IBM Serendipity

Two years ago in the middle of my degree I went to meet with IBM HR. The idea was to have a chat to them about my vision of an inclusive and accessible world through technology..

IBM stand at a fantastic point within the technology sector where they have the ability to touch a huge amount of organizations in wildly different fields. It was this very point that made me think IBM and I could be a perfect match.

There is a need for all technology to be inclusively designed, to enable everyone to have universal access. From mobile devices, to the internet of things to access to transport. Indeed it was IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative that made me believe there was a way to make the world accessible through the advancement of new technologies.

I pitched to HR that I would be a wonderful fit for an accessibility evangelist, working with all manner of partners focussing on how technology could be made inclusive. From advising on human interface interactions that not only had visual elements but auditory and haptic, to communicating complex information in new and interesting ways. I continued by highlighting that the opportunity to interact with clients at the early stage would aid in a universal design approach amongst all technology.

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Looking forward to Apple TV OS

My favorite piece of technology in the living room is my Apple TV and it is about to see a significant update. I love the Apple TV for two reasons VoiceOver and Netflix. VoiceOver is fantastic at assisting in navigating the UI as it reads aloud all the elements and Netflix has fantastic audio described content.

However, it is limiting. I only access my media through Netflix but I have a world of other media. I have numerous DVD and Blue-Ray discs all with great audio described content. The problem is how I access this media. For example, identifying the discs or navigating the menus are both challenging and require sighted assistance. There just isn’t an a great accessible removable media device.

So the current solution is to rip these discs along with their audio described content and AirPlay them to my Apple TV. This allows me to use a screen reader to select the content I would like to listen too. But it shouldn’t be this hard and I hope the Apple TV can help in this respect.

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Learn to code in a day?

Learning to code in a day, the premise seems a little far fetched, so I was certainly intrigued by the event at Decoded in London.

With the breadth of possibilities of coding so large the focus of the day was on the specifics of creating an app that incorporated location data. Even this reduction in focus seems like a mammoth task, especially considering the course is not aimed at people with previous coding experience. In fact it is billed as aiding new comers in obtaining these skills in a day.

So with zero prior experience, is it possible to enable someone to create a location based app within a day? The quick answer is yes. Everyone on the course successfully created a location based app.

The day is broken into a few distinct learning methods, lectures, hands on and team tasks. These three different methods enable participants to gain a rounded knowledge of coding. The introduction lecture is a whirl wind tour of the beginnings of coding, I was disappointed that this didn’t feature Alan Turing, but it was a whirlwind tour after all! This lecture also included the technologies we would be utilising in order to create our app, HTML5, CSS and Javascript.

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The questions…….

My favorite part of public speaking is the Q&A section at the end. Its interesting to be challenged by people all the time, I especially like questions that start with “I know its personal but…..”. These questions are usually challenging to answer and I do enjoy that. While that may sound scary to be stood on stage while possibly thousands of people stare and wait for an answer, it always leads to interesting trains of thought.

Recently at an event for PWC I was asked the question “What is your biggest dream”. Now looking back and with time to think about it, while I answered the question honestly I didn’t feel I gave the justification as to why. It is after all the why that makes it interesting.

The question was – “What is your dream”. I responded with “to be VP of accessibility at a major tech company”, then went on to discuss my dreams within the realm of adventuring.

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An accessible oven?

Continuing my foray into the kitchen, I am amassing an even larger collection of specific kitchen gadgets. With the new diet commencing, I had a need for omelettes. In an attempt to be a little healthier I use more whites than yolks. To aid in splitting the whites from the yolks I purchased an egg separator. It works surprisingly well and acts as a reminder. There is often a solution to a problem, you just have to look for it.


It is often these gadgets created for very specific use cases that enable me to function in the kitchen. While never envisaged to be used for the blind their highly specialised function often makes them suitable for myself.


I have found there are numerous gadgets that aid in the prperation of food but not in the actual cooking. I feel this is because the oven. Hob and microwave don’t receive much focus in terms of specific use cases, and therefore, do not see large functional improvements.

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Now anyone can bake?

Over the past few weeks I have become interested in advancing my baking and cookery skills. This introduces a number of obstacles as a blind individual, mainly there are a lot of tasks that have the potential to hurt you!

I have begun to break down these tasks and will be covering them in a series of posts. For today though I would like to focus on weighing.

This is a surprisingly difficult task, from measuring out liquids to weighing items for baking and cooking. There are a few speak kitchen scales out there, but as ever with products for the visually impaired they are grossly over priced for their limited and often lacklustre feature set.

So I was incredibly excited when I found the Drop scales, especially with their slogan “Now anyone can bake”. I certainly fit into the anyone category, so I popped down to the local Apple Store and made a purchase with the idea to test their accessibility. The Drop scale connects over bluetooth to an iPad and displays the weight on screen, it also has a large array of features that walk you through baking and cooking specific items as well as such features as auto scaling the weights of recipes.

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Reading a book to my children

A wonderful article about Nas Campanella, blind newsreader over at

Her studio is equipped with strategically placed Velcro patches – she operates her own panel – so she can recognise which buttons to push to air news grabs and mute or activate her mic. While she’s reading on air, that same electronic voice reads her copy down her headphones which she repeats a nanosecond later. In another ear the talking clock lets her know how much time she has left. The sound of her own voice is audible over the top of it all.

Reminded me of a problem I have in my life. Reading books to my children. I have often thought about using a tiny in ear wireless headphone, such as the Earin to solve this problem. It’s interesting to hear someone is using this on a daily basis in their work life. The article is also well worth a read as Nas’s attitude is remarkable.

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Dream to Reality

A few years ago I began to think of a few adventures I would love to embark on. I came up with three: The Pilgrimage, The Return and The Dream. Late last month I was fortunate enough for The Pilgramage to become a reality.

The basic premise of The Pilgrimage was to pay homage to RunKeeper and visit a city close to my heart – NYC. The dream was to run from the HQ of RunKeeper in Boston, to NYC then compete in the NYC marathon. The idea to visit the RunKeeper HQ was to thank them for where I am today. Their app enabled me to believe running solo was possible, the reason NYC? I spent a bit of time there, while I could still see. Therefore, the city remains close to my heart.

The adventure was made possible by a few select companies, namely Twitter, PayPal and AirBnB, Little did I know that partnering with AirBnB would elevate the adventure so greatly.

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The Bradley Timepiece, a watch for the blind (& sighted!)

Back when I had useful vision, I adored collecting watches. In particular I had a penchant for unique faces and unique ways of displaying the time. My collection varied from flashing LED watches from Tokyo Flash to a Breitling Navitimer Cosmonaute. So, when I lost my useful vision and had to begin to buy talking watches I was gutted. I had gone from fine crafted Breitling to a cheap £40 piece of plastic (arguably the Tokyo Flash watches were cheap, but at least they were interesting).

The talking watches would break continuously, I would often forget to remove it when bathing my son and it would break. After this had happened 3 times, I just decided to give up on having a wrist watch. I resorted to using my phone as my new timepiece, this had a number of drawbacks however. I would have to remove it from my pocket to tell the time. It was far from subtle as the time would be read aloud and its just not as cool as a watch!

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Help a blind runner get from Boston to NYC!

This year I will finally run my first marathon, in NYC. Before I even ran I had dreamed of running NYC, it is also one of the cities I visited while I still had sight, so it always feels special whenever I return. It is also tantalisingly close to Boston, the birthplace of RunKeeper – the running app that made running solo outdoors as a blind runner possible.

So I had an idea, why not run from Boston to NYC, then compete in the NYC marathon? And to make it even more special, why not connect with people on social media to help me along the way. That is the plan and I am reaching out to the internet to help make it happen!

The Adventure

The plan is to arrive in Boston around mid to late october and begin running an average of 30 miles a day, for 10-13 days (distance varies depending on final route chosen). I plan to break the run into small chunks, and connect with as many people as possible. I don’t expect people to run at a particular pace, I am happy to run, jog or walk, the idea is just to connect with as many people as possible to help me get to NYC.

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