Archive for the ‘Productivity’ Category
Tuesday, June 19th, 2012
There was a time in my life when I subscribed to the motto, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” The idea behind this of course, is an over exaggerated way of declaring an inexhaustible level of energy and tireless work ethic.
Working hard of course is honorable and is still a quality I pride. Unfortunately, sleep, the all-important necessity for good physical, mental and emotional health has been lacking in my life for years now.
Around 40% of adults in this country do not get the proper amount of sleep.
Doctors recommend – between 7 and 8 hours a night.
I was, and still am, one of the adults included in this statistic, albeit for different reasons now.
Sleep was something I could do whenever and wherever I had an appropriate opportunity. My daily routine consisted of me waking up in the morning quickly getting ready to head to the gym. I would walk to the bus only to snuggle into a window seat in order to make myself comfortable to catch another hour of sleep. More than often Mr. Sandman would visit before we made it to the second bus stop only a few blocks away.
Falling or staying asleep was never a problem for me. That was, until I became blind.
Have you ever experienced that moment when you find yourself turning over in the middle of the night searching for that more comfortable position enabling you to fall back into a soothing sleep? If you’re fortunate, you probably don’t really ever think about this, because you do return to a dream state.
The problem begins when you realize, you are finished sleeping and it’s only 2:30 or 3 AM. This is really upsetting when it becomes a nightly routine.
So called remedies like, Sleepy Time tea, warm milk, or hot baths were not helpful. I later learned of Melatonin. I found it necessary to cycle Melatonin with Tylenol PM on a weekly basis. These really help me stay asleep for a solid 5 hours. I was somewhat satisfied and learned to manage the ever present desire to nap.
Check out this video describing a similar experience to my own.
I recently decided to participate in the Non 24 hour Sleep Wake Study.
Last week I was informed that I qualified for the clinical trial of the drug to aid this sleep disorder.
I can’t tell you how much I hope this is going to be an effective solution to this problem.
My concentration level has been extremely low. A lacking appetite and what seems to be a decrease in taste. Add short term memory loss and you have the motivating factors moving me to participate.
Last night was my first time on the drug. There was an obvious improvement in my sleep, but whether that is due to the medicine or something else remains to be seen. The total quality of my sleep was not much different, but I was able to fall back to sleep when I awoke in the middle of the night. I spent less time awake during the night, but I was still groggy in the morning.
As I write this in the late afternoon, I’m feeling like I need a nap, but not as badly as say this same time a week ago.
I am looking forward to reporting positive results, but even more importantly I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep!
Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
This past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in the ACB President’s Meeting and Legislative Seminar.
The President’s meeting is a chance for leaders of state affiliates of the American Council of the Blind to participate in presentations and share information all geared to aid the growth of the state organizations.
The Legislative Seminar focuses on the main goal of the organization, advocacy. The weekend consists of presentations designed to assure all attendees are prepared to speak to Federal Legislators on pre-determined imperatives.
For more information on the advocacy side, please read my daily coverage from DC posted on MCCB online.org.
Now you know it’s just natural that I would want to focus on the impact technology has made on the seminar experience.
While this was not my first time participating in the seminar, there have been a few technology changes since my first visit to DC in 2007. Although some of the technology was available in various forms, it was not as prevalent among people with vision loss due to the lack of accessible options.
Although Twitter began in 2006 and became more popular in 2007, the lack of a truly usable interface limited its popularity and usage in the blind community.
It was great to see that access via ios devices and screen reader friendly programs has made its usage close to on par with those who are sighted.
Attendees and remote participants alike could collaborate on all things related to the seminar via the hash tag # NLS12.
I have to send a shout out to ACB National for their posting of notes during the seminar. They provided great information which enabled me to rely on their notes and comments for my own purposes.
ACB Radio has provided live coverage of the seminar in past years. A more recent development is the ability to access the audio stream while on the go. Again, smart phones, especially the IPhone, have improved this access for those of us with vision loss.
I’m almost ashamed to say that I did not take advantage of some additional tech that could have assisted my time on the Hill. Several people on my Twitter timeline talked about various Congress related apps that provide lots of information including quick access to email addresses and even Twitter handles to publicly thank the representatives for their time.
I thought of using a DC Metro map application to help with navigating our way from the hotel to the Capital. Unfortunately this thought came to me after we were on the train! Man, I must be slipping.
My focus was on providing those in my PCB family with varying forms of media to give them an opportunity to experience the seminar remotely. I attempted to shoot a video and load to YouTube, but unfortunately the audio was too poor. Video, you ask? Yes, indeed, remember not everyone in the organization is totally blind. In fact chances are that the majority have some usable vision. I know this is true in my local chapter. And why not, if we produce the video right, it is the most universally accessible and appealing.
I did get a chance to record spontaneous audio captured on the way home following our visit to the hill.
All in all, it was a great trip and I hope most of all that our efforts prove to be successful – we see the passing of HR 860 and HR 4087.
Wednesday, April 8th, 2009
I received the below email from the Author’s Guild in response to the Reading Rights Coalition protest held yesterday in NYC.
Based on their statement it still appears that the definition of audio rights will have to first be agreed upon. As someone who has been reading both books using TTS and audio narration, I have to say there is no comparison. TTS is simply the communication medium available to those of us who are considered print impaired. Audio narrated books on the other hand are performances of the author’s work.
The guild seems to be very eager to renegotiate contracts. They accuse Amazon of taking advantage of author’s audio rights in order to take a position in the E-Book market, but it seems the Guild is using this to force renegotiations.
I understand the guild’s focus is the welfare of their writer’s and Amazon is a business out to make money, but damn folks, all we want is equal access to books!
Something is wrong with this picture!
Author’s Guild response – April 7, 2009:
Dear Mr. Reid,
Thank you for your phone call today. We issued the following statement today in response to the protest:
Authors want everyone to read their books. That’s why the Authors Guild, and authors generally, are strong advocates for making all books, including e-books, accessible to everyone. This is not a new
position for us. For decades, we’ve informed new authors that the expected and proper thing to do is to donate rights so that their works
can be accessible to the blind and others. In October, we were praised by the National Federation of the Blind for the settlement of our lawsuit against Google, which promises "to revolutionize blind
people’s access to books," according to the Federation’s press release.
E-books do not come bundled with audio rights. So we proposed to the Federation several weeks ago the only lawful and speedy path to make e-books accessible to the print disabled on Amazon’s Kindle:
1. The first step is to take advantage of a special exception to the Copyright Act known as the Chafee Amendment, which permits the blind and others with certified physical print disabilities access to special versions, including audio versions, of copyrighted books. Technology makes this step easy: certified users of existing Kindles could activate their devices online to enable access to voice-output versions of all e-books. This process could be ready to go within weeks.
2. Since step one would help only those with sufficient eyesight to navigate the current Kindle, we encourage Amazon or another e-book
device manufacturer to make an e-book device with voice output capability that would be truly blind-accessible, with a Braille
keyboard and audible menu commands.
3. Finally, we need to amend existing book contracts to allow voice-output access to others, including those with learning
disabilities, that don’t qualify for special treatment under the Chafee Amendment. There’s no getting around the need to amend contracts: for the past 16 years, standard publishing contracts with most major trade
publishers do not permit publishers to sell e-books bundled with audio rights. Fortunately, publishing contracts are amendable, and can (once terms have been negotiated) be handled in a systematic fashion.
The Authors Guild will gladly be a forceful advocate for amending contracts to provide access to voice-output technology to everyone. We will not, however, surrender our members’ economic rights to Amazon or anyone else. The leap to digital has been brutal for print media generally, and the economics of the transition from print to e-books do not look as promising as many assume. Authors can’t afford to start this transition to digital by abandoning rights. Knowing how difficult the road ahead is for the already fragile economics of authorship, we are particularly troubled at how all this arose, with Amazon attempting to use authors’ audio rights to lengthen its lead in the fledgling e-book industry. We could not allow this rights grab to happen. Audio books are a billion dollar market, the rights for which are packaged separately from — and are far more valuable than — e-book rights.
That said, our support for access by all disabled readers is steadfast, and we know how to make it happen. The Federation rightly heralded the settlement in Authors Guild v. Google. That class-action settlement represents a quantum leap in accessibility to books for the disabled. It will, if approved, make far more books than ever before, potentially tens of millions of out-of-print books, accessible to not only the blind, but to people with any type of print disability.
Through the Google settlement, we have a solution for out-of-print book accessibility. We’re confident we can arrive at a solution for in-print books as well.
Today’s protest is unfortunate and unnecessary. We stand by our offer, first made to the Federation’s lawyer a month ago and repeated several times since, to negotiate in good faith to reach a solution for making in-print e-books accessible to everyone. We extend that same offer to
any group representing the disabled.
Feel free to contact the office if you have any questions or would like
The Authors Guild
31 East 32nd St., 7th Floor
New York, NY 10016
212-563-5904; fax: 212-564-5363
Tuesday, April 7th, 2009
This was one of the slogans chanted during Tuesday’s protest organized by the Reading Rights Coalition. The demonstration, held outside of the NYC office of The Author’s Guild, seemed to be well attended both in person and virtually.
Thanks to Mika Pyykhala and John Oliveira of the Association of Blind Citizens for streaming the event.
The program consisted of representatives from the various RRC participating organizations. Each showing their support for the right to equal access to books.
Those of us who were listening to the stream were asked to call the Author’s Guild @ (212) 563-5904 to urge them to reverse their position. When I called, I was told that the guild would release a statement later today. The receptionist took my email and said I would be included on the distribution.
So Close but yet So Far!
Today’s protest was a great example of the power that comes with technology. Two individuals using a net book, microphone, broadband card and software were able to independently stream the event and provide those of us unable to attend with the instant information we were seeking.
The Kindle, once made navigable, has the TTS built in that will potentially provide access to over 250,000 books. Technology can provide access.
Ironically, it appears that the technology hurdle is about to be cleared, and now The Author’s Guild creates an artificial barrier in the form of content restrictions.
Access to information has increased within the five years I have been aware of the issue. However, it has mainly come via specialty products not generally available or applicable to the mainstream. The Victor Reader Stream, while a great product is unknown and unavailable in general electronic stores or web sites. This small market segment tends to be the main reason given by Access Technology product manufacturer’s for their comparatively expensive price tag.
A fully accessible Kindle with built in TTS available for any book purchased at the one price, well, that is a game changer.
We are so close!
While the number of signatures on the petition are increasing, I think we should be over ten thousand already. The two blind consumer organizations combined is an estimated 75 thousand individuals, each with at least one family member or friend, acquaintance, neighbor…
If you are reading this blog chances are you support this issue – c’mon peeps, sign the petition and play a part in change.
Holla back via the comments after signing the petition.
Wednesday, April 1st, 2009
For the past few months I have been taking courses from The Hadley School for the Blind. If you’re not familiar with Hadley, it’s a free distance learning school for people who are visually impaired and blind. Their mission:
To promote independent living through lifelong, distance education programs for people who are blind or visually impaired, their families and blindness service providers.
I am finishing up with my second course, Braille Literacy 2 which completes the full Braille alphabet. The methodology used by Hadley gives the student significant practice which is highly required in order to become proficient. Braille Literacy 1, introduces the student to using tactile reading. Various techniques are taught enabling the student to remain oriented to the line being read. Students are encouraged to set their own pace, making the learning process less stressful.
I am very happy to report that I am now going label crazy. Not only labeling file folders, but items throughout the house. I can now do away with non Braille tactile methods that I was forced to remember translations. For example, pins with 1 Braille dot translated to the color black, two for white. I would place these pins on my socks. While this method works fine for simple items, it sure does feel good being able to open my file drawer and quickly find a specific folder.
I am not where I want to be just yet with my Braille proficiency, but thanks to Hadley and my extremely supportive instructor, Betsy, I am on my way.
For those who are visually impaired or blind and have not checked out Hadley, do yourself a favor and pay them a visit.
Friday, February 20th, 2009
Let me first say, I believe every consumer electronic product should be made accessible for all. No one community should be relegated to a specific brand or device based on a characteristic. There should not be computers, mp3 players or microwaves “for the blind.” These products and others should simply be universally designed with all people able to operate.
The recent buzz about the Amazon Kindle got me thinking, would such a product, if made accessible cause a mass migration of specialty device users. Would blind people abandon their Victor Reader Stream or other DAISY Players, for a Kindle?
Reading the product page for the Kindle 2.0, I am not convinced I would cheat on Vicky. (Yes, I call my Victor Reader Stream Vicky – Read a prior post for explanation.)
However, if the folks at HumanWare are concerned, well, maybe Vicky needs to spice it up a bit, make herself a little sexier in order to make sure this relationship stays fresh and exciting. While I would obviously prefer a software upgrade, some of the features below may indeed require new hardware, let’s call her Vicky 2.0. So, Humanware, think about this list as you watch the Petition to make the Amazon Kindle Accessible grow with signatures.
My Feature List for the Victor Reader Stream 2.0:
- A Clock – preferably with multiple alarm settings –I recently destroyed my watch, since I always have my Vicky, seems to make sense.
- Built in Wi-fi – I know The Kindle has Free 3G. But we’re still talking about Access Technology, let’s be realistic!
- Bluetooth – I want to eliminate the headphone cable.
- Fully functioning Browser – Navigating a web page can be similar to navigating a DAISY book
- Direct Download for;
(Again, Kindle gets her books in 60 seconds!)
- Podcasts via built in ppodcatcher
- Skype for internet phone calls – Remember the built in Microphone
- Synchronizable Calendar and To Do List
Ok, I know I made this more into a mobile PC than just a DAISY Reader, but it’s all about the features in 2009!
It hurts me to think this way but, if Amazon’s Kindle or some other mainstream product offered such features, well I may just have to two time Vicky.
Sunday, January 25th, 2009
Have you ever read a review of a piece of software that sounds exactly like what you have been looking for to solve some problem? Maybe you were looking for a better way to accomplish a specific task you find yourself doing over and over again. So after reading a review you head on over to the website of the software’s developer and look for a free trial. You download and install only to find out that the application is inaccessible.
Sometimes even worse you can use some of the functionality, but find yourself jumping through hoops to make the application work with your screen reader or looking for workarounds to bypass inaccessible controls.
That sucks even more!
This week I found a gem. I’ve been looking for an application to help me manage project tasks, to do lists and generally help me stay organized. I’ve been using various methods depending on the task. These include using the free text editor from Jamal Mazrui, EdSharp and it’s very cool built in functionality like creating contents and section navigation.
I learned of an application called Action Outline Lite (the free version of Action outline) that gives the ability to quickly create structured hierarchical outlines, enabling you to organize just about anything you can imagine.
From the developer’s site:
A simple yet useful organizer, Action Outline consists of an Explorer-like interface where you can store and arrange all your information in a tree outline form. Arrange items using your keyboard or mouse, cut and paste branches, place checks or tags next to listed items, search information, print data, export to the external file, or link to web or local files.
Not only are just about all the options accessible from the keyboard, menus including right click and the menu bar are all accessible. (Based on Vista laptop running Jaws v 9.)
Action Outline is going to serve not only as a way for me to easily store and manage tasks and notes. but it is going to serve as my command center.
It’s ability to link directly to multiple AO outline files, emails, web sites and other objects enables me to have one main file, the "Command Center," and easily open and manage other files.
I guess I’m showing the Productivity Geek in me, or maybe it just feels great to download an app, and not have to uninstall it because of inaccessibility.
AO is A Ok with me! Big shout out to the development team at Green Parrot Software.
Go on over to Action Outline Lite and give it a try.
While the features in the lite version will probably accommodate most of my needs, I plan on upgrading to the paid version – $39.95.
I consider that more a way of supporting a development team for an accessible product.,