Catalogue of calamity leads to my Guide dog quarantined

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I have been travelling with BA for many years, choosing between BA and another British carrier long haul but always BA in Europe. You see, I was born deaf and started going blind in 2011, registered deafblind at 12 years old and becoming a Guidedog owner at 16 years old. Travelling has been a love and desire of mine especially whilst I still have the tiniest window of vision. I have been fortunate to have been able to incorporate travel with my work in digital, accessibility, usability and raising awareness of sensory impairments including Usher Syndrome the condition that has robbed me of my hearing and sight. I'm sure you will appreciate travelling is incredibly challenging and as a result I do have real anxieties each time I am flying.  Not just because I am deafblind and use a Guidedog but because I have experienced real discrimination, lack of understanding...
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Access to sound, to people and to things

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I recently googled what is a hearing aid? The definitions varied from: Cambridge Dictionary - hearing aid meaning, definition, what is hearing aid: a device worn inside or next to the ear by people who cannot hear well in order to help…  Wikipedia - A hearing aid or deaf aid is a device designed to improve hearing. dictionary.com - Hearing aid definition, a compact electronic amplifier worn to improve one's hearing.  I could go on but let's face it most people would think the above, however this is really basic stuff and quite outdated when considering what the latest in hearing aid technology is and can achieve. I therefore googled Smart Hearing Aid from what I could see with my blind eyes there isn't a dictionary definition, evidently Smart hearing is simply a phrase, referred to in this way: The phrase Smart Hearing has been coined over the last few...
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Young Digital Leader Nomination

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I was shocked but incredibly proud to learn I had been nominated for Young Digital Leader 2017, even more surprised to be shortlisted amongst such amazing talent. Having been excluded growing up I am passionate about inclusion advocating for those with specific accessibility needs, for our ageing population, for those with temporary disabilities, also consulting and raising awareness of need with corporates all over the world. Accessibility is for us all, design and develop your website, app, property or environment with the minority in mind then you will find you have become accessible to all, never close a window. There is so much work to do in the fields of accessibility, inclusivity and usability, this really is just the beginning.   An exciting time to be involved in evolving assistive technology much of it enhancing for most and truly life changing for others. It is a time when it is...
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Wonder Women in Technology - 'Never tell me I can't!'

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I was thrilled to be asked to deliver an ‘Ignite’ presentation at this event at the Ministry Of Justice building in Westminster. An Ignite presentation was a first for me. I have been a keynote presenter for 7 years and had never heard of an Ignite presentation. After some research I discovered Ignite is a series of moving slides 15 seconds per slide and for this particular event I was asked to put together 20 slides - the shortest presentation I have ever been asked to provide and in a format I am not familiar with but hey, I am not afraid of a challenge! After setting up my presentation and manually going through them I could not find any clue as to how to get the slides to slide every 15 seconds - thank goodness for my technical friends on social media and to the truly inspiring Lisa Mae...
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My Naidex Accessibility Experience - 2017

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I was invited to speak at the Naidex’s conference at the N.E.C in Birmingham in March. Naidex; innovations for the future of the independent living industry. Naidex is Europe’s biggest and most  far- reaching trade, professional and consumer  show dedicated to the care, rehabilitation, and lifestyle of people with a disability or impairment. The topic of my presentation was ‘Inclusive technology and how to make it more mainstream’ along with snippets and referrals to my own story.  Knowing the nature of this event I had imagined not only a variety of people presenting and showing equipment but also a mix of people with all different disabilities and needs interested in digital innovation available or becoming available in the future. On arriving with my guide dog Unis and my Dad who kindly took time out of his own schedule to drive me to Birmingham. The NEC Conference Centre is huge and...
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Return to Campdigital 2017

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I was asked to be closing speaker at Camp Digital last year and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Not only did I enjoy it immensely it also opened many new doors for me in ways I had not considered. That presentation seemed to bridge a gap in bringing together the designers and developers and an understanding of needs and end user requirements,  also that accessibility is not about ticking boxes on a checklist but more about real people, grey areas and solutions. My work involves accessibility and usability consulting along with keynote speaking alongside my charity work raising awareness of the condition I live with which means I rely totally on assistive technology to live my life. I am passionate about inclusion having myself experienced exclusion and indeed my company logo asks “Is your window open to inclusion?”  It became very clear that Sigma and I share the same views on...
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Generation Accessibility - Grandad and Me

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One thing most (god willing) will not avoid is growing old! It doesn't seem to matter how fit we are ageing brings new challenges. I have always had the best relationship with my Grandparents and since losing my Nannie 10 years ago I have grown particularly close to my Grandad and spend as much time with him as I can.  Grandad can be quite a grump but I love his wisdom and his belief in me.   The funny thing is although there are 55 years between us we have lots in common when it comes to how we get by on a daily basis. Grandad is not registered deafblind but he relies on assistive technologies similar to what I do and he doesn't even realise it! Grandad has worn reading glasses most of his life and they have gotten more and more magnified as he has got older.  ...
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Is your window open to inclusion?

Is your window open to inclusion?
Accessibility - Able to be reached, approached or entered via Oxford Dictionary  I found myself in the world of accessibility almost by accident.  I did not even realise I had specific accessibility needs until I began to go blind. In real terms I have accessed the world very differently to most because of need, however, I wonder how many really understand that they too use lots of features in accessibility. It seems that until things become "trendy" or "cool" they are sadly not in the majority of mindsets, so do we try to make accessibility trendy or just hope it becomes a part of early training and education? Can we really wait for "trendy" as our ageing population increases and their reliance on the ability to access life independently increasingly looks toward technology? Accessibility is not just about those with disabilities, it is for us all.   I myself have...
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Bali - Sound Sensations

Bali - Sound Sensations
At the end of my work and networking trip to the other side of the world, Mum and I made a trip to the beautiful Bali to spend the last 10 days relaxing. Arriving in Bali was surreal, it was very dark outside, I hate arriving anywhere in the dark as I see so little.   Our body clocks were already extremely confused! The intense humidity hit us as we looked for our taxi service.  We were met at Denpesar Airport by a sweet Balinese gentlemen dressed in traditional Bali attire, I felt quite important when Mum pointed out this man who was stood waiting for us with a banner with our names on it.  This lovely man spoke perfect English and without much of an accent too so I was able to understand him quite easily, accents can be a problem for deaf people, thankfully for me, not this...
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Australia's 10th National DeafBlind Conference 2016

Australia's 10th National DeafBlind Conference 2016
I was flattered to be invited to speak at this conference a year ago. A trip to Australia, a presentation and to meet others living with similar challenges to my own, an opportunity not to be missed. The journey was long and testing, but it was worth it to be a part of such a great event. I was annoyed with myself that I was unwell but my excitement drove me on. Senses had made every effort to make this conference fully accessible for all in the DeafBlind community- I was extremely impressed. There was good lighting, there were On Stage interpreters, hand on hand interpreters, finger spelling (HoH) interpreters, STTR (Speech To Text Relay) screens reasonable sized screens, black background and white large text positioned on either side of conference room, and finally a generous amount of staff and volunteers who were there to ensure full inclusion. "Wow" I...

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Qcon San Francisco 2016

Qcon San Francisco 2016
I was flattered to be considered to speak at Qcon San Francisco this year. To discuss accessibility challenges for people living with similar challenges to my own but to make it more technical than I usually would.  I was delighted to be in a position to ask for help from my friends at Sigma with whom I work alongside from time to time. Chris Bush and I set about putting together a great presentation that would make the audience of digital giants, designers and developers simply consider accessibility, it’s importance and relevance in the world of technology. Chris is the first person I have ever done a joint presentation with and I have to say I enjoyed it, he brought technical expertise and I feel we both complimented each other very well.   Qcon was enormous, the biggest event I have ever been to.  In one of the largest hotel’s...
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GDS - Looking at the shades of grey

GDS - Looking at the shades of grey
I was invited to the Second Cross Government Accessibility Meetup as a guest speaker in the summer, so took time out to travel up to Leeds.  Another great opportunity to speak about the importance of accessibility for all on all Government websites. I found it very refreshing that those attending were very positive about making a difference.   I think it is much harder for people who do not rely on specific accessibility features to completely understand and absolutely impossible to be completely up to speed with all disabilities and impairments. I cannot speak for all, however, I can advocate for many living with my condition and for conditions with similar challenges.   Whilst Usher Syndrome / deafblindness might be considered a rare condition a lot of the challenges I experience now could well be challenges for everybody at some stage in life particularly with ageing. I was born deaf...
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Talking accessibility at Media City

Talking accessibility at Media City
I was lucky to be invited to speak to the BBC's Accessibility Champions, they had all come together from all over the country to Salford's Media City. A fantastic audience to talk about two of my biggest passions, accessibility and technology. Speaking about the difficulties so many have in accessing the things many take for granted. I'm always delighted to get questions after a presentation.  Several questions were based on my online experiences using the BBC website and also the BBC iplayer app. I use the iplayer app most regularly, I rarely watch television.  The reason for this is the use of colours on the app is far more acceptable to me with my poor vision.  The dark backgrounds are less painful on my eyes, on anybody's eyes but especially damaged ones. I access iplayer on my MacBook or iPad, I can personalise and the smaller screen works so much...
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Guide dog Unis my flying companion

  Over the past months I have blogged a fair amount about British Airways both good and bad and thought a few flights further down the line it appropriate to revisit the whole "flying with guidedog" subject again. In May I had a horrendous time with BA both outward journey and inbound.  I was not with Guidedog Unis on this occasion and though on booking the airline had been informed of my deafblindness the information had failed to reach all departments and therefore my needs were not taken in to account. British Airways took the matter very seriously and as a result changed their ticketing facility to enable deaf blind to be printed on a ticket for the first time ever, previously only deaf or blind could be recorded.  It was a fantastic achievement and I am very thankful that BA took this onboard and made these important changes, as...
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Dynamic Text Fest - updated

Dynamic text galore! As we all know Apple products, get fairly regular software updates.  I had read and heard a few things about iOS 10, but was intending on waiting to experience it before making comments. A few instant differences, my text seems larger. I already had larger text enabled via Accessibility settings and with this some apps enable dynamic text so also enlarge text, however, in settings my text seems clearer, larger and bolder, very positive, though not all text size is consistent through all apps.  There was a lot of chat about a new iMessage. I couldn't imagine how it could be improved.  Instantly noticeable are now three symbols, the 'camera' symbol being instantly recognisable, however, the the other two symbols I had to scrutinise!   After some time zooming in I discovered the middle is 'digital touch,' like on Apple Watch, though this isn't quite as simple....
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Resound Roadshow - June 2016

In June this year I was invited to speak on one of GN ReSound’s roadshows. I was particularly interested in this roadshow as it involved speaking to audiences of NHS audiologists around the country. There were 5 locations, Glasgow, York, Nantwich, London and Bristol. It was a fabulous opportunity to raise awareness of Usher Syndrome and how the needs of the deafblind differ to the needs of the deaf, of my experiences of going from deaf to deafblind and my reliance on the best possible assistive technology, the importance of best possible smart hearing aids which without a doubt can and do compensate with the onset of blindness.  As most of us on the Usher Syndrome journey start out as deaf individuals audiologists really must understand and identify the initial signs of the condition and consider how different a journey life is being deafblind. Having had my Linx2 hearing aids...
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Technology and Healthcare - Bring it on!

Technology and Healthcare - Bring it on!
It was very concerning to read Sense's report https://www.sense.org.uk/content/equal-access-healthcare and made me sit down and seriously consider my own situation regarding healthcare. I would say I am amongst the more capable of deafblind people, which often goes against me when it comes to support, which as always comes down to a lack of understanding of Usher Syndrome. Usher Syndrome is the most common cause of congenital deafblindness and we all have daily varying challenges, healthcare is just one of the many! Starting from the beginning, my beginning: All appointments and there are lots, are expected to be made either on the telephone, face to face or in writing.   The obvious problems here are lots of people with or without hearing aids cannot use a telephone and would therefore have to rely on somebody else or face to face.   Face to face means getting somewhere possibly twice, to make...
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Applewatch week without Challenge

Applewatch week without Challenge
  First notable observation was how quickly my iPhone battery ran down 'Did I really not use my phone as much before?'  It is crazy to think that an Apple Watch can reduce the usage of an iPhone, but on a very important positive far better for my eyes. I definitely feel a degree of reassurance with my applewatch on, which was more accentuated by not wearing it, I constantly looked at my wrist as it wasn't there I took to looking at my iPhone afraid I’d miss the things I completely rely on my watch for.   I hated not getting notifications via prominent haptics. As a result I was constantly revisiting my phone to check for notifications, and once my phone was open I checked everything which was both time consuming and wearing on my eyes and pretty unproductive! The next negative, the most obvious one for somebody...
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'Virtual Reality, bring it on'

'Virtual Reality, bring it on'
Not so long ago I attended a Virtual Reality workshop, hosted by Maneesh Juneja, Digital Health Futurist. Before attending I spoke with my GP to be sure virtual reality would not be detrimental to my condition and would be a recommendation to anybody using this equipment - for me the possibility of dizziness, nauseousness, both or neither.  Dizziness I suffer with anyway so nothing out of the ordinary. I was delighted to meet up with Mannish again and to meet Mike, Shirley and Helen for the first time, all people I have met thanks to Twitter. I knew there were various headsets to try, and was intrigued as to how this might impact on Health and Social Care. Maneesh presented himself very clearly and had a very accessible presentation and covered a lot that day.  It became very clear the first obstacle would be price, something that all too often...
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BA you listened could you listen a little more?

After my recent report regarding very unacceptable treatment whilst flying British Airways Premium Economy to Las Vegas in May I’m very pleased to announce that they have at least changed their ticketing practice and are now able to add both deaf and blind instead of just one disability, this should now make very clear to all staff the unique accessibility needs of any deafblind traveller travelling and to ensure the appropriate support /assistance is in place.  I was very pleased to see this on my ticket for my flight last month to Glasgow. This is absolutely a step in the right direction however there is still work to do.  I have suggested to British Airways have all safety instructions and menu’s available on the iPads each staff member appears to have which would then solve the issue of accessibility for the majority with blindness, visual impairment or low vision, how...
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