Yes, I Love Technology

Hi ya’ll! First, I want to thank everyone who has commented or emailed me questions. I can’t wait to answer them, and hopefully, satisfy your curiosity. Keep them coming!

Today, I’m going to answer two questions that I’ve been asked by several people. The first is short, so I threw it in the post. The second is rather long, so, I apologize in advance. If you have insomnia, I suggest reading this post once or twice, and you won’t have to worry about counting sheep 😉

1. What do I do at my job/ what is my profession?
I am a Marketing and Development Associate at a non-profit cultural access organization in NYC. My organization’s mission is to remove barriers to arts and culture for traditionally isolated populations of the city. It’s a great place, with great people!
What I do is mainly a lot of writing. On the marketing side, I wrote a lot of text for the organization’s website when it was being overhauled. I also write posts for our blog, outreach materials for various programs, letters, and miscellaneous tasks. Though I’ve listed several marketing activities, my job leans heavily toward the development side. I spend at least 90% of the time writing proposals, letters, and requests for funding. I also research potential funders, and am the outreach person for city council activities, including funding requests, invites to events, and meeting schedule/attendance. That’s it in a nutshell.

2. How do I operate technology, i.e. Computer, iPhone, iPad, blog and work?

iPhone/iPad:
First, I want to say that Apple is AWESOME and the mac daddy. Apple products are great because they are sensitive to making their products accessible, and include accessibility software hardwired into their devices (unlike Windows). I use a software called “Voice Over” on my iPhone and iPad. It sounds much like Siri. If you have one of these devices, you can check out Voice Over by doing the following:
Tap “settings” > tap “general” > tap “accessibility” > tap “Voice Over” > turn Voice Over on.
You will notice that turning Voice Over on changes how you have to use the touch screen. For instance, you have to select an item and then double tap to activate it, instead of just single tapping it. To move between screens, or scroll up or down, you have to swipe three fingers instead of one. You’ll also notice that Voice Over will read everything you select on the screen- hence, how I operate my phone.
Voice Over is great, but is not without its own flaws. It takes an excessively long time to write a text message (unless you’re using the dictate function) because you have to triple tap each letter, once to select, then double to insert the character into the message. Also, not all apps are accessible. I may have a totally awesome app, but because accessibility was not programmed into the app, I cannot operate it. This happens more often than I’d like. A lot of apps will create an image with text on it, but won’t program a text descriptor. Unfortunately, a text reader cannot read an image, so I will just hear a little thonk-like noise (yes, I did just make up the word “thonk”), and that’s as far as I get.
Another problem with any text-to-speech software is that it doesn’t function as fast as an eye. With an eye, you can skim over the material at a very fast pace. With text-to-speech, you have to listen to every word to skim. Being a little impatient, I’ve trained my ears to listen quickly and have Voice Over set to 90%. (Try changing the speech rate when you’re messing around on your phone for kicks).
One last thing is the software uses a lot more processing power, especially with the speech rate turned to 90%. This results in my phone/iPad randomly freezing and shutting down apps. It also makes some things take longer to load. BUT, all in all, I am SO blessed to have this kind of technology!!! I’d be lost without it.

Computer:
At work and at home, I have Windows computers. These computers require external software to operate. The software is called “Jaws.” It is an acronym for something, but I can’t remember what…
So, how to explain Jaws? Wow….
Okay, first, the voice is….interesting. Sounds like a cross between a robot and a nerd. Mid range pitch, and a bit monotone. I also have this buddy turned to around 85-90%…
Operating Jaws is actually a bit complicated. In fact, I took lessons in how to use the program a little over a year ago. The computer is controlled by a series of keyboard commands. There are many of these commands, and I am still learning as I go along. The mouse/pointer is not used at all. It’s actually a bit difficult to explain, but I will give you a quick example:
I want to search “cat” on the internet.
I hit the “windows” button on my keyboard. In the search box I type the beginning of either Google Chrome or Internet Explorer. Once my program says the name, I hit “enter.” Once the program is open, I use the keyboard combination “alt + D” to access the address bar. In this, I type “cat” and hit “enter.” Then I hit “tab” or “F6” to access the page displaying my results. Then I push “insert + F6,” which opens up the “headings list” (a heading is the title of each result). I use the arrow keys to find a heading that looks interesting, and hit “enter.” This puts my cursor over the title. I then hit “enter” again to go to the page.

This program, as annoying at it is, has made me functional in the electronic world once more, and for that I am incredibly grateful. It, again, is not without its flaws.
For one, sometimes the program has a hard time navigating. Even if I am doing everything right, it sometimes doesn’t want to select a link, or perform some other function. Not all elements on the computer are navigable. Many times, a random window or notification will pop up on screen, and my program simply will not let me navigate to the window to read it. Some very simple, very mainstream programs can give me trouble. PDFs can be tricky. Thank goodness at work I have the newest version of Adobe Reader, but older versions, and the one I have at home give me more than a little difficulty, and often won’t let me read the PDF. Additionally, sometimes the voice will simply stop working and I have to shut my computer off manually in order for me to be able to get things to work again. Finally, many websites can be quite a bear to navigate. Either they won’t work, or make my software skip over vital elements of the page or links won’t work because they are designed for a mouse to hover over them, and so, aren’t registered as links at all. If I have to do much typing, I have to use Internet Explorer. Google Chrome is great, but when I backspace, my software only says “blank” instead of the letters I am removing, which can get confusing really quick.

With these programs, I have had to become okay with doing nearly everything in a roundabout way. For instance, when posting a blog on the computer, I can only do it a certain way, or else, I will end up throwing my computer across the room in frustration. In fact, it took me hours to post my first couple blogs until I figured out the only way I could maneuver the site. Other than that, I move to the appropriate text fields, type the title, past the text (that I’ve created in Word), and add tags.

So, that is a basic overview on how I operate technology. I could fill hundreds of pages with more in depth information, but I think this post is already way too long and way too dry to drone on anymore. For those of you who are not slumped over your computer/tablet/phone drooling from this post putting you to sleep, I congratulate you! For those who are, I apologize for the wiping up of drool you’ll have to do when you wake up, but hey, at least you got a nap out of it 

I am Curious

I had a thought.

I’ve filled the last couple posts with interesting, challenging, or difficult experiences. I have multitudes of these stories, however, if I only fill my posts with stories like this, it might get a little monotonous to read. Then, I thought, every time I actually talk to someone about my experience, they have tons of questions and curiosities of how I go about my daily life, how I accomplish certain tasks etc.. Heck, I have loads of questions for other blind folks myself.

So, what I want to know is…….what do you want to know?

Tell me what topics you’d like me to cover. Ask me questions that you are curious about. I wish to be an open book here, about the way I “see” the world, anyway. I’d love to devote posts to answering your questions, to mix up this thing a bit 🙂

I’ve grown so used to doing things differently, and it becomes so ordinary, that I forget that others may be curious.

So…tell me what you want to know! Post a comment on this page, send me an email to rebekah.m.cross@gmail.com, Facebook message me (if we’re friends on there), and I’ll save the topics and thoroughly answer your questions in future posts 🙂

Some examples of topics could be: How do you do your makeup? What do you do about reading? What is one annoying thing about the visual world? (mind you, those are just examples)

We’ll see how this little experiment goes!

Big News

Just a short post with some big news!

I have been accepted into guide dog school! That’s right my friends, pretty soon I will be marching to the beat of a furry, four legged drum. Or, in other words, I will have the keys to a “Mercedes” complete with fur trim.

I will be heading off to school in late August for three weeks, where I will get my teammate and learn to work with my new friend. It’s a good 6 months from now, which will give me time to mentally prepare, as well as get my ducks in a row around here, including working out a solution to deal with my lovely allergies, seeing as there will be two dandy dander-producers in the house (aside from the human ones).

Anyway, there is always much more to tell, but I just wanted to let everyone know of my news!

Crazy Commute

I thought I’d share with you all a crazy commute I had the other day. When you’re blind, the path of least resistance is to plan, plan, plan…especially when it comes from getting from point A to point B… and then keep to the plan. One hitch in the plan and life becomes confusing. But, life likes to throw wrenches in the best laid plans of men (and women).

My team at work was scheduled to make a presentation at our staff meeting, 9 am sharp. Knowing this, and contemplating how I sometimes run behind, I left my house extra early, so as not to risk being even a minute late. I walked to my normal place on the platform, happy to see the train coming soon after. I’m really going to be on time here!

My first train pulled up to my transfer station, and I got off, noting an excessive amount of people trying to get on the train. I walked across the platform and noticed that no one was getting on the other train…maybe they are already on there? As I stood there wondering, a woman came up to me and informed me that “they are making everyone get back on the other train.” I turned around to find the doors closing and the train pulling out. Argh. So much for that train. Now, I’ll be basically on time. That’s okay…that’s why I left early.

While I waited on the platform, I heard a garbled voice over the intercom saying something about a broken rail and no Q trains into Manhattan. I wondered if that would affect my own train, but since they didn’t say anything about it, I decided to wait to hear what the conductor in the next train would say. The next train pulled in, and I got on to try to transfer to my train into Manhattan at the next available station, pending the conductor didn’t mention a problem. And, they didn’t. When we pulled into the next transfer station other people were getting off, so I did too, and the second train I was on pulled away. As I stood there, an express train pulled in on the local tracks, and the conductor informed us that none of my usual trains were going into the city, and so now I was faced with two large transfers on my commute to work.

If a large terminal is confusing enough to a person with good vision, imagine how it would be to someone who lacks sight. Full of wide terminals and staircases going every which way…I avoid those stations like the plague. I stood on this third train, snaking along at a snail’s pace and planned out my route. There was no way I was making it to work on time now. This sucks. The one day I couldn’t be late.

The train pulled into Atlantic Terminal, my first huge transfer. Luckily, I knew this station pretty well, as Adam and I frequent it. I got off the train with the hoards of other people rushing to catch an alternate train and make it into work. Although I was going crazy on the inside, I knew I had to snake along at a snail’s pace like the train I was just on. I slowly made my way to where I thought the appropriate stairs would be, running into people all along the way. Suddenly, a woman came to my rescue. She asked where I was headed, took my arm, and walked with me toward the stairs. I’ve had to deflate my personal bubble long ago, due to having to hold people’s arms, running into folks, and dealing with random strangers grabbing me to lead me somewhere…even if I say I’m fine and don’t need help. Today, this woman was an angel. I was so relieved to have the assistance. As we walked up the stairs, she introduced herself, and lo and behold, we share the same first name. How funny. Interestingly enough, I was able to assist the other Rebekah in a small way myself. She was looking for the 1 train, which doesn’t run to Atlantic Terminal, but I was able to send her to the 2 and 3 trains which will transfer to the 1 at a later point. That was kind of cool, but I digress.

Rebekah got me to the bottom of the stairs of the next train I was to take, and I got on my fourth train for the day. First crazy transfer complete, now off to Grand Central Terminal…which I am not as familiar with.

I held the bar on the crowded train, again trying to plot my route. I couldn’t remember the route to the final train I needed. There was no way around it, I was going to have to flag someone down and ask the way. I’ve also had to deflate my pride long ago, due to actually needing help more often than I’d like to admit. The train pulled in, and I hopped off, arbitrarily choosing a direction to walk in.

Then another angel appeared. She asked if I was heading upstairs. In reply, I asked if she knew which way to the train I was looking for. It was in the opposite direction, and down the stairs. Good thing I asked her. Not only that, but she was taking the same train I was, so She walked with me to the next platform!

The train pulled in and I got on. The insanity was almost over. As soon as I got cell reception I texted my supervisor to let him know I was on my way, and that the commute was crazy. Now all I had to do was get to work. But what if the train drops me off in a different location on the platform than I am used to? Funny how you have to think of such small things when you can’t see. I’ve actually gotten lost on that very platform when I was just starting my job. Oh, well. If I could handle this morning’s commute, I can handle a silly platform. I got off the train, and had no problems getting the rest of the way to work. Once inside, I could’ve cried as the build up tension in my mind and body began to fade. Not only that, but it didn’t end up being a big deal that I was late, as the others seemed to understand my tardiness.

I took a few things away from this situation. For one, I realize I’m becoming bolder in the unfamiliar. This situation would’ve mortified me a few months ago, and it still kind of did, but I find myself being more ready to stand out in the crowd if it gets me where I need to be. Secondly, it is really comforting to know that even in the extreme hustle of the city; there are plenty of good people out there ready to help their fellow man. If you’re one of those people, don’t stop. Maybe it’s embarrassing and a bit uncomfortable, but what a blessing a simple act can be! Okay, I’ll stop being mushy now.