Sendero Group Travel Blog

Follow Sendero travelers on their adventures using accessible GPS.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Sendero Group, HumanWare and Kurzweil/NFB donate adaptive technology for the Stevie Wonder’s 11th annual House Full of Toys Benefit Concert

Mike and Stevie Wonder on stage sitting at a piano during the house Full of Toys Concert
This past Saturday evening, December 16, 2006, Mike May had the pleasure of joining Stevie Wonder on the stage of the Gibson Amphitheater in Los Angeles, along with 15 stars, to present a GPS from Sendero Group, a BrailleNote from HumanWare and two KNFB readers from Kurzweil and the National Federation of the Blind. Three students were selected to receive these devices. Stevie and Mike acknowledged the tremendous value of these tools in their own lives and announced that they hoped this was only the beginning of their efforts to bring the reading and navigation independence of this technology to more blind people.

a KNFB reader being awarded to two students at the California School for the Blind

Mike said, “When Stevie invited me to his party, I asked what I could bring. With one email to Ray Kurzweil and another to HumanWare, I had arranged for a generous donation of $13,000 of access technology in support of Stevie’s effort to bring joy and independence to under privileged youth. I was joined by Dirk Marais of HumanWare at the concert to hear a line-up of incredible performers. After leaving the stage in front of 6000 people, Stevie was kind enough to keep me by his side and to boast about the technology to his friends and family. This benefit certainly embodied the title of his most recent album, A Time to Love.” Listen to House Full of Toys audio clip.

Special guest artists included Al Jarreau, Brian McKnight, COMMON, Tyrese, Corinne Bailey Rae, India Arie, Danny Carreras, Donald Lawrence, Gary Taylor, Yolanda Adams, Chris Tucker and more.
Corinne Bailey Rae performing at the concert
India Arie singing and playing guitar at the concert
Past performers have included Alicia Keyes, Angie Stone, Babyface, Doug E. Fresh, George Duke, Arie, Jamie Foxx, Jill Scott, Jonathan Butler, Joss Stone, Kanye West, Karen Clark Sheard and Kierra “Kiki” Sheard, Kem, Kim Burrell, L.D. Miller, Luther Vandross, Macy Gray, Maroon 5, Michael McDonald, Natalie Cole, Nelly, Raphael Saadiq, Raul Midon, Ruben Studdard and Ziggy Marley–along with dozens of others.

This was the 11th year that Stevie’s House Full of Toys Benefit Concert has been one of the highlights of the holiday musical season. In the past ten years, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of toys, computers, games and educational aids have gone to children, families and organizations in need.

Stevie Wonder and his friends are committed to a celebration that will let the world know that they care.

For several years, Stevie Wonder’s We Are You Foundation has made a generous Christmas donation to the Junior Blind of America. As in the past, Stevie attended the Junior Blind annual Holiday Festival, personally bringing Holiday cheer to the children and their families. Information about the organization is available at Junior Blind Website

Stevie Wonder’s House Full of Toys Benefit Concert-goers are asked to bring an unwrapped gift of joy to the concert. Stevie Wonder’s 11th Annual House Full of Toys Benefit Concert is a Wonder Productions and Hammond Entertainment event. For further information, go to House Full of Toys Website

Saturday, December 09, 2006


finding one's way

For those of us using GPS, we get used to finding one's way in many different circumstances. I try not to take this for granted. Today was a time I really appreciated the technology and O&M skills to go along with it.
Mike ready to go with his Sendero GPS
Charles and I are staying in an apartment in the Swiss mountain village of Bullet. We had dinner with friends last night in a nearby hamlet of Les Rasses. Rather than having our friends pick us up this morning, we decided to walk to their chalet. We had marked it the night before.
Mike and Charles' mountain road route
So, off we went, following a pedestrian route on narrow mountain roads, slushy with new snow. As the fog lifted, Charles commented on the incredible views over the valley and to Lake Neu Chatelle far below.
the fog clears to reveal a breath-taking view of Lake Neu Chatelle, endless mountain tops and snow covered trees
We were tempted at one point to go cross country to the chalet when we were told it was just 400 feet away but our route called for us to continue a half mile further up the road before doubling back. We took the safe but longer route. We only made one slight wrong turn down someone's driveway before arriving at the chalet.

I don't think any right-minded sighted person would have attempted this walk without a map and good directions. It was a piece of cake for us with the Sendero GPS and a wonderful morning walk as well.
a snow covered tree

Our friends were sure impressed when they came downstairs to find the coffee already on.

Friday, December 08, 2006


GPS on Trains

Mike on the train with Sendero GPS
It drives me nuts when the GPS receiver will not pick up through a train window. These windows are tinted many times and the signal is blocked. We did find that you could get a signal in the place between cars as there is an accordian material there that the signals penetrate.

On our extensive trip through Europe, most trains have blocked the signals but a couple in Spain had clear windows. Otherwise, I would just go to the place where the cars connect and check on my next destination if I couldn't understand the announcements.

Today alone, we have been on 4 different trains between Heidelberg Germany and Yverdon Switzerland. Even when I can't get a signal, I use the virtual explore mode to place myself at the stations as they are announced. This has been extremely helpful since almost all the train stations are listed in the POI database.


Mike and Charles stop in Germany

Mike in front of a castle near Heidelberg, Germany
Miguel posing in front of a 4 foot tall Gingerbread house - behaving himself
Charles in front of the same Gingerbread house, not behaving as he tries to take a bite

Thursday, December 07, 2006



Mike exploring a tactile aerial view map that is on the floor
busy night streets in Barcelona

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Bad News EasyJet

First off, this message has nothing to do with GPS but everything to do with traveling independently.

The incident with the restaurant in Copenhagen pales in comparison with my experience this morning with EasyJet in Berlin. It takes a lot to rattle my cage but I feel a bit in shock.

Some background. It is tricky to get from Poznan Poland to Barcelona Spain with a reasonable airfare and I am literally paying for my work around. We took a 3 hour train ride to Berlin and spent the night near the Berlin-Shoenfeld airport. EasyJet had a cheap flight at 8:30 this morning to Barcelona.

I have traveled to 33 countries and 27 of those countries with a Seeing Eye dog. I have rarely been challenged with the dog by airlines and never been denied access to a flight. We did ride in the cockpit of a 727 in Argentina once because they didn't want the dog near the passengers. I didn't mind that a bit. Another time in Peru, the flight was delayed for 2 hours while they sorted things out with the U.S. embassy in Lima. After all, it was a 1 AM flight. I haven't yet taken my dog to the UK but that is even possible now if you jump through the right hoops. I even have all the documentation with me to take my dog into the UK if necessary.

So, I was stunned when they told me at the EasyJet counter that service animals are not allowed in the cabin to certain destinations. Flights to and from the UK are okay but not other flights and in particular, not Berlin to Barcelona.

I spoke to a woman at a different counter and she printed out their regulation that specifies this discrimination. She says it is posted on the web site and you have to click on the agreement before purchasing the ticket. Who ever reads all those policy statements other than the part about non-refundable fares? She said there was no way EasyJet was going to let me on the flight with my dog.

I asked what my alternatives were. She called Air Berlin and told me about their flights to Barcelona later in the day. I would have to take a taxi 40 minutes to the other Berlin airport in order to go on this flight and I'd have to fly to Palma Mallorca and then change planes to get to Barcelona. I would lose 5 hours in the process and it would cost me about $350 for the flight and taxis.

We decided that we would cut our losses if Charles went ahead on the EasyJet flight and I separated to take the Air Berlin flight.

EasyJet wasn't even apologetic about this situation. She thought because the policy was documented that I had no reason to complain or to feel discrimated against. They wouldn't even refund my EasyJet ticket let alone pay for the other flights.

I know that the other low cost European airline, Ryan Air, got into a lot of trouble over denying disabled passengers access. I don't see how EasyJet can go against international aviation acceptance of dog guides in the cabin if there is no issue of admittance in the country you are traveling to. It is a much bigger deal to take on a major airline as compared with an individual restaurant. At the same time, I have never backed down from these situations and I don't plan on getting soft now. As soon as my shock wears off and I get myself to Barcelona, we'll figure out how to start addressing EasyJet so blind people have access to low cost travel like everyone else. For now, stay clear of EasyJet and probably Ryan Air if you have a dog guide.


From Poznan, Poland

Charles enjoying a pint of beer in a pub in Poznan Poland
Facts about Poznan
Lat: 52, 24, 27.3900 North
Lon: 16, 55, 27.7800 East

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Mike and Charles Travel Europe, Starting in Denmark

an illuminated miniture castle inside a globe, a Tivoli Gardens attraction
Tivoli gardens at night decorated by holiday lights
a line of colorful houses along the canal
Mike at Tivoli Gardens in front of a wooden reindeer


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