Freeing Refreshable Braille for More Access

Many in this era worry that the advent of digital audio technology will mean the end of braille as we know it. And there is already some truth to this, as very few totally blind people know or read braille as it is. But and I’ve seen this frequently in my training, those who depend heavily on audio to consume written content often are less able to spell correctly, which may well affect their ability to gain employment. Given the degree to which the cards are already stacked against us when it comes to getting jobs even without this challenge, we need to gain every advantage we can in any area.
These days, the answer to being more able to read materials in braille without having to produce the paper and take up the space this medium requires is to use a refreshable braille display. I’ve had a few of these devices, from the Braille Lite I got way back in the late 90s during my college career to the Brailliant BI 40 received from the I Can Connect program for deafblind individuals. And in 2020, I of course got the Mantis Q40 display I’ve written about a few times in this journal. And each of those devices opened up more of the written word in ways I could not have imagined.
The problem with these displays is and has been their expense. Most of us blind folks can hardly afford $2, 3, or $4,000 to get even a low-end display. Happily though, at least in the U.S, the National Library Service for the Blind (NLS) is making refreshable braille available for any eligible blind individuals. You have to be enrolled in the library for services, as I am, and call your regional library to request one.
There are two models of NLS Ereaders, as they are known: one provided through Humanware and another through Zoomax. I think you get the brand of reader that your library has available, so I received the Zoomax machine.
These models contain 20 braille cells, which is as much space as I had on my Braille Lite but only half the 40 cells on my other units. Reading with 20 cells is certainly doable, but it requires a lot more pressing of the panning buttons to advance through a single braille line. I’ve found though that as I practice I’m already getting better at it. My Mantis is currently on the fritz and I don’t know when or if I’ll ever see it again, so having this option so quickly available is vital to me being able to continue my work. I also like that it has a handy carrying case with magnetic snaps that keep it closed, which is kinda cool!
This reader is primarily designed to download and read NLS BARD books. However, it can connect via Bluetooth to your smartphone, and USB to the PC. It’s got an SD Card reader, and USB C port for the PC and a USB A port for a flash drive. I love that such a small unit contains so many ports.
It’s a pretty good device on the whole. The only issue I really notice, and this may be only in my unit, is that the battery gauge is unreliable. It says I have 50% charge, then 77%, then 19%, then 54%, so I can’t really tell how much juice it actually has. This is not a big deal though, as I’m usually close enough to a charging port at all times. I even have a portable battery I can plug in.
I am happy such a program exists. If you would like to take advantage of it, again just call your regional library and ask if they have an NLS Ereader. There was a slow roll-out, but they were at least hoping that all states would have units by the end of 2023. And happy reading!

A Year of Work Pays Off: I got a new job!

I’ve worked with the Workforce Development Specialist for nearly 2 years in some capacity, but over the past year in particular I’ve helped with tutoring and training different people on the JAWS screen-reader, basic keyboarding, and smartphone use. These efforts have, excitingly for me, culminated in a job offer from my employer for Training Specialist. In this role, I will continue much of what I have been doing, as well as act as an ambassador to drum up interest in the program among the workers and with company leadership. I think I will occasionally produce copy for the company, their newsletter, blogs and social media feeds.
It has been a whirlwind month (my birthday month too, as I turned 43 on the 13th) of applications, interviews, and even something of a trial, and now I’m due to start officially on Monday.
The “trial” probably happened because the supervisor of my current department became aware of my knowledge in smartphone operation from a blindness perspective. So yesterday he called me off of the floor to come and help an employee to get his email set up on the iPhone.
Then today, I encountered another blind woman in the Go Cary Door-to-Door vehicle that usually takes me home. I happened to place a phone call, and she asked me how I had done that. Turns out she has an iPhone but apparently no one has shown her how to use it. I explained the concept of double tapping on things when VoiceOver is on, as she said she couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t work if she single-tapped and so put the phone away in frustration. She also told me she has a computer with Narrator, the built-in Windows screen-reader, which she doesn’t find very useful. I told her about JAWS, and also a lower-cost, well free if you need it to be but they ask for donations if you can, Non-visual Desktop Access (NVDA) reader. It does much of what JAWS does, and even outperforms it in some areas. Anyhow, she said that coming across me was “such a blessing,” and I hope that she is able to use what I told her. She had been sighted previously and so is more used to functioning in that world.
I feel like these happenings are a little confidence booster from somewhere as I prepare for this new endeavor. It will be my first working experience not tied to a manufacturing floor, after nearly 20 years of trying to reach such an achievement. I am pleased to see that many Ability One facilities, the places that generally employ people who are blind and/or have other disabilities, are starting to promote upward mobility, and are bringing in the people to make it happen. The Workforce Development Specialist began shaping me for this sort of thing really from the moment she set foot on our company grounds, and finding that you have someone who believes in your potential can take you to places you couldn’t previously imagine. I know the work will be rigorous, especially as we get things going, but I look forward to working as hard as I can to benefit myself and ultimately so many others.

The Importance of Mindfulness

I’ll begin this post with a silly story, but stick with me here as it’s going somewhere. My wife and I always have fun with the Mindfulness app’s prompt “as your day winds down, take some time to reflect”. When listening to this spoken with VoiceOver on the Apple Watch, it tends to say “winds” more like that which blows than that which spins. So every time I hear this, I make a ridiculous descending whistle sound that is meant to signify my day “winding” down, and she usually makes some sort of silly comment about that happening as well. It’s become a fun inside joke, one of many we’ve developed over time. (And as a complete aside, that app seems to think my day starts at 10:09 PM and ends at 10:40 PM. With the same pay? I’d take that!)
What I am discovering though, if I hadn’t known it already, is that mindfulness and being aware of how one fits into a place or set of circumstances can really matter. At work, they seem to be enforcing their cell phone policy to a higher degree. Lately, they’ve even said that we are to keep all electronic communications devices in our bags while on the floor at all times, even during breaks. This may have always been the rule, but I think even the supervisors are only just working it out fully.
Anyhow, someone pointed this out to me as I sat checking notifications on my watch during break, which I had done many times with no discernable consequence. I’ll admit, that first confrontation didn’t go so well, especially as said individual is not actually a supervisor. I will grudgingly grant though that she is someone who always looks out for me and my interests, an older woman who knows my family from way before I can even remember. So even as I grumbled about it, I contemplated how I could make the changes and still be able to interact with my technology for at least as much time (15 minutes) as we get between work sessions.
And as it turns out, it was a good thing I rethought things. The biggest obstacle to my leaving the floor at break is the amount of time it takes to reach the break room. When you factor in the two minute walk (three if I get stuck behind the slow train of blind folks clacking along with their cane,) the additional minute or two to locate a seat, and the three minutes I’ll need to get back to my section, I’m only left with six minutes to do my bidding once seated. And the place is always crowded and exceedingly noisy.
But, I discovered that there is a much smaller break room that is really more like a nook, and it’s just around the corner from where I sit. There is carpeting, plush, comfortable chairs, and wooden tables should they be needed. All of the fabric and the room’s size (it only really holds four) make for an ideal, quiet space where I can truly de-compress. And there are usually two others inside at most, placing relatively subdued cell phone calls as I happily digest a passage of whatever book I am reading on my Braille display.
And why am I telling you this? Well because I have been doing it for just over a week, and it has made all the difference in the world! Now I almost look forward to going in, knowing that I’ll have those nuggets of time to get myself together for whatever comes next once that bell rings and I must return to my duties. With that thought change my attitude has begun to improve, which leads to greater productivity and a less uptight feeling by day’s end. So if you feel yourself struggling with similar things in your work setting, try making that small change. Maybe find somewhere away from your work desk (assuming you work in an office and not a manufacturing facility as I do). It doesn’t have to be quiet of course, because some want more chatter and socialization. I think the key is that it matches whatever your personality is. Just be mindful and aware of how small adjustments can have a massive impact.

Teacher Troubles: On My Most Recent Growth Experience

I’ve been quiet since just before July, because I’ve been bombarded by personal issues that I may or may not get into based on their outcome. Suffice to say I feel like I’ve been treading water and things are in an interesting place. I’m trying not to stress too much, but then again I suppose stress is the name of the game in adulthood, right?
As summer winds down though (ah it makes me sad to write that!) I guess I’m doing as well as I could hope. I just recently passed a year of tutoring co-workers in the use of the JAWS For Windows screen-reader. I can honestly say that my ability to work one-on-one has markedly improved. I’ve learned a thing or two about pacing, and am just more able to communicate complex concepts to my clients.
To that end and with growth in mind I suppose, the Workforce Development Specialist had recently asked me to try my hand at teaching the entire class. We’ve for the last month or so been instructing individuals in the general use of the keyboard, including how to type with the home row at center and what all of the keys do. To do this, we took advantage of a program called Talking Typer that allows one to press any key and get feedback, as well as to complete various drills designed to speed typing up incrementally. The main challenge we have is that, since the program has not been purchased, we must log off and back on every fifteen minutes. This is not a huge deal though, and it has also given our newbie typers plenty of opportunity to practice.
Anyhow, so I tried my hand at teaching this Tuesday. And because I believe in transparency and will report how things go no matter the outcome, I will say that I did not do nearly as well as I would have liked. Most of the difficulty stems from my hearing loss, as in order to do the job effectively I would have needed to be able to monitor what was going on at each station or at least establish some kind of call and response system so that I would know how each person was doing. I found it hard to even get everyone’s attention when preparing to start, and thus kind of gave in eventually and just worked with the person I’d had for the entire course. My bumblings were saved by the other tutor in the class, a pretty talented guy who quickly figured out how to redirect the students and managed to walk them through a few word and typing drills.
I’m trying not to beat myself up about it too badly though, as it was a learning opportunity and not everyone is going to be sharp at everything. I think that naturally I will be better in one-on-one settings, or perhaps working remotely with multiple individuals since maintaining awareness of what all are doing will be less challenging. We shall see though, of course, and in any event the most important thing I can do for myself is to expand my skill set.
So that’s the most interesting piece of my current, chaotic existence on which I can report. It certainly reiterates my oft-stated respect for the teaching profession. What y’all teachers do is not easy! And you need more love for it. I do hope to continue my career-advancing moves by getting a JAWS certification from Freedom Scientific, continuing to work with my cousin in learning how to effectively tutor as I have been for some time, and oh yeah work on polishing my writing skills. It’s sadly still an uphill slog in employment for those of us with disabilities, but I figure that by noting my path through this process I make it a little easier for anyone who comes behind me.

On The Work Front: A New Experience With The Day Job

What! A! Week! That’s about all I can say after having an at-work experience unlike any other. I was selected, due to my on-and-off tutoring of employees on Jaws for Windows and basic PC skills, to participate in a company-wide training. We’re working to expose everyone to UKG Pro, the HR Management Solution our company adopted nearly 2 years ago but of which many blind and low-vision workers there had yet to avail themselves. I have to admit that at first accessibility for this platform was limited, but it has made leaps and bounds in recent months. So they’re mostly hoping to take advantage of that fact to make Open Enrollment into our insurance and benefits plan, which starts next week, perhaps a little easier on HR.
I was told that I would be a part of this effort with only a day’s notice, as we initiated a soft rollout last Thursday before turning on the juice this week. Once full sessions were underway, I worked back in what we call the Workforce Innovation Center (WIC) which is really just a room full of computers, from Monday through Thursday with five sessions: 8-845, 9-945, 12-12:45, 1-1:45, and 2-2:45. Each of these days two of these sessions were conducted over Zoom, so that we could reach all of the other facilities affiliated with my company.
It probably surprises no one that I and we had a few glitches. My main task was to demonstrate how to log onto the system and proceed through the various link groups to locate sought-after information such as pay stubs and a list of current benefits. The main challenge was probably getting one’s password entered before the system times out or locks you out. Last Thursday was a complete bust for me for this reason, because I had unknowingly turned on the Caps lock and tried three times to enter my password, thus prompting a need for password reset. I had to suspend my attempts to show the individual with whom I was working how to log in, but luckily he seemed as computer savvy as I was so I feel confident he was able to figure it out on his own. They’re tight on security, understandably, requiring that said passwords be changed every 90 days no matter how often one logs in. We definitely had fun explaining this to the masses.
I also had issues getting the sound to a comfortable level for listeners on the other end. I hadn’t been made aware of this until the second-to-last conference though, so I feel bad for the folks who were forced to endure a blaring Jaws in their ears. But hey, one can’t know unless one is told.
Those difficulties aside, I mostly enjoyed the week. It took a little while to get used to the mental heavy-lifting required to do these presentations over and over again, adjusting as needed to different questions. But I was able to work sort of successfully with at least one individual, not quite getting him to login because he’s still learning the keyboard, but at least boosting his confidence in the ability to do so. Also, on Wednesday and Thursday she had the other tutor and I do more of the talk, only reading off the brief introduction. My voice got a little tired, but I think I sounded pretty good and was able to deliver a relatively stable speech by the end. The challenge of course is to make it as lively the 30th time as it was the 2nd, because each is done with a new audience. And I have to, I think, do a few more of them this coming week as well.
It was a real honor to be asked to take on such a task. I’ve had a few people come up and thank me personally, saying I’d done a great job and seemed to know the computer well. And while I am not necessarily expecting external reward, I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t make me feel good. More than anything, this presents a real chance to advance my career. And that’s the part to which I am looking forward most. We shall see.

Road To Home Ownership: Signed, Sealed…

Now all we await is the delivery (e. g. construction). That’s right, this time about a week ago we were told to make our deposit so that the contract could be drawn up.
As soon as my wife noticed that she had received the message, somewhere around 2 PM on Tuesday prior, she zipped out of her workplace and got to work shoring up the dollars needed to complete the transaction. As she worked on the form from home at about 4:30, I sat on the bed across from her computer desk in the small room that occupies the top floor of this apartment feeling a range of emotions. I think even the Pomeranian sensed that major change was afoot as she bounced back and forth between me and the desk, getting me to pet her as her tail wagged hard enough to generate wind. Dogs really can feel what we’re going through better than most humans can.
After checking and double checking that everything was as correct as she could get it she whacked the “Submit” button, and a good piece of dough along with our hopes and dreams raced down the wire. Confirmation came that all had been done on our end, and we just twiddled our thumbs waiting for the contract which arrived on Thursday evening. In it we learned our address, on a road that does not actually exist just yet but will soon. We will also be required to inhabit the residence for at least two years, but after making a decision of this magnitude I would bet that we will remain there for a good deal longer. We are already over four years in our current apartment anyway, so that should be no problem. I do not think there were any major hold-ups therein, other than a noting of the amount of time the company was giving itself to have the house constructed before we could be released from the agreement. As I’ve said before, that’s going to be the biggest “fingers-crossed” portion of this, as of course some of it—weather, supply chain issues — is out of their control. Anyhow, we did all the fun electronic stuff to put both of our signatures on the contract, and now we basically are just awaiting that distant closing sometime towards the end of the year and hoping to secure enough funds to clear that final hurtle. I guess the best news here is that we do avoid all that due diligence and outbidding madness, and thus will experience a lot less stress.
Meanwhile, we’re doing a few trips by the area and really familiarizing ourselves with it. Google tells you a lot, but just driving around and taking a look says a lot more. (And yes, we are avoiding that pesky alarm by staying far enough away from the actual residence). I guess the only real challenge I see so far will be that my work commute time will nearly double. But I’m ok with this, more so in the morning than in the evening when I wish to just get home, but we’ll just see how everything plays out. Transportation should be no problem at least, since though we are on Raleigh’s fringes, almost in Garner, we are at least still within Raleigh city limits. It’s hard to find something affordable and yet close enough to my current employer, but I can live with that sacrifice. More podcasts, books and the like will just be taken in on the ride.
I do not know when the next installment of this series will be posted, but probably shortly after building commences. Oh and that’s another thing, the contract says we must meet with our builders 3 times to discuss how things are being laid out and whatever tweaks we wish to make. We’ll be bringing along someone who kind of knows what they’re looking at with regards to construction to help us with this. More once all that fun gets started. Till then, continue to wish us luck.

2021 Wrap: On Achievements, TikTok, and Books

What a year, folks. As I reflect on the happenings of 2021, I find it hard to believe that it is already close to wrapping up. It is, in many respects, yet another year lost to COVID. Let’s just pray that it will be the last such.
I guess I should focus most of my energy in this post on locating whatever nuggets of positivity that existed this year. Still looking… Nah, of course something worthwhile had to happen. I guess my elevation within my employer to a sort of assistive technology tutor is a major one. I say “sort of,” because I don’t know if one would feel entirely comfortable with what I’ve instructed. I can say though that I worked hard, did my research, paid close attention to the students’ needs, and tried to make sure that what I taught them was relevant.
I’d spent this past year doing JAWS for Windows tutoring, which as longtime readers would know also led me to purchase my current Windows computer and return to this platform from the Mac. Next year’s challenge, and a much more immediate and difficult one in some ways, will be to help probably those entirely new to the computer to learn some basic keyboarding skills. We’re going to use a program called Talking Typer, which helps people learn to type by speaking the letters aloud and informing of such metrics as Words per Minute and errors. I’ll need to brush up on this myself, and do hope that something I learn can help others unlock the vast power of computing.
I should also work to unlock my own power by digging back into this writing thing. I fell off of blogging over the last three months, but hey I’ve been reviewing books on Goodreads like crazy since May. Given that Book Reviewer still remains my career dream, the constant practice couldn’t have hurt.
To that end, and inspired by an NPR story on the rapid rise and influence of “BookTok,” I created a TikTok account. This, I guess social media, site allows for short three-minute videos and people, especially young ones, post on just about everything under the sun. Not surprisingly this is a very visual medium, but I did find some posts where book reviewers actually listed their titles aloud. I may (or may not) take a shot at recording my five-star reads there at some point, but am not impressed with the overall accessibility of the app. For instance, I find it difficult to follow those I am interested in with VoiceOver on the iPhone, and just navigating between videos is a real challenge. I hope some of these things can be fixed, so that a totally blind person could derive at least minimal enjoyment from the app, and perhaps more importantly tap into this vast crowd to gain exposure and other kinds of opportunities.
Just in case I never do post those reads in such a way, I’ll list them here. Note that not all books were released in 2021, just read by me herein. And just in case you do not choose to read my list below, I’ll close by wishing you and all of us a happy, healthy, and safe 2022.
2021 Five Star Titles: A listing of all the books I awarded this designation on Goodreads.

  1. Clap When You Land, Elizabeth Acebedo
  2. The Actual Star, Monica Byrne
  3. The Meaning of Mariah Carey, Mariah Carey
  4. The Last Train to Key West, Chanel Cleeton
  5. The President is Missing, Bill Clinton
  6. Return to Palm Court, Stephanie Edwards
  7. The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich
  8. A Good Neighborhood, Therese Anne Fowler
  9. Mother May I, Joshilyn Jackson
  10. The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
  11. How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, Cherie Jones
  12. Lies That Bind, Amanda Lamb
  13. Dear Edward, Ann Napolitano
  14. Eternal, Lisa Scottoline
  15. Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead
  16. Nerves of Steel, Tammie Shults
  17. Will, Will Smith
  18. Concrete Rose, Angie Thomas
  19. The Turn of the Key, Ruth Ware
  20. Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir
  21. The Book of Lost Friends, Lisa Wingate
  22. The Sea keeper’s Daughter, Lisa Wingate

#NDEAM, From Awareness to ACTION

Welcome to October! In a year where I guess I’ll do well to post once per month, because we’re still largely living under the COVID caution flag so not much is happening. I’m anxiously watching as numbers again begin their descent, and praying that maybe this time will be for real, but with the coming holidays one never knows.
But I’m going to talk mostly in this post about National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Or more specifically, I’ll muse on how we can begin to take that awareness and move the needle more towards action. Certainly there are big systemic barriers that make it difficult for us to overcome, but those are to a greater or lesser extent out of our control. I’ll spend most of my time thinking about that which I can control, and use an acronym of the word ACTION that popped into my head late one night. I’m especially feeling reflective as I’ve just completed my first full Jaws tutoring course with a student, the last session of which we spent talking amongst ourselves about what went well and what could use some work. I was relieved to discover that I was not the only one of the three tutors having the kinds of issues I was having, most notably ensuring that people had a basic knowledge of keyboard layout and could thus follow our instructions. Anyhow, here’s what I’ve thought of as it pertains to actions we can take to move ourselves toward a better career.
Acclimate: The first thing we need to do is to get used to the various types of technology and/or physical settings that a given line of work might require. I am not knocking manufacturing work such as that which I do, because as I’ve said before I know I’m fortunate to have it and it keeps the bills paid for many of us with disabilities. I’ve just heard via the SourceAmerica Twitter feed, (that’s the company which ultimately oversees most of these agencies that employ people with disabilities) that the number of employed blind persons has risen from 30 to 44%, largely due to such agencies. Compared to the regular population, that’s still a staggeringly low number of course. But it does mean that more of us are getting at least a basic chance to feel productive. But if you never get to experience other things, such as how to operate computers as one might in an office setting, then basic is what you are likely to be limited to. As the environment changes rapidly these days, having and augmenting any skill sets becomes more important.
Create: To do this, one has to first create a plan. How will I get said experiences. What do I think I might wanna do? What can I already do. I hope that I’m helping others in my own workplace to do this by so-called tutoring them, and of course it has the byproduct of helping me also as I have to really learn the ins and outs of Jaws and commonly used programs as well.
Translate: Once the plan is created, you have to take the most important step of turning those ideas into concrete action steps. This is the part where I usually get lost, and it is helping me tremendously to have a sort of mentor (the Workplace Development Specialist) who is willing to withstand all of my uncertainties and continue to gently propel me in the right direction. I hope it’s starting to pay off, and especially as I now have my new laptop rockin’ and rollin’. Even my writing may not be entirely done for, as this past Saturday I blew the dust off of my NaNoWriMo manuscript and have gotten to work on editing it. I hope to continue the story once I’m caught up and can remember what all it was about. Hey, I guess I can do it for the next NaNo, which is about to start in November.
Initiative: Anyhow, one is most able to carry out the action steps if one can find that initiative to persist through whatever. I’m starting to, finally, as I’ve also restarted attempts to take the 508 Trusted Tester Certification course online so that I might attain an accessibility position. Clearly I’m not sure exactly what I am going to do, but I know that whatever I choose will require a lot of drive.
Opportunity/Networking: I’m going to combine the last two, because of course they are related. If ever I do figure out exactly what I want to do, then I must both seek opportunities and try to get to know some people in the field in order to make them happen. This is usually the most difficult part for those of us with disabilities, s it can be hard to just convince people that our own knowledge, along with reasonable accommodations and massive advances in technology, mean that we can now do a wide variety of jobs as well as anyone else. I would never say I can do “everything,” but of course none of us can realistically do everything. It takes all of us doing different things to make the world go round, after all, so that’s perfectly fine.
So those are my thoughts as we move through this month of trying to increase employment for those of us with disabilities. Awareness is important, but I think that taking tentative but true steps toward fulfilment is even more helpful. And hopefully we’ll reach a day when writing these kinds of posts won’t even be necessary, because everyone is easily able to gain access to whatever avenue best fits their talents and matches how they wish to spend their time.

Come To My Window(s) On My Return to the Microsoft PC

After a little over 4 years and much thought, I have decided to return to my roots and re-acquire a Windows machine. I guess I am not, in fact, a Mac Daddy after all. For starters I’ve rarely used the Mac since completing grad school in 2017, though I credit it with helping me to survive that program and do pretty well with it. But especially as I’m working to tutor someone at work on Jaws for Windows, a screen-reading program from Freedom Scientific, I am realizing that I just am not productive on that platform.
Now, I am not one to “blame” the Mac per se. I am aware that a lot of my lack of productivity has to do with my own inadequate knowledge on how to get the most out of said computer. But I think that if I have something I am comfortable with, then perhaps I’ll get back to writing as well as learning some of the stuff regarding accessibility that could present me with real advancement opportunities within my employer. So I think this transition is worthwhile.
I received my new Dell Inspiron laptop this past Tuesday, after the post office ingloriously left it sitting right in front of our door in plain view. I was glad that it got there at 4:15 and I arrived only a couple minutes later. Excitedly I extracted it and its cables from the box, plugged the cable into the machine and whacked the on button. And… nothing. Do you see the problem here? Because I sure didn’t at first.
“Is this thing on?” I said as I fired up the Seeing AI app to try and gauge whether anything was displayed on the screen. Then I spent the next thirty minutes railing at Windows for not having made the installation process accessible, as I thought it would be by this point. I finally shut it down till Friday.
As I pulled it back out to review the issue, I first asked myself if the correct cord was plugged into the PC. How could it not be? But wait… is the other end of the plug in the surge protector! The answer to ath was no. I fixed that, whacked the power button again, and Cortana immediately began chattering at me. “…if you need screen-reader assistance, press Control+Windows Key+Enter.” I sheepishly did as told and was off for the races. Never forget, try the simplest thing when nothing else works.
And now I have most things set up as I want them. I’ve also gotten the Jaws Home Annual License, which I’m glad to see they offer in lieu of their $1,000 perpetual license. I just love having the feeling that I really know what I’m doing with this thing, and I can again have easy access to some of my favorite games and an easy-to-use Twitter app. I’ve also spent more time in the chair my wife got for me this past Christmas in the last two days than I had otherwise, combined. So I hope this thing takes me onward and upward, toward great places. More soon.

LABOR DAY: The Grind Continues

Happy Labor Day! As I like to say, this is the one holiday where you are supposed to relax and just take it off. Of course I say that knowing full well that not everyone gets to take it, as stores, restaurants, movie theaters and other businesses continue to operate. But hopefully many at least get off early or have a day of relatively light traffic.

I know that most of my posts of late have been jobs-related, but that aspect has been the most salient for me as uncertainty continues during this period.

Thankfully, I am still working at my job. I guess I didn’t write about it in my last such update, perhaps because it wasn’t happening yet, but now in addition to the afore-mentioned Employee Resource Group, I am tutoring an individual in JAWS for Windows, the computer program used by many blind and low vision people to hear on-screen text spoken aloud. I have sort of done this before, way back in 2016 when working with a blind individual to acquire basic email and internet skills, but as I’m not really a teacher it’s challenging for me. My “student” insists that he is learning something, and the Workforce Development Specialist at our employer keeps “kicking me in the butt” to keep me going. I know I need this, if I am ever going to really advance. I of course also need to get some real training and a certification in this area myself to really take it to the next level, which is what I think she very much has in mind.

Even as I work to advance myself in this area, I am exploring other possibilities which I will go more into should anything come of them. But let’s just say that I’ve learned a thing or two about persistence as I worked to file applications on sites that are, to greater and lesser extent, accessible. One of the reasons I’m being forced to rethink what I am doing and where is changing transportation needs. My wife had been taking me to and from work faithfully for the entire time I’ve been back during the pandemic. But her job has now changed. This means she definitely can’t take me home everyday, and fortunately the bus line I need to bring me back to the Cary bus depot is still available. It also means that taking me in the morning is tougher, as our schedules don’t exactly line up. Sadly, that morning bus no longer runs, and the door-to-door service I use says they do not have available drivers at the time I’d need, arriving by 7 A.M. Like everywhere else, they’re suffering from driver and other staffing shortages. So it’s a hard problem for me to solve without spending a truckload of cash each day. I do not yet know what the answer is.

On the whole though, life is trending upward in exciting ways. I’m enjoying what’s left of this summer and my 42nd year of life (I’m turning 42 next Monday but that means I will have completed 42 years). I’m happy and finally healthier, as I worked out that the biggest issue behind my heart rate acceleration was that I wasn’t consuming enough water. Since I’ve corrected that, blessed relief and much better sleep have occurred. Small changes, but ones that required me to listen fully to my body. I hope all is well in your corner too, and will be back with more soon.