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It’s been two weeks since I last checked in here. So much has stayed the same, but things are starting to pick up, especially now that I have the energy to actually do anything more than the absolute bare necessities (thank you very much, covid/not covid!)

Getting out There

Once I was legally permitted to leave my house – in addition to actually having the mental and physical capacity to do so – I couldn’t wait to get out and do things. Exciting things… like going to the pharmacy to fill a prescription, or the bakery the last possible day they were open before closing for Passover. But heading out to pick up a couple things from our local Buy Nothing group proved to be less intuitive and more frustrating than anticipated.

My first “gift” from the Buy Nothing page was a microwave chip maker. It came in its box – practically brand new! – with two trays and a slicer. My Buy Nothing group is in a fairly small area – I can technically walk anywhere to pick things up. However, this area is very easy to get lost in. An avenue suddenly curved slightly and became a street. There was no simple way to tell where along the block the house was located, as the “block” was broken up by multiple avenues (1 Ave, 1A Ave, 1B Avenue). Thankfully, I was able to text the giver, who came out and met me on her sidewalk. I’ll do anything for chips – even get myself lost in a neighborhood that’s supposed to be on a grid pattern!

The second gift was a smart plug – ironically located only a handful of blocks from the chip maker. Knowing the avenue curves and turns into a street, I thought I was prepared for being able to locate the house easily. Not so much… GPS said I was at the house a full two blocks – at the far end of an avenue and a street and around a corner – before I made it there. I loaded Aira to provide visual information since GPS proved useless. After ten minutes of angling, trying to read house numbers ($2.50), a smart plug was in my hand. Unfortunately for me, I still haven’t been able to get my phone to recognize it, and it sits unused, waiting for a time when I have the patience and energy to find some obscure solution I haven’t tried half a dozen times yet.

10 minutes of house locating: $2.50

Work

My second week of working from home felt more like putting one foot in front of the other, and just doing the best I could with what I had. However, what I did learn was that Government Web Site (GWS) #1 – which is mostly accessible, still has that hiccup when certain conditions are met. I was over the moon when I got an email about those conditions that normally means someone else has to click stuff for me, and found I was able to use a touch screen to access information that is not accessible with a keyboard. However, this is definitely not a truly accessible solution – it feels like I have to stand on my head and click my heels three times; without a touch screen, every now and again someone else has to drop everything to help me out.

GWS #2 is still not accessible. Unfortunately, I have twice needed to use it (read: ask someone else to access it for me). I have even spent ten minutes trying to use GWS #2 with the touch screen on my computer (the one that made GWS #1 usable), and even my phone… No dice.

GWS #3 has always been a fully accessible system. It is not overly intuitive – which I honestly believe is part of accessibility – but I have the ability to input and access all the information I need. I used this web site twice over the past two weeks, and ran into zero issues at all.

When my colleague and I set up our accounts on GWS #4 earlier this week, I was told that it had a blue button, and did not look dissimilar to GWS #2 – even the login and setup process was similar. The dread I felt was so powerfully intense… as was the relief I felt when I was able to access all edit fields and buttons completely independently. I guess you can’t really put a price on anxiety, can you?

2 X “outsourcing” = $100; 10 minutes trouble shooting $2.50

Health and Fitness

I am running a half marathon in ten days. Covid/not Covid put a damper on my training, so I have no clue what the race will be like. But my main social outlet is running and runners. Depending on the day, the distance, and the ability and willingness of humans to guide, I can either run independently with Jenny (who is still willing to run!) or I run with a friend guiding me by using a tether. My main running tracker is an app whose android app finally – six years after I started using it – labeled the buttons on its tracking screen. I had previously labeled the buttons myself, but new app updates or resets always reset the labels, too! Being able to just tap a button has taken a load off I hadn’t realize I had been carrying.

Another app I am excited to try is the Revision Fitness app. It’s been developed by a visually impaired Paralympian, and at first glance all of the workouts are fully described – something that’s generally missing from most workout apps on the market. I had planned to use my free trial during the first week of April… and we all know how that went.

Home and Personal Care

Last week, one of my favorite bath and body shops (L’Occitane) had a huge sale on their entire store. I scooped up some old favourite products, and decided to try a few new ones. When my box arrived, I was happy to receive my pampering items, but a part of me was disappointed, too. L’Occitane’s foundation has proclaimed that they are committed to labeling as many of their products as possible in braille. For years, I have purchased products, knowing that I could read the label on the bottles of shower gel or cardboard sleeves around a perfume without even having to use my sense of smell at all. Even their travel bottles had their full product name (“Cherry shower gel”, “Lavender Foaming bath”) on the bottles. My new products just said “shower gel” without any other identifier. I think it might be a blip – I’ll probably treat myself around my birthday this summer – but having something that’s so accessible be changed in such a way felt like something had been taken from me. Imagine going through your pantry, and your boxes of crackers – instead of saying “Ritz” or “Wheat Thins” or “Triscuit” – every box in your pantry just says “crackers”. Could you open your box and smell the crackers? Sure! Could you shake the box to determine your choice by weight? Of course. But the simplest way to tell your items apart is to read the label on the packaging. As it stands, I placed an elastic band around one “shower gel” to tell it apart from the other “Shower gel.” Now I just have to remember which one has the elastic!

I finally got the hang of the Covid test thing. I got to the point where over a 4-day period, I only needed fifteen minutes of Aira (read: working eyeballs!) to read my Covid test results. Still all negative, thankfully!

I’ve also chosen to not do business with a local business because their web sites are not accessible. One web site had a contact form that wouldn’t let me select anything in a drop-down menu – keyboard, touch screen, it didn’t matter. I spent fifteen minutes trying both, in case I missed a mandatory field. But nope… if there was a drop-down menu, I had no access to it. I seriously debated contacting the business/web site provider, but it was in the middle of Covid/not Covid, and I just didn’t have the mental energy to explain that I was really just trying to get in touch with them, and by the way I was having challenges accessing their web site, so would they mind fixing it so I could give them my business? I decided against this approach for two reasons: (1) I have other options out there for that particular service; and (2) the company mentioned a heavy reliance on technology, so I wasn’t confident that accessibility wouldn’t be an issue during our entire business relationship.

15 minutes of test result reading ($3.75) + 15 minutes of inaccessible web site navigation ($3.75) = $7.50

The Bottom Line

If it looks like I am throwing a pity party, I’m not convinced I’m not. I thought this exercise – quantifying the “little things” in my day that make this blind life harder – would be interesting and informative. Instead, while I am grateful for the things that put me on an equal playing field, I’m seeing how very very far we have to go.

I am respectfully submitting an “invoice” in the amount of $112.50 + a box of elastics.