‘In Your Pocket’ Review

In Your Pocket, which used to be known as RNIB In Your Pocket, is a device which allows the user to listen to content from RNIB including talking books, national and local newspapers and magazines and podcasts.

In Your Pocket is based on a mobile phone, and recently, it has become able to make and receive phone calls, send and receive text messages and store contacts.  A key concept of In Your Pocket is that it is primarily controlled by the user’s voice.  It is the first device I have come across which will let the user add a contact by voice, only resorting to an on-screen keyboard if a name has an unusual spelling or if a word is consistently misrecognised.

This device is ideal for someone who wants to read a lot of books and newspapers as well as the basic mobile phone functionality.  The device is supplied with an O2 data plan giving 3 gigabytes of data per month; enough to listen to a talking book everyday for 4 hours over a 1-month period.  This means that In Your Pocket is ready to use as soon as you take it out of the box and turn it on.  There is no setup procedure necessary.  In Your Pocket can also be connected to Wi-Fi rather than using up your quota of mobile data.

The In Your Pocket package is available on a 24-month contract for £22 a month.

Initially this was an RNIB project, but it is hoped that more sources of books and other reading and listening material will be available in the coming months.

All this functionality can be achieved using an IOS or an Android phone and joining the RNIB talking book library and paying £39 a year for access to the RNIB Newsagent service.  You then need to install at least 1 book reading app for newspapers, learn to use the RNIB Overdrive app for listening to talking books and use a podcast player for listening to your chosen podcasts.  This requires you to have a good knowledge of your mobile device as well as the ability to use it with the built in screenreader or screen magnifier as required.  This can prove rather technically challenging for many people.

In Your Pocket offers an all-in-one ready to use solution which can be operated using natural speech.  You are talking to a machine not a person, so while you can use natural language, you must be specific about what you want.  If you have used the Amazon Echo or Google Home smart speakers, using In Your Pocket should be quite straight forward.  I have found that most people pick up the idea of controlling devices by voice quite quickly and naturally.

For more information about In Your Pocket visit the website –http://www.inyourpocket.org.uk or contact the In Your Pocket helpline on 0333 772 7708.

DhK2ImzWAAA6Cqr
Photo of Graham holding an In Your Pocket device.

Written by Graham Page, ELVis Assistive Technology Adviser

Advertisements

Masuma’s Adventure in Lanzarote with Seable

Staying on the holiday theme from our previous blog, I’ll be sharing my time on the northernmost and easternmost Canary Island of Lanzarote.

Dragging myself out of bed on Tuesday morning at 1.45am was the least pleasurable part of the holiday!  However, several hours later and over 1600 miles away from London I landed in a landscape described to me as black lava rock fields and white-washed houses.  I was met by Damiano from Seable and Marialaura at the arrivals area of the airport.  They were our guides for the trip.  Whilst we waited for my friends to arrive we acquainted ourselves with each other.

With a jammed packed itinerary for the week ahead, knowing that all the planning and organising was being taken care of by Seable, my friends and I were in good spirits and looking forward to unwinding from the Monday to Friday work routine.

My first enjoyment came with the freedom of being able to go for a run on the sandy beach of Playa Los near our hotel without needing to be guided.  The sound of the sea alongside me provided a sense of direction, and the wind in my hair and the changing texture of the sand on my feet was exhilarating.  Knowing that our guides were nearby provided a comforting safety net.

Our visit to Timanfaya National Park involved an underground sensory experience simulating how it might feel to experience a volcanic eruption.  After walking and exploring the Martian-like landscape we got to see the geothermal demonstrations. Steam gushed out of the ground with a whoosh sound a moment after water had been poured into a hole.  Our guides provided us with running commentary throughout the day, but also allowed enough time for me and my friends to spend time together.

We also had the opportunity to do some sea kayaking. As it was something I hadn’t done before, I was a little apprehensive, but once I was in the kayak with my instructor the worries disappeared, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  This day was a day of firsts for me as I also tried snorkeling.  After I got over the fear and the panic I felt when putting my head underwater I came to like the sensation.  The instructors on the day provided the right level of support and were not at all overbearing.

Other activities we took part in included horse riding and tandem cycling, which were equally thrilling.  We also had the opportunity to make some bath salts, which I’m very much looking forward to using.

I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to do a fair amount of travelling with my family to countries like India and Egypt, as well as with friends to European cities including Rome and Cologne.  However, I was yet to go on holiday with just my VI friends, until recently.  Having Seable to organise all the arrangements from excursions to travel whilst abroad, as well as having sighted guides meant I could fully relax and unwind.

Seable provides tailored holidays for blind and partially sighted people.  This can range from a relaxing break to something more active.  It’s your holiday, it’s your choice!

masuma-blog-photo-e1532007236219.jpg
Photo of Masuma and her friend Shamaila standing on a large rock at Timanfaya National Park.

Written by Masuma Ali, ELVis CEO

Ray’s Tips for Travelling When You’re Visually Impaired

Summer is finally here and if you’re thinking of going on holiday, or preparing to, then make sure to read my blog post to the end.

We all love going on holiday.  However, unexpected issues can arise that can test your patience and you’ll soon feel like you wish you’d never left your house. Here are my top 5 tips that can help you have a smooth and trouble-free holiday.

Tip 1: Research a reliable travel provider/transport operator

Do your research about travel providers catering to visually impaired people.  Seable organises accessible holidays for solos, couples, families, group of friends and charities.  You can visit their website at http://seable.co.uk.  There is also TravelEyes who offer the opportunity to travel with other VI people and sighted guides.  You can visit their website  at https://www.traveleyes-international.com/.  Moreover, the TripAdvisor website is a great resource for reviews about travel providers, destinations and places of interests.  Also, make sure to read your travel operator’s disability policy (usually found on their website) to check if they can accommodate your needs.

Tip 2: Make arrangements with your accommodation and transport

Be sure to make arrangements in advanced with your hotel and transport provider, especially if you’re traveling with a guide dog.  Specific guidelines for travelling with a guide dog can be found here: https://bit.ly/2m5oXvz.  You’ll also need to check your destination’s policy on guide dogs to ensure you are both not denied entry upon arriving at your accommodation.  Alternatively, if you’re travelling alone, contact your travel provider and let them know you will need assistance checking in and boarding.  This will save you time when you arrive at your point of departure.

Tip 3: Ask for help!

Don’t feel embarrassed to ask for assistance; whether it’s in your hotel, restaurant, airport or train station.  More often people are willing to help than not.  If you’re lost, then more the reason to ask for directions.

Tip 4:  Use tactile labels on your luggage

Trust me when I say using raised stick-on labels will make life so much easier when you’re trying to identify your luggage, or if you have some sight, tie a coloured ribbon around your luggage.  If you’re a braille reader, invest in some braille labels with your name and hotel address on it.

Tip 5: Research attractions and venues that are accessible to disabled people

Lots of attractions around the world offer free entry for vision impaired people, for example, the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.  However, if you’re planning on going holiday closer to home, check out this list of top accessible attractions: https://bit.ly/2L3ZvBv.

Lastly, if you’re worried about travelling solo, here are some extra travel bits you should know!

  • Use a backpack instead of a suitcase. This will allow you to travel hands-free, and, if needed, use a cane or guide dog.
  • Carry spare change – not all places accept card payment.
  • Label your medication so it can be identified easily.
  • If you don’t use a cane or guide dog, then carry a medical letter from your GP or doctor containing details of your impairment and assistance you’ll need.
  • If you’re a white cane user, always pack a spare one in case your main one breaks or goes missing.

Paris3

Photo of Bhavini on holiday in Paris, France.

Written by Ray Calamaan, ELVis Communications Coordinator

Why Social Groups are Important for Vision Impaired People

Let me tell you how I’ve become involved with East London Vision.  I became a member of the Hackney Vision Impaired group at the beginning of 2018.  I found out about the group through a Hackney-based organisation called Outward, and they referred me to the Low Vision Impairment Forum at Thomas Pocklington Trust, who then referred me on to ELVis.

Before joining ELVis, I felt completely isolated.  After graduating from university, a year ago, I couldn’t find work, so that led me to feel like I wasn’t doing very much and spending most of my time on my own.  It was a really depressing time for me.  When I spoke to Bhavini at ELVis for the very first time, she invited me along to the Hackney VI group, and I literally felt alive and hopeful that I would be back and part of the community again.

I started coming along to the Hackney group in February this year, and ever since then I’ve attended ELVis-supported events like the ten-pin bowling in Stratford, which I enjoyed very much.  The outings mean a lot to me and the rest of the group because it allows us to visit new places that we wouldn’t normally go to because ELVis always does a great job at making sure they’re accessible for vision impaired people, and that’s great!  We also have meetings with guest speakers like Graham from ELVis who gave us a demonstration of the Amazon Alexa and the Google Home speakers.  The group members find these meetings extremely useful because they’re informative and we learn about technology or services that can enhance our independence.

I feel really blessed to be part of the Hackney VI group.  I feel a sense of security knowing that there’s a group where I can meet other people who live with sight loss.  It has helped boost my confidence as I have more things in life to look forward to.  Also, social groups in general are important for vision impaired people because it gives us the opportunity to make new friends, exchange vital information and make a difference in the community.  I hope everyone who reads my blog post and isn’t part of a social group is encouraged to get out there and find one. Alternatively, if you live in Hackney, why not get in touch with East London Vision to sign up with our group.  I hope to meet you very soon!

IMG_3981
Photo of Tolga holding a bowling ball at a ten-pin bowling event with ELVis at Westfield Stratford City.

Written by Tolga, member of the Hackney Vision Impaired Group