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Robert Yearsley is CEO of ARIA Research, which stands for Augmented Reality in Audio. ARIA is a new approach to assistive technology being developed with, and for people who are blind. ARIA uses machine learning to turn camera vision into a novel soundscape for the user to interpret during activities of daily living, including orientation and mobility. ARIA is in its early development, and the team is looking for ideas and participation from people with ultra-low vision or blindness, and from O&M specialists. There is opportunity to join in a monthly zoom conversation about assistive technology, and to join in research sessions in Sydney, in person, to test out ideas and prototypes during 2022 and 2023. Get in touch via 
Jo Webber is a disability inclusion advisor, currently working in Kiribati and Vanuatu. For those interested in international work, Jo challenges us become dual qualified in international development so that we can work with others to create sustainable O&M services in Pacific Island countries.
Orientation is the vital O in O&M and we might assume that everyone can learn orientation, but this is not the case. How can we assess a person’s ability to learn orientation to new places? The Stuart Tactile Maps test is a table top test of spatial cognition that only takes 10 minutes to administer. Everyone does the test wearing a blindfold whether or not they have vision and the test predicts a person’s ability to use mental mapping for orientation. So where did this test come from? In this episode, I’m talking with Dr Ian Stuart about starting out as a neuropsychologist in Melbourne in the 1970s. He developed the Stuart Tactile Maps test as part of his PhD study in the 1980s, working with congenitally blind children and adults with acquired brain injury. Ian has worked with me to make the Stuart Tactile Maps test commercially available for use by O&M specialists. The instruction  manual includes plenty of ideas for working with someone who has trouble with mental mapping.
Happy new year, in late February! In this first episode for 2021, I have a dream... and I’m talking with Liz Skelton, who also has a vision for an equitable and inclusive society where people, place, and planet thrive. In 2013, Liz and co-author Geoff Aigner published a book called The Australian Leadership Paradox. They identify four paradoxes in Australian leadership culture that we need to grapple with if we want to embrace positive change in the low vision and blindness sector.
Lee Stanway is a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor based in the UK who specialises in tricky dog matches. He works with people who have low vision or blindness and use a wheelchair, or need assistance with tasks around the home, or an epilepsy alert, or help to hear the doorbell, along with the guiding function of the dog.
Ben Clare is an inclusive education adviser, scholarship facilitator, and regular visitor to the Pacific Islands, having also lived in the Solomon Islands and Samoa for several years. Ben has no light perception and some spatial challenges, so he has learned to build networks and travel confidently in multiple countries using his long cane and fabulous social navigation skills. Ben is convener of the first online SPEVI conference, 18-19 January 2021.
Errol Ingram is an O&M Specialist who completed a PhD thesis in 2019 called The Lived Experience of Acquiring Life Skills with Congenital Total Blindness: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. How did Errol realise he had a PhD in him waiting to get out? And what did he discover about the life skills needed for being-in-the-never-seen-world, including orientation and mobility skills?
Joe Stephen is a blind software developer from Adelaide, now living in Tasmania. He has written an article reflecting on his experience starting at a blind primary school, then moving into mainstream secondary schools, before completing a Bachelor of Science (Computer Studies) at Flinders University.  Joe suggests we need both specialist and mainstream education options. But if blind schools are a thing of the past, then we need to find other ways for blind kids to build life skills so they can transition more smoothly into adulthood.
In Orientation and Mobility practice, it is a privilege to hear and hold another person’s story as we hatch a plan of action together. But we can crash around in other people’s lives if we don’t pause to understand how our own expectations, priorities and agendas affect our relationships. Peter Bentley, spiritual director and Enneagram teacher encourages us to notice what inhibits life and what brings joy. Peter explains many ways to do our own inner work, so we can work effectively with others in building healthy relationships and healthy workplaces.
Jane Bradley is a Seeing Eye Dog Instructor and a self-confessed behaviour nerd, interested in how learning works across the species. We discuss the Enneagram personality model. The Enneagram can be used to understand our own personality type and our relationship with other types at home and in the workplace. We can gain insight into the motivations, priorities, and trigger points of colleagues. By identifying the direction of integration/health of a person’s type, we can identify circumstances and opportunities in the workplace that will help that person grow and flourish. This strategy can be applied to ourselves, and to our work with clients, colleagues, minions, and managers. 
A toxic workplace makes people sick, and when we recognise this problem we need to do something about it. Morale spirals downwards, physical symptoms increase, mental health suffers, people leave, wounded, and the workforce is depleted. Tim Dyer, organisational consultant, shows how a cultural audit can help us evaluate what and who we’re working with in our own organisation. We can celebrate the signs of health and growth. We can also bring aspects of unhealthy culture into the light of day, but there is a cost. It takes courage, wisdom, and external support. Should I stay or should I go now?
Tim Dyer is an organisational consultant based in Tasmania. Twenty years ago, Tim came to my mums’ group and said, “If you learn a personality model – it doesn’t really matter which one – it gives you a common language to understand how people are different to each other. Then you can raise your children to be themselves, not you.” This was very good advice, not just at home, but at work too. We explore how personality models can help us understand others in the workplace.
Kassandra Maloney is a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS), living in Austin, Texas. After working at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired for 11 years, she set out solo as Allied Independence. Kassy knows what it’s like to be tied to home with two babies during early mothering, while her O&M colleagues disappeared to an International Mobility Conference in Dublin. But she’s a millennial, undaunted by technology and entrepreneurship. Kassy and her team created the International O&M Online Symposium, using their tech skills to make professional development accessible to O&M Specialists around the world.
The O&M profession in Australia is in the midst of a revolution and some O&M specialists are feeling the pinch. This is the first in a series of episodes looking more closely at the world of work. We’ll be discussing workplace health, toxicity and tools for developing resilience in a time of extraordinary change. Bruce Everett is an international change consultant with a background in business and commerce, and more recent experience in the not-for profit sector. He offers us a useful outsider’s perspective on navigating change with a growth mindset in the O&M industry.
Laura Garcia is mum to Eva, now aged 8. When she was one year old, Eva contracted herpes simplex virus, which passed the blood-brain barrier and damaged Eva’s visual cortex. The result was CVI – cortical visual impairment – with no visual response. Laura was desperate for resources that would guide her in mothering Eva. She discovered the CVI Range, which became a place of obsession for a year, and she used the CVI Range to assess Eva every month. During this time Laura learned to recognise the 10 characteristics that are described in the CVI Range, and what she could do to help her daughter learn to see. Equally important, Laura realised she was becoming too intense about the CVI Range. She needed to step back from measuring, take a breath, and weave her new learning about CVI into her everyday parenting with Eva.
Cocky Guides is a small group tour company, based in Sydney, specialising in accessible adventures for people with low vision or blindness. Why wait for people who are sight-seeing when you can try hang-gliding, go sailing or tour the wineries with other keen travellers? Buck McFarlane guides us through some accessible Australian adventures, while planning future tours to New Zealand and Tonga, with spare long canes in hand. He has inspired a possible parallel career for O&M specialists as a tour guide. If only I weren’t so good at missing planes…
Jess Timmons is an independent Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialist who also works as a disability support worker and access consultant in Melbourne. In 2019 she volunteered to accompany an independent consultant with low vision to Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean. Kiribati (population 110,000) is a nation of coral islands straddling the equator and the international dateline. Jess describes daily life, disability, access and the challenges involved in sustainable community development through the lens of O&M.
Dr Meredith Prain is a speech pathologist who works with people who have deafblindness and she travels internationally on her own. She has low vision from Leber’s so was curious to discover her own VROOM and OMO scores. Merry rated 32/50 for functional vision and 41/50 for orientation and mobility, and she wanted to explore what she could do to push that OMO score up to 50.
This week we meet Leona Holloway from Monash University. Leona entered the world of braille transcription straight after uni and is now a passionate advocate of inclusive technologies and accessible graphics for people with low vision or blindness. She is currently developing guidelines for 3D printing so that 3D models are accessible to touch readers. She is also working with O&M specialists to create 3D printed intersections we can use to teach street crossings.
Natalia Kelly is an orthoptist from Melbourne who was captivated by cortical visual impairment (CVI) from the start of her career 17 years ago. Since then, the scope of practice for orthoptists has expanded in Australia. In her private practice, Vision Matters, Natalia does specialised work using biofeedback to reinforce eccentric viewing for reading, reducing the font size for some patients from n80 to n10! Meanwhile, her fascination with CVI continues. She delights in working with children and their families to investigate CVI, to understand the reasons for curious visual behaviours and work out how to stimulate functional vision, including during orientation and mobility.
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