The January meeting took place at the Central Library, 735 Broughton Street from 1-3:30 PM. There were 11 people in attendance.
This month’s meeting featured a presentation by Mike Gower from IBM Canada, regarding accessibility of the ribbons that replaced the traditional menus as of Microsoft Office 2007. He explained that Freedom Scientific added a new feature to the JAWS screen reader, enabling users to virtualize the ribbons. Thanks also to Linda Bartram, who experimented with virtualized ribbons after the meeting and producing the notes attached at the end of this report. Thanks also to Mike for offering to do occasional presentations on other topics that may be of interest to the group.
Tom then gave a brief presentation about Q-Seek, another convenient tool from Accessible Apps for Windows PC users. This is the same company that produces Q-cast for podcast management as well as the Chicken Nugget Twitter client, demonstrated at previous meetings.
Q-Seek provides the capability for a very flexible pop-up reference and search facility anywhere in Windows. Simply select text, then Alt-Control-Q to open the Q-seek window with the selected text automatically copied into the search field. Then tab to a list of the search types and use the arrow keys to select from ten choices. These include: word definitions; synonyms; antonyms; calculation; spell check; translate (into English); Wikipedia search; manage lookup (for programmers); stock quotes; and, urban dictionary. Press enter and the search result appears in a text box. Paste the result anywhere by pressing Alt-F4 to close Q-seek, place the cursor in a document and do the usual Control-V to paste.
Note that Accessible apps software is developed by blind programmers, so all of their apps are extremely screen-reader-friendly. All apps are available as free demos for a limited time, so you can try before you buy.
Tom also gave a very brief tour of what it is like to navigate around the screens of a Windows phone, as he has had the chance to use a Nokia Windows phone, running a beta of WindowsPhone 10. It looks like it has the potential to be quite accessible. The worst problem so far is that the on-screen keyboard is extremely sensitive and currently difficult to use, even for someone who has a lot of experience with the iPhone on-screen keyboard. We will provide feedback to Microsoft in this regard and will be watching for improved accessibility in the first public release of WindowsPhone 10.
Linda announced that there will be an open house at Pacific Training Centre for the Blind on Thursday January 21 from 4 PM to 7 PM.
The next VocalEyes described event at the Belfry Theater is “The Valley”, and takes place on Sunday, February 21 at 2 pm. The Belfry Theatre is located at 1291 Gladstone Avenue in Victoria (250-385-6815). Described by Rick Waines and followed by a Touch Tour. Ticket prices vary.
Suggested topics for our next meeting include, a discussion of accessible games and game apps, and music apps. Tom can share his experience with Apple Music. We also hope that members will do some exploring, or share their experience regarding other music apps and accessible games.
We will send out a notice a week or so before the next meeting, which will take place at the Central Library at 1 PM on Wednesday, February 3.
Information on Virtual Ribbons
from Linda Bartram
To turn on virtual ribbons:
1. Go to the Jaws screen
2. Press alt to open the menu bar
3. Right arrow to help
4. Down arrow to Start Up Wizard and press enter
5. Tab to next and press enter.
6. Tab to next again and press enter.
7. Jaws will say “use virtual ribbons” check box unchecked.
8. Press the space bar to check.
9. then tab to next and press enter three more times until you come to the finish button
10. Press the enter key. You will be back on the Jaws screen and the startup wizard will close. Virtual ribbons is now your default.
The Albert A. Ruel Road to Blindness
A 21 year old man stood on the beach at the Sproat Lake Provincial Park with friends early in May of 1977, and upon gazing across the lake found the Gulf Oil sign missing from the dock-side filling station there. When this fact was shared with his companions they glanced at him with puzzled looks and said, “No Albert, the sign is still there”.
That was the beginning of a road through confusion, anger, isolation, loneliness and discovery for me. It all began with a visit to a local Optometrist who could see that my vision wasn’t right, but that corrective lenses wouldn’t help. He then referred me to a General Practitioner, where I received a clean bill of health and an additional referral. This time to an Ophthalmologist. Immediately upon peering through the dilated pupils, Dr. McKerricher was able to see the problem, Retinal Vasculitis.
Now, you would think that all would start to improve at this point, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. You see, CNIB, from 1918 until 1985 only served the needs of people who were “Legally Blind”, a level of vision loss I wouldn’t reach until November of 1979. The words of Dr. McKerricher still echo in my mind today, “Albert, I don’t know what has caused this and nothing we’ve tried is helping to stop it, and you’re not blind enough for me to refer you to CNIB”!
In the middle of this transition from 20/20 vision to “Legally Blind” came the Motor Vehicle Branch and it’s rules of the road. On August 3, 1978 I drove a car for the last time as my vision had reached the level at which operating a motor vehicle became too dangerous, further intensifying feelings of fear, isolation and anger. Sadly, through this period the only available guidance and support was through family and friends, but not the experienced professionals I needed at the time. Although these support systems are critically important they can often be smothering and facilitating, rather than encouraging and supportive.
With gratitude, and some trepidation I finally was able to access CNIB services in November of 1979, and the world opened up then. There I was able to meet other blind people and receive the daily living and mobility skills required to live independently in this sighted world. I learned elementary braille and began to discover technology as necessary tools of independence.
Thankfully, in 1985 CNIB’s National Board altered the course of service to visually impaired Canadians forever. They added a third prong to their Mission Statement, “To promote sight enhancement services”. This opened the door to all Canadians who were beginning to lose sight, as well as those who had a fear of vision loss to access the full range of CNIB Support and Rehabilitation Services. So now, whether it’s someone’s Mother who is experiencing Macular Degeneration, or an Uncle experiencing the affects of Glaucoma, all have the ability to seek information, guidance and support as all involved deal with the fear and anxiety that accompanies such life altering experiences.
With the help of professional Rehabilitation Workers and Employment Counselors I was able to continue traveling independently within my own community, and even more remarkably anywhere in the world I desired to go. I managed to attend College in Nanaimo and New Westminster, as well as traveling to the Mayo Clinic and to doctor’s appointments in Nanaimo and Vancouver without assistance. All of this while living with some usable vision, but not yet needing a white cane for travel.
During the mid 1980’s I was a stay-at-home Dad and did all that was required of that challenging work, from changing diapers to preparing meals, and from cutting the grass to maintaining our home. I even took a woodworking course through Alberni’s Adult Education program and built and restored several pieces of furniture. Of course the 1958 Chevy Impala in the garage was my pride and joy, and I devised ways to do much of the work it required.
I also joined and participated in many community activities, like the local Car Club, and a disability support group that catered to the needs of people with many different disabilities. Of course, continued participation in family life remained of critical importance through this period.
In 1989 a secondary condition began to extinguish the vision that remained, which set into motion a new stream of professional rehabilitation services and supports. By the spring of 1990 Glaucoma had turned out the lights completely, and the darkness I had feared so desperately was upon me. Strangely though, I found this to be a great relief rather than the tragedy I had imagined it would be.
Through several professional rehabilitation sessions, and by joining peer mentoring and advocacy groups I was able to come to terms with this strange feeling, and to learn additional skills and strategies for living with no visual cues of the world around me. This is also about the time that I decided to explore CNIB as an employer, and to see if I could provide the sort of guidance and support to others that had been my pleasure to receive. Those 14 years were a wonderful experience of ongoing discovery for me, as teaching may be the best way to solidify one’s own learning. In other words, those we assist through this transition in turn help us all as we develop best practices and improved service.
Following a 14 year career with CNIB I also served the blind community as the first National Equality Director employed by the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC), and as a Basic Computer Literacy Trainer with the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB). Most recently I have enjoyed coordinating the CCB’s newly launched Get Together with Technology Program in Western Canada, which brings to the fore my passion for assistive technology and the power of peer mentoring.
Without sight I have continued to travel far and wide, with trips to Conventions of and for the Blind in Anaheim California and Melbourne Australia, as well as to many events and activities in Toronto and Vancouver. Of course my work has taken me to many communities throughout Western Canada, and most particularly nearly all regions of BC and on Vancouver Island. None of which would have been possible without the services and support of organizations like CCB, AEBC and CNIB.
For most people blindness generates a fear of extended movement, both within one’s home and community, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Independence comes from personal desire and increased skill. Many community organizations can assist with both through their mentoring and skill development programs. I remember always that life has little to do with what happens to me and 100% what I do about/with it. There is a quote I like to use from the National Federation of the Blind in the USA, “With adequate skill development and opportunity blindness can be reduced to the level of a nuisance”, and nothing could be closer to the truth.
Helen Keller said many years ago, “There is nothing more tragic than someone who has sight, but no vision”. She also challenged the Lions Clubs of the world to become the “Knights of the Blind, and to take up the crusade against darkness”. I too joined a Lions Club in 1992 and continue to work on the crusade that Helen Keller began in the 1920-s.
View all posts by Albert Ruel