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Peaceful Pitlochry

Continued from ….. GETTING MY GEEK ON in Glasgow

The train journey was through rolling hills and beautiful landscapes.

Arriving at Pitlochry a fellow passenger helped me off with my case as there was a pushchair and hold-all in the door; only to have someone take my case on the platform!

All was okay though…. the man taking my case was in fact my cousin who had come to meet me!  I would be spending my time with him and his wife.  He gave me the warmest of welcomes and enveloping hug, easing away all the tensions from galavanting in Glasgow.

Fizz also had a friend, in their dog Honey (although on first impressions they weren’t too keen on each other)

Pitlochry is somewhere I have never been before, but thanks to good olde Google Streetview I felt it was somewhere I would be comfortable.  The high street was made up of a mix of cafes, charity shops and outdoor shops.  The homes were nestled within lush green fields and with numerous whiskey distilleries, long walks and most importantly … FAMILY

A family who opened their home to me. Who cooked me a overly dinner and who walked me via the local golf course to the pub to enjoy a drink or 3 with them and their friends.

After a very comfortable nights sleep we took the dogs out for a walk to Black Spout Wood, a beautiful and refreshing walk with streams for the dogs to splash about in and my first ever encounter of a natural waterfall.

Photograph of small waterfall in the middle of trees and bushes, taken from the waterfall lookout opposite

The waterfall was considerably smaller than than usual, because water levels in the streams were much lower as even in Scotland they have been having a very hot summer.

All before returning for some lunch before embarking on a second walk and whiskey tasting in the afternoon.

Afterall, you can’t come to such a beautiful Burgh without tasting the local produce … Even if that is whiskey and gin!

And it is a whiskey that the store keeper knows so well, with the undertones of banana in one and dark chocolate in another; I must admit that to my untrained nose I could taste the differences in the samples, but not what was explained.  We even sampled some of Pitlochry’s new gin, which I found very enjoyable and easy to drink.

After a few purchases we headed off towards The Pitlochry Dam.  A structure that was planned back in the 1950s, being fully operational in 1962.  You see the dam had (at the time) been part of Scotland’s history as the dam created hydro-electricity that helped to power just under two-thirds of The Highlands energy supply (bearing in mind the in 1960 energy usage was no where near what it was today)

The dam being on the river Tummel also included ‘A fish ladder’ enabling the salmon to move through their migration into the river after the dam.

The visitor centre had been renovated in recent years and for my cousin it was the first time he had visited it, we enjoyed some time looking around and learning the history and impact of the dam.

Photograph taken from the top of the dam looking towards the river tunnel and Loch Faskelly Photograph taken from the top of the fish ladder, showing it move down in stages like the gates on a canal

Photograph taken from ontop of the dam looking down the river and into Pitlochry

Again, the river Tummel and the Dam are showing how deplested the water levels are given the hot weather.  It was very interesting though to find out how important and revelationary this dam was and how even now it continues to support Scotland’s power supplies, although now much of Scotland receives its energy from wind turbines.

Photograph of a plaque within the visitor centre with a quote from one of the civil engineers who helped design the dam

During our walk we encountered the odd shower, but this just created a beautiful sky of blue and grey with the odd black cloud against the lush creeks and earth colours of the hills and trees.

But sadly all too soon, it was time to catch another train.  For the next part of my adventure.  A train journey that saw me returning to Perth before changing to travel on to Dundee.

Dubdee is a city I have visited many MANY many times before, but not for several years.  In fact, the last time I visited was when I went to my Grabs funeral.

But that is another post.

To Be Continued …

 

 

 

 

GETTING MY GEEK ON in Glasgow

Photograph of my gold Starbucks travel mug with the guide book to The Glasgow Science Centre with the SEC Armadillo building behind across the river Clyde.

Continued from … Welcome to Glasgow

After a relaxed evening in the hotel which included a Tai Chi class, a swim and a sauna before a gorgeous dinner, on Wednesday morninf I decided to visit The Glasgow Science Centre before embarking on another train journey deeper into Scotland (you’ll have to read on to find out where)

The Science Centre and adjoining iMax cinema were architecturally interesting buildings even before I walked through the doors.

 

Photograph shows a round ball like building on the left which is Glasgow IMAX with a large screen on the right of the photograph, with a small green area in front of it

Photograph is taken of the rear of the IMAX building where Starbucks sits amongst a glass wall sat beside part of an old dock areaPhotograph of the entrance to The Glasgow Science Museum, shoring what looks like the top half of a letter C shaped building, the glass front of the building sat to the right of the large screen

These building were custom built for purpose and opened to the public in June 2001, with a titanium clad exterior the Science Centre (science mall) with its crescent shaped glazing enables it along with the neighbouring imax to ‘blend in’ with the often grey overcast skies of Glasgow while offering a reflection from the river Clyde.

Set over three floors and including a planetarium and many interactive work station I could understand how it had gained its reputation and place on trip advisor as a ‘MUST SEE’ even though it was a pay for attraction (which many museums are not)

I fell in love with each and every floor.

Although I struggled with a few small issues (like no large print or alternative format maps or voice information on the lifts) I did find a very helpful member of staff who explained the floor levels to me and even explained where the stairs were as they were tucked away as the main traffic was directed towards the large lifts.

One perminant exhibit that I was interested in was ‘A Question of Perception’ that looked at optical illusions, the science behind it and how the human brain helps with this.  In addition to the illusions, I watched the cctv monitors for the centres own ‘wacky salon’ (you can find a video for this on YouTube, but as it is not accessible I have decided against sharing it here)

With interactive exhibitions across the whole centre, including a wonderful planetarium I enjoyed a good couple of hours here and took hundreds of photographs of the different exhibits, of which I will share just one with you.  This is of the ‘perfect triangle’ which from the angle of my photograph looks far from perfect.

Photograph of tabary - A mind blowing sculpture of a three part solid triangle, which is in fact an optical illusion and it is only when you get to within 2 foot of it that you see the sculpture is actulay 3 separate solid four sided rectangular, not actually a triangle at all.

However, too soon it was time for me to go, popping back to the hotel to collect my bags and head off for another train journey.

A train journey that saw me travelling from Exhibition Road to Glasgow Central, to hop on the shuttle bus to Glasgow Queen Street before boarding a train to Perth, where I would then change again (after a quick ‘wee stop’ for Fizz) to travel onto Pitlochry.

A place that could not be further from the hustle and bustle of Glasgow, with a population of just over 2,500 in comparison Glasgows 500,000….. It was a place I really couldn’t wait to escape to.

To be continued…….

Welcome to Glasgow

Continued from ….All Aboard

The sun was warm, although the sky was grey; the air reminded me of London, yet the feeling I got from this city was very different.  It was as if when I spoke people softened.

Maybe it was hearing my southern English accent or maybe it was just the way I spoke.  Whatever it was, it was very welcoming.

The train assistant walked me out onto the street beside Glasgow Central station and told me to turn right and then right again at the corner.  To go to the crossing and I would find myself beside the river, from there I should turn right again and walk alongside The Clyde and I would reach The Glasgow Crowne Plaza.

Walking towards the Clyde had another reason; according to google maps, it was where the closest patch of grass was for Fizz to be able to have her breakfast and do ‘her business’ after all I was very aware that she had been on a train for eight hours without any option of relief!

The walk was lovely, calming yet refreshing and i was able to enjoy the varying architecture and engineering of the many different bridges we passed.  (I later discovered just how many bridges there where)

The hotel was sat just after an odd ‘armadillo’ shaped building.  I later discovered this to be The SEC Armadillo (yup that its official name) beside the SSE Hydro, a large exhibition, show and conference space.

Photograph shows the side of The SEC, the building is shaped like an armadillo shell.

While on the other side of the river there was The Glasgow Science Centre, IMAX cinema and The Glasgow Tower.  But given the mix and mismatch of buildings and paving shows how there has been an increase in renovation and regeneration within the area in recent years.

Photograph is taken beside the river Clyde railing, showing across the river with BBC Scotland on the left, with The Glasgow science centre dome shaped building along with The Glasgow tower on the right of the image, The imax cinema can be partly seen in between the bbc building and the science centre

This would do nicely, very nicely as a base to explore from.  Surprisingly even at 8am in the morning my hotel room was ready for me, so instead of just leaving my bag at the hotel, I was able to check in, refresh with a lovely shower and sort myself out read for an adventure.

The hotel was beautiful, with 16 floors I took the opportunity to go upto the very top floor to look at the views (after photographing them and then zooming in) here are just a few of them.

Photograph shows the view of The Glasgow Tower and Science Centre across the river Clyde and a bridge taken from the 16thfloor of the hotel

When initially researching the hotel I had found that there was a train station closer to the hotel, but because this would have been involving walking away from the grass area i had decided against it originally.  However I re-looked at it as a way to get back into the city centre for part of my exploration.

And when I did I discovered not only that the train station was just 3 minutes walk away, but that it was fully accessible over a large dual carriageway thanks to this beautifully designed fully covered in, ramped bridge.

Can you tell that the design geek in me was happy?Photograph of red steel girders of a covered over path and cycle path, showing the red and green paths with an arch over the top which is totally enclosed


Second photograph shows the arch of the red girders forming over the top of the passageway looking down on the ramp with the green and red path for cycles and pedestrians.
The train took me less than 5 minutes to travel back into the center of Glasgow.  Where I quickly found that my google maps was struggling a little because of the high buildings and built up area just like it does in London.

We (Fizz and I) walked for hours, admiring buildings, discovering Glasgow Queen Street station which would be the station I would need to continue my travel later.  And in finding other station just a few moments walk from The Central Station I discovered this beautiful mosaic.

Photograph of Mosaic at Glasgow Queen Street railway station, showing the river cliyde and bridge on the left and the buildings of Glasgow on the left.

I could continue to bore you with photographs from around Glasgow, but actually all I will say is that I walked over 20,000 steps in this beautiful city and saw some amazing buildings along with meeting many MANY many tourists from lots of different countries.

Fizz walked her paws off and she was a superstar for me.  With the odd little ‘mischievous quirk’ when she discovered a near by costa and clearly felt we had walked enough for the moment and walked me quickly to the crossing, causing traffic to stop before I had realised what her plans were …

Who am i to argue with a guide dog?

Stop, refuelled and ready for more…. off we go again.

TO BE CONTINUED …

All Aboard

Stock photograph of Glasgow Central Station sign

Continued from The start of an adventure… 

With a coffee in hand, along with my suitcase, book bag, handbag and guide dog I soon found the mobility assistance within London Euston Railway station.  My assistance had been pre-booked so at just after 22:00 i was guided to my train.

The man assisting me happily took my case and my book bag and off we went.

It was a very different ‘check-in’ for The Caladonian Sleeper.  It reminded me more of checking in to a flight.

First I checked in and was informed by the staff that I would be upgraded to a berth, they allocated me the ‘accessibile berth’ so that I was directly beside the toilet and just a door away from the lounge car.

The train measured over a quarter of a mile long and I was towards the furthest end.  This is because the train that leaves Euston travels towards Scotland as one train, before splitting; with one part going towards Edinburgh and the other part towards Glasgow.

Photograph is of the side of The Caladonian Sleeper train carriage from the platform

Once onboard the train, my room wasn’t quite ready, so I was seated in the lounge car where I was able to enjoy reading the extensive whiskey menu before I settled for a glass of red wine; before making myself and Fizz comfortable for the night in our berth.

Photograph from the open electronic door on my berth, showing the open and close panel on the left, Fizz sat in front of the single bed which has an orange hand rail and a top bunk bed that is seen at the top of the picturePhotograph is taken from where I sat in the bottom bunk in the berth, showing the width of the bed, with a counter at the end of the bed and the sink with a bottle of water on the side

The bed was comfortable, I took the extra pillows off the top bunk and although I looked at the little ‘sleep pack’ that was sat on the bed, I chose not to make use of the eye mask or ear plugs.  For my first ever sleeper journey I wanted to be as aware of my surroundings as possible.

I plugged my phone and watch in the USB ports, worked out which switch was for the main light and the bed light; popped to the loo again for one last time and tucked in to bed to listen to my audio book all before the train had even left the station.

This was a school girl error as I suddenly felt very aware and awake when the train did start moving.  Especially at the beginning when we were stopping at other London stations (just like a normal train would) so it was not until we were clear of London that I found myself getting comfortable again and drifting off to sleep.

I remember waking several times throughout the night, but there was not a clear reason for it.  It wasn’t until I awoke in a panic when the train seemed to ‘turn off’ that I got a reasonable nights sleep.

My panic awakening was because I felt that we must surely have arrived in Glasgow, although upon reaching my phone I realised I was over an hour early for the arrival time of Glasgow, let alone for the extra thirty minutes I had to vacate my room once we did arrive.

So I took the time to get dressed and raise the blind in my room to let the Scottish scenery in.  I even made myself a Herbalife shake for breakfast and got packed up.

Photograph of the open blind within my birth showing the countryside with the sink and worktop in the foreground

It wasn’t long before we pulled into Glasgow Central Station and the kind staff gave me a bottle of apple juice and informed me that my requested station assistance was ready to guide me from the train to the exit of the station.

It was lovely to walk into a quiet station (being 7:10 on a Tuesday morning). The rail assistance asked me where I was heading and asked if I needed help getting a taxi, I politely informed him that I was going to head to my hotel to drop off my case and enable Fizz to stretch her paws along The River Clyde.

Because thanks to more support on social media and google maps I knew all I had to do was walk toward the river and then along it for 19 minutes to reach my base for the next day and a half.  The Glasgow Crowne Plaza.

TO BE CONTINUED …

The start of an adventure – But first … London.

When opportunity presents itself, take its hand and let it lead you beyond your comfort zone.

A fellow VI friend informed me of an upgrade available to me as a guide dog owner to sleep in a cabin overnight on a train for the cost of a seated ticket.

The Caledonian Sleeper from London to Scotland gave me just such opportunity.  So in planning a trip I had hoped to take with my CPiC I booked a trip from London to Glasgow.

A journey which soon gave me the option to either cancel or put on my ‘big girl pants on’ to go alone….

Cancelling wasn’t really ever an option, as I would loose money not only on tickets, but on rooms already booked; plus my pure stubborn nature wouldn’t allow it.  So I decided to go alone (with my guiding girl Fizz) and a new plan was made.

London to Glasgow was recommended to me as Edinburgh was hosting The Fringe Festival.

So my plan started to come together.  I would travel to London on Monday, to catch the 23.20 sleeper out of Euston to Glasgow.

Monday was my day to explore London.

London is somewhere I have been many times before, however with my suitcase I wanted to stay close to Euston.  But just getting there wasn’t so simple.

Having used Euston Tube station as an interchange before for the northern line I was aware that it only had escalator access to street level.  So I made the brave (slightly silly) decision to get the tube to Kings Cross and walk back to Euston.

The walk was the easy bit, but the different lifts and levels of Kings Cross was a bit of a ‘challenge’ to say the least.  But one I achieved on my own.  The opportunity was there to ask for assistance, but I chose to put my problem solvcing hat on and just ‘get on with it’  Afterall, I have been to Kings Cross before and if in my mind if i couldn’t handle the tube, how would I manage Glasgow?

Hitting Kings Cross also gave me the opportunity to work out a green space for Fizz because with planned engineering works at Euston at the weekend, we would be returning to Kings Cross.  Thanks to the power of social media, I was made aware of a flower bed to the side of the station.

The flower bed was in fact right beside The British Library, a building that has always fascinated me.  So with time to kill I took the opportunity to go in.

WOW …..

The security staff were amazing, from explaining the bag search, to using a body scan wand on me and Fizz and continuing to explain it all to me; to then walking us down the ramps to the cloakrooms so I could have my suitcase stored while I explored.

Sadly there were no large print maps available, but as I explained to the staff that I used my phone as a magnifier they quickly radioed through to the other room attendants and security to make them aware that

“the blonde haired woman with the black guide dog who is deafblind has permission to use her phone as an aid to assist her, she isn’t taking photos, but simply magnifying the signs to enable her to enjoy her visit.’

This made me feel so very welcome and enabled me to enjoy my visit; while breaking down barriers for other visitors, who stopped to ask me how I was managing with the maps and signage.

I never went to look at the books (I do want to do this, but think it would be much easier with a sighted assistant) I purely went to look at the building…. The way the levels are open, the way the skylights are positioned, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Photograph shows the stripped skylights that run parallel to each other in a triangular flat roof of The British Library

Photograph shows rounded stairwells and the skylights again from inside The British Library

I enjoyed the fact that I could sit on each level, watch the world go by and enjoy the different ways in which other people used the space.

Because despite my failing sight, I love to read and I have always had a fascination with libraries.  So for a few hours after I explored the space I sat down with a comfy spot for Fizz and read my latest book. (Which is for another blog in the future)

This was just the calming and relaxed start to my adventure I needed before I met up with a climbing friend for a late supper.

We sat and talked, we ate, we drank and then realised this is the first time we have ever met outside of a climbing wall or competition setting.

And before I knew it, it was time to catch my train.

I felt nervous.

I felt excited.

I felt exhausted.

So, with a quick stop at Starbucks I went to find the assisted travel desk to board my train.

TO BE CONTINUED …

My 10 ‘MUST HAVES’

Everyone has their own ‘must haves’ or ‘can’t live without’ items.  And maybe mine aren’t that dissimilar, I have very little specialised kit to cope day-to-day.

In no particular order, here are my 10 MUST HAVES:

  1. One Touch Kettle
  2. iPhone
  3. Apple Watch
  4. Compact Dome magnifier
  5. Wrap-Around Polarised Sun Glasses
  6. Power pack
  7. Amplicomms Amplified Bluetooth Neck-loop
  8. Notepad/Pen
  9. Book
  10. Dog Bowl

ONE:  One Touch Kettle:  I like most can’t start my day without a cuppa.  My cuppa of choice is Herbalife Thermogenic Peach Tea; and although there are fantastic gadgets like liquid level indicators and tipping support for enabling VIs to pour a normal kettle, my kettle isn’t a specialist bit of kit.  It is simply a water saving, energy efficient way of pouring just one cup of water at a time.  I don’t even need to lift it.  I simply set the cup size (all my mugs are large-so this is easy) press the button and when the water has heated, the water is dispensed automatically.  With no risk to me….. This also means it is safe for my children to make them or me a cuppa (although this novelty has really caught on yet!)

TWO:  iPhone:  Apart from the ‘usual’ needs for a smart phone to call, text and access maps; my iPhone is an AMAZING piece of accessible tech.  With the standard, ‘Notes’ ‘camera’ ‘Magnifier’ ‘Siri’ in addition to the ‘added at source accessibility features my phone is fully accessible’.  It is more than ‘just a phone’ it is a Canera, A CCTV Reader, a pocket sized PA, with the addition of recent apps such as ‘See Al’ ‘Big Spender’ ‘Station Master’ I have all the information I could possibly need at my finger tips means that nothing is ever far away.

THREE:  Apple Watch:  Just as my phone my Apple watch is an extension of the support I gain from Mac based products.  And actually my increased feeling of safety that my watch offers me, helps me to feel more confident in my surroundings.  With the use of haptics I can set a route on my phone that then gives instructions through vibrations on my wrist.  I have my watch set to enable me to zoom in on the screen, to read and send messages and even answer calls.  In addition to making contactless payments enabling me to keep my phone and purse both safely kept in my bag.

FOUR:  Compact Dome Magnifier:  This is my bewest piece of ‘kit’ that I actually received from the LVC (low vision clinic) at Moorfields Hospital recently.  It is a small Perspex domed magnifier that gives 2.5 magnification, which in the scheme of things isn’t much, but with a flat base and a domed top it enables the light to be increased and this has just as much importance to me as the magnification.

FIVE:  Wrap-Around Polarised Sun Glasses:  To protect my eyes from bright sunshine and glare. (Non-prescription)

SIX:  Power pack:  So that I always have a back up should I be using a lot of the apps on my phone and therefore depleting battery life.  As my phone running out is so much more than just ‘not being able to make a call’

SEVEN:  Amplicomms Amplified Bluetooth Neck-loop:  THIS IS a specialist piece of kit, this works with my hearing aids to support me.  I can stream calls direct to my ears (which works brilliantly for guiding from the ground when I climb)  I can listen to music or audiobooks (as I previously had done before hearing aids)  I can also use the amplification button on the front to enable me to hear a person stood in front of me in a loud, busy environment.  Or tune into a local ‘loop’ connection what is being said clearer and directly into my ears.

EIGHT: Notepad/Pen:  Because sometimes I like to jot down ideas for blogs or make notes and sometimes I like to not use tech.

NINE:  Book:  Just like the notepad, I like to just do the simple things, to enjoy escaping from the world for a few moments (after all with my magnifier and the right lighting, I can still read)

TEN:  Dog Bowl:  clearly this one isn’t for me, but with my faithful guiding girl I need to ensure that I can meet her needs and ensure that just like me, she is hydrated.

So, these are my lists.  And at times I will add other items to them and other times I may not include them all.  But I do start each day with a cuppa and I never leave home without my phone or watch (which probably isn’t any different to any other person in today’s society)  I am sure if you asked another VI they may have different items they consider important.

I just wanted to share with you mine.

i hope you have enjoyed.

The simplest of tech can make the Biggest impact

if you have followed me for some time you will know how much I like my coffee.  It’s no secret, I enjoy sitting with a nice cup and ‘people watch’ (yes even as a VI I do this!)

 

But of late I have really struggled.

Not so much with the people watching part; but rather the collecting my coffee part.

Just a short bus ride away from me is the lovely Whiteley Shopping Village.  It is home to a great variety of shops, restaurants, cinema and yup you guessed it coffee shops!

It has the three MAJOR brand names of Costa, Nero & Starbucks, in addition to The M&S cafe.

Whitely was purpose built.  Many of the storesmake use of the high ceilings and glass outer wall to add a mezzanine floor, while the cafes and restaurants leave them to create the feeling of space and ambiance.

But here in lies an issue.

Starbucks in particular……

with its solid floors, wooden traveled, coffee ba and very minimal in way of ‘soft furnitings’ the inside has an echo.

The seating is positions around the centrally placed counter that leads you around to the right where you can collect your coffee at the end of the bar, where the bar continues again to the right (and right again) to enable friends to sit on the stools while enjoying a coffe with easy access to PowerPoints that are built into the bar.

There are standard level blue benches that cover one entire wall of the store with small tables, then at the back there are simple couch like seating around low tables.

With a further bar seating in front of one of the windows and more 2 seated wooden tablespoon dotted about.

So for me, I can easily find somewhere to sit that works with the lighting, be that natural, bright sunshine that we are enjoying at the moment or artificially lit by the store itself.

So, hopefully I have set the scene for you.  The fact that the coffee machine is not directly beside the till make for easy ordering and it also enables the staff to have a ‘queue’ system for drink collection.

But it is this ‘drink collection’ that has become a real struggle for me.

With the height of the ceiling, the multiple coffee machines and the general ‘noise’ of the store; even with my hearing aids I can’t hear any particular voice clearly.

These are all factors I can’t change.  And I am not one to be beaten into having to avoid a store (particularly one that sells coffee) because of it.

With my visual impairment I can’t make eye contact with others, although I can thankfully usually recognise a member of staff at datrbusks by the iconic green apron they all wear.

So now, when I arrive at ‘the bar’ I politely gain the attention of a member of staff and then I show them my phone…..

And this is what they see. (Or similar depending on my order)


Photograph of my Apple iPhone with the ‘notes’ app open, with the words “I am hard of hearing. Ordered a coconut mocha no cream realisable cup”

Where I have found that a kind member of staff then directly passes me my drink when my order is is completed.  Saving them shouting out to deaf ears and saving me from tepid coffee because it has been sat too long.

Such a simple little app is ‘Notes’ which I use every day for one thing or another like many people.  But one that has enabled me to keep just a little bit more of my independence (even if it is something so trivial as ordering a coffee)

I now feel more comfortable when dealing with such noisy situations.

And I don’t have to miss out … So it’s win-win situation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a difference a year makes

Selfie photograph of my face, with a scarve on that is blue with red popppies. I am wearing my glasses and my hearing aids with my hair

On 20th March 2017 I found myself sat in the audiologists office having my hearing aids fitted; which I wrote about in What does sound sound like?.

I had previously been told I would only need a hearing aid for my right ear, yet when I arrived at my appointment I was actually fitted with a hearing aid for both my left and right ear; a pleasant suprise, yet a very welcome on.  Because in giving me hearing aids for both ears the audiologist was able to programme the strength in each side differently so that I heard the same.

I wont’t lie, I hated wearing them.

It took me a long time to get used to ‘hearing’things again.  The little things, like the kitchen clock; the dogs gnawing on their bones; the sound of my feet on the pavement.  But (following the audiologists advice) I soon learnt to ‘not hear’ or rather ‘tune out’ these sounds; sounds that my brain had learnt to ignore (just as it does for most people who can hear perfectly well)

I also quickly learnt how little and inconspicuous my hearing aids were.  With very few people realising that I actually wore them.

When they were originally fitted, I had them set by the audiologist to automatically adjust with no input from me.  However this was not while I got used to them.

In July ((1 beep, 2 beep, 3 beep, 4) I had my hearing aids adjusted and since then I have gone from strength to strength in using them and wearing them each and every day, just as I would with my glasses (even though I now get so little from wearing them-wearing them is a daily habit)

I have also added to my ‘tech’ to go with my hearing aids, with my amplicomms personal t-loop system I am able to listen friends in busier environments, have calls streamed directly into my ears with the microphone around my neck; I am also able to listen to audible and music too.

My CPiC and I are working on using it as an aid to my climbing….. But that is a whole other blog post!!

So, what have I gained in the last year?

I have learnt that just like glasses for me, hearing aids to not ‘fix’ my hearing; however they do enable me to hear more and clearer than if I don’t wear them.

I have been able to feel safer out and about, especially with hearing traffic and its direction.  So much so, that in recent months I have gone back to enjoying walking into town (about 2.5 miles) with Fizz guiding me.

I have also learnt that I can ‘shut out’ noise if I want to sit quietly with a cuppa or a cold pint, then I can turn my hearing aids down, put them into the induction loop setting and I can sit peacefully.  So I can have ‘selective’ hearing too!!

Its been an interesting year of wearing hearing aids, I would be lying if I said I am getting used to them….. But I am finding the postitives with them, both with my own hearing and with the connections I have made with other people who have hearing and sight issues.

I am still wanting to work on fundraising for my own pair or ReSound Hearing Aids, which are so much more ‘tech’ friendly with my iPhone and Apple Watch, but that is a work in progress.

 

When Molly and Chris gave a Masterclass

Image of Members of the group sat around a large table with phones, iPads and other tech sat on the table with numerous cups of tea, coffee and water with Molly stood at the head of the table showing her iPad:

Would you think of a pair of glasses as a mobility aid?

When you see an item every day and used by everyone then it becomes ‘the norm’ and not seen as an aid to support someone with a disability.

There are many products that are designed to support those with disabilities, these include glasses, hearing aids, walking sticks, wheelchairs and even other everyday products like iPhones and iPads.

It may not seem like it to a person who has no sensory or motor disabilities, yet all apple products were designed with accessibility and intergration as their base principle.

There are obviously other computer operating systems, programmes and technologies available.  But as a Mac (made famous in a Mitchell & Webb sketch) which I have been ever since I studied at university; way back when Apple Macintosh was for everything design and Windows was for everything administrative.

I have spoken before of my liking for Apple products, and in this I am not alone.  Molly from The Molly Watt Trust is a big believer and user of Apple products, her charity have also helped to support and fund those with Ushers Syndrome by funding an Apple Watch programme as she herself had found its features so very beneficial.

As part of an Ushers Social and awareness weekend (The Weekend that almost wasn’t) Molly was going to give a presentation similar to that that she gives to large companies about accessibility and awareness.

Her work as a Keynote speaker and accessibility advisor sees her working alongside Chris from Sigma (https://www.wearesigma.com/) Among others.

Molly explained the way in which she made use of the accessibility on her iPad.  She spoke of the obvious ‘voice-over’ and how she didn’t use it, how she found ‘zoom’ and ‘speak screen’ more neneficial to her.

She spoke of how you could set you home button triple click to bring you a list of accessibility options.  Including how to use your camera as a magnifier.

These little ‘nuggets’ of information were some that I was aware of and some that I wasn’t.

Since the latest iOS update there was also a rather clever new accessibility feature called ‘smart invert’ this is where the screen and text are inverted in the colours used, but the p have photographs are not……. Savi g confusion with colours when looking at images.

Chris spoke of how accessibility is in the every day, how as I said at the start of this post , “ when something is used and seen every day it becomes the ‘norm’” and how the work he does with Sigma and Molly is about making that a reality.

Molly explained how she found “Hey Siri” a great help; although this was when she realised that another piece of technology she was used stopped the others in the room from heading the response.

You see, Molly wears ReSound hearing aids; hearing aids that stream her iPhone and iPad directly and clearly into her ears.  Just as if she were wearing headphones!

Molly’s work has seen her work with ReSound and it is through this work that I have followed her and learnt about the fantastic products that are available.

Molly and the work she does through her company Molly Watt Ltd is paving the way for those with sightless, Ushers and hearing loss.

This masterclass have me some fantastic information to work with, some new connections to talk to and more importantly new friends who enjoy similar struggles to me.

The session was just a snapshot of what Molly and Chris do when talking to big companies, where there is often very rarely anyone with additional needs in the audience.

But it was enough to make me feel confident that accessibility becoming part of ‘the notm’ Could be a reality in the not to far distant future.

The Weekend that almost wasn’t

Those of you who have been following me for some time will know one of my mantra to life is:

Have dog, will travel.

And with this mantra in place and a connection made through the power of Facebook, when a fun social event that would be followed up by an information and tech based learning event popped up; I found myself booking a hotel and myself for an evening with an Amy Whinehouse Tribute act.

The Facebook connection was that with the talented Molly, The founder and inspirational woman behind The Molly Watt Trust, along with the younger company of Molly Watt Ltd.

With my (relitively) recent hearing loss, I had used my ability to connect through Facebook to link with groups that supported those known as ‘deafblind’.

Having made contact with Molly at the beginning of my blogger journey, along with having a guide dog connection with her I had taken more of an interest in the work of The Molly Watt Trust and found myself naturally drawn toward them with my increasing issues around my sight and hearing loss.

So, when this weekend came up to join in on a ‘social’ and learning based opportuity arrived.  I jumped at it.

THE PLANNING COMMENCED……

What type of journey would it take to get from my own home town to Maidenhead?

And from the station to the hotel?

The hotel that was hosting the dinner on the Friday and the Ushers day on the Saturday was on hotels.com, so I booked my room and set about not having to worry about travelling between venues.

The price was right and would save me additional travel; it was all falling into place …..

……. Or so I thought!

I was looking forward to the event and had everything in place, so now it was just a case of picking which shoes to pack to go with my dress.

After all, not having to go out of the hotel other than to allow Fizz to spend meant I could pack the hot pink heels without the worry of walking any great distance in them.  Not because I can’t walk in heels.  Rather I prefer to be in flat comfortable trainers if I am walking in an area I am not aware of, or in the dark, where I find more difficulty than I do if it were daylight.

Come September 15th my case was packed, my train ticket was collected and off with Fizz, we were on our way.

And then came the first of our hurdles…… Reading Railway Station!

This station is something from a futuristic movie; a large metallic, vast and somewhat oversized pedestrian gangway, which is accessed via long escalators (and multipul lifts) to enable you to walk safely away from the trains to any one of the stations many many platforms.

Yet without a clear indicator as to which train leaves from which platform.  And more importantly because I am well aware I may have missed the obvious large screens giving this information I need I couldn’t find any members of staff!

I only managed to find staff on the actual platforms as and when a train arrived.  Not ideal, as some of the staff I found actually arrived and were set to depart with the train….. So couldn’t direct me around the station.

It was ok though, I wasn’t going to let this get to me, I had managed to find Starbucks on my travels around the station, so when I found the platform and train I needed it was time to grab a nice coffee for me and a bowl of water for Fizz while we waited.

We (Fizz and I) arrived at Maidenhead and out came Google Maps.

It was at this point I realised my error.

The Thames Riviera Hotel (where the dinner and information day were occurring) was not The Thames Hotel I had in fact booked my room for the night!

They were so very close, just a short 5 minute walk along The Thames between the two, yet they were very different hotels.

This was when panic started to kick in.

How could I have made such a simple mistake?

How had I got it SO wrong?

A quick message in a Facebook group about the event and I was calmed.  I could do this.  I am a grown woman; who just happens to have an eye condition and hearing condition that may make life a little more of a challenge at times.

But I am strong and independent.  Who just happened to have a blip.  That was all it was…. a simple blip.  I had come so far, the hotel was already paid for, it would be silly to turn around and go home now……. Right?

So, as I said before.  On went Google Maps and off I went.

With hearing aids in place, I had to rely on holding my phone to hear the directions, while trying to keep out of the bright sunshine to roughly follow the blue line.

I didn’t even realise my first error with this.

Maidenhead Railway Station has 2 exits.  And I found myself leaving via the small, unassuming exit.

The second error came when I misheard a direction.

While walking alongside busy traffic I was sure the direction had been to walk forward.  Sadly, it hadn’t.  It had been to turn right.  And by the time I had realised my error, in true Google Maps programming, my route had been recalculated.

A walk that saw me walking along an almost non-existent path beside a dual-carriageway.  Walking into a multi story car park attached to a local Sainsburys store to find a foot bridge to cross the aforementioned carriageway.

A footbridge that landed me by a leisure centre and bowling alley just as the rain started to get heavy.

I bit the bullet, I went into the bowling alley and collected the telephone number for a local taxi.  Upon calling the firm, I explained my location and where I wanted to go, no problem a car could be with me within a few minutes.  So I kindly mention I have my guide dog travelling with me; that was when suddenly a car would not be available for almost forty minutes.

So, I gave up on the idea of a taxi and returned to my trusted phone and four-pawed companion to find the hotel.

This was a journey that took us another twenty-five minutes and a desperate plea to my best friend for help and linking my location on Google Maps to his Google Maps; and an hour after we had left to station to walk the seventeen minutes to the hotel, we arrived.

Both Fizz and I were damp (actually that was an understatement)

The doorman at the hotel instantly took control.

He collected my case and walked us to our room.

He commented on my damp dog (which I instantly apologised for), which he would hear nothing about.  He left us for only a few moments, before returning with an armful of towels.  He explained that these towels were clean, yet had lost their crisp white finish, so were no longer used for the guests……. But would be absolutely perfect to rub down my soggy dog with and give her a comfortable soft bed to dry off on.

This was too much, I managed to thank him before closing the door and collapsing in tears on the floor.  The anxiety of the day was taking its toll. But with a nudge from Fizz (I like to think as her ways of asking if I was ok.) I realised it was all going to be alright.

A conversation with my best friend put my mind at ease regards the hotel I was staying at and the hotel I was set to attend for dinner.  A dinner for which I was going to wear hot pink heels, that I would not feel comfortable walking outside (For the reasons I mentioned above)

What was stopping me wearing my trainers on the walk, with my ‘pretty shoes’ in my bag?  The answer….. Nothing.

This time, I not only looked on Google Maps for the direction, but I used Google Street View to actually walk the route virtually between the two hotels, a very straight five minute walk along the river, passing a park (perfect for spending Fizz) before crossing a large road to get to the hotel.

This time (although I would be walking in ‘twilight’) I was not leaving anything to chance!  Although, I did feel like I was taking my and Fizz’s life in my hands by crossing the road infront of the hotel, a road that was also one of the large bridges across The Thames River.

The rest of the evening passed with a blur of fun, entertainment and enjoyment, of putting faces to names and adding new friends into my life to enrich it.

I did wear my trainers for the walk; quickly changing upon arriving at the RIGHT hotel!  Switching them out again before leaving at the end of the evening.  One of the benefits of going to an event with others who have sight issues, is that such incidents are easier to hide.

I returned to my hotel, for a very comfortable and refreshing sleep, ready to return after breakfast for the chance to chat, chance to learn and more importantly, chance to find support and similarities with others going through their sight and hearing loss journey.

…………………………..

The walk The Riviera Hotel to the railway station was minus the difficulties of the previous day.  I even found the point where I had taken the wrong turn.  The turn that had caused so much anxiety.

Although the train journey home wasn’t without an interesting twist either!  That I found easier to write about at the time and you can read about it in  The day we caught the train

So, for the weekend that could have easily found me returning home, I discovered just how, as a strong independent (somewhat stubborn) woman, I am also human.  I make mistakes, but I also learned I am not to be so hard on myself.

This weekend did do one thing for me; it confirmed that I had to find a way of being able to channel my phone directly to my ears (as if I were able to wear headphones again)  I am still £4,000 away from the ‘ideal’ ReSound hearing aids I am fundraising for.  But there has to be an interim answer, isn’t there?

 

 

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