Sendero Group Travel Blog

Follow Sendero travelers on their adventures using accessible GPS.

Monday, July 26, 2010


20th Anniversary ADA Celebration, Washington DC by Gil Lutz

I was honored to receive an invitation to visit Washington DC and the White House on July 26th to attend the 20th anniversary celebration of the signing of the ADA. This turned out not only to allow me to be a witness to history but to go on a GPS adventure.

The celebration was held on the South Lawn of the White House in front of the curved portal with the Truman Balcony that has been an important backdrop for many historical events. Because it was an outdoor event, a rain date was scheduled for the 27th. This added to our adventure by allowing us an extra day to explore. More on this later.

The gates opened at 3:30PM for a 5:15PM event start. The participants lined up outside of the gate where our credentials would be checked and rechecked before we were allowed to enter the White House grounds. Because of the wide diversity of people attending, the interaction between the waiting guests was a buzz of exchanges of names, work experience and disability information. When the gates opened we proceeded through another credential check then on to a security screening much like going through an airport security check. I had used my trusty mPower Voice Note and Sendero GPS to navigate to the gate. From here I would have been on my own but was fortunate to have met a new friend, Yo B. from DARS in Austin Texas. Yo was a welcome and excellent sighted guide as she assisted me to the area of the festivities on the lawn of the White House. She also took the pictures included here. Yes, I did create a user POI at the location of the celebration.
Gil in front of the White House
Gil and Yo in front of the White House
Multiple rows of chairs had been set up in front of the balconies facing a ground level platform and podium. To add to the access to the celebration, I was given a receiver to listen to an excellent audio description of the events as they took place. Hear the archived stream of the ceremony or Download the audio file. The festivities were capped off by President Obama announcing a major update to the ADA Act and, as a complete surprise to everyone there, signed an executive order that rewrites the hiring practices within the Federal Government to raise the number of employees to the level of people with disabilities in the general population. It also affects businesses that do business with the Government. Quite a day.

Because the events took place as planned without the need of the rain date, Evie (my Furry Ferrari) and I had an extra day to adventure in Washington before catching our flight. If any of you have ever traveled in Washington DC you know that none of the streets run in nice neat navigable patterns. They cross each other at odd angles so it’s very easy to end up on a new street that you weren’t intending to be on. Here’s where the GPS was a real friend and savior.

We started the day by going to the National Air and Space Museum where I was able to arrange a guided tour by one of the Welcome Aids. We toured the museum for over two hours and it was an inspiring and interesting experience. After this we navigated back to the hotel for a chance to freshen up and relax a bit.

Since we still had a lot of time left, we decided to adventure on foot, starting from the hotel and tour historic DC with Evie and my trusty GPS. We meandered through the Georgetown area, downtown DC and the neighborhoods surrounding the area. We found a European style sidewalk café / coffee shop and spent some time talking to some very interesting locals who were also enjoying a break out on the nice day. I had been told about an interesting seafood restaurant near the hotel so on the way back we set it as a destination and walked to it like a native. The meal was excellent, which I ate outside and a perfect end to our adventurous day.

Needless to say My GPS made this adventure much easier and meaningful. What else can I say?

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Yellowstone trip and testing phone based GPS systems

I have spent the past couple days in Yellowstone National Park, mostly in Wyoming but spilling over into Montana.

I doubt there are any cell towers in the park and I would guess the state of Rhode Island would fit in this huge national park. It is rare to drive for 3 hours anywhere and never get any cellular service. This is what we experienced driving from Jackson Hole Wyoming to Gardiner Montana through the park.

Furthermore, there are lots of points that are not marked in this area. All the geysers seem to be marked but not everything. I have already added 60 points and have 3 more days of travel to mark many more key points.

With no cellular service, GPS systems like Wayfinder and Navigon cannot function at all. I used my BrailleNote quite enjoyably the whole time and the Garmin Nuvi kept my family members happy with visual maps. We had 3 phone platforms between us, Android, Symbian and iPhone. None of those were a bit of help.

This is something to be aware of as we consider various on-line phone GPS services. Without a connection, they are no use.

Here are some images from the trip:
Mike with BrailleNote GPS in Yellowstone
Mike an Antler arch in Jackson Hole WY
Mama black bear leading her cub
American Bison
Chipmunk on a log
Mule Deer
Two deer butting heads
Moose in a stream

Monday, July 19, 2010


European Adventures summer 2010

After wrapping up a busy Sight Village, we adjourned to Neil Barnfather's home town of Milton Keynes, which happens to have an indoor snow hill. Skiing in July in England?

Indoor Ski hill, chair lift goes up the right side
Mike May and Neil Barnfather at the indoor ski hill

Business concluded in England, Wyndham and Mike stopped by Copenhagen for a Stevie Wonder concert. See them on stage during a sound check. Can't get better seats than that.

Mike and Wyndham on stage during the sound checks
Stevie Wonder performing the sound checks for his concert in Copenhagen

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Trip to Warwick

A brief break from the 2010 Sight Village conference in Birmingham. Wyndham and I took the train to Warwick today and toured the castle from the 1400s. Quite fascinating with all its antiquity, torture tools and battle instruments.
Mike on tower of castle
Wyndham on tower of castle
Castle Panorama

Thursday, July 08, 2010

At the 2010 NFB conference on July 8, Mike May was awarded the Dr. Jacob Bolotin award. Mike said, "There is no higher honor than being recognized by one's peers. It is amazing what this blind doctor accomplished in the early 1900s. Along with Ray Kurzweil who also received the award, I find a common thread. We all believe that there is always a way if one finds the work-arounds to find the way." The award was proceeded by a modern day blind Doctor, Tim Cordes, who described how he became a doctor and performs his day-to-day work.
Mike receiving the Bolotin Award at NFB National convention 2010

About The Bolotin Award

The Bolotin Award is a way to recognize individuals and organizations working in the blindness field that have made outstanding contributions toward achieving the full integration of blind people into society on a basis of equality. Named for a pioneering blind physician who practiced in the early twentieth century, these awards are made possible through the generosity of his late nephew and niece. Their bequest, the Alfred and Rosalind Perlman Trust, will allow the National Federation of the Blind to provide direct financial support to people and organizations that are improving the lives of the blind throughout the United States.

Dr. Jacob Bolotin was a blind physician who lived and practiced in Chicago in the early part of the twentieth century. As chronicled in his biography, The Blind Doctor by Rosalind Perlman, Bolotin fought ignorance and prejudice to gain entrance to medical school and the medical profession. He became one of the most respected physicians in Chicago during his career, which spanned the period from 1912 until his death in 1924. He was particularly known for his expertise in diseases of the heart and lungs. Bolotin used his many public speaking engagements to advocate for the employment of the blind and their full integration into society. Interested in young people in general and blind youth in particular, Dr. Bolotin established the first Boy Scout troop consisting entirely of blind boys and served as its leader.


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