BlackBerry Screenreader

I’ve been looking for a new phone for a while. I’ve been using Nokias since I was thirteen, but its nearly impossible to get a new phone these days that supports talking software. IPhones have a built-in screenreader called Voiceover, which makes them an extremely popular choice for blind and visually impaired people. There’s no doubt that Apple have done incredible work in this area, and they have to be admired.

I know I could learn to use a phone with a touch screen if I had to, but its something that never really appealed to me. I’m not really interested in phones so much that I want to be able to do everything with it and spend lots of money on it. I like being able to text quickly using a keypad, and the idea of carrying a bluetooth keyboard around along with a phone, and all the other stuff I generally have to bring with me didn’t appeal to me either.

I was curious to hear that Research In Motion (RIM) who make BlackBerry phones had developed the Blackberry Screenreader. It is free software which can be downloaded to work on some of the BlackBerry Curves. I couldn’t find too many reviews online, but after talking to a friend who had seen the phone in action, I decided to take the chance and get one last Thursday.


The BlackBerry Curve 9320 was released in Ireland on 15th June and my cousin bought one that day. I took the easy option and got her to set it up for me and install everything I needed. We downloaded the screenreader from

directly on to the phone and it seemed straightforward, though I’ve heard yu need sighted assistance so can’t be sure that its definitely easy to do if your blind. I was very impressed with the quality of the speech, and with how well the software works. It was released at the beginning of May, and RIM have promised more updates and improvements, but I was expecting it to be a lot worse. Twitter and emails are easy to use on the phone. I haven’t used any aps or BBM yet (starting to sound like my thirteen-year-old nephew now) but everything else seems good. The main problem I’ve had is with the battery life, and I’m not sure if its because of the software or that’s just the way the phone is.


The free BlackBerry screenreader still has a bit to go to be equally as good as Talks or Voiceover, but I like what RIM have done with it so far. Its fantastic for blind people to have the option of a phone that isn’t a touch screen. Not everybody likes them and shouldn’t feel like they are being forced into buying one if they want a smartphone. That’s how I felt until I bought my Blackberry. It was a third of the price of an IPhone and does exactly what I need.


Cheers Research in Motion! 🙂

A busy day


Today was one of those crazy busy days, and now that I’ve washed up after dinner and can’t go walking because its pouring rain, I still want to be doing something.

This morning I bought my first ever TV licence (how grown up am I!), and did a few things in town. One was related to my new phone, but that’s the subject of my next post.

I was asked to be the guest speaker at my primary school’s prisegiving, where I had to present a cup to the student who had achieved a lot in their time at school. I won the same cup when I was in sixth class, so it was nice to be able to be handing it over to someone else all these years later. I was nervous at the thought of speaking but it went well and the teachers and students seemed interested and happy. When I got past being nervous, I realised how nice it was to be asked, and that its lovely to be able to go back and talk about my school with very fond memories. I am proud of the school today, and proud to have been a past pupil.

O J had his annual check-up and vaccination this evening. We got a vet who I really like, and he spent lots of time checking O J, asking questions and petting him. He’s never been above his recommended weight in the time that I’d had him, up until March this year when I took him to get his rabies vaccine for his passport and he was 37 KG. His maximum weight is supposed to be 34! When this dog of mine decides to do something, he likes to do it properly! I’m feeding him half a cup less a day but it hasn’t reduced his weight much even though I think he looks thinner. The vet said its not too noticeable, and that I only know because I know him so well, but I’ll be keeping a close eye on him. I would prefer if he stayed around the 32 or 33 KG mark now that he’s getting older. I’m hoping it isn’t the mature food he’s on, because unless I can get a roral canin that would be lighter, I don’t want to change brands completely.

Anyway, that was boring!

Expect more exciting things, BlackBerry related soon! 🙂

Fighting Over The CD Player

I’ve been listening to lots of music in the last couple of weeks. Its not all necessarily new music that’s just been released, but its been keeping me happy so I thought I’d mention it here.

I’ve been meaning to get a Moving Hearts album for a long time and bought ‘the platinum collection’ on Amazon last week while I was buying a book for my nephew. It was interesting to hear what they sounded like, and the type of music Christy Moore was making at that time, which is obviously why I was interested in hearing the band in the firstplace. I prefer how Christy and Declan play these songs live now. That’s not saying they aren’t good of course, but just that I prefer them more acoustic.

I might have given Moving Hearts more of a chance if I hadn’t become adicted to ‘the road to Escondido’ by JJ Cale and Eric Clapton. I recently found out its the album I listened to and loved on the journey to Thailand. They both play so well together, and its one of those albums that just puts you in a good mood.

‘Rhythm and repose’ is the first solo album from Glen Hansard, released on 15th June. It neither sounds like a frames album or a Swell Season album, which is exactly what I was hoping he would make. If its a solo album it has to sound different from what he’s done in the past. He has been working with different musicians in New York, and along with a different producer its all sounding good. Some of the tracks display that raw emotion in his music that you usually only hear properly when he plays live, and that’s what I love about it. The vocals sound much more mature. and From reading and hearing him talk about it in interviews, he seems like he’s in a really happy place musically right now, and that sound transfers to the album. Its an album that could be easily dismissed at first, but if you give it a chance it really grows on you.


Paul Simon’s 1986 album ‘graceland’ is one of my favourite albums of all time. I only heard it for the first time when I was studying in Belfast. A friend called Ronan gave me about ten albums on mini-disc, I liked most of them but was adicted to ‘graceland’ straight away. Naturally I was delighted to get a copy of the new

25th anniversary addition


and its brilliant. The DVD documentary ‘under African skies’ tells the story of Simon contraversially making the trip to Africa in 1984, the impact that had on the musicians, and the making of the Grammy award winning album. Its a fascinating story, and well worth buying for the DVD alone.


So, what are other people listening to these days?


Do Guide Dogs Realise How Lucky They Are?

 O J might feel sorry for himself at times, when he has to get his harness on and work and he doesn’t want to. He has a life of luxury compared to other dogs though, especially those who end up abandoned or unwanted in animal shelters.

O J does know that Pedigree treats are yummy! Pedigree doesn’t just provide food and tasty treats though. They regularly campaign to raise awareness of animal welfare, and encourage dog lovers to adopt one from their local shelter or welfare organisation. Their annual Pedigree Adoption Drive took place last month, but their hard work is ongoing. Check out their Facebook page to find out more.


 Recent statistics released by the Department of Environment, Community and Local government have shown that, on average, 44 dogs are abandoned in Ireland each day, whilst sadly a further 10 are put to sleep. Dog lovers like me will agree that this is a shocking statistic. I wanted to find out more about the help that is available for these dogs. Thanks to Lee from Edelman PR, I was able to put some questions to Carmel Murray from the Irish Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA.)


 I asked Carmel how much of an impact the current economic situation in Ireland has on animals in this country.

“The economic downturn has greatly contributed to the number of dogs being abandoned, neglected and abused in Ireland.  Due to the recession, many families’ financial circumstances have changed. Some are left with no option but to emigrate, and others have to cut costs where they can due to loss of income. The ISPCA has experienced a significant increase in the number of calls for help regarding unwanted or neglected animals.”


 Anyone who has a guide/service dog knows that owning an animal is a big commitment. Guide dog organisations go through a lengthy process to make sure that all their applicants are suitable dog owners. People don’t just get dogs because they are blind and the dog will help them. They have to put in a lot of hard work, and prove that they are capable of caring for the dog not just on the application form but throughout the dog’s working life.

Bringing a dog into any new home isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly, as Carmel points out.

“Responsible pet ownership is not always thought through carefully with all members of the family.  The ISPCA always urge potential pet owners to seriously consider the costs involved in owning a pet e.g. food bills, veterinary treatments, time required and social aspects for pets. The ISPCA neuter/spay, vaccinate, worm, flea treat and micro-chip all dogs before being responsibly rehomed from the National Animal Centre.”


 So what can be done to change and promote responsible pet ownership?

“Education is vital to ensure responsible pet ownership.  Neutering is also a huge factor in reducing the number of unwanted animals. School visits to the ISPCA National Animal Centre in Longford is an integral part of our education programme.  Children are the key to the future of animal welfare in Ireland.”


 The dogs that end up coming to the ISPCA have been unfortunate enough to need a new home. How does the organisation ensure that they find the right one this time?

“The ISPCA invests heavily in animal rehabilitation before responsibly rehoming animals in our care. The ISPCA ensures all animals requiring our help receive veterinary treatment they require and that behavioural training and temperament assessment has been carried prior to being responsibly rehomed. We make every effort to ensure that all our dogs receive training and socialisation before finding the best homes in an environment which brings happiness to both dog and new owner. It should be borne in mind that many dogs rescued by the ISPCA have come from neglected and abused backgrounds and as such, some may have behavioural problems so on-going training, time and patience is required.  It is amazing with some TLC how quickly a dog begins to trust again.”


 As a guide dog owner, and someone who absolutely loves animals, I find it hard to understand the cruelty and neglect towards animals in this country. I depend on OJ to help me every day, and I can’t describe the strong bond I have with him. It’s something you probably don’t understand unless you actually own a guide or assistance dog. He’s an ordinary dog, but he’s so much more than that too. He has a unique personality and great patience. He has taught me a lot in the almost five years he’s been with me. Who’d have thought you could learn so much from a big black cuddly dog?

I understand that people have good intentions when they decide to own a dog. People’s circumstances can change beyond their control, and sometimes keeping a pet just isn’t practical or possible. Taking your dog to a great organisation such as the ISPCA enables it to be rehomed and gives it a second chance. Neglecting or mistreating it just isn’t acceptable, and there’s no excuse for such behaviour.


 I was happy to learn that many dogs rescued by the ISPCA not only go on to find new homes, but can be used as therapy dogs too, helping to make a positive difference in the lives of the people they meet.Visit the ISPCA’s website for more information.


I really hope that all the dogs who find new homes end up as happy as OJ is.


An Update


My plans to blog more often haven’t exactly happened, but the last few weeks have been busy, so here’s a quick summery of what we’ve been up to.

On 17th May, O J and I went to Carlow to watch Nicky perform his own gig in the Seven Oaks hotel. It was a great night and we were all very proud of him.We spent the weekend with friends and it was great.

Nicky came up the following weekend and the weather was fantastic. We went to the beach, had some barbecues and went out with some of my friends.

One of my best friends is getting married in France in August, so we went on her hen weekend last Friday. OJ stayed at home; there were no boys allowed! What goes on tour stays on tour as they say, but we were a farily sensible group. For that reason everybody who met us was so friendly, and wanted to buy us drinks, chat to us and sing songs with us during the weekend. We did a dance class and I made a cocktail, two things I wasn’t sure about doing but that I really enjoyed. We had a brilliant time and laughed constantly for two days. I honestly have the best friends in the world, and I know I’m very lucky. France is going to be so much fun!

I started a ‘train the trainer’ course last week. Ours  is a seven week course for four hours on a Monday night, which teaches people to do lesson plans and teach a particular topic of their choice. I was supposed to do it when I started working in Letterkenny, but better late than never. I have to do a presentation at the end and design a twelve week course that I could deliver to a group. I’m thinking of creating a course to teach adults about disability awareness since i already do it with young children as part of my job. There’s a lot of work involved but I’m delighted to get the opportunity to do the course before I finish work in October. I’m sure some of it will come in handy in the future. A few people in the class love dogs so O J gets lots of attention. He’s good at finding his way around the building too.

I’m also trying to decide what to do when my contract finishes, but its so hard to find jobs, especially when you don’t know what you want to do.