Thursday, October 28, 2010

Barriers to recreational sports

This continues to be a thorn in our sides and this is so because we need to keep depending on the sighted world for help.  We are not fully able to participate in many of the recreational sports on our own.


As an ice skater, I need help at the rink for someone to skate around with me because I am unable to ice skate on my own.  I do not have enough vision to skate on my own.  As a skier, the challenge is the same; I need someone to be my guide on the trail.  As a swimmer, I need sighted assistance when I swim in the pool with sighted persons. 


I am not sure if these barriers could be overcome but they can definitely be made easier to deal with.  How so?  We need to enlist the assistance of the sighted world.  We need to make our requests and ask for help.  We need to convince the sighted world that there is a definite benefit to making recreational sports available to the blind and sight impaired.  A few months ago, I attended a Ski for Light event in Utah and what an experience it was.  I invite you now to visit this website and see for yourself.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and spread the word. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Approaches to a blind person

We may not be able to see you or make direct eye contact with you.  We may not be able to see you approaching or wave to you in the distance.  We may not be able to smile at you from across the room or recognize you standing on a street corner or in a hall; but that's okay.  All you have to do is just walk up to us and identify yourself to us.  Tell us who you are!  Just say "Hi, it's me," and you can add your name.  Easy isn't it?

Remember not to nod your head when talking to a blind person because they won't be able to hear or see it.  Use your voice to express yourself.  You may even want to reach out and touch your blind friend on the shoulder or arm if it makes you feel more comfortable.  Don't use gestures and don't shrug your shoulders.  I hope that this is enough to get you started.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and share my blogs with others.  Visit to learn more. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Don't be afraid to use the word "see."

There are many who feel very uncomfortable whenever they use the word see if a blind person is within hearing distance.  I guess that maybe they feel that using the word see may just be offensive to a blind person.  I often have to smile to myself whenever a person hesitates to use the see word with me around.  For example:  Someone may say "Did you see the game on TV last night?" and as soon as they say it they immediately freeze and start to back pedal.


I am here to tell you that you should not be afraid to use the see word.  Use it freely and use it anytime you feel like it.  The blind community will certainly not be offended.  I certainly do not mind.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and spread the message.  Visit to learn more.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

How I read books

As a blind person, I am unable to read books in the normal way.  That is, for the most part, I am unable to read a printed book.  So, how do I read books?  There are a few ways for me to deal with this and I'll give you some of the more used methods that I and others like me use.
1. I can listen to books on CDs and cassette.  Several books known as talking books have been put on to CDs and cassettes and we can use our CD or cassette players to do so. 
2. We can use the tedious method of scanning a book and then doing the following.
Download the scanned text to our computer and then use our screen reading software to read it.  This method is long and tedious and we may not always be able to scan it accurately.  We may often need sighted assistance to help us scan it accurately.
3. We can download books from the Internet to our computers and then use our screen reading software to read it or we may even download it to other devices that are equipped with speech software that can read the text to us.
Can we use the Kindle software to help us read books?  This device is not totally accessible to us.  That is, it does not yet have adequate speech software that would enable us to navigate and read e books.
We can also use the regular land line or even our cells to read such things as newspapers and magazines.  Several newspapers and magazines companies provide phone service just for this purpose.  Anyone can use their phone to access information. 
So, this is how a blind person does it and if you have any questions then please do not hesitate to visit
I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Some talking devices

As a blind person, there are certain talking devices that I use in order to help me with certain tasks and for the purpose of this article, I am going to stick with just a few; those that I use in order to communicate with others.
First:  My talking cell phone.  At first glance, my cell phone appears to be like any other; can be used by anyone but with one major exception.  It talks.  There is special software that enables me to hear the keys that I press.  I can hear options in menus, and I can hear what I choose when I press the keys on the phone's keypad.  I can hear the names and addresses in my contact list, and I can then choose whichever name I desire and make my phone call or send an email. 
There is also another great feature to my talking cell phone.  There is special software that enables me to use my cell phone as a talking reader.  When used in this way, my cell phone can read printed text on a page but it is unable to read handwriting accurately.  My cell phone is equipped with a special camera that takes a picture of the page and then converts it to speech.
Second:  My talking PDA:  It is called the Icon and this handy little device was developed to enable a blind person to have access to a PDA type of device.  I can use the Icon to input information, record music, and play audio books.  I can also use the Icon as a voice recorder.  The recordings are of top quality and I can record either audio or music.  I can hear keys when they are pressed, options in menus, and there is a detailed help facility for me to use whenever I need it.
The Icon enables me to either use its keyboard or attach a wireless keyboard to it.  It can be used to interact with a computer and I can upload and download information and data to and from it.  I use the Icon extensively whenever I travel away from home.
Apple's iPhone and iPal are also quite accessible for blind persons and more companies are coming out with devices that enable blind persons to use them.  They are developing devices with built-in speech and VOIP software. 
Just but a few devices to tell you about and if you would like to know more than please visit
I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Navigating without a mouse

In the main scheme of things, the sighted world normally uses a mouse whenever they navigate a website but it's not quite the same for me as a blind person.  You see, I am unable to point to icons and images because I am unable to see them on the screen.  I am unable to drag the mouse to open menus and click on icons and images, and I am unable to use my mouse to communicate on websites.
So you may be asking, how does a blind person navigate around a website?  If they are unable to see the screen, then how can they navigate around a website let alone communicate with others through the Internet?  We do it without a mouse and we use software known as access technology to help us navigate and communicate on the Internet.
Let's first take a look at what I mean by access technology.  Access technology is the name given to software that has been developed to help blind and sight impaired persons communicate with a computer screen.  How does it work?  It speaks everything that is on the screen to the user.  The user can manipulate the software to speak by character, by word, by sentence, by paragraph, by page, and by screen.
The user can have words spelled, have punctuations spoken, and can program their software to suit their preferences with regard to how things are to be spoken.  This software is also referred to as a screen reader. Screen reader software has been around since at least the mid to late 70s and companies such as IBM, Apple, and Microsoft have been heavily involved in the development of access technology.  
Others have also played a huge role as well and at the present time, some of the more popular screen reading software are:  Jaws, Windoweyes, and Hal.  Several other developers out there are constantly coming up with improvements to enhance screen reading software.  That is, to make them more powerful and better able to communicate with changing technology.
So, how does it all work?  A blind person uses the tab key in various combinations with the shift, alt, insert, and Ctrl keys to emulate mouse movements.  They also use the enter key on occasion as well.  They use these combinations to navigate through websites such as going from link to link, navigating through fields in a form, or for going from page to page. 
How does a blind person navigate from link to link?  They can do it in any of the following ways:  By using their tab key, or by using the up or down arrow keys.  They can also use another way to do this as follows:  By pressing a combination of two keys that would allow the screen reading software to bring up a list of links on the page.  Each screen reading software has its own unique combination of keys to do this.
How can they tell that they have already visited a link?  Most screen readers are programmed to tell the user this.  So for example; after they have visited a particular link on the page the screen reader tags it and the next time the user tabs or arrows up or down, the word "visited"is spoken when the user reaches the link in question.  So for example:  If the user has already visited the contact us link and is now browsing the rest of the page, as soon as they either tab or arrow up or down to the contact us link, the screen reader will speak the words "contact us visited."
Can screen reader software navigate graphics, images, and icons?  Only if the graphic, image, or icon has been specially labelled by the website developer.  That is, if the developer has programmed their code to identify the graphic, image,or icon as such with an accompanying description. In other words, in order for the screen reader to be able to identify a graphic, image, or icon, it has to be properly coded with an appropriate description.
What happens if a graphic, image, or icon has not been properly labelled?  In general, the screen reader either ignores it or gives a meaningful message to indicate that it is unable to read it.
How does a blind person navigate between the address bar and the main body of the web page?  By either using a pre assigned F key or some other key designated by the screen reading software. 
Can a sighted person learn how to use a screen reader?  Definitely so.  With a little training and some patience, it is not too difficult.
Of course there is a lot more that I can tell you but this is a good start and if you would like to learn more, then please visit
I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Granny was my eyes

Whenever I think of my beloved granny, tears come flowing down my cheeks.  I am so fortunate that I had the luxury of having her around when I was a child.  She read to me, she described things to me, and she taught me.  She was kind and she was gentle and she never lost patience with me.  She taught me how to write, how to tie my shoes, and never let my blindness get in the way.


Granny described all kinds of things to me.  The waves rolling onto the beach.  The boats out in the water.  Leaves sailing down the river.  Candles in church.  Birthday cakes on a table and plates loaded with all kinds of delicious food.  Granny delighted in telling me about what our dogs when they were playing on the beach.  She described people walking along and everything around me.  Granny was my eyes!


I thank granny for all that she did for me.  When I first received vision, granny was gone by then so I was never able to see her face to face but my family showed me pictures of her and it's what I have well preserved in my memory bank.  Thanks granny!


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and inviting you to go out there and tell others about my beloved granny and how she was my eyes when I was a child.  Visit me at

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Remembering the headlines

It's part of what I do in order to keep my memory alive and kicking.  Part of what I do in order to retain my visual memory.  I sit and remember some of the more important headlines that I was able to see when I had enough sight.  They are not all happy ones, but ones that stand out in my mind.  It's my way of remembering letters on a page.


1979:  From the Montreal Star – Habs win fourth Stanley Cup!

1981: From the Montreal Gazette – Trudeau returned to power in sweeping majority!

1996:  From the Toronto Star – Dianna dead!

1999:  From the Toronto Star – JFK Kennedy JR lost at sea!


You may think that I may be a bit morbid for thinking of some of these but it's my way of trying to keep visualizing the letters on a page.  Of course there is much more that I remember but these are just a few.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and asking that you go out there and share my blogs with others.  If you would like to learn how blind persons read newspapers, then visit

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Using colors to assist me

Whenever I need to remember something specific or something that I have forgotten, I use colors to assist me.  Believe it or not; each time I eat a fruit the color of that fruit comes floating into my mind and each time I sit down to eat a meal, my plate lights up with color.  Similarly, each time I go looking for something, the color of what I am looking for comes racing into my mind. 


Whenever I go searching for a sheet of paper or an envelope, white for paper and brown for envelope are in attendance.  If I need to remember what grass, flowers, skies, beach, snowflakes, or sun look like, then guess what?  I use color to help me remember.  Six years later after having lost most of my vision and color is still o so vivid in my mind.  Whenever someone talks about things in the supermarket or at the store, I use color to help me picture things.  Ah!  The world of color!  Mine forever.  


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and share my memories with others.  To learn more, you can contact me at

Thursday, October 7, 2010

In the washroom without sight

This is one of the more interesting challenges for me; being able to navigate the washroom at a mall or in a restaurant or for that matter, in an unfamiliar place.  In many cases, the layout of a washroom is almost always the same; I just need to know where the wash basins are, the location of the stalls, and the hand towels, drying machines, and the soap. 


So what are some of the common challenges for me?  To locate and determine the type of soap dispenser.  To locate the hand towels and the garbage disposal.  To determine the interior and size of the stall.  Once I get the hang of these things then I'm fine.  My cane does the talking and walking for me.


As I mentioned above, the layout of a washroom is generally common in most cases; it's a matter of finding what I need. 


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and tell others about my blogs.  Visit to learn more about how kids and adults are taught how to find their way around unfamiliar surroundings. 



Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Watching TV with no audio descriptions

Watching TV for a blind person has changed so much within the last few years.  There was a time when there was no audio description around and we had to depend heavily on our sighted family and friends to describe things to us.  Many of us developed our very own ways and techniques to follow the action as it played out and I was no different.


When I had enough vision, I used to sit very close to the TV screen and follow along with my limited vision but now that I have lost so much sight I now have to find ways to follow along if there is no audio description to help me.  Audio description is really a life saver to many blind persons and as time moves on, we as blind persons hope for more audio description to movies, documentaries, commercials, and anything that is on the TV and on the Internet.


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and inviting you to go out there and share my blogs with others.  Visit to learn more about audio description.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Describing pictures

There was a time when I had enough vision to describe pictures to some of my friends who could not see.  Today, I am the recipient of those with sight describing pictures to me and o how much I love it when pictures are described to me.  


I can allow my memory to venture backwards and forwards.  Sideways and up and down.  I can allow my imagination to create vivid images, colors, and memories of days gone by.  Ah, pictures!  What's going on around me!  Pictures of what persons look like, what they are doing, and of course all of nature's wonders!  I am blessed with family and friends who love to describe pictures to me.  From an album, on the TV screen, on the Internet, and simple pictures of what is going on in the mall, in the store, on the beach, and on the street. 


Describing pictures; it's what keeps me going!  A new world for me; describing pictures to me by others!


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and share my blogs with others.  Visit or to learn more.