Accessible Guided Tour of Dublin Zoo

a group of elephants standing on stone steps leading into water

My last visit in Dublin Zoo was over a year ago. I wrote a German article at the time, however we were so impressed with the visitor service, that I wanted to write an English version – so here it is, cute animal pictures included.

I had wanted to visit the zoo for a while, but we thought it would be difficult for two people with vision impairments to navigate the grounds without sighted help, since we are unable to read signposts or maps. So we called a day in advance and asked if someone would show us arround. The lady at the visitor centre said one of their volunteers would be delighted to give us a guided tour of the zoo.

The friendliness of Irish people towards strangers fascinates me. Our guide Catherine was lovely. The guided tour was more like a stroll around the zoo with a friend. We had interesting conversations and some great laughs. All volunteers are trained and have an impressive knowledge of the zoo, including historical facts and information about the different species it houses. It was great to be shown the zoo by someone who is passionate about their work.

Dublin Zoo offers a number of facilities to make its grounds accessible to everyone. Apart from the guided tours they have wheelchair, accessible toiletes, facilities for minding service dogs and a number of tactile objects with braille. We could touch an elephant skull with tusks, a set of giraffe teeth and a tiger fur. It was helpful to feel the different structures and to get a better impression of the shapes of the animals.

The best part of our visit was watching the feeding of the elephants during which even the baby elephants came close to the water. The carer told us how much and what they eat. Some fun facts: The elephants are trained to lift their feed to get their nails cut; And as part of  the regular health checks their poo needs to be tested. In order to determine which gigantic pile belongs to what elephant they are each fed a bit of differently coloured tinsel.  Well, at least the carers can see the bright side of an otherwise not pleasant-sounding task.

Some animals like reptiles or birds can be hard to see for people with vision impairments. I brought a magnification tool, which I normally use to look at traffic lights and bus numbers. Another trick is to zoom in with the phone camera or to take a picture and zoom in afterwards to focus on an animal.

The landscape the animals live in resembles their natural environment. Especially impressive is the ape area consisting of numerous islands. The penguins with their black and white colour contrast were also easy to sse. We could even watch them swimming under water through a glass wall. It was similar with the giraffes and zebras in their savanna.

More fun facts> Catherine told us about a scientist who uses video footage to study how long each of the flamingos stands on the same leg. I would love to know the answer for my fun facts collection.

a group of pink flamingos

In many ways it is difficult for people with disabilities to live independently in Ireland (public transport is my favourite example). However, what makes it a lot easier is the willingness of many people to give extra time and effort to other people´s special requirements. In contrast, in Germany many employees only do what is required of them according to their job description. Volunteering is not as as large a part of German culture as it is in Ireland. There are special guided tours, but often only if you bring a goup, pay extra for it or arrange it months in advance. In Ireland we were always accommodated without lengthy arrangements.

Monkey climbing along ropes

Unfortunately, we could not find skunks, my favourite animals. I suspect it is because of the smell. Dublin Zoo is always worth a visit. Nature is fascinating and without institutions promoting the continuation and procreation of endangered animals a significant number of animals would have died out by now.

Advertisements

Photography Workshop for People with Visual Impairments in Dublin

I’m really excited to promote this fantastic project in Ireland. I participated in some of the workshops in Berlin. It was great and I was positively surprised of the quality of some of the pictures we took.

Photo Narrations

a black and white photograph of a woman with dark glasses and head holding a camera. Two younger women help her to take the picture.

What: Free 2 day digital photography and light painting workshop

When: Saturday 8th July, Sunday 9th July.

Who is it for: participants with visual impairments interested in trying out photography and sighted volunteers, no experience required

Where? NCBI Head Office, Whitworth Rd. Dublin 9.

How to register? Email picdesc@gmail.com for further questions and to register.

What to bring: enthusiasm for trying out something new, smart phone or digital camera and props e.g. scarf’s, hats, costumes and LED flash lights, if available

Run by: Karsten Hein (organises photography workshops for visually impaired people in Berlin)

Outcome: exhibition of photographs with accompanying texts, Permanent online exhibition and article at www.photonarrations.wordpress.com

The idea:

 The photography workshop challenges the prevailing misconception, that blind people have no understanding of and interest in visual arts. People with physical disabilities tend to be in pictures, rather than taking them. This project aims to turn…

View original post 247 more words

Studentische Auslandsmobilität Erhöhen – Diskutiere mit

Der DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) organisiert im Rahmen seiner Kampagne „studieren weltweit – erlebe es!“ am 19. und 20. Juni in Essen eine Tagung mit vorangehender Online-Diskussion unter dem Titel „„Studentische Auslandsmobilität erhöhen! – Soziale Diversität und Lehramt als Herausforderung und Chance“, die vier Gruppen in den Fokus nehmen möchte:

All diese Gruppen sind – aus verschiedenen Gründen – statistisch bei Auslandsaufenthalten unterrepräsentiert. Im Rahmen des Austausches und der Diskussion geht es um die Identifikation von Hürden und mögliche Verbesserungspotentiale im Sinne der jeweiligen Zielgruppen.

Ich bin studentische Themenpatin für den Bereich Auslandsaufenthalt mit Beeinträchtigung oder chronischer Erkrankung und lade euch hiermit herzlich ein, euch noch bis zum 19. May an der Online Diskussion zu beteiligen. Hier ist mein Video in dem ich erzähle, warum sich für mich als Studentin mit Seheinschränkung Mein Auslandssstudium in Galway akademisch und persönlich gelohnt hat.

Diskutiere Mit!

Im Bereich Auslandsaufenthalt mit Beeinträchtigung oder chronischer Erkrankung findet ihr Thesen und Umfragen rund um die Themen Planung, Finanzierung und Durchführung von Auslandsstudien und Praktika, zu denen ihr kommentieren und abstimmen könnt. Die Ergebnisse werden in der Tagung im Juni ausgewertet und diskutiert.

Im Abschnitt Deine Geschichte könnt ihr von euren eigenen Auslandserfahrungen berichten und Tipps teilen, um andere Studierende zu ermutigen diese Chance zu nutzen.

Folgt Studieren Weltweit auch auf Facebook, Twitter und Instagram

 

Clothes Shopping with a Personal Shopper

I’m not exactly a fashion enthusiast. I obviously want to look well and feel good about myself, but easy maintenance and practicality always come before style. When I moved to Ireland, I could no longer bring my mum a bag full of ironing every weekend. She gave me a precise list specifying which items could be washed together and at what temperature they had to be ironed and suddenly I was on my own. I gave up the good intentions of separating and ironing my laundry in the second week, colour absorbing tissues had to do the job and all the blouses and skirts, which definitely had to be ironed where banished back into the suitcase. Jeans, T-shirts and jumpers became my best friends.

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, but I wanted to bring a bit of variety and colour into my wardrobe this season. Shopping in general, whether it’s for food, household stuff or clothes, does not rank high on my list of favourite activities. I can think of tonnes of things that are more fun than wondering aimlessly around a gigantic shopping centre, full of stressed people hunting for the latest bargains.

 

I n a leather skirt, black tights and a dark top with flower patterns.

Being visually impaired doesn’t make it easier. I have to take every item out of the shelf and hold it really close to my face or even use a magnifier to see what it is. Apart from people staring at me, this is very slow and frustrating. Initially, I was ashamed to ask for help and bought whatever I could identify. I ended up with rather random stuff in my trolley and if I was really unlucky I got meat pizza instead of the vegetarian version. After a while, I overcame my pride somewhat and now I get the shop assistants to help me. Most of them are very friendly, but in places like ALDI it can be hard to find someone. More upmarket places like Tesco do home delivery.

I enjoy clothes shopping with my mum. We are having great fun laughing about some of the more ridiculous fashion trends and I know she is honest when something doesn’t suit me, sometimes even too honest. But my mum is also the conventional Jeans-type, so I ended up buying similar clothes twice a year when I was home in Germany.

I have seen personal shoppers on TV, transforming slightly uncomfortable looking participants into completely new people with the help of high-maintenance haircuts, lots of make-up and pretty clothes nobody would wear in everyday life. But my boyfriend had used it before and was very happy with the service and encouraged me to give it a go. In fact, he made the appointment in the biggest New Look store in Dublin, otherwise I would probably still be talking about doing it soon.

I was very nervous and self-conscious in the beginning. I showed the lady who helped me some pictures of clothes I liked from the New Look website and half expected her to shake her head in despair saying these styles don’t suit me. Of course she didn’t. I managed to say that I want to wear something more adventurous and elegant than jeans and off we went through the fashion labyrinth. I took whatever she suggested. No harm in trying I thought. While I liked some pieces at first sight, I would have never even thought of trying a leather skirt for example. Surprisingly, it looked really good and I bought it. It’s one of my favourite skirts now and it doesn’t have to be ironed.

I had a whole changing area to myself and actually really enjoyed this shopping trip. We had a great chat about what colours and styles go together and it almost felt like a shopping trip with a friend. I realised that I had been too hard on myself when it comes to what goes with what. I’m a perfectionist, but as my granny says: “Nowadays almost everything goes together”. The challenge with skirts and dresses is to find matching shoes I can walk in, but we managed to find a pair with relatively small heels and like everything else it’s all about practice.

Since I don’t want to go shopping anytime again soon, I bought lots of stuff. That way you can make sure every top goes with every skirt, instead of buying single pieces, only to discover that you have nothing to go with it once you get home. I would definitely recommend availing of personal shoppers for everyone, visually impaired or not. It’s fun, efficient and full of surprises. A new style can make a huge difference and I got only positive feedback from my friends. The shop assistance are passionate about fashion and helping customers is a welcome break from stocking shelves or standing at the till to them. I’ll definitely be back in the winter season.

Lit buildings along the spree at night

Irish Society from a German Perspective

As a German student living in Ireland for the best part of three years, it took me a while to realize that my Erasmus year at NUI Galway not only made me a more independent and open-minded person; gradually it also improved my perception of my home country. While visiting Berlin with my Irish boyfriend, it dawned on me that living standards and social security are definitely higher in Germany.
When I applied for the exchange year as an undergrad, I couldn’t get away quick enough. I was fed up with the infamous German bureaucracy, the anonymity of big cities and everyone’s stereotypical “Germanness”- first and foremost my own. I took my conveniently located and affordable apartment, my student grant and free third level education for granted, and became unsatisfied and restless. Although I met plenty of foreign and Irish students who had to pay for college and their stay abroad, I still didn’t understand people’s enthusiasm for everything German. I spoke as little German as possible and when I started to speak with an Irish accent, I began pretending to be Irish when abroad, and asked my friends to stop introducing me as “Tina from Germany”, a fact they think I should be proud of. My Irish friends are still puzzled by my lack of interest in German history and current affairs and wonder why I don’t talk to every German tourist on the street. They mention people they know in Munich and are almost disappointed that I don’t know them. It seems to make no difference that I’m from the opposite side of the country.
 TV tower in front of blue sky
 

Initially, I had mixed feelings about bringing my boyfriend to Berlin. I don’t know the city well and I was afraid to fail miserably as a tour guide. However, researching things to do, I discovered lots of interesting sights I haven’t been to myself. I really enjoyed the city centre walk and the bus tour in English, maybe because they were designed for foreigners and gave a good overview without going into too much detail. My generation was no longer taught to feel responsible for the past in school, we were nevertheless bombarded with dates and facts, which we forgot as soon as the last exam was over. Most Irish people on the other hand have a fair idea of Irish history and politics.
The best part of the trip was a Trabi Safari. Trabis are flimsy looking, but surprisingly robust cars produced in the GDR. Although I was born after the wall came down, I feel nostalgic every time I see one of these cult-cars. Before my boyfriend remarked on it, I hadn’t noticed that the buildings in East Berlin are much more square looking than those in the Western part of the city. There are still architectural, economic and cultural differences between East and West. When telling people I’m from Germany, I always make the point that I’m east German, a distinction the Irish, many of whom are proud of their home county, tend to understand better than other visitors.
 lit TV tower at night
My boyfriend loved the cheap but high-quality multi-cultural restaurants and the variety of cakes and rolls in bakery shops. He was seriously impressed with the frequency and punctuality of all modes of public transport. In most parts of the country, but especially in the capital, you can get everywhere by train, bus and subway, and changing from one to the other is no problem. The transport systems in Galway and even Dublin do not remotely compare to that. The massive train stations are a bit overwhelming at first, but as someone who doesn’t drive, I felt very empowered.
 Wall with street art
For me, Germany’s main advantage is the high level of social security. Unemployed people are far from being rich, but in my opinion nobody who seeks help has to be homeless there. It took me years to understand Irish people’s obsession with owning a house; unlike in Germany, well-kept apartments in Ireland are rare. The Irish rental market is privatised and on top of paying ridiculous rents, tenants have few rights. At home, neither my parents nor my grandparents own a house; they live in the same apartments for years and don’t intend to buy it. This system makes it easier for people to move and although the minimum wage in Germany is slightly lower than in Ireland, people don’t have to spent most of their money on paying a mortgage. As a student, my health insurance contribution is comparatively low and most medical treatments and prescription medications, including a GP visit in Ireland, are free.
 High rise building
My main reasons for living in Ireland are still the stunning landscape, Irish arts and first and foremost the friendliness of the people. By now I have more good friends here than I ever had in Germany. Nevertheless, most people we met on our holiday were very nice and spoke at least some English. Unlike the small East-German town I’m from, Berlin is pretty international and one can get around without speaking much German.
Ireland is a great country to live in, as long as you have a well-paid job and don’t get seriously ill. If the government wants to keep young people in the country, it has to offer us a future that makes working, living and perhaps raising a family here more attractive. Otherwise, many of us will eventually move to countries with better living-standards, even if we don’t really want to.
First published on campus.ie

Blogprojekt: Studieren Weltweit – Studium in Irland

 

Auch wenn es auf diesem Blog im Moment eher ruhig ist, schreibe ich auf Studieren Weltweit weiter fleißig über meine Zeit in Galway an der Irischen Westküste. Hier eine Übersicht einiger Artikel zu den Themen Planung und Finanzierung von ERASMUS-Jahr und Auslandsstudium sowie meinem Studienalltag mit Sehbehinderung. Für Fotos könnt ihr mir zusätzlich auf Instagram folgen.

Finanzierung eines Erasmus+ Studiums mit Behinderung

Im Post „Wohin als Studierende mit Behinderung?“ habe ich die wichtigsten Anlaufstellen für die Planung meines Erasmus+ Jahres an der National University of Ireland Galway genannt. Ich habe viel Verständnis und Hilfe von meinem Erasmus+ Koordinator, dem Akademischen Auslandsamt und dem International Office bekommen. Alle Mitarbeitenden haben mich in meiner Entscheidung ins Ausland zu gehen bestärkt.

Artikel lesenArtikel lesen

Ein Königreich für ein Bett – Wohnen in Galway

Nachdem Finanzierung und Kursauswahl für den ERASMUS+– Aufenthalt in Irland geregelt waren, galt es ein Zimmer in Galway zu finden. Ich bin kein Fan von WGs, aber nachdem ich mir einige irische Webseiten zur Wohnungssuche  angesehen hatte, wurde mir klar, dass eine eigene Einraumwohnung ein Wunschtraum bleiben würde.

Artikel lesen

Ich packe meinen Koffer: Irland Essentials

Mir wurde erst richtig bewusst, dass mein ERASMUS+-Jahr jetzt startet, als ich wenige Tage vor Abflug nach Galway anfing meinen Koffer zu packen. Hier ein paar nützliche Hinweise fürs Kofferpacken im Allgemeinen und ein paar Dinge die auf einer Irlandreise nicht fehlen dürfen.

Artikel lesen

Studentenjobs im Ausland – Telefonauskunft

Viele Studierende arbeiten irgendwann im Laufe ihres Studiums im Kundensupport am Telefon. Im Ausland auf Englisch mit wildfremden Menschen zu telefonieren, von denen einige einen starken irischen Akzent haben oder selbst Ausländer sind, ist allerdings noch eine Stufe anspruchsvoller.

Artikel lesen

Studieren mit Sehbehinderung

In diesem Post möchte ich kurz erklären, wie blinde und sehbehinderte Studierende arbeiten. In den letzten Jahren hat sich die Technik auf diesem Gebiet stark weiterentwickelt und das Internet erleichtert uns vieles. Trotzdem ist es immer noch schwierig an barrierefreie Fachliteratur zu kommen.

Artikel lesen

Blogprojekt: Studieren Weltweit

Ab sofort schreibe ich für den Blog Studieren Weltweit über mein ERASMUS-Jahr und mein Auslandsstudium in Galway. Meinen ersten Blogbeitrag „Blind im Ausland Studieren – Geht das?“ findet ihr hier. Unter dem Hashtag #ErlebeEs könnt ihr mir und den anderen Korrespondenten außerdem auf Facebook, Twitter und Instagram folgen.

 

Review: „The Wake“ by Tom Murphy with Audio Description at The Abbey Theatre

Photo Narrations

A few weeks ago we travelled to Dublin to see the latest production by the Abbey Theatreof Tom Murphy’s “The Wake”, a play portraying the materialism of Irish small-town communities in the early 1990s. It reveals how far most members of so called respectable families are prepared to go to satisfy their desire for power and wealth.

Accessible Performances

So far 2016 was a great year for fans of audio described theatre performances and I hope the continuing international interest in Irish arts will further not only creative art production, but also help to increase the availability of caption and audio description for patrons with visual and hearing impairments. I have written about how audio description works and the importance of making culture and arts accessible to everyone in a previous review.

The staff of the Abbey Theatre is very friendly and the lady who hands out…

View original post 967 more words

Mixer on the Salthill Promenade

Hound Dog Tales: Mixer the Trouble Maker

I came second with this story in the Hounddog Tails competition in the over 18 category. The short story competition was kindly organised by the owners of Hounddog Dog Grooming in Galway. By the way, I highly recommend them: They do an excellent job, are lovely to owners and dogs, and they always have time for a chat about walking routes and grooming tips. The competition categories were under 12, 12 to 18 and over 18. Thus, there was a great mix of people at the awards ceremony and of course doggies of all shapes and sizes. The first place winners received three free dog grooms, second and third place one and we even got trophies. The best part however is that three dogs from the MADRA rescue centre get groomed for free every month in the name of the first prize winners. The people I talked to all own rescue dogs, so there is absolutely no need to support scrupulous puppy farmers. It was inspiring to meet so many people who truly care about dogs. Plus, I would never have written the following story without a prompt. So here it is:

Mixer the Trouble Maker

As a child I’ve always wanted a dog, but we lived in an apartment and my mum said it wouldn’t be fair. Instead, I got guinea pigs. They lived to ten and I loved them, but they wouldn’t walk on a lead. They just hopped in circles around me and I had to defend them from real dogs.

When I moved from Germany to Galway, I suddenly had a big garden and the Salthill promenade right outside the door. After almost refusing to give a dog back after two weeks minding, I decided to finally get one myself. One day I turned up at the GSPCA shelter and when asked what kind of dog I was thinking about I gave the very precise answer:

“I don’t know, medium energy terrier-something, that can be on it’s own for a few hours perhaps?”

Assuming small dogs are less work than bigger ones is a typical first-time owner misconception.

“What about a Jack Russell than?”

“Oh yes, a Jack Russell, my best friend’s parents have three and they are one of three breeds I would recognise.”

Mixer and I
Mixer the day he chose me.

Needless to say, I fell in love with the first dog I was shown. A Jack Russell called Mixer. He rolled over to let me tickle his tummy for a while, than got up and walked confidently away. They called him Mixer because he used to sleep under a concrete mixer until the lads on the building site built him a shelter. They fed him until they were finished at the site and he had to go to the rescue shelter. I thought about renaming him, but the name fits. Having lived on scraps, he’s definitely not picky. In fact he eats absolutely everything. Like a giant food mixer he devours everything often without even chewing it. I still can’t leave him alone with food. On our second day together, the cheeky monkey stole a banana out of the fruit basket. Since I have Mixer, the floor is definitely clean, apart from mucky paw prints and hair.

Mixer and his plastic banana

It’s a bit like I imagine it to be to have children. In a way having children should be easier, because you can bring them everywhere without having to tie them outside and they wear nappies and have no teeth in the beginning. Ok, that’s a silly comparison, but like first-time baby parents, I wanted to do everything right as a first-time doggie mum. I spent hours looking at the ingredients of dog food, reading toy reviews to find out which ones last longest and contain no toxic materials, and browsing training tips websites. I even broke my vegetarian existence, because I tried a piece of kibble I can’t quite remember what meat tastes like, but if it’s all like this, I’m not missing much. Well, Mixer obviously likes it.

I heard somewhere small dogs often have dental issues. Have you ever tried to brush a dog’s teeth? Reflexively I opened my own mouth and started dribbling, while Mixer licked the dog-toothpaste, bit the brush and spat at me. The dog dental care set is made in Germany and I thought we export mainly cars and beer.

Mixer trying to climb a stone fence
Mixer trying to climb a fence

Mixer is an escape artist. Geraldine who did the home check showed me some gaps I had to fix and I blocked them off with concrete blocks, thinking he’s no bank robber so why would he dig a tunnel. However, after all the blocking and several roles of wire later, he still finds gaps. He digs, jumps, climbs and balances on walls. There must be a bit of a cat in him, maybe he is a “Cat-Russell”. You would imagine someone from the former DDR should be good at building walls, but every time I’m convinced that he won’t find another one, he disappears for another adventure, only to loiter back into the garden after a while, as if nothing has happened. Now I’ve ordered an electric fence. This is war!

The only positive thing about Mixer’s rambles is that I got to know most of the neighbours. The most embarrassing incident was when he sneaked into a house, ate the resident dog’s food and left a smelly surprise.  Thankfully the neighbours still talk to me.

Sometimes, because I’m visually impaired people ask me why I didn’t get a guide dog, but I wanted to find out whether I’m a doggy person first. One day a lady asked me, if Mixer was a guide-dog. I thought it was a joke and replied: “Of course, he is still learning,” all the while having to hold onto the lead with both hands to stop him from chasing a cat. However, she was serious and while walking away mumbled: “Well he still needs some training, but at least he takes up less space than a Labrador.”

 

I would never go hungry with Mixer, if allowed to lead he would navigate me to wherever he smells food, but it could be a bin instead of a restaurant.

Mixer definitely changed my life for the better. I bring him for a run on the beach everyday. Sometimes the place is like a canine playground. Mixer is the kid – I mean dog – nobody wants to play with, because he’s not really interested in making friends, all he does is bully bigger dogs and runs off with their toys. If they are squeaky toys, I’m in trouble, because he loves them but never gets them because they are killed within minutes.

I got to know some lovely people. For some reason, I tend to remember the dogs’ names better than their owners’. One night a man even gave me a reflecting collar with flashlights, just because I remarked that it is a brilliant idea. Walking Mixer also raised my awareness of the environment. It’s only since I have to stop him from picking up every bit of rubbish along the way that I’ve realised how littered the streets actually are.

We even bring Mixer cycling in a basket on the tandem bike, but I much prefers running alongside the bike.

Having a dog is certainly a big commitment, time – and moneywise. However, I already miss Mixer when I’m just gone for a weekend. It’s nice to come home to a furry friend with a wagging tale, although he’s probably only happy because it’s dinner time again. There he is, five past six and he sits here staring accusingly at me. So, I better give him his dinner.

Hounddog Dog Grooming:

Website

Facebook

Twitter

 

Review: CARE by WillFredd Theatre with Audio Description

Photo Narrations

Although the number of audio described and subtitled live-performances has considerably increased over the last few years, they are still rare outside Dublin. Consequently, I was delighted when I received the Arts & Disability Ireland text newsletter notifying subscribers that WillFredd Theatre Companywas to bring its newest production CARE to the Galway Town Hall Theatre.The show featured audio description for visually impaired audience members and subtitles for patrons with hearing impairments.

What is Audio Description?

People may know Audio description (AD) from TV programmes. It is a voiceover telling blind and visually impaired viewers, or indeed anyone who chooses to use it, information that is not conveyed through dialogue, music or sound. For example It would say something like: “John enters holding a folder under his arm. He is a well-dressed man in his forties.” I’m not familiar with the production side of AD, but it is…

View original post 1,384 more words