Sunday, April 27

Guide dogs help deliver mail in Canada

Greetings. Here's another great guide dog related news story. Enjoy, and as always, please forgive any formatting errors.

Guide Dogs Help Deliver Mail With First-Ever Canadian
Braille Stamp

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 21, 2008) -
Canada Post will issue its first ever Canadian Braille
stamp featuring Guide Dogs. The domestic-rate stamp
will have the denomination in both print and in
Braille. The stamp is being issued to coincide with
the 100th anniversary of the Montreal Association for
the Blind which is also being recognized with a
Commemorative Envelope.

"Canada Post is committed to providing Canadians with
innovative and interesting products," says Bob Waite,
Chairman of the Canadian Stamp Advisory Committee
and Senior vice-president, Corporate Social
Responsibility, Canada Post. "We provide vital
communication links to all Canadian households and to
offer
a Braille stamp reinforces our commitment to meet the
needs of all Canadians."

With thousands of soldiers returning from World War I
blinded by poison gas, a German doctor named Gerhard
Stalling explored the notion of training dogs
to guide the wounded men. His research in training
methods led to the opening of his first guide dog
school in Germany in 1916. The school prospered and
some 600 dogs were trained each year. Word spread and
soon trained dogs were assisting people with vision
loss in Britain, France, Spain, Italy, the USA,
Canada and Soviet Union.

The most common breeds of guide dogs are Labrador
Retrievers and Golden Retrievers; chosen for their
intelligence, size, and temperament. A calm
disposition,
a high level of initiation, and a strong desire to
please are all characteristics expected of guide dogs.

Six to eight week old puppies head off to foster
families for their training. The foster families
expose the puppies to as many environments as possible
while testing their response to distractions. The
puppies will then spend four weeks with their future
partner, and then undergo final testing before
receiving
their certification. Guide Dogs often retire at age
ten.

Designers Stephen Boake and Andrew Perro of Toronto's
Designwerke sought to keep the stamp's design simple
and give prominence to the dog in order to reinforce
the intimate connection to the human partner. The
yellow Labrador Retriever on the stamp is a Canine
Vision Dog Guide from Lions Foundation of Canada Dog
Guides. The addition of Braille created various
printing challenges, as did the increase in font size
of the denomination, another incorporated element
to assist vision-impaired individuals. Additionally,
the text on the stamp booklet and Official First Day
cover were printed in a larger than usual typeface
in respect for the needs of individuals with varying
degrees of vision impairment.

The 52-cent stamp, available as of April 21, measures
38 mm x 27 mm (horizontal) with simulated
perforations. Lowe-Martin printed 3.5 million stamps,
to
be sold in booklets of ten. The self-adhesive stamp
will be printed using lithography in four colours on
Tullis Russel paper, with Braille embossing by
Montreal's Choquet Engraving Inc. They are general
tagged on all sides. The Official First Day Cover will
bear the cancel OTTAWA ON.

Additional information about Canadian stamps can be
found in the Newsroom section of Canada Post's
website, and photos of this new stamp is in the
Newsroom's
Photo Centre. Stamps and Official First Day Covers
will be available at participating post offices, or
can be ordered online by following the links at
Canada Post's website
www.canadapost.ca
or by mail order from the National Philatelic Centre.
From Canada and the USA, call toll-free: 1 800
565-4362, and from other countries, call: 902
863-6550.

THIS NEWS RELEASE IS ALSO AVAILABLE IN BRAILLE UPON
REQUEST.

For more information, please contact
Canada Post
Nicole Lemire
613-734-8888
nicole.lemire@canadapost.ca

©2008 Marketwire, Incorporated. All rights reserved.
Your newswire of choice for expert news release
distribution.
1-800-774-9473 (US) | 1-888-299-0338 (Canada) |
+44-20-7562-6550 (UK)

In July, guide dogs allowed in China

Greetings. I received the following article from a guide dog related email list. Hopefully, this new era of guide dogs being allowed in China will help improve access to public places by the blind, as well as the welfare of the blind in general in China. Enjoy.

Guide dogs given all-clear for public venues
Chinadaily.com.cn sharing the Olympic spirit

Guide dogs given all-clear for public venues
By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-04-25

Guide dogs for the blind will be allowed into public
places such as subway stations and buses starting
July, under a new law amendment passed Thursday.

Lawmakers said the change, in the amendment to the Law
on the Protection of Disabled Persons, aims to better
protect the rights and interests of the blind
in the run-up to the Beijing 2008 Paralympics in
September, during which many athletes will bring their
canine helpers to the capital.

Currently, ownership of large dogs in Beijing is
restricted and large dogs are barred from public
places. Since guide dogs are said to be a new
phenomenon
in the country, no exceptions were made.

This has caused inconvenience to a number of blind
people. Ping Yali, the country's first Paralympic
champion, complained to the media last year that her
guide dog "Lucky", a golden retriever, was always
barred from public places.

Explaining the law amendment to the Standing Committee
of the National People's Congress (NPC), Minister of
Civil Affairs Li Xueju said it was necessary
to make a change to allow the guide dogs into public
places as many other countries do.

"In bidding for the hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games,
our country has also made a commitment to foreign
athletes for them to bring guide dogs to China,"
he said.

However, although the law amendment grants the blind
the right to take guide dogs to public places,
detailed rules are needed to facilitate its
implementation,
Ma Yu'e, deputy director of the legal department of
the China Disabled Persons' Federation, said.

Ma said that the federation is now working with public
security departments in Beijing and "it's very likely
that a detailed rule on guide dogs will be
made before the Paralympics".

Ma said such a change marks great progress in
safeguarding the rights and interests of the blind.

"The misunderstanding that guide dogs are pets must be
corrected," she said. "They are working dogs just as
police dogs are. And guide dogs are intelligent
and friendly. They won't cause any safety issues."

Official figures show about 12.3 million people in the
country suffer from visual impairments and there is an
increasing demand for guide dogs.

Apart from the rule that allows guide dogs into public
places, the law amendment also takes a closer look at
the rights and interests of the disabled in
regards to education, employment and medical care. It
also stipulates that disabled people who run private
businesses can enjoy favorable tax policies
and be exempted from administrative charges.

Similarly, the amendment has a special chapter on
promoting a barrier-free environment for the disabled.

Sun Shujun, a disabled NPC deputy from Liaoning
province who was invited to the NPC Standing Committee
session yesterday, said: "Not only should the
environment
be barrier-free. People's mindsets and attitudes
towards us disabled people should be barrier-free as
well ... Equal and fair treatment is what we want
most."

Copyright By chinadaily.com.cn. All rights reserved

Wednesday, April 16

Cap Metro appears to be listening

Greetings. Here's an article from News 8 Austin, one of the TV sstations in Austin, about the Capitol Metro saga called, Capital Metro addresses paratransit customer concerns. It looks like they're listening and headed in the right direction. However, based on their behavior in the last few weeks and months, I'm a little hesitant to jump on their wagon until they actually make the requested improvements that the public (their riders) have advocated for and stop trying to "fix" the service.

Tuesday, April 15

Free tech support for the blind

Greetings. I received the below information from an email list. For those that are blind or low vision and who need technical support but may not want to call the computer company for fear of getting someone who doesn't understand how you can use a computer if you're blind, consider the following service from the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind. Incidentally, I applied for and had an interview for this job. Though I didn't get it, it did hold the position of being the longest phone interview I've ever had, at the time and since, topping out at around 90 minutes. However, my job path led me in a different direction, which I can now say that I'm grateful for. I wouldn't have it any other way. Anyway, this is a great service and definitely one to make note of. You never know when you might need it. Enjoy, and as always, please excuse any formatting errors.

Follow up: From the Access Ability blog (linked below in the blogs to watch section), we learn that the toll free number for this tech support service is (888) 825-0080. Apologies for not including this in the original post.

***

I want to just remind everyone our Adaptive Technology Help Desk is still operating and we eagerly await your calls. The telephone number given is for voice and relay calls; we do not have a direct TTY for the help desk.

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Dominic Calabrese 312/997-3662

dominic.calabrese@chicagolighthouse.org

Chicago Lighthouse Assistive Technology Computer HelpDesk Hopes to Expand Service

CHICAGO - In an ongoing effort to accommodate people across the country who are visually impaired and in need of technical support, The Chicago Lighthouse hopes to expand its toll-free telephone assistive technology support line.

Since it was developed in 2006, the service has accommodated over 1,500 requests for assistance from individuals in 48 states, Canada, China and South Africa. Servicing the calls is Ray Campbell, a former engineer with Lucent Technologies who now works in the Lighthouse's Adaptive Technology program.

"I've taken requests from Delta Junction, Alaska to Pilots Knob, Missouri; from Bird Island, Minnesota to Sasketoon, Saskatchewan, Canada; and from Lanzhou, Cansu, China to Somerset West, South Africa," Campbell notes.

"Our intent is to offer a one stop place where people who are blind or visually impaired can get the assistance that they need," he says. Campbell points out that he is able to listen to what JAWS or WindowEyes is saying and walk the caller him right through their problem.

"I've assisted people with everything from installing Antivirus software to helping someone navigate the eharmony.com site using JAWS to assisting organizations with designing an accessible website to showing someone how to find Game Day Audio on the Major League Baseball website, www.mlb.com to assisting someone in accessing his credit card statement on-line," he continues.

Campbell's assistance has been well received across the country.

"I've got one gentleman in South Carolina that calls me two to four times a week to ask for my help," he says. One lady Campbell assisted in San Francisco wrote a letter thanking the Lighthouse for offering the HelpDesk service and praising Campbell for his assistance. "People contact me as they value my opinions on what technology they should buy, and while that's a bit scary it also feels very good," he smiles.

Campbell adds that if he can't resolve the issue over the phone or through e-mail, he will schedule an on-site visit as long as the customer resides in the Chicago metropolitan area. The program was made possible when the Lighthouse successfully matched a $41,000 grant from The Boeing Company.

"We're tremendously grateful to Boeing for their support and we intend to use the support line in strengthening our level of customer service and showcasing the Lighthouse as a national leader in adaptive technology," says William Bielawski, program manager for adaptive technology and office skills training at the Lighthouse.

Bielawski notes that any blind or visually impaired person could contact the support line regardless of what product they're using. "It can be any hardware or software relating to assistive technology as long as the customer is visually impaired," he says. Bielawski encourages calls from employers, counselors, teachers and other individuals who work with people who are visually impaired. "We're excited to have an opportunity to make it easier for people with visual impairments to take advantage of the many technological advancements that are now more readily available."

The Chicago Lighthouse is one of the nation's most comprehensive social service agencies. Housed under its roof are the nation's oldest low vision clinic; one of the few remaining clock manufacturing facilities in the U.S.; a nationally acclaimed school for children who are blind with multi-disabilities; a VA program serving veterans in all 50 states; and a radio station. The agency provided education, referral and direct services to more than 70,000 people in fiscal year 2007.

Sunday, April 13

Responsible pet owners

Greetings. I received the following material from a German Shepherd guide dog email list. Though "pet" could apply to any pet, considering this came from a guide dog list, I prefer to think of this as to dogs. Enjoy.

Ten Commandments for a Responsible Pet Owner - as dictated by the pet.

1. My life is likely to last 10-15 years. Any separation from you is likely to be painful.

2. Give me time to understand what you want of me.

3. Place your trust in me. It is crucial for my well-being.

4. Don't be angry with me for long and don't lock me up as punishment. You have your work, your friends, your entertainments but I have only you.

5. Talk to me. Even if I don't understand your words I do understand your voice when speaking to me.

6. Be aware that however you treat me I will never forget it.

7. Before you hit me, before you strike me, remember that I have teeth that could easily crush the bones in your hand and yet I choose not to bite you.

8. Before you scold me for being lazy or uncooperative ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I'm not getting the right food, I have been in the sun too long or my heart might be getting old or weak.

9. Please take care of me when I grow old. You too will grow old.

10. On the difficult journey, on the ultimate difficult journey, go with me please. Never say you can't bear to watch. Don't make me face this alone. Everything is easier for me if you are there because I love you so.

Take a moment today to thank God for your companions. Enjoy and take good care of them. Life would be a much duller, less joyful thing without God's critters.

Home interview

Greetings. I wrote the following email to a list made up of graduates, trainers, puppy raisers, and other people affiliated in some way with The Seeing Eye. The home interview and the evaluation/assessment I speak of are one in the same. Basically, a trainer comes to your house or business to talk with you about what you want in a dog, why you want a dog, and so forth, and then takes you out on a "juno" walk, where the trainer plays the role of the guide dog. Enjoy.

Well, Jonathan (the trainer) came out Thursday morning and it went very well. After talking for a little while, I asked him if I could give him my preferences, and his response was, "Ok, how many pages am I going to need?" When I was finished, he said, "Is that all? I've got a full 2 inches of space left."

The juno walk went well. It was weird for me to walk smoothly around obstacles that I usually hit or trip over with my cane. I spent much of the first part of the walk anticipating and wondering about upcoming potholes or cracks in the sidewalk, but then I accepted the fact that I'm going to have to trust the dog, and relaxed. Truthfully, this is something that I struggled with when using my first dog. My walking pace has slowed down a little since my early twenties. It also took some reminding by Jonathan to let him pull me, instead of me trying to catch up with him. It was nice though, and by the time we turned around to come back down one of the sidewalks near my complex, I was thinking to myself, "Is it over? No, let's do more juno stuff." Though its been some years, my leash correction is still as good as it was back in the day. My first attempt failed miserably, but then the second and third ones made up for that.

He said that my walking speed is perhaps a little below average and my pull about the same. Over all, it was a good visit. I feel pretty good about it, and I'm also getting excited. This is the last step for me in the process. He said that the usual time given is 4 weeks for contact by the school, but he also said that it would probably be around two weeks. So, perhaps by the end of April I'll know something.

Another hybrid article

Greetings. Below is another article on hybrid cars, this time from Phoenix, AZ. Enjoy, and as always, please excuse any formatting errors. Also, you might participate in the pole link toward the end of this article.

Lawmaker calls quiet hybrids peril to the blind
By Daniel Scarpinato
Arizona daily star, Feb. 25, 2008

PHOENIX - If you live near a busy street, you probably like the sound of
cars getting quieter. But one state lawmaker, alarmed that hybrid cars
are
getting too quiet, is seeking to actually make them noisier.

The concern is centered on the danger quiet hybrids could pose to the
blind
- with their technology so good at muting sound that they have become
unnoticeable to the ear.

"Hybrid cars are amazing, and I think one of the unintended consequences
of
this new technology is that it is so effective in reducing noise on the
streets, the fear is that our blind citizens are in danger crossing the
road," says
state Rep. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe, who is pushing a bill in the Legislature
to
require hybrids to make more noise. "If you drive a hybrid, you're not
going
to want someone who is listening to cars stepping out into the road in
front
of your hybrid."

Ableser's bill, which has been cleared by a House committee, requires
the
Arizona Department of Transportation to adopt a "minimum sound standard"
for
vehicles sold and registered in the state.

Common hybrids run 15 to 25 decibels more quietly than traditional
internal
combustion engines, so Ableser's bill would require the hybrids to emit
an
artificial sound similar to a traditional engine. It also would be
retroactive - applying to those who already own the vehicles.

The technology doesn't yet exist because no manufacturer has implemented
the
standards, but the National Federation of the Blind is also pushing the
legislation in Virginia, Maryland and Hawaii. The organization says it
doesn't know if anyone blind has been hit by a hybrid for this reason,
but
it is a looming concern.

"We know that there have been a lot of close calls," said spokesman
Chris
Danielsen. "We would like action to be taken before there's actually an
injury, or heaven forbid, a death from this."

But with the state having spent $250 million on rubberized roadways to
make
traffic quieter, some see the move as counterintuitive and unnecessary.

"I can't imagine a blind person thinking I don't hear anything so I am
going
to just step out in the middle of the freeway," said state Rep. Mark
Anderson, R-Mesa. "It's a big gamble just to step out there."

But Danielsen, himself blind, says that argument is "based on ignorance"
and
assumes blind people should just stay at home and not leave the house.

Advocates also have argued that the bill could protect children and
cyclists.

Dan Taylor, a local cyclist, says he can see both sides, but he doesn't
see
noisier cars as making things any safer for him and his friends.

"If you're in harm's way of a car, you're probably doing something
wrong,"
said Taylor, a licensed acupuncturist. "Once you hear a car coming, it's
usually too close anyway."

There also are concerns from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
that
the bill could deter people from purchasing hybrids - particularly if
each
state had individual laws. Ableser said the hybrids industry will
flourish
either way.

"What this is doing is trying to encourage the automotive industry to
implement this mechanism," Ableser said. "I can't see anyone purchasing
a
regular car because all of a sudden hybrids now make a slight noise.

"People buy hybrids because they want to contribute to the conservation
of
our environment," he said.

On StarNet: Should the state legislature pass the law requiring hybrid cars to emit more noise? Participate in a poll at
http://go.azstarnet.com/hybrid

● Contact reporter Daniel Scarpinato at 307-4339 or
dscarpinato@azstarnet.com

Saturday, April 12

Hybrid legislation introduced in the House of Representatives

Greetings. I received the following message from several different email lists run by the National Federation of the Blind concerning legislation on hybrid cars. I'm posting this here for those interested and politely ask you to contact your representatives to get them to co-sponsor this legislation, or if their name is listed below, to thank them. If we can get this legislation, or some similar, to pass, then it can start the process of making people, auto makers, and others more aware of hybrid cars and the possible danger they pose from someone (blind or otherwise) not hearing them.

***
Fellow Federationists:

It pleases me to write to you announcing that our silent car
legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives. Ed
Towns, Democrat of New York, and Cliff Stearns, Republican of Florida,
has introduced H.R. 5734, the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2008.
Therefore, your help is needed to gain cosponsors of this important
legislation.

This legislation assures that blind and other pedestrians
will receive the information needed to make proper judgments regarding
the presence of vehicles, in order that we can travel safely. It does
so by:

a.. Requiring the Department of Transportation to convene a study
within ninety days of its enactment;
b.. Requiring the study to determine whether a minimum sound standard
or some other approach will provide blind and other pedestrians the most
accurate information regarding speed, location, and direction of travel
for the vehicles;
c.. Requiring that, when making this consideration, the study must
evaluate the cost of each method examined, including the cost of
providing all pedestrians any technology they must possess under each
approach; and
d.. Requiring that the study consider which approach permits the
greatest amount of independent spontaneous travel for blind and other
pedestrians.

Once the study reaches its conclusions, the Department of
Transportation must report its findings to Congress, and within ninety
days of the study's end, the Department of Transportation must establish
a vehicle safety standard that implements the results of the study.
Finally, two years after the safety standard is implemented, all new
cars sold in the United States must comply.

This legislation is under jurisdiction of the House
Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection of the House
Committee on Energy and Commerce. This subcommittee and its full
committee are the most important members for this bill, though we want
all the members that we can get to cosponsor this legislation. Both of
our original sponsors are members of the subcommittee, and Stearns was
its chair when republicans controlled the House of Representatives.

Now that the bill has been introduced, we need cosponsors.
This is so because the attention gained will push Committee and House
leadership to conduct hearings that will help us get out the message
that, if solutions are not promptly found and implemented, silent cars
will place the independence of blind Americans in real peril. To help
with this task, it is critical that you get your representatives to sign
on to H.R. 5734. Recall that you can reach the Capitol switchboard by
calling (202) 225-3121. I am providing lists of the subcommittee and
full committee members, but you are urged to get all members of the
House to join as cosponsors. Thank you for all you do. Let us now make
a difference in assuring that we can hear cars now and in the future.

Most cordially,
James McCarthy
Government Programs Specialist
National Federation of the Blind


FULL COMMITTEE on Energy and Commerce

John D. Dingell (MI), Chairman
(Ratio: 31-26)

Henry A. Waxman, CA
Joe Barton, TX, Ranking Member
Edward J. Markey, MA
Ralph M. Hall, TX
Rick Boucher, VA
Fred Upton, MI
Edolphus Towns, NY
Cliff Stearns, FL
Frank Pallone, Jr., NJ
Nathan Deal, GA
Bart Gordon, TN
Ed Whitfield, KY
Bobby L. Rush, IL
Barbara Cubin, WY
Anna G. Eshoo, CA
John Shimkus, IL
Bart Stupak, MI
Heather Wilson, NM
Eliot L. Engel, NY
John Shadegg, AZ
Gene Green, TX
Charles W. "Chip" Pickering, MS
Diana DeGette, CO, Vice Chair
Vito Fossella, NY
Lois Capps, CA
Roy Blunt, MO
Mike Doyle, PA
Steve Buyer, IN
Jane Harman, CA
George Radanovich, CA
Tom Allen, ME
Joseph R. Pitts, PA
Jan Schakowsky, IL
Mary Bono Mack, CA
Hilda L. Solis, CA
Greg Walden, OR
Charles A. Gonzalez, TX
Lee Terry, NE
Jay Inslee, WA
Mike Ferguson, NJ
Tammy Baldwin, WI
Mike Rogers, MI
Mike Ross, AR
Sue Wilkins Myrick, NC
Darlene Hooley, OR
John Sullivan, OK
Anthony D. Weiner, NY
Tim Murphy, PA
Jim Matheson, UT
Michael C. Burgess, TX
G. K. Butterfield, NC
Marsha Blackburn, TN
Charlie Melancon, LA
John Barrow, GA
Baron P. Hill, IN
Vacancy


SUBCOMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, TRADE, AND CONSUMER PROTECTION
(Ratio: 16-13)
Bobby L. Rush (IL), Chairman
Jan Schakowsky, IL, Vice Chair
Ed Whitfield, KY, Ranking Member
G. K. Butterfield, NC
Cliff Stearns, FL
John Barrow, GA
Charles W. "Chip" Pickering, MS
Baron P. Hill, IN
Vito Fossella, NY
Edward J. Markey, MA
George Radanovich, CA
Rick Boucher, VA
Joseph R. Pitts, PA
Edolphus Towns, NY
Mary Bono Mack, CA
Diana DeGette, CO
Lee Terry, NE
Charles A. Gonzalez, TX
Sue Wilkins Myrick, NC
Mike Ross, AR
John Sullivan, OK
Darlene Hooley, OR
Michael C. Burgess, TX
Anthony D. Weiner, NY
Marsha Blackburn, TN
Jim Matheson, UT
Joe Barton, TX (Ex Officio)
Charlie Melancon, LA
John D. Dingell (Ex Officio)

Saturday, April 5

Journey for the new dog

Greetings again. Well, this is what happens when I go awhile without posting. This time though I have an announcement to you, the faithful blog reader, or perhaps to myself if I read this in the future. I'm going back to The Seeing Eye for my second guide dog. I had a dog guide before in 1995 and used him for 4 years before retiring him. Retirement wasn't because of anything the dog did or didn't do, but rather from the fact that at that time, I didn't want to deal with the daily responsibilities of using a dog guide. Now though, I've got a steady lifestyle, I know what I'm getting into, and what a dog will and won't do for me. Before, I was in college and had no idea what to expect. Now, I know what to expect and how a dog could fit my personality and lifestyle. Plus, its been over a year and a half since Tony died. Its been long enough; its time and I feel like I'm ready.

I haven't used a dog in 9 years so there's a fair amount of apprehension and wonderment of if I can make this work and if I can remember everything I'm supposed to do. I've given it his a lot of thought and have come up with the following reasons for getting a dog, in no particular order: enhanced mobility, safety when traveling and crossing streets, hoping the dog will pick up on the cars and things that I miss due to a slight hearing loss, and companionship. I'd like a dog that's reserved and is content to lay under a desk for awhile. Since I'm a teacher, there may be times when the dog does just this while I go to a classroom down the hall to teach. However, I also know that a dog needs activity and stimulation, so I've been thinking of places I can go while at work to keep the dog's interest; routes I can take through the training center.

With this in mind, I've asked for a German Shepherd. I love the idea of a Shepherd being a one person dog, reserved around people, and focused while working. Tony was a yellow Lab, and though there were times that he was focused, there were also times of distraction. I realize all dogs are prone to distraction and that any guiding breed will have a variety of traits in any dog. However, it seems, according to research I've done and people I've talked with, that Shepherds are more focused workers and aren't distracted by people or other dogs. If I do receive a Lab, then I'd like it not to be yellow, since Tony was a yellow Lab. A good friend of mine has already said that there will be times when I'll compare "new dog": to Tony. I can see how this would happen, and in some sense, its already started with a preference for a black or brown, rather than a yellow, Lab.

Anyway, these are things I've initially thought of. I've sent in my application and had the medical forms filled out by my doctor. The next step will be a personal visit by one of The Seeing Eye trainers. Since there's quite a gap since I last used a dog, they're sending a trainer to meet with me. I talked with him this morning, and the meeting is set for thursday morning of next week. He'll talk with me about my lifestyle and we'll go on a "Juno" walk, where he simulates the role of the dog. This will give him an opportunity to evaluate my orientation and mobility skills as well as my walking speed. I think I've slowed down a little since I walked with Tony 10+ years ago, :)

So there it is; a new chapter in my life. Actually, its probably more accurate to say that its a continuation of a chapter. Back in September of 2006 when Tony died, I didn't know if I wanted another dog. I even gave nearly all of Tony's things away, keeping only his leash and collar. Now though, after time to think about and greave over Tony, and to think about what a guide dog means and how one can enhance your life, I've come full circle. I'm not going to say that a guide dog is 100 percent better than a cane, or vice versa about the cane verses the dog. I view this as a personal preference. I know plenty of people that sware by dogs and would never even touch canes, and others who sware by the cane. Personally, they're all tools, the canes and dogs that is. Each has their place, and there are times when the dog would be better than the cane, and likewise with the cane. Truth be told, just because I'll have a dog doesn't mean that I'm going to toss my canes in the trash. Rather, I'll likely have one at work and one at home. Anyway, that's my story. I'll update you on the progress of this journey as time goes on. You might have noticed that I've created a new label, called Seeing Eye, which I can use to categorize all these steps in the journey. Lord willing, it would be great to update this blog when at The Seeing Eye in class. But, that remains to be seen, not because I can't. But because so much happens when in class on a daily basis. I'll do my best though.

Press release on hybrid cars

Greetings. Following is a press release on hybrid cars I received yesterday through email. Please excuse any formatting errors and enjoy.

University of California, Riverside Press Release:

Hybrid Cars Are Harder to Hear

Quiet vehicles may pose greater risks to pedestrians, UCR psychologist finds.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Hybrid cars are so quiet
when operating only with their electric
motors that they may pose a risk to the blind
and some other pedestrians, research by a
University of California, Riverside psychologist suggests.

Preliminary results of the on-going research
project show that hybrid cars operating at
very slow speeds must be 40 percent closer to
pedestrians than combustion-engine
vehicles before their location can be audibly
detected, said Lawrence Rosenblum,
professor of psychology. Those findings have
implications for pedestrians who are blind,
runners, cyclists, small children, and others, he said.

"There is a real difference between the
audibility of hybrid vehicles and those with
traditional internal combustion engines that
could have effects on the safety of
pedestrians which need to be studied," Rosenblum
said. "Our preliminary findings could
mean that there is an added danger with hybrid
cars, particularly at intersections and in
parking lots."

In a research project funded by the National
Federation of the Blind, Rosenblum made
audio recordings of hybrid and combustion-engine
cars in a quiet parking lot. The
vehicles moved no faster than 5 miles per hour
to assure that the hybrid car operated only
with its electric motor. Subjects in a lab
listened to the recordings and indicated when
they could hear from which direction the car
approached. Subjects could make these
judgments sooner when listening to the
combustion-engine car than when listening to the
hybrid car.

At speeds above 20 to 25 miles per hour hybrid
cars likely generate enough tire and
aerodynamic noise to make them sufficiently audible, Rosenblum said.

"This research provides evidence that hybrid
cars, when operating in silent mode, pose a
substantial risk to blind people and other
pedestrians. We hope that regulators and car
manufacturers will take notice of these results
and take steps to eliminate this risk," said
Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National
Federation of the Blind, a 50,000-member
advocacy organization for people who are blind or have low vision.

Rosenblum, who is an adviser to the Society of
Automotive Engineers and sits on
committees that make recommendations to the auto
industry, has spent many years
researching perception of approaching cars and
whether there are similarities between
visual and auditory perception of approach.

"I really do feel this is an issue for more than
those who are blind," he said. "We're also
talking about bike riders, runners and others.
Walking around with my kids in a parking
lot makes it very clear that I'm using hearing
and vision to determine where things are."

Rosenblum is continuing the study with greater levels of background noise and
eventually will test people who are blind in
parking lots to determine the level of risk. In
April he will meet with Stanford University
researchers who are developing different
sounds that would enhance the ability of
pedestrians to hear approaching hybrid and
electric cars.

"Everyone's aware of the issue," he said.
However, Rosenblum said, "We are not talking
about major changes to the way automobiles are
designed, but about slightly increasing
their audibility when they are traveling slowly.
Only a subtle sound enhancement should
be required."

Article: email addresses and job applications

Greetings. I received the following article from an email list for blind students I'm on. It does a great job of describing exactly what kind of email address you want to put on that job application or resume. Enjoy, and pardon any formatting errors.

Could Your E-Mail Name Hurt Your Career?

by Daryl Hannah. Date Posted: March 25, 2008

When Stacy Havel, director of public relations for Bernard Hodes Group, a
recruitment company, came across an e-mail application from "sexy daddy,"
she laughed and passed the e-mail around the office for others to see. What
she didn't do was respond or bring the applicant in for an interview.

"When you see someone identifying themselves in a vulgar or inappropriate
way, it gives insight to their personality," Havel says, referring to
"sexy
daddy" and the hundreds of other e-mail applications she's received from
job
seekers.

Sure, sending business e-mails can be tricky, especially in a work force
that encompasses diversity of race/ethnicity, orientation, gender, age,
religion, disability and other cultural influences. However, one thing is
certain--unprofessional e-mail addresses can hurt your chances just as
much
as unprofessional e-mails. An inappropriate e-mail address can tarnish
your
brand, warns Havel. "It's important to set something up that says
something
about your personal brand that is professional and not offensive, that
will
make someone look at your application," she says.

Sophia Bogues, strategic accounts manager with INROADS, which places
students from traditionally underrepresented groups in corporate
internships, agrees. "Business e-mails are a tool, and that tool
represents
you," says Bogues.

As you join the work force, building and protecting your brand is
essential,
and this includes your e-mail address. Here are five tips to make sure
your
e-mail address doesn't keep you from landing that ideal job.

No. 1: Separate your personal and professional e-mail addresses. Keep
your
personal and professional e-mails separate. While it is tempting to
manage
one universal e-mail address, doing so can prove problematic--especially
if
you used your e-mail address to set up a social-networking account.

"Many set up their Facebook accounts when they were younger and many
didn't
think about how this would affect the future," says Havel, referring to
students who use their Facebook e-mail addresses on resumes and job
applications.

So what do you do when you are ready to start applying for job? Set up an
e-mail address specifically for work. "Today it's very easy to get a new
e-mail address. Set up an e-mail address specifically for work-related
things," says Havel.

No. 2: Choose wisely. Choose an e-mail address that sets you apart but at
the same doesn't discourage your future employer. For example, using your
first and last name should get the job done. Steer clear of references to
orientation, race, cultural acronyms or neighborhood. These things may be
an
important part of you, but your e-mail address is not the place to
express
that.

For example, e-mail addresses like bling-bling@yahoo.com,
losethelesbo@msn.com or blackstallion@gmail.com may be off-putting to a
future employer.

No. 3: Avoid sexual and religious references. One of the easiest ways to
have your application tossed in the trash is to have an e-mail address
that
includes sexually explicit or overtly religious references. "You want to
avoid e-mail addresses that are like sexkitten@xxx.com, or
bustyblond@aol.com," warns Havel. And while religion does have its place
in
the workplace, it doesn't belong in your e-mail address. Remember, your
e-mail address represents you and is among the first impressions a future
employer will have of your professionalism.

No. 4: Don't use your current work e-mail address to apply for jobs.
Employers have the legal right to read your e-mails. Therefore, sending
e-mails to potential employers from your current work e-mail address is
not
wise. In fact, applying for a job while at work is a big no-no.

Instead, use your newly created personal, yet professional, e-mail
address
to apply to jobs before or after work.

No. 5: Don't let your e-mail address overshadow your resume. You want to
make sure that your e-mail address isn't something that people are going
to
be so focused on that it will overshadow your resume. Havel suggests this
can be avoided by keeping your professional e-mail address generic. "You
want your skills to stand out, not your e-mail address," she says.

C DiversityInc 2008 R All rights reserved.

Rolling Rebellion

Greetings. Here's another article on the Capitol Metro saga I received this morning in my email. Enjoy.

Rolling Rebellion at Capital Metro

BY JUSTIN WARD

Critics of Capital Metro's proposed transit cuts to services for the disabled questioned why the agency would spend millions on a spiffy new railcar system.
Photo by John Anderson

The Capital Metro boardroom became the site of a peculiar rebellion Monday. Some of the insurgents rolled in on wheelchairs. Others were led in by dogs.
Instead of pitchforks and torches, they were brandishing canes and walkers.

Filing out of Special Transit Service buses and taxicabs, they packed into Cap Metro's lobby, where they waited to be escorted in groups of four, via the
agency's only elevator, to its second-floor boardroom. Some folks in wheelchairs had trouble making it through the front door after the button that opens
it malfunctioned at a most inopportune time. Those who arrived early had the good fortune of picking up one of the few agendas printed in braille. Those
who didn't had to borrow one. Despite the logistical challenges of getting to the meeting (both to the building and the room itself), the boardroom was
soon filled wall to wall with wheelchairs - underneath every other chair was a Seeing Eye dog curling up inconspicuously.

The motivation behind the uprising? Many with disabilities are outraged over Cap Metro's planned cuts to STS, also known as paratransit services. Under
the Americans With Disabilities Act, Cap Metro must provide service to riders with disabilities that is "parallel" to regular service. This means that
Cap Metro must supplement its fleet with special cars and vans, which provide curb-to-curb service to those who cannot ride a fixed-route bus because of
their disabilities.

Cap Metro contends that changes are necessary to rein in STS spending, which has risen by more than 80% in six years. During the 2006-2007 fiscal year,
Cap Metro spent $26.9 million - about 19% of the operating budget - on paratransit, which serves 2% of its ridership. To reduce costs, Cap Metro argues
that it must streamline paratransit - by cutting regular taxi vouchers, increasing penalties for no-shows, minimizing the number of riders who are eligible,
and cutting the hours when live operators will be in the STS call center.

Opponents at the meeting say the cuts will make a system already fraught with problems even worse. They most fiercely opposed the proposed elimination
of subscription taxi vouchers. Currently, those who qualify can receive daily vouchers for regular taxi rides to work, doctors' appointments, or dialysis
treatment. Under the proposed changes, taxi vouchers will only be used to handle overflow from standard STS vehicles.

Cap Metro officials say the vouchers are wasteful, unnecessary, and vulnerable to fraud, citing past instances where more than $100,000 was reportedly
paid to a single cabbie in one year. Hannah Riddering, a Yellow Cab operator who often carries passengers with disabilities, said fraud in the program
is exaggerated by Cap Metro and the media. "Capital Metro staff uses 'cabdriver fraud' as a bludgeon," she said. Voucher fraud was limited to a few bad
apples, who were fired more than two years ago, Riddering said, and she blames Cap Metro's lax oversight. Yellow Cab, not Cap Metro, first discovered the
abuse, she said.

Pat Bartel, who is blind and frequently uses vouchers, told the board that despite what Cap Metro is claiming, vouchers are actually cheaper than rides
in STS vehicles. According to the 2006-2007 budget, taxi vouchers accounted for $3.2 million, or 11.8% of the total paratransit budget. The maximum taxi
voucher allowed per ride is $14, while the average cost-per-ride for all STS services, including taxis and STS vehicles, is $46.50, the bulk of which goes
to maintaining its fleet and paying drivers. Others noted that STS buses often waste resources because Cap Metro will sometimes use an entire bus to transport
one person.

Cap Metro originally planned to eliminate vouchers in March and did so, briefly, until a successful lawsuit brought by the Texas Civil Rights Project forced
the agency to reinstate them. When Cap Metro abruptly stopped issuing vouchers without warning, it severely impacted those who had depended on them, including
Cheryl Fszol, who says she lost her job as a result. Fszol suffers from seizures brought on by stress and also paralyzing migraines from a brain tumor.
The STS vans dropped her off an hour before work each day. Her boss wouldn't allow her to go into the building until someone else showed up, so she would
sit outside in the dark, often having seizures in the parking lot from the stress. She was fired from her job, she said, because the company did not want
to be liable if she were injured from her seizures.
Cap Metro originally planned to implement the changes without a public hearing, despite Federal Transit Administration regulations that require public
participation whenever there are changes to paratransit policy. The changes were billed as "procedural" rather than changes in policy, so it was deemed
unnecessary to hold a hearing. Cap Metro Access Advisory Committee members took turns blasting STS Director Inez Evans for failing to consult directly
with the committee or with the disabled community at-large. "All of these changes were just rammed through," said Malcolm Graham, who is blind and a member
of the access committee. "They presented [them] as if it were a done deal."

Evans opted to bypass the access committee altogether and hired a consulting firm called Texas Citizen Fund. The firm was paid $27,000 to conduct six focus
groups, which had a total of 174 participants. The firm apparently told Cap Metro exactly what it wanted to hear: that everyone approved, with the exception
of a few minor complaints that required tinkering.

Many opponents say Evans is the driving force behind the proposed changes, though she insists that these events were set into motion long before she took
the position. She cited a report from two years ago, which made many of the same recommendations. Bartel said that what Evans is doing in Austin is consistent
with her history in the transit industry. Evans worked for a company called MV Transportation, which is the paratransit equivalent of an efficiency expert,
Bartel said, with a pattern of reducing services to the minimum required by ADA.

When MV took over paratransit service in Washington, D.C., Evans was put in charge. The Washington Post reported in 2006: "In the first three weeks under
the new contractor [MV], Metro received record numbers of complaints from riders, thousands of whom said they were stranded, picked up late or mistreated
by drivers or reservationists. MV executives have blamed poor data from [the former contractor], the learning curve of new drivers and reservationists,
and telephone problems." Evans resigned from MV after six months on the job. She insists that it was purely a personal decision to take a better job in
California.

Evans plans to bring in an outside contractor to do what is called a "functional assessment" of STS riders, to determine if they are physically capable
of riding a fixed-route bus, with the intent of bumping riders from STS rolls. But wheelchair-bound riders are concerned that an influx of wheelchairs
on buses will be problematic, since all buses only have two wheelchair spots. If both spots are taken, then riders will have to wait as long as an hour
for the next bus. Also, the examinations would require riders to turn over personal medical information to Cap Metro, which they consider an invasion of
privacy.

Some at the meeting urged Cap Metro to get its priorities straight. Several speakers said it is appalling that the agency can cough up $100 million to
build a commuter train, yet it has to cut services for the disabled in the name of saving money. "Many of the comments in the media make it seem like we
were riding in limousines," said Richard Villa, who is blind. "I think most of us - if we had a choice - wouldn't use the system, at all."

Friday, April 4

Stream: Daniel voice released

Greetings. I received the following notification from HumanWare regarding the release of the Daniel U.K. voice for the Victor Reader Stream. If you're perfectly happy with the Tom or Samantha voices, then there's no reason to change to this one. If however you want to check out this new voice, then by all means install it on your Stream by following the instructions outlined below. As the email says, there's no feature changes between the different voices. And, you cannot have more than one voice on your Stream at any one time. Enjoy.

Dear Victor Reader Stream Customer:

An alternative Stream software with the English U.K. male (Daniel) TTS voice is now available for download at:

http://www.humanware.com/en-canada/support/victor_reader_stream

This alternative version 1.2 software has a male TTS English U.K. voice (Daniel) and can be downloaded to replace the software with the female Samantha voice currently shipped on all English Streams. The Daniel voice will be shipped with future U.K. Streams. If you wish to change back to Samantha female TTS voice you can download and re-install the alternative UPG from the same page.

The functionality of the software is the same for both downloads. Only the TTS voice differs. The complete list of new features for version 1.2 and the installation instructions can be found in the What's New document in the documentation list on the same above web page. This support page also has links to listen to all Vocalizer TTS voices.

To summarize the Stream software Installation:

- download the zip file with your choice of TTS voice

- Unzip the single UPG upgrade file. You do not require special unzip software with Windows XP or Vista. Simply press Enter on the downloaded zip file and the UPG file will be shown. You can then copy the UPG file to the clipboard and paste it into the root of the Stream SD card.

- Insert the card into the Stream, connect the Stream to AC power, and turn it on.

- The Stream will recognize the special UPG file and initiate the upgrade process. Audio messages will inform you of the start and end of the update process.

- Remove the UPG file from your SD card after updating.



Thank you.

The HumanWare Support Team

Personal update

Greetings. Well, its been awhile since I've put up an update on what's been happening with me, and a lot has happened in the past few weeks.

First off, and perhaps most notable, when I came back from the Easter weekend with my family up in Dallas, I also brought back a throat infection. I went to the doctor and they took a culture, which turned up negative for strep throat, but the infection has kept me from work since before the Easter break. The last day that I was at work was on Good Friday. When I came back from Dallas, I had no voice.

Its not been all bad though. The week of Good Friday, I took the plunge and bought a new Windows Vista Home Premium computer. I've neded a new machine anyway since my current one had been going for 5 years. It could have probably done another few years, but I wanted to upgrade to newer equipment and software. So, during the time that I've been at home recooporating, I've spent some of that time on the new computer. I don't know all the technical stuff, but suffice it to say that this new system is powerful. I'm of the opinion that if you can, when you buy a computer, try and get more power than you actually need so you don't fall too far behind in power later. This new system doesn't disappoint either having 3 gigs of RAM and a 500 GB hard drive, plus a TV tuner, built in card reader, CD/DVD reader/burner, one of the new HD Blue Ray DVD Reader/burner drives, and other things. Anyway, its a great system. For the record, its a Gateway DX441X, which I would highly recommend. When i got it, it came with a free 19" wide screen monitor, which I was told was a $219 value. Over all, I'm impressed by this computer and have had fun, for the most part, in getting to know Vista. I'll write in a different post on my thoughts of Vista so far. I say "for the most part" because last Monday, I had an interesting thing come up.

I was tinkering around in my system's settings, trying to fix my speaker's audio orientation, when I accidentally muted the speaker. I'm still not totally sure how that happened. Well, what's a blind guy to do when the sound card's been muted? There's no sound from JAWS, and even if you plug in the headphones, there's still no sound. Nothing from Narrator, Microsoft's minor solution for a screen reader. Might as well call someone over, which I did. When one of my neighbors arrived and saw my computer, after commenting that it was a nice system, she said, "Your monitor's not working." Here's an interesting and ironic thing, a monitor that doesn't work for a blind guy. As a quick side note, I got a monitor in the first place precisely because there may be times like this when I need someone to read the screen so I know what's happening. It just so happens that this method didn't work out too well for me this particular time. Well, we spent the next couple of hours trying to figure out what the problem was, even calling Gateway tech support. At one point, I turned to my neighbor and jokingly said, "Well, aren't we in a fix: neither of us can use the computer since its not talking to me and not showing anything to you." We both got a good laugh out of that. Usually one of those is the case for me, but not both at the same time. Anyway, at one point, God bless her, the Gateway support representative asked me why I had just now noticed the monitor wasn't working. To which I explained, calmly, that since I was blind, and since I had no reason to use my monitor, this was the first person who I had over and has commented that my monitor wasn't working. Otherwise, I would have been clueless to the whole thing. Well, long story short, after testing the new monitor with my old computer, we finally determined that a crucial adapter wasn't included with my system in order for the monitor to work properly. Gateway sent me the adapter via FedEx and I received it today. When I called another friend earlier this evening to come over and check things to make sure it was working, the monitor was working fine. We were prompted to perform a system restore, which we did, and all was working great again, even the sound had come back. I had experienced one other issue with Internet Explorer, but I called Gateway again earlier this evening and the helpful representative and I were able to get that one fixed as well. So, as of now and for the moment, all appears to be working fine. So much for not getting too technical in this post, :)

I've filed my taxes for another year. That always feels good, to independently file your taxes and have the tax man say, when shaking your hand, "See you next year." This time I took a cab to and from, since I had scheduled the appointment for during the day since I was home anyway. And, I'll be getting another refund again this year, not as much as last year, but a refund all the same. I also qualify for the rebate checks that will be sent out in May or June. So, I suppose between the refund and the rebate check, I'm getting more than I usually get, which is good. All in all, I'm pleased with how things went.

That's about all for now. I'm off to tinker, though not like I did last Monday, play with and enjoy my new system some more. Have a good weekend.