Tag Archives: people with disabilities

Confusion over Text to Speech on Kindle Titles

As many readers of this blog will know, most Amazon Kindle titles have a facility known as Text to Speech enabled. Text to Speech enables the contents of Kindle titles to be read aloud to readers, and is particularly useful to people with certain disabilities, for example those who are registered blind and who are not able to read print. You can find details of how to enable Text to Speech here, https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201829850.

I am myself registered blind and unable to read print. Consequently I rely on the Text to Speech facility on my Kindle or Voiceover (Apple’s screen reader which works with the Kindle app on Apple devices) to read Kindle content.

A week or so ago I noticed that product pages in the Amazon Kindle store had messages saying “Text to Speech not enabled”. This concerned me and I visited my own pages on Amazon only to discover that they also indicated the unavailability of Text to Speech.

As someone who is themselves visually impaired, I wish to ensure that my poetry collections and other works are accessible to all readers. I therefore contacted Amazon.

Yesterday I received a message from Amazon’s Tech Support advising me that most Kindle content has Text to Speech enabled and advising as to how this could be turned on. They did not respond to my point that titles (previously shown as having Text to Speech enabled, now do not do so).

I have checked several of my titles, which continue to read aloud using Voiceover in combination with the Kindle app on my iphone. In addition I downloaded another title (not my own) which is shown as not having Text to Speech enabled. Again this works fine on my iphone.

In conclusion, the problem appears to be not that Text to Speech has been disabled. Rather the issue centres on the fact that accessible Kindle titles are being shown as inaccessible. This could cause those who rely on Text to Speech, not to purchase books in the belief that the content is inaccessible (when, in fact it can be read aloud).

Kevin

Discrimination By Taxi Driver Who Refused To Convey Me With My Guide Dog Trigger

In the United Kingdom it is an offence under the Equalities Act 2010 for a taxi driver and/or a company to refuse to convey an assistance dog owner accompanied by their working animal (http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/legal-and-policy/legislation/equality-act-2010). As those of you who follow this blog will know, I am a registered blind guide dog owner. This post is about the discrimination I encountered on 27 October when a taxi driver from Station Cars refused to convey me and my guide dog Trigger.

Responsibility for ensuring taxi companies comply with their legal obligations to convey assistance dog owners, accompanied by their working animals rests with the Public Carriage Office, (https://www.tfl.gov.uk/info-for/taxis-and-private-hire/). I reported the issue on 27 October however I have, to date received no feedback from PCO regarding my complaint other than an automated acknowledgement that it had been received by them. I have chased, several times (including via recorded delivery). However I have yet to receive a response from the PCO.

I have thus far refrained from blogging about the incident in the hope that it could be resolved via the PCO. However given the inordinate amount of time things are taking I have determined to blog about the incident in order to highlight it and the difficulties faced by myself and other assistance dog owners.

I have reproduced below my e-mail to PCO (withholding my address and that of the witnesses to the incident for reasons of privacy).

 

Text Of E-Mail From Kevin Morris To PCO Sent On 27 October 2014

 

“Dear Sir/Madam,

Further to my conversation with (name redacted) of today’s date, I am
writing to complain regarding the failure of Station Cars (vehicle
registration LC63UBM – a Vauxhall Zafira) to convey me and my guide
dog Trigger from my home (address redacted). to (address redacted)

At the time of the incident my guide dog was wearing his distinctive
harness clearly marking him as a working guide dog.
At approximately 7:40 am on Monday 27 October I telephoned Crystal
Cars and requested a car to convey me and my guide dog to (address redacted). The firm advised that the taxi would be with me
for around 8:15 AM.
At about 8:20 am a driver arrived from Station Cars and refused to
convey me and my guide dog. I explained that under the Equalities Act
he was obliged to take guide dogs when accompanied by their owners. He
said that he had not been informed about the presence of the dog and
contacted his office (Station Cars). Station cars backed up the driver
and on me requesting to speak to them (the driver handed over his
mobile) Station Cars repeated that they where not obliged to convey
guide dogs. The firm further confirmed that the booking had been
passed to them by Crystal Cars owing to Crystal Cars not having a
driver available.
My neighbour, (name and address redacted) and her daughter, (name redacted) spoke with the driver and tried to
reason with him. However he remained adamant that he wouldn’t convey
me and my guide dog. (Name redacted) then took the driver’s details as set
out above.
I subsequently contacted Crystal Cars who apologised for the incident
and sent another car which arrived quickly.
To recap. The initial booking was made with Crystal Cars who due to
not having any drivers available passed on the booking to Station
Cars. It was a driver from Station Cars and Station Cars themselves
who refused to convey me and my guide dog. The dog was wearing his
distinctive harness so it was crystal clear that he was a working
guide dog. I would be grateful if you could please investigate the
actions of Station Cars and the driver in question.
Should you require any further information please do not hesitate to
contact me.

tours Faithfully

Kevin Morris

 

BlindStudent Refused Entry To Tesco Because Of Guide Dog

Last night my friend, Brian drew my attention to the case of a blind student who was ejected from Tesco’s supermarket for bringing her working guide dog into the store, (http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/oct/17/blind-student-banned-from-tesco-for-taking-in-guide-dog). Under the UK Disability Discrimination Act (now subsumed into the Equalities Act) assistance dogs (including guide dogs) are allowed to enter premises selling or serving food and it is an offense to refuse entry. Tesco and those employees who threw this lady out of the store where therefore guilty of breeching the legislation. To compound matters the dog was wearing it’s distinctive high visibility harness thereby clearly marking it as a working animal.

Initially Tesco offered the lady a £20 voucher. However following the BBC picking up on the story Tesco has, I understand agreed to pay £5000 to the Guide Dogs For The Blind Association (The UK charity which trains guide dogs). The supermarket has also said that it will “remind” staff of their duty to admit assistance dogs.

As a blind guide dog owner I am afraid that this incident does not surprise me. On several occasions I have been refused service in restaurants when accompanied by my guide dogs (my current dog is called Trigger). I have, however had 3 previous dogs: Nixon, Zeff and Drew all of whom have been wonderful companions and have provided essential assistance in finding my way around London together with other cities.

In most instances the issue of my guide dog has been resolved amicably by me politely explaining the law and producing a letter from the RNIB which furnishes a brief description of the legislation as it relates to blind people (including their working guide dogs). Unfortunately, in a few instances I have had to invoke the threat of legal action which has proved effective in ensuring the future admittance of my guide dog and I.

It is incredible that a huge multinational like Tesco can not provide adequate training to it’s employees regarding their duty not to discriminate under the Equalities Act. Despite the company’s assurance that they will “remind” their employees of their duty to admit working guide dogs I feel in my water that incidents such as this will continue to happen.

Tesco is not the only company guilty of such actions. Many other organisations have (and continue to practice) discrimination against disabled people.

Ironically I visited my local Tesco (it’s about a 30 minute walk from my home) on Friday and had no problems in gaining admittance with my guide dog, Trigger. Indeed the staff where extremely helpful and I was escorted round the store as I can not shop independently due to my poor vision.

I hope that Tesco and other similar organisations get their act together. However, as I say above I fear that articles like this will continue to appear.

Help For Disabled Students To Be Cut

As a registered blind person who is not able to read print I benefited, as a disabled student from the Disabled Student’s Allowance (DSA) which enabled me to purchase a Kurzweil reading machine. The Kurzweil translated printed text into speech via scanning books, documents etc enabling me to access material which was only available in print. The Kurzweil was extremely important in allowing me to study independently and obtain my BA and, later an MA in political theory.

I was concerned to read in The Guardian that the government intends to cut the amount of money available through the DSA due to it’s potential impact on people with disabilities. The support provided via the DSA is vital to many disabled students and the reduction of that assistance could cause disabled people to either not go on to further and/or higher education or (if they do go on) to suffer academically due to the lack of adequate support. I will be writing to my MP to raise my concerns. For the article please visit, http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/may/20/disabled-students-shut-out-government-cuts-allowance

They Shall Not Pass

This morning, as usual I took my guide dog, Trigger to the park in order that he might fertilise the vegetation, (there is a wooded area away from where children congregate so his business card causes no issues)!

On the way home Trigger stopped dead in his tracks as there was a large vehicle blocking a drive which I needed to cross in order to continue on my way. “The vehicle will move out into the road once there is a gap in the traffick” I thought. However several gaps came and went but it remained immovable. I began cursing silently wondering whether I might be able to judge a break in the traffick, step off the kerb and negociate the vehicle without running the risk of ending up decorating the paint work of some ppassing car with colourful red splodges! Fortunately a man came to my rescue and assisted me to bypass the vehicle,

“Some stu …”.

“We where unloading something, sorry” my saviour said.

Oops, I wonder if he caught the gist of what I was starting to say,

“Some stupid person has parked their vehicle so that its blocking the pavement”! A Victor Meldrew moment on my part!

Whats in a Word?

I am registered blind. Recently I was in a room with a group of other people with various disabilities when one of those present refered to people “suffering” from dyslexia. I let the use of the word “suffering” go unremarked, however when he continued to employ it during the course of the meeting I politely remarked that I considered it’s utilisation to be inappropriate, a view endorsed by several others present.

To suffer is to endure pain or discomfort. While some disabilities may entail suffering, for example a person who has broken their leg will suffer pain during the course of their temporary disability, many disabilities do not involve suffering. The fact that I, as a blind person can not see to read a newspaper is an inconvenience (I’d love to be able to buy a paper, sit on public transport and read my newspaper along with my fellow commuters, however my inability to read print does not entail suffering. I can go online and access the newspapers using access software which although not as convenient as being able to read a print paper is, none the less far better than not being able to access a newspaper at all.

Societal barriers rather than a disability in and of itself can cause people with disabilities to face inconveniences. For instance the lack of ramps affording access to buildings may make it difficult or impossible for wheelchair users to access them. Any inconvenience “suffered” is, in this case down to the lack of access rather than to the fact that the wheelchair user is unable to walk or, at any rate is only able to walk for very short distances before having to return to their wheelchair.

Not all issues surrounding disability are capable of being resolved by society making adjustments. I can not see paintings and however good my friends description of a picture is their descriptive powers will not furnish me with the capacity to appreciate visual art as a sighted person does. However, in my view I do not “suffer” through my inability to admire paintings. Granted I feel regret but that is not the same as “suffering”.

I am not arguing in favour of policing the English language. People should be able to express themselves freely unless their words are aimed at inciting racial or other hatred. However we all should consider whether our use of language is appropriate.

 

My collection of short stories, “The First Time” is free in the Kindle store until 8 October. Please visit http://www.amazon.com/The-First-Time-ebook/dp/B00FJGKY7Y/ref=la_B00CEECWHY_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1380885715&sr=1-4