Book Review: Ten Thousand Steps, Cane Not Included: A Guide to Fitness Tech for Blind Users, by Anna Dresner
Review by Deborah Kendrick
From: AccessWorld Magazine
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
You can buy a membership to the gym, but you need transportation to get there and some way of accessing what those pesky digital displays found on most fitness machines are saying to you. If swimming or running or cycling is your passion, having a partner or transportation is still relevant and essential.
Even exercising at home with a popular video can pose problems if you can’t see the screen.
Technology, we all know, can be an amazing game changer. Now, for some of us, it’s changing the game of access to health and fitness for blind people, and Anna Dresner’s book, Ten Thousand Steps, Cane Not Included is brimming with a smorgasbord of approaches to that can be done without sighted assistance or even, in many cases, without leaving home.
Ten Thousand Steps, Cane Not Included: A Guide to Fitness Tech for Blind Users is not a fitness book per se. Rather, it is a wonderful introduction to the fitness guides available and accessible to blind people. In her customarily clear and organized style, Anna Dresner has rounded up a diverse collection of recordings, gadgets, apps, and tips all usable without vision and all accessible. There is something for everyone here, and if you don’t want to learn any new tech tricks or spend a lot of money, you will still find some great ways to get moving!
In the first section, Dresner discusses a variety of recorded materials aimed at teaching and guiding us through exercise, yoga, meditation, or some combination. The very first collection of products covered in the book are the workouts available from BlindAlive and Eyes-Free Fitness (see Introducing BlindAlive and Eyes-free Fitness for more information). If you read our June article, you know these particular workouts range from beginner to advanced and are designed with blind consumers in mind. This section of the book also introduces other beneficial approaches. Being healthy and staying fit is more than working out. We learn about yoga programs available on CD or digital download or as iPhone apps. Some are designed specifically for people with visual impairments while others, though created for sighted audiences, are deemed by the author to be accessible. Some are free (such as those from the National Library Service’s Braille and Audio Reading Download, BARD, for example), while others can be ordered from such familiar sources as Amazon, Audible, or iTunes. Dresner covers books and programs for practicing meditation and mindfulness, and, because getting restful and adequate sleep is a vital component to a healthy lifestyle, she also offers tips and apps for managing your slumber.
Getting Moving with Fitness Tech
As promised in the book’s subtitle, this is also a guide to fitness tech. If you own or plan to own a wearable device, such as an Apple Watch or Fitbit, the book provides all the information you need to get moving, track your progress, and do more with those devices. The author discusses the features of the various Fitbit models and walks the reader through using the fitness-related features of these products.
If you already have an iPhone and have no intention of purchasing an extra device like an Apple Watch or Fitbit, there is an abundance of things you can do to kick-start your fitness program using apps that are free or inexpensive for the device you already own.
We learn in this book about apps for working out, apps for yoga, apps for meditating, and apps to measure sleep. We learn about apps that will remind us if we are not exercising and apps that will track our progress.
Dresner lets us know which apps factor in the possibility that a consumer might be exercising from a wheelchair rather than a standing position. Similarly, she notes when certain apps might need a bit of adjusting due to the somewhat atypical motion that occurs when one hand is occupied with maneuvering a white cane or guide dog.
As is true throughout the book, considerable thought and detail have gone into the presentation of each app. We are given the name of the app in the app store, the name it bears once downloaded, the size required to store it on your mobile device, the developer’s name, and the price. As each app is discussed, we are given concise and clear detail of the appearance of the screen. She tells the reader which gesture to use in VoiceOver, where the buttons within an app are located on the screen, and the combination of gestures and/or buttons to employ to get a desired result. If an app is somewhat inaccessible and she has found a workaround, we are given that bit of added value as well.
To Buy or Not to Buy
So many health problems, including diabetes, breathing disorders, arthritis, and circulatory issues, can be diminished with healthy habits and exercise. Blind people have been excluded, in many ways, from the fitness parade and technology is once again moving toward leveling that playing field.
Anna Dresner speaks for most of us, ages 9 to 90, when she so charmingly sums up her own sparked interest in fitness and health. “If I’m lucky enough to live to be an old woman,” she writes, “I want to be able to get down on the floor and play with any kids I happen to know, and I’d like to be as mobile as possible for as long as possible.”
Indeed, that is a sentiment that will resonate with most of us who read those words. This book will enable you to do that ? and probably much more. It is a small book. You can read it easily in one sitting. And you will want to keep it readily available for reading again and consulting for a particular tidbit or two. It is available in a range of formats to suit your preferences. Because technology is a moving target, some items described in this book will change. You, however, want to get moving or moving more right this minute, so starting with this book while it is in step with the technology available to us is exactly the place to begin.
Ten Thousand Steps, Cane Not Included: A Guide to Fitness Tech for Blind Users, by Anna Dresner
Publisher: National Braille Press, 800-548-7323
Available formats and prices: hardcopy braille (one volume), or downloaded as DAISY, eBraille, or Microsoft Word files: $12; DAISY, eBraille, or Word version on a USB flash drive: $14.