The 2 Stick Method

The 2 Stick Method

A Proposal for Social Distance Guiding.

David Griffith suggests a solution to the dilemma of Social Distance Guiding of Visually Impaired People.

One of the more distressing aspects of the Covid 19 Lockdown was the initial incongruity of maintaining Social Distance measures whilst at the same time providing necessary assistance with guiding Visually Impaired passengers and shoppers. The difficulty in the early days made for sad accounts of some blind or partially sighted shopper encountering store staff shouting at them to “stand over there”, in increasingly angry and panicky tones. The instruction to “stand over there” of course means nothing to somebody who cannot see a staff member pointing. There were even sadder accounts of Blind customers being prevented from entering shops. In these situation the task of guiding was thought too dangerous for staff to provide. This difficulty was compounded by the initial reluctance of Supermarkets to accept that Blind or Visually Impaired People were eligible for scant priority shopping delivery slots.

Thankfully as the weeks have passed adjustments have been made and the accounts of Blind and Partially sighted people not being able to access shopping has decreased. However, as the government moves to ease lock down measures it is likely that the tension between maintaining social safe social distance and safe guiding will again emerge.

Transport and Shop Staff may show entirely understandable reluctance to engage in the close physical contact required for the physical guiding of sight impaired people. There are reports, for example, that currently Transport for London staff are resolving this dilemma by arranging for Taxis to pick up sight impaired customers rather than undertake the tasks of guiding them onto and off trains and through stations. Whilst Transport for London are to be congratulated for devising this current adjustment which protects both passengers and staff, it is unlikely to be an appropriate model going forward, not just for the next few months but over the next 2 years. What, for example, as the lock down eases, would be the arrangement to support a Blind passenger taking train journey for much longer distances of a hundred miles or more?

What is urgently needed is a protocol to structure a method for safe social distance guiding. On the face of it this is a circle which is difficult to square with contradictory requirements. happily, though we, in my family, have unwittingly deployed a safe social distance guiding method for years. We call this the “2 stick method”.

This idea was initially suggested to me by another sight impaired friend, Rob Murthwaite as a method to assist country walks through narrow, rough, and difficult terrain. , From this initial inspiration This method is something I have developed with my wife , Sue, to great effect over the years.

Essentially the method relies on the sight impaired person carrying not one but two white canes.

1. One cane is kept clear of normal floor contact and is only used for guiding purposes with a sighted guide.

2 The second cane is retained by the sight impaired person in their other hand, for normal use, but in this context, mainly as an insurance policy. For example, to provide emergency stability support in case of stumbles or for extra confidence when encountering pavement kerns, steps and potholes etc.

3. The “guiding cane” is held, in my case, in the left hand with the handle resting on my open palm. It is important that the handle is not grasped, as this makes the experience difficult, both for sighted guide and sight impaired person.

4. The tip of the clean cane is then held by the sighted guide, also with their left hand. The sighted guide then simply walks forward with the sight impaired person following immediately behind them but of course distanced by the cane.

5. Whilst this technically does not comply with the 6-foot distance requirements of social distancing this is importantly mitigated by the fact that neither the sighted guide nor the sight impaired person are directly facing each other. The sighted guide will be facing forward away from the sight impaired person, whilst the sight impaired person would look not to the face but the back of their sighted guide. This would greatly reduce the risk of virus transmission, a risk further reduced if both the sighted guide and sight impaired person wear face masks.

6. Over the years I have found the best method is not for the person being guided to grasp the cane handle but to let it rest in the open palm of the hand. This means I can feel the cane moving as the guide changes directions and can adjust appropriately. The guide also seems to find it easier if I do not grasp the cane. If the cane is grasped the sighted guide will feel as if the visually impaired person is trying to steer them from behind.

7. The further advantage of this approach is that the guiding of the sight impaired person is naturally narrow rather than wide, making it easier to guide through narrow areas.

This was in fact the reason that my wife developed this guiding method, in order to guide me through long narrow country walks. In practice, it is like guide Dog guiding. I personally prefer this to normal sighted guiding via arm holding.

Obviously, a full guiding protocol to support this technique is required.

There are a myriad of guiding situations which need consideration. For example, how to guide to a chair, how to guide to a Car door handle. My initial protocol suggestion is that In most cases the sighted guide would simply have to place the guide cane tip on the target, for example, door handle of a car or the back of a chair for another example, before letting go of the guide cane. then the sight impaired person would simply have to travel their hand along the guide cane to the target that the sighted guide has left the tip of the cane resting on. A similar technique could be deployed to provide a lead to the hand rail of stairs.

A further protocol requirement would be to provide guidance on the sanitizing of the guide cane, probably involving the application of alcohol gel both before and after its use as a guide cane.

At the very least I think the main Visual Impairment organizations should be organizing some trials of this method to investigate it practicality and possible implementation as a technique for social distance guiding.

Whilst a fuller protocol would need the support of trialing and testing with full consultation of stakeholders an initial guidance could quickly emerge to support both sighted guides and sight impaired people in these challenging times.

My challenge to the Visual Impairment sector is to take up this idea and run with it or suggest alternative proposals as a matter of urgency.

David Griffith

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A Political Scandal

A Political Scandal

I don’t normally write political blogs on this site but for once some political hard truths need to be faced.

Seven weeks ago, today I was advised by my Difficult Asthma nurses at Barts to start amending my behaviour. I was advised against using the Tube, advised not to attend for the time being Football matches and other common-sense precautions.

The problem was that at the time the national conversation did not accommodate this at all. This was the week that the BBC’s Moral Maze debate was whether anticipated measures against CoronaVirus were likely to be an over reaction causing economic harm, when only older people with limited life expectancy anyway were at real risk. This was a period where the Government was confidently departing from WHO Guidelines and talking about developing “herd immunity” to allow a uk designed “nuanced approach” of managing the Virus and at the same time minimise economic disruption. Briefings abounded that there was much to be said for what was describe as “taking the hit” in order to achieve this herd immunity. This was the period in which the government confidently decided it did not need to participate in EU schemes to purchase either Ventilator or protective Equipment.

This was the period when people were referring sneeringly to the failures in Italy to control the outbreak.

When I tried on various Forums to start ringing alarm bells, I was accused of inducing unnecessary panic or even on a couple of times accused of affecting people’s mental health.

I have kept quiet about this for some weeks despite the scandal of an under provisioned NHS with staff being forced into lethal harm’s way because of lack of protective equipment.

However, what I want to say just once is to try and burst the absolute fiction that the “Government has done everything it can do”.

This is manifestly untrue and even the Government’s own advisors are now admitting that the UK’s record is likely to be the worst in Europe. No longer at we are sneering at Italy as we will fare far worst. This crisis was born not last week, or even 4 weeks, ago but complacency 7 weeks ago and earlier.

There is a hidden scandal of this Government’s record which weeks ago showed incredible arrogance as well as ignorance in celebrating the distance they were making from the World Health Organisation in following their self-described “nuanced” position of promoting “herd immunity” as opposed to the WHO recommended suppression and testing regime.

The results are clear to see from the statistics and is a national scandal.

Just compare how Germany – which is already emerging from their crisis with the UK stats below. Germany has tracked thousands more cases and suppressed more than the UK and identified cases through testing but have a dwindling death rate approaching zero with an overall death tally only a quarter of the UK. By the time the death tally lowers to similar levels in the UK it is likely that we will have suffered 10 times more deaths than people in Germany.

These figures are current as of today. They speak for themselves April 14th 2020.

Country

UK

Cases

93,873

Active Cases

81,422

Cases Reported Today

5,252

Deaths Today

778

Overall Deaths

12,107

Germany

Cases

131,170

Active Cases

59,698

Cases Reported Today

1,098

Deaths Today

78

Overall Deaths

3,272

David Griffith

Sent from Mail for Windows 10

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Singing to My Guide Dog

Singing to my Guide dog

Last week Bill Withers died. Bill Withers was part of the soundtrack to my life. He was the soul background to hot chaotic Parties during my last summer in Liverpool, easing out the driving rhythms of The Clash, Sex Pistols and tom Robinson as seemingly never-ending parties wound down to an early morning close.

1978 was a year of personal transition, traumatic in the leaving of Liverpool but ultimately a year of reaffirmEnt as I built a new life in London, a city I have lived in until this day.

Bill Withers and his haunting tones of Lovely Day alongside Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street were familiar friends accompanying me down the M6 motorway to an initially unfamiliar city.

Over the years as I built my life in London Wither’s “Lovely Day” was a song I resorted to whenever I wanted to elevate my mood. However, the song was a Trojan Horse for the unwary singer, melodic and apparently easy to sing along to in its initial bars it had a trap waiting for us all. The song is notable for Withers’ sustained note towards the end, which at 18 seconds long, is, according to Wikipedia, one of the longest ever recorded on a song.

For me and thousands of unwary emulators the result is that we collapse in an asthmatic wheeze as we struggle to maintain the final notes alongside Wither’s masterful rendition.

This did not stop me unfeasibly trying to match Withers performance, provoking, I suspect dirty looks from neighbour’s family and friends. One of the benefits of later life blindness is that I was of course oblivious to this disapprobation.

However just one creature seemed to respond positively. During the hot Summer of 2013 as I took possession of my guide Dog Nyle, he alone seemed to appreciate my efforts. I noticed that whilst he was struggling up a hill in the heat of a London August afternoon that he appeared to flag.

The heat was such that I also was panting. In order to motivate both of us I started a rendition of Lovely Day. To my amazement Nyle immediately perked up and strode purposefully up the hill.

It was with high emotions that I returned home. I was astounded that, for the first time, a creature on this Earth had been motivated by my singing. I eagerly sought out my Wife Sue to express my pride.

Sue just sniffed and said he was probably just trying to get away from you.

Deflated I concluded that she was probably right.

It doesn’t stop it being a great song though.

David Griffith

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Zooming Challenge – it’s tough for aDog

Zooming Challenge – it’s tough for a Dog!

David Griffith looks at some unforeseen Pandemic adjustments for our Guide Dogs.

I freely admit that my wonderful Guide Dog Nyle is a wimp. He is a big, cuddly, soppy sensitive Dog who adores all in his pack/family.

However, Nyle is also a conservative creature of habit. He loves a predictable safe routine. For example, he does not like it if we fail to congregate into the living room whilst he feeds. Ideally, he requires us to sit in sepulchral silence. This is required, from his point of view, so that he can then attend each of us to receive a ritual celebratory cuddle.

He will even, sometimes, refuse his food until this is all set up.

However, the Pandemic is providing challenges for all of us, including Nyle.

Not least of these adaptations is the move to online meetings via Zoom. My wife, Sue, is using this to continue her Choir and Book group.

Whilst this happens, I and my daughter leave the room, but we can still hear the voices floating out of Sue’s laptop.

However, last week after the Zoom Book Group, my daughter returned to find a forlorn Nyle lying flat on the floor, head half buried under a blanket with his paws hooked over his eyes.

Obviously, as far as he is concerned it is just too weird that my wife Sue, was having conversations with unseen Ghost voices.

Sadly, for Nyle his disgruntled demeanour produced not sympathy but gales of laughter. Nyle soon cheered up after he received a reassuring cuddle.

Nyle is actually pretty adaptable and this disquiet will pass as Zoom becomes part of the new normal for all of us.

It did remind me though that it is not only us, but our dogs who are having to adapt to new times.

David Griffith

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Getting Cheaper Audible Books

Getting Cheaper Audible Books

David Griffith examines a variety of cheaper options for purchasing Audible Books.

As the major source of commercial Audio Books across the world Audible is an important resource for Blind and Visually Impaired people.

However Audible deliberately makes purchasing individual Books extremely expensive. Most popular Audio Books will cost anything from £25 to £35 . Although Short Novella style books are also available for under £20, it nevertheless makes no financial sense to purchase individual books. After purchasing 2 or 3 books you will be spending as much, if not more than a yearly subscription .

Therefore if you want access to Audible books you really need to bite the bullet and take out a subscription, even if this means canceling it at a later stage.

Audible also offer a free book with trial membership and a reduced rate for your first few months of subscriptions.

Plans

Audible offer 4 plans which are summarized below.

1. 1 Book Monthly Membership £7.99/month- = £7.99 a book.

2. 2 Book Monthly Membership £14.99/month =£7.49 a book.

3. 12 Book Annual Membership £69.99/year =£5.83 a book.

4. 24 Book Annual Membership £109.99/year=£4.58 a book.

The last plan may be attractive if you intend to share books across your family.

So when an individual Audio Book is often price at £35 or more it is clear that subscription is the only way to go.

However You are not required to purchase a book every month. You can "save" and build up available credits ,though you cannot continue this indefinitely. The amount you can accumulate depends on the plan. On the 1 book monthly plan you can save up to 6 credits whilst for the 24 book yearly plan you can keep up to 36 credits at any one time.

Like, I think most, i started with a 1 book monthly membership to put my toe in the water. This scheme also has the advantage of, as well as the initial free book, a reduced subscription of £3.99 a month for the first few months.

Whilst this plan seemed good value compared to buying individual books I then worked out I was paying almost £95 a year to access 12 books. This looked very poor value when compared to the yearly plans. I was unnecessarily paying an extra £25 compared to the 12 book yearly plan or alternatively I could pay just another £15 and could add rights to purchase 12 additional books at just over a £1 a book.

Deals

Additionally If your credits fall to 1 or less Audible will offer the option to purchase 3 more credits. On the 1 book monthly plan these extra 3 credits will cost £18. for those on the 24 book yearly plans this is reduced to 3 extra credits for £11.

In addition there are many other ways of acquiring Audible books for less than the normal credit prices.

– There is a daily deal which will allow all Audible Members to purchase a specific audio book for one day only at either £1.99 or £2.99. You can subscribe to an e-mail alert which can notify you of each book available. It can be annoying if you miss a book for £1.99 that you subsequently have to spend a credit on .

Remember though that if you are ever tempted by an Audible offer, you should always check first that the book is not already available for free in the RNIB Overdrive library. Apparently the Listening Book library also has many titles offered by Audible and is available for a £20 subscription for Visually Impaired readers.

https://www.listening-books.org.uk/

On a couple of occasions I have found that indeed the RNIB have these books. In this way Audible has oddly prompted me to borrow books from the Overdrive Library I would probably not otherwise have done.

In addition periodically Audible will offer different members only sales.

– These include 2 for 1 sales where 1 credit will buy you 1 book or theme sales where books are available for perhaps £5 or less. These are useful sometimes if you want to buy a whole series of books.

Using Kindle

There is also the little known use of using Kindle Books to access Audible content.

If you are a Amazon prime member you can get a free monthly Kindle book from a selection for free. With Kindle books you can often purchase Audible Narration as a cheap extra. The cost of adding narration varies but is often £2.99 or £3.99.

– Similarly there is a Kindle Daily deal scheme which allows you to purchase books typically for 99p or perhaps £1.29. Again it is often possible to purchase Audible narration for these books.

– For example I used this system last week to purchase a Kindle daily deal book for 99p and then added Audible Narration for £2.99. Effectively then I bought an Audible Book for £3.98, well below the cost of an Audible credit. I will not even bother reading it as a Kindle book and will instead use Audible.

– The advantage of the Kindle daily deal system is that there is normally many more offers on books available to choose from than their Audible equivvalent. This is true generally for Kindle compared to Audible. For example there is currently an Autumn Kindle sale where 400 books are available at cheaper prices. Many of these will have optional Audible narration to purchase. Effectively then this is also an Audible Autumn sale though it is not publicized as such.

– Similarly to the Audible daily alerts you can get an e-mail for kindle daily book offers.

Note – once Audible narration is purchased the Audible book will simply be in your Audible library alongside all your other Audible Books to listen to as normal. They can be downloaded just like any other audible book to play in your preferred device.

Negotiation

Finally some report that if you contact Audible to cancel your plan you will be offered reduced terms for at least a while to maintain your membership. I have never actually done this however.

I hope that this post gives some food for thought on cheaper ways of accessing Audible

Acknowledgements.

Thanks to Ibrahim Gucukoglucontent who alerted me to the cheaper opportunities available through Audible yearly plans.

Thanks to Michael Allan for alerting me to the potential use of Listening Books.

Thanks finally to Dean Wilcox who reported the possibility of negotiating cheaper rates with Audible if you show intention to cancel.

David Griffith

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Nyle Does A Lift Birthday Party Trick

Nyle Does A Lift Birthday Party Trick

David Griffith finds further evidence that Guide Dogs are not dumb animals.

Nyle had his 8th Birthday celebrations this week. As I write this, he is chewing noisily away on his new Birthday toy.

Only this week he demonstrated further evidence of a Guide Dog’s remarkable awareness.

For several years Nyle has taken me to Bart’s Hospital for injections to control my Asthma.

The last part of this journey involves him finding a lift to convey us to the 6th floor.

My procedure in the lift was to drop the harness, hold Nyle by his lead, until I heard the lift announce we were at level 6. I would then take up the harness and ask him to lead me out.

A few weeks ago, I was pre-occupied and distracted by Family issues. I was not properly concentrating.

I was startled to find that Nyle pulled me to the door as the lift announced we were at level 6.

I thought “Blow Me!” Nyle is listening to the lift as well.

This is especially remarkable As, according to sighted passengers, apart from the ground floor, each floor looks identical.

Over subsequent weeks I put this to the test. I found that, sure enough, Nyle was listening and guiding me to the door with no intervention from me.

This week, however, he took things a stage further.

As Nyle guided me into the lift we were joined by a crowd of staff who told me that they were going to level 7.

They helpfully said that they would make sure I got out on level 6.

I said thanks but thought my dog would know.

Consequently, Nyle was the centre of attention as the lift ascended. They quietly observed as we approached level 6.

First however, the lift stopped at level 5.

This is what then happened.

The lift announced, “level 5, doors closing, lift going up”.

After this announcement, as soon as the lift said “level”, and before it announced the number “6” Nyle firmly pulled me towards the door in anticipation of the doors opening on floor 6.

So, he was not only listening for floor 6, he obviously knew level 6 came after level 5. He pulled me forward before even the number 6 was announced.

I was surprised myself.

The effect on those observing was remarkable. An astonished ohh resonated around the lift.

“He knows” somebody exclaimed.

It was as if Nyle had done a magic trick.

A magic trick somehow seems appropriate for a dog enjoying a Birthday treat this week.

He certainly seems magic to me.

David Griffith

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Tutorial – Creating More Accessible Audio Books

Tutorial -Creating More Accessible Audio Books.

David Griffith offers a tutorial on using the free Bulk Rename Utility.

One of my favourite, go to tools is, the renowned freeware Bulk rename Utility.

The version I use is on the following modified DropBox link.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/by5miedsw1zqza1/bulk%20rename%20BRU_Setup_WinNTx86.exe?dl=1

bulk Rename can be used in several use cases, but I will focus on one application here.

Scenario

You have a CD originated Audio Book which has been created from 12 CDS resulting in 12 folders of mp3 files.

These folders will be typically called something like Dis 01, Disc02 through to Disc 12. Sometimes it is CD 01 and so on.

Each folder contains something like 10 or more mp3 files.

Unfortunately each folder contains identical filenames such as 01.mp3, 02.mp3 so it is not straightforward to merge the contents of all these folders.

Any attempt to do so will result in a conflict of filenames and a consequent destructive overwriting of each file with identical names.

A further complication is that the title, author or year of the book is sometimes also included in the folder or filenames. This may create awkward very long filenames for your audio books. Some Daisy Players will not like these files.

What you want to do is rename all the mp3 files in one Audio Book folder- in correct order. You may want to do this to make it easier to listen to on various Book Players. Perhaps you also want to convert the book into Daisy mp3 format.

This reorganisation and renaming task is normally tedious in the extreme.

Thankfully it can be done if not in seconds then in a few short minutes with Bulk Rename Utility and its ability to append the folder name to all the files contained in a folder.

First Install Bulk Rename Utility if not already on your machine.

Important.

Until you are used to this Bulk Rename method you should experiment only with a copy of your audio book and not the original. If you make any mistakes this then avoids a disaster and the need to angrily blame somebody.

Step 1

This is actually entirely optional but for the shortest eventual filenames you may want ,if the folders and filenames include the book title author etc , to Simplify the Folder names so that they are something like Disc 01 Disc 02 etc.

If the CD folders include the title of the book press F2 on a folder name and then in rename edit mode use shift arrow keys to highlight the name of the book title, author etc. and press control C to copy the text you want to cut out to the clipboard. Press escape to return out of file rename mode.

Now back out in windows File Explorer until you are focussed on the single main Book Folder which contains all the CD based folders within it.

bring up the context menu on this folder and select Bulk Rename.

Wait for the program to load and gain focus. This may take a few seconds depending on the size of the folder.

There are 2 stages of renaming.

Step 2

This is the next optional stage to quickly Rename the Disc folders if needed.

Press tab 4 times

You will hear something like.

RegEx Match

RegEx (1) Include Ext.

File (2) Name

File (2) Edit‑

Then you will find on the 5th press of the tab key

Replace edit.

Here is where you can paste in the name of the book title or author you want to remove.

If you wanted to you could tab once more and type in some alternative text but for our purposes we should leave this field blank as we simply want to remove it.

Now simply press control A to select all folders and then control r to rename the folders.

Bulk Rename will issue a warning that you are to rename files but simply press enter. You are after all working on a copy right so there is nothing to worry about.

Bulk Rename will then tell you how many folders you have renamed. Press enter to clear this message.

If you want you can now alt tab back to File Explorer to confirm that the changes you want so far have been made to the folder names.

Now for the most powerful and final step 3. When Bulk Rename has finished renaming on folder name you will want to make it focus on all the mp3 files and not just the folder names.

shift tab about 8 times until you hear the option to select sub folders.

Press space here to check this option.

Now Bulk Rename will be focused on all mp3 files and not just the folder names.

Pressing control, A to select all and Control R to rename will now remove book title strings from the individual mp3 files if this is needed.

Appending Folder name to files.

Now for the final step of appending folder names to your simplified filenames.

Firstly tab back forward and carefully removed the text you have pasted in to the replace field.

Warning pressing control a to select and pressing delete will not work. to select all the text you need to press home to go to the beginning of the text and then hold shift down and press the end key. Now pressing the delete key will remove the text.

Now you need to press tab forward about 20 times to navigate to the append folder name option. I normally just hold the tab key down for about 2 seconds to get there quickly. You may need to experiment to find the fastest way to get there on your machine.

The append folder name is just after all the auto date options.

Once focused on append folder name you need to press the down arrow once to change its setting from none to prefix.

Now again press control A and then control r and all your book mp3 files will be instantly renamed.

Bulk rename will confirm the number of files renamed.

Close Bulk Rename.

As an example I have just done this to a book and the files which were previously simply 01.mp3 and 02.mp3were were renamed to Disc 101 – .mp3 and Disc 102 – .mp3.

similarly the first two files in disc 2 folder were renamed to

Disc 201 – .mp3 and Disc 202 – .mp3. The Bulk rename has created unique individual filenames for all the files in the Audio Book folders. They can now be safely merged with no destructive overwriting of files.

Now you could simply select all the files from each of your 12 individual folder and cut them into a single audio book folder.

Happily Windows provides a simpler and quicker way to create your audio Book folder

Final step 4

Create your unified audio book.

Make sure you are in a file explorer view, within the audio book folder, where you can see all the CD based book folders.

This is important as you want to restrict this operation to the audio book folder only and not be affecting other mp3 files from elsewhere on your system.

So you should be seeing something like the folders disc 01 Disc 02 etc. or CD 01 depending on how your folders are name.

Press F3 to launch Windows File Search.

Type mp3 as your search term.

Now press F6 twice to jump to a unified list of all your Audio Book mp3 files in this folder.

Press control A to select all

Now press control x to cut all the files at once.

Press backspace to return into the root of your original book folder.

Press control v to paste / move all the mp3 files out of the individual folders into the root of your book folder.

Now finally delete your now empty CD based book folders.

Job done.

Once you are used to this method it is really very quick and only takes a couple of minutes to logically rename potentially hundreds of Audio Book files.

David Griffith

Ba

Sent from Mail for Windows 10

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A Tribute To My Sister.

A Tribute To My Sister

My sister, Dorrie Rose, died yesterday. She became rapidly ill with pneumonia last Friday and passed away, thankfully peacefully. It still does not seem real.

Dorrie was important for many people. She loved all her family, her Husband Roy, her children and grandchildren.

For me Dorrie was important in a special way. Although she was 13 years older than me, we had a shared inheritance of Ushers Syndrome. This meant we both experienced the predicament of deaf blindness.

Whilst we both tried to support each other there was a critical difference.

Dorrie, as the older sibling, faced these challenges first. She never had the support of an older deaf blind sibling who knew what she was going through. She had to trail blaze, finding solutions through difficult trial and error, tenacity, skill and intelligence. I was the big benefactor of all this accumulated experience.

This support all started, for me, in 1982 when I was in Hospital, ironically, also suffering from Pneumonia.

At the time I still had some eyesight. I was not even registered blind.

Dorrie visited me, crucially knowing what lay in my future. She had decided that it was time for me to get used to Talking Books. She turned up with a carrier bag full of tapes.

She explained that listening to Talking Books was not as simple as sighted people assumed. She warned me that I would fall asleep when I tried to listen. However, if I was to effectively assimilate books in the future, now, whilst lying in Hospital, was as good a time as any for me to train my brain.

As was to prove the case, countless times, over the next 36 years, she was right. I did start falling asleep and I needed to train my brain.

Dorrie has ever since provided intelligent practical advice. How does a deaf blind person find something when they drop it? Dorrie will have some strategies. How can a deaf blind person cook? – Dorrie would have some solutions. What can a deaf blind person do in a Hospital waiting room where they may not hear their name called? Simple, according to Dorrie, firmly instruct the Receptionist that you must instead be physically touch when called.

Over the years then, enormously valuable Advice and support was available to me from Dorrie on a weekly, sometimes daily basis.

Last night I recalled that Dorrie had asked me, last year, to record a Guys and Dolls performance. Dorrie loved musicals and as a sort of tribute my daughter, Amber, and my wife Sue all settled down to watch, in my case listen.

I laid on the floor. My Guide Dog Nyle then did an extraordinary thing.

He came and laid on the floor next to me, with his head on the cushion, facing me. He had his lips resting lightly on my cheek. After a few minutes He then stretched out his paw and placed it on my shoulder, as if he was trying to hug me. We laid like this for 20 minutes. It felt, for all the world, like Nyle was kissing me on the cheek.

Nyle used to love guiding me to Dories’. He cannot have known the details but he definitely felt I needed some love last night.

The loss of my big Sister will leave a massive gap.

David Griffith

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Tactile, Accessible Pocket DAB DAB+ FM Radio

Majority Petersfield-Go Personal Digital DAB/DAB+: Tactile Accessible Pocket Radio

Review

David Griffith explains how a totally Blind Person can happily set up and

Use this Accessible DAB Radio

Product: Majority Petersfield-Go Personal Digital DAB/DAB+.

Available from Amazon: Price when reviewed: £26 with free shipping for Prime Customers.

From time to time a product appears in the mainstream which seems designed for Visually Impaired / Blind customers. In the first of 2 posts I am going to review 2 such product. Next week I will recount my experience of using a great speaker, ideal for GPS outdoor use. Here though, I will describe a new, for me, personal DAB / FM Pocket Radio.

This Radio was recently recommended to me by my sister, also blind, who in turn was alerted to its accessible possibilities by her daughter.

The Majority Petersfield Go is a small pocket DAB/FM Radio with DAB + capabilities. It does not have a speaker but is provided with earbuds. As I hate earbuds, I immediately donated these to my Daughter. I have, instead, used my JVC Gumy in ear earphones or JVC Folding over Ear headphones. This review is based on usage with these alternative headsets. Both these options work well and provide good volume suitable for someone with a degree of hearing impairment.

The Go is similar in size to other pocket radios, very slightly larger than the Goodmans Personal DAB Radio, but still small enough to fit comfortably into a shirt pocket with room to spare.

It has a small narrow strip screen at the top of the front for sighted users. However it is perfectly possible for a person without sight to set up without recourse to this screen.

Orientation

  • Holding the Radio with the screen to the front you will feel a belt clip on the back of the radio.
  • On the right edge of the Radio you will feel two small tactile buttons. These are the volume up and volume down buttons.
  • In between the volume buttons there is a square power on/off button.
  • Above the volume buttons, at the top right edge you will find a 3.5MM headphone jack.
  • Directly opposite on the left edge of the Radio, there is a micro USB Charging port.
  • Caution – it appears that the Radio will auto scan soon after you insert a charging cable. You should therefore, before charging, make sure that headphones are connected to enable an Antenna. Ensure you are in a good reception area for best results.
  • Moving down on the left edge there are 2 tactile buttons similar to the volume buttons opposite. The top button is the mode button, used for switching from FM to DAB modes. The lower button is the Menu button used for accessing settings.
  • The FM/DAB mode button also acts as the hold or lock button. Holding this down for a few seconds locks the buttons. Repeating this action unlocks.
  • On the front of the Radio there are 3 tactile buttons.
  • The top button with the recess hollow dip is the enter/preset button.
  • Below this are 2 further buttons arranged at an angle which act as previous and next when moving stations or selecting presets.

Operation

The Radio should power on if you press and hold the power button for about 3 seconds. The Radio is set up so that on first operation, even when charging, it scans for DAB stations. It is important then to make sure you are in a reasonable reception area and have earphones connected as they act as the antenna.

If for whatever reason this scan fails it seems that if you press the menu key, this will bring up scan as the first option, pressing the enter button should then invoke a manual scan.

After the scan, which takes only a couple of minutes, you should hear a DAB station playing.

Pressing either the previous or next buttons once will put the Radio into station navigation mode. Further presses of the next or previous button will start to cycle you through the list of available stations. Pressing the enter button will start that station playing.

The stations are arranged alphabetically which facilitates location.

So if I am listening to 5 live and I want to change stations to Five Live Sports Extra, I simply press the next button twice, the first press puts the Radio into station select mode, the second press moves up one station. Pressing enter will start Five Live Sports Extra playing.

If I am listening to Five Live and I want to move 3 stations down to Radio 3 I press the previous button 4 times, and then press the enter button.

Station navigation is feasible, therefore, simply by remembering the number of presses needed to navigate between stations.

However the really powerful feature of the Radio is the Accessible Preset feature.

Storing Preset.

  • Navigate to the station you want to preset.
  • Hold down the bottom edge of the Enter button for a few seconds and release.
  • Press the bottom edge of the Enter Button briefly again. This will enter you into a Preset area.
  • For the first Preset you simply need to press the enter button again.
  • For subsequent presets you will need to use the next and previous buttons to navigate to a “spare” Preset Slot before confirming your Preset choice with the press of the enter button. If you do not do this you will simply overwrite the Preset on which you have set and which you have probably landed.
  • It may take a little trial and error but you should be able to set up a working list of Presets. 10 Preset Slots are available.

Recalling a Preset

  • To recall a stored Preset simply press the bottom edge of the Enter button briefly.
  • Now use the previous and next buttons to navigate between your stored Presets.
  • Press the enter button to recall and play the selected Preset Station.

Note

My instructions differ slightly from what appears to be the User Instruction Guide which I have located on the web. I have decided to recount what works for me here. For reference and a slightly alternative approach I provide a link to the User guide.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/btvytiozmbos7xv/User-Guide-Petersfield.pdf?dl=1

FM Radio

I have only limited used of the device in FM Mode. Essentially it works as most FM Radios of this type. Pressing the next and previous buttons moves through the frequencies in small steps. Holding down the previous and next buttons should auto jump you to the next available station with reasonable strong reception.

Conclusion

There are those who will quibble with my description of this device as Accessible. No part of the Menu system talks. You will not be able to audibly tell the time, identify station information, bit rate and other information. This wider informational functionality can certainly be achieved with other devices. This comes at a price. Normally this involved spending between £100 to£500 at a minimum using either a smart phone or specialist device. . The fact is that this Radio is perfectly accessible for the core function of locating and listening to radio stations. It provides easy access for a fraction of the cost. As an added benefit you do not require mobile phone coverage or pay for a data plan.

The battery life appears reasonable so far in the few days I have used this radio. The sound volume and quality is quite acceptable, to my impaired ears, for a device at this price range. I hope that others agree. At least, at £26, if you are disappointed, it will not break the bank.

David Griffith

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Why We All Need To Sign

David Griffith explains how we would all, including Blind People, benefit from Sign Language.

Many people do not realise how specialist adaptive technology has ended up transforming all of our lives. Electronic messaging was initially developed to facilitate deaf people to communicate by telephone. So no deaf people, no Texting, no Twitter or Facebook. Likewise the use of scanners to transform paper into electronic documents has its roots in the Reading Machines developed for Blind People. No Blind People –no paperless office. Similarly the first portable electronic note takers, diary and calendar devices were developed for us. Sighted people thought they were rather cool. Arguably no blind people, no Smartphones iPhones and all of the various personal electronic organisers which are now so ubiquitous.

Some may argue that these technologies would have eventually emerged. Yet their earlier adoption was undoubtedly fired by the imaginative potential to transfer adaptive technologies from the niche into the wider mainstream. I believe that this principle should apply to adaptive skills as much as technology.

The attention that the Oscar winning short film, “The Silent child” has garnered prompted me to recall a hobby horse of mine. The film reminds us how deaf children can face traumatising isolation without Sign Language. The film points out that 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents who may not have sign language, and that 78% attend schools without any sign language support. The Film calls for specialist support to redress the consequent loneliness and disadvantage deaf children face.

Whilst the film has a laudable message it does not go far enough. We have only scratched the possibilities of sign language. I am convinced that every child, not just deaf children, should learn it within the national Curriculum. As a by-product, we would no longer push deaf people to the margins, but this fails to grasp the wider potential. Some examples may illustrate.

Scenario 1– Noisy.

You have a need to talk to somebody but you are in a noisy environment. This may be a noisy tube train, or you may be in a busy Restaurant, Bar, or Sports or Music event. No matter how you shout your partner is struggling to hear you.

Alternatively you are working in a deafening workshop/building site / transit point with noise levels from machinery so loud that ear baffling earphones are required.

How much simpler would it be for you to smoothly communicate by Sign Language? This should not be a bizarre concept as we already do it. We all, including Blind People resort to signing. We may cup a hand to our ear to indicate difficulty with hearing; others may mime drinking with a questioning look across a noisy bar to ascertain if somebody wants a drink. Nearly everybody will either nod or shake their head to answer questions. The problem is that we are limited to virtual Baby talk with no sophistication. How much safer and effective would we be if we could talk as adults rather than virtual toddlers?

Scenario 2 Quiet.

In this scenario you need to talk to somebody but sound is unwelcome. Perhaps you are parents of a new born child who has just gone to sleep and you are anxious not to wake them. Perhaps you are in a quiet designated train carriage but you have an urgent message to convey to a companion perhaps you are researching some material in a silent library about which you need to have a quick consultation. Perhaps you are attending a lecture/speech about which you want to discuss a point with a colleague without disrupting the presentation. Perhaps all you need is to clarify a point before you make a question / intervention.

We, again, already use an extremely limited set of signs to assist here. Even a Blind parent may place a finger to their lips to signify to their child that they should keep quiet. We should have a wider set of tools.

Scenario 3 – Distance

You are some distance from a person you need to talk to but they remain in plain sight. Perhaps you can see your child on a beach about to get into trouble but do not want to shout across the beach. Again basic signs are already deployed. For example,

You may beckon your child to return so you are not required to bellow. How much more efficient though if you could simply transmit your message at distance, perhaps a simple instruction not to go too far into the water?

Scenario 4. – Discretion.

Sign language can provide discrete messaging. This may be a quick but essential sign to indicate an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction to a friend. More seriously signing may support security efforts to protect public safety in a counter terrorism environment. Covert behaviour is often not just justifiable but normal, whether this is to organise a surprise for a birthday party or at the other extreme support the apprehension of a criminal. Again basic signs are often deployed in these circumstances. Yet how much more useful would it be not just to point in a certain direction but discretely instruct somebody to “wait around the corner”?

Scenario 5 h- Technological Adaptation

With gesturing capabilities widely available the potential for exploitation with technology would explode. Rather than having to type or dictate gesturing would be a quick and efficient way of controlling devices and writing material. Arguably the accuracy of recognition could be far higher than that achieved with dictation. Gestures are already utilised for both gaming and Virtual Reality technology and the adaptation of this into a smooth way of interacting with our devices is well within our current capabilities. You could be in a noisy, rattling and cramped railway train but still be able to smoothly gesture your email, text messages or submission for your latest work project.

These are just a few possibilities which leap to my restricted imagination with limited insight into sign language. I am sure that many more fruitful utilities would emerge.

So finally should Blind People be interested in an adaptation that, without vision they cannot fully access? Even if we cannot receive sign language there is no reason why we should not send it. As we have seen nearly all Blind People use basic signs to communicate anyway. We should be better at this. An analogy is the way that Deaf people try to talk, even if they cannot hear. Likewise, for blind people, one way nonverbal communication is better than refusing all non-verbal communications.

There are undeniably learning challenges which inhibit a Person without sight. Learning signs by feel is more complicated. However this would not necessarily inhibit all, or even the majority of Blind People.

Blindness is overwhelmingly age related. Only a small minority of us are blind from birth. If Sign language was taught whilst we had vision in School, most of us would grow up with and retain this skill. Discrete finger spelling as opposed to sighted feedback would remain an alternative option. Other wider possibilities would be available to us. I would love the ability to gesture to my iPhone whilst in a cab and compose copy material on the move.

So here is to universal sign language taught to all children as part of the National Curriculum. It is a skill ready out there, with the potential to enrich our lives. We need only to grasp its potential.

David Griffith

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