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Beautiful South split – BBC

31st January 2007 • Dave

As a child I listened to the Housemartins Happy Hour relentlessly. Subsequently the beautiful South became a band responsible for several catchy tunes with the odd quirky lyric which stayed with me throughout my teenage years. Their songs seemed to have a strangely addictive quality some would describe as irritating. For what it is worth, I liked them although I guess like a lot of people the Beautiful South kind of dropped off the radar a bit and it is probably a good thing that they have decided to move on.

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Access to Vista

31st January 2007 • Dave

It has long been the dream of many blind people that we should be able to have comprehensive access to main stream technologies available at the same time and at the same cost as everyone else. Anything which falls short of this fundamental REQUEST IS NOTHING LESS THAN discriminatory, reducing the ability of blind people to be productive, competitive and most importantly considered as equal participants in this technological age.

By their very nature many technologies are intrinsically inaccessible and history has shown that it is unrealistic to expect that main stream market forces guided by legislation will always foster the specialist expertise required to deliver accessibility for all. It would appear that Microsoft recognise that they cannot be all things to all people in this area, consequently Microsoft promote an ecosystem of private companies and individuals who have made a business out of taking on the responsibility to make sure that people who are disabled have the information and tools required to: learn, work, play and communicate using main stream technology.

Many believe the assistive technology industry which makes a living by producing and marketing products for clients who are disabled and those working on our behalf, has an ethical and moral responsibility to create and inform the disabled community about appropriate solutions which enhance the accessibility of main stream technological innovations. If for no other reason than this is in the financial interests of the AT industry itself. So when a major PC operating system is launched, it is to be expected that people with disabilities look to the AT companies for access solutions. This is exactly what I did on Tuesday following the launch of Windows Vista.

It is reassuring to know that along with most screen reader developers, my employer dolphin computer Access had publicly announced their commitment to Windows Vista by the time the new OS made a consumer launch. Users of Dolphin screen reading and screen magnification software can expect vista support during the second quarter. This will be a free update for customers of dolphin version 7 software.

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How to find toilets at gigs?

21st January 2007 • Dave

A perennial problem faced by blind concert-goers the world over. Thankfully this was a question I did not have to ask on Friday when my sister and I visited the Manchester Evening News Arena to witness Kylie performing her Showgirl Homecoming tour. I did not miss a single second, which is just as well because Kylie was simply sensational!

We arrived early at the M.E.N. taking a moment to locate the essentials including seats, bar and WC. As usual the arena stewards were on hand to assist with direction as and when required. As a blind concert-goer Spending a moment doing a little orientation before a gig usually turns out to be a worthwhile investment. One is then able to independently enjoy the rest of the evening without the nagging uncertainty that should one wish to leave one’s seat for any reason during the performance, one may never find it again amongst a crowd of fifteen thousand people! The alternative is to be made to feel like a child asking someone in a yellow jacket if they would be so good as to take you to the loo! What independent adult would accept that indignity? I guess whatever works for you. However, I am very much a fan of the “get there early and figure out where everything is” method, in order that one can be self-sufficient throughout the rest of the show.

I know several blind people who have become masters in the art of refusing to answer the call of nature, because of the chance of not making it back to their seat afterwards. Some blind people with particularly weak bladders run the risk of serious dehydration at concerts as they simply refuse to take onboard any liquid for hours before and during important gigs in order to avoid going for a piss. So knowing where the basics are at concerts can seriously impact one’s enjoyment of what should be a really special occasion.

Generally the staff at the M.E.N. provide an reliable and friendly service especially when compared with their counterparts at a number of other high-profile venues throughout the UK. The stewards at the M.E.N. genuinely want you to have a good night out, and were all set to provide a little orientation pre-Kylie. Save for a bit of faffing around trying to find someone prepared to point us in the direction of a taxi rank at the end of the gig, I am delighted to be able to report that once again we received an exemplary service from the staff in Manchester on Friday. Thank you. It is a travesty that these people only get paid £5.50 per hour when ticket costs average five or ten times this. Having said that, Friday was worth every penny!

There is little I can add to the glowing reviews Kylie’s Showgirl Homecoming tour concerts have already received. When a coquettish charismatic Kylie is bobbing around on stage belting out cheesy pop songs, all seems right with the world. Like millions of other fans I have followed Kylie’s career with interest for nearly twenty years and was stunned in 2005 when reports started coming in of her having been diagnosed with breast cancer. Clearly the choice of Better the Devil You Know as an opener was calculated to be poignant and we were prepared to be moved. And yes when the princess of pop took to the stage many members of Kylie’s audience shed the odd tear of joy.

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Apple blind to iPhone accessibility? – BBC Ouch Blog

18th January 2007 • Dave

Took the words out of my mouth.

This piece and associated comments speaks volumes about how far the blind community has to go in demonstrating the value of universal access to technology.

Although in Apples favour they did have a crack at including a credible screen reader with the OSX operating system, all be it 5 or 10 years too late for many.

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Hope Kylie is ok

14th January 2007 • Dave

There now appears to be some doubt over whether we will get to see The Return of Kylie live in Manchester next Friday. I have had my tickets for around a month, and was encouraged by positive reviews of Kylie Minogue at the M.E.N. Arena the night before last.

While I was warming up for next week’s performance with the Showgirl Homecoming Tour on Channel 4 it would seem that the diminutive deva ran out of energy and an Ill Kylie canceled show on Saturday. Will just have to keep an eye on the M.E.N Arena website for further news. Clearly the most important thing is that Kylie is feeling well soon. And if the gig on the 19th has to be canceled for health reasons. Then so be it.

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Accessible Currency

7th January 2007 • Dave

Great to see lots more people signing the Money for All accessible US currency petition over the weekend. If you have ever been to the US, or ever plan to use the US dollar, or you want to show support for your brothers and sisters across the pond who have to put up with inaccessible currency. Please hop on over to:

And lend them your support. I signed on Friday.

I regularly travel from the UK to the US on business or to visit friends. As an independent blind adult I find that not being able to independently identify US bills makes my visits much more problematic than they need to be. For example, I would rather carry my own luggage than not know how much I was tipping a bellman, or stand around and suffer the public indignity of someone telling me, and presumably everyone else in ear shot, what bills I have. Accessible currency is as much a personal security issue as anything else.

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Pegasus has wings clipped – the Register

7th January 2007 • Dave

A little sad to see Pegasus Mail go. Although I guess I am as responsible as the next man as I have not used the email client in quite a few years. I guess Pmail was the first email application I really used on a regular basis in the early 1990s. I flirted briefly with Eudora, and have tried one or two others. But for the most part I have been reasonably content with various versions of Outlook since 98. Outlook does most of what I need it to do, and it synchronises well with my various mobile devices.

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Is that your final answer?

5th January 2007 • Dave

I appear to have satisfied my thirst for trivia, and become a regular at a weekly pub quiz hear in Worcester. These are not particularly competitive events, more about socialising and drinking as much as answering actual questions. I used to enjoy a good pub quiz up in Preston and I am glad to have found one in Worcester. In early December dolphin were joined by some of our colleagues from the US and Sweden. It would have been rude not to drag them along to a the great British pub quiz which is something of an institution! We were slightly mortified with our final score of 21 out of 40 until we learned that the winning score was 23 out of 40. I guess the questions were pretty tough that night.

But then just yesterday evening, our much depleted team managed the same score 21 out of 40. So did we really need the extra team members? Or was last night’s winning team with a victorious 32 out of 40 especially switched on? There is really no science to it at all. And it just serves to highlight how farcical quizzes and tests really are at measuring anything. That’s not to even mention the social and cultural bias of the examiner.

Anyway, more importantly we had a decent enough evening.

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Curry comments

5th January 2007 • Dave

That’s the spicy stuff with Indian subcontinent influences, not the VJ and Podcaster Adam.

A couple of weeks before Christmas I ticked off another Worcester curry house. Ashley’s on the Tything is in my opinion just the tiniest bit soulless. It was all hard floors and European ambient music. I have nothing against a curry house trying to be modern. It doesn’t have to be flop wall paper, thick table cloths and carpets to have character. Staff with a bit more personality wouldn’t go a miss, and even if the music is modern, what’s wrong with a touch of bhangra?

I can think of 3 excellent modern curry houses I’ve been to: Shere Khan Manchester, Akbar Leeds and Shimla Pinks in Birmingham who all deliver the authentic modern curry house experience.

Ashley’s seems to fall between two stools, it seems like a curry house trying to be modern, but I was left wondering what it had been like before the refurb.

Anyway, a solid enough 6 out of 10 for me for not screwing anything up, oh and the excellent soft fluffy narn bread. But I don’t want to be organised enough for B.Y.O. I wonder how well Ashley’s would be doing were it not for Threshers with their healthy supply of Indian lager just across the street? And charging for poppadoms? What’s that all about? Last time that happened to me I was in Australia of all places.

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