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Friday, August 28, 2009

Tech Happy

Oh, yes. I said "tech" and "happy" in the same sentence.
Imagine that! With all the tech problems I've been having
this summer, I was beginning to think it would never work
out. Well, it has and it feels so good!
I admit, I've just about abandoned my computer for right
now. I know that's not good but I need a break from it.
My current training situation just isn't working for me. I
need to come up with a new direction for learning how to
use the computer. I'm not giving up. I'm just setting it
aside for now.
In the meantime, I'm focusing on my Braille Note M Power.
That situation was FINALLY resolved. Two weeks ago, my
Braille Note returned to me after it's second trip to the
repair shop. It is all fixed this time and working just
great. It's so wonderful to have this baby back with me.
I would say it's as good as new, but it's not. It's even
better! My Braille Note is no longer just an M Power. It
is now a Deaf-Blind Communicator. The special DBC software
was added to my machine. I also have what they call the
Deaf-Blind Companion. It's a cell phone that works with the
main unit for different types of communication needs. I
purchased my SIM card this week and signed an AT&T plan. I
am now up and running and totally love it!
The DBC will truly open doors for people who are deaf-blind.
I've only been using it for a few days and can already see
the difference it's making in my life. I do not think I've
ever been this excited about a type of technology in my
life. I am so pleased with the DBC and the new access to
communication that it is giving me.
First, I now have Google IM. It's fun to add friends to my
contact list and see that they are online at the same time.
I've had some nice conversations with different friends.
I can initiate these chats with other Google members. I
enjoy being paged into a chat by someone else. It lets me
know that another person in the world is thinking of me and
wants to talk to me. It is my first access to live
chatting in eight years so it really is special for me.
The DBC will give me access to TTY conversations. This is
the one feature I haven't tested yet on my own. I was going
to but discovered that the kitchen phone is wired in through
the wall. There's no cable that I can disconnect from the
phone and plug into my DBC. The situation has already been
taken care of. I can use the desk phone in the living room.
I just haven't tried it yet.
Having TTY access could be a mixed blessing. I'll be able
to make my own phone calls. With the assistance of the
relay service, I can even call voice numbers. That's good.
But it also means I should call the transporation service
and book my rides on my own. They are such a pain. You
have to call every week and confirm each ride the day
before. I'll likely have to call them every single day.
I'll do it though. And I'll do it with a smile on my face
for no other reason than that I CAN do it.
My favorite part of the DBC is access to text messages. I
can communicate with other cell phones using text messages.
I've called my dad and two friends. We trade messages back
and forth to have a conversation. It is such a thrill! It
is something that's so normal and special at the same time.
It's special because it's normal and I can now do it. I
get so happy each time my cell phone vibrates and I know
there is a new message for me. Oh, the power!
The final feature of the DBC is called Face-to-Face
communication. People who do not know sign language can
type on the cell phone. The message will appear as braille
on my machine. I can read it and type back and my comment
will appear on the cell phone. Since I'm verbal, I usually
just use my voice to reply.
Today I had to go to the Campus Accessibility Services to
pick up my accommodations letter. (Classes start next
week.) My father was taking m. He can't sign so I brought
the DBC for communication with him.
When I arrived at the office, one of the employees came
out to chat with me. She knows fingerspelling but she's
slow and unsure of herself. I told her about my new
communication device and she wanted to see it. We used
Face-to-Face to talk with each other. It was the best and
easiest conversation we've ever had. We also showed the
device to the office technology specialist. She loved it,
too. Me and my new toy were quite a hit there.
Here's a story that illustrates how the DBC has changed my
life. Last night, we decided to go out to our favorite bar
and grill for dinner. JD loves that place. He asked if he
could take his best friend and I agreed. However, I knew
that would lessen my fun since JD and his friend wouldn't
want to talk with me. It's not that they don't like me.
But two young boys together have no interest in an adult.
I started to grab my Braille Note so I could read at the
restaurant if I got bored. Then I had an idea. I quickly
sent a text message to my friend Andrea and let her know
we'd be at that restaurant. I told her to join us if she
could. I didn't expect her to come, since it was such last
minute notice.
When we were in the car, my cell phone vibrated. I checked
the message. Andrea said, "I'm on my way!" Just like that,
I had invited a friend out to dinner.
We had a really good time. Four adults, two kids and a
lot of good food. What more can a person ask for?
Andrea can fingerspell but I wanted to show her my DBC. We
used Face-to-Face communication to talk for a little while.
In some ways, it's easier for me than using sign language.
I'm stronger in reading braille than communicating in sign.
The DBC gives me a choice of how I want to communicate. It
will be especially useful for people like my dad, who do
not know sign language.
So there it is. That's why I'm tech happy. I love the DBC.
I love what it is doing for me. Most of all, it's making me
feel just a little bit more like a regular person.
Suddenly, I'm doing things that everyone else can do. It's
the greatest feeling in the world.

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