AVC takes to the air waves

Yesterday morning I was interviewed by BBC Three Counties Radio for an upcoming programme about disability and overcoming adversity. The programme will feature several short interviews with a number of people from all walks of life and with a variety of disabilities. All have faced and overcome the challenges and restrictions that their disabilities bring them on a daily basis and resolutely refuse to let themselves be beaten. They have made significant adjustments to the way they approach their lives and have experienced dramatic and positive changes in the direction their lives have taken as a result.

 

I am thrilled to be involved in this programme and know that it will help to dispel the myth that disabled people are incapable of achieving ambitious goals. I encourage you to listen if you can and of course share this information with as many people as you can.

 

The programme is called Shrink Wrapped and runs from 1pm to 2pm on BBC Three Counties Radio this Sunday 14th December. You will also be able to catch it on the listen again service on the station’s website or via the BBC iPlayer if you miss it.

 

James Goldsworthy.

Founder of Alternate Visions Coaching.

Exciting news from AVC

It has been a little while since I wrote a blog entry, but to be honest I have been kept pretty busy with one thing or another. My projects with #BOBcatDigitalLimited, #DolphinComputerAccess and my private #Coaching and #AssistiveTechnology training clients have all kept me working hard.

 

Yesterday I had a very pleasant interview with the delightful Lei Chan, Editor of #ChamberMK magazine #InBusiness. AVC will be featured in the magazine’s first edition which is due to be published on 19th November 2014. 

 

In other news, I am very pleased to announce that AVC has secured an agreement with assistive technology providers Dolphin to deliver their UK telephone and Skype training to new and existing users.

 

These are exciting times indeed.

A refreshing new project

Yesterday I had a meeting with a new client Bobcat Digital Ltd and their web designer Karton Design Ltd. The meeting was about the building and development of Bobcat’s new website and I have to say that it was incredibly refreshing to sit in a room of people who all want to work together and produce a great finished product. The enthusiasm for the project was palpable and we think we will have something very special and quite different by the time it is complete.

 

I am very much looking forward to working on this project and imagine it will be a fantastic learning experience for all of us that are involved.

Fear of the dark

It is said that the eyes are the window to your soul

That in a person’s eyes burns the light of life

When my eye dies, will my soul have perished and my life light be extinguished?

The gift of sight is truly that, a gift

To look upon those that you love

To watch your children grow

And see the beauty of the world that surrounds us

I am afraid of the dark

Not of the blackness itself

But of missing all of the things ahead of me

I will never be completely blind, for only my sight will have gone

I will still be here, only with a different perspective to you all

I do not need vision to live

Just a vision of life.

Written by James Goldsworthy.

copyright reserved 2008.

How to get high quality voices for VoiceOver on iOS7 devices

Apples iOS7 for mobile devices has been out for some time now and it has received some great reviews from the disabled community for its improved accessibility across its whole system. However, many visually impaired people (me included) were unimpressed by the voice used by VoiceOver. Basically the default voice for all iOS7 devices is the compact mobile version of British English Daniel. The compact voice takes up less space in the phone’s memory but sadly the sound quality in the opinion of most visually impaired users is very low compared to the high quality version of the same voice.

But fear not, as part of iOS7 Apple have not only given users the option to download and use the high quality version of the voice, but have also included several other voices which can be used either as compact versions or high quality versions.

As so many blind and visually impaired people that I know use iPhones, iPods or iPads I thought I would write this short guide on how to download and use the new voices available or simply change the default compact voice to the high quality version.

Here is what to do:

1. Go to Settings, then General, then Accessibility.

2. Go into VoiceOver then into the Languages and Dialects option.

3. Go into Default Dialect (it will say British English).

4. You will now have several different voices to choose from that you can download. These include American, Irish, Australian etc. Note that all of these voices are already on your device but they are all the compact versions. You can simply double tap on the voice you want and VoiceOver will use it as its default but remember it will be the compact version of that voice.

To get the High Quality version of any particular voice do the following:

1. Choose the voice you want and double tap it so the device is speaking in that voice.

2. Then beneath the different voice options you will find that there is a voice quality button. Double tap that button and your device will pop up with a warning that the high quality voice is a larger file and asks you if you want to continue. Obviously if you want the voice then double tap the ok/continue button. Your device will then download the High Quality version of the voice you have selected. This may take a couple of minutes so don’t panic if it does.

3. Once you’ve done this go back to the VoiceOver menu and there will now be a button called “use compact voice.” This toggles between switching the compact voice on and off. Switch it off and you will have the nice clear High Quality voice. Switch it on and you will have the compact voice.

I hope you have found this post useful. If you have, then please do share it with any visually impaired people who may benefit from it.

James Goldsworthy.

Founder, Alternate Visions Coaching.

Dreams

I close my eyes and drift into sleep

My thoughts and stresses disappear

I am lost to the world of man

For I stalk the dreamscapes of my mind

At times, pure paradise, a tantalising glimpse at Elysium

At others, dark landscapes,where Titans clash and Gods war

I roam from place to place

World to world and time to time

Infinitely searching

Forever running

I am all at once at my most powerful and most vulnerable

A god amongst men or a screaming infant

From light to dark I turn and back again

So lucid is my mind

Eternally I wonder

Which is the real me?

Written by James Goldsworthy.

copyright reserved 2008.

Is it accessible?

How accessible is your website?

 

Thousands of people around the world purchase screen reading software to enable them to use computers, tablets and mobile phones effectively on the internet. The common misconception is that only blind and visually impaired people use this software, but this is not the case. Although the visually impaired community accounts for a large percentage of the world’s screen reader users, people with motor impairment and learning difficulties also use them to great effect.

 

Sadly only a small percentage of websites out there are fully accessible to screen reader users. Unfortunately very few corporations, companies, organisations and small businesses even consider whether their website is accessible. This isn’t to say that the number of accessible websites is not increasing, because it is, albeit very slowly. There are certainly a far greater number of accessible websites now compared to just five years ago.

 

So who is to blame?

 

The website developers? Probably not, as they tend to work to their client’s specifications and to whatever the current minimal accepted level of accessibility is at the time. This isn’t to say that some web developers don’t try to go the extra mile and work hard on accessibility, because some certainly do.

 

The web developer’s clients, the corporations, companies, organisations and small businesses then? Probably not them either. After all, more often than not they simply want a website that looks good, that works, that promotes their product or service and that won’t cost them a fortune to have built or to maintain.

 

The disabled community perhaps? Again probably not. A vast majority of visually impaired and disabled people wouldn’t know how to build a website in the first place and those that do already do a huge amount to improve accessibility where they can. In fact the greatest leaps forward in accessibility have been as a result of the technically minded members of the disabled community having direct influence in its development.

 

So what’s the answer? 

 

To be honest I don’t think there is a correct answer, but here are my thoughts. 

 

The disabled community really does need to speak up more and communicate with web developers and the corporations, companies, organisations and small businesses that purchase their web building services. It is no good our complaining about inadequate accessibility if we are not talking to the people who can change it. There is a lot of ignorance out there about accessibility and I think it is our part to play to improve the situation by educating people about it. I don’t just mean negative communication either; if something works and improves our web experience we should be letting the web developers know. Equally when things are not working we need to communicate in a constructive and informative manner, not just blowing hot air. Without constructive feedback it is exceptionally difficult for web developers to make positive changes. 

 

As far as the corporations, companies, organisations and small businesses are concerned I think it is quite difficult. I think what it really boils down to here is a lack of awareness when it comes to accessibility, which of course is where what I said above comes in. Having said that however I do wonder if they ever think about how much their potential client base could grow if the percentage of people that are currently unable to navigate their websites could suddenly access them. I do feel that many simply overlook or dismiss the disabled community as not being viable clients or customers and I think that is something that really ought to change.

 

Regarding web developers; again this is a difficult one as the default position seems to be to work to the minimum industry standard for accessibility. That is of course a generalisation, I have come into contact with some outstanding web developers who are very inclusive of accessibility and who strive to improve it on an ongoing basis. There are a very small number of course like the one I spoke to around eighteen months ago who told me that the number of disabled people using the internet that struggle with accessibility is insignificant when it comes to the number of internet users worldwide, so it didn’t really matter if the sites he developed were accessible as his clients didn’t care about it. I wonder whether they genuinely didn’t care or if actually they just didn’t understand about the impact that accessibility can have, or even if they understood what accessibility is. With that extreme example aside I think that on the whole web developers are quite open to feedback, particularly if it is constructive. It would be quite nice if more developers approached disabled user groups and asked for their feedback during development rather than as an afterthought, but again what need is there if their clients are not bothered about it?

 

In summary I feel that it is the responsibility of all of us whether disabled, a web developer or a purchaser of website building services to spread the word about accessibility and make it an industry standard rather than an inconvenience.

 

Part of my mission is to make disabled people more able to be independent through the use of technology. This of course means desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones. The ability to successfully navigate the internet and the websites that they want to visit has an enormously positive impact upon disabled individuals. Believe me, I know, I am one of those people. It creates the possibility of building networks of disabled peers as well as more inclusion in the general community. Let’s not forget that disabled people would still like to shop online, read local news online, hire solicitors or buy insurance online, just because we are disabled doesn’t mean we don’t want to do the same things as those who aren’t.

Empowering people to use assistive technology

A large part of my mission both in my Coaching work and my voluntary roles within Bucksvision is to empower visually impaired individuals to live independent and socially interactive lives. 

 

Part of this is to help individuals embrace technology that can help enrich their lives and break down communication barriers whilst teaching the skills to become a competent and confident user of that technology. This can mean something as simple as teaching a person how to use a talking watch or bedside clock. Equally it can mean teaching more complex skills like how to use magnifying software on a computer, using Talks speech software on a mobile phone, teaching an individual how to use the awesome built-in Voice Over technology on iPhones, iPads, iPods and Macs, or it can be teaching somebody how to use a full assistive software package. 

 

One such package is Dolphin Guide. Guide is a complete software package that can be purchased and installed on almost all modern Windows Desktop or Laptop computers. I will not bang on for ages about everything it can do as all of that information is available on the Dolphin website; I have added a link at the end of this post for your convenience. What I will briefly mention however is that Guide enables users with low vision or complete sight loss to access and navigate around a computer by using magnification, screen reading speech or a combination of both. It allows the user to send and receive emails, access the internet, scan and read their post, create documents, manage their calendar and much more. So as you can see, it is pretty good! 

 

I have been a user of Dolphin Guide for around eight years now and felt that it was about time I actually trained to become an Accredited Trainer so I could deliver training effectively and of course with the necessary qualification to back it up. So last week I completed my training and sat my Accreditation exam. I am very happy to say that I passed with flying colours. 

 

Obviously I am very pleased about this; not only because I can now officially train people, but because it has been a personal goal of mine for two or three years to actually do this. 

 

So it is with pleasure that I can announce that I am now a fully Accredited Dolphin Guide 8.0 Trainer and my services are now available. 

 

You can find out more by visiting the “Assistive Technology Training” page of the AVC website. 

 

Link to Dolphin website: http://www.yourdolphin.com

 

 

James Goldsworthy.

Founder of Alternate Visions Coaching.

AoEC Accredited Associate Executive Coach.

Accredited Trainer, Dolphin Guide 8.0

The Wall

A breathtaking view

Last week my partner and I spent several days up in Northumbria staying in a small bed and breakfast right on Hadrian’s Wall. On the second day we decided to walk the five miles to the nearby Housesteads Fort following the route of the wall. Predictably perhaps, the weather decided to make things just a little more challenging for us that day and as a result we ended up battling through driving winds and temperatures very nearly at freezing point. The rain had done its preliminary job of saturating the ground through the previous night so it was no time at all before we were getting bogged down in glutinous mud that came over our ankles as we negotiated the harsh rocky terrain.

As we struggled over, through and around that terrain and my partner described the environment around us as well as the breathtaking views all along the route I got to thinking about how we as human beings not only have to overcome obstacles and barriers throughout our lives, but also how we create them.

More specifically I was thinking about those that we create for ourselves that prevent us from achieving what we want to. Naturally there are those that we consciously put in place marking our boundaries and setting the extreme borders of our personalities; but what about those that we subconsciously put in place?

When thinking about self created obstacles I was considering examples like:

– The individual who wants to work their way up the ladder of seniority in their work but makes or finds excuses as to why they cannot go for that promotion they have always wanted.

– The individual who doesn’t have confidence in themselves or their abilities and has anxiety around making themselves heard, therefore creating an obstacle from their own shyness or fear.

On the surface these examples do of course appear to be more conscious obstacles, but those conscious obstacles more often than not have deeper root causes.

It can often be very difficult to get to the bottom of these root causes with a client, but ultimately that extra discussion and exploration can uncover multiple reasons for the given issue to have manifested.

I then thought about what obstacles and barriers can mean to different people. To most they will mean physical or mental things that slow a person down, something that is difficult to get through, around or over or something that can be intimidating as well as seeming impossible to face. Does this mean these obstacles are insurmountable?

I come across examples much like the ones I have used above regularly in my Coaching and I invariably ask my clients almost the same couple of questions each time. “How do you think you could find the courage to face these obstacles?” and “What do you think could help you overcome these obstacles?”

Almost always the response is the same or similar. “I don’t know” or “I was hoping you could tell me.”
Half way and it's getting colder!
Now, as my partner and I slipped and tripped and scrambled over that terrain along the route of the wall I thought how much I’m like my clients and my clients are like me. Not as silly as at first you might think.

I am blind and so to navigate successfully over that terrain I needed the help and support of someone I trust. Not to walk the route for me you understand, but to help me discover the best path for me and my particular needs. After all, my partner wasn’t carrying me, I trod the path myself.

In the same way (although metaphorically of course) my clients have the same handicap as I do in the way there is fear of the unknown; perhaps they don’t have the confidence or do not have the bravery to embark upon such a path alone, and ultimately are as blind as I am because they cannot see what is over the crest of the next hill.

So it is since making that slightly odd (but in my opinion, very relevant) metaphorical observation that I intend to use that walking experience in my Coaching to encourage clients to explore their fears and anxieties and to help them find the root issues that cause them to create their subconscious obstacles.

I would like to leave you with something to think about before I go.

Imagine yourself if you will, in the situation I was in on that long cold windy walk over incredibly wet, steep and rocky ground and see if you can apply that metaphorically to a part of your life that you are struggling with right now. It can be your home life, your work life or your student life.

Now consider how you feel at the beginning of the “walk”, how you could improve that feeling or indeed who might be able to help you feel better about it. Also think about what you are likely to find particularly difficult over the route of the “walk” and consider what or who might lessen that difficulty or help get you over that particularly high and nasty looking hill strewn with rocks. Now think about how you will feel when you get to your destination knowing what you have just gone through.

Feels good, doesn’t it?

James Goldsworthy.
AoEC Accredited Associate Executive Coach.
Founder of Alternate Visions Coaching.

Enablement coach specialising in sight loss, assistive technology training on Apple VoiceOver, Dolphin Guide & SuperNova, coaching for living with sight loss, back to work skills & confidence building