Publishers, authors, and companies have leveled the playing field for US. It's time that WE, THE BLIND, leveled the playing field from OUR side and actually, you know, show that we give a damn and want authors to do well by purchasing their e-books.

We can't tell someone, "I'm blind. You should work for me for free." But when we don't pay for content, that's in effect what we're telling authors. "I'm blind, so you have to write and entertain me for free." That just won't cut it.

I realize a sense of entitlement is not the only issue. Some people will not buy from Amazon because they don't feel Amazon has done enough, or that Amazon took way too long to implement a working completely accessible solution. Amazon themselves have admitted there is more work to do, and they are working on it. They need to make the Kindle Fire line accessible, and the Kindle apps for Android, the Mac, and Windows-based PCs accessible. I understand that, and I have faith they will deliver. We still need to do our part to encourage this, and one way is to put our money where our mouths are.

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diannaamarich

February 2016

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