Category Archives: Disability Advocacy

The Killers on stage, Source Wikipedia

The Killers Live at the RDS in Dublin – Accessibility Review

My boyfriend and I went to see The Killers with special guests Franz Ferdinand in the RDS Dublin last week. Both are fantastic live bands and the crowd got almost 4 hours of amazing live performance. We bought the tickets last winter and when I realised it was going to be an open air concert, I envisaged myself getting drenched. Fortunately the weather was fantastic 24°C, a heatwave as far as Irish summers go. This post is more about my experience attending the concert as a fan with vision impairment.  For a music review have a read of this excellent Hot Press article.

 

We got the DART to Sandymount where the crowd was directed out of the station by security staff. We used our canes and followed people to the venue. The RDS is a massive complex. I had been in the main arena for a graduate fair before, but never in the open air area. We are still able to see the security people in their high vis jackets, so we asked the first staff member we saw for assistance. A lady called Emma looked at our tickets and brought us to the right gate. We had to walk around the outside wall for over 10 minutes,, which is no problem but would have been difficult without assistance due to the crowds and the fact that we are unable to read the signs.We were allowed to skip the queue where the bags were searched. Emma told us about some of the concerts she gets to see and showed us a place near the back where we could stand.

 

We arrived early to hear Franz Ferdinand.  I know some of their songs and they are a great live band. We put our canes away and went a bit further into the crowd. People will probably not notice them anyway when it is packed and dancing along to the music with a cane looks a bit silly, unless you are trying to use it as a limbo stick. During the break we asked another staff member to guide us to the toilets. We walked to the main arena, thus avoiding the massive que outside the provided WC containers. Again, it would have been hard to find our way there and back without help.

 

“Somebody Told Me” live at RDS Dublin on YouTube

The Killers came on stage around 9. We stood somewhere in the middle and for the majority of the concert it was not too packed. We couldn’t really see anything on stage or the big screen, but a good band for me is mainly about the music. Some of the green light effects when it got dark were cool. The Journal .ie reported the next day, people found the concert really loud. I try to avoid loud noise and I´m one of the first people to put tissue in my ear at concerts, but I didn’t find it loud at all. On the contrary, I couldn´t understand some of the announcements.

 

Irish Fan Danny playing drums on YouTube

 

The concert was brilliant. I love the band’s first 2 albums “Hot Fuzss” and ´”Sam´s” town. Some of their later stuff is still good, but I feel they got a bit too electronic and poppy for my taste in the last years. Live however, even their newer songs I don ´t know that well sounded great. They played more guitar and drumm riffs. Brandon Flowers´ voice is very distinctive and he is a fantastic live-performer who gets the crowd to sing along. People loved when he called a fan holding a poster saying he is a drummer up on stage to perform with the band. He was brilliant, whether the  part was pre-arranged or not.

 

We were delighted that they played many of our old favourites like „Somebody told me“ „Jenny was a friend of mine“, „Smile like you mean it“ and of course „Mr. Brightside“. It was a great experience to sing along with the rest of the crowd. It got a bit messy towards the end and especially when people were leaving. We didn’t buy the totally overpriced drinks, but by the end of the evening  my clothes were sticky with spilled drink. People were generally polite enough. One girl though had an umbrella hat and one of the spikes got entangled in my hair. That  was dangerous and I´m surprised  security let her in with that.

 

“When You Where Young” The Killers live at the RDS Dublin on YouTube

When leaving everyone got stuck in a bottle neck and I had to hold on to my boyfriend otherwise I would have been rushed along. It was much harder to find a staff member on the way out. We followed the crowd, not exactly sure which gate to go to. When we got to the gate and asked security staff for directions to the DART a guy came out of the crowd and said he was going there too and we could go with him. Turns out he works at one of my boyfriend´s previous workplaces and recognised him. Without help we would probably have missed the last train. Only in Ireland you meet someone you know at a concert with  20,000 people.

 

Fazit

Overall, we had a great time and whenever it got tricky we got help from staff members or other people. I generally find the security people at concert venues extremely helpful. But of course there will be crowds and some pushing at every concert. If you are worried about that you could try to contact the venue and ask if you can stand in the wheelchair accessible area, which is often less crowded. I have heard that some ticket providers give free tickets if you bring assistance, but I have never tried that. Here is a great article by Holly over at her blog Life of a Blind Girl on how to make concert venues more accessible for blind and visually impaired people.

 

I would definitely recommend going to  The Killers concert.

 

Has anyone else been there and what are your experiences with the accessibility of concert venues? Please feel free to leave a comment.

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white High speed train leaving a station

Interrailing in Germany – Part 1: Tips for Travellers with Vision Impairments

Since I started working in Ireland, I use most of my holidays to go back to Germany for Christmas, celebrations or simply to have a proper summer. I love catching up with family and friends, but at the same time I also want to travel to new places.

This May my boyfriend and I combined attending a birthday party with sightseeing in Germany. Before this trip I had seen more of Ireland than of Germany. Most people don’t  travel their own country and Germany is a large country, so there were plenty of cities I hadn´t  been to. During this trip we visited Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Stuttgart, Munich, Augsburg, Leipzig and Gera, my home town in Thuringia. Visiting Germany as a tourist gave me a different perspective on some aspects of German culture.

Map of Germany showing the main cities

 

How Accessible is Germany for someone with a vision impairment?

It really depends on where you go and what you want to do.  German public places and tourist attractions provide reasonable levels of accessibility. It is rarely perfect but manageable. In most cities you will get along with English, although speaking German definitely helps especially when asking for directions or reading information on websites and listening to announcements on public transport.

I googled the museums we wanted to visit to find outif they had audio guides or special tours. If not we joined “normal” tours in English. Some museums said they would provide us with a “special” tour if we paid extra for the guide. That is fair enough if you are a group and can split the cost, but I argued that we we should have the same access to the museum as a sighted visitor and that people with disabilities can’t always be expected to turn up in a group. In every case I got a tour for free or to a reduced price. In return I promised to write reviews about our visits. They will follow later in this series.

 

Using Public Transport

 

You can get everywhere by public transport. Most cities have at least busses and trams, the major ones offer also subways or undergrounds. These well connected transport systems make it easy to get around, but it can be challenging to find the right platform in a station that looks like a gigantic shopping centre.

I still have a German travel pass, which means I and an “assistant” can go for free on regional trains and local public transport. For the fast trains (ICE and EC) I only get the assistant’s ticket for free. I bought our tickets for the longer journeys online through the DB Navigator App (Deutsche Bahn App) a few weeks in advance and never paid more than €30 per journey. However, these reduced tickets are bound to a specific departure time. I think the “assistance” is supposed to be sighted, but we always got away with it.

You can book assistance at the train stations to show you to the plattform and to meet you off the train to bring you to the exit. However, the service has to be booked through the Mobilitätzentrale (Mobility centre) at least 24 hours in advance. If you don´t speak German it would be easiest to send them an email at MSZ@deutschebahn.com with your contact information, travel details, what kind of assistance you need and if you travel with luggage and use a cane or guide dog. Bring the cane even if you don ´t use it, so  the assistance can recognise you. If you have some vision look out for someone with a bright red hat, shaped like a police uniform cap.

If you have an ICE or EC ticket the mobility centre also bookes you a seat reservation free of charge. That also makes it easier for them to find you on the train and you don´t  have to wander around looking for a non-reserved seat.

Overall the assistance works very well, the only disadvantage is that it can´t be used spontaneously. If we were  not bound to a certain departure time and the train was frequent enough, we turned up early and found the plattform ourselves. Ironically, the meeting points for the assistance are sometimes harder to find than a plattform.

Private Busses

There are also several private bus companies like FlixBus. These busses connect the major cities and even have destinations allover Europe. They are cheaper than the trains and the App is easy to use and the tickets are digital so I don‘t have to worry about paperwork I can’t read. There are no free tickets for travel pass owners, but on request  the bus companies often give a free ticket for the „assistance“. Contact customer service and give it a go.

green flixbus coach

My golden rule is: Always ask for reductions for people with disabilities, especially in tourist attraction. Public transport companies are not required to accept foreign travel passes. But you can always try, especially if you have a kane. Train conductors have to sell you a ticket at normal price without charging an extra fee for buying on board, because the ticket machines have touch screens. The larger stations also have a „Reisetenzrum“ travel centre with a ticket counter.

 

Planning is Key

This sounds stereotypical German, but I really believe that I get more out of a holiday, If I take the time to do some research.  Where do I want to go? What is there to see and how do I get there. Without planning I would waist valuable time finding out all this information when I get there.

Booking Hotels

I’m a big fan of apps. I find that booking.com and Tripadvisor for IOS are more accessible and less cluttered than their website versions. The IPhone speech software VoiceOver reads most text fields and buttons on the screen. I save all my travel documents to ICloud files and make them available offline to access them even without internet.

Listen to other people’s reviews on Booking.com. I booked a hotel with a 2 star rating in Frankfurt and regretted it. More about that in a future post on Frankfurt.  Read the property descriptions carefully. How far is it away from the hotel away from the centre, are there restaurants and shops nearby, how good is the transport connection. You can also look at the property in Google Maps, which leads me to the next point.

Google Maps Lists

For this holiday, I created a private Google maps list with places to go in each city we visited. These included not only tourist attractions, but also restaurants, pubs Cafés and parks.  Food-wise I want local cuisine and healthy and cheap options, which mostly turn out to be Chinese or Indian.  Read the reviews, sometimes they even tell you what is near the location. Use the public transport options in Google Maps for directions and select your hotel or a major train station or square as starting point.  Also have a look for a local public transport App in the App Store. Some cities even produce a visually impaired friendly version of their app. Don t hesitate to add more places than you will probably visit to your Google Maps list. You will find that some things are near each other and it is good to have a choice.

Screen shot of Google Maps list Munich
part of my Google Maps list

Overall, I would definitely recommend Germany as a travel destination. All the preparation sounds like a lot of work, but it will ultimately make the holiday more enjoyable and a bit more stress free.

What experiences do you have travelling to Germany? Or are you planning a trip to Germany and have any questions? Feel free to ask them in the comments.

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.

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…

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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.

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…

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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…

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Galway 2020: Tina Paulick –Germany

This post was first published as part of the New Tribes Series in the Galway2020 blog. Galway is bidding to become the European Capital of Culture 2020 and with only a few weeks left until the judges make their final decision, I want to share this again. I volunteer for the Galway2020 initiative and the Galway2020 team is very open to suggestions. They made me feel welcome and try to find volunteer roles I’m able to do and enjoy. Sometimes people with a disability are, often unintentionally, excluded from participating in and contributing to mainstream cultural projects. In fact, their voices are seldom heard outside disability related contexts. For me this wasn’t the case in the Galway2020 campaign. Thanks for letting me be part of it. I hope we win!

I like the concept of Europe, because theoretically, it means I can be German and Irish at the same time.

I wearing the Galway2020 shirt at the docks.

My Origins

I’m from Germany and I came to Galway as an ERASMUS student while studying English at the University of Leipzig. My degree focused mainly on Britain, but I wanted to go somewhere different and Galway was advertised as a small seaside town, so I picked it without knowing much about it.

I’m legally blind and there aren’t that many students with a disability who go abroad. I had to organise some things in advance, but it was definitely worth it, because I became more self-confident and independent. I’d recommend living in another country to anyone, but I’d especially encourage students with a disability to give it a go. During my first week in town, I did a walking tour and the guide said, ‘Some people call Galway the graveyard of ambitions, because once you move here, you can’t or won’t leave again’. I’m now doing an M.A. in Irish Studies at NUIG, so I agree with the part about not wanting to leave, but I don’t think Galway is a graveyard of ambitions. It’s very much alive and I can imagine living and working here for a while longer.

My Irish friends are always amazed that I don’t greet everyone I hear speaking German on the street, which is what most of them would do. To be honest, I didn’t really go looking for other Germans; I wanted to meet people from different countries. However, I met some lovely Germans over here, mostly ERASMUS students and people connected to the German Department in NUIG. Native speakers of English are said to be unwilling to learn another language, but I know lots of people here who learn German or at least have some phrases. There’s a German conversation group meeting every other Tuesday in the Bierhaus, if anyone wants to catch up on their German. Living abroad definitely made me look at my home country and culture in a different way.

Being at Home

If you go out and do things, it’s very easy to meet people and to get involved with community groups and projects. In the beginning, college clubs and societies helped me a lot. Especially when you’re new somewhere and know nobody, you’re more prepared to try new things.

I joined the Galway Visually Impaired Activity Club. Every other Sunday, we go cycling on tandem bikes, with a sighted pilot in the front and a visually impaired person in the back. It’s a great way to get to know different people and it doesn’t matter whether you have a disability or not. Once or twice a year, we go on weekend trips and I already got to see a good bit of Ireland by bike. We also participate in charity cycles. The longest one I did was 100km, but our Sunday spins are shorter and we try to cater for all ages and abilities.

Last year, I helped organising a cycle from Berlin to Prague for the club and I hope to do the Cycle Against Suicide next year. I also volunteer with the NCBI (National Council for the Blind of Ireland), advising people on how to use their smart phones with the built-in accessibility features.

I’d love Galway to become more accessible to people with disabilities; more pedestrian crossings and acoustic lights, wheelchair accessible businesses and bigger street signs with contrasts.

There’s always something going on in Galway; festivals, good live music in pubs, charity events, and Connemara is ideal for all kinds of outdoor activities. I bring my Jack Russell terrier, Mixer, who I got from the GSPCA for a walk on the prom every day. It’s a great place to meet other doggie-people. I got so used to having the sea right outside my doorstep that I start missing it when I’m gone for more than a week.

When I first came here, I tried to listen to a conversation on the bus from Dublin airport and thought my English was really bad, because I couldn’t understand anything. It took me a while to realise that they spoke Irish. I’ve learned a few phrases from friends and Duolingo. People are delighted that I try, even when I get it wrong. I hope to do a spoken Irish course next year. I went to a few events in Irish and even though I didn’t understand most of it, it was fun.

Because of my visual impairment, I often have to ask for directions. People here are very nice, sometimes even a bit too helpful, when they want to help me cross a road which I don’t want to cross at all or try to lift me into a bus. But they mean well and sometimes, I have great conversations with total strangers.

Accessibility

I’d love Galway to become more accessible to people with disabilities; more pedestrian crossings and acoustic lights, wheelchair accessible businesses and bigger street signs with contrasts, to name only a few things. I recently wrote a blog post on how giving each bus stop an individual name and announcements on busses would improve Galway’s public transport system, not only to visually impaired users but also to visitors.

What it Means to be European

I like the concept of Europe, because theoretically, it means I can be German and Irish at the same time. It would be great if Europeans didn’t need to decide a citizen of which country they want to be, but I suppose that wouldn’t work for legal reasons. I find applying for anything in Ireland rather cumbersome. It’s all so bureaucratic. If you have documents in a language other than English, you have a real hard time. But I suppose that’s the same in every country. It would be great if it became easier to resettle within Europe, especially when it comes to insurance and state benefits.

First published: www.galway2020.ie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Access to Public Transport Outside Dublin

I moved from Germany to Galway to study at N.U.I.G. I am legally blind, but still have some sight. I’m not an Irish citizen and therefore don’t have the vote, but Ireland is my new home and I have to get on with my everyday life here. So here is my personal hobbyhorse ; public transport outside of Dublin:

I recently moved out of Galway city centre. Initially, I walked in and out to college, which took me half an hour each way. When the weather got really miserable my friends convinced me to try the bus. They checked the timetables and showed me the stops I needed. When I asked them what the stops were called, that’s when the difficulties started. The stops don’t have individual names and sometimes there is more than one stop on the same road.

Prepared with, to my mind, detailed descriptions of where exactly I wanted to get off, I started my adventure. Being used to big cities with buses, trams and trains running every 10 minutes, it took me a while to get used to waiting for a bus that is ten or more minutes late or doesn’t come at all, especially at stops without shelters.

Using the bus for the first few weeks was exasperating and I often went back to walking to preserve my peace of mind. In the beginning some bus drivers forgot to tell me where to get off and I only discovered it too late or ended up at the terminus. I suppose, I can’t really blame them, but sitting there wondering will he remember me or not, is not a pleasant sensation and I don’t want to ask every two minutes: “Is that it?”

Sometimes I recited my little verse about where I wanted to get off and the driver misunderstood me or asked “near this or that place” and I simply didn’t know. In extreme cases the driver didn’t even know the road I was talking about and asked other passengers, some of whom had contradictory opinions, one driver even consulted Google maps while driving. To be honest, that didn’t raise my confidence in the whole venture. My worst experience was when the bus let me off at a busy junction before the designated bus stop and I didn’t know where I was. I know it is convenient for some people to get off between stops, but I think it is dangerous, because drivers and cyclists don’t expect it.

I use the map on my IPhone to follow the route and go to the front when the integrated speech software announces the road .

Not only visually impaired people have problems with the lack of automatic announcements on buses. In summer, for tourists who don’t know where to get off, it is hard to direct them to the right place, because the stops don’t have individual names or numbers. There isn’t even a timetable on some of the stops. In fact anyone who is not familiar with Galway will find using public transport difficult. In my opinion this is something that should be addressed to improve Galway’s chances to become European Capital of Culture 2020.

The government tries to encourage people to avoid driving to work to decrease traffic jams, but they don’t seem to do much to promote using public transport or bikes.

In summary these are the main points I’m advocating for:

  1.  An individual name or number for each bus stop
  2. Automatic announcements and screen displays in all buses

 The cost of implementing measure 1. would be minimal and 2. would bring the service all over Ireland in line with that being provided in Dublin.

These measures are not only beneficial to people with disabilities, many of whom can not drive or cycle, but would also benefit the general public and tourists.

 

How do blind and visually impaired people go swimming?

This is a great post about how visually impaired and blind people can go swimming. Since I love swimming and Sandy’s View is a fantastic blog I have to share this with my readers. Additionally, I want to write more in English in the future, but I’ll keep my blog bilingual, so there will still be posts in German.

Das ist ein toller Post über Schwimmen für blinde und sehbehinderte, den ich umbedingt teilen muss. Ich habe dort ein Kommentar hinterlassen, das fast schon ein Blogbeitrag zu meinen eigenen Schwimmerfahrungen ist. Außerdem will ich in Zukunft ohnehin auch auf Englisch schreiben. Es wird trotzdem weiter Beiträge in Deutsch geben.

Sandy's View

After many discuntitledussions with my high school swimming teacher (and mustering up some courage), I finally decided to take swimming class during my senior year. It wasn’t that I thought I couldn’t swim because of my disability, but rather I had the same fear the average person has of sinking and drowning!! Being the only blind student in the class, I was unsure about how exactly I would keep up with my classmates. Luckily, my swimming teacher was very accommodating, and made sure my fears didn’t become a reality! She worked one-on-one with me and physically taught me how to do each movement before letting me practice on my own.

Like our sighted counterparts, blind and visually impaired individuals swim for pleasure, recreation and competition. There are many simple adaptations that allow us to enjoy this wonderful activity!

Some people wonder how those of us who are blind or…

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