Tag Archives: visually impaired

When Seable took on Thailand – Accessible Holidays for Blind and Visually Impaired

Seable has been on an incredibly exciting mission for the last 3 weeks to our new destination; Thailand.

 

The team from Seable that went on this journey was myself Emma, Holiday Tailoress and CEO Damiano La Rocca.  We set out on this trip with one mission…..TO COME BACK WITH AN EXCITING ACCESSIBLE HOLIDAY THAT WE CAN OFFER TO THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMAPIRED.  I, myself could not wait to get started and show all that we had to offer upon our return.

 

ASo here is our story of our trip to Thailand:

 

DAY 1

 

Arriving at Heathrow airport, we sat and went through the incredible itinerary that Nutty adventures had sent us.  They are the fantastic company that are going to show Seable what Thailand had to offer as an accessible destination.

 

ABOUT NUTTY’S ADVENTURE

 

nutty’s adventures

 

Nutty’s Adventures brings together a mixture of high-quality cycling tours, mountain treks and river-based adventures throughout Southeast Asia.

 

Their philosophy is to minimize the environmental and social impact of tourism activities, whilst providing opportunities for visitors to responsibly contribute to the well-being of the local communities.

 

Nutty’s Adventures is a new style of tour operator and a specialist in CBT, Community-Based Tourism. Nutty‘s Adventures offers all types of responsible travel, green eco-adventure activities and volunteer work holidays.

 

Specialize in Community-Based Travel (CBT) that allows tourists to have a closer connection to local people while directly experiencing their lifestyles and cultural traditions.

 

They are a tour operator situated in the heart of Southeast Asia, and their well-trained English-speaking guides will provide you with remarkable experiences that you’ll be talking about for the rest of your life. Nutty’s Adventures offers a wide variety of 3-day excursions and we also love the challenge of organizing unique tailor-made tours for the individual needs of families, charities, businesses and tour groups.

 

So, as you can see in the last sentence, ‘they love the challenge of organising unique tailor-made tours’ and here at Seable we love everything unique tailor-made for our clients.  We set off on our 13-hour flight with anticipation of what was to come over the next three weeks.  We flew with Malaysia air and we both thought the flight was fantastic.  Comfy seats, great food and a brilliant entertainment system including so many audio books/films, the 13 hours flew by-literally.

 

Arriving in Bangkok, it was 9pm there time and we were excited to drop our bags off and see what the city centre had to offer; and it did not disappoint.  The atmosphere was electric with many people fully enjoying what the street food had to offer.  As did we, and we probably got carried away with wanting to try something from every stall. After tasting each delicacy, finally, our bodies were feeling the effects of travelling and we set off to our hotel to get some rest.  We were staying in the Hotel De’Moc and it was lovely, big accessible rooms with a great balcony. Excited with the knowledge that the next day we started our adventure with Nutty and the team we said goodnight.

 

DAY 2

 

Waking up full of excitement we planned our day ready to meet a member of the team at 6pm.  Breakfast in the hotel was great.

 

We wanted to check out Bangkok city in the day time, to see if it is something we can include into our trip for our clients.  It did not disappoint-under the sunshine the little streets were wonderful, the smells of the food cooking in all the little street food stalls mixed with the sound of the street vendors, was something you must experience.  There were also many stalls selling fantastic clothing for super prices and as a girl I can say that I took advantage of this situation and bought some lovely things, including some amazing trousers for only 100 baht-about £2.50.

 

We set off back to the hotel and waited eagerly to meet the team. Nun was the lady who would be spending the next 2 days with us. She went through what we would be doing for the next couple of days and told us what was a must-see in our last evening in Bangkok.  We said bye and set off to Chinatown and personally it was my favourite evening in Bangkok. The atmosphere was electric with lots of people walking around the many streets of Chinatown.  As we walked along, we tried food from as many stalls as we could and it was all so yummy.  After we had eaten way too much food, we got a tuk tuk back to the hotel.  Tuk tuk’s are fantastic for getting around the city quickly, inexpensive and a great experience.

 

 

 

DAY 3

 

Meeting Nun at 8am we had breakfast and then made our way to Bangkok train station.  After a short wait, we boarded to train to Ayutthaya.  The train was a typical Thai train, with big old seats, fans in the ceiling and had many people walking up and down the aisles selling food.  We bought some mango and watched Bangkok pass up by as we travelled for 1 half hours to central Thailand.

 

 

Arriving in Ayutthaya we got in a traditional Tuk Tuk and went to visit Bang Pa-In Summer Palace. The whole place felt incredibly peaceful, with classical music being played through speakers throughout the grounds, birds singing and the sound of the water.

 

After the Palace, we took the tuk tuk to Baan Koh Kerd and had a village tour, trying out local delicacies and meeting the community.  It was amazing to get to experience their way of life.

 

Seable Thailand Blind Visually Impaired Holiday

 

That evening we stayed in a Homestay that was located on the river.  It was a very traditional house on stilts, that had basic amenities but was perfect for what we needed.  The owner of the home made us a wonderful traditional dinner and we ate it on the terrace overlooking the river.

 

To be continued…..

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

How To Prepare Your Home After A Visual Impairment Diagnosis

After a visual impairment diagnosis, it’s important to think about how it will affect your daily life and all the changes that will need to be made to your living space. It may seem overwhelming at first, but if you sit down and make out a list of your daily activities, you’ll be able to see easily which changes need to be made and start working out a budget for any modifications.

 

Here are some of the best tips to help get you started.

 

Use color

Home_visual_impairment_diagnosis

Painting the railings a color that contrasts with the wall will be helpful.

 

If you have stairs in your home, it will be important to modify them in a simple way to make them a little safer to navigate. For instance, painting the railings a color that contrasts with the wall will be helpful, as well marking the edges of the individual steps with brightly colored tape. You might also consider installing small, battery-operated lights on the facing of each stair step–think of the ones in movie theaters–to help you find them easily in the dark.

 

Change up the lighting

 

Home_after_visual_impairment_diagnosis

Use sheer curtains or light-filtering mini blinds if you want a little privacy.

 

 

Lighting is very important for individuals with a vision impairment. Natural light typically works best, so make good use of the windows in your home. Use sheer curtains or light-filtering mini blinds if you want a little privacy. It’s also a good idea to make sure there are floor lamps and desk lamps near your workspaces or the most used areas of your home, and add lighting to stairways, hallways, the pantry, and closets. Banish those shadows, which can be tricky to navigate.

 

Get organized

 

Home_after_visual_impairment_diagnosis

Paint light switch plates a dark color if you have white walls.

 

It’s imperative to get organized. Cabinets, drawers, and closets should be neat, with a place for everything. You can get sliding racks and shelving to make it easier to find items in the back; place like items with each other and consider using a braille label maker to mark the shelves. Keep cleaning supplies well away from any food items, and, if possible, refrain from storing items on high shelves so you won’t have to use a step stool.

You can use texture and contrasting colors to make important things easier to find; for instance, it might be useful to paint light switch plates a dark color if you have white walls; white tape on black stove controls will help you easily see the settings when cooking.

 

Make safety a priority

 

Home_after_visual_impairment_diagnosis

Furnitures without sharp edges are great protection to people living in the house.

 

If you live alone, safety should be high up on your list of priorities. Keep a fire extinguisher in each room, and make sure all the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order and have fresh batteries.

Clear any clutter from your home and make sure walkways, hallways, and main living areas are easy to walk through, with no obstructions such as large pieces of furniture. Throw rugs aren’t advisable, but if you do have them, make sure they’re tacked down to the floor beneath to prevent trip hazards.

 

Consider a service dog

 

Home_after_visual_impairment_diagnosis

Service dogs are wonderful companions.

 

Service dogs are wonderful companions and can be trained for a number of tasks, including keeping you safe on walks and being helpful around the house. It’s not cheap to train a dog for this service, however, so you need to be absolutely sure you’re ready for the commitment before making the decision to acquire one.

 

Originally published by Zoomax on http://www.zoomax.co/low-vision-information/Prepare-Home-After-Visual-Impairment-Diagnosis.html Special thanks for you!

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

4 Tips for Modifying Your Home for a Person with a Visual Impairment

Modifying your home for a person with a visual impairment is not an easy task, you need to consider both exterior and interior modifications and accommodations. An accessible home is well lit, clutter free, well organized, and safe. We share four tips for modifying your home to make it as accessible as possible for a person with a visual impairment.

 

 1. Exterior Modifications when modifying your home

Redfin Property published a guide to home accommodations for persons with disabilities

 

This first tip will certainly help you modifying your home for a person with visual impairment. People with low and no vision need to be able to get in and out of your home easily and safely. Redfin’s article on making home accommodations for people with disabilities notes that exterior walkways should be free of tripping hazards such as overgrown vegetation and loose landscaping pavers. It’s even better if the walkways are made of smooth materials such as concrete. Sidewalk lights, outdoor floodlights, and entryway lights should illuminate all traffic areas and be bright without causing a glare or an issue for a light-sensitive person. One solution is to add motion-sensor lights that will turn on as soon as someone walks past so that the person with a visual impairment does not need to worry about finding a switch to turn on exterior lights.

If the entrance to the home includes steps, they should be well lit as well. Handrails should be installed on either side of the steps, and brightly colored tape strips or paint should signal the front edges of steps or stairways.

 

 2. Account for Glare

Install dimmer switches on overhead lights when you modify your home for a person with visual impairment

 

It’s quite common for people with visual impairment to be sensitive to light. Assisting Angels suggests on their website that making home modifications that reduce glare makes it easier for these people to see while inside the home. Install interior window treatments such as pull-down shades and drapes that limit sunlight from entering the home through the top of the window. One option is tinted Mylar shades that allow people to see outside but reduce window glare.

Because shiny surfaces reflect light and produce a glare, remove furniture and other items that have glossy surfaces from the home. Mirrors that reflect light and cause a glare should be covered with a scarf or placed elsewhere in the home. Floors, walls, tables, and countertops may have surfaces that cause a glare, so it is helpful to install dimmer switches on overhead lights and purchase lamps that dim to cut down on glare from these items. You also can cover windows that reflect off these surfaces, or you can place rugs on the floor and runners on countertops to reduce the glare they produce.

 

 3. Organize Closets

Locating clothing becomes less of a hassle if clothing is organized by item

 

People with low or no vision need to be able to locate their belongings efficiently. If areas of the home are cluttered and unorganized, it makes it virtually impossible for people with visual impairment to find what they seek. The Center for the Visually Impaired advises on its blog that one of the first areas of the home to organize are the closets. Locating clothing becomes less of a hassle if clothing is organized by item, with similar types of clothing hanging together or complete outfits hanging together. The goal is to organize the closet in such a way that makes it easy for the person with a visual impairment to find the clothing and accessories they want and ensure they can choose a matching outfit each day.

 

4. Keep Traffic Areas Open

Here the final tip to follow when modifying your home for a person with visual impairment. Decluttering the house is another one of the first steps you’ll want to take when preparing your home for a person with a visual impairment. When items are in their places, it is easier to navigate the home and locate things. While many people think about decluttering closets and drawers, it’s important to declutter main living areas and high-traffic areas in the home to prevent tripping and falling.

Don’t leave items in a place where someone can trip and fall or bump into them. Try to keep items in the same place when they are not in use, and avoid moving household items without informing the person with a visual impairment first.

Another task that will keep traffic areas open is to arrange furniture in such a way as to create a natural flow of foot traffic. Try making small groupings of furniture to promote conversations or placing large pieces of furniture against the walls to create traffic areas inside the home.

If you modify your home both on the inside and the outside, you will make a person with a visual impairment feel more comfortable. Exterior and interior modifications can help a person with a visual impairment feel more at ease and strive to be more independent.

“Article provided by Jackie Waters”

Discover Accessible Munich

Make Way For Munich: The Most Accessible City in Europe?

Now is the perfect time of year to take a European city break: the lull between Christmas and spring tends to be one of the quietest times for tourists to travel overseas, and the chilly weather is perfect for wrapping up warm, exploring those famous sites, and drinking hot chocolate on bustling promenades. Thinking of taking a last-minute city break this winter but unsure of where you want to go? You may be lured by the romance of Paris, but its old and dated metro system is an accessibility nightmare (the same can sadly be said for London’s underground) and the cobbled streets of Rome are a nightmare if you are travelling in a heavy electric wheelchair. That doesn’t mean that these cities aren’t accessible with a little planning, but they might not be the ideal first choice for a last minute break. For an easy and hassle free accessible break, why not discover accessible Munich? Its old world charm is coupled with the kind of German efficiency that makes accessible travel here a breeze:

 

Accessible Public Transport

Discover Accessible Munich

Discover Munich’s accessible bus

 

Unlike most other European cities, most than 90% of the underground system in Munich is completely accessible, with access to the stations being entirely barrier free. Whilst the system isn’t extensive (comprising of two lines: the U Bahn (urban line) or S Bahn (suburban line) it goes to all of the major sites you would wish to visit and is a perfectly adequate and affordable way of getting around for a long weekend. If you wish to travel somewhere that is not accessible via the underground trains then the Munich public transport system also features buses and trams. All of the buses in the city are accessible via ramps to the rear doors. The tram system is currently undergoing a modernisation process, so not all of the trams are accessible, but approximately 50% of them are (so far) so if you need to get somewhere on a tram route then it is possible, if slightly inconvenient, to just wait until an accessible tram arrives. Getting around in Munich is perfectly possible then, but where should you be getting around to?

 

Interesting and Enjoyable Attractions

Augustiner – Keller. Discover Accessible Munich

 

Munich is an ancient city at the heart of Germany, and one with a rich history, meaning that there are plenty of tourist attractions worth visiting. The famous BMW museum and factory makes for a fascinating visit, and is proud to be fully accessible, as is the Olympic Park: host of the 1972 Olympic games which were sadly largely overshadowed by what is now known as the Munich Massacre.  If you are interested in exploring the darker period of German history, under Nazi rule, then you can reach the Dachau concentration camp (the first camp the Nazi’s built) via accessible transportation, and the historic site is also largely accessible when you arrive. Less interested in history and more interested in fun? Munich is infamous for being home to over 400 different beerhalls, and the vast majority of these are proud to be fully accessible. For ease and convenience, why not try the Augustinekeller, which is situated right next door to the central station, and is fully accessible.

 

Perfectly Practical Considerations

Discover Accessible Munich

E111 Card

 

Of course, disabled travellers also need to consider the practical aspects of their breaks, including the availability of decent healthcare, should something go wrong, and the accessibility of the airport. The healthcare in Germany is highly regarded as being amongst the best in the world, and whilst it is always recommended that you travel with your own health insurance (particularly when you have pre-existing conditions) our membership of the European Union (for as long as that lasts) means that with a valid E111 card, your treatment here is free.  And as for the airport? Well it’s time to think of that clichéd German efficiency again, because Munich airport is fully accessible and boasts a wide array of excellent transport links into the city, making it easy for travellers with accessibility concerns  to take a last minute trip without having to spend hours worrying about how they will get from A to B. So, Discover Accessible Munich!
“This is an article sent in by Sally Dacre”

Trip to Iceland for Visually Impaired

Holidays for partially sighted and blind travellers.

We have just returned from one of the best trip of the year and possibly in the history of Seable.

Let’s hear it from the participants:

Stacey: I had such an amazing time in Iceland. Did amazing things, saw amazing sights and met amazing people! Thanks for making a great time lovelies ❤️.

Warren: Last week I had an absolutely fantastic time in Iceland, a really beautiful, unique and strange country, on a Victa Milton Keynes trip with a group of people who gelled fantastically well, it was a pleasure spending the week with them. I have had so many unforgettable experience is, being absolutely drenched and freezing cold on Europe’s largest glacier, on a day when most other ttreks were cancelled, visiting some spectacular scenery and landscapes such as going behind a waterfall, visiting what must be the worlds largest warm, outdoor bath, the blue lagoon, smelling lots of smelly sulphur pits, seeing some active geysers, going to The worlds largest penis museum that did not disappoint me and much more. I was lucky enough to try some unique food, the fermented shark tasted like blue cheese but 100 times more intense, puffin, reindeer burger and much more. It is definitely a country I want to go back to and I went with a group of people I want to keep in touch with

Lucy: My Icelandic adventure with the most amazing people! Can’t thank Victa Milton Keynes and Seable Disabled Holidays enough for this amazing trip! Will never forget some of the beautiful things i’ve seen!

Rachel: Iceland was amazing with the best people <3

Alex: I’m jotting this down in the car on the way back at the airport. It’s been an amazing week in Iceland and seems a shame be over. We’ve seen some of the most amazing sights, and experienced unbelievable adventures. But the thing that’s made this trip is the group we were with. I was asked the other day is it hard to volunteer and when your out with people like this never!
Thank you for having me and letting me join in the fun!

Some shots of the trip:
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tactile map of iceland

tactile map of iceland

Developing Technologies For Visually Impaired People

Sometimes when you read the news and hear about the latest advancements in technology it feels like we’re living in the future. 3D printing, driverless cars, robots; science fiction has become non-fiction. What’s also amazing is that many of these advancements are both accessible to visually impaired people, and improve accessibility for visually impaired people to the world.

Here are seven new technologies making the world more accessible, or sometimes just more fun, for visually impaired people.

3D Printing

3D Printing is one of the buzzwords in tech at the moment. There’s been a lot of hype about it but we’re still waiting to see it really impact everyday life due to costs. Hopefully that will change soon, and when it does it should bring with it some fantastic new technologies for visually impaired people.

Pirate3D is a startup with a project that prints 3D models of pictures to create ‘touchable memories’, something we’d love to do for the galleries of photos from past Seable holidays!

Similarly, 3D PhotoWorks, a company founded by a former LIFE magazine photographer, have developed a printing process for creating 3D sculptures works of fine art; allowing visually impaired people to touch and experience them.

3D Photoworks 3D print sculptures of fine art for visually impaired people to access

Meanwhile, The Tactile Picture Books Project at the University of Colorado are working on providing for the youngest in society. They 3D print storybooks for children with tactile illustrations and braille captions, and have made the plans freely available online for anyone to print!

the tactile books project 3d print tactile story books for visually impaired children

Smartwatches

The Apple Watch has numerous features that make it accessible visually impaired people, for example Siri, VoiceOver, Zoom, an extra large watch face, and a taptic engine with optional Prominent Haptic feedback. There also great online communities of visually impaired technology users to help you get the most out of the product, that also provide full accessibility reviews and guides.

On top of this there is also a smartwatch designed especially for visually impaired people. Dot is a smartwatch that utilises ‘active Braille’ technology and allows users to read texts, emails, and even ebooks, as well as incorporating other apps such as a maps feature. Whether or not this functionality is completely usable yet is debatable, but it’s still an exciting use of Braille technology!

Maps

GPS is obviously not a new technology, but applying it effectively for visually impaired people hasn’t been simple. However a new Australian app called Guide Dogs is making strides with the technology, combining GPS controlled voice commands with physical actions — like shaking the phone — to make up for the lack of a tactile surface on a smart phone touch-screen. The app has been available for a while in Australia, and a recent successful test in London means they’re looking to go global!

One problem though is that Guide Dogs can get you to the building, but what about around inside? Once again 3D Printing has the answer! A Rutgers University project is using 3D printing to create tactile maps of their university, complete with braille room names!

Rutgers university are 3d printing tactile braille maps to aid visually impaired people

Finally, we know this is mainly an article about technology for visually impaired people, but here’s a quick something for our readers who are also wheelchair users. Two great new companies, WheelMap and AccessNow are using crowdsourcing to produce interactive map apps that highlight the most (and least) accessible destinations for wheelchair users.

Wheelmap is a crowdsourced map app that highlights wheelchair accessible locations

Cars

Google’s driverless car has been in the news for a few years now, and in 2013 a blind man in San Francisco, Steve Mahan, became the first person to test a driverless car on public roads. The technology is continually advancing, however there have been legal blocks preventing further testing and progression, for example the insistence that a driverless car must still have a driver with a license, meaning visually impaired people would still be unable to use them. However a few weeks ago the U.S. government redefined what it means to be a driver, paving the way for more testing and use by visually impaired people.

Again a quick one for our readers who are wheelchair users. Ford recently unveiled the world’s only volume-production wheelchair-accessible SUV, the BraunAbility MXV. The car features features patented sliding-door technology, removable driver and passenger seats, and a powered, lighted in-floor ramp. Wheelchair users can either drive the car from the removable driver’s seat or ride as a passenger.

Ford has created the first volume production wheelchair accessible suv

Narration Apps

Cinema descriptive narration is also nothing too new, however Pixar, as with their filmmaking, are coming up with ways to revolutionise it. With the release of their new film, The Good Dinosaur, they trialed a new iOS narration app to over 200 visually impaired people. The app automatically syncs with films from Pixar and Disney and provides additional commentary so the user can control their own entertainment experience from the app. Pixar also worked closely with the visually impaired community to develop the app’s language and usability.

Pixar have created an interactive narration app for visually impaired people

iPhone games

This may seem surprising, but smartphone uptake was actually faster among people with impaired vision, with Apple’s previously mentioned VoiceOver screen reader software being installed as standard since the iPhone 3GS. Therefore it has been relatively easy for developers to cater for visually impaired people and there are some great options out there.

The Nightjar is a sci-fi game about exploring a space ship plunged into darkness, was nominated for two gaming BAFTA awards and is voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Papa Sangre II is voiced by Sean Benn and like The Nightjar is a thriller about trying to escape the world of the dead. It won Metacritic’s iOS game of the year award in 2013.

If you’re into a slightly less action based game, Lords & Knights is a strategy based, medieval MMO.

Teaching

See All is a new device from a Russian engineer that converts electronic information into Braille. It has two modules, one for a teacher and one for a student, whilst it can also play audio files and transfer messages from teacher to student, allowing students to interactively learn to read and write in Braille. It’s currently only available in Russia, but hopefully will be available globally soon with web integration so that teaching can be done from anywhere!

SeeAll is an interactive teaching aid for visually impaired people learning braille

Let us know if we missed any of your favourite technology for visually impaired people in the comments and remember to share with your friends who love tech.

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

7 Extreme Sports for Disabled People

There are many perceptions in society about what disabled and visually impaired people can and can’t do, and a lot of these aren’t necessarily based on fact. For example I’m sure if you got speaking to a person in the street about disability they’d probably be shocked to learn that extreme sports can be on the bucket list. Disabled people and visually impaired people can, and do, experience a wide variety of extreme sports. Whether it’s rock climbing, off-roading or hiking, they don’t let their disability stop them!

At Seable we are all about new experiences and challenges, so we have put together a list of 7 extreme sports adventures for visually impaired people or wheelchair users to enjoy whilst on holiday.

 

1. Sailing

Anyone who watched the London 2012 Paralympic sailing knows just how intense the competition and activity can be. The best paralympic sailors in the world competing as they fought against the wind and currents certainly made for compelling viewing.

If you’re an adrenaline junkie then there are numerous places to try competitive sailing, and if a calm day on the high seas is more your thing then there are are some great opportunities  to be had. The Jubilee Sailing Trust even teach disabled people to crew classic tall ships – sign me up!

 

2. Scuba Diving

Scuba diving is a very popular adaptive sport for both disabled and visually impaired people as the weightlessness and freedom of movement underwater can be greater than above the surface. Scuba diving is also just a fantastic experience, an aquatic realm completely different to life on ground. With all your senses being immersed in an almost alien place, diving is something that can be experienced equally by everyone.

There are numerous organisations and charities that provide equipment and training for disabled people, and it is even used as treatment for disabled and wounded veterans, as the weightlessness of diving can help to relieve pain in the muscles and joints. Being underwater is also said to have a calming and soothing effect on the participants.

 

3. Rock Climbing

Rock climbing can be incredibly difficult. It’s a sport that places great demands on your body, core strength, and ability to handle heights. Despite this, climbing is also a fairly popular extreme sport amongst the disabled community, performed both on dedicated climbing walls and in the mountains. Adaptive climbing walls and trained guides mean visually impaired people can learn to scale most rock faces. The BMC Equality Steering Group do fantastic work in helping disabled people get into climbing, and even produce this booklet on disability awareness in rock climbing which contains helpful guidance and advice for anyone looking to get involved.

The GB Paraclimbing team is also very successful, picking up numerous medals at the World Paraclimbing Championships and counting world champions such as Fran Brown amongst their ranks.

 

4. Skiing

Parlympic sailing was mentioned earlier, and for good reason – it’s awesome – but we don’t think there’s any sport with more heart-in-mouth action than visually impaired skiing in the Winter Paralympic Games. Two skiiers hurtling down the mountain within a few feet of each other, weaving in between gates and over slopes knowing the slightest mistake by either may cause a crash; it’s incredible!

Admittedly the death defying aspect of it might not appeal to everyone, and if you’d rather a leisurely glide down a mountain instead there are more relaxed accessible skiing holidays for both visually impaired and disabled people (you can  keep an eye out for Seable’s new destination which includes activities like skiing by signing up to the newsletter).

 

5. Hiking

The views you get when you’re hiking are amazing, but anyone who has stood at the top of a mountain or in the middle of a forest trail knows vision is just scratching the sensory surface. The sounds of the wilderness, the smell of pristine air and the sense of being surrounded by nature are all simply break-taking, so it’s little surprise that there are scores of visually impaired hikers climbing mountains all around the world.

Ashley Nemeth from VisionAware talks about avoiding bears, how hiking helps her relax, and how to use a cane and guide dog when hiking, whilst Trevor Thomas is the world’s only blind professional long-distance hiker and was the first blind person to complete the Appalachian Trail (2,175 miles!) solo and unassisted.

 

6. Paragliding

Before reading on, take a minute to watch this video.

It’s from a company called Fly Chair who make wheelchairs specifically designed for paragliding (their motto is ‘if you can’t walk, fly’). Wanting to know what it feels like to fly is a pretty universal human desire – R. Kelly anyone? – and paragliding is an incredible sensation, felt equally by disabled and able-bodied people alike.

Skydiving is also an incredible adrenaline rush, and 120mph free-fall is another one of those things everyone experiences equally. Tandem jumps are suitable for blind and visually impaired people, and RP Fighting Blindness are even attempting to break a world record this summer by doing the most tandem jumps ever in 24 hours!

 

7. An Arctic Expedition

Okay, maybe an artic expedition isn’t an adventure that everyone can have, but it’s impressive enough to make our list. In April 2009, one hundred years after the first successful North Pole expedition, Dave Shannon became the first person with tetraplegia to reach the North Pole.

Dave’s experience shows that by refusing to give up and with enough commitment to training you can still achieve your dreams, no matter how extreme. Maybe we can’t all travel to the North Pole, but we can all take on Dave’s ethos and use it to inspire us to try new and exciting things!

 

So those are our favourite disability extreme sports, hopefully they might have inspired you to consider a few new adventures of your own.

Let us know if we missed any disability extreme sports experiences that you know, and remember to share with all the adrenaline junkies in your life!

 

At Seable we specialise in holidays for the blind and partially sighted, from active sports holidays to relaxing getaways. Click here to find out more about our holidays, or call us at +44(0) 207 749 4866.

"Virtual vision system" for blind and partially sighted

A potential boost for blind and partially sighted independence

An interesting project is currently underway in Toronto, which could potentially help blind and partially sighted people to navigate the indoors more easily. The project, led by a blind computer software engineer, uses iBeacons, a kind of location services technology.  iBeacons are placed around an area, on hallways, doors, and walls. They then send out Bluetooth signals, which an iOS can pick up. That signal, when recognised by an approaching smartphone or tablet, triggers an audio description of the immediate area, using an app called BlindSquare. Whilst the project is currently only a pilot in Canada, it has a great deal of potential, and it’s success might see it being implemented in more locations. Examples of applications might include informing blind and partially sighted people about the items on a supermarket aisle, or the location of a menu in a restaurant, or the films available in a cinema. You can read the whole article from the Toronto Star below:

‘Virtual vision’ system is a boost for blind independence

A blind computer software engineer from Toronto is giving eyes to those who can’t see.

David Best, a former IBM web developer, has just helped usher in the first pilot system in Canada created specifically to help visually impaired people — nearly 200,000 in Ontario alone — navigate the indoors.

A network of “iBeacons” launched last month inside the headquarters of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) in north Toronto could, Best believes, sweep aside travel barriers, boost blind independence and open up worlds beyond the tip of the cane.

“It gives me virtual vision,” he said of the iBeacons, a recent Apple device.

Small and inexpensive, iBeacons beam information on a much smaller scale than the older GPS-based voice-over technology that has empowered sight-deprived individuals in the open air for several years. Any area under a roof or behind concrete, however, is largely off-limits to GPS, a duller digital tool for indoor spaces.

“GPS works outside; iBeacons work inside,” said Jim Sanders, former president of the CNIB.

BlindSquare for blind and partially sighted

Parapan Am athlete Tiana Knight demonstrates BlindSquare -Image courtesy of Toronto Star

Parapan Am athlete Tiana Knight demonstrates BlindSquare, an iPhone GPS app that helps blind people by voicing out what’s around them. But GPS apps don’t work well indoors, which has led to the creation of a new indoor navigation system that uses “iBeacons.”

Smaller than an ice cream sandwich, iBeacons can be slapped on hallway walls or around the office. They work by sending out Bluetooth signals picked up by iOS. That signal, recognized by an approaching smartphone or tablet, triggers an audio description, or voice-over, of the immediate area through an app called BlindSquare.

“You walk along and it will say, ‘Washrooms on the left.’ It will tell you the elevator’s on the right, and even which floors it goes to,” Sanders said of the simple but potentially game-changing technology.

“It’s a complete breakthrough.”

BlindSquare, which also draws on GPS tech and Foursquare to help visually impaired individuals navigate the streetscape, operates intuitively. Shake your iPhone and the nearest address will be read back. Or type in where you want to go and the app will announce what’s nearby.

“It’s key for getting around the bus route in Calgary,” says Team Canada Parapan Am goalball athlete Tiana Knight, a native Albertan.

iBeacons have been used before, but rarely to unlock their potential for visually impaired individuals.

iBeacons help the blind and partially sighted

Smaller than an ice cream sandwich, iBeacons can be slapped on hallway walls or around the office – Image courtesy of Toronto Star

Smaller than an ice cream sandwich, iBeacons can be slapped on hallway walls or around the office.

As of this summer, Pennsylvania State University is the first higher education institution in North America to install the iBeacon guidance system on its wood-panelled walls. The innovation empowers students who can now locate lecture halls and coffee shops sans assistance on a massive campus with an enrolment approaching 100,000.

Best hopes to see iBeacons in the halls of Canadian higher education and government shortly, with private business to follow.

He discussed the possibility with the University of Guelph last May, and is currently in talks with the University of Windsor. Windsor may be the first entity north of the border, aside from the CNIB, to put the low-energy devices on its walls.

The road ahead won’t necessarily be smooth, Best said.

“The biggest hitch right now that I deal with is attitude. We’re going through such rapid changes in society that business operators, employers are having a hard time understanding the technologies,” he said.

“A lot of times, even though the company may have an inclusive strategy, middle management or frontline management might be resistant because they’re afraid it will impact their productivity.

David Best blind and partially sighted

David Best – Image courtesy of Toronto Star

David Best, a former IBM web developer, has just helped usher in the first pilot system in Canada created specifically to help visually impaired people navigate the indoors.

“For large organizations, when you consider the amount of effort that goes into providing guides for blind people, the payoff is huge,” he added.

Best, who had been completely blind since age 20, has never let adversity deter him. A computer science graduate in 1978, he had been warned the field “was not an appropriate career path for me — so I did it anyway, because I was told I couldn’t.”

iBeacons cost $20 to $30 a pop, and average out to $10 each if bought in bulk, he said.

As the population ages, the number of Canadians who are blind or partially sighted will likely spike by 30 per cent, said Len Baker, executive director of CNIB Ontario.

He points out the everyday possibilities of iBeacons, from identifying which items a grocery store aisle contains to informing users about a restaurant’s Braille menu.

You can see the original article here: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/08/13/virtual-vision-system-is-a-boost-for-blind-independence.html

Blind Travel: 5 Tips for the Visually Impaired

Blind Travel Advice

Since a large portion of our customers are blind and visually impaired, we thought that a number of you would be interested to hear some blind travel advice. Stephanie Green is a blind freelance writer, braille transcriber and ex-archeologist, who has travelled extensively all over the world. In the article below she gives 5 useful tips for blind travel, including technology recommendations and advice on planning ahead. She also has important points to make about becoming an advocate for your own disability, what blind travel is like around the world, and what it is to be a blind traveler. Read on to hear Stephanie’s advice for blind travel.

5 Tips for Visually Impaired Travelers

Since the age of five, I’ve been an avid traveler.

My decision to become an archaeologist like my hero Indiana Jones led me to drag my parents on far-flung adventures, clambering over ruins and hunting for dinosaurs.

And although I discovered in later years that archeology and blindness do not a make for an easy career, my love of travel never abated.

I was born with achromatopsia – a rare genetic condition where my retina contains no cone cells. I’m completely colour blind, severely short-sighted (considered legally blind), and have no depth perception. Still, I’ve traveled solo, with tour groups, and with my husband throughout New Zealand and all over the world.

From my experiences, I’ve compiled following five tips for visually impaired travelers:

1. Rent a Campervan

If you’re travelling with someone who can drive, consider hiring a campervan. You can arrange the space to suit your needs, so you’ll easily be able to find your things. Your companion drives while you chill out. Or (in my case) your companion – in a brief moment of insanity – allows you to take the wheel and you promptly glide the vehicle towards a tree.

Frequent stops at interesting places along the way alleviate the boredom of long-distance driving. You don’t worry about the minefield of problems with public transport, and you’re not sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings every night. Make sure to pack good music.

2. Travel Connected

Internet cafés don’t provide adequate zoom or speech technology for vision impaired users, so if you can’t travel without the internet, you’ll need to bring your own laptop, cables, wireless unit, and software. I’m never without my laptop when I travel. It’s imperative to check out useful sites like Matador before I hit my next destination.

I use Zoomtext software, which gives me customisable magnification and font/colour programs. I can change the look of the screen and the font and icon size to whatever I want.

Zoomtext has audio features, but they’re not as good as programs like JAWS, which is designed especially for fully-blind computer users.

Since decent large print city maps are nearly impossible to come by, I simply enlarge Google maps on my screen, although JAWS sometimes has difficulty with map programs.

3. Consider a Tour Group

Blind travelers have to take additional care when planning travel: sourcing routes through cities and across countries, locating adequate facilities, and booking special guided tours. With a tour group, you don’t worry about most of this.

Transport, accommodation, sightseeing – it’s all taken care of. Many tour group leaders have some disability awareness training and will assist you with specific needs. There are tour companies who specialise in blind tours (look on Disabled Travelers or ask your local blindness institute for advice).

I’m a social person, so mixing coach tours with solo travel helps me meet new and interesting people, and takes the hassle out of planning certain legs of my trip. I prefer good old fashioned budget backpacking tours, and I’ve found companies like Tucan TravelTopdeck Tours and Kumuka friendly, helpful, and encouraging.

4. Plan Ahead to Touch

Rob Gardner, a retired engineer, was travelling to Greece and wanted – more than anything – to see the Parthenon. The only problem was that Rob’s completely blind, and the Parthenon sits behind a scaffold and fence where no tourist is allowed to enter.

So he wrote to his local Greek consulate, and they liaised with the Greek government and granted Rob special permission to cross the fence and stand inside the Parthenon, touch the stones, and walk where no tourist has walked for a hundred years.

Many museums and art galleries develop special tours for the blind, where objects from the collection can be touched. These have to be booked in advance, especially for famous museums like the Louvre and the British Museum.

If you want a unique experience over and above the average traveller, try one of these tours.

5. Inform and Educate About Blindness

I know that many people who are blind prefer to keep their disability private, and I totally respect and understand their reasons for this. Ignorant people treat us like we’re crippled, deaf, and / or stupid even though the only thing wrong with us is that our eyes don’t work properly.

I’ve heard horror stories of airlines forcing blind passengers to sit in wheelchairs while staff members push them between connecting flights. There are numerous cases of airlines rejecting blind passengers after they’re assumed to be a safety risk.

Despite the limitations placed on blind travellers – not by themselves, but by society – I always inform others about my disability. I tick the box at the airline saying ‘blind passenger‘ and the staff make extra certain I’m in the right place. When using public transport, someone will help me onto the correct train, and will often give me a discount.

In many areas of the world, a blind person walking the street is a rare sight. Be prepared for curious questions, and use your travels to educate others about disabilities.

Many people from poor areas do not understand how a westerner can still be blind – their neighbours wear glasses or have cataracts removed and their eyesight is cured. I’m always encouraged by friendly locals to try on their glasses. I smile and say thank you and try to explain that my condition is incurable.

Above all, being a blind traveller is all about seeing the world in your own way. Without sight, I’ll never have the same experiences as a normal traveller. But my experiences so far have been awesome, and any blind person can find their way in the world and create their own memorable travel stories.

You can find the original article here: http://matadornetwork.com/notebook/five-tips-for-visually-impaired-travelers/

blind travel

At Seable we specialise in blind travel. We take care of the transport, accommodation and excursions, leaving you free to do the most important thing: enjoy your holiday. Click here to find out more about our holidays, or call us at +44(0) 207 749 4866.

Bionic Eyes – a Solution to Age-related Macular Degeneration?

Sufferers of age-related macular degeneration were given new hope last month after 80-year old pensioner Ray Flynn, an AMD sufferer, was able to see clearly for the first time in eight years after being fitted with a bionic eye. Mr Flynn had dry age-related macular degeneration, which had led to the total loss of his central vision. He was unable to make out the faces of his loved ones, and had had to give- up gardening, as well as going to see his beloved Manchester United play. His new eye was fitted during a four-hour procedure at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital.

This was the first time a bionic eye had been implanted in a patient with age-related macular degeneration, a condition which affects 500,000 people in the UK. The eye, known as the Argus II implant and manufactured by the US firm Second Sight, had previously been used to restore vision to patients who were blind as a result of the condition known as retinitis pigmentosa. The eye works via a camera attached to glasses worn by the patient. This visual feed is then converted into electrical pulses, and transmitted wirelessly to a retinal implant inside the bionic eye. This implant then stimulates the remaining undamaged cells in the patient’s retina, which send the information to the brain, where it is interpreted as vision. This serves to restore the central vision that age-related macular degeneration sufferers often lose.

Bionic eye for age-related macular degeneration

Ray Flynn’s bionic eye – Image courtesy of Sky News

Sky News reported:

“Now Mr Flynn will be able to read recipes without a magnifying glass, recognise the faces of his family and friends and, while wearing the special glasses, he will even be able to see with his eyes shut.

Mr Flynn had the system turned on for the first time on 1 July and says that, while he is slowly getting used to how it works, it is already improving his life.

“Before, when I was looking at a plant in the garden, it was like a honeycomb in the centre of my eye. That has now disappeared: I can now walk round the garden and see things.

“It has definitely improved my vision but I haven’t been out and about on a bus yet. I don’t think I will for a little while.”

His brother Pete, 77, said they were looking forward to the beginning of the Premier League season with the new sight aid.”

You can read the rest of the article here: http://news.sky.com/story/1523111/world-first-bionic-eye-gives-hope-to-millions


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