This page contains background information
about myself, my
website and how it came about.
My name is Gene and I live in New Zealand (also
known as Aotearoa - which in plain English is the land of the long
white cloud). Many people think we are that little island off the
bottom of Australia. That place however is called Tasmania.
We are the country to the south east of Australia, made up of 3
main islands and a whole heap of little islands surrounding it.
Wellington is our capital and also where the Lord of the Rings was
filmed. Actually, to tell the truth the Lord of the Rings (and now
the Hobbit) was filmed all over New Zealand. We are blessed where
we live. We can be at the beach in 30 minutes, up in the snow in
20 minutes (if it is there), or out in the country in just a few
minutes. If you would like to read more about New Zealand
please visit http://www.newzealand.com/
You will soon see why we love it here!
I am New Zealand born. I am a young
male (or at least I would still like to think that I am). I was
diagnosed at the age of 4 with RP (also known as Retinitis
Pigmentosa). In plain English, I have tunnel vision during the day
and at night I have night blindness. As I have gotten older my
field of vision has closed in and the tunnel of vision that I have
has gotten smaller. I am to the point where I can't read written
material any more and what vision I do have left doesn't really
help. Imagine travelling through an endless tunnel and over time
the tunnel gets narrower and narrower.
Due to my father's work obligations, I travelled a fair bit of New
Zealand when I was younger (with my family), then we went to
Australia for 17 years. While over there, I got my first Guide Dog
(called Kenny) who I brought back to New Zealand. Since then, I
have retired one called Hurricane and am now working with one
called Opo (they are named after a provincial football team and a
famous dolphin from the 1950s). That is how my email address came
about for this website.
I have been an advocate for the blind in a variety of roles,
starting when I got my first Guide Dog. There was a lot of opening
of closed doors, and educating the public in quite a few areas.
Being the first guide dog owner (in the area that I lived in at
the time) meant I was the first to take my guide dog on a bus, the
first to go into shopping centres and so on. While living over in
Australia, I met my wife (who I have been married to for over 25
years), and she followed me back to New Zealand. It has been a
while now and we are still loving it (especially the green green
grass of home and the scenery we have here, not to mention the
abundance of water!). As a younger man I found having longer hair,
and wearing a leather jacket and heavy metal shirts while having a
guide dog meant you were stereotyped by some people, and I vowed
never to judge others by their looks. Peoples perceptions of
visual impairment or blindness seemed to be that you had to be
old, and had to wear dark glasses and/or have white eyes. They
also seemed stunned to find a young man legally blind who was
active and willing to give anything a go. They seemed to expect
blind people to sit around and not do much, and that you had no
vision at all. Thanks to my experiences along the way, I continued
on with advocacy wherever I went and still do to this day!
Computers (and what they can do) is something I have always liked.
Back then, I had more sight and could use one with the text
etcetera enlarged and colour schemes etcetera changed therefore
making it easier for me to use. My first screen reader (around
2001) was funded so I could study at the time. The programme was
called Supernova and it had full screen magnification as well as a
basic screen reader back then. As time progressed, my needs (in
relation to magnification) became obsolete. I came across NVDA - a
basic screen reader - back in about 2007 and watched it progress.
I was not in a position to update my first screen reader/magnifier
to it's new release each year. Even back then, I started using
NVDA and could see it's potential and the people it could reach
world wide. It was around 2008 when computers went into our public
libraries with free internet access. I wanted to use those
computers just like every one of our sighted counterparts, but
without adaptive technologies (like a screen reader), this was
impossible. The alternatives weren't cheap and could only go onto
1 PC. Then, you had to add the price of upgrades after that.
Wanting to have the same access as everyone else, I told them I
used a screen reader called NVDA (because I was visually impaired
and needed it to be able to use the computer). Once the APN were
contacted (Aotearoa People's Network - who manage the New Zealand
library computer network), and testing etcetera had been done, the
programme was allowed access to the library network. If you would
like to see the news article from the Stratford press (from when
NVDA was given access to the APN network), please visit https://www.nzherald.co.nz/stratford-press/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503390&objectid=10973253
to read the news article. NVDA has been updated on their network
once a year ever since!
Special thanks to the APNK for allowing this access for print
disabled people nationwide! So, this means you can go up to any
computer on their network and use a copy of NVDA. They also gave
access to 2 magnification programmes. If you would like to
find out more information about the access we have, please visit
the following link. It can be found at http://www.aotearoapeoplesnetwork.org/content/partner-libraries
I would like to see this access increase in other parts of the
country as well as throughout the world!
NVDA was also mentioned at the Round Table on Information Access
for People with Print Disabilities which can be found at http://printdisability.wordpress.com/conference/2010-conference/8a-aotearoa-peoples-network-kaharoa/
I do like their motto "Think globally, act locally".
Please note: Since this installation (back in 2008), two other
library networks in New Zealand have taken up the initiative also
(Christchurch City Libraries in 2018, and Auckland City Libraries
in 2019). For more information on these and other networks,
please go to my
nzlibrarieswithnvda web page.
How my website
I started building my home page about April
2011. Since then I have turned it into a small website which is
being added to periodically (as I come across information about
blindness related topics). When I went to different blindness
related groups, different topics would come up from time to time.
So, hence some of these pages started to come together (for
example tips and tricks, pen friend ideas and so on).
It was a way of passing information on to others. Whether it was
what adaptive technologies were out there, or a new trick that
could be learned - I found myself asking a lot of questions on
different lists and going to websites all over the net. I was
asking questions to different people in blindness related groups
and found we all had a little bit of knowledge, but not in the one
place! Hence, I started building this website into what you see
today. I also wanted to get out information on the NVDA screen
reader and where you could get it from. I noticed a few people on
the NVDA freelists were asking questions about how to best use
NVDA. It was a lot easier to put the information into an easy to
use webpage for new users of NVDA and to flick off a link to that
webpage to say how to do stuff, rather than type it up over and
over again (either from me or someone else).
While putting together the website, I thought it would also be a
good idea to put in information on how sighted people can help us
out in the community. Some sighted people (actually a lot of them)
were not aware of some of the things we come across in every day
life (for example overhanging branches). So hopefully someone (or
everyone) who comes to my website, can leave with some information
(that can either help us out when in our community, or a VIP learn
a new tip or trick they can use at home). A lot of people do not
realise just how much they rely on their eyesight until it is
taken from them. Whether you are a shop owner wanting to find out
more about how you can help us, or someone getting information on
how to help someone else who is visually impaired - hopefully this
website has helped in some way or another. One day the website
might even get a domain name and be easier to search for.
This website is a form of both education and advocacy. It is up to
each of us to advocate our aspirations and communicate our needs
to others around us (whatever those may be). As an example, if you
are in a restaurant and are having trouble seeing the menu, do not
be afraid to ask the restaurant to enlarge their menu, or to get
someone to read it for you. The more education we share, the
better the next person's experience! It is up to the Visually
Impaired Person to speak up, as if we do not speak up then how can
a non vision impaired person know what our needs are? You
may also be helping others without realising it!
If you would like to contact me (or even pass on some information
that may help someone else), please feel free to send me an email.
I can be contacted by clicking on the following link mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org