I am Mike Winegarden, fitness author and creator of the See Yourself Fit System. I am also totally blind. I first learned about the Concept2 Indoor Rower in a fitness store. From the moment I took the grip in hand, I knew I had found an excellent fitness machine. What I didn't know is how wonderful the people are behind this indoor rower.
The machine is solid construction, anyone in the family can use it, and the workout is as intense as you want it to be. I recommend this rowing machine to all my clients. I haven't made one single dime for doing so.
After I got the rowing machine I was checking out the concept2.com site. I was stunned to learn that these amazing folks had developed a means for blind or low vision people to hear information as they are rowing. The software is called ErgChatter. It works by connecting the Performance Monitor on your indoor rower to your computer. Once installed, I can choose what information I want to hear: time elapsed, distance rowed, stroke rate, split time and more. You can choose any of these or only one or two and any combination you want. I haven't tried this yet, but with the optional heart rate belt, you can even hear your heart rate. They also have the more common workouts already set up. I can do a 2000 metre race by hitting one key on the computer keyboard. Start rowing and I am off. There are many other preset distances and even timed intervals pre-programmed as well. This is so thrilling for those of us who are blind or low vision.
For some, perhaps the most exciting thing of all is, it's free. Most of us blind folks have to pay big bucks to buy adaptive technology or expensive equipment to try and make things accessible. ErgChatter uses the voice that's already on your computer. This leaves your screen reading software free to read a book if you want while you row. This is what I do. I listen to something on the computer and hear ErgChatter when it speaks at the same time.
When you have a Concept2 rowing machine, you not only have the best cardiovascular machine out there, but the support from the amazing employees at Concept2 is second to none. Thank you for building the best machine out there and a big thank you for making it accessible at no extra charge. I can't tell you how nice it is to sit down and not have to ask someone how far I have gone or anything else. This, my friends, is what accessibility is really supposed to mean.
I plan to compete in Boston at the indoor rowing competition. Maybe next year. I wouldn't be able to do so without ErgChatter telling me the information I need to track my progress.