Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Matt interviewed me

Matt was interviewed and I said he could interview me. So, here are his questions and my answers. :)

Matt: Being visually impaired, can you please explain to us how the reader you use works? Does it have a computer voice like Stephen Hawkins? Also, do you feel that more can be done to help the visually impaired in the world?

Me: The screen reader I use - which is called "JAWS" (Java Application With Speech) - works by using different key strokes to find links, scroll through text, etc on the PC. And, yes, it does have a computer voice. There are options for a couple of different computer voices, but believe me when I say the standard one is the best one... The others try to do British accents and stuff and fail miserably at it.

It took some time to get used to which keys did what, and having things read out to me by a droning computer voice after so long of having enough sight so that I didn't even feel the need to purchase Jaws. But it was that or no computer! So, I just got used to it. You should hear how it pronounces some things though! It's really funny sometimes!

As for the second part of the question... Yes, I do feel that more can be done to help the visually impaired in the world. Those who are completely blind more so though. There are plenty of "low vision aids" and large print books available for those with just low vision, but the items available for those with no sight are sadly lacking in number.

Many books, for example, aren't produced in braille or audio, which means that those of us with no sight at all don't have access to them unless someone with sight reads to us. Plenty of people offer to do so, but other things always come first and the book stays un read - or partly read - for at least a couple of months usually before the person "can find the time" to read it. Yes, I understand people have other things to do, but it's very frustrating!

And the lack of things available doesn't stop at books... Children's toys designed for the visual impaired need colour recognition nine times out of ten. Outings organised are limited to one a year through specialist organisations and - once you're over 16 years old (adult age here) - that outing is just a dinner out just before Christmas, which I never attend, because in my experience the only people who do are there to compare medical news, and quite frankly I'd rather miss the outing than sit there discussing my hospital trips between mouth fulls of dinner.

And that's basically the extent of what's available... Other than the obvious like the screen readers, braille writing equipment, canes, and a couple of kitchen gadgets (like a liquid level indecator, a talking microwave, talking sscales, that kind of thing). But even what's available is VERY expensive! Just the liquid level indecator, for example, costs almost £7 (that's around $13 ish). Then they go right up to things like my Jaws programme that cost £700 (about $1300).

*Waits for people to pick their jaws up off the floor* (And I don't mean the programme, I mean the one you just dropped).

Anyway, there's also the fact that - despite the large number of blind people in the world - people are sadly mis-informed about the limits of a blind person. People seem to be convinced that disabled means dumb, and that not being able to see the world means not being able to understand it. I've lost count of the number of times I've wanted to thump someone for speaking to me in the patronizing tone people reserve for disabled people. And then - when people can finally be convinced to let the blind person try to do things for themselves - they wrap them in cotton wool and act as though the mere act of buttering a piece of bread is a huge triumph. And go in to panic mode if something is tripped over, knocked over, dropped, walked in to, etc.

So, here's what needs to be done:

1. More books should be made available on audio or in braille.
2. More equipment - from baby toys to activity items for adults, and beyond - should be made available for people with no sight at all.
3. The equipment available - including the items that fall in to #2 - should be made more affordable.
4. Instructions provided with the equipment should be sent out in braille as well as print. That may sound like common sense, but trust me, it doesn't seem to be. The instructions provided with equipment for the blind come in print only nine times out of ten.
5. More outings should be arranged and to more enjoyable places, such as museums, theme parks, zoos, etc.
6. People should be more educated on the abilities of disabled people... #5 may help with that, since seeing blind people out doing the things they themselves do could be a good way to show the world that being blind doesn't stop us being normal humans.

Unfortunately I think at least most of those are light years away.

Matt: Please describe how you met Kelly and if you hit it off right away.

Me: Well... I wont go in to more detail than I "have to" on this one... Kelly was having an online relationship with someone who was a family friend and who's kids I used to baby sit for. One time he phoned and I was there but she wasn't. We got to talking and became friends. And when things didn't work out between them I provided him with a shoulder to cry on.... And things just progressed from there. Then I flew to Canada to spend Christmas and the New Year with him, and knew when I met him I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. He obviously thought the same, because he asked me to marry him. We've now been married almost 6 years.

Matt: You are an avid Fantasy novel reader, what is your favorite fantasy creature and why?

Me: Actually, this is the hardest question of the lot. I really, really, like them all! I think though - if I "had to" choose just one - it would have to be... Fairies/pixies. And I say it like that because there's a very thin line between what's a fairy and what's a pixie, and quite often that line is blurred, crossed, etc.

Take Tinkerbell, for example, is she a pixie? Or is she a fairy? It's hard to be sure, and even during the story of "Peter Pan" they seem confused. I mean, when the children are sprinkled with Tinkerbell's dust, it's "pixie dust" but when people are urged to save Tinkerbell's life by clapping the words recited while clapping are "I do believe in fairies!" So which is she?

There are many other examples of confusion between what's a fairy and what's a pixie... Some people, for example, argue that the "little people" who are portrayed as fairies are pixies and that fairies aren't as pretty. Others argue to the contrary. Hence grouping fairies and pixies together.

As for why... Because they're small enough not to be noticed if they don't want to be, but can make their presence known if they so choose, they care for and about nature, and they can fly!

Matt: Have you ever been to America? If so, please describe your trip, if not, are you interested? Do you have any opinions of Americans?

Me: No, I've never been to America. I nearly did once. I was going to move to Texas (long story... Don't ask!) I'd like to visit though. I want to go to Florida to visit Disney Land, but I'd also like to travel to all the states I have friends in and meet them. I doubt it'll ever happen though... I don't have that kind of money!

As for my opinion of Americans... I don't really have one. I'm a strong believer in not judging people until you've met them and had a chance to get to know them, or at least their personalities. I've met some really nice Americans, but I've also met some horrible, selfish, and generally unpleasant Americans. But the same can be said for British people. You get nice people, you get horrible people. You can't really group them together by a single nation - especially one as big as America - because that wouldn't be fair. If I'd used my first encounter with an American to base my opinions of an American on, for example, I never would have wanted to speak to another American again, and - as a result - would have missed out on meeting some wonderful people. So, I don't really have an opinion of Americans as a whole.

Matt: Where is the farthest you ever been from home?

Me: Canada! I have been to a couple of other countries (France and Cyprus) but Canada is definately the furthest I've been from home. Luckily I was so excited about finally meeting Kelly that I was actually there before I realised just how far from home I was and nervousness set in, otherwise I might not have gone... Especially not on my own like I did!


So, there you have it. That was my interview.

If anyone wants me to interview them, then leave a message saying "interview me" in the comments section of this post. Don't forget that if I don't have your e-mail I'll need that too! :)

If you want to take part then the rules are as follows:

1. Leave me a comment saying "interview me"
2. I will respond via e-mail with five questions (I get to pick the questions)
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed you will ask them five questions via e-mail


Intense Guy said...

Very interesting interview. Both good questions and good answers!

It's pretty rare for me to meet someone that is blind - I do see some on occassion, mostly in the shopping mall.

I'd like to think the "patronizing" is well-meant, but since they don't know what to do or is expected of them, people just get tripped up and express themselves badly.

Intense Guy said...

p.s., You can interview me if you want.

LadyStyx said...

Very nice interview. :)

whimsical brainpan said...

Great Interview!

The thing that struck me the most was your comment about instructions not being in braille. The implications of that just floors me (as does the cost of your JAWS program).

Being an avid reader I hate the thought that you can't get to read many books that you want to. If I didn't suck so bad at reading aloud I'd offer to go to the library, find the books you want, and make a recording of them for you.

I understand about the patronizing people. I've dealt with a few. For some reason most of them haven't treated me as stupid, just incapable. There is a slight difference I think.

AliceKay said...

I found your interview very interesting, too.

There are a lot of well-meaning people out in the world, and as Iggy has mentioned, some get tripped up (as i have before) and don't express themselves very well.

My Side of the Story! said...

Absolutly wonderful answers! Great job!

Didn't think I hit such a nerve with the "blindness" question. But you spoke your mind and got your point across loud and clear!

Something DOES need to be done about the lack of products for the vision impared!

And I'm glad you talked about your JAWS program. (And yes, my jaw DID hit the floor when I saw that price tag!) WOW!

The craziest things cross my mind and get stuck in there sometimes. And that was just one of them. LOL!

Thanks for playing! You did a GREAT job!

And if you ever do make it to America, come on over to Chicago! We'd LOVE to have you! I'll take you on the bast darn Feel, Touch, Taste, Smell and Sound tour you'll ever experience! And that's a promice!

Later Tater!

Later Tater

MarmiteToasty said...

Great interview......... I do have a little knowledge in blindness due to me matie Hilary being totally blind... she has 2 kids who are now 20 and 17... Hilary went blind while pregnant with her first child...... she is one amazing woman, and would often be seen walking to the village shops with a baby in a buggy and a toddler holding on and her guide dog.... she would pull the buggy so the dog could lead unhindered.....

She didnt let her blindness stop her dreams though and as soon as the children were of school age she trained to become a physio therapist.... yep thats right.... bloody amazing and she is one of the top Physios at the hospital where I go.....

Im with Tori though, there is much much more that can be done with people with blindness....



Tori_z said...

I do understand that many people haven't had contact with disabled people and therefore aren't sure how to act towards them - which is why I do my best to be polite when I meet someone new who insists on behaving that way. However, after a certain amount of time you'd expect at least the tone to change, and yet people don't seem to learn. Some of the nurses who have worked in the eye department at the hospital I go to for my eyes since I was young (some have even been there since before I was born) still insist - after all these years - on using patronizing tones towards the patients. And I know it's not just the way they are, because they don't use those tones on whoever accompanies the visually impaired person. It's those people that bother me. People who should have learned by now but refuse to accept that disabled people aren't the idiots most people assume they are. And it's those people who encourage people who are new to disabled people to think that. If that makes sense.

Glad you enjoyed reading it. :)

Yeah, I know, it's really stupid about the instructions. You'd think they'd at least have them in both formats, or - at the very least - ask when you phone in your order whether you need braille or not. Even letters about braille books being currently out of stock come in print. Seriously... You order a braille book, and if they don't have one on the shelf and you have to wait for it to be printed they send you out a print letter telling you so. You'd think they'd make the connection that someone wanting a braille book probably can't read print. But no! Idiots!

Thanks (about the reading thing). I wouldn't want to impose on a friend anyway. But, - like I said - thanks! :)

I think different disabilities create different impressions for people. People who just don't have the ability to walk, for example, are just considered incapable of doing things for themselves, but still able to communicate with and understand people. Where as people with hearing issues or visual impairments seem to be considered stupid because they can't hear/see so people consider them incapable of understanding things. At least, that's the way it seems to me.

Very true. Like I said though, it's the people who don't seem to learn from their mistakes that frustrate me.

That's OK. I could have said more though, but I figured I'd made my point. ;)

Yeah, it is quite expensive... I ended up borrowing money off my brother and paying him back some each month to get it when I needed it.

Will bear that in mind if I ever find myself near enough to take you up on the offer. :)

Yeah... People with disabilities can achieve anything they want... If they REALLY want to do it.

Celticspirit said...

Very interesting. I'm very glad you explained about the JAWs thing. I had no idea how you did all this stuff on the comuter.

Great interview.
You can interview me if you like.

Jayde_Bramblerose said...

what a fantastic " interview" well done tori, and you are so very good at explaining things as well.x

ChicagoLady said...

Talks really loud, because I know blind people must be deaf too.

Just kidding!

Great answers to Matt's questions. I always wondered how you ended up in Canada with Kelly.

I's very unfortunate that there are so few resources available to sight impaired people. Most of them are able to lead relatively normal lives, like everyone else, and they deserve all the benefits and opportunities the rest of us have.

Tori_z said...

Glad you all enjoyed the interview. :)

Your questions will be on their way to you later today! :)