Transcripts of Living Blindfully are made possible by Pneuma Solutions, a global leader in accessible cloud technologies. On the web at http://PneumaSolutions.com.
Welcome to the Episode, Country Code, and Area Code 226
Voiceover: From Wellington, New Zealand, to the world, it’s the Living Blindfully podcast – living your best life with blindness or low vision. Here is your host, Jonathan Mosen.
Jonathan Mosen: Hello! Voice Dream Reader has had a nightmare week as they ignite a debate about app subscriptions, how do those pesky e-scooters affect you daily and what can we do about them, and do the police sometimes drop the ball when it comes to crimes against blind people?
Wow! Aren’t those trumpets impressive? I’m sure though that when you hear the trumpets at the King’s Coronation, if you choose to tune into that, well then, you will hear some really impressive trumpeting. More on that when Bonnie joins me later in the show for the Bonnie Bulletin.
But welcome! I appreciate you being here. It’s episode 226.
I’m going to pass on the maple syrup because it’s a little bit high in the carbohydrates. You know what I mean.
But I will welcome our 226 area code, which is Ontario in Canada. That’s good, eh? Quite a few parts of Ontario are covered by area code 226. But the big one, the notable one is London, Ontario, Canada. So a warm welcome, and I guess it will be starting to warm up in Canada at this time of year.
But I feel like I do need to offer a public service announcement, a kind of a warning. There is a coronation taking place next Saturday in London. And if you want to go to that coronation, I’m sure it will be the experience of a lifetime. They don’t come around that often.
However, the coronation is not taking place in London, Ontario. I mean, they may be celebrating the coronation in London, Ontario in various ways. But if you want to go to the full thing, you’ve got to go to London, England. Just that I’d mentioned that in case you get confused and you go to the wrong London, and I would hate to be responsible for that.
Also, looking at the country code 226, it belongs to Burkina Faso, which is a country that I must confess I have not heard of before. But there’s a lot of people in there – 20.3 million of them. So if you are listening from there in country code 226 in Burkina Faso, a very special welcome to you.
Voice Dream Reader Adopts a Subscription Model For New Customers, Ignites Subscription Debate
Let’s get right into it with a topic that is causing quite a bit of discussion on Mastodon at the moment. Kelby Carlson is writing in about it. He says:
I’m sure you are already aware of it. But two days ago, a new company acquired the rights to Voice Dream Reader and immediately announced it was moving to make the app subscription-based for all new users. Thankfully, this won’t have an effect on people who already purchased the app.
But I see this decision as a bad one for the blind community as a whole. I do not think that we, unlike sighted people, should be required to make recurring payments in order to be able to read books accessibly. I see a Bookshare subscription as different, since in that case, you are actually paying for access to the books themselves.
Imagine if Amazon started using a subscription to even use a Kindle. Or closer to home, if Ambutech announced that it would now force Cain purchasers to continue paying for use of the Cain monthly.
I think this may actually help Humanware and HIMMS. As if I was a new user of Voice Dream Reader, I would seriously consider paying for a discrete book player separate from my other devices, instead of subscribing to use Reader.
Thanks very much for writing in, Kelby. This was certainly a topic I was going to raise this week.
I’m not going to take a strong stand on this, one way or the other. I know that some people have. And if you get in touch to express your view… (I know that some people will, and that’s fine.)
But I see both sides of this. I don’t think that the parallel between charging monthly for a Cain and charging for a subscription to software holds water at all. Because once the Cain is constructed, once it’s built, it’s built. There are no upgrades. It is what it is, and it will keep working until it breaks.
In the case of software, we want it to continue to work, and there are changes at operating system level, which mean that the developer has to make updates to the software even just to keep it going.
But that doesn’t satisfy everybody, either. Over the years on blindness-related discussions, I have seen people recommend one app over another, (whether that app be on iOS, or Windows, or Mac OS, or whatever), not because it meets a need better, (it might not). But they recommend one app over the other because it’s been updated more recently.
An example of this, actually, is Winamp. I’m still using Winamp version 5.something that came out a very, very long time ago. And sometimes, people say to me, “Why are you using this old piece of software that hasn’t been updated for a long time?”. Now Winamp has gone in a completely different direction recently, in fact. But I still use the one I have. And the answer is I use it because it meets my needs. There is nothing that it can’t do that I need it to do.
But if we believe that a piece of software hasn’t been updated for a while, it does make a lot of us nervous. And we start to think, “Is this vaporware? Is it not working anymore? Has the developer moved on? Are we going to be left high and dry?”. So we are comforted by software updates.
The problem is that software updates cost money to produce. You can’t manufacture them out of thin air. You’ve got to spend time coding. If there are bug fixes, it’s an annoying thing to have to do as a software developer, but they might not take too long. If you’re talking about adding a whole raft of new features, then that’s particularly time consuming.
You’ve got to design the features, you’ve got to code the features, you’ve got to test the features, and then you roll it out. So then the question becomes, how do you fund that? And this is the perennial problem of the app industry in general, and it’s magnified by the fact that the blind community is such a small market.
So talking about the issue in general first. Everybody was so excited when the iPhone came out. And ultimately, Steve Jobs was convinced that an app store was a good idea. (He was opposed to an app store initially.) Lots of very innovative apps came out, and app developers wanted to be on the cutting edge on this new platform.
And then they started developing really good quality apps that needed maintaining. And one of the flaws of the app store model was that it didn’t make it easy to charge for upgrades. This is where you get into the situation where if you buy version 1.0 of an app, and then the developer spends a lot of time working on version 2, it is a big upgrade. It’s got lots of new features. When that update lands in the store, you just get it. There’s not the opportunity to pay for that new version of the app that the developer has spent so much time working on.
One workaround that some developers still do, rather than charge a subscription, is that they create a separate app. That can be quite complicated to manage. What happens then is that you can keep your version 1.0 app on your phone. If the developer chooses to withdraw that app from the app store, though, next time you get an iPhone, you won’t be able to keep the app anymore. This is something that Apple changed a wee while ago, where you can’t download apps to iTunes and keep them safe.
We’ve talked about this before, and the accessibility ramifications and concerns of this. Because if you get an inaccessible version of an app after an upgrade, you can’t reverse anymore. You used to be able to do that when Apple allowed you to download apps to iTunes.
So subscriptions came along as in-app purchases, and this was a way of providing a revenue stream to developers to incentivize them to keep working on the app.
For some people, being a developer is a part-time thing. It’s something they do in their spare time. And sometimes, the apps reflect that.
Just to pick on one, because it immediately comes to mind. There was a really good Mastodon app called Metatext, and it wasn’t updated for quite a long time because my understanding is that the developer had other things going on in his life.
Then, Mastodon had a moment late last year. And he came back and made some changes to bring Metatext up to speed with the latest specs. And then, he went away again, and he made it clear he just didn’t have time to develop the app at the moment.
Now that app was free, and it actually still works pretty well. It may not include some of the newer Mastodon features. But for many, it will meet their needs perfectly.
But when there is no charge for the app, when there’s no ongoing revenue stream, it’s a labor of love. And the developer doesn’t have any ongoing commitment to customers. So those apps will come and go.
That can be a pity to see an app go, vanish from the store, perhaps ultimately become incompatible with iOS itself, or some service that it interfaces with, just because of neglect. And there are quite a few blindness apps that I can think of that I really enjoyed using that have disappeared over the years.
I think it’s more of a problem in the blind community because we are a small market. So if you put an app in the store and you charge what you think is a reasonable fee for that app, how do you continue to finance the ongoing development of the app if the purchases start to dry up?
And the cost of those purchases is also a factor. Some may not realize it. But when you purchase an app in Apple’s App Store, 30% of the price that you pay goes to Apple itself. That’s how they make their money. And there’s a little bit of antitrust discussion going on about this in some parts of the world.
When iOS 17 comes along, you may be able to do what’s called sideloading of an app. My understanding is that Apple is not going to make that available in the United States, but in some other markets that are being a bit more aggressive about anti-competitive behavior, you may be able to sideload apps and bypass the App Store altogether. Time will tell, and we’ll obviously be covering that on Living Blindfully as it develops.
So how do you, as a developer, put food on the table if you want to keep developing your app, make this viable, essentially feel like you are getting appropriate recompense for all the work you are putting in?
And the answer that many developers have reached, both in the blind community and not, is the idea of using subscriptions. Basically, it’s a contract between you and the developer. And that contract says if you give me money, I will provide you with good quality support and regular updates that actually mean something, that are innovative, that are more than just bug fixes. And either party can terminate that contract at any time.
And an example of a contract that I have terminated voluntarily is with Castro, the podcast app that in the past, I have praised very highly on this podcast. You pay an annual subscription for some premium features which are really very good, when they work.
But I found that there were bugs introduced as a result of iOS 16 and that they were not being fixed in a timely manner. I was not getting meaningful replies to my email. So I was not getting the updates I needed, nor was I getting responses to my support requests.
The power that I had at that point was to stop paying. I went into my settings of iOS and I canceled my subscription. It should have renewed in January. It did not because I canceled my subscription.
So in that sense, as a consumer, I have a bit of power. And the developer knows that I have that power because if they don’t deliver to the extent that I’m happy with as a customer, I can cancel my subscription and the developer feels it in their wallet for not having provided me with something that I consider satisfactory.
There is a strong backlash, not just among blind people. I don’t think this is a blindness thing, by the way. I think there’s a strong backlash generally against subscriptions.
But is it really any different from what we’ve always done with software, which is that sometimes a new version comes out and you pay? I suppose it’s different in the sense that you’re making a yearly commitment.
But those of us who’ve been around even for a short time will remember that when a new version of our screen reader came out, there would be an update cost to that screen reader. Or you can still, of course in JAWS, if you want to purchase a software maintenance agreement, for example. And that is a subscription.
What about Microsoft Office? It was very common for those of us who used Office to pay for a brand new version before Microsoft came out with its Office 365 subscription. The Office 365 subscription, in my view, is great value for money. I don’t have to wait for the next big version of Office to come out and pay lots of money, but I do get regular updates. Some of them I think are a bit of a retrograde step in terms of accessibility, but I get regular updates because of my Office 365 subscription on an ongoing basis.
So are developers actually extracting more money from we consumers more often? I’m not sure that they are. I think what’s happening, though, is that software has become a much bigger part of our lives.
The idea of having a phone that runs software of consequence is relatively new, in terms of the history of computers. iPhone came out in 2007.
I think, though, that what’s happening is that there is more quality software asking for support through subscriptions, and we’re all becoming a bit subscribed out because we’re not just talking about software. We’re also talking about subscriptions to multiple streaming services, be they streaming movies and TV shows or streaming music services.
And on it goes. They all add up. And I find myself routinely going into my subscription settings, (now that it’s accessible again –thank you, Apple), and looking at my subscriptions and asking the question, am I getting value for money for this thing? And sometimes I conclude that no, I am not. So I cancel the subscription.
There are many in our community who don’t have that luxury. There are many who really struggled to save the money to purchase an iPhone. Or for that matter, an Android device. Maybe they got some assistance from a family member or a good friend to buy the device in the first place. And it’s very frustrating to find that there are these ongoing costs which can really mount up.
I suppose in some ways it’s not much different to plonking down a lot of cash for a car, only to find that there are costs associated with running that car, maintaining that car. So it is a common problem.
Some of the subscriptions I don’t mind paying for include Ulysses. I get great value for money from Ulysses. They are regularly adding new features. Their support is outstanding.
And there was a lot of controversy when Ulysses went to a subscription model. Some people went to other apps and they said, “I’m never going to use Ulysses again. This is a rot. I don’t want to pay.”, and they haven’t. But I guess sufficient people did want to pay and valued Ulysses to make this model work for them.
Drafts is another example. We’re going to be talking about Drafts extensively in a future episode of Living Blindfully, which should be quite soon.
They also moved to a subscription model. Their support is fantastic. And what they put into Drafts with every update is substantial. I’m very happy to pay for that.
We’ve talked about the Fantastical calendar on this podcast before, and that brings me so much productivity. And there are features that I use all the time, like the openings feature that we detailed when we looked at Fantastical. I’m happy to pay for that one as well.
And that circles me to Voice Dream and making a couple of points about this.
The first one is I use Voice Dream every single day. I cannot recall the last time a day went by when I didn’t open Voice Dream. This is because our library here in New Zealand uses good old-fashioned daisy books, no digital rights management or anything like that. So I can play all the content from our digital talking book library. I can read a wide range of file formats.
I use it for work. I use it for pleasure. I use it to integrate with Instapaper so that I can read a wide range of news and have a playlist of news items playing while I do other things.
I have found Winston Chen, who has run Voice Dream Reader up until now to be very responsive.
I like the innovative ways that they use gestures in the app. I value it highly.
And I do appreciate the fact that the Voice Dream app have a what they call grandfather provision. As a fairly newly minted grandfather, I now find that quite an interesting term. I wonder where it comes from.
Anyway, the grandfathering means that, as Kelby said in his email, – if you bought this app in the past, apparently, you’re not supposed to be charged again. I’m not quite sure how that’s going to work. Hopefully, it will transfer when you get a new device. All those questions are still to be answered.
But I think the question then becomes, what value will somebody who does not yet own Voice Dream Reader gain from owning the subscription? Will all the voices be available as of right?
Because Voice Dream Reader is not just a one-off purchase. If you want to use the various voices, many of them require you to buy those voices. So there may be many of us who’ve actually invested quite a bit of money in Voice Dream Reader because we like trying all the different voices. And we’ve downloaded them; we’ve bought them as in-app purchases. So over time, we might have plonked down quite a lot of cash on Voice Dream Reader. If you can get all the voices for one annual subscription, well, maybe it starts looking compelling.
But is there enough left to do in Voice Dream Reader, (which is a pretty mature app at this point), to warrant significant updates? What would those significant updates be like?
I’m thinking, for example, that if I at the moment want to use our blindness agency’s talking book library with Voice Dream Reader, I need to download the Daisy book and then import it into Voice Dream Reader. It doesn’t have that seamless integration in the way that Bookshare has seamless integration with Voice Dream Reader. Would they invest in a Bookshare-like experience for a wider range of accessible format repositories, for example?
I think it will be important for the developers to come up with a clear product roadmap that tells people what they are getting for this subscription. How is the app going to improve over time?
Now, they have said that there will be better voices. That’s all we know at this stage.
They’ve also made the point that one of the advantages of going to a subscription model is that you can trial the app fully functional for seven days and see if you like it. Whereas before, you had to make a purchase; and it is difficult to get a refund from the app store.
But sadly, I think there are a couple of factors that have alienated potential supporters, or at least, sympathizers with Voice Dream.
The first is the way that this information leaked. It was leaked by a competitor, rather than somebody from Voice Dream fronting this and saying, “This is what we’re doing, this is why we’re doing it, and here is how we believe you will benefit and why it’s justified”.
That didn’t happen. They didn’t front foot it. They should have made an announcement at the same time as the new version of the app went into the app store.
But instead, it required somebody else to smoke them out. That is not a good look. What’s more, when that smoking out occurred, there was no clarity around existing Voice Dream Reader purchases.
For a while, social media was running wild with speculation. People saying, “I’ve already paid for this app. It is outrageous that you’re making me pay again.”, even though that wasn’t what was happening.
But how will we know that that wasn’t happening when the company did not just come out and front foot this issue?
The second is that, you’d have to say, $60 USD for an app like this (which really hasn’t received any substantial new features in a while), might be a bit of a stretch. Now, I realize that it breaks down to $5 a month, but they didn’t offer a monthly option. So $60 upfront per year without any understanding of the benefits.
Now they have backtracked a little bit and said, “Yeah, okay. Maybe $40 is a more reasonable price.”. But it sounds like they haven’t researched the market. They don’t understand the demographics of this market. It just feels, in this instance, like a little bit of a money-grab to me that has not been well thought through.
The other thing I would say is that blindness isn’t the only market for Voice Dream Reader. They also cater to the dyslexic market, which is a much larger market.
So as somebody who’s been involved in the development of blindness products, I have a lot of sympathy with the argument that you have to spread your development costs among a small number of users. And unfortunately, that does inflate the price.
But given that Voice Dream Reader does cater to others with print disabilities besides blindness, I really think that $60 a year, and for that matter, maybe even 40 dollars a year, might be a bit of a stretch.
I want Voice Dream Reader to continue. This app is one of my favorite iOS apps of all time. It is consistently good.
But there are competitors. Voice Dream Reader will have to demonstrate that the subscription that they want new users to pay is justified compared to what other apps can do at a lower price point, or that may even be free.
And communication is key. You’ve got to take people with you on a decision like this.
So what do you think about subscriptions in general for software, and what do you think about the Voice Dream Reader one in particular?
If you have a view you want to express,
is the email address. You can attach an audio clip to that email, or you can just write the email down.
The phone number in the United States is 864-60-Mosen, 864-606-6736.
I want to give a shout out to the team at Pneuma Solutions who make it possible to bring you transcripts of Living Blindfully for every episode we do.
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Hints in iOS
Let’s get into our regular helping of iOS-related things.
And we go to the UK for Richard Bartholomew’s email which says:
I’ve just been listening to this week’s podcast, and heard your comment about VO hints still being spoken even though they’ve been disabled.
I appreciate that this is of little or no help to you, but thought I’d mention that I have had hints disabled on my phone for several versions of iOS now, and don’t experience what you are finding. I haven’t enabled hints for any specific apps.
But in case this was a contributing factor, I’ve just switched them on within EasyReader. And whilst they are being spoken within that app, they are behaving as wanted elsewhere, i.e. not being spoken.
I’m using an iPhone 13 Pro with iOS 16.4.
But as previously said, I’ve had hints disabled for several years now across various versions of phone and iOS without issue. Therefore, it may well be additional local configurations which are causing the problem.
Well, to the contrary Richard, your email was extremely helpful. Because now that I know not everybody is experiencing what I was experiencing, I dug deep and I have found the issue.
It seems that something went a bit strange with the activity that I had created for Overcast where if you don’t have hints enabled there, you don’t get the show notes.
So I deleted it. And then, I started again.
And now, I have got my hints working as they should. I am so relieved about this.
So now, I don’t have my “double tap to open” and all that malarkey on the home screen and other apps. They’re off, they’re staying off.
But when I go into Overcast now, they are on. So I really appreciate you letting me know that this was a problem that was unique to me.
Robert J Sawyer’s WWW Trilogy
“Hello, Jonathan,”, writes Dave Carlson.
I was intrigued by your reference to a book by Robert J Sawyer called WWW Trilogy. Sadly, I was not able to find that title, nor the author on the Bard site.
Do you know if this is available in audio format? And if so, through which network?
Thanks again for a stimulating podcast.
Well, thank you for listening, Dave.
I see the problem here. First, the author is Robert J Sawyer, and you are writing J-A-Y. It’s just the letter J in the middle.
You know, it’s that whole middle initial thing that seems so popular in North America. So if you type Robert J Sawyer into Bard, it will come up.
And then, the book is not called the WWW Trilogy. That’s the name of a three book series. As I mentioned on episode… (Was it 221 when we discussed this?), the books are actually called Wake, Watch, and Wonder in that order. So the first book you want to read by Robert J, (just the letter J) Sawyer is called Wake. and then the second one is Watch. And the third is Wonder. They all begin with W, hence the WWW Trilogy.
And it’s appropriate because this is all about the web gaining consciousness. It’s a really good read.
Thoughts on Reaper and Braille
Voice message: Hello, Jonathan! This is Joe Norton in Dalton, Georgia in the United States again.
And your question about Braille and the use of the thumb keys. I just wanted to say that that’s pretty much the way I’ve always used Braille.
I started working with Braille back in 1994, and I used a Navigator 80. That’s what I was given at the job that I had at the time. And that thing had these wonderful thumb keys on the front for going from line to line. It had two little bitty keys at the end for panning. But with an 80-column Braille display, I hardly ever needed to pan.
I didn’t turn on grade 2 or anything because I got used to working with the terminal screen (as it was in computer Braille, that is) and I didn’t really have too much trouble with that. With the 80-column display after all, it works pretty good. We were working in DOS back then.
The Navigator 80 connected with a serial port to the computer and the software we were using was called Screen Power Braille. There was a more fancy version of Screen Power that used speech and Braille. But I think the person that set the system up for me didn’t find it as configurable as he wanted, so we used JAWS for DOS to start with. The reason I say to start with is because we found out we didn’t need all that functionality that JAWS had.
I’d want to explain a little bit about this because this highlights the usefulness of Braille from the get-go. I had never used a Braille display before.
I had looked at a thing made by VTech called a BDP, which stands for Braille Display Processor. That was probably about 7 years before that, or 6 years maybe. I think it was some time in either 1987 or ’88.
This device, as near as I can remember, probably had its own video card interface that connected to the computer, and the Braille display probably would show whatever was coming through the BIOS. I don’t really know much about it because I only had a chance to play with it for a few minutes, but I saw the potential of the thing. And when I found out I was getting a Navigator 80, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on that thing.
Here’s what happened, though. When this person set the system up, he had JAWS set up with all these keys to read various items on the screen. One of the things was roll sizes. Because in my job, one of the things I needed to do was to find out what roll sizes of carpet were available to the customer. The person that set the system up had these keystrokes in JAWS programmed that would read the roll sizes as it went down the display line by line.
But it was very laborious, (in fact tedious) to listen to, because the IBM mainframe liked to pad numbers with leading zeros. And so the DecTalk would be reading off roll sizes something like this: “034 feet, 06 inches, 120 feet, 00 inches”.
Now just imagine how long that would take to go through a screen that had 20 rolls on it. And maybe that screen didn’t have what you needed, so you’d have to go to the next screen. Just imagine how long that would take, and the silence the customer would have to sit through. I don’t think the customers would have liked that too much.
But when I got my hands on the navigator and saw the terminal screen and knew how to navigate it, all that went out the window because I found that I could do all of it with Braille. I could take those thumb keys, I could zip down through those rolls, zip, zip, zip, zip, zip, and find the exact size the customer might want.
And another thing that I had to do was to look at dye lots. Because when you needed more than one piece of carpet… even though it was supposed to be the same color, if it were a different dye lot, that would cause a problem and the customer would be able to see the difference if the two pieces of carpet were touching.
And I have to say that Navigator lasted me many years. There was one time I had to send it off to be cleaned (maybe a couple of times), but that thing really did a great job and I sort of miss that Navigator 80.
I do have the NLS eReader here and I’m so thankful for NLS for putting Braille back under the fingers of many people. It certainly put it under my fingers again in a way that it never has before.
I was just thinking we live in a house that’s not very big. And if I had hard copies of everything that I’ve got on that eReader right now, I probably couldn’t walk in the house. There would be so many Braille books lying around. [laughs]
Anyway, this thing is just great. And it’s a really nice thing to have refreshable Braille because you can see how things are spelled, and it just makes all the difference in the world.
By the way, when was the last time you used this program?
Joe: I just thought I’d pull it out and look at it because I’ve got free upgrades to 2.0, and they haven’t even gotten up to 2.0 yet. They’re like 1.94, I believe it is.
It was a promotion that they had some years ago, and one of the things I’ve got is the scheduling and logging module.
I’m curious. I know the program is not as accessible as some other programs. But do you think I might be able to learn something from it?
I tell you this. I’m learning something from using Reaper. I’m having a ball learning how to use this program. It’s proving itself very useful.
One of the things I even tried when I first got the program was I recorded myself singing a little verse that I had made up to go with the Blue Oyster Cult song “Don’t Fear the Reaper”. And I think, my message was more positive than their message was. At any rate, I just wanted to tell myself don’t fear the Reaper, so I sort of made myself a little song. Not much, just sang harmony with myself, and it worked.
It worked great, and I hadn’t even learned how to use all the Osara things and everything yet. But I was able to make it work.
I saw the potential of this program. I’ve even got the course that Brian Hartgen recorded some years ago.
And I find that some of the keystrokes in Osara have changed, but there are a lot of things that haven’t changed as well. And I’m getting some good ideas from listening to this course.
Jonathan: As always, a pleasure to hear from you, Joe.
Yeah. The original one was called “Don’t Let Reaper Be Grim”. But now, there’s a new version which is quite up to date from Hartgen Consultancy, and it is called “Reaping the Benefits”, and well worth obtaining.
I think the thing about working in Reaper, (or for that matter, whatever your digital audio workstation of choice is), is that it’s just so creative. You can have so much fun. And sometimes, you can produce things that you know you’ll never share with the world.
Joe actually did send me his really cool “Don’t Fear the Reaper” parody type thing, which I can’t play for royalty reasons. But it’s just fun, and it’s creative. And it’s kind of like cooking, isn’t it? It’s really cool, and there are just so many things you can do in Reaper.
Using OtsAV, it’s been a very long time since I played with that.
It was originally called Ots Duke. And in the early days of ACB Radio Interactive, (so we’re talking towards the end of 2000, early 2001), a lot of us were using Ots Duke.
And it still has some advantages, I think, over Station Playlist Studio, which has kind of become the gold standard for internet broadcasting in the blind community. And it’s also good to see that Station Playlist Studio is being used in some terrestrial radio stations as well.
Again, Brian Hartgen has done some great scripting for Station Playlist Studio. So if you are fortunate enough to find a radio station using it, you’re off to the races. And you can be assured that working in broadcasting is a viable career with this playout technology. And it’s very powerful.
But the thing I always liked about Ots Duke was the lack of latency. You could press a key to start one of their decks, and it would just start playing straight away. Absolutely brilliant!
When I was using it, you had to convert all your audio to their proprietary Ots format. Eventually, you could play regular conventional media like MP3 and that kind of thing.
So it’s been a very long time since I looked at OtsAV, as it’s called now.
The Snowman on MushroomFM used it for a long time, and he may well still do, I think. And he sometimes talks about how inaccessible it is and how challenging it is, but it’s sort of doable. And I’m sure if it was scriptable, he would have taken care of that because he’s another great scripter.
So it is a shame that we’ve never really been able to get any sensible engagement with those guys about making the thing truly fully accessible.
As for Braille displays, oh man! You brought back some memories there.
The first DOS screen reader I ever used was a thing called Soft Vert. And am I right in remembering that was a TSI product? I think it was a TSI product.
And the thing I remember most clearly about Soft Vert was that you would press control B and it would say “bottom of text”.
I don’t remember too much else about Softvert.
It wasn’t too long after I got into Soft Vert that I got Flipper. That was such a cool DOS screen reader. It did so much.
You had a lot of these what they call mom and pop businesses in assistive technology at that stage.
And that, Flipper, was produced by a guy called Steve Smith, who wrote it for his wife Cynthia who was blind. And I think, Steve Smith was a professor who worked at a university in Berkeley, I think. And was it Stanford he was at? I’m not sure. But he worked at a university.
So if you got a new PC and you needed to unlock Flipper (because it was using an Everlock type of technology), you had to make sure you called him in the morning before he went to work, so you could get him at home on the phone to unlock your copy of Flipper on a new machine.
And if you got the timing wrong, well you would just have to wait and it would do its time out thing.
I remember being up at stupid o’clock in New Zealand so I could call Steve Smith in the morning, California time, to get my Flipper unlocked for a new machine, or after I’d had to reset my DOS machine.
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Reading Poetry Without Braille
Voice message: Hi, Jonathan! it’s Peter from Melbourne.
Marnie who was having trouble reading his poetry in Braille. I had exactly the same problem.
Learning braille later in life is very difficult to become properly proficient, no matter how much you practice. I had this trouble, and couldn’t finish reading an item.
I’d have to resort to the rest of it by memory, which didn’t always work very well.
Since then, I’ve found that I’ve used my Victor Stream to record the poem, or whatever I’m wanting to say to speech or whatever, and a note in Victor Stream. And then, I can replay it slowly, or press pause between each line when I’m recording it as well. You put one ear plug in one ear, and have your Victor Stream in your pocket.
You could do it on your phone as well by just going down one line at a time, but it’s a bit more risky. You can get stuffed up that way.
And it works really well. In fact, most people think I’m doing it all by memory. Even people I’ve recited things in the house or in front of people, and they still don’t know how I’m doing it.
I’m doing a poem for my mother’s funeral on the 13th of this month the same way, with a live Zoom as well.
So good luck, Marnie. I think that’s definitely my suggestion to you – how to cope with your poetry.
Jonathan: Thank you very much for the tip, Peter. Much appreciated.
And I’m sorry to hear about your mum. Losing a parent at any age is a very tough thing to go through. So wishing you all the very best.
Voice message: Hi, everybody! This is Abby Taylor in Sheridan, Wyoming.
This time, I would like to respond to the poet from India who was asking about the best way to read his poetry aloud in Braille.
I am also a poet, and I’ve been reading my work aloud for years – a few years in Braille.
I now use a Brailliant BI 20, and I have configured the thumb keys so that the innermost left thumb key pans the display down, and the innermost right thumb key pans the display up. So that when I’m reading, I can move my right index finger across the display. When I get to the end of the line, I use my left thumb to press that innermost key to go down to the next line and then, bring my right hand over and start over again. And that makes for a smoother reading experience when I’m reading aloud and even when I’m reading silently to myself.
And I think, it’s important (and Jonathan did mention this in his response to your query) that you practice. You know, anything you do, I think, – whether you’re writing poetry, reading poetry, or you’re playing music, practice, practice, practice. So practice, you know, even just a few minutes every day.
Even now, I practice every day reading poetry aloud.
I subscribe to
and I get a newsletter in my email every day that has a link to a poem – a different poem every day.
When I get these emails, I usually have my BI connected to my PC. And so then, I will just read those poems aloud, you know, just for the practice of reading aloud. So every opportunity you can get, it’s, you know, a good idea to practice.
And one good place for you to practice is this. I belong to an organization called Behind Our Eyes. We are a group of disabled writers across the country and overseas.
Most of our meetings right now are held via phone conference, but I’m hoping that we will eventually move all our meetings to Zoom for the benefit of those overseas who cannot call into conference calls because of limited phone plans. And so we don’t have very many of those members right now. But I think we could attract more members and maybe, guest speakers at our meetings if we could do that.
But we do have a couple of meetings a month on Zoom. And one of these is a readers’ workshop, where people can practice reading their work aloud to an audience. This is a safe and welcoming environment for you to do that.
We have other activities, too.
We have an email list where people can share their work that way. And of course, this month being National Poetry Month, we’re getting a lot of poetry prompts and poems. So being a poet, this would be a good time for you to join us.
You and anybody else who is interested can go to our website at
You’ll find a membership form. You can just fill that out, and our secretary will be in touch. We’ll get you subscribed to our email list, and you’ll be good to go. There is no fee for joining at this time.
If you would like to look into the possibility of reading your work by listening to text-to-speech and repeating what it says, one of our members, Annie Chiappetta, is going to be doing a class on this in June or July. So if you join now, you may be able to take advantage of that class.
I hope this is helpful. And thank you, Jonathan, for another great podcast episode.
Everybody take care, and we’ll talk later.
Sonos App Concerns
We’ve done a fair bit of talking about Sonos on Living Blindfully in recent weeks, as a result of the new speakers that have been released. And Jesper Holten’s in touch from Denmark. He says:
It’s been a long while since I last contributed to the podcast. But a new job as part of the executive of the Danish Association of the Blind and another kid having arrived in 2020 is keeping me fairly busy.
What? Another one? How many is that now, Jesper? Congratulations! You’ll be catching up to me.
By the time we got to number 4, everybody said, “When are you going to stop?”
And I said, “Well, the doctor told me to stop it or I’d go blind, but it was too late anyway. So we decided we would keep going.”
Anyway, back to Jesper’s email. Now he says:
“I have a beautiful daughter at the age of 2, a son who has just turned 8, and an adult daughter who was 21.”
Oh my goodness! That’s a great mix. And the terrible 2s, eh? It’s such an interesting age. They’re curious, they’re into everything. What fun for you and your wife!
I have been a Sonos user since 2014, and we have recently expanded our setup to surround sound using the Sonos amp in a 4+1 configuration, which works great.
The reason for the setup is simple. I still love my old floor-standing passive speakers. And at least for now, can do without Dolby Atmos.
This may change over time. But for now, I am perfectly satisfied.
Now to my problem.
Aha! I thought there was a but coming.
In the Sonos app using the search tab and for example, the artist first and then the album. Then having found the album I want to listen to; I open it and the list of songs opens up.
Here is what happens next. I swipe down, and the first song is read aloud. I swipe again to the right, and then VoiceOver jumps to the end of the list, and the scroll bar to the right of the screen shows 100%. Swiping backwards reads the last item of the list. And then, turns back to the end. That means I am unable to just move from song to song on the album.
This has not always been the case. It was introduced sometime during iOS 15 and still persists.
The same happens if I am going into the Sonos radio service, or for that matter, the Apple Music service in Sonos. In the music app, there is both a horizontal scroll bar and the vertical one. And maybe, the scroll bars are to blame.
I am not sure. But as far as I know, these cannot be turned off.
Any ideas as to what is happening here? Is there an alternative Sonos controller app worth buying?
I have written to Sonos customer service but gotten no reply. So maybe, I should write the CEO. His mail address would be most appreciated.
I am running Sonos 14.2 and iOS 16.4. But this issue, as I said, has been around for a while – maybe even since Sonos 13.x.
Yes, but thanks so much for that email. That would frustrate the heck out of me.
But I can’t reproduce it, I’m afraid. My steps might be a bit different to you because what I find is that the Sonos search is a little bit inflexible. I found it very unpredictable and unreliable if you put too many criteria in at once.
I was pretty confident I’m not seeing it because I’ve been playing a lot of Sonos lately since we got the Era 300s. It’s just amazing!
But to test it out, I went to the albums tab in the search screen and I typed the Dark Side of the Moon. And then, I navigated by heading to get to Apple Music and there was the lovely new Dolby Atmos encrusted Dark Side of the Moon 50th anniversary remix, which is quite spectacular in Atmos. I double tapped on the album name, and then I was able to flick through and scroll through track by track as I would expect.
I wasn’t being jumped to the end of the list or anything like that, and I’ve personally not seen it.
Now, what I can’t tell is what’s different about your system that means that you’ve been experiencing this for so many versions now and why I’m not. There’s got to be a reason, but I can’t immediately think of what that reason might be.
So has anybody else had a problem like this? Be in touch.
or you can call the listener line at 864-60-Mosen in the United States, 864-606-6736.
Just while we’re back on the topic of Sonos, I got a tip from the Sonos subreddit about the Kraftwerk album. I think it’s called something like 3-D Catalogue. And this has been remixed in Dolby Atmos because apparently, it was originally mixed for Quadraphonic.
Does anybody else remember that?
I remember in the 1970s, there were these experiments going on with Quadraphonic sound on vinyl. I’m pretty sure that it was quite expensive technology at the time. For whatever reason, it’s just one of those bits of technology that didn’t really take off. Put it up there with Betamax and some of those other things that have gone by the wayside.
but my uncle Albie, [laughs] he had a Quadraphonic system. And I remember going over there and listening to Neil Diamond doing Beautiful Noise. Was there an album called Beautiful Noise?
Anyway, it was in Quad and it was quite spectacular. Sounded brilliant!
Well apparently, Kraftwerk have always been on kind of the cutting edge. They were into the Quad sound. And this album, the 3-D Catalogue was just so so good because you get the full Dolby Atmos experience. It’s not just the placement of everything in that wider soundstage, it’s the height as well. They really do make the most of it.
And if you want a demo of Dolby Atmos to maybe decide is it worthwhile, – if you go into those audio stores where they really do it properly and they have the listening rooms, (Aren’t they great?), and you go into a listening room so that all the hubbub, the background noise is filtered out and you’re sitting there in good optimal listening conditions and you tell them to put this Kraftwerk album on, it will really give you an example of whether Dolby Atmos is worth it to you or not.
Like most of the bigger Sonos speakers, the Era 300 (and I think also the Era 100) have these touch-sensitive controls on the top, and it can be a bit of a nuisance when you try to use them as a blind person.
I wondered whether you could put dots on them, and how that would affect it.
John Reel says:
I’m writing to answer your question about putting dots on Sonos speakers. I just bought the Era 300, and think it’s ridiculous that Sonos doesn’t put actual switches on the speaker.
Be that as it may, I plan to put dots in front of the flat panel buttons and a Braille label in the back of the buttons. I believe the speaker’s upper face, if you’re looking at it from the front, has enough space to do this.
My reason for putting the dot in front is that as I move my hand towards the speaker from its front, I’ll encounter the dots first and then can move and touch the actual button.
I use a similar strategy for labeling my air fryer’s touch screen panel, which is completely flat. The dots in front or to the side of the actual buttons make it harder to accidentally touch the buttons themselves, which can be pressed very easily. Good luck!
Thanks, John. A very sensible idea.
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Jay Pellis says:
I am writing regarding the mesh Wi-Fi discussion in episode 221. I’m also looking for a mesh system to replace a 2017 TP-Link router for everything from remote work, to some gaming.
I have an office right next to a steel reinforced storm shelter room. The router is located in the center of the house, and it gives excellent coverage everywhere but that office room. The coverage there is good when it works, but the connection drops so often that it is unusable.
Our house is not really built for Ethernet cable deployment. I assume a mesh system would fix that since that is what they are designed for.
I noticed most systems are now managed by mobile apps, with a few still having web browser interfaces. I would love one with a web UI since I am afraid that if the app gets updated and breaks accessibility, I’ll have no way of administering the router. I don’t mind using an app, but I prefer a web UI. Plus, it can be great backup.
I have also noticed many companies require accounts now in order to use their app. Amazon eero is one of those. And they say they don’t collect private data. But even private IP address collection is beyond the pale for me. I’d like my home network to be as private as possible.
In the US, the ASUS XT8B pack looks like a decent model. It is around $350 US, supports Wi-Fi 6, and comes with extra security tools that companies usually charge subscriptions for. It has both an app and a web UI.
Has anyone had any experience with it? Any other suggestions would be appreciated.
And to follow up, Christopher Wright reports on what he purchased when he went mesh. He said:
I got the TP-Link Archer AXE75, and it’s great! Speeds on the 5 GHz band are significantly better, and the 6 GHz band is super fast. I can get 500 to 700 mbps when connected using my Pixel 7.
The web interface works Okay, and the Tether app on Android is mostly accessible. I haven’t tried the iOS app but overall, I’m very happy with the performance.
Yeah. It’s a big deal, isn’t it, when you buy something new – new network gear and you hope it’s a good investment? And it sounds like that one paid off for you, Christopher. Good stuff.
The Be My Eyes Virtual Volunteer
Robert Kingett’s writing in. He says:
I had some questions about the Be My Eyes virtual volunteer.
- In your experience, does the amount of objects in a picture cause it to describe things in less detail? For example, if you just took a picture of a smart TV, does the likelihood of the TV identification increase because there is nothing else in the picture?
I think that’s right, Robert. What it will do is it will give you a summary of what it sees. But then, you can drill down.
So the first description you might get will be quite high-level. But then if it’s got a clear enough view of objects in the picture, you can then interrogate it and get lower-level details about what’s in the picture.
“2.”, says Robert.
“With chat-GPT able to connect to the internet after version 4, how can you toggle a setting to allow the virtual volunteer to crawl the internet on command?”
I don’t believe that is possible at the moment, Robert. But of course, it is a work in progress.
Seeing AI Indoor Navigation
Gary G: Hi, guys!
Today, I’d like to do a demonstration of the indoor navigation option in Seeing AI.
Just before we get into it, though, I made quite a big blunder earlier on. While I was recording, I spelt kitchen with a C. [laughs] How stupid can you be?
Anyway, now that little disclaimer is out the way and we’ve had a bit of a laugh, let’s get into it, shall we?
I’m going to go to SeeingAI.
VoiceOver: Seeing AI.
Gary: I’m going to double tap to go in it.
VoiceOver: Recognizing English, button.
Gary: Okay. We are in it, at last. I’m going to go to the bottom of the screen, so I can get to the channels.
VoiceOver: Channel. Short text. Adjustable.
Gary: I’m going to now flick up until we get to the world option.
VoiceOver: Document. Product. Person. Currency. Scene, preview. World, preview.
Gary: There we go. Now, I’m going to go to the top left of the screen.
VoiceOver: Menu button.
Gary: There is the menu button.
VoiceOver: Quick help button.
Gary: Quick help.
VoiceOver: Indoor navigation button.
Gary: Indoor navigation. That’s what we want to have a look at today. So I’m going to double tap that.
VoiceOver: Close button. Routes heading. Quick help button. Add button.
Gary: Right. We’re going to add a new route today. And what I want to do is I want to go from the room that I’m in, to the kitchen. So I’m going to double tap the add new route button.
VoiceOver: Cancel button.
Gary: I’m going to swipe right.
VoiceOver: Create starting point heading.
Before walking the route, it’s important to capture the area around the starting point thoroughly, so that someone following the route can easily find it.
If possible, choose a starting point that has distinguishing characteristics. Avoid large blank surfaces, reflective materials, and repeating patterns.
After tapping continue, show the camera around the area where the route starts. Scan all directions including tilting slightly up and down. Imagine painting a sphere with yourself at the center.
Gary: Okay pretty self-explanatory there.
VoiceOver: Continue button.
Gary: I’m going to click continue. And then, I will go ahead and create this route. I’m going to click continue.
VoiceOver: Continue. Back button. Create a new route heading.
Slowly turn in a circle. Tilt your phone up and down as you spin.
Gary: I’m doing exactly that. I’m tilting the phone up and down. I’m turning in a circle.
VoiceOver: 25% completed.
Gary: At the moment, the camera is capturing things all in the room that I am so it can recognize the starting point. Those clicks are mostly progress indicators.
VoiceOver: 75% completed. 89% completed. 95% completed.
Gary: Still turning. Completed another circle.
VoiceOver: 100% completed.
Enter a descriptive name for the starting point of your route Such as lobby or my office.
Gary: Okay. I’m just going to type in here room.
VoiceOver: Name. Text field.
Gary: So I’ll double tap on the name text field.
VoiceOver: Text field. Is editing. Name. Insertion point at start. R-O-O-M.
Gary: All right.
VoiceOver: Enter a descriptive name for the starting point of your route such as lobby or my office. Text field. Is editing. Room.
Add any additional notes to explain where this route begins such as by the door or near the vending machines.
Gary: I’m not going to worry about that right now. I am right at the end by the feet side of the bed.
I’m going to swipe right.
VoiceOver: Notes (optional). Text field. Continue button.
Gary: And I’m going to continue.
VoiceOver: Back button. Now, walk to the destination, and tap end route.
Gary: Okay. I’m going to start walking. At the moment, I’m going out of the room door. Right about now, I’m turning left into the passageway.
Those clicks you’re hearing is the phone basically doing a recording of the route. Just letting you know it is recording.
I’ve now entered the family room, walking past the television on my left-hand side.
I’m walking past the couch on my right-hand side. There is a counter on my left-hand side. I’m turning left into the kitchen. Getting to the stove area, I’m turning right to go to the fridge. And I’m here by the fridge.
Okay. I’m going to find the stop button.
VoiceOver: Creating a new route. Back button. Quick help button. End route button.
Gary: And I’m going to double tap on end route.
VoiceOver: Enter a descriptive name for the route destination.
Gary: Okay. I’m just going to type in the kitchen.
VoiceOver: Name text field. Insertion point at end. C-I-T-C-H-E-N.
Gary: All right. We’ll see where we are.
VoiceOver: Add any additional notes to explain where the route ends such as near the door.
Gary: I’m not going to bother with that.
VoiceOver: Notes (optional). Text field.
Gary: And I’m going to click save.
VoiceOver: Saving your route.
Gary: Alrighty. Let’s see what’s on our screen.
VoiceOver: Room to citchen.
Gary: Room to citchen? [laughs] I think I spelled kitchen wrong there. But anyway, that doesn’t really matter for the purpose of this demo.
VoiceOver: Show all routes button.
Gary: Okay. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to go back to the room right now. And then, we will activate this route and see how it takes us to the kitchen.
Okay. I’m back in the room where we first started off. Now, I’m on this button that says room to kitchen button.
VoiceOver: Room to citchen button.
Gary: Okay, I’m going to double tap on that.
VoiceOver: Alert. Follow button.
Gary: And we’re going to click follow.
VoiceOver: Looking for room.
Gary: The camera is obviously trying to detect what it sees.
VoiceOver: Slowly move your phone around to locate room.
Gary: Okay, it’s loading route.
All right. What happens… We’re going to start walking.
Now just before we do, what I want to say is when you wear earphones, you’ll hear the audible sound that you hear there in the particular area of the direction that you’re going to turn. For this recording, it’s obviously not going to work so nicely.
I’m going to start walking towards the door.
There’s the first point. It’s letting us know it’s seeing something else. I’m going to turn left here. It’s going softly there because the sound is turned to the left-hand speaker of my phone because I just turned left.
I’m now in the family room, walking past the TV on my left.
That’s another checkpoint it’s found. I’m here by the couch on my right-hand side.
And here is the counter.
The sounds are audible in the phone speakers all the time. It goes soft when you go a little bit off track. I’m keeping going on straight here by the cupboard where I turn right. I’m going to turn right.
There we go, we’re still on track. And we’re getting to the fridge right about now.
Dead on target. Dead on target right where I stopped it earlier on, and it took me right where I wanted to be.
So that’s a brief description of the indoor navigation of Seeing AI.
I hope it was useful, and have a great day further. Cheers for now.
Jonathan: Thank you, Gary! For those who are wondering, “What is that voice? I recognize that voice.”, that is Gary G with that Seeing AI indoor navigation demo.
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Those Horrible E-Scooters
To Budapest we go for this email from Peter who says:
First of all, happy to have joined Living Blindfully plus. After getting the special URL, I subscribed with Google Podcasts (Google’s own podcast application). It was super easy. I could do it on
I logged in with my Google account. Once I did the subscription on the web using my desktop computer, the new feed appeared on my Google Podcasts application that is installed on my Android smartphone.
The special URL that is provided by Pinecast (believe it or not, Jonathan) even works with an ancient Windows Live mail desktop application.
So congratulations for this new brand. I’m looking forward to listening to you on a weekly basis.
Well thank you, Peter, for subscribing to Living Blindfully plus. I really do appreciate that.
And that’s a very slick arrangement. Actually Android’s always had a slick arrangement like this.
For example, when you buy an app on your desktop PC, it just appears on your phone. It’s really quite seamless and nice.
Now Peter says:
“Let me grab this occasion to suggest a new topic for the program – E-scooters.”
E-scooters are extremely popular in Budapest these days, and they became really dangerous for those of us who walk independently on the street, navigating with a white cane.
The handlebars of the vehicles are not always detectable by sweeping with the cane along the ground. You can hit the vehicle by your face if you are not tall enough. Most of the time, I hit them on my upper arm. And sometimes, they are capable of falling to the sidewalk. After which, you can stumble over the E-scooter, if you’re lucky enough.
Well, the core of the problem is that this area is not regulated at all by Hungarian laws. In this country, there unfortunately is no real advocacy because Hungarian Federation of the Blind and Partially Sighted is financed by the state. Our far right undemocratic government decide on a yearly basis about the finances. So our leaders won’t bite the hand that feeds them.
What I did was to gather some blind fellow citizens and turn to Hungarian ombudsman, asking him to initiate some legislation to get us rid of this dangerous situation. Our letter was sent more than a year ago. No answer we got until the day I’m writing this message.
The other thing I did was to try and wake up the curiosity of some journalists. I think I sent at least a dozen emails, but got no result.
I know about some accidents that have already happened to blind individuals. One of them ended up in hospital. So I don’t know how widespread these means of mobility are around the world and what the reactions of other cities’ blind communities are like.
In Paris recently, residents voted to throw out all E-scooters from the capital.
Did the French blind community contribute to that result? Could they make their concerns be heard if they had any?
I’m not insisting on ostracizing all these new electric mobility things from the city, but please live and let live. Do not leave them at the middle of the sidewalk. Park them in dedicated places where they don’t pose any danger for anyone.
And one more thing. Sorry to meander between topics.
“Is there a way to make the soup drinker play Living Blindfully plus’s episodes? I know they are exactly the same as Living Blindfully’s episodes, the difference is only the time of publishing. So it’s not a tragedy at all if I have to wait three more days if I want to listen to the podcast on my Echo Dot device, or I can play it earlier with the podcast application running on my phone. I was just wondering if Amazon could offer a solution to this kind of podcast access, because I’m surely not the only one who likes listening to podcasts on their smart speaker.”
Well, working our way backwards through that email, Peter, I am not aware of a way to plug a private podcast feed into an Amazon Echo device. I’m not really sure why there’s no way because surely, there’d be some portal where you might be able to log in and paste an RSS feed that’s just made available to you or something like that if you authenticate it, but apparently not. So if anybody does know of a way to play Living Blindfully plus content on your Amazon device, then please let us know.
Of course, the phone number –
These e-scooters are a nuisance. You’re right about their height. It can be really tricky. Your cane just doesn’t detect them. Next thing you know, you’ve got a handlebar and a bit of your anatomy. You don’t want the handlebar, you know, depending on how tall you are or how it’s placed, or whatever, or they could be just on the side, you know, tipped over in the middle of what we would call the footpath, (what Americans call the sidewalk).
Here in New Zealand, it’s not kind of the Wild West. You know, we have certain regulations relating to scooter companies and how many and which companies can operate in a given area. I think we have 2 companies that are allowed to operate in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand.
And as I mentioned, you’ve got them all over the footpath. They’re just abandoned in really inappropriate places. And of course, when they’re on the move, there doesn’t seem to be much of a speed limit. And so, you can be knocked over by these things.
And I think what it really speaks to is a fundamental disrespect that’s crept in over time for pedestrians. Sure, the e-scooters are a pain in the bleep, and I wish we never got them. And I wish that we had done what Paris has now done and said, “No, they are not, non, non.”, they would have said, “They’re not coming to Paris.” And I think that’s tremendous.
But it does go wider than that. There are so many obstacles on the footpath these days. You walk down some streets here in Wellington, and they’ve got billboards all over the place. Or they have outdoor dining taking up the street. And you’re just trying to get from A to B and you’re walking along, and you’re whacking your cane into people who are trying to sit down there for a nice meal, maybe a business dinner or something like that. And you just can’t get through. [laughs]
So let’s hear about your stories of pedestrian access – what you encounter on a day-to-day basis, just trying to get from A to B. We’ve got a global audience here, and it would be most interesting to compare notes around the world. What’s similar? What’s different? Have you done any advocacy? Are you aware of any advocacy organizations where you live that has been effective in clearing the clutter on our footpaths/sidewalks/pavements so that we can just walk on them? You know, what a quaint old concept that is.
Tell me about how it is for you – what you’re experiencing.
or 864-60-Mosen, 864-606-6736.
Victor Reader Stream Podcasts Bug
Voice message: Hello, Jonathan! This is John Wesley Smith from Hallsville, Missouri in the US of A.
Congratulations on the rebranding, and all that goes with that.
I want to talk to you about a problem that developed with my Victor Stream. I don’t know if this is something that anybody else has had trouble with or not, but I wanted to let you know about it in case it pertains to whoever it pertains to. [laughs]
About a week and a half or so ago, I was subscribing to a couple of new podcasts and decided to unsubscribe because I didn’t really want to keep them after all, but it was good to sample them.
And I noticed that after that, my Victor Stream would now and then download a podcast. I would hear the podcast chime, but I couldn’t find it in any of my podcast feeds. I presently have 51 feeds on my Victor Stream which may be a lot, but of course obviously, not all of them come down every day, or anything like that. And some of them haven’t had any new entries for months.
In any event, I noticed that the podcasts that were downloading mysteriously were taking up some internal memory, which is not a big deal because I really don’t have much of anything in internal memory.
I decided though that I would contact Humanware and see what they could tell me about how to clear out the internal memory from whatever was happening, and they gave me the procedure for that.
Of course before you format the internal memory, it’s a good idea to export podcast feeds and internet playlists to your SD card. So I did all that.
And to make kind of a long story short, I ended up telling my Victor Stream that I only wanted to take 1 podcast from each feed and not 3 as is the default. And so I left my Victor Stream on the charger overnight and downloaded 51 podcasts.
Well, it looked like once I had played a second or two of each podcast to let the Victor Stream know that that was not a new episode and that was for future purposes, it looked like there was still some extra space being used in the internal memory. So I thought, well, I will go ahead and go through this whole process again of formatting the internal memory.
I did that and exported the podcast feed list to my SD card. And I checked the SD card podcast feed list and I told it to open it in Notepad, and so on. And I know enough HTML that I could kind of see what was what. And I discovered that there were 2 entries for Living Blindfully. One had a URL for Libsyn and the other had a URL for Pinecast. So I deleted both.
And again, like I say, I had to go through the process of importing those back into the Victor Stream and so on. Basically, I ended up unsubscribing from the Living Blindfully podcast on the Victor Stream.
I don’t know if anybody else is having this problem or not. I hope that I have managed to unsubscribe and resubscribe successfully without 2 entries of Living Blindfully.
I’ve seen podcasts change names and move to a different place in the lineup of podcast feeds, and all that. And maybe if there are two entries at that point, maybe it corrects itself. I don’t know. So I’m not certain that the problem that I’ve had with my Victor Stream recently is related to your transitioning. But I thought I would mention it and bring it up in case anybody else has had this trouble, or if anybody knows what else to do. By the time others hear this, maybe this kind of thing will have worked itself out, or maybe somebody else will have some advice for me, or whatever. But I thought I would mention it for whatever it’s worth. I just wanted to let you know what’s going on.
Jonathan: Thank you, John. I’m not completely sure I fully understand what’s going on. But my ears did perk up when you mentioned Libsyn because we haven’t been hosted on Libsyn for a couple of years now, maybe a bit longer. The last episode we did on Libsyn was, I think, episode 49 or thereabouts. And we’ve been on Pinecast ever since. So if you’ve got a Libsyn feed there, that is a very old feed and it’s not related to any changes that we have been making lately.
What should happen is that if you do still have that old Libsyn address for any reason, in that Libsyn feed, it has what’s called a 301 redirect, which should redirect you to Pinecast. And what, dare I say, well-behaved podcast applications will do is it’s kind of like a change of address form with the post office. When it sees that 301 redirect, it says, “oh, this podcast has moved providers. So we’ll delete the old one and replace it with a new one that’s referenced in that 301 redirect.”
If that’s not happening, then that’s something you need to talk to Humanware about because 301 redirects are absolutely standard practice for podcasts. And as I say, it sounds like you’re describing something that happened over 2 years ago. So I hope you’re able to get it sorted out. [laughs]
Voiceover: Has something on the show got you thinking? Share those thoughts with the rest of the Living Blindfully community.
Send us an email. You can include an audio attachment recorded on your computer or smartphone so we can hear your voice, or you can write it down.
The address is
Or phone our listener line in the USA, 864-60-Mosen. That’s 864-606-6736. Let your voice be heard.
Apps For the Keto Diet
We’re going to talk more about one of my favorite subjects – rocking the keto lifestyle.
“Hello, Jonathan,” writes Lisa.
I have just recently started the keto diet, and I am having trouble tracking my carbs, proteins, fats, etc.
Are there any particular apps that you use to complete this task and make things easier on the keto diet? I am a VoiceOver user, and I find that I cannot use the carb manager app.
Any thoughts, suggestions or tips would be greatly appreciated.
Good on you, Lisa, for giving this a go. I may not be much help because I have not found it necessary at this stage to do too much tracking. I do take an interest if I’m eating something unfamiliar or drinking something unfamiliar, for that matter, in understanding its carb count in particular, which is the critical one when it comes to keeping keto.
For example, I’m a big Kombucha drinker. Well, when I say a big Kombucha drinker, I drink one bottle of kombucha that has five grams of net carbs a day. It’s a bit of a treat. It’s a probiotic, so it has many health benefits and I love it.
We’ve got quite a Kombucha industry in New Zealand, and there are various companies that are distributing it. You can get Kombucha at a lot of good cafes.
When I started drinking it, hardly anybody knew what it was. Now it’s become this trendy thing and booch, (as they call it), booch is everywhere.
Anyway, the reason why I’m telling you this is because you can get some Kombucha that’s quite high in carbs because they almost turn it into a soft drink, into a soda. So if I’m going out to a cafe and they have kombucha, I make them tell me what’s the net carb count on the bottle that they’re about to give me. And if it’s too high, then I just have water.
But apart from that, I’ve just learned the foods that are low carb and the foods that are not. And I eat until I’m full and then stop, which is a bit of a challenge sometimes because sometimes, we form bad habits.
And that’s worked for me. And I haven’t had to do a lot of serious checking at all.
To try and answer your question, though, constructively, I believe there is an app called Chronometer, which doesn’t sound like it’s got anything to do with carb checking, but I believe you can check your carbs with that and that it may be fairly accessible. I believe somebody has told me that that’s the case.
So those are a couple of specific suggestions for you.
But let’s open it up. If you are tracking your micronutrients, particularly with a keto emphasis, what, if anything, have you found that’s accessible and help Lisa out?
Good luck on your keto journey, Lisa. Hopefully by the time this airs, you will have gotten through that keto flu phase that so many of us get where you convert to keto and your body adapts to burning fat for fuel. And you get this awful listless, lethargic thing and maybe a bit achy.
And then you come out the other side and it’s like, wow, it’s kind of like a space shuttle coming down from the Earth’s atmosphere. You know, it gets buffeted about and all that kind of stuff. But then you’re done and it feels great.
And just while we’re on the subject of the keto diet and related things, I do want to recommend a book that I’m currently reading. I will be finished it very shortly. It’s by Dr. Mark Hyman, and that’s spelled H-Y-M-A-N. And he’s one of the leading practitioners in the field of functional medicine.
He’s written several books of interest to those who want to pursue good health, including Eat Fat Get Thin, another one called The Pegan Diet, and his latest book is called Young Forever. And its hypothesis is essentially that you can live to a very old age and do so in good health so that your last years are not full of pain, and suffering, and lack of functionality. It’s an inspiring book, and there are lots of helpful, practical tips and tricks.
So if you’re interested in this field, do check out Young Forever and indeed the other books that Mark Hyman has written. They’re all very good.
The Quest For My Ultimate Braille Device
Settle back for this one because it’s lengthy.
Hi, Jonathan and Living Blindfully community,
This is Rebecca Thorne from the West Midlands in the UK writing in for the first time.
Welcome to you, Rebecca! It’s wonderful to have you writing in, and thanks for listening.
“I’ve been listening for a while”, she says.
I’ll start with something quite niche. I’m both blind and chronically ill. I’ve had some significant issues with people who have just one of these disability types being discriminatory about the other.
In particular, I’m having a really hard time finding a chronic illness group online that’s actually VI inclusive. Many of them seem to like posting content, including key information about things like when meetings are happening as images of text. I’ve had very ableist, dismissive, and rude responses to giving polite and educational feedback. The only group I’ve found that are proactively inclusive of people who also have other disabilities are Entrepreneurs Against the Odds, though that’s specifically for chronically ill business owners.
As this is a VI community that’s inclusive of people who also have other disabilities, I thought I’d ask if people have any recommendations of chronic illness groups that are actually VI inclusive.
When I’m talking about chronic illness, I am talking the definition that’s prevalent online of the energy limiting family of chronic illness, so things that are pain and/or fatigue-based. My primary conditions are chronic migraines, post-viral fatigue from getting COVID last year, and other chronic pain that hasn’t been attributed to a specific condition.
Also, are there communities out there for people who are both blind and chronically ill? I doubt it, but thought I’d ask.
The one good thing that has come out of the community I’ve most recently had issues with is that I’ve met someone who, like me, is both VI and chronically ill, and we’ve had some fascinating conversations about the intersections. So I’d welcome anyone who also experiences both getting in touch.
On another note, your interview about the Optima device was fascinating. It’s lovely to see people building devices on Windows, particularly given the multitude of problems Android-based Braille devices have had. What this allows for as well is the Braille-based software to just be a suite of software on the operating system, rather than having to adapt the whole operating system like what seems to have been done by companies going down the Android route.
In theory, I’d love a Braille-based iOS device with better functioning Braille because I love how logical and intuitive the flow of iOS is as an operating system. But I can’t imagine Apple ever letting that happen.
It’s great that they’ve announced it so early and have clearly thought about the needs of blind professionals, as so many companies primarily focus on students.
However, I do feel like they’re only solving half the problem by going for a QWERTY keyboard. Obviously, some people prefer this, and I see how this would be helpful, particularly for people who prefer QWERTY and move around a lot. As we often say, this is a use case thing. But to me, the biggest problem in Windows is that most companies have never come up with a practical way to fully simulate a QWERTY keyboard on a Braille one.
In my particular use case, the main things I care about in a braille device are having a Braille keyboard, a competent Braille-based word processor, and a set of commands to give the device the best hope of working well with screen readers.
For context, I’m someone who primarily uses braille technology for writing and editing. I’ve had a very writing-oriented career, primarily on the content and copy side of marketing, but I’ve also done advocacy, training, and journalism. I’ve also been involved in writing-related hobbies throughout my life.
I also have to track quite a bit of data for various health conditions I have that is used for condition management and hospital appointments, which I do in a fairly complex and fairly optimized Braille document.
From my perspective, I’m concerned about the increasing prevalent opinion that we should be aiming to exclusively use mainstream software. I understand the need for us to be able to interact with mainstream apps and mainstream technology. I have many mainstream apps I love and use for things all the time like listening to podcasts, (Thanks for introducing me to Overcast.), participating in calls, and sending messages.
But I feel strongly that there are tasks for which having specialist software is crucial. And for me personally, the biggest example of this is having a Braille-based word processor for writing and editing in Braille. When you edit high volumes of text, I find it much more efficient to do it in Braille and then convert it to print, not have it be auto-translated all the time.
Plus, there’s the lack of commitment to Braille from screen reader companies.
Sometimes, I can spend 10 or 20 minutes typing out paragraphs on iOS, usually doing a comment explaining something to someone in a Facebook group. But if I was doing that on a Braille device in a Braille word processing app, the same thing would probably take me 2 to 5 minutes. So when I’ve had to respond to people on social media for work and do a good handful of responses, that just doesn’t work on iOS.
I don’t have much experience with Windows Braille because I don’t think I’ve ever had a device that can fully simulate every key combination so I can use a computer without a qwerty keyboard. And I’ve had a multitude of laptop problems for years that are only just getting sorted. But that’s a whole other email. But the experience I have had with Windows doesn’t inspire me to want to solely rely on it without specialist applications for certain tasks.
As someone said, (and I think it was episode 221), hybrid devices like the Brailliant are definitely being pushed as the best option for professionals and everyone other than those in education.
When I’ve discussed in groups the multitude of issues I’ve had with the BrailleSense Polaris and how highly disruptive it has been at work, I’ve had multiple people tell me that I should use a device like the Brailliant instead which only has a very basic editing app, or that I should just do my work on a laptop with JAWS or use a Braille display connected to my phone.
But that just doesn’t work for most of the stuff I do. These devices don’t have features like easy ways to switch between multiple documents, conversion between Braille and DOCX format, or easy ways to check word count or page position details. The latter is essential when you’re drafting things to a certain word count, or when you’re trying to meet the readability standard that’s best practice in online content of keeping your paragraphs below five lines of print.
The other thing I find baffling is there have actually been a couple of Windows-based Braille computers other than the LBraille released over the past few years that have got very little attention. EuroBraille have a Windows 10 device they used to call EasyTime, (that’s spelled E-S-Y time), that they have recently upgraded and rebranded to BBook. I have seen no coverage of this. The only reason I found out about it was because I was doing very proactive research.
I do wonder if much of this is because they’re a French company and the UK distributors are both tiny companies.
It has a Braille keyboard with what looks from the documentation to be a fairly solid set of QWERTY keyboard simulation commands.
And InsideVision have a device called the InsideOne, which has a touch screen with an engraved Braille keyboard and a set of touch gestures.
Having looked at the documentation, the EuroBraille device seems like the closest device to what I need. But I’m struggling to find much user experiences online, so I was wondering if the community could share any experiences they have with these devices or EuroBraille displays more broadly.
The only resources I found online are a review on AppleVis of one of their older displays, the review in the book Braille on Display by Jackie Brown which you published, and an interview on BrailleCast with Steve Nutt of Computer Room Services who are one of the suppliers here in the UK for both the EuroBraille devices and the Vario Ultra devices which also don’t get much attention.
Just interrupting the email for a second to say that I think that’s because the device has been discontinued now that Baum no longer exists.
Interestingly, one of the other main things I found while googling was a Braillists Foundation forum thread in response to an article comparing Braille devices, discussing how all the options from smaller providers were not covered in the article, which included an explanation from the author of the article about the logistical challenges of getting hold of devices to review. There does seem to be some issues in the industry where stuff from smaller companies gets less attention.
My questions about the EsyTime or BBook devices that I’d be interested to hear some user perspectives on are:
How effective is the word processor?
How noisy is it?
As I’ve read, it is basically a laptop so likely has a fan. I will say I am conscious of struggling to concentrate when there is quite a bit of background noise due to cognitive function issues that are part of chronic illness. I’ve had some issues in that regard with my regular laptop, but that has turned out to be making substantially more noise than it should be.
How effective is using the rest of the Windows system?
How effectively does JAWS work due to the low specifications, and how well does it work with iOS?
I’d also be interested to hear more broadly from anyone who does a lot of writing and editing in Braille about what they use and how they work.
I’m really done with Android-based options. I have had a multitude of problems with the BrailleSense Polaris that were actually mostly just how much the device crashed and deleted my work and how buggy core apps are, years after the device was released. I’ve had a thorough conversation with someone I trust who has a similar use case to me about their experiences with the BrailleNote Touch Plus and no, that’s not for me.
I also strongly dislike working in Microsoft Word and Google Docs. I’ve found that’s mostly not a problem so long as I can convert my work into Microsoft Word format and make it look visually presentable before sending it to sighted people. I also have to be able to work with limited use of speech a good chunk of the time because of how many migraines I get and the impact they have on cognitive function and auditory processing.
In response to the person who asked in episode 222 about recording podcasts on iPhone, I have been using microphones from Shure for years. I currently have their MV88 Plus. I record in their app which has been accessible since I started using it in 2017.
I have no idea if it can record VoiceOver because I’ve never done that.
Like Jonathan, I prefer to work in Reaper for editing, but I don’t see a reason not to record on iOS. I just then save it to cloud storage and pick up on Windows.
Thanks very much for your email, Rebecca!
Rebecca has given me her email, and said that it’s fine to pass it on. If anyone wants to contact the show, I will do that. I don’t feel comfortable just reading out emails on podcasts, but I’m happy to do that.
Or even better, there may be others who would benefit from the questions that Rebecca has. Predominantly, are you aware of any chronic illness sites that also are particularly friendly to blind people?
And this discussion about Braille is an interesting one. What I can say, (and it’s horses for courses, right?), so you’ve got to find a device that works for you, personally.
I wrote several books using the Focus 40 Blue previous generation, which seemed for me to be much more reliable in terms of the robustness of the cells using Braille input in Microsoft Word.
In my experience, the JAWS Braille in feature is very robust. I found I could open a Microsoft Word document in Braille (and contracted Braille), and it was if I was working in a blindness specific word processor. I didn’t have any difficulty getting word counts or checking the way the document looked. You can turn on varying levels of displays of information, and I used to do that depending on where in the process I was.
So at the beginning, if I was writing a book, the primary thing I was thinking about was getting the right phraseology on the page. I wasn’t interested in formatting at that stage. So I take it right back to bare bones and just read the words.
As we were getting close to publication time though, I would turn on in Braille the display of bolding, underline, heading levels – things that I needed to just make sure everything was OK. And I get great feedback on that from JAWS.
It was also possible for me to do all of that in Braille using the Focus, which is a Braille input keyboard, without taking my hands off the keyboard because JAWS has the ability to simulate control, alt, the Windows key, shift, all those commands. Now, I will agree that they’re a little bit hard to memorize if you don’t use them every day. Because I was using them every day, it’s like everything. You use it enough; you get used to it.
And I was, for example, able to bring up a list of documents and quickly switch from one to the other. So for me, at least, what you described that you want to do was absolutely possible. I could have had several documents open at once because I might have got some research notes, and then I’m working on the actual manuscript of the book, and I could switch between them using JAWS.
The one thing I’d love to see in JAWS regarding Braille, and I don’t know if it will ever be technically possible, but let’s say you got yourself an 80 cell Braille display. I would love to be able to see that divided up into two sections so that you could have two applications on your Braille display at once. That would be epic.
And who knows where we’re going with these multi-line Braille displays? But if they take off and they become truly viable, I would love to see that. Just like sighted people can look at applications on their monitor and see several at once, if they have the windows sized in a certain way.
Now when the LBraille came out, (which was essentially a cobbled together machine), you had a base, you would slot a Focus 40 Blue into that base, and you had a laptop. People did complain about how cryptic these commands were and some said, “Look, they are so cryptic that I actually resort to a USB or Bluetooth keyboard on this thing because I just can’t get the hang of this.”.
And Brian Hartgen introduced something to Leasey, which we’ve talked about on this show before. It’s kind of this Swiss army knife of productivity. I think that’s the best way I can describe it because it does an awful lot of things. And he’s got a thing in Leasey called “elegance for LBraille”. And that is much more intuitive to many more people than the JAWS commands.
Now, I think this feature only supports certain Braille devices. So it could be, Rebecca, that your particular device is not supported. But it would be worth going to the Hartgen Consultancy website to check that out because that does really lower the learning curve to using JAWS effectively in word processors like Microsoft Word.
For some of these smaller companies that are finding it hard to gain traction, to be honest, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for them. Because I look at, for example, Hable and Blindshell, who have contacted this podcast and we’ve given them attention. They have obviously found out that this podcast reaches a significant number of connected blind people who are interested in technology. And they’ve done that because they’ve done their homework and they reached out to us. And there’s absolutely nothing stopping these companies who want to play in the English speaking market from doing the same.
I mean, I’ll review one if they send one. But even if they don’t want to send one, we’ll certainly do an interview about their product and what they perceive the selling points of the product to be.
Now, I do strongly prefer (where possible) to work directly with a representative of the manufacturer rather than a distributor. Because sometimes, I ask questions about the future, quite technical things that you often find salespeople cannot answer, but we’ll cover them as best we can.
And you have to say, if these companies are not doing their due diligence and not educating themselves about how to connect with the English speaking blind community, what does that say about the level of support you’re likely to get about their commitment to this market?
But some very interesting thoughts, Rebecca. And I hope others will respond. If you would like to respond, by the way,
is the email address. You can phone as well. 864-60-Mosen. That number is in the United States. 864-606-6736.
Advertisement: Transcripts of Living Blindfully are brought to you by Pneuma Solutions, a global leader in accessible cloud technologies. On the web at:
That’s P-N-E-U-M-A solutions dot com.
We’re going to Munich in Germany for this email from Alexander. He says:
Hello, Jonathan and the whole community,
I am glad and grateful that I am one of those who subscribed to the podcast in the plus version very early on.
Well, I’m glad and grateful too, Alexander. Thank you so much for doing that.
I have been listening to your show weekly with my Victor Reader Trek for about a year now. Now, I have added the RSS feed there manually. I am quite familiar with editing XML files of all kinds.
Listening to Mosen at Large, I have not only become acquainted with many things very early on and at first hand, (which otherwise only become known later here in Germany). I am also always very interested in the topics that go beyond the exciting and informative tech talk – questions about living actively with blindness, linguistic, and philosophical issues, for instance.
I was born blind. My parents came from Slovenia and have been living there again for about 8 years. I studied Slavic studies, and am therefore currently very busy with aid projects in connection with the war in Ukraine.
In my main job, I am an IT trainer at the local Association of Blind and Visually Impaired People here in Munich.
On a voluntary basis, I am active as a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church and in some Catholic organizations of blind people on a national and international level.
And in all of this, I am helped by much of the assistive technology that has become available in recent years. For example, for traveling.
My wife, Annette, was also born blind. She is a teacher at a school near here and she is also active in the Catholic associations for the blind.
A few weeks ago, you were talking about a navigation belt called FeelSpace. For about three years now, I have also been using this belt, either as a stand-alone device that helps me to walk straight ahead or to find my way back to the starting position if I had to turn slightly, or also in conjunction with the FeelSpace navigation app. I found it impressive, but not particularly surprising what ChatGPT said in its essay about blindness.
What is called artificial intelligence here is in fact, a pure language model that generates text that expresses meaningfully, (with the highest possible probability), the knowledge of the world that is available to it. What is frightening about it is precisely this knowledge of the world. ChatGPT shows in a very sober way which ideas and stereotypes keep circulating about us and what is commonly said about the blind as such.
The dangerous thing about this is that users think that what ChatGPT provides is credible, well-researched, and well-verified. In fact, it only reflects what half-knowledge or grossly simplified knowledge is in circulation.
In any case, it was a very impressive presentation of the limitations and dangers of these language models.
On the other hand, it was great to hear what Be My Eyes will be able to do in the future with the help of image analysis, with all the limitations that exist there as well.
I am very happy to be a part of this great global community. I have already received so many interesting news and inspiring thoughts here, so it is evident for me to make my small regular financial contribution and hope to be able to contribute something in terms of content as well when I have an idea to do so.
By the way, I am also a Radio Ham and belong to the many blind people who were fascinated by both radio and various telephone services in their childhood.
Thank you very much for sending your first message to us, Alexander. Great to hear from you.
Hope everything is going well for you in Munich, and congratulations on the work that you are doing for the people of Ukraine.
Voice message: I’d like to discuss an aspect of advocacy that we do not really talk about a lot. And it’s something I haven’t really thought about a great deal until recently. That, being limiting beliefs, and the possibility that some of the reasons we don’t have access to certain things are because of our attitudes toward them. Not because of anybody else’s, but because of ours.
I’ll give an example. A few weeks ago, my girlfriend became interested in a program called GIMP, which is a photo editor. It’s very powerful, and comparable to Photoshop. It’s also free, open source, and seemed to be accessible. It had a menu bar. And I think, the website says that it has 97 hotkeys to perform various functions.
Menu bar. Hotkeys. This is pretty cool! I’m totally blind. She’s sighted. But we could come together on this because she could describe the stuff that she is doing. And in theory, I could actually set the program up, install the plugins, keep things organized.
Except it turns out I could not, because the program was written with a toolkit that had no Windows accessibility baked in. The entire window was a bitmap.
I asked on the GIMP forums if this could change. And in my post, I justified why I wanted it. I said, “Yes, I know I’m blind, but my girlfriend…” and I went into the whole story and why it would be cool.
And the first reply that I got was from a guy who said, “You don’t need to justify your use case to us. This is a tool for everyone. You have your use case. That was good enough. You didn’t have to explain it.”
And I thought, “Wow, that’s wild and very different.”
So with that really awesome attitude presented to me, I went to one of the email lists that focus on a particular screen reader, and I asked what it would take to help these developers help us. I explained what the program was, and I reiterated my use case.
I got a whole bunch of nonsense from other blind people about the pointlessness of even bothering to try to help make something accessible that would not ultimately benefit us.
I was really saddened by that. I was very sad that the limitation here, the thing that actually put a stop to the discussion was not sighted developers who didn’t care, but other blind people who didn’t.
And I just wonder how many situations are like that. Are we accidentally creating barriers to accessibility while complaining that others are?
Jonathan: That’s Derek Lane with that contribution. Thank you, Derek.
Yes, I think it is true that sometimes, the barriers that we face are barriers that we put up ourselves.
The Bonnie Bulletin
It has been a long time since we had that moving music on the show. Actually, it’s the first time that we’ve had that moving music on the show since Living Blindfully became a thing. It’s the Bonnie Bulletin. Welcome to you.
Bonnie Mosen: Hello! Hi, guys.
Jonathan: It’s Bonnie Mosen talking. We have had so much material lately, that we haven’t been able to squeeze a Bonnie Bulletin in.
Bonnie: No, no. Lots of stuff, and you’re still backed up, right?
Jonathan: We are, to some extent. We’re getting through it.
And one of the things that we will get through is a very interesting interview that you have done for Living Blindfully.
Bonnie: I know. It’ll be my first interview for the podcast, so looking forward to people’s feedback on that. And hopefully, doing some more.
Jonathan: I thought that we’d get you on to talk about a couple of things.
One is you are heading to the United States. I think that we should give due warning to the people of the United States.
Bonnie: [laughs] We got a lot of warning.
When is that happening?
Bonnie: Hopefully November, October, November.
Jonathan: But it’s a process.
Bonnie: It is a huge process.
Jonathan: Not so much getting eclipsed out of the country. That’s easy enough. It’s getting back in again.
Bonnie: Getting back into the country. Getting into the U.S. is simple. Basically, they look at you when you come in. “Oh, the dog’s not bleeding or dead. So go on.” Actually, this is the first time that I will have to fill out service animal forms on a U.S. carrier to get where I’m going.
Jonathan: That’s quite punitive, isn’t it?
Bonnie: Yeah, it is. And you’ll learn a lot about that in my podcast interview, so stay tuned for that.
But right now, under the Department of Transportation, you have to fill out a form on each airlines that you’re flying with a service animal on.
Jonathan: And I wonder whether blind people are having a rethink about this, because I’ve never really understood the strong objection that they have in the United States to the concept of certification.
So here, you have to have a certified service animal in order to be on planes and in certain parts of the world.
Bonnie: Well, the trouble with that is there are so many fake documents floating around that it’s really really difficult. You can buy certification online.
Jonathan: It doesn’t seem to be a problem here.
Bonnie: No, not sure why. I think we are a smaller country.
Jonathan: Well, but the idea that you would have to fill in a form every time you board a plane with your guide dog is awful.
Bonnie: Yeah, there are ways. I think some of them can keep them, but I mean, I don’t trust the airlines enough to actually keep it in their system. [laughs] So I’m trying to figure out, find out which airlines are the friendly. United, I think, seems to be pretty good.
Because airlines are covered under the Air Carrier Act. They’re not covered under the ADA.
Jonathan: That’s right.
Bonnie: So it’s a whole different ball game.
So I am probably going to fly into Houston, and then fly to Nashville from there. And then depending on what I’m doing, Nashville to Newark. And then I’m probably going to come back out of New York into Auckland.
Jonathan: Perhaps you could get some feedback from listeners about the most guide dog friendly airlines in terms of this process.
Bonnie: Yeah. Which is the most guide dog friendly airlines? I know there are a few that are using a third party system which is not good, but none of those I’ll be flying on. So that’s good.
Jonathan: Now getting Eclipsed back into the country, as we say, that is the challenging bit.
Bonnie: And the journey begins, as they say in Star Wars.
Today, she had to have a rabies anti-neutralizing titer test.
Bonnie: Which basically just says how much rabies antibodies is in her body. And she’ll have to get a rabies shot anyway.
So we have to do this expensive test that they cannot do in this country, so they have to send her to Australia and back.
Jonathan: And you’ve been quibbling with them about the cost of that.
Bonnie: I have been quibbling about the cost because one vet quoted me $1,200. That was the shipping back and forth. And then another one quoted me $500 and something.
And my thing is, this is something I need. Yes, I could leave her at home. I could do that. I did that when I went to Europe. But that was for different reasons – because we were traveling so much. We were dealing with a few different countries. And it was a 33-hour flight.
But I choose to travel with a guide dog. That is my mobility choice. And if I want to travel out of the country to go home to visit family, it should be my choice whether I want to take my dog with me.
And she’s not a pet. I’m not taking her for fun. You know, she’s part of me. It would be like asking you to leave your eyeballs at home.
Jonathan: What’s the process from here on in?
Bonnie: Oh, gosh. We have to wait to get the test back. Then, we start. There’s a whole lot of… She has to have a few vaccines. You know, I think she has to have a rabies vaccine. She has to be treated for leptospirosis. And it all has to be done by certain vets that are qualified under the Ministry of Primary Industries.
And just a lot of government paperwork that has to be filled out. There’s what they call an animal import form certificate that has to be done. So when she comes back into the country… So all those boxes and stuff need to be checked.
Once she leaves, she has to see a vet in the U.S., I think two vets in the U.S. And then, she has to have a USDA endorsement before she can leave the country to come back into New Zealand.
And usually I’ve done it in Los Angeles. I’ve flown from wherever it is I am overnighted in Los Angeles. So then, you’re incurring extra costs as you travel that an able body traveler without a guide dog would incur because they don’t have to go through all this stuff.
Yeah, so I’d like to come back through New York because there’s an endorsement center right at JFK Airport. So that would be a lot easier than going through Los Angeles.
Jonathan: Good luck is what I say.
Jonathan: We will keep people updated with progress.
Bonnie: Yeah, we may not have a New York run in October, November. That’s a… It’s sort of a snake bit route at the moment. [laughs]
Jonathan: Yeah, it’s a long flight, that one, too. A very long flight. I think it’s 17 hours continuous flying.
Bonnie: Oh my gosh.
Jonathan: Yeah, so it’s a long one.
Bonnie: I’ll try to get a sky couch on that one.
Jonathan: Now the coronation. Being an American, you’re probably more excited about this than a lot of people.
Bonnie: Yeah, I’m excited about it.
Bonnie: Yeah. Yeah.
Jonathan: Yeah. So we are going to be watching. We hope to be able to get the full Dolby surround sound coverage of the coronation. I’m sure there will be some, and I’m pretty sure I know where to find it. So we’re having a bit of a party here on that Saturday night. It will be New Zealand time.
Jonathan: When you consider that most of us were not born the last time this happened, hopefully, we’ll be hanging around. I mean I don’t wish King Charles a short reign or anything, but I think chances are we might be around for the next one.
Jonathan: [laughs] Yes.
Bonnie: Hope so.
Jonathan: Now, I also thought that it would be interesting to talk with you on the show about a podcast you’ve been talking to me about. Is it in the true crime genre?
Bonnie: Yes. Yeah.
Jonathan: It has a blindness angle.
And it really got me thinking because over the years, I’ve been doing various blindness media. You do hear stories about the police of various jurisdictions not taking crimes relating to blind people particularly seriously, particularly in some cases when a blind person is a “witness” to a crime.
Jonathan: And they say, “Well, because you couldn’t see it, you can’t help us and we’re not going to take it particularly seriously.” But in this case, there’s a suggestion that a woman was the victim of a crime.
Bonnie: Yes. I won’t do a lot of spoilers because some of you, particularly in Canada, are probably familiar with this case.
I discovered it by listening to something called Moms and Murder because I like true crime. And they were talking about the Holly Bartlett case. They recommended a podcast called “What Happened to Holly Bartlett?” And it was done by AMI Audio, A-M-I, which is the Canadian… They do a lot of audio specifically related to disability. And this was a podcast that was produced.
What happened was Holly was a young woman, early 30s, blind, very competent cane user, very independent. She was finishing up her master’s degree. She lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She was finishing up her master’s degree at Dalhousie University. She, I believe, worked for the provincial government. She lived alone. She was a very competent blind person.
She went to a party to celebrate her getting her master’s degree. She left at midnight and the next morning; some workers found her body under a bridge. She was still alive, but died of hypothermia. It was a very, very cold night in Halifax.
They first thought that she had fallen from the bridge because she was going to her condo building, but she’d been let off at a cab at her condo building. And to get up on this bridge, she would have had to crawl up an abutment, crawl through a fence and gotten up on the bridge. And they at first thought she’d fallen because they did see blunt force trauma on the head. So the police just marked it off as an accident, pretty much an accidental death.
And the family and friends said, “No, there’s something not right here.” Why would she walk all the way from her condo, which was 300 meters down the road from the bridge up on this bridge? You know, this does not make any sense.
And the police just said, “Blind girl, drunk, case closed.”, you know, pretty much. That’s pretty much what they thought.
But her family and friends were not going to take this. They wanted some investigation done.
There was a CNIB orientation mobility instructor that got involved in this, and explained how someone used a cane. The police never went to the CNIB. They just thought she got disoriented.
And the whole six part podcast is investigating that. And I won’t go into the whole thing because it is a podcast worth listening to. But it was really fascinating and kind of sad too, because the death was obviously suspicious.
But the police just said, “Oh, it’s a blind person. They were drunk. They got lost. They fell off the bridge.”
Jonathan: So expectations, which were unrealistically low of blind people, basically meant that they didn’t properly do their job.
Bonnie: Very low. Yeah, they didn’t do their job. There was no investigation. Evidence was lost. Because at one point, they found her cane wasn’t even with her. It was leaning up against a fence.
And it was weird because there was a lot that I thought about. Because after listening to it, I got into a cab. And you do think about how vulnerable you are as a blind person, as a woman, if you’re taking a ride share service or taking a taxicab, because that does come up in the podcast.
Jonathan: So the name of it again?
Bonnie: “What Happened to Holly Bartlett?”
Jonathan: And you can just search for that in your podcast app.
And it sounds like we’re being demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass at the moment. I’m not sure what’s going on out there.
Bonnie: I’m not sure what that noise is.
Bonnie: Yeah, but I’d love to hear feedback on it because I don’t want to give too much information away on the podcast because it’s very thought-provoking.
Jonathan: I mean, I’d like to hear feedback on the podcast, too.
But wider than that, I’d also be interested in feedback from people about whether they have called on the police for some sort of assistance, and blindness played a part in the response that they got.
Bonnie: Well, I know when Lizzie was attacked, … We had a dog attack. We were attacked by two pit bulls in South Boston when I was living in Boston. And police never even talked to me. You know, they talked to someone else and they never even came to me to take a report.
Jonathan: It just illustrates how some of these professionals we’ve talked repeatedly with Just Cause about the problems many of us have had with the medical profession. And you can sort of understand that at one level, because people view blindness as a medical condition. And so if you come from that medical bent, you understand why people start thinking about blindness in that way.
But it’s all about training. It’s about understanding how to engage with disability. And you know full well, and I’m not saying that this shouldn’t happen, but you know full well that there’s a lot of diversity training, a lot of sensitivity training now about various cultural groups, as there should be. But the trouble is that that diversity training often just completely skips disability.
Bonnie: Oh, absolutely. Honestly, this podcast, (and I listen to a lot of true crime. I listen to a lot of podcasts.) This one disturbed me.
Jonathan: Well, it was close to home, isn’t it?
Bonnie: It was very close to home, and it really upset me because possibly, if she’d been found earlier, she might have survived. There was just so much that went on in that podcast.
Jonathan: I’ll be interested in others’ comments on that. And also, as I say, any general engagement that people have had that they want to comment on.
Closing and Contact Info
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