Tag Archives: visual impairment

A Short History of the Paperback

An interesting history of the paperback book, including information regarding “collectable” paperbacks, https://www.ioba.org/standard/2001/12/a-short-history-of-paperbacks/.

As a child growing up in the city of Liverpool, I well remember a glass bookcase full of paperbacks, in my grandfather’s house in Speke (a suburb of Liverpool).

Most Saturdays my Grandfather and I would go into W. H. Smiths and buy a paperback, often by Enid Blyton, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enid_Blyton.

I lost the majority of my vision at 18-months-old due to a blood clot on the brain. Consequently my grandfather would spend hours reading to me, as I was unable to read print books.

I think of my grandfather whenever I pass by a branch of Smiths. The scent of books and magazines eminating from the store brings the memories flooding back.

Sadly I no longer have the books my grandfather bought for me, Some of which where, no doubt collectable. However, where they still in my possession, I would not part with them as some things possess value which can not be measured in monetary terms.

The Future of my Blog

The purpose of this post is to let you know that on or around 1 June, there is a possibility that posts on this blog may cease for a time. If this happens, I wont have been assassinated by readers angered at what they (rightly or wrongly) perceive as the poor quality of my verse, (or kidnapped by a crazy fan who wishes me to write poetry solely for them). No, it will be down to the replacement of the WordPress Classic editor by the new Block editor.

Since the inception of this blog, I have been blogging using the WordPress Classic Editor. Classic works well with my accessibility/screen reading software, Job Access with Speech or JAWS, which converts text into speech and braille enabling me to use a Windows computer/laptop.

From 1 June 2020, the Classic Editor will be replaced by the WordPress Block Editor (although the Block Editor will, I understand still containe, somewhere within it the facility to use Classic). You can read more about this change here, https://wordpress.com/blog/2020/05/18/say-hello-to-the-wordpress-block-editor/

I have tried the Block Editor using JAWS and it doesn’t work for me. I’ve raised this issue with WordPress and a helpful employee assures me that, given my circumstances the Classic Editor will remain the default on my blog. Whilst I am grateful for this assurance, I remain apprehensive about the change from Classic to Block editor.

If, on or around 1 June I cease posting for a time this will be down to the change from Classic to Block editor. I hope that Classic will remain the default. However, in life things do not always work smoothly.

However, whatever happens on 1 June, kmorrispoet.com will remain active and any teething issues will, I am sure be resolved.

Kevin

The World Book Encyclopedia in Braille

One of my memories from my time at the Royal School for the Blind (Wavertree in Liverpool), is of reading articles from the braille edition of The World Book Encyclopedia. It was in the school boardroomm and was wholly separate from the books which stood, shelf after shelf in the library.

I well remember being fascinated by articles on a variety of subjects, including one on ghosts.

At the time of my attendance at Wavertree School, there was no internet, consequently the only way in which those who, like me, where unable to read print could access the world of printed literature, was via cassette tape, talking books, having books read aloud by a physically present person and, of course braille. The internet came along much later.

To me being able to access an encyclopedia unaided was a truly wonderful thing and I spent many happy hours looking through the braille World Book.

I remember the encyclopedia being extremely bulky, however it was only on coming across this webpage yesterday that I was reminded of the bulk of that vast tome:

“Only one encyclopedia was ever produced in braille. It was the World Book Encyclopedia, transcribed and embossed by the American Printing House for the Blind in about 1962. The main encyclopedia comprised 144 thick volumes, and was placed at many schools for the blind and some other institutions. Each annual supplement was about 5 volumes long, and only one or two were done. The project required massive amounts of federal funds, and it taught us all how bulky braille could be.
(See https://lbphwiki.aadl.org/braille_encyclopedias_and_dictionaries).

Of course few (perhaps no) visually impaired individuals would have possessed the funds, or indeed the space, to enable them to own their own edition of the World Book Encyclopedia, and I suspect that it was wholly confined to schools for the blind and other such institutions. I did nonetheless dream of owning my own World Book Encyclopedia in braille.

Today of course its easy to access a multiplicity of free reference sources online, including The Oxford Dictionary. I do, however still feel a sense of nostalgia for the days of braille encyclopedias, indeed I still possess the Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought (all 16 volumes) in braille. Many of the entries are dated, but I am reluctant to consign it to the great reference scrap heap.

“The Selected Poems of K Morris” is now available in braille from the Royal National Institute of Blind People

On 15 November, I wrote a post in which I said that my “Selected Poems” would soon be available in braille, from the Royal National Institute of Blind People, (RNIB), https://kmorrispoet.com/2019/11/15/my-selected-poems-will-soon-be-available-in-braille-from-rnib/. I am pleased to announce that “The Selected Poems of K Morris (Braille edition) was delivered this afternoon (Saturday 30 November).

I am, of course, delighted that visually impaired people (those who read braille, for by no means all sight impaired individuals do so), will have the option to enjoy my poetry in this format. In addition, text to speech is, of course enabled on all of my books, meaning that those who (like me) are unable to read print, can listen to my Kindle titles.

For links to all of my books please visit my blog’s “About” page, https://kmorrispoet.com/about/.

Is your blog accessible to blind computer users?

My thanks to Chris Graham (AKA The Story Reading Ape) https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com, for drawing this article on why much of the internet is inaccessible to blind people to my attention, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-49694453.

As many of you who follow my blog will know, I lost the majority of my eyesight at 18-months-old. I am unable to read print and use software called Job Access with Speech (JAWS), which converts text into speech and braille enabling me to use a Windows computer or laptop. For anyone interested in finding out about JAWS, please follow this link, https://www.freedomscientific.com/products/software/jaws/.

The article linked to above, details a number of problems faced by blind users of the internet, many of which I have experienced whilst navigating the World Wide Web. For example, the piece explains how blind computer users can be faced with unlabelled links on a webpage meaning that what is heard is next to useless. I have myself been faced with a page where JAWS reads “link, link, link”, meaning that the only way in which I can ascertain what the content of a particular link may be is by clicking on said link. This is, obviously a very tedious undertaking and, in many instances I have given up on the site in question and visited a more accessible alternative.

Turning specifically to sites hosted directly on WordPress (such as my own blog), these are, on the whole accessible. For example all the social media sharing buttons on kmorrispoet.com are labelled so anyone using a screen reader such as JAWS will hear “Twitter, Facebook” etc voiced by JAWS. Likewise the comments form is clearly labelled as such meaning that anyone logged into a WordPress account can easily post a comment.

In contrast I have found that many of the self-hosted WordPress sites are not as accessible as those hosted directly on WordPress. For example I often come across unlabelled sharing buttons on self-hosted sites so the only way in which I can determine what the button in question may be, is by actually clicking on it.

Whilst some comments forms on self-hosted sites are labelled with fields such as “comment”, “your name”, “email address”, others are not. In the latter instance the JAWS (or other screen reader user) is forced to guess what each field is or, more often simply to give up on their intention of posting a comment and navigate away from the site/blog in question.

In my experience the vast majority of bloggers care about their readers and wish to ensure that everyone is able to access their sites equally and enjoy the same ability to participate in discussions. However, unless a blogger is themselves blind (or knows a blind screen reader user), its perfectly possible that they have little (if any idea) as to how blind web users access their site/blog.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has links to useful guidance explaining how webmasters can ensure that their sites are accessible to those with site loss. For anyone who is unsure whether their blog and/or website is accessible, you may find it helpful to visit here, https://www.sightadvicefaq.org.uk/independent-living/accessible-website.

Kevin

Breakdown

When my landline rang earlier today, I was in 2 minds as to whether or not I should answer it. Other than my mum, few people call me at home, most of my arrangements to meet with friends being made either via email, face-to-face or, occasionally via text message.

My home number is not in the Directory so no one (other than those I choose to give my number to) should know it. However, for whatever reason, my number has fallen into the hands of scammers who entertain me from time to time with their antics.

Returning to today, I determined to answer my landline:

Me: “Hello?”
Unidentified individual: “how are you today?”
Me: “OK”.
Unidentified individual: “your breakdown cover has expired”.

I was, of course concerned that the breakdown insurance I have for my guide dog needed renewing. How could I have been so absent minded as to forget to pay my annual premium for breakdown Cover to Dogs Are Us Breakdown Insurance LTD. I knew that I ought to have set up an automatic direct debit so as to ensure that the cover renews without me having to take any action, but chose not to do so.

I was, of course deeply concerned that no mechanic from Dogs Are Us Breakdown Insurance LTD would come out where my guide dog to develop a mechanical fault, consequently I reached, straight away for my bank details and provided them to the nice gentleman at the other end of the line.

I must go now as I need to check whether my bank account has been debited in favour of Dogs Are Us Breakdown Insurance LTD …

The Meteor-Eyes Book Club enabling visually impaired children to read large print books

A great video about the Meteor-Eyes book club, which enables visually impaired children (those who are able to read large print), to enter into the pleasure of reading. The Guide Dogs charity produce large print books specifically tailored to the requirements of the children. You can see the video here,

I Wont Distract You!

Yesterday, I was traveling up on the escalators at London Victoria underground station with my guide dog Trigger, when the following incident took place:

Man a couple of steps above me, speaking directly to Trigger,
“I know you are a working guide dog so I wont disturb you”.
Me, “thank you”.
Man, (looking directly at Trigger, “I wont distract you”, at which Trigger wags his tail and becomes rather distracted!

The above incident is, on one level comical. The comedy arising from the man in question doing precisely what he said he wouldn’t do, namely distract my working guide dog! However the actions of this gentleman where potentially dangerous and (not to put too fine a point on it, stupid)!

Guide dogs are trained to assist visually impaired people to navigate safely around streets, roads etc. They do wonderful work. However they are, when all is said and done dogs, who love attention and who can, when given it, become distracted.

I am very happy (when Trigger is not working) for him to receive strokes and cuddles (provided the person giving the attention has asked first). I rarely refuse a request to pet Trigger. However it is my absolute right to give such a refusal and the stupidity (albeit unintentional) of the gentleman in question had the potential to put my safety (and that of others) in danger. For example had Trigger pulled forward to reach the gentleman I might have fallen putting myself and those behind me, on the escalator at risk.

Fortunately the overwhelming majority of people behave responsibly around guide dogs. I only wish that everyone did so.

Kevin

The Dos And Donts of Interacting with a Blind or Visually Impaired Person

People come to my blog either because they like my poetry, or due to a post on a subject of interest to them catching their attention. Most of those clicking on this site are unaware of the fact that I am registered blind (unless they click on my “About page and see a photograph of me with my guide dog, Trigger, or they come across one of the few posts in which I talk about my visual impairment).

Not being aware of my blindness means that my readers interact with me as they would with anyone else (which is, of course as it should be for I am not defined by my visual impairment). However, when I meet people in the real (off-line world) I do come across individuals who are unsure how to interact with a visually impaired person, indeed some people are downright embarrassed.

A few days back, I came across this excellent post on “Life of a Blind Girl”, https://lifeofablindgirl.com/2019/06/02/the-dos-and-donts-when-interacting-with-a-blind-or-visually-impaired-person/, in which the author talks about the dos and donts of interacting with someone who is blind or visually impaired. In essence, as the author states, one should interact with a blind or visually impaired person in the same way in which one would interact with anyone else.

However (as the blogger points out) many people do not follow this simple rule. Examples of the behaviour identified by the author (and experienced by myself) include: speaking to the non-visually impaired companion of the blind person rather than addressing the visually impaired person directly, asking personal questions one would not address to a non-disabled person and being afraid of using commonly utilised language such as “see you later”.

In terms of the latter, I have lost count of the number of occasions on which someone has said “see you around” only to apologise to me for using visual language!

As someone who is blind, I use such language all the time and I don’t expect people to avoid utilising it when interacting with me. In fact by employing such language people demonstrate that they regard me (and other blind/visually impaired people) as individuals who are not defined by our disability.

There are too many self-appointed spokesmen who claim to speak on behalf of the visually impaired (and, I would add other groups), who say that one should not employ such and such language. Many of these people are well meaning (but wrong) while a few do, perhaps wish to use disability politics for their own unholy ends.

I commend this article to anyone who has ever felt unsure (or embarrassed) as regards interacting with a visually impaired or blind person.

Kevin