[Or: Today’s Pain, Yesterday’s Adventure]

For those of you who haven’t caught up with me recently, you may or may not be aware that I ride tandem bikes with a group in Wollongong called Exsight.  We’ve got a group of stokers, most of whom are Blind or Visually Impaired, and a group of exceptional volunteer capatains.

In Tandem terminology, the Captain sits at the front, the Stoker at the rear.

It’s a long story how this group got started, but between six stokers, we’ve a team of Captains that let me get out every weekend, and the others who aren’t working get a ride or two in during the week too.

Anyhow, the Exsight group have decided we’re going to ride the Sydney to Gong ride this year. 90km of fun!

Anyhow, one of the captains, Tim, and I decided we’d challenge ourselves a bit on the weekend.  While most of the group were starting in Wollongong with the aim of Austinmer, we decided to ride from my place at Dapto to Wollongong first. (
Map of the Ride)

Through one thing and another, the distance and time between Dapto and Wollongong was underestimated (or misremembered if you prefer) so we missed the group at Wollongong, then at Fairy Meadow.  We pursued the group and eventually met them coming the other way as we rolled into Austinmer.  Now, given we were running behind, and in a competitive way, we felt we had to go as far north as the rest.  Therefor we decided to keep going, getting as far north as Coledale Hospital before turning around.

At that point we caught up with the group at Ruby’s at Bulli Beach, had coffee, chatted, and discovered that they’d only gone as far as Austinmeir. So we’d outdone them all.

Kate, who was riding a half-bike (read: single bike) was riding home to Shellharbour from here, and we agreed to go back to Dapto via Cringilla and accompany her that far.

In the meantime, on the way back from Bulli to Fairy Meadow, competition erupted between our tandem and anther pair, resulting in a race, yelling, the blowing of air-horns and much other silliness.  Over a distance of about 8km something of a race took place, averaging around 37km/hr.  Crazy.

After that, the run home was fairly smooth.  A fun way to spend a morning.  Total distance: 74.3km.

Today, the pain.  Self inflicted, of course.

Soundtrack:
Area 7 – Let Me Down
Los Capitanes – Going Abroad
The Living End – Short Notice
Los Captianes – Play
Doctor Octopus – El Expensive Bando
The Living End – Rising Up From the Ashes

First of all, the disclaimers:

  1. I am legally blind
  2. I use a Cane and Miniguide as mobility aids
  3. I consume services from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT
  4. I have once required the assistance of Guide Dogs Queensland, and was most dissatisfied. (Their release)
  5. I subscribed to the paper The Chaser in the early part of the decade
  6. I don’t find The Chaser’s War on Everything particularly funny, and I don’t generally watch the program.
  7. Having seen the ABC News Online article yesterday, I have now seen the skit in question on YouTube.

So, what do I think?  I think Guide Dogs Queensland is totally overreacting.  The only basis for complaint would be if the dog were a real working Guide Dog.  Somehow I don’t think that would get through the production processes at the ABC, do you?

Honestly, I’ve done pretty much the same joke myself. Usually when intoxicated, I’ve been known to offer my cane to others when they show suitble signs of intoxication.  It’s a lame joke, and not one I tend to find funny when sober, but it’s certainly not offensive.

I’m wondering whether we’d have seen as much attention on this without the reputation that The Chaser has been earning for itself.  Certainly since the APEC stunt, they’ve been riding high on publivity and much of that is negative. That doesn’t mean people won’t watch.  But given what one can learn about the program in the popular press, don’t you think some people would learn that they might be offended by the show?

Here’s a hint: if you think you might be offended by somthing on TV or radio, don’t watch it!  Really, it’s quite simple.

It’s not the job of broadcasters to censor content beyond classification.  It’s up to viewers to choose what they watch. It’s up the parents to monitor their children’s media consumption.

As I’ve said above I don’t watch The Chaser’s War on Everything, I don’t particularly like the program, but if this kind of knee-jerk over-sensative reaction were to lead to cancellation, then I think we’d live in a very poor society.

And BTW, if you’re considering a charitable donation, I’d highly reccomend dontating to Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

I suspect not. 😉

But because someone asked (which is a rarity), I did a quick bit of searching online to see if I could find an example of what my vision is like. I suspect there’s lots of irony there, or something. Indeed, given the nature of my not-seeing-ness I could be way off the mark.

Anyhow, the best example I could find was this image What I supposedly see accoring to Agencies for the Blind. from the VisionServ Alliance. I say take it with a bit of a grain of salt and the following caveats.

I have bilateral optic atrophy (or neuropathy if you prefer) which means it affects both eyes somewhere along the optic nerve (or maybe at multiple points… who knows!). I have a restricted field of vision nasally, laterally and above and below the horizontal. The distortion (and total “black spots”) aren’t as evenly distributed as that picture would seem to imply.

My initial vision loss started in around 1997 and deteriorated rather rapidly. The prognosis is unknown.

I think those are the central points, but questions are welcome.

UPDATE

How’s this for an analogy: a person with 6/6 vision is watching HD TV, I’m watching analogue TV without an areal on the edge of the reception zone?

Also, here’s a different image from a page about Optic Neuritis – different condition with different cause (related to MS) but a similar effect.

I don’t think either image quite captures it correctly, but each case is different.  Hopefully this gives some kind of impression at least.

UPDATE #2:  This is approaches the topic from a slighly different angle: from Blind Photographers Stitching Sight.

[Or It’s just the first step… I hope]

Really I’m writing in something of a frustrated mood. I feel a bit like I’m missing out here, and once again it’s because people don’t seem to have thought things through in the planning stages.

It seems these days that every third Tweet, fifth web page and tenth piece of spam has to do with the iPhone. Apple have reportedly sold over 21.4 million iPhones (both 2 and 3G), and so I guess I have to agree that they’ve done SOMETHING right.

What they’ve done wrong, what they seem to continue to do wrong has to do with the interface. For those of you who didn’t notice, Stevie Wonder attended CES and spoke about how touch screen alienate the visually impaired. Now there are 100 000 people with a Visual Impairment in NSW and the ACT (oddly I can’t find a national figure).

Having attempted to use a couple of iPhones to deal with issues at work, I find it nigh impossible. The screen has poor contrast and is totally unreadable to me. I did manage to fix the problems by randomly stabbing the thing. OK, wasn’t quite random, but I still have no idea what I did.

Now thinking about this, it’s not just those of my ilk that are cut out of the iPhone wonderland. Anyone who doesn’t have reasonable fine-motor skills is also going to have some pretty big barriers.

But lets look on the positive side for the moment. Apple have clearly done some special things with the iPhone. The integration of Internet connectivity (both using mobile networks and local wireless), and the operating system itself are clearly big wins for the company. So much so, that we can see Google playing a bit of catch-up with Android.

But Google seem to have fallen at the first gate as well. From what I’ve read (and someone please tell me I’m wrong here), they have not included any API hooks into the basic I/O systems which might allow for the development of alternative input and output devices – to the point that developing a simple screen magnifier looks hopeless. [Edit: Oh, I find that there’s some development here. Good Google. :-)]

Is it just me that thinks that we keep taking the wrong approach to interfaces? It would seem sensible, in terms of both hardware and software, to start taking a modular approach.

At the middle of any of these devices is a Processor, or processors, memory and other associated hardware. These bits do the actual work of the system, running the core OS and applications. At the top end of the OS we have the kernel, which is the user level interface. Imagine this: a box which houses the chips, battery, and other bits that do the actual work. This bit we can mass produce, we can sell millions of the things, so they’re cheep to make because of volume.

Having made this core, why can’t we slot in all sorts of various modules for both input and output? You can have a standard touch screen for the majority, or a screen and standard keypad or keyboard depending on preference. But maybe you want Braille output? Slot that in instead. Need a large keypad because of motor skills? Slot it in. Voice activation? Sweet. If we build these modules with the hardware and software (or firmware) to take the I/O data from the core, and handle the interface separately, then we’ve built a truly flexible system

Is this really that radical an idea? As we move along with technology, we see more and more modular designs, separating form from content. For large projects we treat code objects as black boxes, we don’t care what happens inside, we just need to know that if we give it a certain input it will give a certain output. It gives rise to a generic device which can be made accessible to anyone. OK, a Braille display is going to be more expensive than a standard output, but I think we can live with that when we know we’ve all got the same opportunities to access these new devices.

So in building the iPhone, which is something of a mini-revolution in and of itself, Apple missed the mark. But they’re not alone. I don’t think anyone has truly hit it yet. That is why the iPhone fails.

Soundtrack
The Resignators – Weirdos Superheros and Me
Radiohead – Creep
The Lyrical Madmen – Alarm Bells
Weezer – El Scorcho
Los Capitanes – Scene Queen
Dr Octopus – Repeat
The Bullet Holes – Our Fault
Dr Octopus – Last Time
The Living End – So What
Los Capitanes – Riff Raff
Addiction 64 – Learn to Dance
The Lyrical Madmen – Best Friend