Come join the LightHouse access tech team as we explore features and functions of Windows 10, yes Windows 10.
Do you have concerns, are you skeptical, do you wonder why you can’t stick with Windows 7 instead of learning a new operating system? The time has come to make the transition and we will help to allay your concerns and share our knowledge of the differences between Windows 7 and Windows 10. We will point out some of the new features of Windows 10, explore similarities and differences between the two operating systems and explain why the transition has become necessary.
You must be an enrolled LightHouse student to participate. To sign up for the class, contact Shen Kuan at 415-694-7312 or firstname.lastname@example.org This class is free to participants through support from the City of San Francisco’s SF Connected program.
From October 22 through 24, LightHouse’s Access Technology department hosted their second annual Blindness Technology Trainers Conference. Trainers from blindness agencies and other organizations across California gathered to discuss strategies on training blind and low vision students on a variety of accessible technology needed for communication and day-to-day life, from smartphones, to screen readers, to magnification and more.
This year’s theme was Serving Students with Multiple Disabilities. Trainers discussed working with students who experience a range of access needs along with blindness. Topics included: working with students who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing, working with students who use alternative methods to input text because of motor or learning disabilities, and working with students who have traumatic or acquired brain injuries.
The conference included both group discussion and presentations. Kathy Abrahamson, LightHouse Director of Rehabilitation Services, and Accessibility Evangelist Lucy Greco, presented. The conference keynote on Access Technology and Brain Injury was delivered by three guests from the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired: Executive Director Sassy Outwater-Wright, Director of Rehabilitation Therapy Services Megan Briggs and Amy Ruell, Director of Adjustment Support Services. The keynote provided trainers with a variety of perspectives and experiences to consider when they returned to training their students.
Conference participant Matthew Morgan, who works at the Community Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Stockton, said of the group discussion at the conference, “The questions we posed to each other were great. They were hard and they were challenging.”
Erin Lauridsen, LightHouse Director of Access Technology, noted how powerful it is when blindness technology trainers come together to share ideas. She said, “Technology changes rapidly, and one instructor can’t know everything, but together as a group, the level of knowledge and expertise in the room was truly impressive.”
Professional development opportunities like this conference help LightHouse’s knowledgeable Access Technology staff continue to provide students with high quality training that considers a student’s individual needs. For more information, visit our Accessible Technology webpage or contact email@example.com.
This conference was made possible thanks to a generous grant from Ability Central.
The Lighthouse Access Technology Department offers up-to-date training in the latest accessible methods. Meet Amy Mason, one of our Access Technology Specialists, who trains students who are blind or have low vision on ways to make their phone, computer or other devices easier and more comfortable to use.
Amy began her journey with access technology while in high school in Cedar Bluffs, Nebraska, when her vision was changing. At first, she learned to use a rudimentary screen magnifier, then she moved on to using the popular screen reader, JAWS. But in college, although she used a computer, she had no idea how to set one up and did not keep up with newer versions of Microsoft Windows.
After getting her Bachelor’s degree, she continued her education at South East Community College in Lincoln, Nebraska, focusing on computer networking. She also taught computers to kids during the summer. It was important to her that her students learn not just how to use a computer but how to problem solve when their computer didn’t work. One of her teaching tricks was to unplug all the computers and disconnect the cables in the classroom. Her students were required to put them together before class, including troubleshooting if something wasn’t working. For example, if their computer wasn’t making sound, even with the cable for sound plugged in, Amy would prompt them with questions like, “Did you plug the auxiliary cable back into the right place?”
Amy has brought her sound techniques for getting students to problem-solve and explore to LightHouse. “It’s okay to try things,” she says. “It’s a lot like exploring a new neighborhood or cooking a new dish. You have to learn new skills, new information, and new landmarks, but a lot of your key concepts stay the same.” When students encounter something unfamiliar while using technology, Amy encourages them to apply the skills they’ve already learned and problem-solve.
Amy’s experiences have informed her teaching strategies. She relates how when she was growing up, her father brought a computer home with several tutorials, including one that taught computer basics. One sentence really stood out as she was going through the tutorial: “The computer is no more intelligent than a toaster.” Now, in explaining her approach to teaching, Amy uses the metaphor of a toaster to help her students understand the basic functions of a computer. “What you’re doing with a computer at its most basic level is no more complex than what you’re doing with a toaster,” she states, with amusement. “With a computer, you’re giving input, with a toaster, you’re giving it bread. Then you add in variables, such as ‘I want this input to be put out in this format’, or ‘I want the bread to be medium dark’. Then you execute the program. If you’re using the computer, you might get a spreadsheet. If you’re using a toaster, you get toast.”
During the course of training our students learn how to use a number of technologies. Among the things Amy can teach you are how to use a screen magnifier such as ZoomText, screen readers such as JAWS, your smartphone, email and other programs on your computer, and for braille users, how to use refreshable braille.
Amy is concerned with accessibility, but also has expertise in the user experience. Besides technology training, the LightHouse Access Technology Department works with developers to evaluate websites and mobile applications for accessibility. Amy likes to educate developers on the impact poor accessibility or a poor user experience has on a blind person. For instance, developers may not realize that many blind people do not use a mouse at all though the software they use assumes they do. As Amy explains, “if a someone has to press tab 52 times on a keyboard to get to where a mouse user can get with one click, well that is not a great user experience.”
Amy trains her students to become their own teachers, so that when they finish their training program at LightHouse, they are confident enough to problem-solve when their technology downloads an update. With her help she hopes they will be able to work through any changes the update brings because “they’ll have the tools they would need to explore.”
When Amy is not training you may find her hard at work on hobbies such as drawing and crocheting. Amy is owned by two especially opinionated cats.
This fall LightHouse is pleased to announce our new Audio Academy, an ongoing series of immersive courses to teach employable skills in the field of audio engineering and production. For our first course, we are partnering with the Illinois-based, blind-run I See Music, the only school in the nation that offers a comprehensive audio education curriculum for blind and low vision learners.
“Intro to DJing” will be a 3-day intensive workshop, which will host a small group of students in our dorm-style residences over two nights for an immersive, high-value learning experience. The course will introduce students to the software Deejay Pro and teach students the basics of a fully accessible and non-visual DJ method. See full course details below.
The workshop will also include a comprehensive discussion of the vocational opportunities in the DJ field from Byron Harden, founder and CEO of I See Music. Come spend the weekend with your fellow audio heads, and learn the skills needed for competitive employment in the music and entertainment industry.
What is Audio Academy?
Back in the days of analog, being a blind radio disc jockey, record producer or even a house engineer was not out of the question. But with the turn of the century and the turn to digital, the industry traded knobs, buttons and sliders for inaccessible graphic user interfaces on screens. For several years, the accessibility of the audio industry screeched to a halt.
Today, the landscape is greatly improved: industry leaders like Apple, AVID, Algoriddim and Native Instruments have made commitments to accessibility, and blind individuals can finally operate the tools of the trade to become studio owners, radio producers and musicians in a competitive working environment.
LightHouse Audio Academy will continue over the course of the year with talks, informal gatherings and more immersive weekends (each weekend will focus on a different topic, software or hardware application).
Please note: all who are interested in the workshop must fill out our brief application form.
LHAA 101: Intro to DJing Workshop
When: Friday, Nov. 9 at 9 a.m. – Sunday Nov. 11 at 5 p.m. (3 days, 2 nights)
Where: LightHouse for the Blind offices and residences – 1155 Market Street., San Francisco, CA 94103
Who: For all blind and low vision students
Fee: $800, (includes 2-night overnight stay, breakfast and lunch for 3 days)
Prerequisites: Ability to navigate with VoiceOver on Mac OS
Equipment: Apple workstations will be provided to students for the weekend if necessary, but bringing your own computer (Mac OS or iPad only) and Deejay Pro-compatible DJ controller is recommended.
Today, Hans Jørgen Wiberg, the founder of Danish startup and longtime LightHouse partner Be My Eyes, sent a proud message to the network’s nearly 50,000 blind users. Starting today, the startup will sign on brands to a new area of the app called “Specialized Help.”
Beginning with Microsoft, who will route all their Specialized Be My Eyes calls to their dedicated Disability Answer Desk, Be My Eyes is making its foray into high-end customer service. But rather than pass the cost on to its blind users – one of the largest user bases of blind people worldwide – the enhanced customer service will be provided by brand partnerships, ad-free and with no strings attached for users.
“We love to see Be My Eyes trying new things,” LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin said Wednesday, “and we love that, almost five years since we met them, they are continuing to grow in ambition and scope. It’s imperative that blind users have the best customer service possible, and Be My Eyes has just given blind people worldwide a powerful new tool.”
We are thrilled to announce the newest feature in the BeMyEyes app: Specialized Help – a better way to connect with businesses and organizations when you need assistance with their products or services.
To all our Be My Eyes users,
As you know, BeMyEyes is here to help you tackle a wide range of visual challenges as you go about your day. Until today, BeMyEyes has randomly connected you to a volunteer to solve daily tasks. Some tasks, however, require specialized assistance.
Contacting customer support through email or by phone isn’t always ideal. Direct communication with a business’s customer support agent could be a more vision-friendly alternative and less time consuming for you. If someone from the company could see the issue in real time, issues with their products or services could be resolved more efficiently.
So we’ve strategized a way to better assist you: enlisting the help of representatives from companies whose products you use all the time. It’s our sincere pleasure to introduce Specialized Help. This new feature means that a trained company representative is available to answer questions or help you tackle issues with speed and in-depth solutions. Maybe you need help figuring out how to use an unfamiliar product, or you might want to interact on a company’s app or website while on the phone with their representative. With Specialized Help, it’s easy to get in touch with businesses and organizations when you encounter a challenge with their products or services. And as always, it’s completely free.
The next time you update your BeMyEyes app, there will be a second button added to the main screen to take you to the Specialized Help Menu. Clicking “Specialized Help” will lead you to the list of companies with representatives available to answer your call and assist you through a live video connection. Each business profile will include descriptions of their services, hours of operation, and supported languages.
Microsoft is first to join
Microsoft is the first company joining our platform to offer Specialized Help and maintains their mission to empower every person on the planet to achieve more. Included in that mission is a program aimed at offering free technical support to the disability community – Microsoft Disability Answer Desk.
“BeMyEyes provides a new and innovative way for our customers to get technical support,” said Neil Barnett, Director Disability Answer Desk, Microsoft. “With a simple tap, customers can access the Disability Answer Desk from their phone to get the help they need with Microsoft products and services.”
BeMyEyes is on a journey with Microsoft to help more people utilize technology as a means of empowerment to achieve more in their daily lives. Starting today, Microsoft agents will be available through BeMyEyes Specialized Help to users in Australia, Canada, UK, Hong Kong, Ireland, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa and the United States offering assistance in English. If you need help with Windows or Office products just give them a call.
Who Would You Like Us to Bring Onboard Specialized Help?
At the present moment, you have the option to contact Microsoft. Improving the customer service experience takes time, rest assured, but more companies from a variety of fields will join the Specialized Help platform soon. Your feedback is of tremendous value to us. If there are businesses and organizations that you may seek assistance from and would like them to a part of the Specialized Help platform, please let us know, and we will do our best to include them. You can simply respond to this email or write us at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is our hope that Specialized Help will provide a better way to connect you with businesses and organizations.
Last week, LightHouse Staff spent the day with Aira, one of the leading startups to emerge in the remote sighted assistant space. Equipped with a wearable camera or mobile app, blind users can use Aira’s platform to receive on-demand sight assistance from trained professionals – privately and discreetly. The “agent,” who uses Aira’s dashboard software to keep notes on your preferences, track your surroundings through GPS and zoom in on far-away visuals. The result is a highly proficient “expert” who can efficiently identify, explain and Google anything your heart desires, opening up the blind user to a more accessible, frictionless environment.
Aira’s agents are the backbone of their operation, and it’s safe to say these paid professionals have some of the coolest jobs you could imagine. Aira has put out an announcement that they are hiring agents in the San Francisco Bay Area, to work from home or from the co-working spaces available at LightHouse.
At Aira, we are giving increased freedom and independence to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. But we need your help as the star of our service!
As an Aira Agent you simply log onto our dashboard from your computer at home and begin answering video calls from our customers who reside across the United States – you will help them to shop, read their mail or computer screen, cook meals or even describe individuals in social settings – the scenarios are varied and unique. You will join a small but growing team of Aira Agents who, along with training, will help you hone your skills and share your calls.
Through a live video stream, you are able to see what they would be seeing, and provide the information they need to make decisions or explore their world.
Hours are flexible. We offer a range of hours per day between the times of 4 a.m PST to 10pm PST.
On May 11 from 5:00 t0 7:00 p.m., LightHouse will host Be My Eyes and its blind or low vision users for an evening of creative use, feedback and even a bit of friendly competition. The Be My Eyes team will take blind users through the past, present and future of the technology, and share some incredible stories about the iPhone app that connects blind people to a network of sighted volunteers via live video chat. The event is free and intended for blind and low vision users – RSVP on Facebook.
We love our independence. Even if our vegetables are grown and picked by hundreds of hands, our cars designed by teams of closely collaborating engineers, and everything from our electricity to our government benefits kept running by vast networks of individuals — modern day technology and consumption are designed to make us feel self sufficient.
We are thus allowed to hold ourselves ideals of self-determination and rugged individualism that have been passed down over the centuries. As blind people, these values are challenged every day of our lives. When something is poorly designed or downright unusable, we confront a deep conundrum: going it alone or asking for help, and risking the perceived possibility of burdening others.
When Be My Eyes launched nearly two years ago, a new tool was born: a radically different way to ask for help. Be My Eyes introduced blind smartphone users to a whole new type of social support network, one unbounded by geography, bureaucracy, or even practical limitations, that allowed blind users to get sighted assistance via video chat.
Today there are about half a million sighted volunteers with Be My Eyes loaded onto their phones, with more than 30,000 blind users on the other end. These volunteers will do anything from help you adjust the thermostat to spending half an hour helping you pick out an outfit for a high-stakes presentation. But at it’s core, each interaction is random, at-will and obligation free. The free app puts no limit on the number of calls you can make in a day. If you really wanted to, you could call 100 different people and have each of them identify the exact same piece of art – and the service, as always, would be free.
Even though thousands of blind people benefit from this app every week, the platform can handle thousands more. I wonder often if our notion of independent living so engrained, so hard-wired that we have still have trouble asking for help, even when there are really no strings attached.
Be My Eyes is working toward a gold-standard for people helping people. They have hundreds of thousands of hours of free labor, given with good faith, at a moments notice from people all around the world. It’s truly a new tool – like a fishing pole that reels in assistance whenever you want it. But as the old saying goes, you have to “teach a man to fish” before he can really benefit from the tools at hand.
Last month, I challenged myself to re-consider how I use the app. Occasionally I will be somewhere, alone, and realize that I am struggling. We all do this, sighted and blind alike: make things harder for ourselves then they need to be.
For one week, I told myself, any time I needed help I would pull out the app and give it a spin. What came out of it was surprising. Watch the video below to see Be My Eyes in action.
Not only did I use it for things I never thought it could work for – like identifying house numbers as I walked through a neighborhood or even the types of fish on my sushi plate – but I met people who were patient, not overbearing, and curious as to what they could do to be helpful without being obtrusive.
No one asked me personal questions, no one tried to coach me on how to live my life, and above all no one grabbed me by the arm and steered me somewhere I didn’t want to go. When I got what I needed, I could politely say thank you and hang up without fear that being brisk with someone would have repercussions later. It’s all the value of having someone nearby without any of the additional worry of initiating contact, explaining yourself, and ultimately breaking free of their of custody.
Our understanding of “independence” is not truly about total independence, but instead about masking the assembly line of helpers which make up our lives: the tiny little micro-transactions where individuals step in to provide assistance, whether or not we have a disability. For blind people, this is a more obvious reality than for most.
The reason Be My Eyes is so remarkable is because it embraces this reality wholesale: You can get the tiniest bit of help and move on through your life. The safety net is huge, and yet doesn’t loom over you.
Maybe it makes sense, then, that the guys behind Be My Eyes hail from Denmark, where you’re much more likely to hear about a more “social” approach. And if we think of human interaction as give and take, as an exchange of ideas or assistance as a true social interaction – maybe Be My Eyes has created the first truly social network.
“Blind people are makers. Since 1917 LightHouse blind workers under the Blindcraft label have made everything from fine rattan furniture to advanced basketry and even chains and rope for the US Navy. Today, blind people solder, build robots and do advanced woodworking,” says Dr. Joshua Miele, Associate Director of the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, organizer of the local Blind Arduino Meetup and LightHouse Board Member. “We might use slightly different techniques, but the outcome is the same. The LightHouse is all about teaching these alternative techniques so that people can engage in the activities they love, whether they’re sighted or not.”
At LightHouse, we know a lot of accomplished blind makers, which is why we offer blind soldering workshops, science and craft courses both in San Francisco and Enchanted Hills Camp in Napa. This spring, we’re looking for up to 20 young makers to attend the very first “Maker Faire, Made Accessible”: May 18 – 22.
The new LightHouse Maker Faire Made Accessible will be a packed weekend of hands-on experience for blind young adults interested in the maker movement. The weekend will include an overnight stay at LightHouse with a series of events and a daylong trip to the Maker Faire in San Mateo. Expect hands-on learning, guided tours of Bay Area’s Maker Faire facilitated by Oracle volunteers, and demonstrations by blind makers eager to show other blind makers the tricks of their trade. Thanks to a generous grant from Oracle we’ll be offering full scholarships to cover fees and travel expenses for a few lucky participants — so sign up early! The deadline to register is May 5.
Maker Faire is a celebration of the Maker Movement, a showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness. The Bay Area’s Maker Faire is the largest Maker Faire in the nation, right in the heart of Silicon Valley in Northern California. Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, Maker Faire is a gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students and commercial exhibitors. “Makers” come to Maker Faire to show and share what they have made and what they have learned.
The weekend will use LightHouse headquarters as a home base to expand upon and explore all that Maker Faire has to offer. Our core group will consist of blind makers age 14-30, but we encourage those outside the age range to apply.
Starting on Thursday, May 18 we’ll welcome 20 blind participants from across the country and the region to the LightHouse Headquarters in San Francisco. Students will stay at the new LightHouse student residences, which houses up to 29 students.
On Friday, May 19, students will participate in tutorials, workshops and presentations with blind mentors who are makers themselves. They will offer hands-on demonstrations, exhibit their own work, and provide tailored guidance and consultation.
On Saturday, May 20 students will travel as a group to the Maker Faire for guided tours with Oracle volunteers. Volunteers will accompany students one-on-one to describe the projects showcased at the various booths, and stop off at a few booths of blind makers.
And finally, on Sunday May, 21, former LightHouse Board Member Jerry Kuns will lead participants on a guided walking tour of San Francisco.
To sign up for Maker Faire 2017, receive an application, and determine your eligibility for full scholarship, including travel, please contact email@example.com or by phone at 415-694-7372.
March is a huge month for Access Tech at LightHouse. Not only are we now running free tech trainings as often as three times a week (Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays), but we’ll also be holding a daylong open house for those who want to really try out everything our department has to offer. And even better, we’ve lined it up to correspond with the Giant’s Opening Day!
What: AT Opening Day Open House
When: March 23, 2017, 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Where: LightHouse Headquarters, 1155 Market St, 10th Floor, San Francisco
It’s quite a batting line-up: Siri, Victor, Sara, Ruby, Candy, the Beetle, Divinci, Alex and his gal Alexa. All of these devices and a myriad of others have the purpose of enhancing your tech independence. The LightHouse AT Specialists, Trainers and AT Vendors will be providing hands on equipment demonstrations and hosting 30 minute product and software workshops throughout the day. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or 415-694-7312. All those who RSVP and show up will automatically be entered to have the chance to win an Amazon Gift Card.
Viruses, strange phone calls, unwanted pop-ups and ads – there are a myriad of ways your computer could be attacked. The LightHouse is pleased to offer a free workshop on how to keep your computer safe and keep you up and running. Come and join our one-day workshop and ask those nagging questions about viruses, pop-ups, ads, email attachments, and unwanted phone calls. Our knowledgeable staff will show you the steps on how to keep you and your computer safe from harm, especially if you are a screen reader or zoom user with additional considerations for security.
Do you have Windows 10? Did you recently upgrade your computer to Windows 10? Do you find it hard to navigate and difficult to understand? The LightHouse is offering a 2-day free workshop to get you up to speed.
We’ll offer tips, tricks and best practices — whether you are a beginner or an expert, come join us and explore the many features Windows 10 has to offer. Space is limited. For more information or to signup, contact Shen Kuan at 415-694-7312 or email@example.com.
On November 6, the LightHouse held its first-ever soldering workshop for people who are blind or have low vision. It was a huge success, and we have the photographs to prove it! Scroll down for more.
Soldering is a fundamental skill in electronics work that involves using a hot iron to fuse metal to form a permanent connection between electronic components. The aim of the workshop was to help students make their own accessible continuity testers – one of the most fundamental tools for students working in electronics without vision.
While most continuity testers use lights to indicate the strength of electric currents, accessible continuity testers emit a range of tones — high for a free path and low for an impeded path. Unfortunately, accessible continuity testers cannot be purchased, and previous manufacturers have ceased production. Each student left the workshop with a fully-functioning accessible continuity tester for use in their future work; and the skills to solder it themselves.
“Blind people are makers. We can do things like soldering and building robots and woodworking,” says Dr. Miele. “We might use slightly different techniques, but the outcome is the same. The LightHouse is all about teaching these alternative techniques so that people can engage in the activities they love, whether they’re sighted or not.”
Here are a few lovely shots from the workshop, by photographer Erin Conger:
The LightHouse’s Innovation Lab will continue to offer workshops in STEM fields, so stay tuned. It is part of our mission to strengthen the representation of people who are blind or have low vision in the tech industry and other STEM fields.
For more information about future workshops visit the LightHouse Calendar or contact Director of Community Services Lisamaria Martinez via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 415-431-1481.