Tag Archives: apple

So Long And Thanks For All The Dots

I became blind at about 18-months-old as a result of a blood clot on the brain. I have some useful vision including the ability to see outlines of objects, I can not, however read print.

As a young child I was taught how to use Braille, a system of raised dots which blind people touch in order to decipher text. Growing up Braille was central to my life. I read Braille books voraciously, my school examinations and university exams where in Braille and I could not have progressed easily in life in the absence of those strange, bumpy dots!

Today there is growing concern that Braille is under threat. See, for example the following article, http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=11258778. The growth of digital technology makes it incredibly easy for blind people to access printed material without having to use Braille. I am typing this with the assistance of Jaws which converts text into speech and Braille on a standard Windows computer allowing visually impaired PC users to access the internet, send and receive e-mail etc. While Jaws does work with Braille displays allowing visually impaired PC users to read Braille via their machines, Braille displays are not essential to the task of reading. My home laptop on which I am writing now is not hooked up to a Braille display and I don’t feel the lack of the technology. I can cope perfectly well in the absence of a Braille display.

Amazon Kindles are equipped with a text to speech facility which allows the reading of books without looking at the device’s screen. Apple products such as the iPad have voiceover which enables visually impaired people to utilise various apps including the one for reading Kindle content. Safari and other key apps are also accessible.

From the above one might conclude that braill is, like the parrot in Monty Python well and truly deceased. However Braille remains incredibly useful. Most medicines are now labelled in Braille which allows blind people to find their medication without having to rely on sighted friends, neighbours, family etc. Again some household products contain Braille labelling (next time you go to the supermarket take a look at the bottles of bleach many of which are labelled with “bleach” in Braille.

Despite the proliferation of digital technology I still enjoy reading Braille. It is lovely to sit in a comfortable armchair leafing through The New Oxford Book Of English Verse or Poe’s “tales of Mystery and Imagination”.

Braille is certainly declining but there remains fight in the old beast yet!

Apple

As a blind person I find the iPad accessible. With the assistance of Apple’s in-built screen reader, voice-over I am able to use the device with few problems. One aspect I have never mastered is the on screen keyboard. The keyboard is usable by people with little or no sight (tap once with voice-over enabled and you hear the name of the key announced. Tap twice and the key is activated). Despite it’s accessibility the on screen keyboard is, in my experience somewhat cumbersome from the perspective of the visually impaired. Consequently I use an Apple Bluetooth keyboard with my iPad. Once paired the keyboard works well enabling the user to enter text without having to contend with the device’s on screen keyboard.

Approximately a month ago the Bluetooth keyboard stopped working. I changed the batteries and it began functioning again. However about a week later the keyboard once more ceased working. Again I changed the batteries and it started functioning once more for a brief period. When the same problem happened for the third time I took the keyboard into the Apple store in Liverpool’s Paradise Street. The Apple representative quickly diagnosed that the keyboard had gone to the great Apple heaven in the sky and replaced it with a brand new (working)! One. Prior to visiting the store I had envisaged protracted explanations and a long wait before my issue could be resolved so I was pleasantly surprised with the speedy and efficient response of Apple. In these days of poor customer service it is refreshing to experience first rate treatment. I take my hat off to Apple.

Noise!

Modern society is saturated with noise, much of it emanating from technology. I am a huge fan of my iPad. It is considerably lighter than my laptop and I have downloaded many useful apps including one for WordPress. However many of the apps contain a facility enabling the device’s owner to receive notifications when content is updated so, for example a notification is generated every time someone comments on one of my posts on WordPress.

It is wonderful to know that my content has provoked interest and/or likes but not when I am in the midst of a particularly beautiful passage of poetry or I’ve just reached a crucial sceene in the detective story on my Kindle! Of course I can go in and disable the notifications but I’m sure I am not the only one to be driven mad by “jo blogs liked your post on newauthoronline” when I am wrapped up in a good book.

As I said above, I really value all the comments and likes on my blog and I always try to respond to feedback. There is, however a time and a place for everything and this is not, in my view while I am reading a good book! Perhaps this mania for the enabling of notifications stems from a fear that we (the user of technology) might just miss something of importance if we are not always connected to every possible source of information. Like butterflies we flit from flower to flower without ever pausing long enough to truly savour each individual plants nectar. As I write this my e-mail and all other notifications are well and truly disabled!