Even though Lorenz, who, like Downey, is blind, can't see the space before her, she knows exactly what to expect. On her desk at the ILRC's current office on Mission Street, she keeps a tactile floor plan that Downey printed for her. The plan's fine web of raised lines looks like an elaborate decorative pattern, suggesting a leaf of handmade stationery or a large sheet from which doilies are about to be cut. Though Downey has consulted on other architects' projects since going blind six years ago, this one marks a turning point for him. The community center is the first space he's designed since losing his sight. The center recently opened its doors to the public with a celebration to inaugurate the new space, located on Howard Street in the city's Yerba Buena district, just down the block from the Moscone convention center. But on this May afternoon, the walls are just beginning to go up.
“It’s an unbelievable sensation,” Mr. González said. “I’m feeling this painting down to the detail of each fingernail.” (SLNewYorker)
Be My Eyes is an app which connects blind people needing assistance with a sighted person who can help them by providing a description of what they're seeing. You can be Amelie!
Researchers at Oxford University have developed glasses that enhance images of nearby people and objects to help those with failing vision.
Decontextualized product labels: "DirectionsforMe provides the information that’s on consumer packages or labels in a simple online format for anyone who has trouble reading the small print including people who are blind or visually impaired." [more inside]
Does your cat act weirdly? Does it bump into and occasionally wreck stuff, like your face? Well, maybe it's not just because Grisou* is a jerk, maybe it's because it has crappy eyesight. [more inside]
Tommy Edison, who has been blind since birth, explains his perception of things that are intangible including the sun, sky, fog, Great Wall of China, Grand Canyon, and space.
[slyt | via]
Into the Light
Humanity has paused on Jones Street near the summit of Russian Hill in San Francisco. Tourists, businessmen, café workers, the homeless – all seem to have taken a collective breather at this steepest of places, a city peak where stairs are carved into the sidewalks so people don't topple. Only one person keeps climbing, and he's talking, too; he's saying that you can't stop here, that if you just keep pushing, you'll see things no one else will see, that Macondray Lane is just over the hill and that it's the most magical place in all of San Francisco, but you'll never see it if you don't keep pushing, you'll never see Macondray Lane unless you really know how to look.[via Slate]
Accessibility is what allows me to use things like a phone, computer, or an ATM. May 9th is all about this. -Tommy Edison, the Blind Film Critic. (previously)Global Accessibility Awareness Day is today. It's a day to consider how people with disabilities experience the web, software, mobile devices, games and so on, targeted towards designers, developers, usability professionals and others without much experience with accessibility. There are public events scheduled all over the world, as well as other accessibility-related events. To participate on your own, try one of the suggested activities: turn off your mouse or trackpad and use only your keyboard to navigate websites, try using a free screen reader, such as NVDA for Windows or the built in VoiceOver for Mac and iOS, try watching some streaming videos or movies with captions or add some of your own to a video you've uploaded. Then relax with a sample of described video: Katniss, from the Hunger Games, goes hunting. [more inside]
A life well lived. On October 4, 1973, Josh Miele (4) was permanently blinded in an acid attack by his neighbor (pdf). 40 years later, Dr. Miele has worked for NASA on the Mars Rover project, he's helped develop "WearaBraille", a virtual Braille keyboard interface, and has a new project launching this month: the Descriptive Video Exchange (DVX), which will allow "sighted video viewers to seamlessly add audio description to DVDs as they watch." [more inside]
A Real World Series: Inside the world championship of blind baseball. "It’s different this year. I can’t get last year’s Series out of my mind, even though it ended in the last week of July, when Taiwan took two from Austin on a rainy Saturday in Ames, Iowa, to win the title in the 37th annual world series of blind baseball." [more inside]
Six years ago, US Army Captain Ivan Castro was severely wounded in a mortar attack in Iraq that left him permanently and completely blinded. Today, he's one of only three blind active duty Army officers, and the very first to serve in the US Army Special Forces. Thirteen months and 36 surgeries after the attack, Castro ran the 2007 Marine Corps Marathon in 4:14 and the Army Ten Miler in 1:25. And he's still going: In the last 15 months, he's completed 14 marathons. Why? "Because I still can. Because people need to see what's possible." [more inside]
Atlas for the Blind, 1837: "From the spectacular David Rumsey Map Collection, the 1837 “Atlas of the United States Printed for the Use of the Blind“, embossed heavy paper featuring lines, letters and geographical symbols, destined to help blind children to visualise geography. Here’s the whole book with zoomable pages." [Via: Socks-Studio]
Recent technologies developed at American universities are making communication easier for the sight and hearing impaired. Last summer a Stanford undergrad developed a touchscreen Braille writer that stands to revolutionize how the blind negotiate an unseen world by replacing devices costing up to 10 times more. Thanks to a group of University of Houston students, the hearing impaired may soon have an easier time communicating with those who do not understand sign language. During the past semester, students in UH’s engineering technology and industrial design programs teamed up to develop the concept and prototype for MyVoice, a device that reads sign language and translates its motions into audible words, and vice versa.
Rachel Flowers plays some of rock's toughest compositions on keyboard. Oh, and jazz and classics too. Impressive, for an eighteen-year-old. Who is blind.
In the world of violins, the names Stradivari and Guarneri are sacred. For three centuries, violin-makers and scientists have studied the instruments made by these Italian craftsmen. So far no one has figured out what makes their sound different. But a new study now suggests maybe they aren't so different after all.
Blind Photography "Taking a picture is so easy, you just need a camera, decide at which moment to shoot, press the button and you have your picture. Why can't the blind do this?" (Previously 1, 2)
Inspiring story of the day: Legally blind high school girl runs on the cross country team with help of her guide dog. via
Blind Man vs. Paper Money - the Blind Film Critic demonstrates the problems of using (American) paper money. Unsurprisingly, just getting cash out of an ATM poses its own problem. [more inside]
blind is a short film (5:17 - in Japanese w/ English subtitles) set in post-nuclear Tokyo. The film may be viewed at the blind website, at Vimeo or at YouTube. Parents please be advised: although the film features a young child, viewing by young children is not especially recommended, as they may be frightened.
More evidence of brain plasticity: Some blind people are able to use echolocation to perceive space and objects around them in surprising detail, even though the time differences in echoes necessary to do this are two small to be consciously perceived. An fMRI study by Lore Thaler, Stephen Arnott and Melvyn Goodale revealed that people who are especially adept at this use their calcarine cortex (a.k.a. V1 or primary visual cortex) to process spatial information from the echoes. The original paper. A shorter discussion. (Previously)
Erik Weihenmayer is a gay -- excuse me, I mean blind -- climber, mountaineer and author who counts the Seven Summits and the Nose of El Capitan among his accomplishments. Erik's recent efforts have been assisted by the Brainport, an experimental device that allows him to sense visual information via his tongue.
"There is a wonder in reading Braille that the sighted will never know: to touch words and have them touch you back."
"The blind teaching the reader." An interesting interview that looks at how the blind read from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blogger SB Sarah.
Bart Hickey is an incredibly inspiring blind auto mechanic who owns his own shop called B.A.T. Automotive. [SLVimeo]
Visually impaired people are riding bicycles. Andreas Bocelli rides a bicycle. And then there's this.
SLYT Something I found last night that I thought was quite wonderful and appropriate for a lazy Sunday. I was really impressed with the way they handle sense in this, and it made me warm and fuzzy. I hope this isn't too terrible for a first post.
A blind man uses a mobile phone to "see":
I have never experienced this before in my life. I can see some light and color, but just in blurs, and objects don’t really have a color, just light sources...I went outside. I looked at the sky. I heard colors such as “Horizon,” “Outer Space,” and many shades of blue and gray. I used color queues to find my pumpkin plants, by looking for the green among the brown and stone. I spent ten minutes looking at my pumpkin plants, with their leaves of green and lemon-ginger. I then roamed my yard, and saw a blue flower. I then found the brown shed, and returned to the gray house.
Braille is facing extinction, says Canadian newsweekly Maclean's, thanks to strained budgets, audiobooks and text-to-speech. "In the 1950s about half of all blind children learned Braille, says the U.S. National Federation of the Blind. Today, that number has fallen to 10 per cent -- and it's about the same in Canada. For some, like NFB director Mark Riccobono, that means we're letting blind children grow up as illiterate as Braille's 19th-century contemporaries. 'If only 10 per cent of sighted children were being taught [to read],' he told Maclean's, 'that would be considered a crisis.'"
Tactile Mind is a pornography magazine for the blind. While porn for the blind has been done before, this is the first offering with raised pictures of naked bodies.
You’d have to be blind to drive a bobsleigh. At least if you want to finish first, second, or third nine times in seven years. Since 2001, U.S. bobsleigh pilot Steven Holcomb has dealt with a degenerative eye condition that left him with 20/500 vision. He drove a sled hurtling down an ice track anyway, often winning. Now that his vision has been restored via an experimental operation, he fuzzes over his helmet visor so it’s just like the olden days. Bobsleigh, it seems, is all about feel. [more inside]
Peter Goldmark, developer of early color tv technology, is lesser known for a cooler invention, the Highway Hifi – the first recorded-music player for an automobile. The under-dash system played records provided by Columbia Records which played at 16 ⅔ rpm even when the vehicle was in motion. It was first released with Chrysler models in 1956 but lackluster promotion of the option by both Columbia and Chrysler led to the option being discontinued before the 60s. [more inside]
We're familiar with blindsight, and seen a blind man navigate a cluttered hallway (wmv file). A blind man with a loaded rifle seems slightly scarier. But if you see the blind guy driving a 2010 Ford Mustang, it's probably best to yield.
Recently, a man's sight was returned to him after losing it for 12 years. How did he do it? Surgeons drilled a hole through one of his canines, put a lens in it, and implanted the construct in his eye. [more inside]
This is a fun little atheistic distraction: The interactive Blind Watchmaker applet demonstrates how random mutation followed by non-random selection can lead to interesting, complex forms. The Blind Watchmaker algorithm was conceived by Richard Dawkins and is described in his book of the same name. The resultant forms (which can begin to look like plants and bugs) are called "biomorphs," visual representations of a set of genes. [more inside]
Blind Justice..... Sir John Fielding, 1721-1780, brother of novelist/playwrite Henry Fielding (Tom Jones), was a blind magistrate at the Bow Street court (known as the "Blind Beak of Bow Street"), home of London's first professional police force, the Bow Street Runners. [more inside]
Snooks Eaglin has died. One of New Orleans' most authentic and underrated guitar players won't be making his jazz fest gig this year. Next time you have some red beans & rice, take a moment to remember the guy who some called the human jukebox.
Blind, Yet Seeing : New research into blindsight from Harvard University and M.I.T. showing that people who have been blinded by brain injury have resources beyond sight to do such tasks as navigate an obstacle course (movie).
Out of Sight : Photographer Sarah Wilson photographs the prom at Texas' School for the Blind & Visually Impaired. [via] [more inside]
Blindspots is a continually-updated collection of movie reviews based around one very interesting concept -- how accessible they are to the visually impaired. [more inside]
Working on ADA compliance? Wondering how readers for the blind parse your webpages? Feed them into WebAnywhere, an online screen reader. Unlike other solutions, it is not a browser plugin and is free.
Blind Muslims with guide dogs. Dogs are usually considered unclean, but one U.K. imam carried out research and determined that a dog in service to, or trained by, a person could be allowed in a mosque. [more inside]
How do things look to colorblind people? Colour Lovers (Prev: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 - all more useful to those who aren't colorblind) offers some popular websites and iconic art, As Seen By The Color Blind. Luckily humans are smart and have created technology like the Color Blind Web Page Filter. Prev. Wiki.
5 Year Old Adopted South Korean Blind Piano Prodigy Yoo Ye-eun can play songs after hearing them once. Watch her perform with Britain's Got Talent's Connie Talbot in a South Korean TV show called "Star King".
You'd be forgiven for thinking that the iconic American folk song The Wabash Cannonball was written as a tribute to an actual train, but in fact, in an interesting case of life-imitates-art, the actual train name was inspired by the song. The Lake Erie, Wabash, and St. Louis Railroad Company was formed in 1852, but there was no train called the “Cannonball” when the song was first sung late in the 19th century. There have been many, many, many wonderful versions through the years, but I think Roy Acuff pretty much owns it, wouldn't you say? [NOTE: See hoverovers for link descriptions] [more inside]
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