Posted in Uncategorized

Bitter Sweet Ballet Recitals

DSCN0080My six-year-old daughter just wrapped up her second season of ballet lessons. The company holds an annual recital each spring. I have to admit, attending the recital is a bit bitter sweet for us.   WE love being there and supporting our little girl, but watching ballet dances isn’t exactly blind friendly. So here’s what we do to try and get the most out of the recital. For starters, the instructor reserves the front row for us and puts our daughter in line on that side so she is closer for us to see. This does nothing for Jesse who really doesn’t have much vision, but for me, it allows me to kind of make out where she is. Then, I’ve used either binoculars or a magnifier app on my phone to view the dance. I’ll admit that I feel a bit conspicuous watching with something like this, especially when I’m already sitting on the front row. I also have a little bit of a blindness philosophical battle going on inside as some of my blindness training promotes “blending in” or not taking special privileges like front-row seating just because I am blind. But I’ve decided that if it helps and allows me to get more out of the situation, especially since this involves my child, I’m going to take advantage of it and not worry about what others think or say whether it’s sighted people thinking I’m weird or blind people judging me.


I still don’t get a great visual of what is going on, but it’s something. I then describe what I’m seeing to Jesse–for what it’s worth–which engages him a bit more as well. This isn’t a strategy we use all the time though. For example, if we are attending a play or movie and there is an audio descriptive service or guide, we’ll use that instead as it would be more useful, but for a children’s dance recital, it works pretty well.


Sometime either prior to or after the recital, we have our daughter do a solo performance for us at home and show us her favorite moves or parts of her dance. She then describes what she is doing or will pose for us to feel how she is standing so we can learn some of the moves. She loves the attention and teaching moments. It also gives us a bit more insight into what she is learning and how well she is doing.

I think about all the things in which we’ll watch our children participate in the future—sports’ games, recitals, plays, etc. It’s always going to be a little bitter sweet not being able to see them make that great shot, give that funny expression when they make a mistake, or perform that solo. Right now our children are young and while they know we are blind, I don’t think they quite get that this means that we can’t see them when they are performing, but hopefully our presence, cheers and support will make up for what we may not see. And who knows… when I die, maybe I’ll be able to review a heavenly video of my life and see these highlights in all their visual glory and technicolor while enjoying a jumbo bucket of calorie-free buttered popcorn of course.

Posted in Home is Where the Hartle Is, Uncategorized

A Day in the Life…Sundays

Some of you have expressed an interest into how we tackle some of our everyday blindness challenges. So I thought I’d start by sharing a typical Sunday for us as it sometimes presents a few obstacles.

My husband and I are different faiths, so Sundays are filled with two church services for us. Our first service begins at 10 a.m. We attend this every week, but how we get there is sometimes a bit unpredictable and I’ll admit, a bit mentally taxing to always be worrying about figuring this out and trying to get everyone ready on time so as to not be making our driver wait. Since we’re never quite sure how we’re getting there, and have to install car seats, we aim to be ready to leave our house around 9:30 a.m. We live a little under two miles from our church building (about a 25 min. walk for an adult) so just a bit too far to walk with small children or in certain weather conditions, though we’ve done it before. When we only had two children, our good friend picked us up and brought us home each week. (See my ode to Betsy post as she’s terrific!) But, now that there are five of us, we’ve outgrown her car. So, we’ve been bouncing around between a few different modes for the last year or so. For a few months, this sweet lady with a minivan offered to drive us out of the blue when she was in town, (she spends part of the year in Delaware) which was great, but there are often weeks where we have to arrange something else. She also just got called to attend another ward near us in a missionary calling, so we won’t be able to ride with her anymore when she is in town. So, we are figuring it out on a week-to-week basis right now. . We’ve bounced around between other families taking two cars, using paratransit services (our least favorite and most inconvenient), or taking Uber. Uber has been our most stable. Lately however, there have not been many Uber XL vehicles (the larger vehicle that holds six passengers) in our area on a Sunday morning, so I’ve been taking a regular Uber with the children while my husband walks. Often someone on their way to church will see him and take pity on him and pick him up on the way since he walks down a main road. I’d also like to just take this time to say what an amazing husband I have! As I mentioned, we are not the same faith, but it is a true sign of love that he’ll leave on a Sunday morning and walk by himself 2 miles to attend a service with me that isn’t really his first choice. Then I finish up getting the three kids out the door, install the car seats in whatever vehicle we are taking, and load everyone up.

When we finally get to church, I shuffle three kids, three car seats, and three bags (diaper bag, the kids’ quiet bag, and my teacher bag—I teach the six year olds so generally have items for my lessons) into the building. If Jesse is there, he meets me at the door. A friend of ours usually saves us a pew too so we don’t have to sit in the back on the hard metal folding chairs. We generally arrive a bit flustered and feeling like a bit of a circus, but no one can say we’re not committed.

Thankfully our church has some great apps, so I’m able to access all the scriptures, words to hymns, and lesson manuals on my phone. They are also available in braille hardcopy and brf files, but the app works the best for me right now, especially since I’m usually juggling a small child. This allows me (with headphones) to read along during lessons. I have some other strategies I use when I teach, but I’ll save these for another post.

After church is a little easier. The kids and I usually ride home with our friend except during the summer when she goes home to Michigan. During those times, I find someone else each week to fill in or we take another uber. It is a little easier because we fit better into a small car since Jesse leaves after the first hour of our church service. He almost always has a ride home from this by a few different friends of ours who offer to quickly run him home between meetings. . Otherwise, he walks.

WE arrive home around 1:30 (Our church service is three hours—Sacrament meeting, Sunday school, and a third class determined by age). Sunday afternoons are filled with lunch, some quiet time or a much needed nap, and a few simple activities. Around 4:45 p.m., we start the process of getting ready to head out the door again—changing diapers, redressing someone, finding shoes and socks… WE then walk to Mass which begins at 5:30 p.m. The church where we attend is about half mile from our house, or a fifteen minute walk. Up until recently we had one walking, one in the stroller, and one in the carrying pack, but now both older ones walk. Our kids are real troopers at walking long distances.

After mass, we head home. Our walks are usually leisurely and the kids chatter on about this and that or we all talk about what we learned in our various services that day or our plans for the week. Sometimes we sing songs, especially Christmas carols around that time of year. It’s great quality family time which I often fail to realize. When we get to the top of our street, our two older kids line up with Jesse for their weekly race home. Sometimes they race each other, or sometimes Jesse sprints down the street while they run on the side walk so he doesn’t take them out with his cane or long strides. “B” and I cheer them on.


The rest of the night is filled with typical evening routine stuff. Dinner, prep for school and work the next day, and bedtime. So there you have it. Not much of a day of rest, but a good family day none the less.

Posted in Uncategorized

Muddy Puddles Keep Me Humble

Muddy Puddles Keep Me Humble


I hate to admit this, but I’ve stepped in my fair share of puddles…mostly because I don’t see them, and sometimes the cane just misses them. Today, for example, I had just gotten off the light rail and was racing across the parking lot to catch the bus that was just entering the station and about to round the corner to its stop. . I was coming home from a play group at the park and had my infant in the carrying pack and my three-year-old in toe. WE live about a half mile from the light rail station, but with little legs, this walk takes us close to twenty mins. If we could make the bus, we could save ourselves about fifteen minutes. We were getting tired, hungry, and hot, so I really didn’t want to miss this bus. So, I decided to cut across the dirt-trodden area around the corner rather than stay on the side walk. Right before hitting pavement, my foot sank deep into a puddle of mud! Thankfully, I was able to guide my little guy around it and avoid both of us encountering the mud. I was wearing flip flops too at least, which on one hand makes it dry faster, but on another, you’re left with a dirty, gross foot. I stepped onto the sidewalk and kicked off my flip flop in disgust and tried to wipe the grime off the bottom of my foot. As I looked up to see the bus turning around the corner in frustration, my sweet little guy picked up my shoe and in the sweetest voice said, “Mommy, It’s all right. We can get a towel or something and I will wipe it off for you.”   His tender, futile offering brought a smile to my face. I quickly slipped my shoe back on and told him thank you but that it was all right and we’d be home soon. We quickly continued over to the bus and were the last ones to hop on. I sat there wearily for the short ride feeling slightly embarrassed to be sitting there with a muddy foot, feeling a little sorry for myself that I can’t drive or have a driver at my beckon call, and feeling jealous of the other moms whom I had just left at the playgroup who didn’t have to sit on a public bus wearing a squishy muddy shoe.  A few minutes later when we got off the bus and my son saw my foot again, he excitedly said, “Mommy, I know…when we get home, I will get the hose and spray your foot off and clean it before you go in the house.” My heart instantly melted and I felt so humbled. Fighting back tears, I happily agreed. Oh how I love this sweet little boy. I know he has no idea how much his gesture meant, nor how his behavior brought to mind a similar time when someone much more important than I will ever be offered to clean the feet of those he loved. I began thinking of all the good things I had right then. My choice little children. Fun times with them. A beautiful warm day. Cheap flip flops. Bus drivers who wait for you. My son’s sweet little grimy hand holding on to mine. And I realized that it just doesn’t get any better than this.

Posted in Uncategorized

25 Years later…#ChangingLives25


(Caption: Mary Jo Thorpe, Times Square NYC O and M training, May 2004)

This month marks the 25th anniversary of when I went blind. Each year when the time comes around, I like to acknowledge it to myself in some way. It’s not exactly something I celebrate, but it’s not something I memorialize with sadness either. I guess I just like to acknowledge the passing of time for a life-changing event that really redefined me. Given that this year’s anniversary is a significant, milestone, I feel a desire to do something more profound to mark this anniversary, so I’m calling on the support of all my friends and family to assist me in this undertaking.

For those of you who may not know, I went blind at the age of twelve very unexpectedly due to an allergic reaction to a medication called Tetracycline—or at least this was the only thing we could point to as a cause. . Below I’ve shared my story with you for those who may be interested. I won’t sugar coat it and tell you that the rest of my life from that point on hasn’t been filled with struggles, tears, and frustration, but it’s also been filled with choice experiences, lots of personal growth, great supports, and tremendous opportunities that I could have never foreseen. One of the turning points for me after a period where I felt like I’d hit rock bottom with respect to blindness was enrolling in the Louisiana Center for the Blind, the leading blindness rehabilitation training center in the country. I could write volumes about how this experience changed my life and provided me with skills and confidence I didn’t know I was lacking. So, in an effort to commemorate my 25 years, I want to do something to give back to a cause that made such a difference in my life.

My husband, @Jesse Hartle (also an LCB grad) and I are organizing a donation campaign for the LCB. Our goal is to raise $25,000 by April 30th of this year. Yes, this seems extremely ambitious, but go big or go home right? Our lives have truly been impacted for the better and we want to give back  to something that is near and dear to our hearts.

We are inviting our friends and family to make a tax deductible donation to the LCB, even if only $5 or $10. Any amount will be greatly appreciated and adds up. To do so, please visit and click on the “Donate” button at the bottom of the page. There you can also learn more about how your donation helps to support programs for both blind adults and children—also a cause that is near and dear to my heart. . Also, when making your donation, you will be asked if you are making this donation on behalf of an individual. Please just type in “ChangingLives25”so that we can track the amount raised with this effort. Then we also ask you to share this link with your friends to help us spread the word. Thank you in advance for your help with this. Now, I’d like to share my blindness journey with you.


I lost my sight at the age of twelve due to an unexpected allergic reaction to tetracycline, an antibiotic that I’d been exposed to at various times in my life. Up until that time, I had been fully sighted– 20/20 vision. It all began in December 1991. Over Christmas break I started experiencing prolonged double vision and began to have terrible migraine-like headaches and pain down my shoulders and back. My mom took me to see our pediatrician and he passed it off as flu-like symptoms and said just to rest and drink lots of liquids. I was pretty miserable over all of the holiday and things continued to get worse. I remember going Christmas shopping with my mom and actually lying down under the clothing racks in the store while she looked at things because I felt so terrible. I even went to a chiropractor a few times to see if there was some kind of pinched nerve causing all the pain and double vision.

On January 2nd, (a Thursday) after offices reopened and things got back to normal with the new year, my mom took me to her eye doctor for a checkup. He ended up sending me for a CT scan and later announced to us that it wasn’t a tumor. What? This was completely not something we were expecting to hear as we didn’t’ even realize he suspected something of that nature. He then proceeded to refer me to a neuroopthamologist at the University of Utah Medical Center. I had another couple of checkups that afternoon there, an MRI, spinal tap, and was admitted to the hospital that evening.      I was diagnosed with a condition called Pseudo Tumor Cerebri which basically means false tumor on the brain. Apparently I had a spinal fluid build up that was causing the pressure headaches and effecting my vision. Over the next three days, I had four spinal taps and countless examinations.   As you may imagine, this was quite a shock and a bit of a whirlwind of activity and emotions for me and my family.

The following Tuesday, Jan. 7th, I had my first nerve sheathe decompression performed on one eye. Up until this point, my vision was still 20/20, but I was still seeing double unless I closed one eye. The surgery was intended to drain excess spinal fluid directly off of my eye. By that Friday, the 10th, my vision had declined so much that the doctors decided to do the same procedure on the other eye. Within that week, I basically went from 20/20 vision to what I have now—20/800+, and lost a portion of my color perception as well.

On February 7th, I was admitted for surgery again to have a spinal shunt implanted that would hopefully help drain the fluid more and prevent this from happening again. I continued to see my doctor weekly for monitoring. My vision remained the same and never improved. I was in seventh grade at the time and had been out of school since the middle of December. Throughout the ordeal, I just kept thinking that things would get better and my eyes just needed to heal. I was ready to go back to school and back to my normal life.

Around the Middle of March, I remember going for a checkup with my neuropthamologist and asking her when things were going to get better or what they were going to do next; and when I’d be able to go back to school. I remember her saying that they had done all they could and that I could go back to school anytime. I remember asking her something like, “What do I do now?” To which she replied something along the lines of, “just go on living your life.”   I remember feeling a little confused and surprised by her response. How? I thought. What do I do now?” Again, I was now almost thirteen and this all still seemed so surreal to me. My doctor then suggested that we get in contact with the Utah State Division of Services for the Blind and see what kind of support and resources they could offer us. Up until that point, it hadn’t really hit me that I was going to be blind. I’d made jokes about it to some of my friends and family over the past few weeks that I was the “Blind Lady”, but this didn’t bother me because it wasn’t true. This was supposed to get better. I also remember then feeling a little let down because there was nothing left for the doctors to do, and just…sad. This wasn’t the outcome I had expected.

I continued to hold onto hope that my eyesight was going to improve. It just needed time.

About a year or two later, it started to hit me that things were probably not going to get any better with my vision. Around that same time a cousin of mine, in an attempt to be funny, told me about a documentary he had seen on nerves which basically explained how nerves don’t regenerate. So, because my blindness was caused by damage to my optic nerve, I was going to be blind permanently. While I didn’t appreciate his bluntness at the time, (and felt like punching him), I knew he was right—not because the documentary said so, but because I knew so. I remember putting on a brave face, but later coming home and crying at the realization that it might be time that I start accepting that this was how things were going to be for me. Shortly after that, I finally determined that no matter what, I would make the best of this experience and not let blindness hold me back.

I won’t sugar coat my experience and tell you that it hasn’t been hard. I’ve had my angry moments and cried more than my fair share of tears in frustration many times. Thankfully though, I was (and still am) blessed with a great support network of great family and friends. I think that, along with my faith in God is what really got me through the hard parts. I have also had some very special experiences which have helped to strengthen me and shown me that good could come from my circumstances.

For the next few years, I muddled through the rest of junior high and

High school with CCTV’s (large T.V. screen magnifiers for reading my textbooks), large print, getting classmates to read things to me in class, and books on cassette, yes, dating myself a bit. We also installed a large classroom size blackboard on the wall of our kitchen where I would nose-read and work out math problems for my mom to copy down on my notebook. My family drove me places, and walked routes around my schools with me so I could memorize them. I never learned braille or used a cane and pretty much didn’t consider myself blind. . I continued to participate in dozen of school and community clubs, and I graduated with honors from high school.

College was a bit more challenging only in the sense that I didn’t’ have my family to lean on, but I had good roommates and I figured out strategies to get by, or tricks like avoiding areas with lots of stairs by taking a longer way around to a building. Not the best approach, but I did what I had to do. I got notes from classmates, took tests with readers, and spent hours with math and stats tutors reading me problems and copying my work from a blackboard onto my assignments. I thought I was doing great because I was getting by, seemingly well too, but things could have been so much easier and better had I known then what I know now.

In retrospect, even though I was involved in a lot of things and had a lot of great opportunities growing up after losing my vision, I feel like I missed out in other ways. I didn’t realize how much I lacked in confidence or avoided certain activities because I didn’t know how I’d do them. I realize that it was easy to hide behind hours of homework and difficult honors classwork than to have to go and participate in something out of my comfort zone where I didn’t’ know how I’d get aroundor meet and recognize people.

Fast forward a couple more years. I graduated from college, and began a post bachelor’s degree program at a renowned children’s hospital to become a certified child life specialist. Two years later, I ended up failing my internship because of my blindness. During my internship, I found myself enrolling for a three month blindness skills training program at the Utah Division of Services for the Blind as a last stitch effort to salvage my internship, but this proved to be a waste of time as the program at that time really did nothing for my confidence or gave me real reliable skills training.

Failing my internship was like hitting rock bottom for me with respect to my blindness. I couldn’t fake getting by any more like I’d done for so many years, and frankly I was tired of doing so. After all of this, I found myself re-evaluating my life and next steps. I’d never failed anything, so that alone was a low blow. But, what really hurt was that I wasn’t allowed to sit for the certification exam because my proctors felt that I could not adequately perform the tasks of the job without full vision, and I couldn’t show them otherwise at that time, despite how well I had performed in other aspects of the program.

Also around this same time, I was really starting to question what the next chapter in my life would look like. I was an adult now. The general societal expectation now for me was to move out on my own, go on to graduate studies, or find a real job, and hopefully get married and start a family. Each of these things required some greater level of independence than I felt I had at that time. I wanted these things too but wondered how I would be able to accomplish them. Up until now, life had been relatively easy. I’d either lived at home, or been away at school. Even being a college student brought a certain level of stability and security. It seemed like whichever path I decided to pursue, or just adulthood in general, brought with in new blindness obstacles which I was unequipped to handle successfully.

Later that fall, through a series of unexpected events and continued involvement with an organization I’d encountered a couple of years earlier—the National Federation of the Blind –I was accepted to a Masters of Education program in Blindness Education at Louisiana Tech University. As part of the requirements for the program, I had to also enroll as a full-time student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, the leading blindness rehabilitation program in the country. Even though I was reluctant to participate in the training program (graduates refer to it as “boot camp for the blind”), deep down, a part of me knew this was something I needed to do. I’m so grateful that I did. My experience there truly changed my life. I could write volumes about how this experience and skills training gave me a new perspective and confidence that I didn’t know I’d been lacking. I learned how to navigate safely and independently under blindfold with the use of a long white cane. I traveled in airports, train, subway, and bus stations, and cities across the country including New Orleans during Mardi gras, and New York City under blindfold. I cut down a Christmas tree with a hatchet and learned how to operate power tools without vision which boosted my confidence and taught me that I could find adaptations to make any task in any future job doable.  I prepared a meal for 50 and cleaned up after it all while wearing a blind fold which helped show me that maintaining a home was possible. I took summer camp children to water parks and grocery stores under blindfold which gave me skills to care for my own children someday. My life was truly changed by these experiences and I am forever grateful.mj-lcb-training-ropes-corse-tenn-9-2004

(Caption: Mary Jo Thorpe, high ropes corse, Smokey Mtns. Tenn.Sept. 2004)

Looking back on the last twenty-five years of my life is a little bitter sweet. Sometimes I wish I could go back and tell myself what I know now so as to have spared myself some of the heartache. But I know I needed to go through those hard things to get to the place where I am now. UP until that point, I was getting by, and doing a pretty good job too, but by finally deciding to embrace or accept my blindness, I let go of an immense amount of anxiety and a facade I didn’t realize I was using. My life feels so much fuller and authentic as result. I’m so grateful for the experiences I’ve had and just hope in some small way my experiences can help make someone else’s experience, whatever it may be a little bit easier. Thanks for reading.

Posted in Uncategorized

Perks of Being a Blind Parent When it Comes to Not Driving

Recently I had a little epiphany that led to the inspiration for this post. It’s easy sometimes to find all the negative things about being blind or the disadvantages…not being able to drive, see the thing your child is enthusiastically trying to point out to you, sit on the floor and look at picture books with your little ones , etc. But I had a moment recently that put things into perspective for me and made me realize some of the benefits or advantages to being a blind parent when it comes to not being able to drive. .


Since I don’t drive, I often sit in the back seat next to my children. I have a habit of holding hands with my children while we ride places. I guess it started with my daughter when she was a toddler as a way to console her when she was a baby, but I also have noticed that during this time I often find myself showing some kind of affection to whichever child is next to me—stroaking their heads or cheeks and holding their hands. On one ride recently, my three-year-old son eagerly petitioned for me to hold his hand moments after we began driving. Up until that moment, this was just something we did—a sweet little thing between me and my children which I didn’t really think much of. But at that moment, it hit me what a special experience this was and what kind of future ramifications this bonding might have.  . For those ten minutes, I was validating and filling up my child’s emotional bank account. I often suffer from SUV envy and wish I could drive, but right then I realized that this was one of the perks of not driving.

So, this little experience got me thinking about other advantages to being a blind parent. Here is a list of a couple I’ve come up with so far.

  • Quality family time–Since we walk places a lot or spend a lot of time waiting for buses, trains, rides, etc., we get a lot of hand holding time and quality talk time. I often tell stories, (their favorites are my “Mary JO Stories” from when I was a kid), teach lessons, answer questions or listen to my kids chatter on about their interests during these times. We also have a lot of fun singing songs and making up our own little ditties. At Christmas time, we often sing carols as we walk places.
    • Great exercise–Since walking is one of our main modes of transportation, this is a no brainer. Keeps you humble–Nothing will keep you humble more than asking others for a ride or having a questionable looking individual whom you’d already pre-judged prove once again to you the importance of not judging others. I can’t count the number of times someone like this has offered me pure kindness by opening a door, or offered to carry a car seat across a street or into a building when I obviously looked like I needed help.
  • Strengthening friendships– We often ride with other families to playgroups or events. This has allowed me to make some great “Mom friends” and usually makes the experience a little more enjoyable since you have someone to go with. It also helps motivate us to go out on hard days when you know you are accountable to someone else. I’ve also become better acquainted with many neighbors and people from my church or work this way.
  • Networking Opportunities–Since we take uber a lot with different drivers or ride public transit, we meet lots of interesting people from different circles and learn about different things. It has greatly expanded our bubble. I’ve learned about new restaurants, local festivals and points of interest, met lots of people from other countries, and learned lots of random facts.   I’ve also been able to share info with others and sort of “give back” by sharing my own experiences. Yes, there are often some crasies on public transit, so I am cautious of what my children see and experience, but this also allows me the opportunity to teach them to be accepting of differences, and Christ-like when it’s hard to do so.

So there is just a quick list of a few advantages. I know there are more and I’d love for those of you reading to share ones you come up with here with me. Thanks for reading.


Posted in Helpful Technologies, Uncategorized

There’s an App for That!

There’s an appp for that…

I remember when the iPhone first came out and smart phones started taking off. I was having lunch with a friend of mine who was trying to explain to me what “apps” were. I was having such a hard time wrapping my brain around why these would be useful to me. Well, boy was I wrong. Like most people, I can’t imagine living without a smart phone and the use of apps. How did we ever manage before? J

This month at our local NFB chapter meeting, we had some member presentations on some of the top apps they use as a blind person. Some of the ones shared were blindness specific, but others were just apps that were useful in some way as a blind person in that they helped provide greater access to something or a useful service. So with that, I’d like to share just a couple of my favorite “blind-friendly” appps that I use on a regular basis.


  1. Uber and Lift: Most people are familiar with these services. Basically, they are public ride share services that work like a cab service except the drivers are just independent members within the community who sign up to provide rides and work for Uber or Lift as contractors. It’s probably pretty obvious why I love using these services…since I can’t drive. I still use public transportation in tandem, but these are definitely more convenient and reliable. I love knowing when the ride will come, who my driver will be, and the ability to leave comments and rate the drivers. I use Uber the most as it works the best in our area. I may have to write a post sometime just dedicated to how much I love uber and how we use it on a regular basis since both my husband and I don’t drive.
  2.  Order Up: I think this is a new service that is mainly based in our area, but I know it’s growing and that there are a lot of copycat services. I also heard a rumor that Amazon offers a similar feature in certain areas. Basically, this is an appp that allows you to order food from a number of restaurants in your area, many of which do not provide their own delivery service already. New places are always being added. You can browse the menu, order, give instructions to the restaurant and/or driver, and pay through the app. There is a $5 fee per order, but for us, this is totally worth it, especially if it’s a place that isn’t exactly within walking distance, or easy to get to via transit. It’s so great to be able to have something delivered that is not just pizza or Chinese food. We also like that it offers us options which most people would just drive to and pick up, which isn’t always as easy for us…like those night-time ice cream cravings. They even deliver to our neighborhood pool. 🙂 Some of our Faves to order from are  Dunkin Doughnuts, Cold Stone, Chick-Fil-Et, and Chipotle.   We’ve also ordered from some local places that are great. I highly recommend using it. It’s pretty easy and fast.
  3.  Honeywell Thermostat: This was a device that we bought which is a wireless thermostat you install on your furnace. It was a pretty easy installation too. It’s great to be able to access our heating and air conditioning systems via our phones. Otherwise, the screen on the wall in our home is a flat touch screen which my husband can’t see, and I have to get really close to read (I can’t really read more than the temp either, so programming is not an option.) Through the app, we can program our system to be on or off and it’s also great to regulate it while we are on vacation. The app works great with the voiceover built in on the iphone. I am looking forward to finding and using more appliance-based apps in the future for things like programming our stove, or monitoring home security.
  4. Big Magnify: This is a great tool for the low vision user. Basically, it turns your phone into a small hand-held magnifier (like a portable CCTV for those of you who are familiar with those). . It can provide a pretty strong magnification too. I use this for spot reading like product labels at the store, mail, etc. Just small things that I want to read quickly and when I don’t really need to read the whole thing. ON another note, I have found that I can use this sometimes at venues to see a bit better. For example, Jesse and I went bowling once and couldn’t’ read the score screen. At first, we just figured we would play and then ask the attendant at the end to tell us the score and who won, but then I figured out that I could aim my phone at the screen above the lane (kind of like looking through binoculars) and make out the scores. This is a bit subjective and will depend on a user’s level of vision, but it was exciting. I also watched parts of my daughter’s dance recital this way. I don’t do it all the time because it probably looks a little weird, and sometimes there are just better, more effective techniques that also don’t strain my eyes as much either, but on the other hand, to most, it probably just looks like I’m taking a picture or using my phone to film something.
  5. KNFB Reader: This is a great program for scanning and reading large amounts of text. Basically, you take a picture of something you want to read, i.e. a package label, piece of mail, flyer, etc. And the app converts the text to speech. It’s also really useful for reading pdf’s that you open in a message or download from a website. I used to use the parent product in college (Kurzweil 1000) for scanning textbooks and handouts on a flatbed scanner connected with my computer. The new version with a smart phone is so much faster and easier! I use this now mostly to read long pieces of mail or handouts at meetings. It also has a “continuous scan” mode which I’ve used before to scan a book or manual that I couldn’t get electronically.
  6. National Library Service BARD app: For those of you who are a BARD subscriber, and who enjoy reading like me, this is a great way to browse the catalog easier and it’s nice to be able to download books for free and listen to them on your phone rather than having to download it to another device, especially since I use my phone so often anyway. Voiceover will work with apps like the Kindle and ibooks, but these are human-voice narrated and free to BARD patrons.
  7. Workouts: I don’t know the official name of this app, but this is what it looks like. FullSizeRenderThis is an app we stumbled onto when trying to find some new exercise programs. It’s a mainstream app designed with a variety of videos to serve as your personal trainer through a variety of exercises. You select the kind of exercise you want to do, (i.e. yoga, cardio, spin, weights, etc.) and then it gives you several videos ranging in fitness level or time. The reason I’m listing this one here though is because the videos are really descriptive—that is, there is a narrator describing how to perform the exercise, as well as a written description at the bottom of the page below the video. It’s a great way to use a workout video, especially when you may not be able to see what the person is doing or be familiar with the exercise. Additionally, this is great because the app works fully with voiceover whereas other similar apps have unlabeled buttons or text that voiceover cannot read.
  8. NFB Newsline: This is a service that gives you access to over 200 newspapers and publications. It began as a phone service, but the app is great to organize your favorites and read the paper or various magazines via Wi-Fi rather than using minutes on your phone. You can also email or share items through the app. I like using this service as it is designed for blind people and free. It’s nice to be able to access news via the associated press or some of my favorite papers or magazines without having to pay a subscription fee or try to read them online and navigate through all the online ads and headers. Some of my favorites are the Target weekly circulator, USA Today, the Economist, and Parents. I also like to check in with hometown papers once in a while.


So there you have it. These are just some of my favorite “blind-friendly apps.” There are a lot of other “blind specific” apps out there like bar code scanners, color identifiers, money readers, etc. There are also a lot of apps that make accessing sites easier than doing it online such as the Facebook app, Tweetlist (for Twitter), , and bus/rail tracker apps. I’m also a big fan of apps that provide services like Amazon Prime (which speaks for itself and is very popular), or store delivery apps. I’m not a tech expert, but I just thought I’d share some of my favorites that make life a little easier for me. I’d love to hear what yours are. Please feel free to share them in the comments below.

Posted in Public Attitudes and Advocacy, Uncategorized

3D Printing Ultrasounds..Wow!

As most of you know, we are expecting our third child in August.  Becoming a mother is one of the most exciting and wonderful experiences.  Each pregnancy is a little bit different and special for me.  Even though we’ve “done this” now a couple of times, each milestone of the pregnancy is still exciting and new–confirming that you are pregnant, hearing the heartbeat for the first time, and getting that first ultrasound.  Even though we don’t really get get much out of the ultrasounds since we can’t see the screen, they are still exciting events.  I wish I’d have had the chance to have an ultrasound like this one somewhere along the way.  This is an incredible use of science and technology  in such a meaningful way.  Everyone should go support Huggies for making this possible too. 🙂