Unexpected accessibility issues, multimedia thoughts and reflections

Something I don’t remember for sure if I’ve written about on my blog before, is that sometimes I have to play around with VoiceOver on my iPhone, to figure out an appropriate reading speed that allows me to both comprehend and maintain whatever it is that I’ve read. The thing that makes this particular thing blog-worthy in my opinion, is the fact that my preferred reading speed changes based off of the kinda book I’m reading…and sometimes my preferred reading speed can change if I choose to change VoiceOver’s speaking voice. So for example, I’m currently using the VoiceOver Ava voice which I can have trouble comprehending what she’s saying if I speed her up too fast. But then on the other hand, in the past when I’ve used the VoiceOver Samantha voice, I can listen to her speak at a much faster speed…and I can also totally comprehend exactly what she’s saying at a really fast speed. But these particular preferences of mine are mine alone; I’m sure that if you asked three other blind people about their VoiceOver/iPhone voice preferences, you’d get totally different answers from each person. But that is one reason why I love having the power to choose what VoiceOver voice I want to use, whether on my iPhone or my Mac: because having the freedom to choose empowers people rather than takes the ability to choose away from them.

I’m currently reading a book called More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory. This book is by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert; and while its title is self-explanatory, I want to write about my thoughts about said book thus far. Because when I’d initially started reading this book, I felt like it was really hard to read. And so, at some point, I decided to play around with VoiceOver’s reading speed on my iPhone, in order to find what for me is the perfect fit for my ears. And I wanted to write about this because since using VoiceOver to read books is how I read literally every book I read, now that I have access to Bookshare AKA tons and tons of books, having access to this particular resource for the last two years has really been a game-changer in my life. I’ve been able to read at least as much as I’d read as a child/young adult which feels great. Because quite frankly, I thought that I’d lost the part of me that’s always loved reading; and that hurt my heart more than I can say, as reading has always been one of my first loves. But not surprisingly, starting More Than Two over again was a wise decision. I still don’t love the way that the book is written; but I do want to read it all the way through, at least one time.

But anyway, going back to the fact that I’ve been playing around with VoiceOver’s reading speed on my iPhone: I’d also like to talk about the fact that I mostly listen to books at a slower speed when I’m reading something that’s informative, such as More Than Two. Because I’ve ultimately determined that one of the reasons this particular book felt hard to read for me, was because I had VoiceOver’s reading speed set to a pretty fast speaking level. But I think I’ve finally found the perfect reading speed for VoiceOver when I’m reading something informative, at least when it comes to Ava (the particular VoiceOver voice I’m currently using).

Another iPhone VoiceOver issue I had recently, was that I couldn’t live-stream a concert via an app called Mixlr. Like, the Mixlr app was mostly inaccessible with VoiceOver; and so, I tweeted the Christina Aguilera fan account that was putting on said event, letting them know about the issue I was having. They replied to my tweets, saying that I should be able to access the audio of this concert by clicking on the link located in their Twitter bio. Well, nope; that wouldn’t work, either. Like, I was able to successfully click on the link that they referenced in their reply to me; however I couldn’t hear audio of the concert, nor did VoiceOver even speak aloud that there was an audio player that I had to press play on. And by that point, it was already like, 30 minutes into the concert…so I’d completely lost all desire to watch the concert. I really can’t stand watching things when I miss 10 minutes or more of them, whether I’m talking about concerts, live-streams or movies/TV shows. And I’ve always been this way, TBH.

It seems like I’ve been running into accessibility issues more than usual lately, one of which was in the form of an inaccessible website. The website I’m referring to is called Blind Mice Mega Mall; said website got its name from the fact that it sells assorted products for blind/visually impaired people. The Blind Mice Mega Mall sells everything from talking toasters, to talking microwaves, to other kinds of assistive technology (AT) and even face masks/hand sanitizer. But this particular resource also has movies and TV shows that are audio described for blind people…and that is literally the only reason why I became a member of this website.
But anyway, the Blind Mice Mega Mall can be found at
https://www.blindmicemegamall.com/bmm/shop/Home

But going back to the accessibility issues that the Blind Mice Mega Mall have caused me, it took me what felt like forever just to create an account on the Blind Mice Mega Mall website. Like, either the VoiceOver cursor would jump away from where I knew I needed its cursor to be, or the edit fields wouldn’t register what I’d typed into them. And in addition to those things, this website was incredibly clunky for me to use, even as a screen reader user. So I then had my caretaker see if he’d have any better luck than me…and he was finally able to help me make a small donation to the movie vault that I cannot currently use because of the aforementioned website issues. So the latest happening in this story, is that I’ve reached out to the Blind Mice Mega Mall folks, to see if they can help me accomplish searching for things on their movie vault and perhaps even help me download some things. But I tell you, it should not be this hard for a blind person to navigate a service, especially not when said service claims that they are made up of blind folks and run by blind folks. That makes no sense to me!!

I recently watched a concert on Hulu that was also recently broadcast on actual television; but in case you’re someone who has Disney Plus, this concert is also on that platform. But anyway, the concert was called Taylor Swift: City of Lover; and said concert was filmed last year when Taylor’s latest album entitled “Lover” was first released. Like, in this live show, Taylor even referred to the event as “kind of a release party.” No, as far as I’m concerned, this show was definitely a release party!! Most of the songs that she sang were performed acoustically, whether the form of acoustics was a piano or a guitar. I honestly wasn’t sure how this concert would sound, as Taylor Swift usually isn’t a real good live singer. But there were some parts within this concert where she seemed to feel confident enough to hold notes a bit longer than usual/let out her voice a bit more. And honestly, my only complaint about this concert was that it was too short!! I wish she’d been able to perform this entire album, as it’s an awesome listen from start to finish.

In listening to season two of the podcast entitled Serial, this entire season focuses on the story of a US soldier who’s from Idaho. More specifically though, this story discusses how this soldier made what many folks felt were questionable decisions where he (the US soldier) had left his team behind, in a country that they’d all been stationed at by the US military. But as Sarah Koenig (the host of this podcast) continues telling the story of Bowe Bergdahl (who’s the US soldier/main person this story is about) I came to learn that my perspective about this situation was certainly not a popular perspective to have; that doesn’t surprise me about myself one bit, though. LOL.

But when I say I have an unpopular perspective about Bowe Bergdahl’s story, I mean that I don’t find it puzzling that he walked off and left his military team. After having listened to the entire Serial podcast, I can say for certain that I see both sides of this story. I understand that other soldiers, whether they were actually a part of Bowe’s team or not, truly took it personally that Bowe did what he did. I get that many of those soldiers felt like Bowe did something that was unforgivable; but I don’t think that their anger is/was justified. But then on the other hand, my heart and soul identifies with Bowe’s telling of his story. As someone who is a non-conformist myself, it deeply resonated with me how Bowe saw problems that he knew needed to be fixed…and then he initiated a plan, all by himself, by moving forward with the intent to fix what was broken. This resonated with me because I’ve always been someone who does the things I want; and while I haven’t always asked for what I want, nor have I always been totally confident in myself, I have, in some ways, always known that I was different from many people. I’ve always been someone who has questioned the reason why I was raised by people within my family of origin who hid behind religion and were just not good people. So when I heard Bowe Bergdahl’s entire story, I felt like I got him…because he too was the only person in his family of origin who was unafraid to be himself, even if that meant not having many, or any, loved ones who identify with him. And then in my own case, I didn’t always know that I had the agency to create the life I truly want to live. But as soon as I found out that I did, in fact, have the power to get toxic people out of my life and to keep them out of it, that was exactly what I did!! And so, I feel strongly that people should love and respect folks like Bowe and I who are not doing things just because we are told to do them. Because if I’ve learned anything in my 32 years of life, it’s that I’m a fucking bad-ass…and no one will EVER take that away from me/disempower me again!!

In a recent Hidden Brain episode, Shankar Vedantam talked with someone who studies how choices play a role in our society here in the US but also in other countries. So for example, one of the stories this woman told, was about how when kids in America were given a choice to pick between several activities, those kids automatically picked whichever activity they wanted to pick. But then when these same American kids were told that an activity had already been chosen for them, they reacted quite angrily at hearing this news. But yet when kids from other countries were told to choose between several activities, those kids felt very uncomfortable. And yet when those same kids in other countries were told that someone close to them had chosen an activity for them to participate in, they reacted very differently: those kids were visibly happy that this pressure was taken off of them. And having lived in the US for all of my life, I can definitely relate to feeling angry when choices have been made for me, rather than me being able to make choices for myself. I don’t always get angry when choices are made for me, though; for example, when someone who knows I like a particular thing, gets that thing for me, that gesture of theirs contributes to my happiness. But when, say, I’m at a restaurant and the waiter asks the person with me what I want to eat or drink, that is never OK, because no one but me would know what I want…and even if my loved one and I’ve talked about what my food choice might be, I still wouldn’t want them to give the waiter that information. Because I have a mouth that works just fine and I can speak just fine too. And really, there is no need to dehumanize someone who looks differently than others do.

In an episode of Multiamory, Jase, Emily and Dedeker talked about alternative relationships and the laws surrounding the different kinds of non-traditional relationships that exist. And interestingly, this Multiamory episode was far more fun to listen to than I’d originally thought it would be. And what I mean by that, is that the lawyer the hosts of this show talked to, seemed to have really prepared for this particular interview; and that was refreshing because I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from this episode of Multiamory. But I’m grateful to have heard that there are people in the world who are regularly helping fight for alternative relationships to not only be excepted among the world but to also be embraced much more by the world. Because it’s a very real and often not acknowledged, need for some folks.

In another Multiamory episode, this one in which the show’s hosts talked about reframing the way we as a society think about dating people, I found this episode to be more helpful than I’d initially anticipated it would be. So generally, most of society is monogamous; and usually, something that comes with monogamy is that people date others in hopes of finding “their” special person who is meant just for them. But Jase, Emily and Dedeker point out in this episode of Multiamory, that people who identify as non-monogamous don’t have that same experience. Because for people like myself who are not monogamous, the pressure that monogamy causes people to put on themselves, is entirely taken off of us. And so, that means that it becomes a bit easier for us to step back and focus on being who we are. Whereas, if monogamous folks are dating around, hoping to find their one special person, their focus can be geared towards getting people to like them, or even on trying to become someone that they think another human being will like. Monogamous people may also choose to stay in an unhealthy relationship, simply because as I’ve said, they feel that if they leave said relationship, they’ll be alone forever.

In another Multiamory episode, Emily and Dedeker talk with each other about the numerous kinds of attachment styles that exist in our world. Some examples of the different attachment styles are: secure attachment, anxious attachment and avoidant attachment. But what I mainly want to talk about that listening to this Multiamory episode brought up for me, is that I’ve been someone who can relate to more than one attachment style being true throughout my life. So there have been times where I’ve been incredibly needy, whether that neediness was directed towards the woman who gave birth to me, or whether it was directed towards other family members of origin or to someone I was in a romantic relationship with. And throughout those times, I felt that me being clingy would make the people/individual, want to stay connected with me. And in some ways, the more dysfunctional the person was, the harder I clung to him or her. And on an intellectual level, I of course understand that that sort of thing is typical for people to do when it comes to their relationships with their abusers. But even so, my tendency is still to be hard on myself. But in addition to that, there have been times throughout my life that I’ve flat out avoided being in romantic relationships. Like, I fully believed that I could be independent and teach myself how to do all the things that I needed to know to live life and be successful at life. But I eventually got to a point where I realized that I was only fooling myself; other people could see through my tough outer shell. In fact, a close friend of mine recently told me that even though I’d kept that tough exterior visible, they knew that I was probably far more miserable than I’d let on. And they were exactly right. But honestly, ever since I’ve lived in a liberal-leaning state, I’ve gotten much better about advocating for myself in terms of doing what I can to plan to not be alone on holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. Because even though personally, I don’t celebrate either of those holidays, I do love the togetherness that each of them can provide, especially when I actively choose who to hang out with during those times. And even if it’s just a short visit with one person who knows my story and also knows how important it is to me to continue building a community around me, I’ll feel loved and cared for. And not just that, but that visit will be something I cherish for years to come. But also, continuing to openly share with people that they can help support me in what to most, might be a seemingly simple way, that is necessary. Because part of how I’ve discovered I can move through some of the traumatic things I’ve been through, is by rewriting my story in ways that bring out who I want to be, rather than who I have been, due to past traumatic experiences.

I recently decided to leave the FB group called Have a Gay Day; and it was difficult for me to make that decision. Like, after the fiasco in said group had happened, where I was berated by many of the members in this group, I thought about how I could best take care of myself afterwards. Because while I was and am secure in my sexual orientation, I was also taken aback about having experienced such hostility. And I don’t remember if I blogged about this when I wrote about the experience as it happened, but I was accused of not knowing how to appropriately use the term lesbian…and told that I ought to go back to school and re-educate myself about that term. And so, as you folks can probably imagine, this whole thing was super emotional for me. Having to decide what I wanted my future experience to look like, whether I stayed in this particular FB group or not, felt quite upsetting, especially given what a safe space I felt this group was for me at one time. But that being said, I knew that taking care of myself was ultimately what needed to become my top priority. And initially, I chose to turn off this group’s notifications. And a few days after I’d done that, I re-evaluated how I felt about this whole situation. Because when I’d decided to turn off this group’s notifications, I did so with the understanding that the feelings I had then might stay the same. And so, having had that realization, I then showed myself some compassion and trusted that I would have the know-how to take the best possible care of myself. And so, the second time around, I knew that given that all of the feelings I’d had about this entire experience had not changed a bit, that that was literally my answer to myself to end being a part of this group for good. Because quite frankly, I don’t want to be involved in anything that isn’t serving me/that doesn’t accept the things I tell them as my truths. I’ve already wasted so much of my life hiding my truths/trying to convince myself that who I was was immoral for numerous reasons…but I refuse to do that anymore!!

I recently posted on an LGBT-affirming FB group about this recent fiasco with the Have a Gay Day FB group. And something that posting in this other FB group caused me to reflect on, was my life journey where my sexuality has been concerned; and so here are those thoughts of mine, with some expansion, which reads:
I’ve been shamed repeatedly for speaking so openly about my changing self…but it feels great to know that I’m seen by those who matter 🙂
But I seriously do appreciate the reminders that my sexual identity/my sexual orientation are valid…even if I openly admit that my identity is what I’d term as being fluid. I know that one of my flaws is that I can justify my identity to folks far more than I need to. But even so, I’m very aware that that comes from growing up in a toxic family of origin/of being forced to hide who I am in myriad ways, for 30 of my 32 years of life. I do wholeheartedly agree with the general consensus here though, that more people would benefit from being more open to change/different ways of living then perhaps just what they are personally familiar with.

On this same topic, someone responded, saying something along the lines of “hearing stories like this one, makes me livid…because I feel that people’s truths should be respected, no matter what those truths may be. The response I wrote to this person’s comment reads:
I agree with you that it is a real shame that people’s identities are not just accepted for what they are. This is extremely upsetting to me as well, most especially because people say things like “labels are great; they help people identify with one another and find commonality.” Yet, as evidenced by the very subject matter in this very post of mine, it would seem that all labels do is give people more permission to be hateful…
I then added to this same commenter:
I totally get where you are coming from, in saying that you value labels. Personally, the reason I use labels is because like you, they are important parts of my identity. I grew up with a family of origin that was extremely toxic, and I allowed those people to have the power to make me feel like my identity was not a choice in any way shape or form. And that’s honestly the main reason behind why I feel so disheartened by this specific situation.

As for my journey becoming an NFB member or a “Federationist” as NFB members often say, I was first exposed to the NFB in high school. And then after my high school graduation, I even went to an NFB-based training center for 9 months. But long story short, it’s only been within these last few years that I’ve actually become a Federationist. It took me awhile to make this decision because I had to come to the understanding that I wanted to call myself a Federationist because I feel I have lots to add to the organization that will benefit folks for years to come. And I’m a confident enough person to take from the NFB what I love…and still express that there are problems with the organization when I feel it’s appropriate to do so. But also, I agree with your assessment that the NFB acts as the parents I’ve never had–and ultimately, that is what keeps me in love with the organization as a whole: because I would not be who I am today if it weren’t for the NFB and its belief in me/in my capabilities.