10 Years With A phone

I’ve just listened to a documentary on how Voice Over was 10 years old on the iPhone and it got me thinking of my journey using a phone in general.

I must have been about 17 or so when i realised that you could get phones that could talk however no-one seemed to know where i could get a phone with the Talks software on it. We called in to the RNIB shop in Belfast and they recommended that i go to the Vodafone shop as they knew exactly what the Talks software was and they knew who to send it to to get it put on to a phone. I finally got my first phone when i was 18.

My first phone was a lovely little Nokia E51. I loved that phone and literally used it until it no longer functioned. Even sending a text was so cool. The fact that i could have a phone that talked to me was just amazing. I went from the E51 to an E65 to a C6 phone which had a touch screen and a qwerty keyboard and not the T9 keyboard that was on previous phones.

I had heard about the iPhone by this stage as the people who were making Talks weren’t making it as much any more and the operating system wasn’t supporting Talks. People were suggesting that i should get an iPhone as it had Voice over built in to the phone, but the thought of this scared me a little. After seeing my friends’ iPad, which also had voice over and a blue tooth keyboard, i began to wonder if an iPhone could be compatible with a blue tooth keyboard. It was after buying my first iPad that i decided to go for the phone but i was still reluctant to get one.

I got my first iPhone in 2013 and even something as simple as making a phone call was a real challenge for me. When i found out that you could get a blue tooth keyboard for the phone, that was me hooked and i haven’t looked back since. Whilst i can use the touch screen, it is very slow and cumbersome for me at least.

I am still using an iPhone today and i can’t believe how back in the early days of Voice over that it was considered merely as an afterthought. Now though, voice over and accessibility in general is very much integrated in to the iPhone and other Apple products as standard. In fact most phones now come with accessibility features installed. Sometimes it can feel as if voice over isn’t that important, particularly when an app isn’t accessible, but overall, the fact that you can just buy an iPhone and it will speak to you is brilliant. I hope accessibility is just as important in another 10 years’ time as it is now.

The documentary which made me want to write this entry can be found


Training With Disabled Go

Today, i took part in a training day with a company called

Disabled go

Which is an accessibility checker so that disabled people can look up particular venues to see how accessible they are. Disabled go works with counscels who pay to be a part of Disabled go. There are 4 counscels who are signed up here in Northern Ireland, but they want to get it rolled out to more counscel areas in the future. The counscels which have it already are Ards and North Down, Antrim and Newtownabbey, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavan and Belfast city counscel. Once the counscel has signed up to the scheme, they will request for places to be surveyed.

There are two types of access guide that Disabled go provide. One is called a “detailed access guide” or a DAG for short. This would be a venue such as a restaurant or hotel where you are likely to spend a considderable ammount of time in. The other type of guide is called a “key access review” or a KAR for short. This would be a venue like a bank, where you aren’t likely to spend as much time in but still need to know if it is accessible or not. Unlike other companies, Disabled go does not make recommendations for venues to be accessible, rather they will provide guideance if it is a detailed access guide, for example, but it is mainly so that disabled people can make their own choices as to whether they will use a particular venue or not. For example if there is a step in to the venue, the website will list the fact that there is a step to get in to the building, but on’t recommend for it to be changed.

The day started with a visit to City hall, where we met the rest of the participants and the facilatators from disabled go. First of all, they presented a presentation all about the history of Disabled go and why it was developed. It was developed in 2000, after a wheelchair user found himself unable to access many venues after becoming disabled. The presentation then went on to explain what the difference between a detailed access guide and a key access review was. Not only had the presentation been emailed to me beforehand, but there were also brialle copies and print copies available. The questions we would ask venues were also available in braille. I was very impressed with this.

The information that is collected is very thorough. It goes in to details such as what the outside access is like, are there steps, how many steps, is there a ramp, is it portable, the angle of the ramp etc. It even asks what type of door there is and how wide it is. Once inside, it goes in to yet more detail such as did the staff receive disability equality training, is there an accessible toilet, is there a hearing loop, are there seats available and many more questions besides. Whilst on the subject of accessible toilets, someone in the group pointed out that if you’re visually impaired, you aren’t necessarily going to want to feel around to find everything in the accessible toilet and that things aren’t where you would think in every one. I pointed out a device called a

Room mate

Which is a device that some places accross the water can install with bespoke audio instructions as to where everything is in an accessible toilet. That hasn’t come over here yet, but i am interested when it does, as it would solve so many problems in locating things in the toilet. I also asked the question about

Changing places toilets

And if they would be included in the detailed access guides, which they are as for some people, they cannot use the standard accessible toilet.

The presentation also focused on why you may not be allowed to go in to a venue and ask about what they had available, such as seating, and this was because a shop may be busy or may be worried about people coming in and asking questions about their venue. This is a rare occurance apparently though which is always good to hear.

Once the presentation was finished, we were told about what else would be happening throughout the day and asked to fill in a feedback form on the day so far.

After lunch, it was time to hit the streets armed with the information we needed to create a key access review for some shops in Victoria square. We were split up in to two groups and each facilatator led a group. We visited 5 shopes in total. They kept it very short to accommadate peoples’ needs, and didn’t want people to get too tired doing it. Everywhere we went were very happy for us to ask questions about the venue. The only place which had a hearing loop was the Apple store, whilst Claires Accessories and a place called Boo avenue had racks that could be wheeled out of the way if a wheelchair user for example couldn’t get down an aisle and Boo avenue even had an accessible fitting room. Photos were also taken of the steps etc if a shop had any and how wide the aisles were.

Once we had finished, we had a chat about the day and were given a £10 gift voucher for our time. I would like to thank Disabled go for inviting us along and i really enjoyed the day. It is amazing how many things you notice when you have your accessibility head on. I hope more counscels sign up to the scheme and i look foward to hopefully doing more with them in the future.

The Principles of Design: Accessibility

I love the fact that wordpress has a section dedicated to accessibility. I was thrilled when this article popped in to my inbox the other day. I’m not saying that all blogging platforms should have an accessibility section, but it really does help.

Thank you WordPress 🙂

The Daily Post

Hi bloggers! My name’s Kjell Reigstad, and I’m a designer at Automattic. This is part three in my monthly series on “The Principles of Design.” In this series, I share some of the basic tenets of design, and we explore how to apply them to your blog.

Previous installments:
Visual Hierarchy
Color Harmony
Design Iteration & Feedback

Not everyone who visits your blog will experience your design the same way you do. For instance, two colors that seem totally distinct to you may appear quite similar to someone else. A paragraph that looks great to you may be unreadable to others. There are a number of visual impairments that can drastically alter how people see your blog. As designers, it’s important to create a positive experience for all readers. This is the concept of accessible design.

Below, we’ll learn about some common types of vision impairment and review tips for how to design for them.


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No Apple Watch For Me

So last week, I had a nosey at the Apple watch and blogged about it. Since then, i’ve been stewing over getting one, going from really really wanting one to not wanting one at all. I was going to make an appointment to see the accessibility features of the watch, as the watches were all demmos, running a demmo of the watch software, so they didn’t have voice over on them. However i have read articles that tell me that voice over is already on the watch, so why go up and see it when i know it’s already going to be on there?

I have discussed getting the watch both on and offline, and as my sister pointed out “Why pay £300 just for a stop watch when you can do that on your phone?”. Which is true. I mainly only wanted it for the workout app, and because i thought it would be really quick to get my time etc up. But to be honest, it wouldn’t really considering i’d still have to stop etc to get my time anyway. Plus i can do my time with the Run keeper app, but i liked the coolness of having a sports watch, and plus i was maybe a tiny bit jealous, well maybe not, but i did like all the sports watches, and thought it would be cool to have one.

I also looked at one of the fitbit devices, or rather read up about it, as well as the many other bands on sale, but i think i will stick to Runkeeper. Sure it’s a hassle to fish it out of my pocket, unlock it, find the stop button and wait tentatively until i get to the finish line before pressing it, but to be honest, Runkeeper does exactly what i need it to which is to track my distance, time and pace. Plus i always have my phone with me anyway. I may, perhaps, treat myself to one of those cases runners have for their phones at some point, but even then i always wear things with pockets so again i wouldn’t need it.

I do think the apple watch is cool, but it’s not for me at the minute. I can’t justify to myself getting it just for the workout app.

I hope it serves whoever gets it well, but for me, it’s my iphone and Runkeeper all the way :).

Accessability Oddit

Today i headed out to do an accesability oddit to see how a place was for visually impaired people. A company has been set up by a wheelchair user called
Trip Ability
And part of their work involves doing access oddits for buildings and public attractions. They are going to do these oddits throughout the coming year. They are approaching local counscils and offering to carry out these oddets to make places more accessible and to make sure the right provisions are being provided.

Today we were heading up to Castle Gardens in Antrim. The head of the company picked me up from Antrim train station. Unfortunately Ushi wasn’t too keen to get in the car as it has a metal ramp to get up to it. The ramp then has to be raised to get in to the car so i’m not sure how to get ushi used to it if she ever has to be in the car again. I just reassured her and once she was in and out of the car she was grand but it was a new sensation for her.

One of the first things I noticed when we arrived was the amount of dog bowls scattered around. This wasn’t for guide dogs but it was just because it must be a popular spot for dog walkers. They have loads of outside taps too. There was a guy who was in a wheelchair who runs the company, a deaf guy who went to school with me, and me and Ushi. We all had different cryteria that had to be met like ramps and steps and such. The ramps and that had to be measured too.

We all started in the reception area and went our separate ways then. The first thing i asked for was provision for guide dogs such as water. I knew this was already available but it was so hot too that i wanted to make sure Ushi was well watered. I asked if they provided braille or large print and they said they didn’t but they had braille signs. I asked what would happen if someone with a visual impairment came on their own and would someone be able to guide them throughout the gardens. They said normally someone does a tour but if that wasn’t available then a member of staff would do it so i presume they would assist you.

We then headed off to look for some steps. It is all flat ground but some of it is paving stones. I thought they were grand but they would maybe need to be a little flatter.

There was a little road where lawnmorers and stuff would go but there was no tactile paving at it so i suggested that some would need to be put there. When you crossed that, you didn’t know you were on the opposite path, so i suggested some tactile paving be put there as well as a handrail to take you down the ramp that was there.

We walked across gravel at the bottom of the ramp which was quite easy to walk on. Normally some gravel is very hard on your feet even through your shoes. There was a little band stand in the middle which had four steps up to it. There was no handrails and no tactile markings to indicate the steps and the steps weren’t painted. This was noted that there should be tactile paving and handrails and the steps should be brightly painted. I said that i didn’t know if the tactile paving could be put at the bottom of the steps since it was gravel but deffinetly at the top of the steps.

Around the band stand was this decorative boarder. It was a paved area about a foot wide and it went right along the gardens. I asked was it consistent but it wasn’t. I thought maybe it was put in for people to follow but it wasn’t. It was nice and low and all, but i said it seemed pointless as it looked a bit like a small step. I know it was there to look nice, but i said they should have either one or the other meaning they should either have it all paved or gravel rather than this little bit. The counscil probably won’t like that suggestion though.

The ramp was measured that acompanied the steps up to the band stand and it was 8 degrees. Apparently it can’t be above 15 degrees as a standard so that was okay.

We went to the reception again after to look at stairs and lifts. There was another floor to the building but i’m not too sure what was on it. The lift buttons had braille on them, but the lift didn’t announce which floor you were on. While that is okay for only one floor, i pointed out that it might still be useful to have it announce the floors. The call button was a bit low, but i thought nothing of it. Apparently there is a standard for the call buttons to be a certain height too.

Even things like the door mats had to be looked at to make sure they wouldn’t become a trip hazzard.

We stopped off at the caffe after as we all needed a drink. We were sitting in like a courte yard. I pointed out that if you were in the main caffe they should maybe have someone to help you read the menu and stuff. That was noted too.

Finally we went out through the gift shop, but there is a little lip going up that would maybe need to be flattened a bit. The shop was quite spatious though.

Overall, there weren’t many issues from my point of view, but i think the wheelchair user found some. The findings will be put to the counscil to see if it can be changed at some point.

we headed back to the bus station from there. I must say that Antrim bus station seems very hard to get around. The train and bus station have been redeveloped in to one station. I could not find the counter to ask for assistance. Ushi ended up taking me to the toilets lol instead. Eventually we found a counter. I could hear someone behind it so i waited a while before knocking the window. I got no response so looked for another counter. Eventually someone answered, and once i got to the counter i did get assistance, but finding it was the problem.

When we got to Ballymena, we hit a snag. It was boiling today. I kept Ushi well watered today, but she kept showing me to every seat on the ballymena platform lol. We were then going to walk home but Ushi refused. So we went over to the bus station since it was quite a while before the next bus home. My sister and dad came to meet me so i didn’t have to get the bus. Ushi eventually walked home but i just walked her home and got guided. I was looking forward to going to yoga tonight, but i knew by the way Ushi was that it was just far too warm i think for her her to concentrate. I knew by the way she was that she wasn’t being stubborn either as normally she works so well.

It was a good day though and i look forward to helping Trip ability again in the future.

Research On Taxi Experiences:Northern Ireland

I got this in an email and thought people might be interested in this if you live in Northern Ireland.

Research on taxi experiences: Northern Ireland

The Department of the Environment (DOE) has appointed Integrated
Transport Planning Ltd (ITP) to undertake a review of accessible taxi
services in Northern Ireland and to work with the taxi industry to
explore options for improving the accessibility of their services.

To inform this work the ITP research team wants to understand the
experiences and views of people who are disabled or who experience
mobility difficulties. ITP has therefore designed a survey to
• How and when people use taxis
• Any difficulties experienced when using taxis
• People’s views on how barriers to using taxis could be overcome
The survey is relevant to current taxis users; as well as people who
experience difficulties when trying to use taxis, and people who
choose not to use taxis because of this. As part of the research ITP
would welcome views from you. To have your say, go to
to complete the survey online. If you
would prefer to complete the survey over the telephone then call ITP
0115 988 6905. A research team member will then call you back to ask
you the questions at a convenient time for you.
As a thank you for taking part, ITP is offering respondents the
opportunity to enter a prize draw for £150 of high street shopping

"The Screaming Silence Of The Wind" By Maurice Orr

I was at my quilting course yesterday when the lady who teaches it said that there was an exhibition for the visually impaired happening at
The Braid Arts Centre
In ballymena. It is landscapes from Iceland and Northern Ireland. It is a guy called
Maurice Orr
From Ballymoney.

I had never heard of this exhibition before, so we decided to check it out today.

At about half 10, the woman came to collect me and Ushi. I wasn’t sure about bringing Ushi as i thought they might be funny about her being there, but they didn’t care at all.

There was an audio CD and a braille copy of what all the pieces were. Here is an introduction to the exhibition.
Next is a
Summary Of Still Images
That were apparently on the wall as a power point presentation. Here are
The descriptions
For these images. Next was a recriation of
Maurices Studio
The fish leathers were hangin up so you could feel what they were like. They were made from Wool fish which have smooth skin, and Codd which is scaley. I was surprised at how tough they were. I didn’t know you could get leather off a fish, or even feel fish skin.

Next were some paintings
That he had experimented with
Some of it didn’t feel like much, but the likes of the see you could feel which felt very choppy. Some of the fish leathers were soft and smooth and some were rough and hard.

Next was a
Big cave near the Giants’ Causeway
In Northern Ireland. This was quite cool as it was like a hole in the page. The whole in the middle of the page was to represent the cave with the walls all around it.

Next was
A painting
From Iceland. I liked the way the mountains felt in this picture.

Next was a
With a really hard name to pronounce lol. I couldn’t really feel much in this painting.

Next was
A painting of the Giants’ Causeway
In Northern Ireland. This was quite a tactile painting.

Finally it’s a
Painting of a head land
In Northern Ireland. It has a really wild sea and is again very tactile.

It was a good exhibition, and most of the things i could feel some detail in. The exhibition runs from the 9th of September to the 29th of October. My only worry is that alot of people won’t know about it. There wasn’t anyone else when we were there.

Ushi found it a bit boring and just lay down lol. She wasn’t a fan of having to keep getting up though.

Please spread the word if you live locally. It’s not often we get to feel paintings!