Archives - April, 2013



27 Apr 13

By Randy Pierce

Using Voice Over on my Apple (IOS) device has been one of the many liberating solutions to many blind challenges. Recently an application called “TapTapSee” was made available for free! It’s a one-button push camera which then uses servers on the internet to process the picture and report back a brief description of the image. While not flawless, the power of this product is incredible as it quickly identified Quinn as “A yellow labrador retriever lying on a blue rug.”

I’ve loved the power of this simple-to-use application which provides me a considerable amount of information I might not otherwise gather. I’ve tested it in many situations to get a description of a hotel room, a table setting, my own clothes, find my favorite mug and even learn what various friends are wearing. The most detailed example it ever provided was in accurately describing a friend who was wearing “man in a cookie monster T-shirt with a plaid coat and pajamas.”

The thought of that level of description for my friend is powerful but it also leads to a concern. While I certainly appreciate the power to basically turn on a snapshot of sight for a moment, when is this process an invasion of privacy and how far will this technology develop?

An ideal potential development might be the ability to shoot continuous video and have description which might even use facial recognition to identify which of my friends are nearby. But the challenge is that all of these images are being loaded onto the web and processed, which means there is an even greater privacy impact. Is the benefit of this to a blind person worth the impact on all those in “sight” of the camera?

These questions are going to be raised and I think it’s worthwhile to discuss them now. So what are your thoughts?

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20 Apr 13

By Randy Pierce

We have some exciting news and I hope it will entice you to be part of one or both of our biggest annual events.

On Saturday, June 8, 2020 Vision Quest will have a team in the NHAB Tenth Annual Walk for Sight. We had more than 100 people join our team last year as it was a centennial celebration of service by NHAB. We kicked off the very manageable 3K walk from the Concord facilities by walking 100 miles from Concord to the seacoast office and back!

Walkers braved the rain in 2012 to support Randy's 100 mile walk in honor of NHAB's 100 year anniversary

Many walkers came out last year to support Randy after his 100 mile walk.

While we won’t be adding an epic journey to the start of this walk, we do hope to always be taking steps forward. This year we hope to entice an even larger group of friends, family, and supporters of our project to join our team and raise funds for us and NHAB at the same time. What a statement it would be to grow our team as we all walk together to the State House and back!

You can join our team or choose to sponsor a particular walker by going to our Team Home Page.

The event is fantastic in its own right with a barbeque lunch, festive music, and many prizes to go along with our rallying together and spending time as a team. The entrance fee is just $15 for adults, and children under 12 register for only $5. Please visit our page and find more information on the walk itself. We hope you will support us by becoming part of our team directly or through your donation.

Now for the promised incentive. Walkers are always encouraged to raise funds and we’ve had some incredible support from our walkers in the past. This year, we are proud to announce that the top fundraiser on our team will be given the option of a single free ticket or a pair of tickets for the price of one to our November 16 4th Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Auction.

This gala event is our largest fundraiser each year. Last year it sold out, which we hope to repeat this year. The single or pair of tickets one hard working walker will earn will have the option to sit at a table with Tracy, Quinn and me!

This means that by joining us for the very affordable and fun walk event, anyone could become part of our two biggest events and help us continue the quality work we believe we are achieving with our 2020 Vision Quest. Quinn and I are hopeful we’ve enticed you but now the choice is yours — will you be part of our team?

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18 Apr 13

By Randy Pierce

I did not run the 117th Boston marathon and I was safely at home listening to results of many friends on Patriots Day 2013. A very significant part of me was there, however, and a very beautiful part of it will be with me forever more as a result.

One day earlier I’d run the festive finish line route in the BAA 5k with my good friend Jennifer and of course with the Mighty Quinn Guiding me on a course no Guide Dog had previously worked. While I saw none of it, the energy surrounded us both. Quinn enthusiastically responded with extra exuberance because even one day before the main event, the incredible community of this race had already arrived to support people expressing the freedom and accomplishment of rising to a challenge.

One day later, the marathon’s official race would finish at the same point and the community of support surrounding every aspect of this incredibly inspiring event. Some will tell how the finish was marred by a horrific act of senseless cruelty. I see a different and far more positive ending.

I won’t deny any of the tragedy, horror, or terror but fortunately it didn’t end there. Immediately the same Boston community that creates this unparalleled experience of the Marathon reacted with the heroism and selfless determination which is the beauty in such things.

My friend and 2020 VQ volunteer, Rick Stevenson, shared with me a popular quote from Mr. Rogers’ mother for times when it seemed it wasn’t a beautiful day in the neighborhood. She suggested that at such times we “Watch the Helpers.” I did watch them, from the famous folk like Joe Andruzzi, to the incredible medical teams running into danger, to the common person surging into action to do the right thing and help. It’s overwhelming to see the human spirit in full glory and this day in Boston we did.

I could try to say a lot more about the power of this community but a race runner gave us exactly the written record everyone should read. As such let me simply send you to his work:

In Praise of Boston – by Dave Munger

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13 Apr 13

By Randy Pierce

Much of New England celebrates Patriots day on April 15, 2013 with Boston in particular hosting their famous marathon. We too have our “shot heard around the world” in mind with our running of the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) 5K Road Race which takes place on the marathon course April 14. A little research suggests no Guide Dog has ever run this race.

Quinn’s marvelous ability to guide me in crowded road races will change that forever. We used a Go-Pro Cam to capture this work last July with the Finish at the 50 in Foxboro, MA and think the video may indeed give you a brief glimpse at the process!

While this achievement alone is fully worthy of its own blog post, the name of the day reminds us that my Patriots fandom and the attention it drew helped establish some of the roots for 2020 Vision Quest. One video that captures this in an incredible way is the Emmy award-nominated piece featuring us for the HBO Fan Life series. The heart of our message is captured along with some of the methods and reasons behind our own Patriots Day celebration!

So however you celebrate Patriots Day, we hope you always find ways to join us in celebrating Quinn and 2020 Vision Quest.

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6 Apr 13

By Randy Pierce

A treacherous bridge provides a good opportunity for risk assessment.

I am often asked about my relationship with fear in dealing with blindness as well as my many adventures. I prefer to think about it in terms of a healthy respect for dangers, both real and perceived.

As a planner and problem solver, I like to understand the potential risks as best as possible and then evaluate a range of possible solutions for these in advance. A strong part of my approach is knowing that a problem solver should be able to undertake every experience of a risk taker with more success and fewer bruises!

My experience is that attempting to practice solutions to challenges can lead them to become routine. The risk management can be reduced to acceptable levels before things are attempted. Part of this is to ensure that when reaching a moment of particular danger potential, I will be as prepared as much as possible to avoid the “paralysis by analysis” situation of over-thinking in an instant when an immediate reaction is necessary.

The first decision in situations of danger is whether or not an immediate reaction is needed at all. If, for example, I begin to lose my balance on a stretch of trail for which I don’t know the full dangers present, I probably need to make a quick decision about the level of balance loss.

If the chances of falling are high enough, it is likely best to immediately allow a fall in a more controlled fashion. That is, if the spot my feet are on is sufficiently known to me, then landing there is probably the lowest risk of the other unknown options. I similarly know that my pack is a cushion that landing upon will typically be preferred. So I tuck my head and drop back if at all possible.

I’m not eager for that fall, but often it’s the best reaction for an unanticipated dangerous situation. If my balance is such that I have time, then I might call out to someone around me to get a quick terrain understanding or I might explore myself with the hiking/support stick. In that moment of uncertainty, I feel concern that can border on a fearful moment. The more I know the situation, however, the more I know a range of possible reactions and likely consequences to reduce or remove the fear.

Sometimes, it's safer just to fall backwards and sit down.

There’s an old expression, “don’t borrow trouble.” I find a similar approach to allaying fears. By trying to fully understand the real cause of fear, I find that I get to truly know the fear and this is a major step in achieving a goal of having no fear.

In the above example of balance loss, I’m likely facing varying levels of concern for possible injury. In the moment of uncertainty for how big my risk is at that point, I can envision more significant injuries. Ultimately though, planning has reduced the likelihood of injury. By thinking through this in advance, we accustom our minds and some of the emotional surge in the moment to the realities of those risks. Considering the worst case scenarios and our reactions has diminished the “fear” to “concerns” and the advanced paralysis of anticipatory fear can be eradicated.

So in planning any adventure or experience that could make you anxious, I suggest taking the time to think about what are the real and reasonable risks. Get comfortable with the approaches you might take if problems occur. This is where the preparation not only aids in your likely success, but also may enhance your comfort or courage to undertake a task. Practice often makes perfect, as the expression says, and practice with mentally breaking down our fears or concerns is a means to build confidence to manage them.

This is not to say you don’t want real solutions or are trying to avoid things for which reasonable risks have not been addressed. It is to say that in truly and thoroughly knowing fear, we may eventually get to a point of low or even no fear! I know that at this point in my life I have little time or attention that is spent unnecessarily on fear. This additional time and energy is placed instead on more rewarding things in my life!

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1 Apr 13

By Randy Pierce

We don't know Quinn's voiceover actor yet, but maybe you have suggestions?

We are thrilled to announce the confirmation of a Quinn story concept with PIXAR films! Certainly we’ve been amazed and tremendously proud of the incredible accomplishments of the Mighty Quinn, but this possibility goes beyond all our expectations. This will be an important leap forward in raising awareness and sharing the adventures of Quinn and our 2020 Vision Quest to the masses!

The story will begin with his roots in the Puppies Behind Bars program, intending to showcase his heartwarming connection that changes the life of a prisoner who finally finds someone (Quinn of course) to believe in him and share the unconditional bond which is part of the amazing reality of a dog.

There will be some highlights of our connecting at Guiding Eyes for the Blind which will also showcase some classic training and learning blunders and wonders. This will fill the segments with a rapid-fire bit of fun and touching moments as we grow into a team together.

Graduation from the school launches us back to New Hampshire and almost immediately into our Hollywood-style dramatization of the mountain climbing adventures in the summer as training for the amazing winter hikes. While the reality of our tale has more than enough excitement for reality, PIXAR will undoubtedly embellish the tale here to make this an instant spectacle beyond what we could have ever envisioned when we began our quest!

We loved the movie “Bolt” but hope “Quinn’s Quest” will be the kind of blockbuster success which changes lives forever, both here at 2020 Vision Quest and the other folks who watch Quinn’s well deserved feature film. The only real challenge ahead for this project is that the announcement happens to be on April 1st…

…And as such we must sadly report this is only a well intended April Fools joke–at least for now!

Maybe someday!

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