ZoomText USB

ZoomText is one of the leading adaptive software programs for screen enlargement. I’ve been using it for over ten years now and one of my biggest gripes about it is that you must acquire a license for every single installation. That may not sound so bad, but take for instance my own experience: I had three licenses purchased and installed a copy on both my desktop and laptop. Then my desktop died and had to be reformatted. At the time I didn’t think about that I was using another license to reinstall my copy of ZoomText, but when I brought the program to work to have it put on my computer there, I wasn’t able to because I’d exhausted my licenses. Granted, a quick phone call to AI Squared resolved this dilemma, it was still an inconvenience and I ended up wasting an entire day at work.

Today I was reading the latest issue of The Braille Forum and saw an announcement for a new version of ZoomText on a USB drive. Not only can ZoomText now be brought quite literally anywhere, one doesn’t need to purchase multiple licenses to install it more than once. I’m wondering how plausible it is to get that as my next upgrade.

Now I just want to see a portable version of JAWS!

Guide Dogs in China

This article was recently forwarded to me in an email:

Ping Yali, China’s first paralympic champion with vision of a mere 0.05, has been in a low mood recently as she cannot apply for a license for Lucky — her guide dog.

Lucky, the first ever professional guide dog working in Beijing, entered Ping Yali’s life early December after being trained in Dalian, and has greatly helped the disabled athlete during her daily life.

Unfortunately, Lucky, a male golden retriever weighting 40kg, is among the city’s blacklist of banned dogs and is now facing difficulty getting a required license. Without a license, Lucky’s presence on the street could be seen as illegal and he can be taken away by police.

Ping Yali has visited her local Public Security Bureau over the crucial issue. Police officers say they are willing to help but claim a gap in the current law pertaining to guide dogs prohibits them from issuing Lucky with a proper license.

Beijing banned large or ferocious dogs back in 2006 in a bid to fight rabies, forbidding keepers from taking their dogs to public places like markets, stores, commercial areas, parks, hospitals, etc. But many such places are inevitable locations for a guide dog to be at when helping his or her master.

Alas Ping Yali is in a hurry. “If Lucky stays at home or hangs about for too long without going out, he will lose his ability to serve as a guide dog,” the Olympic torch bearer said.

“Now he barely reacts when the bus is coming, the drivers have refused him entry too many times. And whenever we go to the supermarket, he is in a low mood, as the security guard scolded him loudly last time.” Ping Yali said.

Ping Yali wrote done her worries on her blog, receiving attention and support from many netizens. Many called for a new law to be set up especially for guide dogs while expressing pity for Ping and Lucky’s situation.

“Without a license, Lucky can only stay at home and probably lose his sense of orientation, so how can I still take her to the Olympic Games?” Ping Yali said, mentioning her plan to take part in the Olympic torch relay in 2008.

The Organizing Committee for the Beijing Olympic Games announced on December 28 that guide dogs in aid of the disabled could enter Beijing’s public places during the Beijing Olympic Games.

But Ping Yali is worrying whether or not she and Lucky can still go out on the street after the Olympic Games. If not, she will have to send Lucky back to Dalian.

[Read more…]

GDB Discontinues GSD Guide Dogs

Recently, a letter sent to Guide Dogs for the Blind graduates was made public on the National Association of Guide Dog Users email list:

After being part of our history for sixty-five years, we are regretfully nearing the end of the German Shepherd breed in our program. This foundation breed, first matched with veterans returning from World War II, has served our graduates well for many decades, but times have changed. The number of guide dog users that match well with a German Shepherd have diminished and our world has become faster, more congested, and distracting creating additional challenges for this generally alert, active breed.

Certainly, there are some German Shepherds who fill the bill admirably and are wonderful working guides. The issue we face is the majority of this breed does not fulfill the work they were bred for and the very issues which make them incompatible with the program make them difficult dogs to manage overall.

We are not alone on this issue. The decline of the German Shepherd breed for guide dog work has been recognized by other leading guide dog schools around the world. A poll of 70 international guide dog schools found that although 36 use the breed in their respective training programs, not a single one cited the German Shepherd Dog as the best suited for guide dog use in today’s busy environment.

Our breeding specialists, veterinarians, and instructors have been tracking this emerging trend for several years and have worked to reverse it through breeding exchanges within guide dog programs, outside purchases of breeders and puppies, donated dogs, and rescue organizations. Through all these efforts the success rate continues well below the colony average.

The large percentage that does not qualify for the program gives us strong reason for concern. These are dogs that are active, vocal and often have a hard time adjusting to a kennel environment. Staff resources must be focused on managing a small number of dogs to provide a quality of life that meets our high standards of care. General traits of the breed including high energy, tendencies toward protectiveness, and prey drive contribute to their complexities of success as a Guide Dog or as a pet. Guide Dogs for the Blind devotes tremendous effort into finding suitable adoptive homes for these dogs that will offer quality of life to both the dog and the adopter.

We have reviewed these combined factors from an ethical and humane standpoint and are adhering to our decision to only add breeding stock to our colony that meets our criteria. Thus, the anticipated decline of the German Shepherd breeding colony, as first reported last spring, has now materialized.

[Read more…]