Brailliant Follow-up, and Holiday Travel

So, the promised Braille display did in fact arrove last Wednesday. I was so happy about this that I coasted through the rest of my workday, unable to think about anything else but coming home, opening the online User’s Mannual, and figuring it out.

This is exactly what I did. First, I was impressed with how intuitive the display and its commands are. Access the iPhone’s status bar? Press the Braille letter S, as represented by its command keys. These are a set of three keys on either side of the unit, not part of the keyboard but off to its side, that give additional functionality. And because the letter S is taken by said status bar, you press W to swipe down and read continuously. This is very nice indeed.

The display also has a set of thumb keys that are along the front of the panel. I probably don’t exactly use these as intended, because well what do I do that is as intended. I just place an index finger on the key that advances by display length, then can run my other index finger, the right-hand one, along the top. This method has me reading almost as quickly as I would on a full sheet of Braille paper, and boy does it bring books to life in a new way.

While I had great success with the reading aspect of things, the writing took a bit longer. First, it took me a minute to work out how to power up the Braille Keyboard. In a brainwave, I finally deduced that this could be done within the display’s onboard menu. Then, I kept having an issue with the keyboard locking after I entered only a few characters. First, I concluded that this happened only if I turned off VoiceOver’s speech on my iPhone. When it occurred again, I assumed it was only on the initial startup for that day. Finally, I’ve just given it over as a random issue, possibly in VoiceOver, iOS, the display, or some combination of all three. The more I use it though, the less I’m finding that it even locks up period. This is definitely a good thing for my frustration level.

This display has had the effect I’d hoped for. Because I can sit in a coffeeshop or my job’s break room with ears unencumbered by a headset, I am much more able to meet new people. Not to mention that I can read for way longer periods of time without that feeling of agitation that can sometimes come when listening to something for too long in one’s ears as well. I can’t wait to see how this technology will help me on my coming bus rides and flights. More on those in a bit.

I have also enjoyed using the display as a remote of sorts for the iPhone. Now, I can have my phone plugged into the speakers and charger on my low table, and change songs, sports, NPR stations, etc from the comfort of my desk. And now that I’ve turned off the clicking sounds the iPhone normally akes when VoiceOver is in use, I can check and play with other apps on the same device even while listening to other media. This definitely makes the iPhone more computerlike than it had been before

Along with this fantastic display, the North Carolina Division of Services for the Blind allowed me to re-acquire the JAWS for Windows Screen-reader. Once the dominant way in which blind folks accessed PC’s, this thing now seems to be kind of, well, iffy. At least on my machine, when I use Jaws it causes my Internet to slow down somehow. I know that doesn’t make much sense, but it’s true. I can hardly pull tweets, log onto websites, or do much else. I’m not really sure why, but it’s disappointing as I was hoping I could disconnect my current solution and save some dough. Hopefully I’ll figure out what on earth is going on there.

And speaking of dough, more the spending than saving as I probably should be, I have two fun trips booked for this month.

First, I’m going to what has become an annual tradition: my friend’s Christmas party in Robeson County North Carolina. It’s a large, rural county a couple hours Southeast of here, and I’m kind of looking forward to just letting everything go for at least one day and reveling in the holiday spirit. The party will be on Saturday, and we will partake in what is sure to be an entertaining gift exchange, some fun conversation among long-familiar folks, and good food! Sausage balls?

Then the real kicker of my extended vacation from work, which lasts from December 23-January 5: I’m taking a jaunt to Louisiana to hang out with some good friends with whom I have been working as part of the Norrie Disease Association for some time. I will fly into New Orleans, then be whisked to Lafayette. More good, probably rather interesting food shall be consumed, I think a show will be listened to, and probably a lot of chatter about any and everything will happen. I am definitely looking forward to that, will be there from the 26-30. The only thing is the crazy flight times: I depart Raleigh/Durham Airport (RDU) at 5:10 AM and will return there at 12:22 AM. It’s all good though, I should be well-rested and ready to go on both ends. I’ll definitely take traveling at those times over working anyday!

And that’s a little about what’s going on this month. It has been a great one, as this year has entirely. I should do a review of the extremely fast-moving 2014 at some point, but not real sure when I’ll get that in. No doubt I’ll have tons to write about Louisiana, so we’ll just have to see how that all plays out.

Do you have fun holiday plans? Whatever they are, I hope you stay safe and eat lots. More comin’ soon.

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