Android One – A Real Break Through

If you are in the market for an accessible mainstream smartphone, you have 2 choices available.  You can choose an Apple iPhone or an Android phone.  There are arguments about which is the most accessible.  Apple offers a very good out-of-the-box experience, with phones that are regularly updated that have a long-life cycle i.e. the time between the release of the product and the time when it no longer receives updates.   Apple also has a network of shops offering apple products as well as technical support and advice/training.

Android is much more customisable, but until now you really had to choose a Google phone such as the Pixel if you wanted regular updates.

Android phones are available from as little as £50. But as well as considering the processor and the amount of RAM and other specifications, it is also necessary to find out what version of Android is installed and then make an educated guess as to whether the phone is likely to get updates.  Many phone manufacturers choose to put their own software on phones and change the way they look.

As a result of all these variables, buying an Android phone can be really very difficult, and it can be hard to get good independent advice about what you should buy.

In order to give more choice and to introduce some stability, Google has recently introduced a program called Android One.  Phones that meet the Android One standard run plain Android, otherwise known as stock Android with the minimum of other software installed. They should get updates for at least 2 years.

Currently, in the UK, the Android One phones are generally made by Nokia, but Motorola is due to release an Android One phone by Christmas.  There is more information about Android One available at https://www.android.com/one/

Note that not all these phones are available in the UK.

These phones include the Talkback screen reader and the ability to magnify the contents of the screen using magnification gestures.  There is not as much out there in the way of tutorials on Android as there is for the iPhone, but if you are interested in trying Android and you are prepared to learn and experiment yourself, there has never been a better time to do this.  Producing phones with guaranteed updates should help give piece of mind for anyone who wants to try Android for a reasonable price.

A phone such as the Nokia 5.1 can be bought for under £200 which is well worth considering for those on a budget.  The cheapest current model of iPhone costs more than twice this price.

Here’s a link to the John Lewis website selling the Nokia 5.1 for £189: https://bit.ly/2CPmsb8

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Photo of Nokia smartphones.

Written by Graham Page, ELVis Assistive Technology Adviser

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An Interview with an ECLO

In this week’s ELVis blog post, I share an interview with an ECLO based in East London.

What does ECLO stand for?

ECLO stands for Eye Clinic Liaison Officer.

What does an ECLO do?

That is a really difficult question!  An ECLO works directly with people with low vision, deteriorating vision, sight loss or impending sight loss, and their carers.  The support is both practical and emotional, is for people of all ages and is extended to carers and family members.  They provide timely one to one support and quality information and advice, emotional support and access to other statutory and voluntary services.  ECLOs connect people with the practical and emotional support they need to understand their diagnosis, deal with their sight loss and maintain their independence.  The ECLO has the time to dedicate to people following their appointment, so they can discuss the impact their condition will have on their life.

For example, one of the people I support I met when they were diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP).  This came as a complete shock for them as they had never heard of this condition.  As an ECLO I was able to give them the time, space and support they needed to process this information.  I was able to give them information on RP in layman’s terms, refer to their local sensory team and link them with local charities such as the RNIB, East London Vision and RP Fighting Blindness.  I am still in regular contact with this individual, who is still working in his job with support from Access to Work, has accessed Personal Independence Payments and is receiving counselling to help him process everything.

That is just one example; ECLO’s can support anyone who has sight loss at any point in their journey.  If a patient has a question, then an ECLO will find the answer and put them into contact with the right people.

How long does it take you to train to be an ECLO?

The RNIB in partnership with the Royal College of London provide ECLO training which takes around 3 months to complete. This consists of 4 days training in person learning a range of 18 different modules from eye conditions to emotional support. This is followed by an exam and essay around 3 months later.

How many ECLOs are in each hospital?

Unfortunately, not every hospital with an eye clinic has an ECLO (yet!) and the ones that do generally only has 1.  The RNIB have produced a document with a list of every ECLO and what hospital they are based in.  If anyone would like to find out if their hospital and eye clinic has an ECLO, you can find out via the following link: https://www.rnib.org.uk/sites/default/files/Eclo_role_report.doc

How do you get an ECLO to assist you?

If anyone is interested in getting support from their local ECLO, they can find the details in the link posted above and contact them directly.  Alternatively, next time you’re in the hospital you can ask a member of staff who should be able to introduce you.

Do you like your job?

I love my job!  Every day is completely different, and you get to meet some amazing people along the way.  It can be really challenging but it is one of the most rewarding jobs I have had the pleasure to do.

What is a normal working day like for you?

That is an impossible question to answer, as every day is different whether it is supporting individuals in clinic, chasing Certificates of Visual Impairments or making referrals.

Written by Christine Edmead, ELVis Administration and Information Officer

Grit, Limestone and Determination

After many months of vigorous and intense training for the Peak District Challenge 50k walk, Saturday 22nd September arrived and with it a 4.30am start!  Everything I had worked for was about to come together in some shape or form.  What it really meant in reality was I had no idea!  But 5am while forcing myself to eat yogurt and Granola wasn’t the time for self-doubt.

With final checks of backpacks and walking boots on, we made our way downstairs.  Having struggled to get a cab the day before, we left it in the capable hands of the reception staff at the Millstone Country Inn, who assured us that there would be a cab to pick us up.  Our cab angel arrived on time much to our relief- I certainly didn’t fancy a 15 minute walk just before I was about to walk 50k!

With registration and the necessities done, I was feeling an array of emotions from nerves to excitement.  With a feeling of butterflies in my stomach, we began the biggest trekking journey of my life at around 7am.  The first 10k of the walk was easy on flat ground along the road, but we were more than aware not to fall into the trap of false security as a difficult 10k at Castleton was approaching.

Castleton was just the beginning of the difficulties that lay ahead for our remaining 40k.  No amount of training would have prepared me for the toughness of the terrain.  We had to tackle from step up and down hill climbs with loose rocks of various sizes, to trekking along narrow paths with stinging nettles on one side and a range of descents on the other.

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 The team “Look Who’s Walking” at the top of Cave Dale during their Bronze Challenge.

The moments I was able to enjoy on the walk included listening to nature and how the sounds and echoes changed in different areas like valleys with rock faces on either side.  We also walked on the sandy heathered expanse of the Peaks, where my team mates even spotted some deer in the distance.

Towards the end of the walk, we had to cross some streams.  I generally love the sound of water, but I was too tired to enjoy anything by that point because all I could think about was to just keep moving.  Every step was a step closer to the finishing point!

The last 5k was the hardest as I felt I had nothing more to give, but I couldn’t give up as I’d come too far to do that.  I’ve never known 2k to last so long that it felt like 4k!  When my teammate, Ian, said that he could see Memorial Hall, which was at the finishing point, I couldn’t believe it.  When we turned right and through the gates emotions took over and there were no words.  With the final check point scanned and our time logged, the walk was completed.  In that very moment we had made history being the first blind and sighted group to tackle and complete the Peak District Challenge.

Seeing family and friends at the end was honestly the best feeling in the world, and I am so grateful to my family for making the journey and coming along for the weekend.

I won’t be putting on my walking boots anytime soon, however I certainly don’t want to lose the level of fitness I have gained.  I will be considering running as an option, which is something I’ve haven’t done properly before, therefore it is a great outcome from the walk as it has pushed me to do something else new! 😊

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Bhavini and Masuma, both smiling, wearing their purple Peak District Challenge shirts that says ‘Grit, Limestone and Determination’. They are standing in front of a window looking into the ELVis office.

You can still sponsor the Look Who’s Walking Team at our Just Giving page to help raise funds for the Bendrigg Trust.

Thank you for reading!

Written by Masuma Ali, ELVis CEO

National Eye Health Week 2018: Looking After Your Sight

This week is National Health Week 2018, which runs from Monday 24th September to Saturday 30th September.

National Eye Health Week is a national campaign encouraging everyone, young and old, to think about eye health and the importance of looking after your eyes.

Team ELVis have been very busy this week promoting the campaign across East London.  We’ve been talking to members of the public sharing advice and information on how to achieve good eye health and reduce the effects of sight loss.

Here are some of our top tips on how to keep your eyes healthy.

Eat healthily

There are numerous health benefits that come with incorporating healthy foods into your diet, such as healthy eyes and good vision.  Leafy green vegetables contain lots of nutrients like lutein which protect the eyes and reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.

Exercise regularly

Although exercise doesn’t have a direct link to eye health, there are benefits exercising can have on your overall wellbeing, such as reducing the risk of diabetes.  Diabetes can cause damage to the blood vessels behind your eyes and can lead to permanent vision loss.

Drink less alcohol

Did you know the recommended units of alcohol for a per day is 4 units for men and 3 for women?  Alcohol contains toxins which causes the optic nerves carrying your vision from the eyes to the brain to swell, which can lead to vision problems like blurry vision.

Quit smoking

Smoking has a negative consequence on your eyes and vision. The chemical toxins in tobacco damage the surface and structure of your eyes. Quitting smoking will decrease the likelihood of your eye health from further deteriorating.

Wear sunglasses

Sunglasses are not just a fashion statement!  They protect the eyes, especially on a very bright and sunny day.  When you’re buying a pair of sunglasses look out for ones which are labelled “UV 400” as these will protect your eyes from damaging UV rays which can cause permanent retinal damage.

Attend an eye examination

Going to see an optician for an eye examination can help detect any visual problems that can be corrected by glasses.  In addition, an optometrist can detect any health issues like heart disease and high blood pressure before you notice any effects on your eyes.

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Ray and Paul from ELVis with the local sensory team and eye clinic staff at The Royal London Hospital.

Written by Ray Calamaan, ELVis Communications Coordinator

Me and My Guide Dog’s Journey, so far!

Me and my guide dog’s journey began around 5 years ago, which you can read all about by clicking here.

Last month, I had a potential guide dog match stay at home with me for one night and this included practicing walking together.  My Guide Dog Mobility Instructor and I both felt that it went very well.  As a result, I started my training at the end of August, and I am currently training with my first guide dog.

It has been amazing to learn different commands on how my guide dog can safely guide me, how I can spend him, which means taking him to the toilet, and how to pick up the mess.  Also, what his feeding patterns are like and how to understand his actions and behaviour.  Moreover, I learned different techniques of navigating steps, train stations, narrow spaces, busy and cluttered pavements, taking him on a free run and so much more!

I am sure you will get to meet my guide dog soon.  In the meanwhile, here are some tips I can share with you about guide dogs: firstly, you should always ask if you can say hello or stroke them.  A guide dog could be working and therefore a distraction could, potentially, put both the owner and the guide dog at harm.  Secondly, always be mindful with food around guide dogs.  They are trained not to scavenge, but they cannot be at fault if temptation arises.  Grapes and chocolate are definitely a no-no as these can be poisonous for them.  Lastly, if you’re playing with a guide dog, try not to get them too excited as they like to play back, and it will be difficult for the owner to calm them down.  Also, if a guide dog is settled and calm, then it is best to wait until they are active again before interacting.

With my guide dog, I have managed to walk to my train station, get onto the platform, get onto the train, out the other end and walk to my office.  This is something I haven’t done since December 2016 after losing a bit more sight.  I am now also able to walk to my bus stop and get the bus and go to my local shopping centre, confidently.  I also learnt the route to my hairdressers, doctors and chemist.  It feels so fantastic to just go somewhere when I want and not when others can take me!

Of course, I still have a lot to learn whilst on my guide dog training.  However, just 3 weeks in, I feel my guide dog has made a huge change; independence wise and helping me to be out in the fresh air as opposed to being cooped up in taxis.

Adapting to waking up early and making sure I have all his belongings that I may need when out and about, as well as factoring him into my life, has been an easy adjustment to make.  My family simply adore him, and when he is not working the harness comes off.  We love playing with him, watching him play with his toys and taking him out on his free runs.

You can follow updates on my guide dog progress by following my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/visualeyeswithbhavini

Bhavini smiling with her guide dog.

Written by Bhavini Makwana, ELVis Activities Coordinator

Nicola’s Farewell Message

Saying goodbye is often very difficult.  However, knowing that you’ll be able to look back on happy memories can make it a bit easier to cope with.  Sadly, my time at ELVis has now come to an end, but I am lucky in that I am able to look back on the time that I’ve spent here knowing that I’ve had some great experiences and that I’ve learnt a lot along the way.

I’ve talked in this blog before about how little I knew about the sight loss world before I started my post with ELVis.  I was ‘blind’ to all the issues that VIPs have to face every day, but also to the myriad ways that people are able to overcome these in order to live an ordinary, and sometimes extraordinary, life.  My awareness of the vision impaired world has increased drastically, and this is knowledge that I will be able to carry with me and pass on to others.  I will now be a much more vocal supporter of disability rights as well as ensuring that I live my life in a way that is as inclusive as possible.  I would like to thank every single VI person who I’ve met over the course of this job for talking to me about your experiences, for giving me the opportunity to learn, and for being extremely patient when I’ve been slow to understand (and also when I’ve not been guiding very well and have caused you to trip up).

But as well as the more serious side, this job has also been great fun!  I’ve been very lucky and had the opportunity to go to places and try things that I never would have done otherwise, and to do so in the company of some great people.  I’ve already written a farewell letter dedicated to all the members and service users I’ve met over the course of this job, but I’d like to say, again, thank you very much.  Not all the activities went completely to plan, but you certainly helped to make them all thoroughly enjoyable!

And finally, I have to say a massive thank you to all of my ELVis colleagues, past and present.  This job wouldn’t have been anywhere near as enjoyable as it was without your support and guidance, or the many snacks you brought into the office!  It’s been wonderful getting to know you all, and I’ll miss you a lot.

Of course I’ll stay in touch and keep up to date with what ELVis is getting up to in the years to come.  I wish everyone all the very best, and I look forward to catching up with you when our paths cross again in future.

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Photo of Nicola holding up her leaving card and presents with the rest of the ELVis team.

Written by Nicola Stokes, ELVis Service and Delivery Manager

Christine’s Fruit Cake Recipe

As you might have gathered, I love making cakes as well as eating them.  One of my favourites is fruit cake which I am going to share with you.

Fruit cake ingredients:

  • 8 oz self-raising flour
  • 4 oz caster sugar
  • 4 oz butter or margarine, softened at room temperature
  • 2 medium eggs (beaten)
  • 4 oz mixed dried fruit
  • 2 oz glacé cherries
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C, 350°C fan or gas 4. Line and grease a deep 7-inch round cake tin.
  1. Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl. Beat in the eggs a little at a time, adding a little of the flour to prevent curdling.
  1. Fold in the flour using a metal spoon. Then fold in the fruit. Add a little milk until the mixture is a soft dropping consistency.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin.  Level the top of the cake.
  1. Bake in the oven for 1 – 1 ¼ hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  1. Leave to cool in the tin for about 5 minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack.

HOPE YOU ENJOY BAKING THIS CAKE AND EATING IT!!

 

Written by Christine Edmead, ELVis Administration and Information Officer