Thursday, July 29, 2010

Smacking the BMW!

Can you imagine almost hitting someone with your car, someone using a white cane, and then telling him he should stay indoors? As I crossed the intersection a BMW decided to make a left turn, missing me by less than a foot. As the car drove by, my cat-like reflexes instinctively kicked in and my 63-inch, metal-tipped fiberglass cane smacked the driver’s door. After getting to the other side of the intersection I indicated to the driver that I was going to a near-by bus stop and suggested we discuss the situation there. The car went to the parking lot next to the bus stop. (Yes, I realize this was not the best way to deal with the situation and I was somewhat concerned that a person the size of Hulk Hogan would emerge.) Out stepped a short, middle-aged blonde who threatened to call the police. I encouraged her to do so, informing her she would have a difficult time explaining to the police how it was my fault that she almost hit me. After a few minutes of fuming she started to get back in her car and as a parting shot, remarked that blind people should be indoors. At this point I had to just walk away to avoid losing my temper.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Blindness & Technology- KNFB Reader Phone

This posting is the first in a series that will demonstrate how many of the challenges of blindness can be overcome, or at least minimized, through technology. The KNFB reader combines Optical character Recognition software (OCR) with a high quality camera/cell phone. I can scan a bill, book cover, correspondence, or most print material and have the phone read it to me audibly. If I want to get fancy, I can email the images or documents to myself. Although it is very useful for reading menus, bills or letters, it is not practical for reading materials that are more than a few pages, such as a book. Vocational Rehab purchased it so I could read handouts that would be given to me while in class. Here is the viedeo.

Here is the blooper video.

Note: My use of video is a work in progress. In the future I will limit videos to two or three minutes. Also, a special thanks to my daughter Natalie who is my photographer.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I'm not dead!

The last couple of weeks have been eventful. I attended Scout camp in southern Oklahoma from July 5th through the 9th. The next day, Teri and I signed a lease for a house in Edmond OK. That’s when the fun really started. We moved into the house on the 13th and have been dealing with various challenges since. Additionally, I am preparing to give a talk at church this Sunday. My topic is gratitude. This is ironic since I am having a difficult time being grateful for the many things going wrong at this time. But I did not want to bore you with a travelogue or complain. I want you to know that I am still alive and will soon return to working on this blog. Additionally, I will soon publish another blog that focuses on issues and topics relating to my book. More on that later. In the meantime, thank you for your interest and comments.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Race, Respect & Blindness

When I first moved to OKC, I did not use a white cane. I was still trying to function like a sighted person. When I rode the bus I was just another passenger using public transportation to get from point A to point B. Actually, that wasn't entirely true. Many times I was the only white person on the bus. Initially I was somewhat uncomfortable being so conspicuous but soon got over it. But two years ago I began using the cane as I travelled and observed some interesting changes. Most people were more courteous, or at least less discourteous, than when I didn’t use my cane. However it is not surprising since many people are likely to be more sympathetic to an individual with an obvious disability than someone without a disability. What is surprising is the difference of how I am treated by blacks and whites. Black people are more likely to address me as "Sir" or hold the door open for me than whites. I don't really want anyone to open a door for me as I am capable of doing so on my own. However, I do appreciate the concern and it sure beats somebody waving their hand in front of my face just to see if I'm really blind. (This actually happened to me and I used a great deal of restraint not knocking him out cold.) But I digress. My point is black people are more likely to demonstrate respect to me than whites. I have no idea why this happens but it does.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Bonuses for Being Blind!

Note- Image of new digital audio book player from Library of Congress.

You probably didn’t know but there are some perks for being blind. The first has to do with the IRS. I get an extra exemption for being blind when filing a return. I can also earn more money than someone who is not blind and still keep my Social Security DisabilityInsurance payment. If I am self-employed I can earn even more without my SSDI being affected. This is probably to offset the absurdly-high cost of self-employment tax I would have to pay.

Another benefit is free education through Vocational Rehabilitation. Actually its not free since you and your grandchildren will be paying for it, so thanks. However I did take advantage of this and earned a BS in Speech Communication from the University of Utah. Just like SSDI, if yu are blind, you get better benefits than those with another disability. Everything for my degree was covered. I even tried to get my Rehab counselor to buy me a pistol for a marksmanship class. That didn’t fly. I am grateful for my education, and I have put it to good use. But Voc Rehab is a colossal waste of tax-payer dollars. But that’s another story for a different blog.

The other advantage for being blind is access to audio books from the Library of Congress. (Its ironic that a person who loves reading as much as I do, can’t read like I want too.) The LOC provides qualified individuals with audio books on tape or in a new, digital format. All narrators are professional readers and if the book has been translated into English, the narrator must be fluent in English and the book’s original language. So when I listened to Les Miserables, (Victor Hugo’s classic) I heard all the French phrases and names pronounced in perfect French. The new digital format allows me to accelerate the reading rate with almost no audio distortion. This means I can listen to a book with a nine-hour reading time in less than six hours!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Baby Steps!

Last year I began a half hearted attempt at braille. I sort of, kind of practiced while commuting to school in Edmond but would soon replace my braille manual for the sounds of FM radio. But today was the first time I practiced braille knowing that I had to learn it and I was actually a little nervous. It took a high degree of concentration. I spent over an hour reading two pages whose words were limited to the first five letters of the alphabet. And so begins my first steps into the world of braille literacy and independence.