Blindness Links

Things here are crazy. That’s really all I can say on it at the moment mostly because I just don’t have the time. But I thought I’d share these interesting links because they all are somewhat related to achromatopsia and are very promising retinal studies:

Blind Mice See After Cell Transplant — Really fascinating study on mice who apparently gained light perception, and possibly more vision through replacement cells injected in their eyes. There’s hope that this might benefit those with retinal damage or deformities, but the study itself is basically in its infancy.

Treatment for Retinal Degenerative Diseases — Listing of a bunch of clinical trials on various retinal disorders and degenerative diseases.

Applied Genetics Technologies Corp. Pre-Clinical — This particular study isn’t quite off the ground, but intends to utilize gene therapy.

Definitely curious to see where things go with each of these.

Captchas

It’s purely coincidental that I’m posting about WordPress here on almost a daily basis lately. Honest.

You all are probably well aware of what a captcha is. They’re one of the oldest spam deterrents around and they are also one of the more ineffective because bots have gotten smarter. However, they’re still just as inaccessible for those with various disabilities as they ever were. I can’t really speak to anything except for visual impairments, but I think my point is universal: captchas suck. Basically, they make it difficult, if not impossible for those of us incapable of “solving” them to be able to post a comment on a blog.1 And judging from the amount of whinging my non-disabled friends make about them, they’re not much less aggravating to people who aren’t physically blocked by their presence.

Captcha exampleThis morning alone I visited not less than five separate blogs with captchas and the saddest thing was they were all WordPress sites! I admit, I’m not the biggest commenter out there and often lurk around the blogs I read, but I was all set to put fingers to keyboard on each of these blogs and I couldn’t. Yes, spam is evil and it sucks, but fighting it off shouldn’t be at the expense of your potential commenters! And there are other options out there, specifically with regard to WordPress I will say much better options. Since I’m a giver, here’s a few links to some of the ones I use on various sites of my own and/or that I maintain:

Akismet
Pros: It has remarkably good accuracy in spam detection and it learns from each individual site how to perceive spam. Also it’s actively worked on and developed by the same awesome people working on WordPress itself. Best part is, for personal websites, it’s free.
Cons: If you don’t pay attention to your settings, it’ll happily trash comments that might be legit. And while in my experience this is rare, there is the chance that you or one of your commenters could get flagged as a spammer and getting whitelisted can take some time.

Bad Behavior
Pros: It’s stops spam before it has a chance to flood your spam folder. And it’s been actively developed since before Akismet first came on the scene. (In fact, I’ve been running it on my website since it first became available.)
Cons: I’ve heard of reports where people have installed it and then found themselves unable to access their own websites. (Personally, the only time I’ve experienced any trouble with it was a few years back when the plugin writer accidentally set the wrong blacklist in the code and inadvertently blocked every user of the plugin!)

GrowMap Anti-Spambot Plugin (G.A.S.P.)
Pros: None of the drawbacks of Akismet or Bad Behavior potentially thinking you or other legit commenters are spammers. And you probably won’t have to edit your theme files to get it working. (Also, if you’re like me, you can leave snarky error messages for people who don’t read the rules and forget to check the box.)
Cons: It won’t stop persistent bots from sucking up bandwidth while they keep trying to get through your comment form. Also, it doesn’t stop trackback spam — unless you don’t allow any trackbacks — but there is a plugin for that.

CloudFlare
Pros: It basically does all the security work before anything hits your website, so you don’t waste precious bandwidth on evil spam.
Cons: It’s a paid service, though, they are partnered with a ton of web hosting companies to offer free/discounted services.

I’m personally a fan of the Akismet and Bad Behavior combination and have been using it on my website since 2007 with absolutely zero issues. I also heartily recommend CloudFlare and I would actively use it on my own website if it didn’t screw up the redirects I have in place . . . and also I’m not particularly fond of the fact that it forces the www2 in the URL. But CloudFlare not only secures your site, your account gives you access to all kinds of additional apps like automatic daily backups and file monitoring.

And while they come with their own set of pros and cons, it is worth mentioning that both IntenseDebate and Disqus have built in spam filters and don’t use captchas. Sortakinda win?

  1. Or whatever area of your website is being “protected” by captcha.
  2. At the very least it’s redundant, if not depreciated.

AD Links

To round out the end of International Assistance Dog Week I thought I’d provide some links to a few of my favorite assistance dog bloggers:

Who Invented Dark is the blog of my friend Nancy. We met way back in 1998 when I returned to GEB to finish training with my first guide dog. Her blog is a full of wonderful anecdotes of her life and is a terrific representation of the great person she is.

Kim has a somewhat eclectic roster of topics upon which she blogs about at Dog Days of Kimberfus, including book reviews and crocheting! Much of her daily life as a guide dog handler is chronicled and it says a lot that what is essentially routine to me still seems fascinating and interesting when she writes about it!

The talented Katrin has some of the most insightful posts at her blog By My Side where she highlights each of her past and present guide/service dogs that she’s been partnered with. Her artwork is nothing short of amazing, too.

Admittedly one of the most fascinating people I’ve had the privilege of randomly meeting on the internet is Rox’E who blogs at The Doghouse. Her informative posts about her life as an owner-trainer guide dog handler and a deaf-blind person are always insightful and fully of her charming dry wit. And with her houseful of dogs there’s always something interesting going on! Oh, and she and her husband also run Pawpower Creations where they custom-make guide dog equipment and a range of aromatherapy (or “smelly stuff” as Rox’E calls it) items.

And last but certainly not least is Laura who maintains Dog’s Eye View; I’ve mentioned her quite a bit this week due to her guide dog sponsorship auction, which ends tomorrow! At first glance the main draw is probably her amazing photography, but there’s more than pretty pictures here. Most notably are her excellent and thought-provoking posts on specific issues and topics relating to guide dogs and disability in general.

There are many more wonderful assistance dog related blogs out there that I could link, but I think this is a great sampling to start off with. Also, I don’t have endless amounts of time to link each and every blog I read — and there are tons more that I’m sure I don’t even know about! Not to mention I need to whip this house into some semblance of clean and organized for tomorrow so that my li’l bro can make his monster cupcakes to show off to the whole of the intarwebs!

Fourth AD Carnival

What better time than smack-dab in the middle of Assistance Dog Week for the fourth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival to be put up! This time the theme was “Difference” and there are many wonderful posts from all aspects of the assistance dog world, including my submission about transitioning between my guide dogs. I highly recommend clicking over and reading some, if not all of the contributions to this ADBC and if you are so inclined please pass along the link! The Carnival runs quarterly and more information is available here.

Also, my friend Laura’s auction is still going on. Many of the items donated are one-of-a-kind and/or handmade and there have been a few additions since the auction started Monday morning. Remember all the proceeds go towards sponsoring a potential guide dog puppy!

International Assistance Dog Week

Fidelco isn’t a member of Assistance Dogs International, Inc.,1 but it’s worth noting that they are sponsoring International Assistance Dog Week. IADW was created to recognize of all the devoted, hardworking assistance dogs helping individuals mitigate their disability-related limitations. ADI lists the goals of IADW as:

  • Recognize and honor the hardworking and selfless assistance dogs
  • Raise awareness and educate the public about how these specially trained animals are aiding so many people in our communities
  • Honor the puppy raisers and trainers of assistance dogs
  • Recognize heroic deeds performed by assistance dogs in our communities

One way in which you can participate in IADW is through my friend Laura‘s Guide Dog Puppy Sponsorship Auction. Along with several others, I donated a bunch of items, including cupcakes, for her to auction off in her fundraising efforts to sponsor a potential guide dog puppy for Guide Dogs of America. There is a terrific variety of items available for dogs, cats and humans alike, so please browse around and consider bidding in support of her project.

That’s all for now.

  1. I can only speculate as to why, but it wouldn’t surprise me if part of it had to do with the fact that ADI very obviously promotes feeding food they would not approve of.