Editor's note: This article compiles suggestions and information from AccessWorld authors for managing your daily life during the COVID-19 crisis. The information in this article first appeared as separate blog posts on AFB's blog, but have been compiled here for your convenience.
Have it Delivered! Grocery and Food Delivery during Coronavirus Quarantine, by Bill Holton
You’re following advice and staying home. But you still need food, medicines, and other essentials. It’s time to start thinking about delivery. And of course, when it comes to delivery, most people start with Amazon.com.
If you haven't subscribed to Amazon Prime, now might be a good time to get started. Most readily available items are delivered in two business days. Some items are delivered in one business day and, in larger cities, there's even a possibility of same-day delivery. A Prime membership also includes Prime Video, a streaming service with tens of thousands of movies and TV shows, new and old, to get you through the long days. You also have streaming access to upwards of two million (yes, two million) songs on Amazon Music.
Membership to Amazon Prime costs $119 per year, but you can also get it for $12.99 per month. Students can get Prime for $6.49 monthly. Prime members can share certain benefits with another adult in their Amazon Household, including free Prime Shipping, Prime Video, Amazon Photos, Twitch Prime , and exclusive offers.
For grocery delivery, check out Instacart and Shipt. These services will shop for your groceries and deliver them to your door. You can find a review of Shipt in AccessWorld. Many grocery stores, such as Walmart and Kroger, also offer both grocery delivery and pickup. Be sure to also check the website of your favorite local market. They may have recently begun offering delivery or curbside pickup.
If your local store only offers curb pickup be sure to check out my other post regarding Nextdoor. This is a localized social network where you are matched with people who live nearby. Many are posting offers to shop for individuals who do not feel it’s safe to venture out.
You may want to also give your pharmacy a call. They may offer delivery, either locally or by transferring your prescriptions to their mail-order division.
Many bars and restaurants have had to close their dining areas, but can still offer pickup and delivery. Read the AccessWorld article, The Hunger Pains: A Review of the DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, and Uber Eats Food Delivery Apps to see which app or apps will best fill your appetite. If you already checked out the apps and weren’t satisfied with the offerings, check again. Many restaurants have recently joined one or more of these services in order to offer delivery during the Coronavirus crisis.
All of these services offer apps for both iOS and Android. Most are offering “contact free” delivery, and for many eateries all service charges have been temporarily waived. You can pay and even tip online, and the apps are quite accessible.
Stay Active During the Coronavirus Pandemic with Accessible Fitness Tools, by Steve Kelley
On the one hand, we want to stay healthy, and adhere to the suggestions that we limit our exposure to groups of people, and maintain a social distance, in the new world of coronavirus. But with gyms closing down to comply with stay-at-home orders, staying healthy might be looking a little more challenging. What are the options, short of retrofitting our homes with gym equipment?
Audio-described fitness routines might be the answer! The Hadley discussion group Get Up and Go recently had fitness experts Mel Scott and Tyler Merren join in with some of their suggestions on getting started with a fitness routine. Mel Scott produced the audio-described Eyes Free Fitness recordings originally hosted on BlindAlive.com. Although Scott discontinued work on BlindAlive to make room for new projects, in her goodbye blog post, she provided links to download audio files for her many fitness routines from Dropbox, at no cost. You’ll find routines that match whatever level you’re currently at, from beginner to more advanced. You’ll also find many of these routines on YouTube under the Eyes Free Fitness Channel.
Tyler Merren, a Paralympic athlete and personal trainer, will soon be releasing the Revision Fitness App, an audio fitness app specifically designed for users who are blind or visually impaired. The app will include fitness routines that can be done from home, and will also provide information about using gym equipment, proper form, and workout sessions designed for everyone from beginners to experts. In addition, we recently reviewed the Aaptiv audio fitness app, which provides audio- only workouts.
If you’re wondering how to maintain the progress you’ve made at the gym, or actually get started on that fitness resolution you committed to, check out the Hadley Get Up and Go archive of audio-described exercises with Tyler Merrin and Mel Scott. You can stay motivated and check in with others on the first Tuesday of each month with Get Up and Go by phone or Zoom at 7 PM CST.
United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) will be posting a series of free "Staying Fit While Staying Put" videos on their Facebook page. They write, "We have recruited several world-class Paralympic athletes to conduct the workout videos to create a sense of community with the blind, as well as show everyone how they can stay fit within the confines of their own homes. Also, every person who shares and/or comments on each video will be entered into a drawing for a $25 Dick's Sporting Goods gift card."
Dr. Sila Bal writes, "When I was in medical school I developed a yoga series with my local chapter of the Associated Services for the Blind. I taught the class there for years and have now converted it to audio files that can be listened to from home. I am making them accessible completely for free. for anyone who would like to use them."
Guide Dogs, Pets, and the Coronavirus, by Janet Ingber
As we all deal with the Coronavirus (COVID-19), we need to consider the safety of our guide dogs and companion animals. New York City's Animal Medical Center, the largest non-profit animal hospital in the world, provides answers to many questions about COVID-19 and companion animals. Below is a summary of information the Animal Medical Center published on its website:
Author’s note: The terms “companion animals” and “pets” are used throughout these excerpts. Since guide dogs are dogs, this information automatically applies to them even if not specifically mentioned.
Can Companion Animals Get COVID-19?
According to the Animal Medical Center, it is possible, but rare for COVID-19 to affect companion animals. Two dogs in China tested weak positive for the virus. However, neither dog showed signs of infection. At present, it is believed that the dogs got the virus from their infected owners.
After these diagnoses, IDEXX Laboratories tested thousands of dog and cat specimens with no positive results.
At this time, there is no evidence that an infected animal can transmit the virus to a human. Even if your dog or cat is touched by an infected person, it is very unlikely the animal can get the virus or give it to you.
How Can I Protect My Pet?
The Animal Medical Center recommends that you take the following precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds and be sure to get the back of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Wash your hands after touching or playing with your pets. While there is no evidence at this time that pets can spread the coronavirus, washing hands after interacting with animals is always a good idea.
- When you don’t have access to soap and water, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
How Can I Prepare for My Pet in the Case of An Emergency?
- Have a two-week supply of your guide dog’s or pet’s food and medication.
- Make a list of all medications your guide dog or pet takes. Include the name of the medication, dose, and how the medication is administered. * Have a friend or relative available if you become sick and cannot take care of your guide dog or pet.
- Make sure your dog is microchipped and is wearing an ID tag.
What If I Get Sick?
If you contract COVID-19, the Animal Medical Center recommends the following guidelines:
- Restrict contact with your pet, just as you would other people.
- Avoid direct contact with pets, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.”
- Avoid sneezing or coughing on or near your pet.
- If you must care for your pet while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact and wear a face mask.
The below pages are updated as new information becomes available.
Combat the Tedium of COVID-19 Quarantine with Accessible Games, by Jamie Pauls
In 2003, I was in a motorcycle accident with my dad and found myself instantly going from a really busy summer schedule to having absolutely nothing on my agenda at all. While the COVID-19 quarantine isn’t exactly the same, I do see some similarities. While watching the news is important, I find that I need to limit my exposure so as not to become overwhelmed with too much unpleasant information. There are many things one can do to combat the stress and boredom of self- isolation, and one of them is playing games. Sighted people have thousands of games to choose from, but the options for blind people are a bit limited. Here are some suggestions that may help get you on the right track.
There are a number of games designed for the sighted population that have been made accessible to blind people using screen reading technology. One of the most notable is DiceWorld which is playable on Apple and Android mobile devices. I play the game on my iPhone and can confirm that it is accessible. The great thing about this game is that my wife and I can spend hours playing Farkle and Yahtzee together. There are other games available from within the app, but those two are my favorites.
Another game that has given me many hours of pleasure is iAssociate 2. In this word association game, you must figure out what words are associated with a given topic. In the breakfast category, you might identify words such as "coffee" and "eggs." Eggs, however, might be associated with chicken, which might be associated with a number of dishes. You can unlock dozens of puzzles as you play. While this game isn’t played against another player, I have found that asking my wife for help adds an element of social interaction to the game that it might not otherwise have. This game is also played on my iPhone.
In last month’s issue of AccessWorld, I reviewed Super Egg Hunt Plus, a PC game developed by Liam Erven who is a talented blind programmer. In this game, you move around a grid collecting as many eggs as possible while trying to avoid being pecked by Mr. McChicken. There’s a bit more to this $15 game that makes it quite addictive, but I’ll let you read my review to learn more.
If you own an Amazon Echo, this CNET article suggests 25 games you can play on that device. By its very nature, the Amazon Echo presents games in an accessible format for people with vision loss. You can play trivia games, text adventure games, or takeoffs from games such as “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”
Sadly, a few very popular games including Words with Friends aren’t as accessible to blind people as they might be. The developers of these titles should be encouraged by as many people as possible to make their games playable by everyone regardless of whether or not they have vision loss.
If you crave social interaction, sites like RS Games and QuentinC’s Playroom allow you to text and even voice chat with other players. These sites offer a number of card games as well as the aforementioned Farkle and Yahtzee.
Over the years, we have also reviewed several different games in AFB's AccessWorld magazine. Below, I have listed several of these reviews:
- Game Review: Titles from Spoonbill Software
- Game Review: Release Your Inner Child with The Great Toy Robbery
- Thaumistry: A Study in Text Adventure Gaming
- Game Review: Less Is More with Mine Racer from 2MB Solutions
- FEER: The Game of Running Blind: A Game Review
- A Review of A Hero's Call, an Accessible Role Playing Game from Out of Sight Games
- A Review of Manamon, an Audio-Based Role-Playing Game by VGStorm
- Game Review: Timecrest: The Door by Sneaky Crab, Incorporated
- AudioWizards from MyTrueSound: A Sound Investment for Blind Gamers
If you are looking for even more games, remember that the website Applevis has a listing of games with accessibility ratings in their iOS app database. In addition, the website Audiogames.net has a database of over 700 accessible games on various platforms. If that seems daunting, you can narrow the list here.
Social distancing doesn’t have to lead to social isolation, and gaming is a great way to reduce stress, occupy your time, and perhaps even sharpen your brain. What games are you finding enjoyable right now?
Maintaining Connection with Digital and Telephone Support Groups During the Time of the Coronavirus, by Steve Kelley
Social distancing may be just what the doctor ordered to minimize the spread of the coronavirus, but this same distancing may contribute to the social isolation many people experience with vision loss. For those that look forward to a low vision support group that meets face-to-face, this loss of support may be particularly difficult. There’s nothing like getting together in person with people you know, who share a common experience, and supporting one another.
Rather than put these support groups on hold, it’s time to explore one of the many options we have for conference calling—that is, getting a group of people together on one phone call. No, it’s not the same, but we don’t need to be isolated because we are physically distancing!
There are a number of video-conferencing alternatives that can be used with the computer, smartphone, or tablet, but not everyone is comfortable with that technology. The simplest solution may be just picking up the phone and dialing in to the group.
Is someone in your support group an iPhone or Android user? If so, both phones can be used to put together a conference call with a small group of 5 participants or less. The idea is the same for both. Call the first person on the list, and after the greeting, add the next person on the list by pushing the “+” or "Add Call" button and dialing their number. The first caller is briefly put on hold. Greet caller 2, then join the callers with the “merge” button. Just repeat the process for everyone you want to include on the conference call.
For a larger group, one of the most popular alternatives is FreeConferenceCall.com. You can sign up at no cost online or call them at 844- 844-1322. Even with the free service you can have up to 1,000 participants at a time. You don’t need to schedule a time with the service, either; you just pick it up and use it when you get together with your group. Each caller calls in, puts in a passcode for the conference, and your support group is back together again, with the social distance the doctor prescribed! To compare other free conference call options, check out Top 6 Free Conference Call Services 2019 .
If you aren’t connected to a support group yet, there’s no need to wait for the social distancing to pass to get connected. Here are several great no-cost alternatives:
- Hadley Discussion Groups offer 8 monthly and 2 weekly discussion groups you can join by phone or computer. Topics include: Spanish; travel; writing; exercise; crafting; gardening; tech; cooking; resources; and braille. Check the schedule online or just call Hadley at 800-323-4238 for more information.
- Well Connected offers support groups for older adults on a wide range of topics. Groups are accessed at scheduled times by phone. Some offer the option of connecting by computer. Their schedule is online, or you can request a printed copy by calling 877-797-7299.
- The International Low Vision Support Group (ILVSG) offers monthly meetings by phone, moderated by founder Dan Roberts. For more information, check out their website or call 888-866-6148.
Social distancing is certainly disruptive to our community and support groups, but it doesn’t have to be socially isolating. In fact, by checking into some of these resources you might discover you can be even more connected!
Using Downtime to Improve Your Windows Screen Access Skills, by Bill Holton
Do you use JAWS, ZoomText, or Fusion for work or school. but now that you’re sheltering in place you no longer have use of these screen access software packages? Or perhaps you just want to make use of the enforced downtime to try one of these screen access platforms? In either case, you’re in luck.
Freedom Scientific has announced a plan to help students and employees with visual impairments in the US and Canada affected by COVID-19 while working and studying from home.
“As we continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19, we want to do our part to lessen the burden for users who are impacted by the sudden need to work and study from home,” said Tom Tiernan, CEO of Vispero. “Providing equal access during this time is more important than ever.”
Users can access JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion software free of charge until June 30, 2020 by visiting the Freedom Scientific software portal. If you do not have a college email, simply enter your personal email.
For users outside the US and Canada, the company is working with their international team to provide a home solution and recommends contacting your local distributor for assistance.
Not familiar with these screen access products? Each offers a multitude of help and training resources in the Help menu. Also check out the Freedom Scientific YouTube channel here.
If you already own and use JAWS, this downtime may be an excellent opportunity to expand your screen access horizons. AFB offers “Learn to Use NVDA" an easy-to-follow introduction to using Microsoft Windows with Nonvisual Desktop Access (NVDA), a free and full-featured screen reader, along with a two-part tutorial on video magnifiers.
And don’t forget the Windows built-in screen reader, Narrator. If it’s been a few years since you last checked in on Narrator we promise you’ll be amazed by Microsoft’s progress in turning what used to be a screen reader of last resort into a full-featured player. Here’s a great video introduction from Microsoft Helps.
This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.
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