[NABS-L] A technology recommendation for all of you

Doug Oliver oliver.doug1 at gmail.com
Thu Jul 26 15:44:37 UTC 2018

Cricket, wonderful story, I want to know more about aira.  email me off 
list? oliver.doug1 at gmail.com

On 7/26/2018 10:27 AM, Gary Wunder via NABS-L wrote:
> What an interesting story. Thanks.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: NABS-L [mailto:nabs-l-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Cricket X.
> Bidleman via NABS-L
> Sent: Monday, July 23, 2018 12:07 AM
> To: National Association of Blind Students mailing list
> Cc: Cricket X. Bidleman
> Subject: [NABS-L] A technology recommendation for all of you
> Hi all,
> This is long. Please read it anyway. As of last July, I received the
> AIRA Back-to-School award. Basically, this gave me free minutes on
> AIRA for nine months, the last of which recently ended. (Endless
> thanks to Kathryn Webster for being instrumental in that process.)
> I'll admit I was a little skeptical because first of all, I didn't
> think I'd use it. I also knew they had basically repurposed Google
> Glass, and Google Glass in its original form was kind of a floppy
> failure... And then some.
> So Cricket, where's that "recommendation" you promised us? Well, here
> it is. I can say, through my own abundant use of the software in my
> first year of college, that I sincerely feel that AIRA is
> revolutionizing instant access to all areas of life. Accessibility is
> a huge issue for us as blind students and though it's slowly being
> worked on in general, sometimes it's necessary to have instant access
> to things. I'd call it "accessibility on demand" or something like
> that. One particular instance comes to mind.
> I was incredibly overwhelmed. It was my first day at Stanford,
> September 19 of last year. My parents had just left me in a dorm full
> of people I didn't know, in a place I'd never been to. I was walking
> around, trying not to bump into things, when I mentally slapped myself
> for forgetting that I had an a capella audition, and then another one,
> and then a choir audition, and then a meeting with my pre-major
> advisor. I really didn't want to be the problem child constantly
> asking for help from the RA's who, quite frankly, had more than enough
> disoriented freshmen to deal with. So, because I'm so brilliant, I
> walked out of my dorm with my cane, wearing a black dress and high
> heels, into 90 degree weather. I made it all the way down the hill by
> my dorm and then I had to mentally slap myself again because I
> realized something... I didn't know the campus at all. I walked around
> a bit, and then got turned around, and then got lost, and then got
> even more lost. There were freshmen everywhere, but they were all lost
> too, and a bunch of them gave me atrociously  wrong directions. I
> called AIRA and in five minutes, they had me straightened out and
> going in the right direction. Turned out I was on the opposite side of
> campus from where I was supposed to be. Thanks, all you disoriented
> freshmen...
> Let me tell you something about Stanford campus. you know how like
> every sane person designing a college campus makes them arranged like
> city blocks? There are clear streets, buildings are arranged in grid
> patterns, they're in numerical order... Stanford's designer must have
> been crazy, because this campus is not like that at all. There are
> twists and turns everywhere and though there are a couple of main
> streets here and there, most of the campus isn't even nearly
> accessible by car, much less by some lost blind student. Google Maps
> doesn't really help, so my AIRA agent (Emma) was cross-referencing
> three different maps while trying to keep an eye on me so I wouldn't
> step in a fountain. Yes, that is a possibility here. People actually
> jump in fountains for fun. Emma is phenomenal, and managed to get me
> to my audition on time. Part of that was because, by some happy
> coincidence, I'd left three hours early, but even so I was rushing at
> the end. At least I made it, sore feet and all.
> Anyway since then, I've had many experiences with AIRA, and all of
> them have ended up positive. One time I was chasing down a Uber
> because it wanted to ditch me... One time I was cramming for a test
> with a textbook that I hadn't gotten in Braille on time since it was
> my first quarter here. One time an agent was reading Plato's Republic
> to me when I may or may not have taken a nap, and they may or may not
> have had to wake me up. They were really nice about it though. You
> know these people are awesome when they can even pronounce pars
> opercularis properly. I can't even do that. (That's an essential part
> of the brain involved in language processing by the way.) And once
> they were able to describe, in extreme detail, a brain diagram I was
> studying for psychology. I later got the Braille diagram, and it was
> nowhere near as detailed as the AIRA agent's description.
> So my point is, please do yourself a huge favor and get AIRA. You can
> get funding for it from the Department of Rehab. Or scholarship money
> can go toward it, or you can apply for their scholarships. I promise
> you it will be integral as you go through education and life in
> general. If my word isn't enough, and even if it is, I fully encourage
> you to check out this blog post by Jonathan Mosen. He's a technology
> consultant who has way more experience than me. He's worked with
> Humanware and Freedom Scientific, and for many years has run his own
> consulting company. He designs websites, travels a lot, runs several
> podcasts and a radio station, writes books, and is pretty much the
> kind of person many of us aspire to emulate in terms of success. He
> uses AIRA and in this post, talks about how powerfully this innovative
> solution has impacted his life. Please give it a read--I promise it
> will change your outlook. https://mosen.org/aira/
> Best,
> Cricket X. Bidleman (she/her/hers)
> Stanford University | Class of 2021
> P.S. If you have Emma as your AIRA agent, tell her I said hello. :)
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