Touch Typing With One Hand

Sometimes I get asked how do I type with only my left hand|

I started to learn how to type in about grade 1 or 2. All throughout school I had a visiting teacher from what is now called Vision Australia, but was then Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind. Visiting teachers are specialists in blindness education, who in my experience visit school students who are blind and are integrated into mainstream schools about once a week to ensure that all their education needs are taken care of. At that time my visiting teacher, Mrs English, would drive me home from school on Tuesday afternoons slightly earlier to teach me to touch type. To start off, we loaned an electric type writer. I am not sure why this was as we did have a computer with speech at the time. The only reason I can think of is that so I could be independent in using it. Hold on, I just asked my Mum and she said she thinks that we were having trouble with the Apple 2GS computer we had at the time, so that is why we had an electric type writer.

Thinking about it, touch typing is a skill I use every day and without that training I don’t know where I would be today. Mrs English recorded our lessons on a Dictaphone with cassette tapes so I could review later. This is also how my older sister learned to touch type, although she used the standard keys but the concept is the same. There must have been lesson plans which we progressed through. Basically, instead of the standard home keys, my home keys are F-J with my thumb on the space bar. I move my hand around the keyboard and when I get going I can type up to 40 words a minuteNow, I don’t think about it much and I just had to ask my sister which home keys are used for people who use two hands. I suppose it would be easier with two hands and I never really think about it now. When I was getting to the end of the touch typing lessons, I remember I was practicing by writing a letter to my classroom teacher, Mrs Vicic. We hadn’t learned the letter Q yet but I did know where it is on the keyboard. I will need to drag that letter from the archives and put it on here for a laugh! It is somewhere in the old Apple 2GS which does not work properly anymore and is in my sister’s computer museum. Also I slightly skipped over learning to type the number row above the main keyboard. I have always been a bit slower with the number row but have gotten better in the last few years. I used to volunteer in a literacy class at Vision Australia. I should practice the number row more.

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

This skill has proved invaluable especially now at work, where I work in a call centre. I need to make notes about every call and I can type them quite quickly. I use a smaller keyboard at work and a laptop at home, but I do feel quite comfortable with a standard qwerty keyboard also.

I hope this has been interesting!


I am singing the bass solo for Rossini’s Petite Misse Solennelle on 18 and 19 July.

When I initially got the Braille score I thought “Oh my goodness, what have I got myself into|” But it is actually not too hard once you get into it. I am the kind of musician who appreciates a bit of rehearsal to get into something but not too much note bashing in rehearsal. Not to blow my trumpet too much, but I am used to singing in St Mark’s Fitzroy Choir where everybody can read music and we can work on things more thoroughly. It is tricky to be part of a community music group as I’m not sure who to follow. As a blind musician I am reliant on other members of the group to follow the musical director. It is nothing like working with other blind musicians who are used to working without somebody at the front marking the beat with their hands.

The Rossini is typical 19th century, sections go on forever. But the bass solo itself is actually quite operatic and is a glimpse into Rossini’s refined writing.

I have a recording of the mass and have been practicing along with it, but especially for my solo, I need to practice just with the accompaniment, not just with a full blown recording. Scaling the internet there is nothing available. The accompanist for the performance is overseas at present
so I have asked a friend, Simon Loveless,
to play it for me so I have a recording. This is so I will have something when I go to give my solo a test run at the VCE music class at Lowanna College on 13 July. I thought I might be cheeky and ask another friend, Sally Whitwell, who could do it in her sleep, but decided not too. I am going to catch up with Simon later this week.

Pacific Vision

I bought my Braille Sense U2 in August-September 2013 from Pacific Vision, the Australian distributor of HIMS International. I made this decision after exploring all the current products on the market at the time, namely Braille Sense and Braille Note. SO my decision was based on my needs and usability of both 1s. I did also consider the after sale support I would receive as a customer. That is really why I am writing this blog because I am not happy with the level of customer support I have received from Pacific Vision.

While I am a high end user of the product, and what I use I use well, I consider that I am not a tech savvy person, meaning that if something goes wrong with whatever the technology, I need help to fix it.

But I am a power user, meaning that I use my Braille Sense every day.

Since I bought my Braille Sense I have become a part of the Braille Sense users community in Australia through which I have made many friends. One friend, in particular, is Caz. She worked for Pacific Vision and sold me my Braille Sense, although I did not know her that well then. Caz came to my home to deliver my Braille Sense. She spent a few hours with me unpacking and setting it up to my specifications.

One major specification is my right hand is paralysed so I use the Braille Sense In one-handed mode. I think I must have investigated getting in touch but I do not know anybody else who uses the Braille Sense in one-handed mode so as far as I am aware I cannot compare notes with anybody else about this.

I got my Braille Sense on a Friday. I am used to businesses operating only five days a week, so I was a bit worried if I had any problems with my Braille Sense over the weekend. Caz assured me I could call her if I had any problems. But still I did not know her that well, so I did not want to bother her. Therefore I was very impressed when Caz called me on Saturday morning to see how I was going. Caz’s professionalism and her friendship has been a big part of my life and I am here to say that I cannot praise her enough. Frankly I do not understand why Caz no longer works for Pacific Vision. I would be interested to see if the level of sales of HIMS products has gone down since 2014.

I was dismayed, bemused and confused when Caz lost her job from Pacific Vision last year. But I am
just a user of the product, so do not have any influence. I have not had any trouble with the hardware of my Braille Sense until May 2015. I knew that the Braille display itself needed some attention as it has detiriated.

On 15 May 2015 I noticed the flashdisk had disappeared. I was busy that day so could not deal with it until the day after. Eric was visiting me on the Saturday so I could transcribe a vocal piece for my choir which I do on my Braille Sense. When he arrived I was in a panic because I could not find any way of saving a file on the flashdisk. I was speaking to Caz about it, although she does not work for Pacific Vision anymore and we could not get it going. My old Braille Note was not where I was, so I had to use my Perkins Braille Writer, which I never use anymore at all.

So later on that day after Eric and I had finished I made a mad dash up to Caz’s place. Caz offered for me to come to her place as she is now a friend and she knows a whole lot more about Braille Sense than I do, even though she does not work for the company anymore. There was nobody else I knew of. Imagine if your computer stopped working. What would you fall back to| Pen and paper| You might laugh but at least you have that option. I was without anything. I basically use my Braille Sense like somebody would a personal assistant type of device like a tablot, it is not a full blown computer but it is still pretty powerful. You become reliant on it.

Anyway, I really do appreciate that I had the option to dash up to Caz’s place, even though for some reason she lost her job last year. I cannot tell you what Caz did to try to fix my Braille Sense but everything still did not work.

The Wednesday after this I bit the bullet and got in contact with Rangit, who is the contact person for Victoria now. He said he would look into it and get back to me. I waited and waited. I was busy as well as I was working, was starting to rehearse for a new choir piece etc. But I heard nothing until I followed it up myself last Thursday 25 June.

This is unacceptable and unprofessional. He doesn’t understand what the problem is and there is no evidence that there is a concern that the technology has failed and further steps need to be taken. He kept asking me to take out the flashdisk and try it in a different computer. I do not know how else to explain that it is an internal flashdisk, not external.

On Friday 26 he passed it onto Chantelle who he says is the Braille Sense expert working for Pacific Vision now. She wrote an email to me expressing some options that have already been done to try and restore the unit which Caz tried a month ago. At least I can receive emails on my phone, but some people may not have this option. Email on my phone is a stop gap option for me because it is hard to write on my phone with one hand. To write a big, long email on my phone is most frustrating and something I do not like doing. What I find erksome is that there was no alternative contact details given, no phone number, no nothing. The only option is to reply to the email. I will do this tomorrow and see what happens.

Now, I work as a Customer Service Officer. So I know that if you want to get somewhere when dealing with an organisation as a customer, it does not help to get annoyed or verbally abusive. The way you need to be is assertive. I admit the lines are blerred because Caz is now a friend as well, but to have no alternative contact details and just expect me to reply to an email, especially when the person knows that my right hand is paralysed, is very poor. I may be getting worked up about nothing but I don’t think so. How many professional organisations do not have an email signiture| 0.

I think what I might do is reply to the email and ask her to call me.

My New Iphone 6

A few weeks ago my old Iphone decided it was going to collapse if it was going to be charged up quickly. \I took it to Telstra who advised they could not fix it and since it was out of warranty my options were to go directly to Apple to see if they could fix it, or get a new phone with a new plan. SO although it is probably going to be more expensive in the long run, I decided to get a new phone.

Now I am glad I did get an Iphone. I went with the Iphone 6 rather than the 6+. I held both models in the store. The 6+ is bloody huge and while I am sure it is good if you want a big screen, for somebody who does not rely on the screen at all, this is useless. Also the 6 sits better in my one hand better and is similar to how I handled the 5. I hold the left hand side of the phone under my middle three fingers and swipe with my thumb. This does put a bit of pressure on my thumb especially as it is so active. However I can also put the phone down on a desk or on my knee and use the other fingers to swipe just as easily.

I like the change of location of the lock button to the right hand side rather than the top of the phone because you don’t need to reach up to close it at all.

The other cool feature that I really appreciate is the touch Identification. In order to unlock previous models you had to press the home button, swipe to the right, find the unlock button on screen and tap twice quickly on it. Of course this is using VoiceOver gestures.

Before I used the touch ID I did not think that unlocking my phone was such an issue for me. Now I can simply press the home button once place a finger over the home button, hold it for a few seconds and the phone will unlock. I have chosen my desired finger to be my thumb. This accessibility innovation means that getting into my phone is so much easier and saves my hand from being as sore as usual.

Guide Dogs – End OF Week 4

I think it has been about a week and a half since I have updated my blog regarding my guide dog training. It has been that busy coming home and sorting stuff out that I simply have not had the time to write an update.

So Pete and I spent the last few days of last week focusing on my routes around Lygon Street. Varek seems to be going quite well with the routes, but I still seem to have issues with encouraging and trusting him to make the right decision. As Pete says it is a work in progress. Therefore as it was coming towards the end of my formal class training, he has restricted me from working him at all by myself around Lygon Street until I see Marita in follow up.

On Wednesday afternoon Jordie came over as we were both free. She came over to GDV a few weeks earlier with Kaz. I thrive on one on one discussions, not groups. I found it cathartic to spend some time with somebody like that, who is a friend, and understands exactly what this is all about. When Jordie rang the doorbell nobody heard it as Jenny was over in the administration building and I had no idea where Christina was. So I answered the door and Jordie and I did the whole doggy meeting thing we learn in class. Basically the goal is to have the dogs settle down. So they need to meet on mutual territory. We got Varek and Rob to meet by touching noses and sniffing each other, then we made our way inside. Jordie left Rob in the office.

We were in the lounge for a while. Stef and Lisa came in with Jhaneen and offered for us to go with them to look at the Amsden Honour Garden. It is an amazing place and I did get a bit emotional reading all of the tributes handlers have left to their retired or passed guide dogs, who have faithfully guided them.

Jordie and I groomed Varek and then we got Rob and Varek settled in the TV room and we chatted in there.

Thursday night was our restaurant training coupled with a class dinner and a night walk! We went to The Harp of Erin Hotel in Kew East. Graeme and Jenny both came along as they were both part of the class in the first two weeks. Kaz, Graeme’s partner, was going to come along too. I was looking forward to that as we get on well and I did not have anybody coming along. Sometimes I find it a bit lonely not having a partner or significant other who is happy to come along to events like that. But it was bad weather on Thursday and GDV were not going to allow Kaz to stay overnight, even though it was fine for Graeme to stay. The excuse was something about insurance.

On Friday morning we were busy packing and saying our good byes to each other. It was a bit sad saying good bye to the people you have been basically living with for a month.

Pete and I took Varek down to give him a bath. Pete told me we were going through a room called the Meat Room, which is where they used to cut up the meat for the dogs, before they switched to commercially available dry food. They have a special room where the dogs go up a little staircase to a platform with sides where they stand to be bathed. Varek did not mind his bath at all. Pete showed me how to get the soap through his hair and avoid his head.

Then Pete drove me home with my stuff. He helped me bring it up to my apartment and then we went through the vet book and sorted out his food etc. We went for a walk again and Varek did well.

Aaron called and we decided I should go to Moe for the weekend so Aaron did not need to pick me up on Monday. I called Carol and she picked me up and drove to Moe. Along the way we let Varek do a wee. Mum brought Qesta out onto the nature strip so she could meet Varek. We went inside and Varek was very excited going from room to room to have a look. After about 15 minutes I settled him down on his bed in the kitchen.

Guide Dogs – Day 16 and 17

The last two days have been busy as usual. Yesterday morning, Pete brought Varek back out to my place in Carlton. I met them out the front and Varek was very happy to see me and had a good sniff of me, wagging his tail a lot. We took him out to the courtyard to see if he wanted to go to the toilet! He did a poo, very exciting! But usually what I have been doing is letting him do a wee, then I put the toileting harness on him to do a poo. But today he did a poo without the harness. Pete did not worry about it, and just said it comes down to experience. Then I offered him a drink, which he accepted with great gusto!

Then we went down to Woolworths again and showed him where to go. I worked on my body position which hopefully is getting better. I am finding that it is very easy to drop back or go too forward. Also when I say forward I find that I tend to drop back, so that is a problem. Pete instructed me not to be so far back near his back legs, but somewhere in the middle to see if that fixes the problem. I think this is working! We spent time consolidating the routes to Woolworths, the pharmacy, the bottle shop, the bank and we had coffee at Trotters.

We met a friend for coffee and we gave him a lift back out to Guide Dogs for some other business. My friend does not live far from me, so we discussed meeting up after I have finished formal training at the end of this week. Pete and I did some obedience. It is amazing how trained these dogs are!!

After lunch Jhaneen offered for me to go out with Steph and Lisa as they were going to an amazing chocolate place called Handoff, in North Balwyn. It’s amazing! Thanks for letting me tag along! O and I also took Varek on the bus for the first time. On any form of public transport you need to ensure that you protect the dog’s front paws especially, as the dog will generally like to stretch out. A technique I learnt is putting my foot between his two front paws.

Then we came back to GDV and began to go through the manual we receive when we graduate.

Then last night I groomed Varek after dinner. He did a poo at approximately 8pm. Last week he did this also and did another poo just before bedtime. I thought he would have done the same last night, but I tried for about 15 minutes and he did not go. I was a bit worried that he would not hold till this morning. It caused me not to sleep very well. But I’m ok and I did get enough.

This morning I made sure I was quick smart getting out at 5.30am. Varek did a good poo for me.

This morning basically followed the same structure as yesterday morning. We drove out to Carlton and walked down to the various locations. We are becoming regulars, especially at Trotters! Along the block there are five big driveways. It is hard for me to direct Varek with these as they are very blended to the rest of the landscape. I can’t expect too much from Varek in this respect, but at least he will slow down for them. After we finished there we did a nice walk with left turns around East Kew. It is nice to have a residential walk where you can really stretch out and do some good work.

This afternoon I groomed, relieved and performed obedience with Varek. Then we took the dogs out to the free run and finished going through the manual.

I am starting to feel that I am getting ready to go home and get back to real life with Varek.

As I write this, Varek is lying down beside me and has gone to sleep. However I am about to wake him up, relieve him and go to dinner!

Guide Dogs – weekend between week 3 and 4

Missing Varek. I will see him again tomorrow morning!

After my walk with Varek on Friday, that went really well, I had a discussion with Jenny about the cane and the dog. The concentration levels are very different. Mentally you have to work a whole lot harder with a cane because you have to focus on where you’re going, orientation, detecting and getting around obstacles and making sure you are safe. The dog takes care of the obstacle work with your direction and also makes sure you are safe. There are merrits to both. But I know that if I did the walk with Varek on Friday with my cane, I would be so much more mentally tired. However transitioning from something to something else is hard because in one way I do not want to lose my skills in one area as I am gaining new skills in another. I have been through this before. I remember when I had Qesta, my cane skills really went down hill. The day I went out with my cane, after Qesta went back was very scary. Gradually I got used to it again. Also I transitioned from trumpet as my main instrument in Year 11 to singing in Year 12.

I still maintain a healthy respect for the cane. I still know how to use it quite well. It’s only been three weeks since I trained with Varek. I went for a walk today with my cane and it went ok. Jenny said that some clients just dismiss the cane entirely when they get a guide dog. I don’t want to do that. Pete says that I should go for a walk with my cane about once a week. I think this is a good philosophy.

I can also understand why Pete does not like the car park entrance to Lygon Court. After having a look at it today I agree that I should not walk that way. I also need to talk to Pete about how Carol and I go shopping in the supermarket. Carol was saying we should leave him at home. I don’t think that is a good idea. I almost need to find excuses to practice the routes with Varek, so I think Varek and I can meet Carol at Woolworths and do shopping, then go home again.

Graham called tonight. It was very nice to hear from him. I updated him with what was happening at GDV. I’m looking forward to the dinner we are having on Thursday night.

Bring on the fourth week!!!

Guide Dogs – Week 3

So here we are again! I had the best of intentions writing a post at the end of each day, but by the time I got around to thinking about it, all I wanted to do was to go to sleep. So I will try and summarise.

So my day starts out by getting up at 5.30am. Graham will attest to this. On more than one occasion I have reached over as I woke up and said something like “good morning, Qesta, oo I mean Varek”. Graham said he has called Kara every dog’s name he’s had. 99 percent of the time you get it right, it’s not a problem, it’s just funny!!

Get out of bed and if needed relieve myself. Wack on some vaguely appropriate clothing and footware. Then grab the leash, toileting harness, new poo bag and door key–O yeah, and the dog! Go outside to the relieving area. It’s still March, so not so cold, but goodness it’s beautiful weather at that time of the morning. Tempting Varek to relieve on concrete, so when I know he needs to go, we go into concrete yard. It’s a bit annoying to get into because there are two gates which both need to be closed. I know Varek is busting so let him do a wee first up. Basically you walk around with the dog, saying “quick quicks”. Once he’s done a wee, get him to stop while I get toileting harness on him and make sure bag is properly in place over his bum and encouraging him to go into bag. Then prasing him once he’s done it. Then tying up the bag and chucking it in the bin.

Then go back inside. Have quick shower, make sure things are in place for the day. Then go down to breakfast. By this time it’s about 6.30am. In the middle of breakfast, day staff, Jenny, arrives and night staff, Kerry, leaves. Then feed Varek, brush teeth, put on shoes, do obedience in corridor with Varek and relieve him again, hopefully he does a second poo. All ready for when Pete wants to get going at 8am.

This week we have been doing more and more around my place in Lygon Street and working on specific locations. So two or three mornings were spent showing Varek how to get from home to Woolworths at Lygon Court and then we had coffee at Trotters. On Thursday we showed Varek Flinders Street Station. Then on Friday we finished the week with a good 4.3 kilometre walk around Bourke Road in North Balwyn. This was a really good way to finish the week. At the end of this walk, Pete said this was 9.9 out of 10!!

Also on Friday morning the vet, Anne, came and checked out all the dogs and we had a discussion about dog health. A few other clients came in as well. Varek was so good during the week, but it is amazing how enthusiastic he gets when there are new dogs around. Varek’s brother, Vincent, is also in this class. Varek and Vincent are both black. Yesterday, their sister, Velia, came in. Velia is completely white and is nicknamed Snowdrop!

It’s very tricky this guide dog business. Anyone who says that it’s a piece of cake doesn’t know what they are talking about. This week I have been working on my body position, harness tension and probably most important, my understanding of trusting the dog when he is positioning himself to avoid obstacles, lining up for road crossings, getting to the other side of the road etc. As a cane user I know how important lining up and body position is!! I realised on Thursday that this is just as important in guide dog work. They are just dogs aftewrall, responsibility is on both sides on the part of the handler and the dog. I feel like I have progressed a long way since the start, but still there is a long way to go.

Let’s see what happens next week!! Thanks for reading! If you are finding this interesting, please pass the link of my blog onto others!!!

Guide Dogs Day Seven

So day seven went well. Woke up at 5.30am. I am really in the routine now. I do like waking up early once I have a routine. I remember when I had Qesta almost 9 and a half years ago when I was in my early 20s, I used to find it annoying having to relieve and generally look after a dog. My lifestyle really did not take into account having to look after a dog, while enjoying the amazing work of a guide dog. I now find that looking after the dog and the bond I am starting to have with him is a privilege and I get a magnificent mobility aid out of it. And it is so much better than a cane.

Relieving went well today. The idea is just to be relaxed about it and read the dog’s body language and things should go well. The toileting harness is very useful and means that poo collection is not so grose as it might otherwise be. Varek is in the routine of going twice or three times in the morning and then once right at the end of the night at about 10.30pm. Otherwise he urinates every two hours. Yes it is sort of like baby club, talking about poo, toileting, wee etc!

After shower, breakfast and obedience, we went out for traffic training. There is near and far traffic, also obstacles in driveways. Justin provided these distractions by artificial traffic. The idea is to tell the dog forward when there is a car in front of the team, handler and guide dog, and praising when the dog does not move, and correcting if they do move. Justin is part of the bequest team now, but was a guide dog instructor, like Pete, so is experienced. He brought two other bequest team members along to show what is involved. A few times Varek was a bit slow, but I never needed to severely correct him. The dog really does need to slam on the breaks straight away. In real conditions Graham said we should say forward when we know there is a car, in order to keep traffic training happening. Near traffic is when you come to a kerb, far traffic is where you enter the road and traffic comes to the middle of the road.

Then we came back and did some handle work learning about two more kinds of correctionss. There are different techniques depending on whether or not the dog is looking in a particular direction.

It was getting really hot after lunch so we went to Doncaster Shopping Centre and did work inside a mall, where it is cooler. This was a good confidence booster and it was a semi solo walk.

It was nice bonding with some of the other clients tonight. Graham tuned the piano so it was nice to sit down and do some playing this evening.

Good night.