Friday, June 23, 2006

Quoth the raven, "See you at the next AADB convention in 2008!"

Well, at least that's what THIS raven is saying. He was the mascot of this year's convention, and he spent the week being passed from delegate to delegate. Hat Trick Hunter and I finally caught up with him as we were checking out of the dorm and turning in the room keys. Here's Hat Trick posing with his new feathered buddy.

We're just about done packing the van and we'll be leaving for home soon.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

We attended a workshop on cochlear implants. Some attendees already have one or two implants; others are considering getting one.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

This has been a busy day so far. One huge task that we accomplished was getting KC's BrailleNote to work with a bluetooth cell phone, so she can access the internet when she's traveling. That involved a lengthy session with KC, Jonathan from HumanWare, and me. Since Jonathan is blind, I read the relevant sections of the phone manual, as well as whatever was displayed on the phone's screen.

Actually, we first tried to get the phone's infrared to talk to the BrailleNote's infrared. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn't quite get that to work. Moreover, the way the phone's infrared works, every time the phone is powered up, the infrared would have to be restarted. That's fine for a sighted person to do, but it's a jolly pain in the neck for a person who can't see the screen at all. One little miscue and a person would be sent to the wrong menu, the wrong screen, etc., with no real way to determine what was going on with the phone.

So Jonathan suggested that we try to get the two devices talking to one another via bluetooth. He has the steps memorized for setting up the BrailleNote, so my job became a combination of reading manual excerpts, as needed, and of clicking responses to the prompts from the telephone when it got bluetooth signals from the BrailleNote.

To make a long story less long, it took us well over an hour of experimenting with the infrared and the bluetooth, but by gosh we got that BrailleNote onto the internet via that cell phone. :o) Now, as KC has only a limited number of minutes in her current cell phone plan, she's not going to be using the phone to download mail every two seconds, nor to spend eons surfing the web. But when she travels, it'll be nice for her to be able to download mail now and then and keep up with her correspondence.

And meanwhile, the whole time I was involved in this process, all I could think of was how amazing, wonderful, and beneficial this technology was. The phrase, "I live for things like this" kept going through my head. I really feel like if I can get the training to become a tech trainer for deaf, blind, and/or deaf-blind consumers, I would have found at least part of my calling in life. I think the hospital might have actually done me a favor by sending me back into the job-seeking category, because now I have all the free time in the world to pursue whatever training I'll need. I can think of far worse places to be in life than having an idea of something I'd looooove to do, and the time to be trained to do it.

I'm grabbing every available bit of literature I can find at any exhibit table manned by a company that appears to have anything to do with assistive tech or tech training. There's no such thing as too much knowledge, after all. ;o)

Last night, Kathy B, the other SSP working with KC, had to go back home. She couldn't get the whole week off from work, but she did manage to get down here for Sunday and Monday. We had another SSP come in to help us. However, she's relatively new to the concept of SSPing. She's worked closely with one deaf-blind person in her community, but I kind of think that's the only deaf-blind person she's worked with extensively. This is the SSP's first AADB convention, and she just felt overwhelmed. So she spoke to our team leader about it, and they mutually agreed that the SSP might have an easier time of it if she were working in a different situation. So the SSP will get a new assignment, and there'll be a new SSP teaming up with us starting tomorrow morning.

Anyway, it's time for me to turn in. We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow, and there's going to be lots of techie stuff then, too. :o) There's a workshop on cochlear implants and assistive listening devices at 8:30 tomorrow morning, followed by visits to still more exhibit tables and a trip to a separate Tech Lab that's been set up. OOOO, I can't wait! :o)

The interview is online! The link is: http://www.examiner.com/a-154791~Technology_aids_deaf_blind.html
Here's the text:

Technology aids deaf-blind

PDF | Email

Meghan Shapiro, The Examiner
Jun 20, 2006 7:00 AM (17 mins ago)BALTIMORE - For the deaf-blind community, today?s technology spells independence.

At the American Association of the Deaf-Blind National Conference held at Towson University, several manufacturers displayed and promoted multiple products that bridge the communication gap between the deaf-blind and the general population.

Katherine Spears, 73, from Sacramento, Calif., who has been deaf-blind all her life uses BrailleNote, a product offered by HumanWare that enables the deaf-blind to communicate using a Braille keyboard.
The keyboard, which is also equipped with wireless Internet, lets the user surf the Web, download, use a word processor and even talk to others when attached to the palm pilot.

Spears said that she lives in a community where people do not know how to communicate with her, and that because of her BrailleNote, others can now understand her.

?The deaf-blind community is misunderstood, and this equipment has made a difference,? she said.

Dona Sauerburger, an orientation and mobility specialist who is speaking at the conference that kicked off Monday, said: ?The biggest obstacles in a deaf-blind person?s life is not necessarily communicating to a fellow deaf-blind, but communicating with the general population. The public has no clue.?

Sauerburger said the result often is deaf-blind people automatically thinking they are being rejected.

Whereas in the past there was little hope, today technology can make a difference, said Jonathan Mosen, product manager for HumanWare.

?There?s never been a better time to be blind,? he said.

mshapiro@baltimoreexaminer.com
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It's shorter than I expected, and KC's name is wrong (it should be "Kathleen" and "Spear"). But she did manage to get some of the salient points in there. (Just the interview with KC, had all the main points been included, would have doubled the size of the article. Ditto for the comments from the guys from HumanWare, and I'd bet from Dona Sauerberger, as well.)

Gotta scoot. More details later.

Monday, June 19, 2006

KC demonstrated the BrailleNote technology for Meghan from the Baltimore Examiner. With a USB keyboard and bluetooth Palm device with special software, KC can use the BrailleNote to communicate with sighted, hearing people who xan't sign. The hearing person can type on the USB keyboard and KC can read it in braille. With the PalmView program, the sighted person can monitor what they've typed. KC uses speech to communicate with hearing people, but she can type responses, which are visible on the Palm device, to a sighted Deaf person.

A BrailleNote with a QWERTY keyboard.

A BrailleNote with a braille keyboard. The insides are the same as the insides of the one with the QWERTY keyboard.

KC (left) shows Roma (right) her BrailleNote. It's like a PDA with a braille display. It has capabilities for email, address book, word processing, alarms and schedules, and more.

Roma's device is a Screenbraille; it's used by deaf-blind people so they can communicate with sighted, hearing people who can't sign or fingerspell. The sighted person types, and their words are displayed in braille. The deaf-blind person types, and their words display in print.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

At the last convention in 2003, the opening ceremonies were capped by a visit from two Chinese dragons that danced through the auditorium, which the deaf-blind delegates were able to touch as they passed and after the routine ended.

This year, as our convention is in MD, we had a visit from dancing crabs. :o)

The priest saying Mass this morning, Fr. Cyril Axelrod, is deaf-blind. He's from England, and I saw his SSP using the British two-handed manual alphabet to communicate prior to Mass. He's the priest on the left.

So, it's 11:09; do you know where your fire drill is?

This campus (Towson University) is doing something we've never done at an AADB before. Well, at least we haven't done it since I began attending these conventions in 1990. We have a scheduled fire drill in all the dorms tonight.

The drill will start with building B. When they finish with that and begin letting people from building B back into their dormitory, then they will begin the fire drill in building C (my building). When we're on our way back into our building, they'll begin evacuating building D. And so on... I'm not sure how many dorms there might be besides B, C, and D. (I'm not all that sure what became of building A, either. LOL.)

In any event, goodness only knows how long it'll be until the alarm sounds in our building. So I'm sitting here typing an email while I wait for our turn to evacuate.

I've met my roommate, a nice interpreter from California who knows KC. Then again, everyone knows KC. :o) Under normal circumstances, we can't walk two feet during a convention without someone calling out for us to wait up, because their delegate wants to talk to her.

It's probably just as well that KC's not here tonight for this fire drill. She injured her back not long ago, and in fact she had to make sure that the doctor declared her fit to travel before she could make plans to attend the convention. So I'm not sorry that she won't have to drag herself down several flights of stairs to the exit.

I'll be taking my camera with me during the fire drill. That way, I'll be able to document the experience for both the blog and the photo albums that I'll be creating online when I get home. But I hope this thing starts soon, so it can *end* ASAP. I'm worn out and could really use a good night's sleep.

BTW, it's now 11:20 and I'm still waiting.
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Midnight. Wouldn't you know it? They cancelled the freakin' fire drill. I could've been asleep an hour ago. Gaaaah. Good night!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Well, we're here! We arrived at about 2:30 PM or so. (When I double-check the time stamp on some photos I took, I'll have a more accurate guess-timate of what time we really got here.)

The first person I saw whom I know was Krista, a deaf-blind delegate from Delaware. She's here with a group from HKNC (Helen Keller National Center). It's good to see her again. I was hoping she'd be here.

I'm slated to work with KC (delegate) and Kathy B. (SSP, or Support Service Provider... in other words, Interpreter/Guide) again. I'm looking forward to it, as we were a good team in San Diego at the 2003 convention.

Once I went through registration, I still hadn't seen any evidence that either KC or Kathy B. was here, so I called Kathy's cell phone. It turns out that KC is with Kathy now, and they'll be arriving tomorrow.

So tonight I can be a floater SSP and just help out where I'm needed. I haven't got a set place to be besides dinner tonight, the team meeting afterward, the "Welcome" social, and then breakfast and Mass tomorrow.

Gee, I only have 5 things on my schedule between now and lunchtime tomorrow... so glad I "haven't got a set place to be", or I'd have an even longer list of appointments to keep! :o)

Kathy B. and KC will call me when they arrive tomorrow.

I'm heading to dinner. I haven't eaten since breakfast, unless you count one chocolate-covered donut at about 12:30 PM. I'm ravenous.

We're on the way! Melinda's driving, Joe J's riding shotgun; Rich P. and I are in the back seat. Melinda's being a wise-aleck and swerving, jolting the brakes, etc, to make Joe laugh.

Today, I'll be heading to AADB. I'll see what I can do to post to the blog during the convention. Right now I'll send out a test post to make sure that Blogger.com's post-by-email feature is allowing me to attach photos. Here's a shot of Stanley grooming Captain's head. :o)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Ya know, I'm getting tired of dreaming about my freaking ex-employer. Bad enough they used to haunt my waking hours. I'd rather not see them in my sleep, too.

I know the mind processes stuff in dreams that it hasn't finished working out during waking hours. After three nights in a row of seeing that place, I'm tired of it and I'd like it to Go Away. I hope my subconscious or whatever it is gets through processing unfinished thoughts soon, so I can dream about other, better things.

OK, rant over. I just needed to get that out of my system.