Friday, October 30, 2020

Accessibility in Plants vs Zombies has Room to Grow

 When I first saw all of the accessibility features in Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, I was thrilled. There was speech-to-text! Few games have this feature for Deaf/HoH players.

Image: The accessibility menu reads: Narrate Path, Color Blind Mode, Voice Chat,
Convert Voice Chat to Text Chat, Enable Text to Speech, and Brightness.
 I wanted to rush out and tell all of you about this. Though more games are incorporating it, I've only recently seen it on this game and Wasteland 3. But, before I got too excited, I thought I would give it a try.

Image: A space sunflower stands by a fence looking at jack-o-lanterns at night. In the top left of the screen, it reads "testing food feature for you".
My husband tried about five sentences in the game at varying speeds of speech. None of the things he said picked up 100%. In fact, some sentences were so mangled, I couldn't even parse what he meant.

While aiming for inclusion is what every game developer should be doing, they are doing a disservice to the disabled community with their half-assed attempts. Features mean nothing if they do not work as they should. Maybe they should spend a little more time working on the quality of their games and a little less time on that sweet, money-grabbing DLC.

Friday, October 23, 2020

The Life I Lead by Lisa Jones

Maybe if I pretend
I don’t see
The way you look at me
This cane will fade
And I’ll feel whole

Maybe if I pretend
I’m beautiful
You’ll love me again
Like a woman
Not a dependent cripple

Maybe if I pretend
I’m someone else
I can live a life
Without fear of being
Trapped in this body
Biography:  Lisa Jones writes poetry as a form of therapy. She lives in Ontario, Canada.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Deaf Girl Reviews Music: Listening Exercise by Su Zi

Some of us are High Risk; no one is invulnerable, immortal. So, to what lengths will we go to feed our souls; to see Art Live, to be present for art, and at what risk? For some communities, risks have been thrust upon us—a lack of mask and distance mandates, open bars, tourists, defiance of simple hygiene, the refusal of the infected to quarantine. To wade into such danger calls forth good cause: to see, perhaps, to experience live music.

An opportunity presented itself through a local gathering of Cars N Coffee, a monthly event in many communities that invites lovers of the internal combustion engine to congregate and glory in the intrinsic folk art of special vehicles (horseless). My local Cars N Coffee has gone from a dead strip mall’s parking lot to that of the local Harley dealer, and there was an advertisement for Live Music. Car shows are outside, and it’s possible to step away from the other humans, and it had been a very long time since I had heard anyone play their instrument live—so hungry, I was so hungry.

Cars N Coffee is a Noise Fix. There is an erratic orchestration of loud exhaust displays as a show of engine power, with sometimes a side of sheer American Art in some of the cars. Folks come and go all morning. If you are lucky, there will be some Classics, some Street Rods—handmade, homemade Outsider Art cars. To stand next to such an engine is a whole body experience; the timing, the intensity of decibels. I have heard someone tuning exhaust baffles as if the resulting song were to play a solo at a plush music hall, someone tuning an engine by ear for the percussion. When a few cars start up, the air is thickened.

That Sunday, in a drizzle from yet another storm (a cup of coffee sounds lovely—except we are High Risk, and we were a Hot Spot, and not everyone is in a mask), the stage stands covered, but empty; a stroll of the grounds reveals a back pavilion where a single man gallants the microphone, and the band from up front is taking a break. It was not difficult to stand away from folks under the remaining tree. The guitarist, Chris Ryals, was deft enough to know what he was about via triplicate riffs with a nod to the LatinBeat. For some moments, there was only that guitar, singing against the corner of green. Across the way, the other remaining tree saw a resettlement of a flock of displaced birds: the guitar’s perfect audience. For some moments, there was only the damp, open air and the sound of the guitar, purely. The fresh and liquid air and the song the man was making with his guitar. 

Strolling past some vendors, painted poodles, other visitors—it’s that urban game of whose line of walking is this, plus who is in a mask (and better, who can rock their mask)—the stage up front is now live with a two-piece band called Peaches and Karim. The stage occupies a corner of the parking lot, where sits parked an old Ford Maverick with a modified breather, redone muscle fashion. I was once stranded by a red Maverick. Then comes a white GTO with a chrome stack of carburetion, but soft mufflers. During all this, the band plays—a man on guitar, a man on a cocktail kit. The band seems to match the various exhaust solos as instruments themselves.  In the spectrum of our listening is the crowd, random clogging tones. A car will bellow and roar out onto US Highway 441. Sometimes there’s a motorcycle—an engine of a different timber and percussion. The band plays on; the drummer in a dark hoodie and shadow, the guitarist and the microphone: he sings vocables (I hear Ahhhh, I hear Ohhhhh) to the drummer’s 2-4 emphasis. If there are words, they are lost to these ears. 

And so to take a moment and listen to live music is to glory in what’s left of my barely-legal hearing: to hear live music again, and to just listen. Perhaps there’s the professionalism of the band, for surely Peaches and Karim were cognizant of the easy-going racial mix of car lovers at this event; they are long-time local party favorites. Perhaps there’s only a guitar playing on a misty Sunday morning to the last local flock of birds.

Su Zi is a poet/writer and artist/printmaker and edits, designs and constructs the eco-feminist poetry chapbook series Red Mare
Publications include poetry, essays, stories and reviews that date back to pre-cyber publishing, including when Exquisite Corpse was a vertical print publication, and a few editions of New American Writing. More recent publications include Red FezAlien Buddha and Thrice. A resident of the Ocala National Forest, with a dedicated commitment to providing a safe feeding respite for wild birds, and for a haphazard gardening practice that serves as a life model for all aspects of her work.

Friday, October 9, 2020

The Blind and Art by Carol Farnsworth

I have enjoyed seeing art exhibits. As my sight has decreased, I have learned to rely on verbal and braille descriptions of the displays. I still long to touch the art with my fingertips.

I was able to do this in Death Valley at a place named ”Scottie’s Castle”. It was a large home built in the early 1900’s. It contains many decorative carvings in the woodwork and brass knobs. The carvings are in the shape of the animals and cacti found in the area.

The docent was delighted to have a visually-impaired person in his group. He put on a glove and guided my fingers to touch all the carvings and the brass bird heads that were the faucets. He told the rest of the group that they could not touch anything. He and I explored all the surfaces. I was embarrassed and delighted to get a tactile and audio tour.
My husband and I are members of a sculpture park, and I take delight in touching the art in a garden setting. The docents watch but don’t stop me from lightly touching the art. I have even sat on one art bench to get the dimensions of the piece. The docents are there to prevent small children from climbing. They understand this touching is how I experience the art.
My local city sponsors a large art show each fall. I was worried if I would have to be content with descriptions of the art pieces. When we got to the outside pieces, I was able to touch parts of the large ones. Some pieces had signs inviting the public to touch.

If the artist was near his or her piece of art and they listened to the art being described to me, they would ask if I would like to touch the piece. They would point out parts of the art they were most proud of.

One woman, after finding out that I was a knitter, placed my fingertips on a carving of a men’s sweater and asked if I could feel the dropped stitch in the pattern of the sweater. I told her I could.

If the art was not able to be touched, the artist put a display of the art pieces for people to feel. This was done in a piece that was 
covered with three-dimensional flowers. She had several flowers in front of the picture to touch.

Another artist allowed me to feel the muscles in a group of running horses.
I have not found a way to tactilely enjoy paintings. I know that the 
art may be hurt with touch. I did find a group of paintings that had sand and other mediums mixed in with the paint. The art was tactile and I could discern parts of the art by touch.

Including the blind when setting up an art exhibit takes some time, but it is well worth the effort.

I continue to support the arts and making them accessible to all.
Biography (in first person):  I was born with glaucoma but have become totally blind in the last four years. I have a teaching degree in regular and special education and a Master’s degree in Speech Pathology. I worked with mentally disabled adults (many were nonverbal). I learned to use many techniques to elicit communication.

Similarly, I will use many tools to deal with blindness. I will use braille, voice over, and Seri to assist me with writing.

Other interests include gardening, listening to audio books, and riding a tandem bike, which my husband John and I have been doing for 22 years.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Not for Me by Julie Stevens

When I want to disappear
I look down at my feet,
imagine my head nestling under my toes,
or I wear my smile
overflowing with happiness and hope they won’t notice.

But there’s butterflies in my tummy
flying so fast I might fall over.
If I bite my nails or twiddle my hair,
they might decide it’s time to rest
just for a minute.

Today’s the day I don’t want to be here,
today’s the day I didn’t want to get dressed,
so I’ll wear my mask
pretend to be happy,
walk with them
looking my best.

Julie Stevens lives in Cambridge, UK. She has had Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for 30 years. Her poems tend to reflect the impact MS has on her life, as well as other topics close to her heart. Her poems have recently been published in various magazines, online and in print, most recently The Blue NibCrossways, The Honest Ulsterman and Dreich Magazine. She came second in the Dreich Chapbook Competition with her chapbook Quicksand. Her website is