Help support Grail to the Thief: An Interactive Audio Adventure

A new no screen, audio only adventure game is trying to get support via Kickstarter.

Want to learn more?  Visit their fundraising page at:
Grail to the Thief: An Interactive Audio Adventure.  It includes a video that demonstrates how the game works.

 

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Modern fonts are a frustration for low vision users

There’s a rather unfortunate trend towards “clean, modern” fonts that are not a good thing for low vision web users.

For examples, check out the Adobe Light/Thin font choices.

The text is thin, so it doesn’t create enough color contrast, even on a black on white background.  Enlarging the font helps a little bit, but not enough to make a significant difference.  This forces low vision users to have to strain more to read, which causes fatigue.

Eye strain also makes nystagmus (rapid eye movement) move faster, so it makes it harder to focus on text.

My eyes feel exhausted all the time.  I am working up the motivation to teach myself how to use screen readers so that I can take some of the load off my eyes.

Even worse, many web designers are using grey text on white backgrounds, which makes it a double whammy.

There are browser accessibility add-ons that help increase contrast, but they tend to be buggy.  Integrate readable font so readers don’t have to rely on faulty add-ons that aren’t really able to adapt to specific sites very well.

 

 

 

 

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A Web for Everyone: Review

I wrote an earlier post about A Web for Everyone with an introduction to the book.  I finished it a couple days ago, and still highly recommend it for all web professionals.

Two main points I got from the book:

  • Integrate accessibility from the beginning.  It should be part of the regular development life cycle.
  • Reach out to people with disabilities who can give you first-hand feedback.  Knowbility and Loop 11 have joined together to create a database of users with disabilities called AccessWorks.

The book also includes interviews with key web and accessibility experts including Mike Paciello, Steve Faulkner, Ethan Marcotte, and others.

A Web for Everyone has an extensive list of resources for more reading on the topic.  I have the print edition, but this is an advantage for the Kindle version–no need to manually type in the links.

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WordPress accessibility features going in the right direction

WordPress has made great strides in accessibility since I started this blog four years ago.  It is much easier to enlarge the post editor page so I can see what I’m writing. The page content conforms to the browser zoom settings now.  There are also more ways to include accessibility from the start that doesn’t require a lot of hardcore coding.

The latest default theme, Twenty Fourteen, is accessible.

If you’re completely new to WordPress, you might want to check out the guide: WordPress for Badeyes by Geof Collis of Badeyes.com.  The guide takes you step-by-step through the process of downloading and installing WordPress, then building an accessible site.

After you purchase the WordPress for Badeyes from the Badeyes website, you can view it in HTML format, or download PDF, Word or Daisy formats.  I used the HTML format, which was easy to navigate.

The guide provides good plugin suggestions for security and post customizations.  It also describes how to use both the FTP and visual editor to install and edit WordPress.  You’ll use the Badeyes Wireframe theme, which is fully accessible out of the box.

WordPress for Badeyes is not the most polished formatting wise, and I think the content could be broken up some more so that readers can clearly see the steps to downloading and using WordPress more clearly.  The paragraphs are a little long.

The grammar setup is different than what I’m used to.  No commas or punctuation within the sentences, and a lot of capitalization.

But, keep in mind that the guide is developed for accessibility, and is optimized for screenreaders and for good color contrast.

Additional resources on WordPress and Accessibility

https://codex.wordpress.org/Accessibility - Accessibility guidelines in the WordPress codex

WP Accessibility plugin - plugin that adds skip links and other accessibility features to your WordPress site

 

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MED-EL RONDO cochlear implant processor–a first-hand look

Opus 2 and RONDO CI processorsI feel like I have 5 ears.  Seriously.

When my left ear was implanted, I received an Opus 2 behind-the-ear processor, a backup, and a 3rd free.  The 3rd one was a promotion RONDO single-unit processor that MED-EL is offering until June.

Then, after that, I also was able to trade my older, obsolete processors for another RONDO and Opus 2.

Now that I have two RONDO’s, one for each ear, I can wear them interchangeably with my Opus 2′s.

Here are some pros/cons to the RONDO:

Pros

  • Smaller and thinner than it looks online
  • No cords, less chance of it slipping off, which makes it more suitable for pilates, yoga or any other exercise that requires a lot of bending.
  • Nothing on the ear
  • MED-EL is developing accessories for the RONDO: sportsband and a rumored waterproof bag similar to Cochlear’s Aqua Accessory

Cons

  • The microphone points up, so it’s like you’re hearing from the top of your head (this makes no sense to me).
  • Not as easy to listen to music with headphones or use the phone
  • Not much color choice, but there are SkinIts

The Opus 2 processor microphone sits on the ear, so it can be used more naturally with the phone, headphones, and in conversations facing people.

With all of that said, this is the first single-unit processor out there, so over time, they’ll make it smaller and hopefully design it so that it will feel more like the sound is coming from the ear, rather than the head.

I am glad I have two types of processors so that I can use them for different circumstances, but I think I’ll stick with my Opus 2′s for the majority of the time.

Find out more about the MED-EL cochlear implant processors on their website at www.medel.com.

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Facebook Newsfeed redesign–a step in the right direction

With each new design change, it feels like Facebook just gets more and more cluttered, with all of the automatic refreshing and mass amount of content on the page.

For once, they’ve done something good with their latest update to the newsfeed.  The update to the feed resembles the simpler layout you see on the mobile platform.  The text is darker and contrasts better with the background.  The pictures look more streamlined.

They’ve made the links to my profile and Home brighter, so they’re easier to navigate.  It’d help if I could see the notification, message and setting icons.  They’re basically invisible unless they have new notifications.

I like that the chat box column disappears when I zoom.  I never use chat, and it just means there’s less clutter.

The “Most Recent” and “Top Stories” links are more visible.  They’re displayed in a bar under the status posting box, rather than in a drop down menu.

It is nice to have a smaller, incremental update, rather than a radical change.  But, of course everyone will find a reason to gripe about it.

 

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Use Amazon Smile to donate to charities of your choice

Amazon Smile has been set up to help provide donations to a huge number of charities.  I currently have mine set up to support the Hearing Loss Association of America.  You’ll find other major organizations such as the Red Cross, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, National Federation of the Blind and American Council of the Blind, as well as smaller charities that help serve people at a more local level.

If you represent a charity, you can register at AmazonSmile Org Central.  Charities receive 0.5% of eligible purchases.

So many people order from Amazon all the time.  This way, some of the proceeds can help fund research, and provide help for those who really need it.

 

 

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Going carless in a small town

After living in the Raleigh-Durham area for several years, I moved back to my hometown to save money.  Sounds impossible without a car, right?  Not necessarily.

All my life, I thought that a big city would be where I should live because of the public transportation, and access to jobs and entertainment.

I am finding that living in a small community has its perks that you can’t get in a big city.  The town is small enough to drive across in 15 minutes, and I know half the town, so I don’t feel like I’m stepping way out of my comfort zone when asking for rides.

The streets are smaller and less busy. so I’m not risking my life every time I walk down to the grocery store.  Seriously, driverless cars will be so much safer!  I can’t wait til the Google Prius driverless car goes mainstream.

There is a lot of room for improvement.  The town has the potential to be a lot more walkable.  I look forward to getting involved with projects and initiatives for this.

All of those “social groups” that I’ve been looking for — knitting group, book club, trivia, etc, are all right here.  I spent so much time looking for them in Durham, but just happened upon them here without much effort.

While it’s true that jobs are harder to come by in small towns, I’m grateful to have a job that isn’t dependent on my location.  There is also a strong focus on local artists, so people can share their talents and make money too.  Telecommuting is becoming more and more popular with gas prices rising, and through access to technology.  That will give people who have mobility restrictions more freedom to choose where they live.

I am glad that I can still go back to Chapel Hill or Durham and be mobile.  It helps me appreciate that I know the bus and train systems well enough to get around independently outside of where I live.  But then, I also appreciate no longer having to worry about being out after dark, or carving out hours of my day just to get from place to place.  There are pros and cons to both situations.

I hear so many people say “I have to have a car” or “I can’t go without a car.”  I admit I’ve complained about it–although I have some rather amusing and crazy stories from using public transit.  But, it IS possible to live without a car.  You just have to learn what resources are available for you, and make good connections in the community you live in.

 

 

 

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Switched at Birth Season 3

Has anyone else been watching Season 3 of Switched at Birth?

Switched at Birth is an ABC Family drama that follows two teenagers and their families.  The girls, Daphne and Bay, were switched at birth, and Daphne is deaf.  I like it because it is a popular show in general, but also teaches lessons about how the disability community is perceived in real life.

This must be the season of the relationships because it feels like the show has created some kind of drama or controversy around all of the relationships on the show.

That would get old except that there are two different relationships in the show that portray what it is like to date someone with a disability: Travis (another deaf character) and Mary Beth, and Daphne and Campbell (who is in a wheelchair).

Two big issues that face a relationship involving disability are: discrimination and misconceptions about limits to activities that couples can do.

I am so glad that the show handled those two issues by bringing them out in the open and addressing them.  With all the relationship drama in the entertainment industry, you never see these issues.

Sure there might be some things that a couple can’t do because of a disability, but having a disability also gives you a unique perspective on life.  There are also ways to work around a barrier.  Plus, even able-bodied people are not good at everything.

A couple of examples:

Deaf people can dance by following the rhythm through vibrations, or by following the lead of a good partner.

The blind can enjoy movies through audio, and even better, descriptive audio.

As for discrimination.  You can get angry, let it go, or use it as a teachable moment.  Of course, not everyone will be receptive to the teachable moment, but getting angry over ignorance (if that is what it is) is like hitting against a brick wall.  It doesn’t solve anything.

People aren’t usually inclined to educate themselves about disability unless they’re required to for a personal, academic, or business reason, or if they’re actively interested in learning more about it.  It is human nature to not actively think about something that doesn’t affect them.  So, it is up to those experiencing it to educate the rest of society.

You can catch up with Switched at Birth on Amazon or Netflix.  The spring season finale is this coming Monday, but the summer season starts on June 16.  It will be nice to have new shows to look forward to when the others are on hiatus during the summer!

 

 

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Life with bilateral cochlear implants – two month mark

My new, left cochlear implant has been activated for two and a half months now.  It has been a much different experience so far than with my first, right cochlear implant because my left ear has progressed a lot more quickly.

In the beginning I had some processor issues, and I’m trying to get used to controlling my implants with a remote.  I hope one day, they’ll come up with longer lasting batteries, so I don’t feel like I’m constantly changing them.

In terms of speech recognition, my ears are about the same.  In terms of sound quality, my right ear is still the better one.  My left ear doesn’t seem to handle high pitch sounds very well, which is frustrating.

I have heard arguments about whether it really makes a difference whether you have one or two implants.  I would strongly argue that two are essential for overall balance and awareness.  I am blind in my right eye, so having surround sound hearing might benefit me more so than people with normal vision.

I am extremely happy that my balance has stabilized since I’ve received my second implant.  That has been a big struggle over the past 5 years, and I feel like it’s finally hit bottom and will only improve from here on out.

I’ve spent most of my life with one ear, so I never really understood “stereo.”  There are no words to describe how it feels to hear and appreciate music in stereo for the first time.  I feel like I’m hearing familiar songs in a new way, and discovering songs I could never really listen to before because they were too muffled.

Bilateral implants add depth to the overall sound.  I love not having to worry about what side I’m on, and being able to hear from a further distance.  I look forward to when the left ear starts to sound more normal, so that everything will sound even better!

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