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Archives for April 2009

Celeb disability gossip

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Vaughan | 13:50 UK time, Thursday, 30 April 2009

I think I've always wanted to be a gossip columnist - it's just that in the world of Ouch!, our very own Disability Bitch has her finger on the pulse of all the celeb gossip much better than I do. Still, I thought I'd give it a go. Ahem.

His name is Prince! And he is funky! But the purple-lovin' popster has also revealed that he had epilepsy as a child, until the age of seven. Like a third of people who experience epilepsy in childhood, Prince's condition disappeared as he grew older, but in an exclusive US television interview the famously flamboyant singer talked about how he tried to "compensate" for the illness by being "as noisy as I could and be as flashy as I could". So just maybe, if it hadn't been for Prince's epilepsy, we wouldn't have had Purple Rain, Kiss and, er, all the other classics that I can't quite think of at the moment.

Hmm. Okay. This isn't going so well. Let's try another celeb. How about Kerry Katona?

A few months ago, the former Atomic Kitten was all over the headlines for an appearance on ITV's This Morning, which sparked controversy because of her erratic behaviour. Kerry said it was because of the effects of the medication she was taking, and now, in a speaking engagement at the famed Oxford University Student Union, she's been talking frankly about her treatment for bipolar disorder, and feeling like she was "an alien", saying: "I didn't brush my teeth for a week. It's part of my personality".

And that's your disability-related celeb gossip round-up for this week. I don't think I'll be giving up the day job quite yet ...

Brain to Twitter interface

Gids | 12:58 UK time, Friday, 24 April 2009

It was once the stuff of science fiction, sending messages using only the power of your thoughts, but now a system designed to send messages to the social networking site Twitter using brain electrodes could help paralysed people do just that.

Unveiled by the University of Wisconsin's NITRO Lab, the story has spread like wildfire through the disablisphere - here's one such post by Wheelchair Cathlic, where you can also see a video of brain-twittering in action.

It works using a special bit of headgear to read impulses from the brain. As letters are highlighted on the screen, the user focuses their brain when the correct letter is selected; to send a tweet they simply point their thoughts towards a special 'twit' button in the interface.

Whilst posting to this fashionable site might seem like a gimmick, the researchers are quick to point out reasons why Twitter is an ideal venue for people with severe paralysis. The short message site eschews all the fields and formatting of email, allowing disabled users to quickly blast messages to friends.

Rest assured Ouch will be on the waiting list if the system becomes publicly available. But until we can dump our keyboards and update the site just by thinking hard about it, you can follow us under bbcouch on Twitter.

Ouch and about

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Vaughan | 11:23 UK time, Friday, 24 April 2009

If you're in the Birmingham area, here's your chance to come and meet Ouch!

Next week, from Tuesday 28th to Thursday 30th April, the Ouch! team are packing up their computers and heading up to Birmingham. We've got a stand at Naidex, the annual disability trade exhibition, which is taking place at the NEC (National Exhibition Centre). Check out the link for more details of the event, and how to get there.

We're on stand G192, which is in Hall 17, so if you're at the exhibition do pop in and say hello. We've got a bright and lively display, so we'll be difficult to miss!

PLUS on Wednesday and Thursday, we've got a Very Special Guest - comedian and Ouch columnist Laurence Clark will be appearing in the Lifestyle Seminar & Demonstration Zone (C172) at 12.30pm to perform a short stand-up set. Definitely one not to be missed, and a good lunchtime break from looking round all the other stands and stalls!

Budget 2009 and disability

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Vaughan | 14:53 UK time, Wednesday, 22 April 2009

In case you missed it amidst all the the detail in today's Budget speech by the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, the main news that will affect disabled people seems to be that child trust funds for disabled children are to rise by £100 a year - or £200 a year for severely disabled children.

For more information about child trust funds, check out this BBC News Q&A.

Blogging Against Disablism 2009

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Vaughan | 13:15 UK time, Wednesday, 22 April 2009

It's only just over a week until Friday 1st May, which means that it'll soon be time for the annual Blogging Against Disablism Day. Or BADD, as I'm sure all the cool blog kids call it.

This is the fourth year of BADD, and it's been growing each time. In 2008, there were hundreds of entries on disablism, written in a huge variety of styles, tackling a wide range of subjects, published on lots of different blogs from right across the world.

As ever, it's being organised by The Goldfish at her blog, so be sure to get over there, find out what's involved, download a BADD graphic to display on your own site and, if you're going to be taking part, add your name and URL to the already very long list of participants.

We're looking forward to reading what the blogosphere has to say on the 1st May.

Give your views on London accessibility

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Vaughan | 10:45 UK time, Wednesday, 22 April 2009

With London hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games in only three years, the race is now on to get everything built and all the infrastructure in place to make sure these massive events go smoothly. And that includes accessibility. The office of the London Mayor is keen to find out what works in the capital when it comes to accessibility - and, of course, what doesn't.

If you fancy sharing your views - and we know just from comments we read on the message board that there are a lot of views out there - there is now a survey you can complete online. Whether you live in London, work in the city or are just an occasional visitor, this is a good chance to offer your recommendations, criticisms and maybe even your congratulations on aspects of accessibility in the Olympic and Paralympic location. [Link via Lady Bracknell.]

Guide dogs get sat nav

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Vaughan | 14:42 UK time, Monday, 20 April 2009

According to Saturday's edition of The Sun newspaper, guide dogs are about to get satellite navigation technology. And no, it's not a joke.

Under the headline Barking new sat nav for dogs - and accompanied by a picture of the sat nav device with a speech bubble saying "DESTINATION BARKING" (do you get it?) - the story reveals that Jason Perkins, a product design student studying in Wales, has developed Peepo, a device that clips onto a guide dog's harness and vibrates on the left or right side to tell the handler in which direction to go in. Before setting off, the guide dog user speaks their destination into the sat nav's microphone, and the vibrating receiver is then programmed with the route.

Great things are being predicted for the Peepo, and it's already being lined up as one of the possible winners of this year's James Dyson Award for excellence in design, named after the guy who developed the bagless vacuum cleaner.

But what to do Ouch-reading guide dog users out there think? Does this sound like a new gizmo you'll rush out to purchase, or are you sceptical? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Google touchscreen phone goes 'eyes-free'

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Gids | 17:15 UK time, Tuesday, 7 April 2009

It's a subject we've touched on before on our blog. How can blind and visually impaired people access the latest touchscreen phones that don't have buttons you can feel? Engineers at Google have been showing off their novel solution to the problem.

In a series of new videos, TV Raman, Google's blind technologist demonstrates the technique on the Google G1 smartphone. It's all based on relative positioning, put your finger anywhere on the screen and that becomes the 5 at the centre of the dial pad, then you can simply push up for a 2 or right for a 6 for example. There's also voice feedback and a reassuring click sound to confirm your selection.

But enough explaining, I'm sure you want to see it in action...

The question is will blind and partially sighted people really want to give up their trusty touchpads for this new system? Emma from the Ouch team, who currently uses a Nokia phone with a screenreader, says she'd only switch if there was a touchscreen phone she really wanted, but with these devices increasing in popularity it's unlikely Google's work will be in vain.

Check out more videos of their work in progress on the Eyes Free Android YouTube channel.

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