Monday, 15 April 2013

25) Live a day blind

Yesterday, on Sunday the 14th of April, I decided to live blind for the day.

I've wanted to try this for a while. I thought it would be interesting, and for a lack of a better expression, eye-opening to "see the world" as a blind person does. I have a bit of a fear of being blind, and thought that this could slightly help. So just before bed on the Saturday I turned on my phone accessibility and put on my blind fold.

The morning

Using my phone

Thankfully in my sleepy morning daze I remembered what I was doing and didn't instantly take it off. I lay in bed at 9am trying to unlock my phone for about 10 minutes. Android's accessibility controls are really powerful, I was impressed. Even being blind for a day I was able to open up a Reddit app and hear some of the top links, with Android reading out the headlines, and the articles if I clicked through.

After using my phone for a while I got dressed (I felt around for my jogging bottoms, and a t-shirt that I thought could match), and got dressed. 


The next part was a little harder. I hadn't thought, but it is a very risky thing for a blind person to stand-up-pee. Even trying is a disaster waiting to happen. I decided to enjoy the luxury of a sit-down-pee, though it didn't feel natural.

I then tried to bush my teeth. This was much more difficult than I'd thought it would be. I put my finger on my toothbrush to try and feel how much toothpaste was going on. I couldn't feel any... so I squeezed the tube lower. I still couldn't feel any, so squeezed more. Somewhere along the way the toothpaste sneaked out and I ended up covering my hand and toothbrush with way too much toothpaste.

The keen-eyed may notice I haven't mentioned showering. Don't judge me.


For breakfast I got a glass of squash (for people who aren't lucky enough to know the joys of squash, it is highly concentrated juice that you add water), and I impressed myself with how I didn't make it overly strong.. but it was all guesswork. I felt around the cupboards for cereal, and although mostly successful  there was quite a bit too much milk.

The afternoon


Before I started being blind I downloaded a game designed especially for the vision impaired, called "BlindSide". It is a game set in a 3d world, except you play it using only noises. I thought it could be fun. Actually getting to the game was another matter. 

I turned on my laptop, sat for a while waiting for the start up sound, and then realised I hadn't turned on my laptop. I pressed the power button harder, and heard the familiar ticking of the hard-drive. I waited a few moments before attempting to put in my password. This proved very difficult, as there were no sound cues. I tried typing the password in, guessing where the keys were (I never look at the keyboard, so it shouldn't have been hard). But.. this didn't work. I tried a few more times, before deciding to feel around the keyboard for the letters, and try doing it slowly. This also didn't work.

Eventually I called Brandi down (she was painting) to put in my password, and she told me it was on the desktop screen. I dunno if I had put it in correct, and it didn't play the welcome sound, or it was hibernating and opened up on the desktop... but either way, without her I'd probably have had to give up.

The day before I started this I tried Windows accessibility things. Turns out they pretty much have none. I read about a program for blind people, but it costs £1000.

Brandi helped me open the game, and I played for a while. I had to find my way around a room using the ticking of a clock, a dripping tap, and TV static. In the game everybody wakes up blind, and there are monsters eating people. It was actually really difficult.

Moving around the house

Using noise cues in the game got me thinking that if I was blind it would probably be useful to have a different clock in each room of the house. I expect using them you could know exactly where in each room you were.

Navigating the house wasn't overly difficult. I didn't bump into many things, and didn't have to wave my hands around too much. The rug came in useful for knowing when I was close to the coffee table. The most difficult part was putting glasses of water on the coffee table... it made me nervous about reaching around for the mouse, or anything else.

Watching TV & Audio books

Later on Brandi put the TV on. I "watched" a program, and could mostly tell what was happening, so it wasn't too bad. One thing I hadn't really considered is that, being blind, at least for me, I would have my eyes covered/closed most of the time... this inevitably lead to me sleeping constantly. I couldn't help it. I'm like it all the time. However awake I am, if I close my eyes and lie down I will sleep. So, whilst watching the program, I found myself waking up at some point.

Brandi went back to painting, but before she did she put on a stand up comedy (I felt this could be the most appropriate viewing for me). I wanted to watch Dimitri Martin, but he is quite visual, so I settled for George Carlin... as I'd heard he was good. Turns out he wasn't, he just shouted about things and pretended to be angry, and regardless of what he said, people cried with laughter. I found myself waking up after maybe listening to just 10 minutes.

I went to get some crisps, but realised I couldn't see the flavours.

I tried to listen to an audio book, but found myself waking up after not even making it through the first chapter.

Going for a walk

With all the sleeping I had done, I thought I should go for a walk, to get rid of some of the built up energy, and to see how difficult it would be.

Brandi was my guide for it, and we walked around the block. I put on sunglasses, as I didn't want to be seen walking around with a blind fold.

I didn't trip once, so I was quite pleased. I tried to grasp where I was at times, but struggled, though I could hear things around me well. At one point in the walk, Brandi was shocked at how much they had cut the trees away from a passage. Obviously, I couldn't see it, but I have a picture built up in my head, so I might go there later to see if it looks like I expect.

The evening

Phone second attempt

Throughout the day I had received a few messages on my phone, so I attempted to reply. The Swype keyboard that I use didn't even slightly work, so I switched to the default Android one. I think I replied to the messages quite well. By this point I was a pro at unlocking my phone, and though typing messages was slow, I could hear when I made a mistake, and erase it.

Annoyingly, WhatsApp doesn't label their send button (when you put your finger over buttons it gives a description, if the developers decide put it in).

Most people could probably use the speech to text things, but apparently I talk like a retard and phones can never understand what I say.


For dinner we had pizza! It was quite interesting to eat, as I couldn't see how much I had eaten, so I didn't know when to stop. Apparently it takes your body some time to realise you are full, so you use your eyes to have more of an indication. I didn't count how many pieces I had eaten, so eventually Brandi told me to stop.


Being blind is difficult. So much of the world is made for people with vision, and though the vision impaired charities argue that the potential market loss for not catering for the disability is high, many don't.

Personally, I think all areas should try to, even if it doesn't lead to profits. People should see it as important to try and make products and applications accessible to people who already have a difficult time. Netflix, for example, doesn't have any audio-descriptive videos, many Android apps don't properly label buttons, and Windows accessibility was terrible.

As a developer it has made me more aware of people blind people would interact with things, and I will bear that in mind in future.

All in all the day didn't go too badly. It made me realise some things, and although I would never want to be blind, I don't think I would see my life as being over if I was.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Being Vegan

On 18th February I decided to try being vegan, after having some chicken that I didn't really enjoy. I had set the dates to be 13th March until 10th April, but with the flight delays after Belgium, and still having chocolate left over I decided to postpone it until the weekend, and started on Saturday 16th March.

Immediately after starting I remembered the BBQ ribs, popcorn chicken and faggots that I had bought a few weeks earlier.

I started out by going shopping to try and find vegan alternatives to the things that I eat. It wasn't too difficult at first. I swapped milk for almond milk (which was actually quite nice with cereal), and swapped butter for vegan vegetable oil (which tasted the same).

I was most surprised that when looking at the ingredients of two similar products, one would have 3-4 ingredients, the other would have a load, which seemed unnecessary (one of which always seemed to be something from an animal). It opened my eyes slightly on the qualities of different food, and made me question why one would need so many less-natural ingredients.

On the Sunday Brandi cooked vegan brownies. This was needed, as the main problem I had predicted was that I would struggle with chocolate. I snack quite a lot, and didn't think I'd be able to stop. To counter this I bought oat crackers and peanut butter. Both vegan.

As for food throughout the week, I had pasta (wheat germ) and beans on toast, and on another day I made a vegetarian Thai red curry, and Brandi made a quinoa recipe. I struggled not having chocolate, and though it was a nice gesture that Brandi had made the brownies, they were quite obviously vegan. The closest I could get to chocolate/snacks were breakfast cereal and ginger nut biscuits (though apparently some bourbon biscuits are vegan).

I'll cut to the end of the story, so I don't deceive. I gave up on the following Saturday.

Throughout the first week I felt like I was doing fine, but would occasionally feel like I wanted to stop, because I wasn't enjoying any food. I then started to feel like I wasn't getting any protein (I can only eat so many nuts, and I don't like tofu).

I had considered stopping a couple of times, but had told myself that the only reason I want to stop is because of chocolate and unhealthy food, and that should be a reason for me to continue. I had had dreams where I was in a chip shop, and asked if there was anything vegan, then realised as I was asking that I was eating breaded chicken.

On the Friday I went for a meal with my family. I phoned the pub/restaurant beforehand to ask if there is anything on the menu for vegans. The person on the phone had no idea, and went and asked the waiters who also had no idea. I think they might not know what vegan means.

When I got there I had to make the decision between chips (potentially not vegan) or vegetarian tagine (which I am certain was vegan). I went for the tagine, which wasn't very nice at all. There was nothing I could have for dessert, and to make things worse my niece left a whole cookie cheesecake, right in front of me. I somehow managed to resist, angrily.

That weekend I was babysitting Logan, Charlie, and Savannah. I had my usual almond milk breakfast cereal, but things went wrong lunch time. Brandi and Savannah made a load of peanut butter cookies, and the children was having potato waffles (which I love, and which contain skimmed-milk extract). I gave in, and had cookies and waffles. I felt guilty, and it didn't taste nice because of that. Eating non-vegan things for the next few days didn't feel right.

Although I only managed a week, I am still quite pleased. It doesn't sound very difficult, but it was, and a majority of what I eat is vegetarian. The life of a vegan is difficult, and I wouldn't like it. Food is an important part of life, and it made unenjoyable. I am sure that if you force yourself for long enough you eventually can, but I'm not willing to.

In just 7 days my body shape slightly changed (my tummy isn't as big, and my boobs are less boob-like), and I lost 5 pounds. Take that dieters!

On Sunday night I had a big bowl of BBQ ribs... which I didn't enjoy.