J. Alexander (johnmill79) wrote,
J. Alexander

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Tech and Rehab

I'd known today was coming since the beginning of the semester, and I wasn't exactly sure how it would go. We visited the North Carolina Rehabilitation Center for the Blind on the campus of the Governor Moorehead School for the Blind. Man, I hadn't been to that place in an unbelievable 10 years. Still I expected that some of those folks would know me, as in fact they did.

The day started slowly and pleasantly. Well aside from my somewhat nightmarish dreams, one of which involved my youngest sister in a way that I can not now remember. One thing about which I am ecstatic is we seem to be beyond the need for heating at night. Today and tomorrow's lows won't be bad, and by Thursday I think we should be closing in on 80 degrees. Though it doesn't change the amount of actual stress I'm under, warmth does make me feel measurably better about things at least. Perhaps that'll translate into more substantive change soon.

Anyway, I rolled out of bed and came in here to put what are almost the finishing touches on my paper. All I have left to do now is get the paragraphs looking right, and I should probably find a study referring to Norrie Disease as something to back me up.

Speaking of that, the Norrie Disease Association had its monthly board meeting this past Friday. It was suggested that I might soon be taking a more active role in this organization's social media presence, a prospect which excites me. I also felt even more comfortable speaking and think that I continue to gain more of my rhythm.

Anyhow, in this incredibly sidetracked entry, we now return to today. I knew the student who would be driving me to our site would show up around 12, so I took my NLS player loaded with The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown and headed outside. Great book thus far; I'd argue that it seems better written than the Da Vinci Code. Of course it has that textbookish element that I guess most of Brown's stuff does, informing of all sorts of odd facts who's validity I'm always wondering about.

The student rolled up more or less on time, and since it was a carpool, another student was accompanying her. I made small talk as we sped down the highway, enjoying the bright sun but not so much the pressure that seemed to build up on my ears. This, combined with a sudden ringing in my ear that occurred yesterday, does make me wonder if I'm not having some sort of infection. Oh right, like I need that.

We arrived at the school, and they were surprised at its size. I've never thought of Governor Moorehead as being big, but I guess when you're seeing it for the first time it can appear so. All kinds of nostalgia rushed over me as I entered the Rehab Center, which I think they have in fact changed in some ways. People said hi to me and were so happy about my presence, but I must admit that I can't remember most of them. This is normal for me, though. .

Mainly, they just showed off the different kinds of services they, along with the North Carolina Division of Services for the Blind, (an organization I've referred to a lot in here), offer. They discussed some of the challenges of newly acquired low vision and devised experiments that allowed the sighted folk to get a sense of what losing certain visual fields would be like. Then they demonstrated techniques involved in orientation and mobility for persons who are blind or for those who have too little vision to travel safely. That Ken guy, I don't remember his last name, is amazingly still there! He used to torture me while I was there, having no qualms about walking for miles and hours in 90+ degree weather. I guess because Orientation and mobility specialists are so active, they tend to age very slowly.

That done, we went into the kitchen to learn about cooking techniques. They had students in the Rehab Center tell about the methods they use, such as a stick used to insure that the pot is centered correctly on a burner, a liquid level indicator to help particularly in the pouring of hot beverages like coffee, and a guide that makes slicing food easier.

Finally, we headed down below so that they could see some of the lovely assistive technology that us blind folk love and quite often loathe in equal measure. They demonstrated JAWS, of course, but they also spoke of System access and its online portion, System Access To Go. (Sighted folk, if you wanna hear a screen-reader in action, this is a good way to do so). They also showed a slate and stylus and gave an explanation of Braille that my classmates said they found somewhat confusing. The crux of it though was that in reading Braille, we don't feel dots. Rather, we feel the shapes that the dots make. She compared this to print, saying that you don't try to perceive every squiggly line but you make an attempt to understand the meaning of the entire letter. I can agree with this.

After a short return visit to the conference room to collect networking information we headed out of that site. Our next visit was to the Raleigh office of the North Carolina Assistive Technology Program. I hadn't known this agency existed, but they offer services related to many different kinds of assistive tech. The woman doing this presentation showed us all sorts of funny-looking keyboards designed for persons who have limited use of their hands and can't type in a normal way. Most could be re-angled into such a shape that would put less stress on the wrists, and one of them even had a ball which served the function of a mouse right next to the right-side keys and attached to the board itself. She then tried to demonstrate how Dragon Naturally Speaking, a program that translates voice to text, works. I guess her accent was too thick or something, because it kept getting things wrong. For example, when she said "English," it put "extinguish". I think that technology is much improved, but obviously it is still quite far from perfect.

She also talked about augmentative communication devices that help persons who have trouble speaking. There was some sort of system that would allow the person to painstakingly select each letter until he or she had the desired word. She said that this works best with someone who knows the person, as they can often predict the word by the third letter, and the sentence by the third or fourth word.

Finally, she took the neckloop portion of the FM system that I was wearing and explained exactly how it worked. The whole bit about the hearing aids having a t-coil setting, and how the microphone portion that the speaker wears then transmits into the neckloop where it is then fed directly into the aids. Thus ended that presentation.

On the way in, they'd seen a restaurant that they already determined would be visited once we were done. It was called Bahama Breeze, and obviously it had a Caribbean theme. They said the spot we were sitting was a sort of indoor patio with open window and a fireplace that they probably use at night. There were also tropical decorations about the place. First, everyone ordered drinks. "Do they have anything normal in here, like a bud?" I asked? I think they just laughed at this, to which I responded "well, I'm no beer aficionado. Tell me what I should try!" I opted for something called Carolina Pale Ale. It was thick, frothy, but not bad. I'm not entirely sure I can tell the difference in beer types, but I suppose to some extent I can. I think they all got pina Calladas. To eat, I had a big, delicious cheese burger and some fries. I mostly just chomped down and listened to them talk about the program. It was a pleasant evening out, although it does disturb me that my hearing is so bad in those places. I want badly to hang out more, but get nervous that struggling so mightily will dissuade people from inviting me to their gatherings.

After this, we finally made our way back toward home. I was, and am, quite exhausted by that point. So I just leaned back and continued to listen to those women chatter. I did tell them a bit about my experiences at Governor Moorehead and the Rehab Center, which I think they found interesting.

And now I need to get ready to bed down. Much craziness awaits!
Tags: books, hearing/lack of, independence, technology

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