Friday, February 12, 2016

Robotic Cockroaches: The PERFECT thing!

RantWoman came of age when it was fashionable to speak of the possibility of nuclear Armageddon and the likelihood that only cockroaches would survive, well and blackberries maybe.

RantWoman really does not recommend giving nuclear war a whirl, not even the new fashionable suitcase bombs, but RantWoman is delighted to discover this lovely bit from Wird Magazine about robotic cockroaches, highly compressible, able to be dispatched to investigate the interiors of all kinds of structures. RantWoman is not QUITE ready to say "I want one," but the video really is a hoot.

Wired item about Robotic Cockroaches

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Take That Planet!

RantWoman, no responsible funder anywhere on the planet EVER wants to hear about Ambassador Thwack the Inappropriately Behaving White Cane and his school of percussive pedagogy.

Yes, and...?

RantWoman has a worse problem. RantWoman has learned that the bodies of many electric cars are essentially like papier mache. That is if Ambassador Thwack needed to invoke the School of Percussive Pedagogy, say on cars trying to creep into crosswalks or right on red after barely stopping, Ambassador Thwack could do serous  body damage.

RantWoman does not particularly want to know that. For one thing no matter how good electric cars are for the planet, many blind people, pedestrians particularly HATE them: they are too quiet.

Here is an example article, full of all sorts of reflections on good process and working with appropriate structures including recommendations about augmented sounds.

Mitch Pomerantz ACB / WBU statement 2011

But wait! RantWoman IS willing to accept rides in electric cars! RantWoman, though, does feel particular responsibility to help drivers maintain appropriate attention and to be judicious about the thwacking while actually riding in electric cars

RantWoman collided with these realizations recently while on the way to an event she had already decided was going to need to be handled by Deputy Chief of Mission Thwack. DCoM Thack is the same length as Ambassador Thwack but she folds up more compactly, is lighter and manages a different standard for diplomacy partly because she feels no obligation to maintain the sort of bruiser presence sometimes needed on the mean streets of the big city. DCoM Thwack also managed to be on the job when Ambassador Thwack was having one of his laze about and try to get lost moments.

Deputy Chief of Mission has more to say, in a separate blog post.

Monday, February 8, 2016

In This Mall, Holograms Of Disabled People Appear If You Try To Park In ...

Every once in awhile, some event aboard Metro reminds RantWoman of experiences riding transit systems in other major cities. For instance RantWoman is beset by constant temptations to "Go all Russian grandmother on multiple different options in daily rudeness. "Young man, aren't you ashamed of yourself?"

Those moments have NOTHING on this ingenious approach to protecting disabled parking places for people who actually are disabled!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Hot Election News: The online ballot marking option

The short direct version.

February 9 is a special election with measures on the ballot in many parts of King County. (And probably elsewhere in the state but RantWoman has not looked at the Secretary of State page yet.

The really important cool point: This week RantWoman discovered something called the online ballot marking program

RantWoman definitely encourages readers to check  it out and is definitely interested in people's experiences. But it is perfectly fine if readers share their experiences directly with the people getting paid to conduct elections and bypass RantWoman.

The longer version:
RantWoman, have they sent out Voters' Guides yet?

The Chief Morale Officer apparently had not opened her ballot envelope; the voter's guide is short and comes with the ballot.

RantWoman have you voted?

RantMom and RantWoman will do Sunday supper regardless but RantMom pointed out that the February 9 special election is ballot is very simple and around the RantWomen completely uncontroversial and not in need of say fortifications from the Stranger Election Control Board.

February 9 is a special election with measures on the ballot in many parts of King County. (And probably elsewhere in the state but RantWoman has not looked at the Secretary of State page yet.

The really important cool point: This week RantWoman discovered something called the online ballot marking program

It mattered to use the exact phrase above; RantWoman would not have found this
if she had not used some of her precious moments of functional eyeball time to scrape her eyes across her actual King County Elections mailer, notice the phrase "online ballot marking" and looked for a link.

There was no link. There was a QR code, one of those black and white rectangle things that is supposed to connect one's mobile device magically with information. RantWoman probably needs some QR codes for dummies instruction, but photographing the QR code did not get anywhere either.

RantWoman has been around search engines enough to know that a good search string can make the difference between a whole lot of screen reader chatter and a direct route to what she needs.

The helpful search string:
online ballot marking king county

Thank you search engine. RantWoman would not have found the right page if she had to wade through all the layers of directory from the webpage.

Furthermore, RantWoman lives in an exotic fantasy world where just maybe around elections time, the link to the elections page makes it to the homepage. Ahh, but there will be more elections this year to try that!

RantWoman thanks her search engine for serving up the same query when RantWoman checked out behavior on her Android phone. Dang. Another site reminding RantWoman that she needs to track down a problem she either has whined or means to whine about separately. RantWoman is unclear whether the problem is with the sites or with her phone. Sigh.

There are options for sharing on Facebook and Twitter and there is
also a link for the Disability Advisory  Committee who RantWoman hopes will note  additional comments:

In December, RantWoman and several other people from the WA Councild of the Blind, the Deaf-Blind Service Center and the Lighthouse for the blind testified at the Health, Housing and Human Services Committee of the King County Council.

 Several questions about elections accessibility came up. RantWoman's councilmember was all over the issue. The hearing was December 1; information about the online b allot marking was posted to the website on December 15. RantWoman is not sure whether it is reasonable to expect members of the King County Council to be aware of something coming down the pike, but would have found it helpful to hear in advance if the councilmembers knew.

RantWoman knows many blind people who think very fondly of the Help America Vote Act, the legislation which ensured that there would be accessible voting units, basically ways for blind and low-vision people to vote independently at ordinary polling places just like other voters. King County purchased a large number of these units and used them for just a couple elections before all of WA went to all-mail voting.

Now Accessible Voting Units are available in 3 locations in King County which is a very large county. At the December hearing suggestions came up about interest in increasing the number of places one can go to vote using Accessible Voting Units and about some other questions related to this. Again, RantWoman is very interested in readers' views and rantWoman also notes that this is a Presidential election year. So now would be a good time to think ahead for the primary in August and the November election. Just sayin' though for now just check out the online ballot marking options for the February 9 election!

Monday, February 1, 2016

It's TOO EARLY to roll back the Tolled HOV lanes on i405

This is an authentic RantWoman experiment in civic participation, civic participation as in RantWoman hopes this content finds people like RantWoman who are willing to tell legislators  it is far too early to do anything with the two-lane HOV and tolling regimen which took effect on I405 in November 2015.

RantWoman urges readers to oppose a bill (SB 6152) that would reduce authority to use toll lanes and charges to manage traffic flow.  Methods to manage traffic should be given a chance for evaluation before being rescinded.

For more information, see and click on Senate Bill Report. There is also a link that allows one to Comment on the Bill.

SB 6152 would roll back an effort to encourage car pools as a way to reduce traffic congestion - carpools of 3 or more can use the toll lanes for free with a special Good to Go sticker. Besides, the tolls will be evaluated in two years under current law and since they just started in November of 2015 it's way too early to call it a failed experiment.

RantWoman's perspective:

RantWoman finds it hard to have ANY sympathy for Eastside drivers who do not want to invest in transit and then wonder why their roads are choked by automobiles.

RantWoman has been on a bus a time or two, before the tolls took effect when traffic congestion meant bus trips taking 2-3 times as long as suggested by the posted schedule or the trip planner.  These occasions fill RantWoman's heart with gratitude NOT to be driving, to be free to do other things with her time even if it is more time than she really wants to be spending. These moments also fill RantWoman's soul with thoughts such as "Get Out of Your Cars and Onto transit!"

RantWoman tends to think carpools are a nice idea. However RantWoman does not drive. RantWoman tends to need to get around with other people who do not drive. Buses move more people in the available roadway than carpools. In other words, RantWoman wants to give the tolls carpooling congestion pricing time to work out possible kinks but RantWoman is pretty sure that more transit is going to be needed no matter what.

RantWoman thinks that two months is barely enough time for people to settle into either carpools or schedules that allow them to cut congestion by adjusting time of travel.  RantWoman is NOT overflowing with confidence that simply incentivizing carpooling will add anywhere near the road capacity needed to move all the people who need to move around the Eastside now, let alone the people expected to move to our region. But that is all down the road. Right now, just tell your legislators it's TOO EARLY to roll back the tolled HOV lanes on i405.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Trip Planner Bakeoff: Part 2

Trip Planner Bakeoff, Part 2.

The Chief Morale Officer at the Friendly Neighborhood Center for Extreme Computing wants to go to a movie.

Go to a movie as in Get out of the house, chances are with another wheelchair user, eat movie theater popcorn.

The available chariot will be going to Lincoln Square in Redmond. Chief Morale Officer wants a routing with a good place for the chariot to drop her off and a short route to the Lincoln Square Cinemark Cinema.

The web yielded a street address. A phone call yielded a recommendation to use an elevator from the parking garage. RantWoman was not using all her brain cells and did not think about the available chariot probably being too tall for the parking garage. RantWoman rewrote the notes she took from the phone call in a slightly less raggedy version of scribble font and still did not think to call back and ask for directions to a street level door near the desired elevator. RantWoman will leave that to driver and passengers when the trip actually occurs.

But for grins, RantWoman asked not 1 but TWO trip planners for directions between the Friendly Neighborhood Center for Extreme Computing, wayfinding and other Innovations.

Google burped, hiccupped, coughed, spluttered and said "no routing available.

Metro, suggested the routing RantWoman expected based on the cinema's street address but did not have any verbal guidance for the .5 mile between the recommended bus stop and the theater. There is an awesome map. RantWoman can enlarge the map enough to know the routing makes sense but RantWoman knows lots of customers at the Friendly Neighborhood Center and other passengers who would really appreciate the walking directions from the bus stop to the destination.

RantWoman though wants to get even more carried away. RantWoman would be thrilled, thrilled if either the theater's website or whichever humans answer phones could reliably answer questions such as "how do I get there from the nearest bus stop?" or "I am pathologically allergic to parking garages. How do I get there from the sidewalk?

And yes, RantWoman would be REALLY excited if thinkingabout these issues were in the JOB DESCRIPTIONS of humans already being paid to staff movie theaters and transit designers.

RantWoman just wants EVERYTHING.

Trip Planner Bakeoff Item 1: Puget Sound Trip Planner Mobile

Hooray. There is a new more accessible release of the Puget Sound Trip Planner.

Sigh. There is still a ways to go.

RantWoman's personal grump of the day: RantWoman, in the middle of a bigger Trip Planner bakeoff decided to try the trip she was trying to plan using the Puget SOund Trip Planner on her Android phone. RantWoman has fat fingers. If RantWoman wants to enter data, she turns her phone on its side and makes the screen rewrite in landscape mode. RantWoman tried to do that to enter something in her Android phone. The screen went nowhere and RantWoman decided that explore by touch with teeny narrow kays was going to make her way too grumpy even to try to go any further.

Sigh. Whine. Moan. Grumble. Time to email someone...

The bigger grump:
The Puget Sound Trip Planner collects information from a number of public transit agencies all around the Puget Sound. RantWoman thinks many agencies pooling development efforts makes VERY good sense. RantWoman thinks this kind of information and this kind of app are HIGHLY relevant for blind people who depend on transit not only to get to and from work but also more many other aspects of normal life. RantWoman wishes that pooling development efforts had resulted in a more accessible release 1.

RantWoman regrets that Release 2 still has room for improvement. the kind of room that also makes RantWoman wonder whether there were any humans and particularly any humans who regularly use accessibility tools involved in the testing for Release 2. RantWoman will go even further. Were there any PAID humans involved in testing the accessibility features?

RantWoman mentions the PAID part because RantWoman gets requests all the time for volunteer testers. These requests go into the neverending haystack of RantWoman's email inbox. Frequently these requests are never to be seen again or at least until months later if RantWoman gets around to cleaning up email. But RantWoman thinks something like the Puget Sound Trip Planner is too important for multiple transit agencies, too critical for too many users to rely only on volunteer testers. RantWoman realizes that doing some actual research about the testing regimen might be in order. RantWoman will put this on her to-do list.

RantWoman does note that the developer team seems to have been very responsive to an accessibility issue that showed up in RantWoman's email. An iPhone user wanted to do something RantWoman does all the time, change the times put into the trip plan query. The attempt to do this produced such an awesome display of technie gobbledygook and the person posting the question is a knowledgable enough user that RantWoman figured there were no smart blind people tricks to be shared. RantWoman suggested just sending the very same message off to the people who created the Trip Planner.

A few days later, return email revealed "we were able to duplicate your problem" and a fix is either in the works or already done.

RantWoman also notes, she was not the only person grousing on the discussion list about testing failing to test for situations humans do all the time and / or failing to test with accessibility tools turned on.

RantWoman is not an automated testing whiz kid but RantWoman suspects that it is frequently very easy to write test scripts that seem to yield entirely satisfactory accessibility ratings but that miss critical functionality, for example failing to include human behaviors such as changing the times entered. Hence RantWoman's questions about humans in the testing process and another question about contracts and the acceptance criteria for a product with inadequate accessibility features.

But RantWoman has grumped enough for one day--AND RantWoman still has other grumps to go. Good Grief!