Transcripts of Living Blindfully are made possible by Pneuma Solutions, a global leader in accessible cloud technologies. On the web at http://PneumaSolutions.com.
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.
Hello on the show this week! Thanks for your patience. Apple locks out blind people from one of its services, and it’s hard to get it taken seriously. Go anywhere with confidence, thanks to the AllTerrain cane. Is the whole concept of a full life as a blind person a fabrication?
Get the maple syrup out and celebrate. It is episode 236. Epic, eh?
And if you haven’t already gathered from all those hints, we are in British Columbia for episode 236. Well, we’re not personally in British Columbia. That would be very nice though, I’m sure.
So welcome to everybody in the province of British Columbia who have several area codes, 236 being but one.
Meanwhile, on the international front, the country code for area code 236 belongs to the Central African Republic, where they have a little over 5 million people there, as assessed in 2023. They’ve just conducted a census in Africa this year, so this is very timely.
Welcome to you if you were listening to us from the Central African Republic!
If you use Voice Dream Reader (and many of us do), you will have seen some interesting things going on. We’ve talked about this on the podcast over the last few weeks.
There has been a plethora of updates coming out from Voice Dream Reader, frustratingly simply saying that they contain bug fixes and performance improvements. I think the last one I saw did actually specifically point out one of the things they fixed.
We also have been talking about the subscription that Voice Dream Reader intends to charge for new users, while apparently protecting the experience that those of us who paid a long time ago receive right now.
This seems to have been botched because actually, a competitor seemed to spill the beans a few weeks ago on the subscription thing. So the word about this did not come from Voice Dream. It came from a competitor. People got very suspicious. There was no clear communication. It’s actually a 101 lesson in how not to do an acquisition, how not to take your customers with you.
We do now have a statement from Winston Chen, the creator of Voice Dream. And I’ll read that now because you may not have seen it if you’re not on their mailing list. It says:
“Dear customers, partners, and friends,
I am delighted to announce that Voice Dream Reader has joined Applause Group.”
I feel like I should do something with that.
[applause sound effect]
Yes, indeed. Applause Group.
“as a leading product in their portfolio of apps.
Voice Dream Reader” continues Winston, “started 12 years ago as a side project during my sabbatical in Arctic, Norway. Since then, it has evolved into the best text-to-speech reader helping hundreds of thousands of people worldwide read for learning and fun.
Winning an Apple Design Award in 2021 was the crowning achievement of my professional life.
But I could not have done it without the users. You consistently provided me with ideas for improvements and inspired me with your personal stories of how Reader changed your lives.
And I could not have done it without my partners and friends who supported me at every step. For that, I will be forever grateful.
While I look at the past with nostalgia,” says Winston, “I also look at the future with excitement. Applause Group” (No, I won’t do it again. I’ll resist doing it again.) “is committed to investing in Reader and turning it into a household name.
It will be stewarded by a sustainable company, instead of being completely dependent on me. And that is good news for everyone who relies on Reader every day.
With Reader going to a new home, Voice Dream Scanner and Writer will remain with me under a different company, Opus Noma. (Noma stands for my children, Nora and Marcus), and they will be renamed to VD Scan and VD Write.
Happy reading, as we all look forward to a bright future.”, so says Winston Chen, who’s devoted a lot of time, and energy, and thought to Voice Dream Reader.
I personally like these smaller companies. Sometimes, they’re 1-person shops who come to care about their users. Users feel like they know the developer. They can just drop them a quick email with a small bug, a feature request, or something like that, and you get a response and it feels good. It’s all about great quality software development and support.
Now that era is over, but I don’t begrudge Winston for a second for making a pragmatic business decision. It must have taken a lot of effort to develop the app for as long as he has, and I hope he got appropriate compensation for all of that work.
The jury is out, of course, on this new company, given their lackluster communication – not just around app updates, but also around the plans for the future of the app.
As we’ve discussed here, the subscription fee that they are looking at setting seems very high to many in the community. But perhaps, Voice Dream Reader is moving on a little bit and they see a market well beyond blindness. So let’s just see what happens.
I do have to say, [laughs] the name VD Scanner is quite unfortunate. I don’t know whether the term VD is used in America or not. Sometimes, even after all this time working with Americans, and broadcasting to Americans, and podcasting to Americans, there are still linguistic things that surprise me.
Now, VD. Here, if you talk about VD, it stands for venereal disease. And I noticed people on Mastodon from the UK and other places talking about this as well, so it’s not just New Zealand. So when you have an app called VD Scan, [laughs] yes, it doesn’t necessarily suggest that this is a blindness app that’s going to do a good job of reading whatever it is that you throw at it.
But Winston has said that VD Scan is going to be worked on much more now because he’s got fewer apps to work on, and he’s got some good plans for this app. It’s a good app as it is. Many people like VD Scan for what it does. And I think, most people would agree it’s great value for money for the price. So good luck to Winston with VD Scan and VD Write, and we’ll see what happens with Voice Dream Reader.
Advertisement: We can make transcripts of Living Blindfully available, thanks to the generous sponsorship of Pneuma Solutions. Numa Solutions, among other things, are the RIM people.
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These days, not a day goes by that I’m not using RIM. And one of the ways I use it is to either receive or provide technical support from family members.
I’m kind of the tech support guy in our family, so I quite often get questions from family members that they want me to solve. It’s not realistic to expect them to install a specific screen reader, even the demo. So before RIM came along, I found myself having to try and talk them through what they needed to do.
Now, I can tell them to go to GetRIM.app. that’s G-E-T-R-I-M.app, install a simple application on their Windows PC, and just by exchanging a code word, I can have a look at what’s going on. I can either run Narrator on their system, or if you’re using NVDA, you don’t even have to do that.
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I want to start this segment by asking a very simple question. Do we believe fundamentally that the blind are equal to the sighted?
The answer to this question may seem very obvious to most, but the reality is that not every blind person believes that blind people are equal to the sighted. There are people who think that we should settle for what we get, that blind people should accept second class treatment, even when there is no reason for it. There’s no technical, financial, or any other reason why blind people shouldn’t be treated with equality to sighted people.
I raise this as a preamble because I want to talk about Living Blindfully plus. And before you reach for the next chapter button on your podcast app of choice, this is a really important issue I want to discuss. This is not a pitch to try and encourage you to become a Living Blindfully plus member if you haven’t already. But if you have, I thank you for it.
When I was looking at the rebranding of Mosen at Large, which of course has ultimately become Living Blindfully, I researched a lot of options in terms of podcast hosting that did different things – various ways of offering Living Blindfully plus in an accessible way.
In the end, I came back to good old Pinecast, which is what I’ve used for some time. It’s a very popular podcast host in the blind community because the developer is responsive. He’s kind of like Winston Chen, who we were talking about in the previous segment. He’s a 1-man shop, and he cares a great deal about accessibility. If you report a problem, chances are he’ll get it resolved very soon.
Since we introduced Living Blindfully plus, there have been several innovations that Matt from Pinecast has introduced as a direct response to the communication that we’ve had. It’s wonderful when that stuff happens.
If you’re not a Living Blindfully plus subscriber, what happens is that when you’re kind enough to pay whatever you think this podcast is worth, you get an email with an RSS feed in it. This is a private feed that you can paste into any podcast app.
That’s one of the really cool things about the way that we’ve done Living Blindfully plus. We don’t lock you into a particular app. You can take that feed, you can pop it into a Victor Reader Stream or whatever podcast app you’re using, or listen to it with your PC, whatever you need to do to it. It gives you a lot of autonomy.
For me, as the creator of the content, what’s really nice is that whatever you contribute, Living Blindfully receives. Pinecast does not take any kind of cut in terms of what you contribute. You know that when you are contributing to Living Blindfully plus, it all goes to where you believe it goes. It’s a good thing as well.
Now, the downside of all of this is that it can be a bit complex. And I have heard from some people who have said to me, “Look, I really want to support you. But given where I’m at in my technology journey, I just find the concept of taking this RSS feed (which is quite long and complicated and is full of characters) and then pasting it somewhere, a bit too much for me.”
And I completely get that. And I’ve always hoped that Living Blindfully can be a place where people who do have some technology skills (perhaps they have considerable technology skills) can get together with those who see the promise of this technology, but maybe struggle with it. We all struggle with different things in our lives, and there’s no shame in that. Get me talking about how useless I am in the kitchen, you’ll sound to get some idea about the things that I struggle with.
So after reflecting on this, I decided that I would try to set up a version of Living Blindfully plus on Apple Podcasts.
This is much more limited. There would be a fixed price that you can either choose to pay or not pay, rather than a range of price points that you can choose from. And if you subscribed, it would bill your Apple account and you would only be able to listen to Living Blindfully plus content in Apple Podcasts.
But Apple Podcasts is, by far, in a way, the most popular app on iOS for listening to podcasts because it’s right there. Nothing to download, nothing to install. It’s just there. It’s got great Siri integration.
I find its feature set inadequate for my requirements, but I accept I am not the typical user. I’m a bit demanding when it comes to what I look for in a podcast app.
So people could subscribe to Living Blindfully plus. It’d be just another subscription. You pay with Touch ID, Face ID, just like you buy an app or any other subscription. You can cancel any time. All good for those who are quite happy exclusively listening to the content in Apple Podcasts.
Having made that decision, I started on this journey a couple of weeks ago. And the way that you start this journey is to sign in to a portal that Apple runs for podcast creators called Apple Podcast Connect, and you indicate that you want to subscribe to the service.
There are a couple of aspects of this. The first is that you actually have to pay an annual subscription to make your content available in this way – to make premium content available through Apple Podcast Connect. So I paid that fee.
The second thing, by the way, is that Apple, as is well recorded by the media, will take a cut – a 30% cut in the first year of the subscription price, and then a 15% cut if you’re kind enough to keep the subscription going into year 2. So unlike the other version of Living Blindfully Plus, the creator does not keep all the revenue.
Nevertheless, it’s simple, and I suspect that I would get some people contributing who just wouldn’t do it the other way because it’s too complex.
Paying for the subscription was very straightforward. It was just like any other subscription. So no problem there.
I then began to encounter some serious issues with the website itself. This is not unusual for Apple, unfortunately. I’ve had other problems with the Apple Podcast Connect website over the years.
And Apple’s web properties can often be really dodgy. A lot of people over the years have expressed frustration and understandable concern about iCloud.com. Although that does seem to have improved a bit over time, so thanks to Apple for the progress that has been made in that regard.
But what seems abundantly clear is that when Apple puts a website together like iCloud.com or similar, they are not going through rigorous accessibility testing. They’re not checking for compliance with the W3C’s Web Accessibility Guidelines, for example.
My question is, why not? Why isn’t a company that trumpets its accessibility offerings actually walking the talk in the web space?
So the brick wall that I have encountered is nothing new, particularly. But it is new in the sense that this is the first time I’ve tried to do this to try and monetize content, which as a creator I have every right to do.
And every expectation (given that we are talking about Apple) that I will be able to do that accessibly and successfully, I cannot.
And the best way that I can continue to tell the story is to read you the correspondence that I have sent to Apple on this. It makes fascinating, if not frustrating reading. And it starts with my first message, which I put on the form for contacting Apple Podcast Connect after selecting the right combo box. Yes, that combo box is accessible.
I am writing to raise my concerns around significant screen reader accessibility issues with Apple Podcast Connect.
I have paid the annual subscription, allowing me to offer premium content through Apple Podcast Connect.
I am a Windows user, and have access to the latest versions of the JAWS and NVDA screen readers. I am using the Microsoft Edge browser.
The first accessibility barrier I encountered was that it was not possible for me to complete the agreements independently. This is because the initial screen into which it is necessary to enter name and address details was not accessible.
After obtaining assistance to complete this part of the process, it was then possible for me to complete the banking and tax information required. While it is highly desirable that every Apple process be fully accessible, since this is a one-off process, I was not unduly concerned now that I am past it.
My second issue, however, is much more serious and prevents me from using the service that I have paid for at all. It pertains to the screen for uploading subscriber audio. This screen makes multiple use of a date picker, which is not accessible.
The date picker is necessary to set the original publication date, to specify the date on which the episode should go live, and the date on which a subscriber-only episode should be public.
My subscription is designed to provide early access to episodes. So even if I reluctantly upload the episode at the time I wish it to go live rather than scheduling it, which would be my preference, I cannot specify the time at which I want the episode to go public.
As a content creator, I am disappointed that this avoidable barrier has been put in my way to monetizing my content on this platform, and hope that it can be given urgent attention.
Thank you very much for reading.”
Now that’s my first message. And I was hoping to get a reply back from Apple saying, “This is an oversight. We’re very sorry about this. We’ll give it urgent attention. Thank you so much for letting us know about it.” But this is what I got back from Apple:
Thank you for taking the time to provide your feed back” (two words) “about Apple Podcast Connect.
If you have additional questions related to this question, please reference case number”, and then the case number.
So it’s basically a canned “Thank you for your feedback. Go away.” message. No acknowledgement or empathy relating to the fact that Apple has created an inaccessible product.
So I wrote back to Apple and I said this:
I certainly do have additional questions, since this reply does not appear to respond in any way to the substantive and serious accessibility issues I have raised. Surely, given Apple’s stated commitment to accessibility, I would think the issue I have provided would be taken extremely seriously.
When, please, will the accessibility defects be corrected so that I can use the subscription I have paid for?
Currently, Apple is charging me for a service I am unable to use. It is vital that the date picker control be accessible so blind people can make use of the platform.
Given the non-response I have received, I am copying Apple accessibility in the hope that they can persuade someone that this issue is serious and warrants a proper response.
A couple of things before I move on to the next email, because I know there will be some Apple apologists or proponents of living a docile life and just taking what you get that will say they never said they weren’t going to get back to you, they just thanked you for your feedback.
Well, this is actually the second email I received from Apple. The first was an automated response, essentially opening the ticket. So it did take some days to get that response back, and it is a non-response.
History is a good teacher. And if we don’t learn from the lessons of history, we will go on repeating the same mistakes. And anybody who has contacted Apple knows that when you get a response like that, you are unlikely to get a response in the foreseeable future.
I am not saying that they would never resolve the issue. But it is not going to be treated with the urgency that this one deserves when you are locking out an entire community from a service like podcasting.
Let us not understate, it would actually be impossible to overstate what I am talking about here. If you log into Apple Podcast Connect and you create content you want to monetize, certainly, if you are a Windows user, (I can’t comment on whether this works on the Mac.), you can use the service if you are sighted. You can’t use the service if you are blind.
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck. And this is discrimination. Discrimination doesn’t have to be intentional. It just has to exist.
If sighted people logged in and could not upload their content after having paid Apple for the privilege, who seriously doesn’t think this wouldn’t be fixed within 24 hours? Because the service would be effectively useless for everybody who paid for it. Just as right now, it is useless to me.
And a few days later, (because we do have the weekend in the way, to be fair), I got this response back from Apple:
Thank you for your reply.
My name is” (name redacted), “and I am a senior advisor taking over the case from my colleague”, (name also redacted).
We do take accessibility seriously. Apple is always looking for ways to improve Apple Podcast Connect tools and our processes.
However, this does take time.
I’m forwarding this case to the appropriate Apple team for review.
Thank you for your patience.”
This response made me feel vindicated about sending my previous response because at least this time, I got the message, “We’ve forwarded this on.” Anyone who actually may understand the seriousness of what I’m reporting, and who may have the ability to actually get this fixed, may just possibly see it as a result of that previous email that I sent.
And while not exactly this way, it’s a little bit reminiscent of something that anybody who has advocated on the accessibility of apps and the web will have come across at some point in their advocacy journey – where you find something you really want to use isn’t accessible, and you write to the creator of that thing, and you tell them that you can’t use this thing with your screen reader.
And every so often, they will write back and they’ll say, “We don’t support that feature.” They consider it something that they might add to their product roadmap to discuss, “We should do this one day.” without accepting that if they’ve released this thing into the wild and it’s not accessible, it’s not finished. It’s a serious defect in the design.
It is absolutely critical that if we’re going to make progress, the blind community has to keep making this point. Accessibility is not a feature.
Imagine if you get to a situation where a building is not accessible to wheelchair users, and you pointed out to the architect that you’re actually violating various codes that might exist in the area where the building is located. The architect can’t simply say, “Oh, we don’t support that feature.” They’ve got to comply.
And a big company like Apple surely must know better when it comes to suggesting in any way that “We’re always looking for ways to improve the service. Thanks for your patience.” That’s not the right kind of response to send to someone who has actually pointed out a serious critical bug that is locking people entirely out of using the service.
So after drawing a few deep breaths and processing this email, which in my view is actually quite patronizing, I wrote back with the following:
“Hi,” (name redacted),
“Thank you for your reply and for escalating this matter to the appropriate team. I appreciate it, and acknowledge that we are making progress if this inquiry is now being recognized as a matter worthy of escalation rather than a matter only worthy of a canned response thanking me for my feedback.
I do, however, take issue with the following statement in your reply to me: “Apple is always looking for ways to improve Apple Podcast Connect tools and our processes. However, this does take time.” You then go on to thank me for my patience.
It is, therefore, important that I provide some further context to illustrate the seriousness and the urgency of what I have reported.
Apple has failed to make one of its services accessible to blind people. Yes, I have confirmed that this problem is known about by other blind podcasters who have as much right to monetize their content as anyone else.
This issue is so impactful that any blind person trying to upload content would have come across it. So one must assume they were not given the chance to test the process during the design stage.
The fact that Apple has built this new tool without doing due diligence as to its accessibility is a serious process failure. When a company releases a product without appropriate accessibility auditing, that is a choice.
Now, let’s draw a parallel. Let’s say that I am not blind and I log into Apple Podcast Connect to find that I cannot upload my content and monetize my podcast through the platform.
If this were happening to sighted people, it would be fixed as a matter of urgency. The only difference here is my blindness.
Certainly, blind people like me are a tiny minority in the world of podcast creation. Does that mean, though, that we must patiently wait our turn for something to be fixed which should have never been released in its broken state in the first place?
In terms of specific remedial steps, I believe the best way to resolve this issue is to replace all occurrences of the current inaccessible date picker control with standard HTML combo boxes for year, day, and month. The popular WordPress CMS offers a widely available example of an accessible implementation for scheduling posts.
In summary, given that podcasting has the power to amplify the voices of those who are often underrepresented, that blind people ought to be just as entitled to monetize their content as anyone else, that this issue would not have arisen, had accessibility testing been properly conducted when this feature was rolled out, and that implementing remedial measures would involve a minor allocation of developer resources, I am asking that this matter be viewed not as a feature request or an enhancement, but as an urgent defect.
When it is resolved, I would also expect my subscription to be restarted from the date I can actually use what I paid for, which I think is only fair and reasonable.
Thank you so much for reading.”
Well, we await the next exciting installment of this.
Now, by contrast, I contacted Microsoft (and you’ll know about this if you follow me on Mastodon) a few weeks ago, reporting quite a serious and rapid regression in accessibility on Windows.
That report was immediately understood for the serious matter that it was, given urgent attention, and rollback started within 24 hours.
If Microsoft can do it, why can’t Apple do it?
I’ve spent a lot of time on this, but it’s an important point of principle. I realize full well that only a small number of people listening to this are podcast creators, and a tiny fraction of those are going to seek to monetize their content.
But this speaks to scratching beneath the surface just a little bit, and finding some serious flaws in the way that Apple thinks about accessibility.
You may not ever be affected by this issue directly. But many more will have been affected by the problems we’ve had over the years with iCloud.com. And even more of us are affected by the time it takes to get around to solving issues that, were they affecting sighted people, would be solved overnight, literally overnight, because they’re that impactful.
Voiceover: On Living Blindfully, we hear the opinions of blind people from all over the world.
So why not share yours?
Or if the phone is more your thing, phone our listener line in the United States: 864-60-Mosen. Thats 864-606-6736.
Let’s return to the subject of Oko. We had a ringing endorsement of it from Lena at the end of episode 235, following our interview about this.
Henk Abma has a different take, and he says:
“It was with some surprise that I listened to the interview with the guy from Oko in episode 235 of the podcast.
Basically, I think they have exactly the same issue as the accessibility overlays mentioned earlier in the same issue, namely that they are trying to solve a problem that should be solved at the traffic light manufacturers.
Although in the interview, it is said that Oko can help cities identify problems, on their website, it is stated over and over again that cities don’t need to change anything to give their inhabitants a great traffic light experience. So it is actually marketed as a cost-cutting solution for cities.
Given the fact that you need a decent iPhone to use the app in real-time without it crashing halfway across the street, one can hardly call this an inclusive solution. iPhone may be popular with the blind community. However, I doubt whether that is just as true for partially sighted people, who can also benefit from accessible traffic lights. Besides, just like I shouldn’t be forced to use a particular browser to get an accessible website, neither should I have to buy a specific phone to be able to cross the street safely, especially if my city were to pay for Oko licenses.
Regarding availability, the app has been in the Dutch App Store for over a year, but was recently removed. Rumour has it that this is because getting funding, for example by healthcare insurance companies, proved impossible.
In Belgium, they seem to have struck a pretty nice deal. But I know of no Belgians who actually use the app. So I think they will try to get funding for a specific market first before introducing the app there. I understand that, since you can’t expect to make a living out of blind subscribers to such a service.
But to get back to the first point. If the money that goes to the company behind Oko is money that would have otherwise been spent on making the city/country more accessible, I think money that goes to Oko is wasted.”
Thanks for that very thoughtful perspective, Henk. I really appreciate you sharing it.
I do share some of those concerns because in New Zealand, as I said during the interview, we have a lot of accessible traffic signals here. It’s hard in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, to find somewhere you want to cross where there’s not an accessible traffic signal.
And I would like to think that if ever that were threatened by some cost-saving initiative that meant that blind people had to carry an expensive iPhone around just to do what they’re doing now, that would be gravely concerning. And hopefully the blind community would not stand for that.
There seems to be an enormous amount of variation around the world in terms of the availability, and frankly, the acceptability of accessible traffic signals.
When we were in London last year, we were struck by the absence of accessible pedestrian signals. Maybe we weren’t in the right places, but we didn’t hear any. And Bonnie and I both remarked on that at the time.
In the United States, accessible traffic signals used to be a really contentious issue. NFB didn’t want them. ACB did. And sometimes, municipalities got very confused when you’d have 2 opposing groups of blind people coming along – one desperate to have the accessible signals introduced, and the other opposing them.
I think that debate has largely been resolved now, and there appears, to the best of my knowledge, to be acceptance that accessible signals are a good thing.
I never really understood why they were not considered a good thing. I suppose the argument is very similar, Henk, to the argument that you are making – that if you become dependent on these things rather than learning to use the traffic patterns, then you are stuck when those signals aren’t around.
Of course, the counterargument is that if something is fully accessible without effort to sighted people, then it should be made accessible to blind people. That’s just a matter of principle.
I would be interested to hear from people around the world about how available accessible pedestrian signals are where you are. And do you want them? Do you do advocacy to try and encourage their adoption?
864-60-Mosen is the number, and opinion@LivingBlindfully.com.
You’re certainly welcome to comment also on Henk’s perspective regarding OKO. Is it, in fact, letting people off the hook?
This is one of these debates that you often have with something that does something remedial. I remember that when I was working with Freedom Scientific, and we introduced the ability to perform OCR on PDF files, for instance, or any kind of image file, so that you could get at the text that was there. People had the same concerns. Are we letting people off the hook?
It’s always a fine line, a balance, isn’t it, between just being able to get on with life right now and advocating for a fully accessible tomorrow. And you don’t want any of those remedial options that might be available to impede that fully accessible tomorrow.
Here’s a lengthy email from Beth from Virginia Beach. I’m going to abridge it a bit, but be assured it has the salient points in it.
“Hi, Jonathan and everybody,” she says.
“There’s a Vikki Carr song called It Must Be Him, which scared me greatly as a child. 16 Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford also scared me,” I can get that. I completely understand that. “as did In the Summer of His Years by Kate Smith.”
Now, we’re going way back to the episode on Chat GPT and the little essay that it did on the pros and the cons of being blind. Beth says:
“I saw nothing wrong with the GPT blindness essay. It never said blindness must be, or is like that for everyone. It said it may be. And yes, as you said, everything stated in both the pro and con sections could be true, depending on a particular person’s views and experiences.
I corresponded with a guy who was suddenly blinded years ago, and he said he had been suicidal.
After that, he has spent almost all his time scouting to find a cure. That is what his life and happiness depend on.
Some blind people are so happy to be blind and have blind pride.
Others, like yours truly, are not happy to be blind, since eyes were made for seeing, not for decoration.
Haven’t you ever dreamed about seeing this thing called a sunset which sighted people love, or the faces of friends and family? How about the ease and convenience sight brings to life?”
I’ll stop as we go and comment on some of these things. Otherwise, I’ll forget to say something that I wanted to.
I would say that it’s different when you’re totally blind from birth and you’re contemplating having sight, versus somebody who’s having sight restored after losing it. Because if you have been totally blind since birth or very close to birth and you have sight switched on, you’re going to be bombarded with a vast amount of visual stimulus that your brain doesn’t know how to interpret. You would need sighted rehabilitation.
Some people do want it, and they say it would be worth it. Some other people are quite comfortable the way they are. And that’s the position that I’m in, in the latter position.
Am I curious about sunsets, colors, and other visual things? Sure. Absolutely, I am.
But I’m also curious about a lot of other things that I know that I will never achieve in my life, either. I’m curious about what it would be like to live in a mansion with millions of dollars. I’m curious about all kinds of things that I might daydream about.
I think there’s a difference between being curious about something and feeling that somehow, my life is irrevocably the poorer for not being able to satisfy that curiosity.
I’m a chief executive in my day job, for example. There may be sighted people who hate going to work in the morning and they think, “I would love to be the boss. I’d love to be a CEO and do this.”
There may be even people who are super curious about doing a podcast that’s successful, and they’d love to do that, too. But it doesn’t mean they don’t have meaningful existence in every other respect.
“Here is one example.”, continues Beth.
“I know you and others have done and continue to do this, but I cannot fathom how a person with little to no sight can be a parent. How, for example, would a bike crash of a child with no sighted person around and with very probable and maybe serious injuries be handled, especially if the child’s fear and pain prevented any intelligible communication? Would you call emergency services even though you didn’t know what the crash aftermath was? If so, wouldn’t you put yourself in an iffy position for maybe being reported for being a blind parent?”
Well, I’ll stop and respond to this.
Obviously, I’m not sure what you’re getting at in terms of being reported for being a blind parent. Being a blind parent isn’t a crime. There are plenty of sighted people who will lose it, who will panic, who will not know what to do, who may even be so freaked that they wouldn’t call emergency services in good time.
Sight, or lack of sight, is no guarantee of appropriate response in the case of an emergency.
Many blind parents, myself included, have a first aid certificate.
I, for one, if I ran into that sort of scrape, would far rather be administered to by a capable, competent, cool, calm, collected blind person with a first aid certificate than a sighted person who completely lost it, didn’t have first aid training, and didn’t know what to do.
Beth continues, “How would a blind parent know if a child is making disrespectful faces or gestures towards parents or other people, and is getting away with it if a sighted person didn’t tell the blind parent? How would you know if your darling child had forged your signature on a field trip form? The list goes on.
Everyone has limitations. It doesn’t matter if you set your mind to flying out a 3rd-story window. Please don’t try that. You will see gravity in all its awesomeness.”
So I’ll stop and deal with some more of this.
Beth, most kids who are going to be disrespectful like that will be smart enough to make those faces when the parent has their back turned.
We are all interdependent in this world. There are all things we will miss because perhaps, our back is turned, or we weren’t paying attention, or whatever.
Normally, if a child does something like forge a signature on a field trip, sight isn’t going to pick that up anyway because they will snuggle the form into their bag. And normally, what happens is it is the teacher or whoever is handling the field trip who has a suspicion, perhaps because of a spelling mistake on the form, or they’re familiar with the signature, who might ring and check, “Did you really sign this?” Sight is no guarantee of being protected against any of those sorts of things.
The reality is that there are capable blind parents, millions of them around the world at the moment, bringing up well-adjusted kids, seeing them through broken bones, broken hearts, and scrapes in those horrible teenage years, and they come out on the other side.
And you know what? For a lot of those kids, it’s just perfectly normal, and the kids themselves wouldn’t have it any other way.
When one of my children was very little, I remember reading this story one night. And there was a picture at the end of the story of a dad tucking up the child into bed in the book.
And my child said to me, “Dad, how come that daddy isn’t reading Braille?” Because as far as my child was concerned, all daddies read Braille, and all mummies read print, and that was their normality. They’re perfectly happy with that normality. Not only that, but like me, they’re proud of that normality.
I remember the kids coming home from school super excited saying, “We’re doing blind people next week at school, dad. Can you come along and talk about blind people?”, and it was cool that their dad was blind. It’s just normality for them.
Now, being a parent is an awesome responsibility. I use that term in the traditional sense of the word.
There will be some blind people who just don’t want to be parents. That’s absolutely their choice. Nobody’s ever suggesting that every blind person should be a parent.
Just as for some sighted people, they don’t want to be parents and nobody has to justify why that’s the case. Maybe they don’t want to be tied down. Maybe they think the world’s overpopulated. There could be any number of reasons why parenting isn’t for them.
But what we know unequivocally, is that millions and millions of blind parents around the world are proving every day that blindness in and of itself is no barrier to being a parent. It’s not even a debatable point because there are lots of sighted kids growing up as we speak with brilliant blind parents who love, and care, and are there for their kids.
And if you’re fortunate enough to have blind kids as a blind parent, then what better head start could a blind child have than an adult mentor and role model right there, who hopefully has good blindness training, who can prepare that child for a fulfilling life?
Meanwhile, there are numerous sighted parents around the world who are abusing their children, neglecting their children, subjecting their children to all sorts of horrors. No one ever suggests we should ban sighted people from parenting.
“my parents did all they could to arrange for my sight, but that would not happen, so we took blindness in stride. But that doesn’t mean I don’t wish to see.
Same for my 50% hearing loss in 2008 due to sensorineural hearing loss, after a virus destroyed the left inner ear hair cells which cannot be repaired, nor will a hearing aid help.
The Chat GPT piece also stated that sometimes, a blind person can maybe get lost in the home. And that is true for me, occasionally.
I once lived in a 930 square foot apartment, and it took me at least a month to learn it. I remember nothing now of the layout. I do not have the ability to learn my environment well.
I learned my current larger apartment much faster, since my mover placed a large round table in a spot where it follows the door openings to the different rooms in the open floor plan. A great idea on his part, though I don’t know if he did this by accident or not.
Though I took O&M, and tried guide dogs who became physically ill almost daily, and were not trustworthy in their work, and so had to be returned.
I do not travel alone. Also, walking straight is hard for me, and veering is of course dangerous regarding street crossings.
According to my findings, 2 to 8% of the blind use a cane, and 2% use dogs.
I am researching known later consequences of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), and the above problems seem to be among them. The consequences of ROP is not a topic discussed within blindness organisations, and this should be corrected. Research findings are also a bit hard to come by, in my experience so far.
Lots of blind people have dug their heels into the supposition that our remaining senses are not heightened when we lose one, in this case vision. But this is not scientifically true. If our attention is always super good, why do blind people do things such as walking into door frames, which I do sometimes when I am not paying attention to where I am going?”
I’ll stop here and say I think this is a mindfulness thing, Beth, that lots of sighted people do this, too. Some people go on autopilot when they are driving because they are thinking about other things. If they are going to the office, they are thinking about what the day’s work has in store for them. And sometimes, people cause accidents because they are not paying attention.
And we can drift off as well. We cannot be mindful and therefore, do something like run into something.
I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. And obviously, everybody has different experiences of life.
I know, as somebody with a degenerative hearing condition, that if my hearing were offered to me in all its full glory again, I would take that because that wouldn’t require re-training. It would just require me to get rid of my hearing aids and get on with life.
So I absolutely relate to the immense sense of loss that so many people experience when something as dominant as vision disappears, sometimes in very tragic and difficult circumstances. I completely understand that sense of grief and loss, and I’m not underestimating that for a moment.
Sometime in the coming months on the podcast, we will talk about this with a new author who has written a very interesting book covering this subject.
But it does seem a shame to me, once we’ve allowed ourselves time to grieve, if we spend the rest of our lives looking for a cure that might never come, rather than at the same time, (not instead of necessarily, I suppose), but at the same time, looking to gain the skills that allow you to make the most of the one life that you have, in the circumstances that you have.
And I think that this speaks to the way many of us respond to adversity. Do we pick ourselves up and get back on with life? Or do we allow our circumstances to crush us?
Some of that can come down to mentoring, and the training and opportunities that we’re afforded to live life to the full, with the circumstances that we’re presented with.
And I do hope that one of the purposes that this podcast serves is that when people who perhaps have come to Blindness Later in Life listen, they will know that there are blind people out there holding down jobs, with families, participating in their communities, just getting on with life on their terms. And even if they’re not there yet, if when they start listening they think it’s just such a far-fetched pipe dream, they know it’s being done. Undeniably, it’s being done, and that it’s possible. And that they will then hopefully reach out to find further resources and assistance to make a blindful life a reality for them.
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We’re returning to the subject of ableist language with this email from Joe Danowsky,who writes:
I am so tired of people using the word blind as a pejorative for being ignorant, unaware, or stupid.
I am also dismayed by the insensitivity and lack of respect shown towards people with disabilities by some of the political leaders in this country.
Last week here in the United States, Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis was at a campaign gathering in New Hampshire for the first time since declaring his candidacy.”
[laughs] I noticed he did that on Twitter. How did that work out, Ron?
“As DeSantis was mingling with the crowd, DeSantis had this exchange with a reporter, as reported by the New York Times.
The reporter asked them a question. “You’re not taking questions from voters?”
Mr. DeSantis sharply disputed the premise of the reporter’s question. “People are coming up to me, talking to me.”, he said. “What are you talking about?”
But Mr. DeSantis did not leave it there.
“Are you blind?”, he asked. “Are you blind? OK. So people are coming up to me, talking to me, whatever they want to talk to me about.”
This incident with DeSantis reminded me of the time in the 2016 presidential race, when Donald Trump mocked a reporter with a movement disability. Trump refused to apologize.
A decent person would have said, “I apologize if you thought that I was mocking you. I didn’t mean to do that.”
Up until that point, I had been a lifetime Republican. But when not one Republican congressman or Republican senator criticized him for what was clearly mocking a person with a disability, I left the Republican Party. And given the disrespect of people with disabilities by the two Republican front runners, Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, there is no reason for me to consider ever coming back to the Republican Party.
There was a time when the Republican Party had champions for the rights and respect of people with disabilities, namely Senator Bob Dole, Senator John McCain, and President George H. Bush, all of whom were instrumental in passing the Americans with Disabilities Act.
I hope, at some point in my lifetime, we can return to what President Bush called, “a kinder and gentler America.” And I hope one day, the word blind will never be used in a way that denigrates those of us who are visually impaired.”
There are so many opportunities to monitor our health independently and thoroughly these days. We have wearables of all kinds, and then there are other accessories. Some of which are not accessible, which is a shame.
Tim Cumings is writing in, and he says:
I have just been diagnosed with high blood pressure, and I’m wondering if the Qardio Arm blood pressure monitor is accessible. I know that you mentioned it in one of your podcasts.”
Good to hear from you, Tim. Yes, Bonnie has been playing with this device. I got it for her for Christmas because she has an interest in monitoring blood pressure, too.
So welcome to you, Bonnie!
Bonnie: Hi! And Tim, sorry to hear about your diagnosis. It’s one of those unfortunate things in life.
I was diagnosed with high blood pressure last March. So that’s one reason, because I was having to go into the nurse to have it monitored. And a lot of times, when you go into the doctor, you get what’s called white coat syndrome. So your blood pressure naturally goes up because you’re nervous.
Jonathan: Yeah. It’s stressful to go to the doctor, right? Yeah.
Bonnie: It’s stressful, so you can’t get a good reading. So it’s great to have something a lot of people have.
Sighted people, of course, have blood pressure monitors at home where they can monitor it. And there are some talking blood pressures that are the manual kind where you have to pump it up yourself that work.
But Jonathan did a lot of research at Christmas time and found the Qardio Arm, which is actually a very good price. It’s about $75, which is not bad. And it is FDA medically approved, so you know that you are getting a good device.
It does come with an app called the Qardio app.
Qardio seems to have a few types of diagnostic tools. There’s the the Qardio Arm, the Qardio base, which I’m not sure. There’s a couple of them. I’m not sure what they do. Some of them will do temperature, body mass, weight, that sort of thing.
Jonathan: Yeah, you can get right into their ecosystem if you want to.
Bonnie: Yeah, and it’s very easy to use. It’s very portable, and its battery-operated. It operates on four AAA batteries.
I’m holding it right now in my hand. It’s about the size of an iPhone.
And what you do is the cuff, you unroll it, and that turns it on because it’s Bluetooth-enabled, paired with your phone. And you unroll it from this Velcro cuff that goes around your upper arm. And you want to keep the plastic device, the monitor facing out. And it’s always good when you take your blood pressure.
This is something that I don’t always do, (but I’ve read a lot about it since being diagnosed) is you kind of want to sit for a few minutes and take some deep breaths because that’ll cause your blood pressure to go down.
And it pairs with the app, like I said, and it’s very easy. There’s a lot of stuff that I haven’t explored in it. You can email your results to your doctor if you want to. It does keep a history. It keeps a monthly log of what your blood pressure average is, your timeline.
You can also have shared family and friends. You can have a visitor mode, but you can also have family members in the house who want to log on to your app and log on as well. And it’ll remember your pressure and whoever else is logged in as well.
Jonathan: And the cool thing about this is that it also goes into the Apple Health app. And so you can set up a dashboard with all your favorite things, the matrices, (Is that the plural of matrix?) Yes, I think it is), that you update regularly. So that’s pretty cool.
Now, I’m glad, even though it’s a winter’s day outside, that it’s warm in the studio because I’m currently sitting here with no jersey/sweater on and I’ve got my sleeve rolled up. I’m not shirtless because then I’d have to change the rating on the podcast episode.
Bonnie: [laughs] Yes.
Jonathan: But I have got my sleeve rolled up because even though I’m not an American, I still have the right to bear arms. [laughs]
Oh, so you’ve moved away from the mic, haven’t you?
Bonnie: Yeah, because I can’t put this on you.
Jonathan: Yeah, that’s going to be a challenge. Anyway, right. So what do I do? Should I open the app first?
Bonnie: Yeah, that’s a good idea.
Jonathan: Okay, I’ll open the app. It’s just called Qardio, isn’t it?
Bonnie: Qardio. Yeah.
Jonathan: So let’s go to the old Siri. Open Qardio.
VoiceOver: Qardio. Tab bar. Friends and family tab. 3 of 4.
Jonathan: Now there’s a tab strip at the bottom of the app.
VoiceOver: Tab bar. Selected, Home Tab. 1 of 4.
Jonathan: We’re on the home tab.
VoiceOver: Timeline tab. Friends and family tab. Schedule tab. 4 of 4.
Jonathan: Now if I go to the top of the screen, …
VoiceOver: Qardio menu Button. Home heading. Add note button. Blood pressure. Goal weight. Weight. Sp02. Add devices. Set goal. Start measurement button.
Jonathan: So do I double tap the start measurement button?
Bonnie: Yeah, but you have to put the thing on.
Jonathan: Oh. Yes, yes, clearly I do.
Jonathan: Right. Okay. So what do I do?
Bonnie: Okay. Let me see if I can get around you.
Jonathan: Yep. Oh, you’re going to use my left arm?
Jonathan: But I’ve got my right arm rolled up, so you have to go back around. [laughs] Go back around the chair.
Okay. So what do I do? How does it work?
Bonnie: Okay. I’m going to put… What I’m going to do is put your hand…
[VoiceOver Daniel talks]
Jonathan: That’s my Apple Watch you made talk.
Bonnie: I know.
Jonathan: Okay. Thank you. Watch.
Jonathan: Okay. Ooh, I don’t like that feeling when the little thing tightens up around you.
Bonnie: Yeah. And this one doesn’t, like, electronically.
Jonathan: Yeah. So. All right.
Bonnie: Okay. Now I’m going to…
Jonathan: Okay, there we go. I’m just making sure there’s all flesh there.
Bonnie: Oh dear! [laughs]
Jonathan: So can you describe what you’re doing?
Bonnie: I am, right now, tightening the cuff, which is a Velcro thing like a traditional blood pressure cuff. And then I’m going to fasten it, and then you’re going to hit the measurement.
Jonathan: So the way it works is kind of the big screeny thing is on the right hand side of my arm.
Jonathan: It needs to be on the top, right? Top-facing, facing the top?
Bonnie: Yeah. Your heart, sort of.
Jonathan: Okay. And it’s tight, but not uncomfortably.
Bonnie: No, it’ll tighten up.
Jonathan: It’s got the Velcro. And now, I’m going to start measuring – double tap the start measurement button. and I’ll put this by the mic.
VoiceOver: Cancel button.
[blood pressure being measured]
Jonathan: I guess the question is, …
Bonnie: Don’t talk. It’ll give a bad measurement.
VoiceOver: Measurement completed. Cancel button.
Jonathan: There we go. And now, it’s easing. Thank goodness!
Does your blood pressure go up when you’re podcasting? That’s the big question.
So I’ll just go to the top of the screen.
Jonathan: And we’ll just read down the screen in the correct order.
VoiceOver: Cancel button.
Results heading. 5/6/2023, at [11:30] AM button. SYS: 130 millimeters HG. DIA: 63 millimeters HG. Pulse: 69 beats/min. Page 1 of 2. Adjustable.
Jonathan: Okay. It’s actually 130 over 63.
Bonnie: Okay, cool. And that also gives your pulse.
Jonathan: Right. Yes, it does. And I’m at 69 beats, which is not too bad, really, given that I’m doing all this work.
Jonathan: So now, I can be freed of this.
Now, there’s a cancel button there. Do you have to save it anywhere?
Jonathan: It goes into the health and everything?
Bonnie: Yeah. So that’s never quite a cancel. I think just clears it out. And then, it hooks up with a map, which I’ve not quite been real clear on. I guess that just tells you where you were when you check the blood pressure.
Jonathan: And the big advantage of this over just a talking one is obviously, that you can keep a record, and it all goes into your health app. But I imagine the talking ones are pretty effective as well.
Bonnie: Yeah. A friend of mine has one of the older talking ones, which is actually more accurate than her doctor’s. [laughs]
Jonathan: How does she know that?
Bonnie: They told her.
Jonathan: [laughs]. Okay.
Bonnie: Yeah. And it’s great that you can get these. I’ve read some of the reviews, and it’s really good.
The complaint was the batteries run out, but that was right that you couldn’t have, you know, that it wasn’t electrical or something.
Jonathan: Right. How is it powered, this Qardio arm?
Bonnie: 4 AAA batteries. And it’ll start telling you when the battery dies.
One time, I was using it and the battery died and it went poof! It’s kind of funny.
Bonnie: It just went poof.
Jonathan: Yeah. So it’s pretty cool.
And we’ve got a Withings smart scale at the moment, and I’m quite happy with that. But if we ever need to replace it, I will look at the Qardio one based on the accessibility and the success that we’ve had with this.
Bonnie: Yeah, it’s really good.
Jonathan: And actually, when I was doing the research to buy this for you, I found a whole page on the Qardio site which talked specifically about accessibility.
Bonnie: Wow! That’s good.
Jonathan: I was super impressed by that.
And it is spelled Q-A-R-D-I-O, by the way. So it’s Qardio.
Bonnie: Yeah. Sometimes, when I want to open Qardio, Siri says, “Qardio is aerobic exercise”.
Jonathan: Yes, I’m sure it does.
Bonnie: And that makes your blood pressure go up. No, that’s not what I want.
Jonathan: [laughs] Well, thank you very much for talking us through that. It’s a very cool gadget.
Bonnie: Of course. Good luck, Tim, and I hope you enjoy the Qardio Arm.
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As I often say on this podcast, “With your cane, you’re able.” But just how able are you when you get to the back of beyond with the white cane that you have?
This is the problem that the All Terrain cane seeks to solve. And I’m speaking with its creator, David Epstein. Welcome, David! Good to have you on the podcast.
David: Thank you so much, Jonathan. It’s so great to be here today.
Jonathan: Tell me a little bit about you, first of all. How did you enter the world of blindness and low vision?
David: Jonathan, kicking and screaming.
David: It’s been an interesting journey of blindness. I do have RP (retinitis pigmentosa), diagnosed when I was 18. And right now, I just turned 59. So the majority of my life, I’ve been experiencing downward spiral of vision. Again, diagnosed when I was wanting to go into the aviation field. I wanted to be a corporate pilot. So the dreams were quashed right out of the gate.
The majority of my life was really spent in the sighted world. I had my driver’s license. I was a surveyor in Boston on some really big projects.
I got my degree in forestry, and I spent a good decade on the fire lines fighting wildfires. I’m very jealous of the fires you have down there, Australia, New Zealand.
But wildfires and forestry gave me a real love for the outdoors. And when my vision dropped to, oh gosh, about 10 degrees of central vision, we were moving into a different part of our lives. We transitioned to Arizona, moved to Sedona, a beautiful place. And in Sedona, I was surrounded by trails, lots and lots of hiking trails, which was beautiful.
But my vision really, really dropped. So that’s where the story of the All Terrain cane really begins, when I found myself in Arizona wanting to hike, but unable with the technology and tools I had available to me at the time.
Jonathan: What is it about regular canes that were on the market before the AllTerrain cane that fail in that sort of situation?
David: Well, Jonathan, I would have to say everything.
The street canes are made super light and flexible.
3 basic functions of the mobility cane: it detects obstacles, terrain changes, and navigation. So that’s what it’s supposed to do. On the streets, we certainly like a really nice, light, flexible, compact, fold-away cane to be really unobtrusive and subtle to get us where we want to be, while reflecting white and red so that the sighted world knows that we don’t see.
That being said, on the trails, it really fails in all areas. I found it to be too flexible. It was catching on everything. I was running into rocks, roots, oh goodness, water bars, brush. And the joints were such that they would always pop out. They would always be these conical joints. Any kind of bending I would place on the cane shaft, I’d pop a joint. So not really meeting my needs.
As well, it didn’t support me. In the desert of Arizona, there’s really nothing to hold on to for support and stability other than cactuses and dead trees. And I need things to hold on to. I need balance, ascending and descending, tripping and needing to slow down or climb. I need a support system. I needed something to be able to weight-bear, to vertically load.
And this is where the street canes fail miserably. In fact, the very first thing my orientation and mobility instructor told me was “Never ever vertically load a cane.” So I said, “Okay. Why?” “Well, you’re not supposed to.” “Why?” Well, because they’re not made for it.” “Why?” And honestly, Jonathan, I kept asking why until she said, “I just don’t know. Because you’re not supposed to. That’s not what they’re meant to do. They’re not meant to be load-bearing, just to identify what we’re walking into and give us that safe 2 paces of protection.”
Well, back to the trails, I need that loading, that stability, that support, something that I can depend on to keep me upright and safe. And honestly, out on the Arizona trails, my goal for grace is not falling face-first into a cactus plant.
And that’s where the All Terrain cane excels, in that it’s made for my needs out in the backcountry.
Jonathan: What you’re saying really resonates with me because we’re very fortunate that not too far away from where we are, we have a beautiful reserve. And there are acres and acres of native bush and lots of birds in there. And you can go on bush walks.
But it is rugged country. And I’ve been with my kids on many occasions into that reserve. And you’ve got to be so careful.
I’m totally blind. And I take my cane. But you’ve really got to do sighted guide. And just the tiniest thing, like a branch or some sort of unevenness, can be quite tricky to navigate.
So you’ve essentially designed this for your own needs. But it’s gone way beyond that now.
David: It has. Now, the design has morphed in the course of 3 iterations. But I built the first two prototypes around what my needs are.
I started with a generic trekking pole. And starting from the top, the grip wasn’t right. It was a ski pole grip. And it was just not blind-friendly. I need a cane grip, or a golf grip. So out came the tools and the duct tape. And I totally obliterated this brand new handle and converted it to what I felt I needed on the trail.
And I went down the whole length of the cane – the joints, the markings, the ball tip.
The tip is something else I could work on. I tried probably a good half dozen different tips to find out what works best on all terrains. Been through the shark wheel, the Dakota disc, bulldog tips, marshmallow tips. The only tip that really seemed to excel all around was the 2-inch ball. So I didn’t have to reinvent the tip. There was a two-inch ball on the market.
But the prototypes just weren’t blind-friendly. The designs were telescopic in nature. That is, one tube section slid into the other tube.
And it was hard to estimate the length of the cane. A blind person wouldn’t be able to see the markings on the shaft, 140 centimeters, 145 centimeters. So I felt that that was lacking.
As well, there was nothing to keep the tubing sections from coming apart. So if I pulled too far, now I’ve got a section of tubing in each hand.
And putting that back together as a blind person was also unforgiving. Internal locks would bend and break. And I just saw many, many problems on what was available on the market to trekking poles.
So it was good, but not good enough. If I wanted to make this blind friendly, I needed it to look like a cane.
It needs to be white and red. That’s number 1.
Number 2, we don’t like change. And we’re accustomed to folding canes. There’s nothing to think about. We let it loose. It unfolds, and off we go. So I needed to redesign a telescopic cane into a folding cane that we’re used to. So I was able to do that fairly effectively.
But I wanted more. I wanted a cane that would be flexible in length. I go for that one size fits most philosophy. So on a 3-section cane that I developed, I added a 16-inch handle grip. What I feel I need on the trails was a long grip that I can choke up as I ascend when my 2 paces is a lot shorter.
So I adapted a 16-inch grip onto its own separate tubing with an external lock, a flip lock, so that the cane itself can be adjustable in length from 130 centimeters to about 160 centimeters. Or in American words, that’s about 51 to about 62 inches in length. And all that on one cane that unfolds the way we’re accustomed to.
I mentioned that the conical-shaped joints that we’re used to on our street canes, I needed a different design because again, these conical joints pop out when I load either vertical or laterally.
So I opted for what I call a sleeve joint, where one tube will slide over a sleeve, and that gives me a lot more strength than lateral. So I don’t mean to get all geeky and technical, but I find that lateral strength is vital as I descend and use the cane as a brake. So the joints are different. The design remains the same as three sections, extendable in length.
And now, I went for materials. What do I want to do with materials? Aluminum is okay, but I know what a car door can do to an aluminum pole. Carbon fiber shatters, fiberglass is too flexible. What do we really need that’s super strong and super lightweight?
Okay, titanium. In my opinion, it’s the best metal in the world, crazy strong.
So we went ahead and made ourselves a titanium mobility cane, and I’m really quite proud of it.
I find breakable canes to be offensive at this stage of my blindness. I just don’t see why canes have to break. We’ve got great technology and great materials.
So all right, let’s charge forward with a titanium cane, stainless steel in the joints, stainless steel cabling on the inside. It’s made to last, and it’s made to endure. Everything that we can dish out in the wilderness of Arizona. And I’m sure we’ve got some pretty rough outback down there too. So it’s here to keep us safe on the trails.
Jonathan: Yes. I’m curious about the use cases for this in the sense that, would you say that this is the last cane anyone would ever need? Or is it the case that just as somebody might put on their hiking boots when they go out to do this sort of walking in the bush that you would use this cane in that situation, but your cane that you already have in urban environments?
David: Amazing question. I love, love that question.
My typical day starts out with walking the dog. We start on a smooth concrete driveway. And then, it goes downhill from there.
The asphalt in Arizona is extremely coarse, and any other tip would catch on the asphalt. I mean, marshmallow tips just don’t work.
But from the asphalt, my pup and I find ourselves on dirt trails, and then on the rocks. And now we’re out in the back country. We’ll get off the trail onto the asphalt and then back home.
And my point being that my daily activities include all terrains. So for me, this is my everyday carry cane. You know, when we’re going to the store and go food shopping, I do have a smaller 5-section cane that I deploy out of the car. But for any other walking, yeah, I go with the All Terrain cane. It meets all my needs. I would recommend that anybody who lives in anywhere that’s not nicely groomed with beautiful concrete streets, I would certainly benefit from something that can get us where we want to be.
Jonathan: And is this recognizable as a white cane? I mean, it’s got the reflective tape on it. It’s something that if somebody sees someone using it, they would say, “Okay, this is someone who’s blind or has low vision, and they’re using a white cane.”
David: Absolutely. That was essential to the design, not only for the design patent that it has to look like a mobility cane has to be recognizable as such, but my experience on the trails was very, very interesting that when I was running with the prototypes, the Mark I and the Mark II, again, they didn’t look like a cane. They were black or dark gray, and they had a red handle grip. So when people would see me on the trails caning along, it didn’t really catch on what I was up to, what I was doing.
So there was a lot of confusion amongst the other hiking and trekking poles out on the trails. So it was really important for me to have it look like a mobility cane.
Now, when I take the All Terrain cane on the trails today, that it’s white and red reflective, I get interesting comments behind me where people will see me approaching, they’ll see a blind person walking. And then as I pass, it seems to dawn on them that we’re out in the outback, we’re in the wilderness.
And every so often I’ll hear a comment behind me like, “Wait, what?”
David: And I hear that they’re dawning, they’re putting one and one together. Like, “Well, here’s a blind guy, and he’s hiking.” So there’s an interesting element to a mobility, something that looks like a mobility cane on the trails, a really interesting phenomenon out there.
Jonathan: So it’s a bit bulkier, would you say, a bit bulkier than the average white cane? Is it difficult to store? Let’s say you’re traveling to work. Is it easily storable, foldable?
David: Good question. It is a 3-section cane and unfolds to as short as 51 inches.
What does that mean? It doesn’t fold short. I do have a 16 inch handle grip and that really defines the folded length. I really want that long grip because I find it extremely helpful on the trails, on the beaches, and everywhere I wanna be.
So to me, it didn’t make sense to go with a 5-ssection cane and a 16-inch grip, it just didn’t make sense. So minimize the number of joints, 3 sections, and it folds to 21 inches.
I’m sorry, I don’t know what that is in …
Jonathan: No, that’s all right.
David: Yeah, right. But it does fold at 21 inches, and I admit it’s not short, but the length is governed by that grip.
Jonathan: And feedback. How’s it been received so far?
David: People are over the moon about the grip. They love, love, love it. They say it makes so much sense, finally.
We all choke up on the canes. You know, when we’re in tight quarters, or in an airport, or you know, we’re always choking up and for them to be able to choke up on a grip and have a positive grip, that is it’s not on a slippery, sweaty shaft. It’s an EVA foam grip that it’s controllable, it’s manageable, it’s what I call a positive grip.
And for this to be able to adjust in height, a lot of tremendous feedback from the O&M instructors that what a perfect tool to govern the proper height of cane for a student.
Jonathan: It can be cheap to manufacture a cane out of titanium, particularly when you have a small number of units, relatively speaking, compared with laptops and other things that use the metal. What is the price point on it?
David: The MSRP is $120 US, and we are shipping globally.
And I daresay that we’re in our second production right now, and we’re out of stock. I hate to say that. They flew off shelves. The interest is just overwhelming. So we scrambled to get the factories pulled up for round 2 of production. Yeah, they’re flying. Tremendous reception globally.
Jonathan: I’m interested in the message that this cane sends because as you will know probably, as someone who’s been a part of the RP community, it’s a big step to decide that your vision has reached the point that you require such a public identification as somebody who at least is significantly visually impaired. Walking around with a cane is a pretty big statement, and it’s a journey for many people to get there. Do you think a cane like this might help in some regard to make that journey a bit easier?
David: Without a doubt. And I’ve witnessed it many, many times first-hand. It’s a glorious experience.
Accepting blindness is a very, very personal journey. And I remember the first time I deployed the white cane on the streets and I thought, “Oh man, how vulnerable, how raw, how exposed I am. Everybody knows.”, And I just wanted to curl up into the corner and then disappear. And I’ll never forget that feeling of raw, exposed vulnerability.
But it went away because I realized exactly what the cane can do. It’s very much an empowering tool.
And when I adopted it as such, my attitude changed to one of I can do this without being able to see. I can cross the streets, and I can do everything that you guys can do, like walk around. I obviously can’t drive, but I’m still on the game. And to me, that was a very empowering message.
Now, when I started hiking with one of the prototypes, I noticed that the rules that I was taught, essentially went out the window, like 11 to 1, 11 to 1, I always count 11 to 1. And I need more. I need to go 10 to 2, 9 to 3 o’clock. I need to find where my next safe step is. So I adopted a lot of different techniques on the trails to help me stay safe.
Now, when I went back to the streets, I noticed the confidence level was different. As I approach a curb, I don’t have to worry about, you hit the curb and then find the top of the curb and do this nice clearing, sweeping motion, make sure that safe step is there.
I’m not saying it went out the window, but my attitude towards caning morphed to one of whatever it is, is it a rock, a root, a water bar? I don’t care, it’s in my way, move on.
And when I got to the streets, okay, here’s the curb, find my way and carry on.
And I really felt that my confidence soared. And with that level of confidence came everything else, came a pride of blindness, very much an empowerment attitude, confidence, freedom. And all these great words just really fell into place that I was on the move. And yeah, I’m not fooled around anymore. I got places to go, I’m on the move. So I was very impressed with what I experienced and I was able to introduce the All Terrain cane to a bunch of young blind athletes, I call it blind camp, camp abilities out here in Arizona.
Everybody commented the same thing. They feel more confident. They feel, “Wow, I can hike. I went down the Grand Canyon.” And these kids just came alive with pride and confidence. And it was one of those moments that would just bring tears to anybody who was present.
So I would say absolutely yes, any cane you can get into your hands, realize what it can do, embrace it. And with the basic tools, the basic knowledge of what the cane can do, how to use it, there’s nothing to stop us from going where we want to be other than having the right tool, having a cane that’s strong enough to get us onto the beaches, finding the holes that the kids dig, and smashing into the sand castles, and using the cane for what it’s meant for, for finding the obstacles, and the terrain changes, and the tripping hazards. You know, that’s what it’s for. And by golly, when we’re on the beaches, that’s what we’re gonna do. So yes to that.
Jonathan: And although you’re out of stock at the time we’re recording this, can people still order the cane for when stock returns?
David: Definitely, yes. We just worked on our website, and we’re in our pre-sales regime again, where you can purchase the canes. And as soon as they arrive, we’ll process your order. It’s gonna arrive to you.
As well on the next shipment, we’re introducing (really proud of this as well), different color ball tips. I mentioned we do a lot with young blind athletes. Why not bling the canes up for them? Make it a little bit fun, a little bit interesting. Yellow, red, a sherbet pink, red orange.
David: Yeah, it’s tremendous. It’s very bright, very eye-catching, and add some interest to it. I say, why not?
Jonathan: Yeah. Dress up your cane. Love it!
And what is that website if people want to visit and find out more?
David: Sure. The website is [AWarewolfGear.com[(https://awarewolfgear.com). And I will spell. That’s A-W-A-R-E-W-O-L-F-G-E-A-R.com. And if you wanna put a forward slash ATC, that’ll take you right to the All Terrain cane page. Or if you don’t put the forward slash ATC, it’ll take you to our website where we showcase a werewolf gear, which was the original product of my company – high-visibility clothing for low vision people. I’m very proud of the new wolf logo. We use high density, tactile inks and a high contrast to come up with a socially acceptable way of saying, “Might not see you coming, so don’t crash into me.”
Jonathan: Look, it’s a real pleasure to talk with you, and the white cane is just such a basic sort of implement tool. But it is technology, and you’re improving on that technology, and it’s good to see. So I really appreciate you coming on the podcast and talking with us.
David: Absolutely, Jonathan. It’s a thrill. I laugh that it seems like there’s a lot of high tech coming into the blind community right now with GPS, and sensors, and all sorts of haptics, and all. And I come along and invent a stick.
Jonathan: [laughs] Yeah. But it’s the fundamental tool of navigation, isn’t it? Because without that, unless you have a guide dog, then all those other tools really add up to the job. There is nothing out there really that substitutes for the cane, it complements the cane.
David: Exactly, and it really is the basics. And this is gonna get us where we wanna be.
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Unfortunately, we’ve had cause to comment on Living Blindfully before about Google’s legendary technical support, legendary for all the wrong reasons. And Carolyn Peat is in touch on this. She says:
I have just had an interaction with Google support that has left me stunned.
Earlier this week, there was both a software update for the Google Home devices and the app on your phone. I somehow had an issue where my Google Home Mini got disconnected from the Wi-Fi.
I did a total reset, and discovered we now have a male voice and I thought I would try it out.
After a few days, I decided to revert to the female voice, but this is not possible. The area to do this on the app is now completely inaccessible to VoiceOver users.
After phone calls and tweets, I have been told they have no intention of changing the apps and making it once again fully accessible. This is unacceptable behavior by a large company that has a presence on Be My Eyes.”
Thank you, Carolyn. Yep, there’s no other word for it other than unacceptable. And I hope you keep pressing.
I suspect what you’ve got is the frontline tech support, which can be a little bit rough and ready from time to time. But if you keep going and if you demand escalation, hopefully, you’ll be able to get someone to take you seriously.
You never know, there may be somebody listening from Google who can set the wheels in motion.
Voice message: Dear Living Blindfully listeners, it’s Robin Kristopherson here.
And I just want to address a comment or a query from, I think it was Kaveen of Malaysia about wanting to do exercise at home and gaining strength.
And for me, I happened upon the thing that I am absolutely hooked on now and look forward to doing every single day, and that is going on an exercise bike following along the videos on the GCN channel by the Global Cycling Network on YouTube.
And so let’s have a quick demo. And then, I’ll come back afterwards and just say a tiny little bit more about the results.
I’m just going to do a quick demo of going on my exercise bike and what my setup is, because I’m absolutely addicted. There’s nothing too amazing or expensive about my setup, so I thought I would let people see what I do.
So I’m going to go out of my bedroom. I’ve just stripped off. Maybe that’s too much information.
I’m going to go into this bedroom, which we always keep the door closed because our children have flown and we haven’t got the radiator in this room.
This used to be Sam’s room. And that obviously saved some energy. But also, it keeps the room really cool, which is absolutely what you need for spin.
So here’s the bike. It’s a really, really basic bike. It’s called the Everlast 410B. I think, it’s often just listed as Everlast 410 or EV410, and I’ve seen them on eBay second-hand for like £27. So I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s only about £100 new.
Absolutely brilliant! It’s got no touchscreen. It’s got this really nice knob. [knob-turning sound] (Don’t know if you can hear that.) for the different variations of speed.
But what’s the first thing I do when I come into the room? I go over to the window here. Now if it’s really hot, I open the window. But I’m just going to do the blinds. (I don’t know if you heard that.) So now, all the blind is closed. [laughs]
I put my bottle of water onto the windowsill here. It’s really important to have a bottle of water.
And I’ve also got a sound bar, which is on the windowsill. It’s just a very basic one that’s directly in front of the bike.
So my bike is facing the windowsill here. And over to my left, I’ve got a fan, and I’ve also got an echo set up. And those are both really important because we’re going to hear a bit of what these YouTube videos, it’s the channel called GCN, Global Cycling Network, sounds like.
Basically, most of it’s to the music. but sometimes, they give you a cadence, which is like the RPM, revolutions per minute, and it isn’t to the music.
In which case then, I use a skill on the echo called my metronome. And what I’ve done is I’ve set up some routines. So I say, Alexa, give me 90.
Alexa: Changing to 90 beats per minute.
[quite fast metronome sound]So
Robin: that’s 90. So now if I start pedalling, this is what the bike sounds like.
[pedalling sound almost in time with the metronome]
And you have to pretend that, you know, you’re clicking something with one of your feet every time you go round at that particular point. And then, that gives you the right cadence.
And the other thing that I’ve got set up, which is super important, is the fan.
Alexa, turn on the spin fan.
[fan sound, air blowing a little on the microphone]
And there we go. Oh, I don’t know if you can hear that. [laughs] That’s really important, too. That’s about 5 feet away from me and blowing right at me, which is really, really important. So hydration and keeping cool is really, really important.
Alexa, turn off the spin fan.
Okay. So let’s hear what one of these videos sounds like. I’m just going to give you the tiniest blast because we might get up against copyright issues otherwise. So yeah, let’s turn on the soundbar.
Just powering it on.
Video: Welcome to a GCN real-time training session. As James has said, we’re riding up the Passo Gardena. It’s 5.9 kilometers long, an average gradient of 4%. So it’s going to be a quick one over and done with in just 20 minutes.
So Chris, what is in store for us?
So this is one of my favorite sessions that you can do early in the morning, or before a race, or an event. And it’s kind of like a long warm-up really, because you’ll start out real gentle, like we are now, kind of walking pace. So if you’re tired first thing in the morning, this is brilliant. And then, we’ll build right up toward the max intensity effort, and that’ll be really invigorating.
Robin: Let’s go turn that down a bit.
Video: If you have a smart trainer like we have, Chris is on the Elite Drivo 2, I’m on the Elite Direto. You can actually set them up so they will take you through a ramp scenario whereby the intensity and the resistance increases in every 90 seconds.
But I don’t know about you, Chris, I’m going old school. I’m going to use my gears on this time.
So if you’ve got a normal trainer, then you can do it exactly the same.
Robin: I think that’s enough. I’ll just turn the soundbar off.
There you go, guys. Give it a go. GCN.
There are loads of videos for all effort levels from 15 minutes up to an hour, and they just talk you through everything. You don’t need a bike computer. They’ll tell you what perceived effort level it should be between one and 10, and they give you the cadence or they tell you to do it to the music.
And then, you can just listen to it. So they tell you to do it to the music and that’s all you need. It’s absolutely brilliant. And I look forward to jumping on this bike every single day.
Hope that was interesting.
And I know Jonathan mentioned going on a rowing machine. But actually, for me, I have very bad memories of a rowing machine from rowing at college. Pull till you puke, I think, springs to mind. And I even, you know, having gone on ergo since then, it’s in no way fun as far as I’m concerned.
But this is really fun because you’re doing it with the guys. Often with those videos, there are other people in the studio, and they have some banter, and everyone’s in it together, and it’s really, really good.
So there you go. It does give you strength. My legs are pretty chunky now.
And Okay, it doesn’t give you upper body like a rowing machine does. But, you know, maybe doing some barbells or dumbbells, sorry, at the same time at home might help.
We go to the gym a couple of times a week, and this is like an addition to it, a compliment to going to the gym.
So yeah, give it a go, guys. Any old exercise bike will do, I would imagine. The more basic, the better. You don’t want ones with a touch screen, and that sort of thing.
And one thing I neglected to mention there was that I always start a workout on my watch. Start an open-ended indoor cycle workout. I just asked the S-Lady to do that, and so I get the credit for that as well. And that all goes into my health app, etc. So yeah.
Oh, and by the way, as a result, I have had two really nice confirmations from my watch since starting to do these spin sessions a couple of months ago. Well, 3 or 4 months ago now.
The first one was my watch told me that my resting heart rate has come right down from an average, I think it was 83 beats a minute to 72. And that obviously is a reflection on fitness. So that’s a really good confirmation that it’s doing me good and I feel great.
And the other one is that my watch said my cardiac response has increased from, I think, 20 to 30. Now, actually, what that means is that when your heart reaches a peak level in this kind of high intensity training, how long after it’s reached that peak does it come down in a minute? How far has it come down? And that’s another measurement of fitness. And mine had come down from 20 beats in that minute to 30. So your heart is healthier and stronger if it responds quicker after it’s been heavily taxed.
So there you go. If anyone’s interested and if it’s suitable from a copyright point of view, my favourite 14 that I kind of rotate between, that I’ve stripped the audio out of these videos, I can provide in a zip file for anyone that’s interested. Hopefully, that isn’t contravening copyright.
Russell is writing in. He says:
I absolutely love your podcast, and have subscribed to the Living Blindfully plus podcast.”
Thank you very much for that, Russell. I appreciate the support.
He says: “I’ve listened to you for many years, and even met you at CSUN briefly one year, I think at San Diego in 2010.
I have worked at a post-secondary institution, MacEwan University, in the Access and Disability Resources Department for the past 22 years. This past Friday, June the 16th, was my last day of work as I have decided to retire.
A quick preamble to the question I wish to ask you.
I lost my sight and the hearing on my right side in a car accident in 1984, at the age of 25.
Prior to that, I had worked mostly in construction and the oil field.
I live in Edmonton, Alberta, and the oil industry is a huge part of Alberta’s economy.
Needless to say, after my accident, I was no longer able to work in this field, so took a help desk/software support certificate program at MacEwan.
After completing this program with very high marks, I did some volunteering at the university, and was offered a job, which I began in 2001.
I would have to say that, over the years, my total lack of hearing through my right ear has been a bigger disabling factor than the loss of sight. It’s caused so many uncomfortable situations where, if someone was sitting to my right side, I could not hear what they were saying. Group meetings were a big challenge, and I would many times get people to repeat themselves.
About 20 years ago or so, I went to a hearing clinic to see if there was any new technology that might help. They showed me a crossover hearing aid, but the right and left hearing aids were connected with a wire that ran behind my head. I didn’t like this at all, so didn’t end up trying it.
Fast forward to the last month. And I decided that, before I retire, while I still have medical coverage, I would look into this once again. I was again tested and shown a crossover hearing aid, but now, the left and right hearing aids connect via Bluetooth. So I decided to go for it.
Last Friday, June the 9th, I picked up my hearing aids and have been using them since. I can’t believe what a difference they make in some situations, like group meetings or just socializing with friends.
I still have trouble in noisy environments like restaurants. This is where I was hoping to find some relief. As often, when out with friends or family, I cannot hear what the person across the table is saying if the restaurant is noisy. With the hearing aids, it’s a bit better, but the background noise also seems to be amplified.
Jonathan, I think I heard you say in one of your podcasts that you use the Oticon brand of hearing aids. The brand I was given is the Signia Pure C&G 3 AXL. They are behind the ear, rechargeable, made for iPhone MFi hearing aids.
I love the fact that I can listen to my iPhone through my hearing aids.
The issue I am having is, if I try to type an email or iMessage using the on-screen keyboard while connected to my hearing aids, voiceover is very sluggish.
I have a follow-up appointment with my audiologist this Friday, so I will ask him if there are any settings that would help with this, but I thought I’d check with you as well to see if you have any ideas.
I’d also like to ask why you decided to go with the Oticon hearing aids. I have 90 days to either return these hearing aids or exchange them for another brand.
Do you think the Oticon brand is better than the Signia? I know this is probably very subjective, but I’m really new to this hearing aid thing, and I know that you’ve been using them for a long time, so may have some ideas of what to do or whether or not I should switch brands.
My hearing aids cost $3,325 Canadian dollars, which according to The Soup Drinker is around $4,058 New Zealand dollars. My healthcare program covered $1,000 of this, and my wife’s plan covered the remainder.”
It’s good to hear from you, Russell. Thank you very much.
I’m glad that you’re getting some benefit from hearing aids. Hearing aids do take a lot of tweaking, and I think I’ve mentioned on the podcast before that one of the most important professional relationships I have in my life is the one I enjoy with my audiologist. And if I ever relocate, and thankfully I haven’t done that for quite a long time now, one of the most important decisions I make after relocating is choosing the right audiologist.
It’s really important that they see working with me as a positive challenge. They have to know that I’m not going to just stick with the settings that the manufacturer recommends for my hearing loss based on my audiogram. We are going to tweak, we are going to tinker, we’re going to have a ball. But it takes the right kind of audiologist, and also I can talk to them in audiological terms to some degree, so that does help.
Hearing aids vary a lot. I would never say to anyone that the brand of hearing aids I use is better than the brand of hearing aids that someone else uses because hearing aids are so subjective.
One thing I would say though is that my Oticon aids are not laggy at all when I use them with my iPhone. This was one of the primary concerns I had actually about switching to made-for-iPhone hearing aids was the sluggishness. Because if you’re a fast typist and you need your VoiceOver to be responsive, it can be pretty debilitating when you end up with something like that.
You see this sometimes with Bluetooth headphones. So even if you’ve never used made-for-iPhone hearing aids, if you’ve experienced lag in certain Bluetooth devices, (It could be Bluetooth speakers as well, actually.), then you will know what some of us are contending with.
I am so lucky that the Oticon Open S1s that I have, which are now probably an obsolete model because they’re 4 years old, have done so well in this regard. So it may be that there’s nothing that can be done about that other than switching brands.
Noise in crowds is a very challenging issue. And I don’t know that particular manufacturer. I’ve never tried Signia hearing aids. I don’t know how many programs that might be on the hearing aid that you can have your audiologist configure.
But when you’re sitting across a table with people at a restaurant in the noise, you want as much of that background noise filtered out as possible so you can enjoy the conversation. On the other hand, if you’re crossing a street, then that background noise, which many people might want filtered out, is essential environmental information to keep you safe. So the way audiologists tend to get around this is to have different programs for different scenarios.
I like the Oticon philosophy, which they call open hearing, because it’s trying to emulate the human brain, kind of filter out noise without actively aggressively doing so because of those environmental clues that I get as a result.
But technology in this space is moving along so quickly at the moment, and the last time I had a serious look was 4 years ago.
If anybody’s interested in reading my findings from 4 years ago, which I think have minimal relevance now given that technology marches on at pace, but you can still go to mosen.org/NowHearThis2019. It’s all joined together, no dashes or anything like that. You will read about the experience that I had back then that caused me to end up with the hearing aids that I have.
One of the principal reasons I got these particular aids is that they support direct audio input, which I’ve talked about a lot because it’s very important to me. I’m sitting here, for example, with my hearing aids plugged into my mixer via a cable that’s plugging into the headphone jack. It is super handy in a variety of contexts, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to find this feature in today’s hearing aids.
Another option that you have for restaurant situations is to get an FM system of some kind. They call them FM systems. I guess it’s a legacy term, but really they are remote audio systems, so you would get a microphone. You can even have multiple microphones if you want to, and connect these units to your hearing aids via Bluetooth of some kind.
Phonak makes the Roger On and the Roger brands, which are very popular in this space, so they work with them natively. You don’t have to attach any special devices to your hearing aids. Some other manufacturers, like mine, for example, might require you to fit something onto the hearing aids so you can receive the signals from these sorts of devices. But at their most basic, you would put the device in the middle of the table. They have a series of directional mics. They can work out who is speaking, and turn off the microphones from everywhere else so it concentrates on the sound.
Now, we’ve talked about this a few episodes ago. That means it’ll be mono. You won’t be able to tell where somebody is speaking from around the table, but it might be a lot easier to hear.
So best of luck.
And if anybody has any direct experience with Signia as a brand, or even better, those specific hearing aids, do let us know. opinion@LivingBlindfully.com. 864-60-Mosen in the United States is my number. 864-606-6736.
Jonathan: Houston, we have a convention.
Welcome to the Bonnie Bulletin, with Bonnie Mosen.
Bonnie: Hi guys.
Jonathan: What is happening?
Bonnie: Well, we’re getting ready to go to NFB.
Jonathan: Yes, you’re looking forward to that.
Bonnie: I am. It’s been about 11 years since I’ve actually been to a consumer conference, and it’s been 16 years since I’ve been to NFB.
Jonathan: I last went to NFB in 2012, and it was in Dallas, I’m pretty sure, wasn’t it?
Bonnie: I think so, yeah.
Jonathan: I remember it because I booked my super shuttle, and I said very clearly that I needed to go to Love Field, and they took me to Fort Worth, even though I said very clearly in the booking that I needed to go to Love Field, and I had to jump in a cab and scoot on over there and just made my flight.
Bonnie: Oh dear.
Jonathan: So I remember that NFB 2012 was in Dallas, and ACB 2012, which I also went to, was in Louisville.
Bonnie: Yeah. At least this time, we fly to Auckland and jump a plane to Houston, and they were there.
Jonathan: I think it’s about a 15-hour flight or 14-hour flight.
Bonnie: I think it’s 14. It’s not a bad flight. I mean, I’ve done it once, and that would be my preferred entry into the US. And then, come out of New York. But it’s not a bad flight when I took it in 2019.
We had a really good pilot that talked a lot and said the route we were traveling on, and that was kind of nice. Go over Mexico, and you know. Jonathan: Right. I love the turbulence.
Bonnie: I don’t. I do not like turbulence.
Jonathan: I love the turbulence. I’m looking forward to a good bit of turbulence.
Bonnie: No, we are not looking forward to that.
Jonathan: Yes. And apparently, turbulence is more common than it used to be, they were saying.
Bonnie: I don’t say that. I don’t like it.
Jonathan: Oh, well. That’s exciting!
Bonnie: I’ll just ask for some vodka, or something.
Jonathan: No, don’t do that. Live the dream. Live the turbulent dream.
Bonnie: No, I do not like it, especially over water.
Jonathan: What are you hoping to do at NFB? What are you looking forward to since you’re coming along?
Bonnie: I always look forward to the exhibit hall. That’s one of the highlights. And looking forward to seeing people that I haven’t seen in a long time.
Jonathan: The calendar’s filling up pretty quickly, isn’t it? Oh my word!
Bonnie: The calendar is definitely filling up.
Bonnie: So yeah, looking forward. There’s a lot of really good workshops and seminars on employment. So looking forward to the seminars on that, seeing if there’s any new interesting technology, and just, you know, being there. I mean, I think that’s an incredible opportunity to network with a lot of blind people who are doing incredible things, and learn about the resources that you learn about those conventions. You always come back really kind of fired up to do stuff, you know, whether it be in your work, or change things, or that sort of thing. So really looking forward to that.
Jonathan: Yeah, replenishing is the word that I would use.
Bonnie: Replenishing. I think that’s probably a good, … And I’ve always felt really replenished after these conferences.
Jonathan: Yes, yeah, it’s going to be great to catch up with everybody again.
I guess that I have mixed feelings about attending a large gathering like this because they are very noisy.
Bonnie: Oh, they’re very noisy.
Jonathan: When you’ve got a hearing impairment and people are trying to talk to you and the noise, it can be challenging. But there’s no reason to kind of sit back and not do it.
Bonnie: Yeah. And it looks like you won’t be the only one there with that issue.
Jonathan: No, no.
Bonnie: I mean sometimes in the exhibit hall, you can’t even hear yourself think.
Jonathan: Yeah. That used to be so challenging for me in the exhibit halls when I had to do this for a living, and you’d be talking to people. And sometimes, people would say, “Yeah, I met Jonathan Mosen and he was really standoffish.” [laughs] And the reason was, it was just so hard to hear. Like, I didn’t know I was being standoffish because I couldn’t really hear them.
Bonnie: Yeah, exactly.
So yeah, looking forward to all the different tables and, you know, at NFB, they always have the NFB chapters that have tables, and they sell cool stuff, and snacks, and fun things like that.
Jonathan: Yeah, I enjoy all of that.
I like the business of the convention. I think the business of the convention, particularly the resolutions, which if you go back and you look at the resolutions that have been passed over many successive conventions, what you get is a very important historical record of the concerns of the blind community. And you look back at them and the events that remain the same, which suggests that there’s a lot more progress to make, and events where significant progress has been made and you realize how effective these organizations are.
A lot of people have asked about Eclipse. She won’t be going to the convention for a couple of reasons, actually.
One is getting back into the country. She can leave, she can’t come back because of our biosecurity. And we’re waiting on a test from Australia so she could be cleared to travel later this year, hopefully.
And also, the fact that it’s super hot in Houston. They’re under heat warnings right now. I think it was 120 Fahrenheit yesterday.
So she’s almost 7, and she’s never been to a convention, and it can be stressful for dogs. She’s been to conventions or conferences here in New Zealand, but nothing on the score of what a consumer – Completely different scale.
Jonathan: Completely different.
Bonnie: And so it’s just not… With the pandemic, she hasn’t had the opportunity to work enormous crowds with canes and dogs. So it’s not really fair to take her.
And plus, she’s a little bit of a princess when it comes to the relief area, and we all know how the relief areas are at these conferences.
So she’s going on a doggy holiday.
Jonathan: [sings] We’re all going on a doggy holiday.
Bonnie: She’s staying with what they call a border supporter here.
Even though Eclipse is not from the guide dog school here, she’s able to take part of some of the privileges because she does get follow up from the school here.
So she’s staying with a border supporter. And what they do is they keep dogs, active working dogs, if their owners need to go away, or in the hospital, or something like that.
So she’s going to stay with a lovely lady and her husband for a week. They’re a retired couple, and they have a retired guide dog living with them, so Eclipse will have a friend.
I took her out there the other day to visit, and she had a lot of fun. They had another guide dog that was staying a few days. So all 3 of the girls went out in the yard and played with each other. So Eclipse had a really good time, didn’t want to come home.
Jonathan: [laughs] So hopefully, she won’t miss us at all.
Bonnie: No. And they get carrots, and they get ice block with tux biscuits in them. So it’s like party all day.
Jonathan: And from a technology standpoint, I’m making sure that we have all the right microphones and things. We will be taking the Zoom M2 Mictrak, which we premiered on this podcast a few weeks ago and did a demo with Richard. We also have the Zoom F3 which is bigger, and it kind of straps onto my belt. But you’ve got 2 microphone inputs. So that’s very good for making very good quality recordings in the field, whether that be somewhere quiet like a hotel room or something like that, or even potentially, we could talk to people while we’re waiting for dinner to arrive, and get good recordings.
Jonathan: So we are hoping to bring quite a lot of audio back from the convention, which I’m looking forward to.
Bonnie: Yeah. And there’s so many interesting exhibitors. It’s really cool.
Jonathan: Yeah. And you’ve got to plan these things. I think if you are attending the convention for the first time, the thing I’d say is go through the agenda before you leave. And if you use a calendar application like Outlook or the calendar on your phone or whatever, put those things into your calendar so that you can just glance at your schedule when the day starts and know roughly what you’re doing.
And if stuff comes up, because stuff will at a convention like this, then change your plans.
But otherwise, you sit there looking, thinking, Oh, my goodness, this is overwhelming. What shall I do? So if you go through that process before you attend convention, you’re going to waste less time.
And we are having to schedule our catch ups with people because otherwise, it’s just getting overwhelming.
Bonnie: Yeah. There will be breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Jonathan: Yeah. [laughs]
Bonnie: It’s just too many people.
Jonathan: Also, what we do intend doing is, I mean, it will be mostly music, but Bonnie and I are both going to be broadcasting on MushroomFM from Houston. So I’ll be doing my Mosen Explosion show throughout the week, which is 2 AM Eastern. And then repeated at 2 p.m. Eastern or should I say 1 AM Central and 1 PM Central.
And Bonnie’s on Studio 70, which will be at 11 AM Eastern and then again at 11 Eastern.
So we will definitely have some little nuggets in there, I’m sure.
Bonnie: Yeah, a little what’s going on during the day and, you know, observations.
Jonathan: I was always a fan when I did radio full time of the outside broadcast. You know, I always thought it was fun to listen to, too. You know, when a DJ is outside the studio and broadcasting from somewhere remote, I think it’s fun.
Bonnie: It is fun.
Jonathan: So I thought we could do that from Houston this time.
Bonnie: Yeah, yeah.
Jonathan: We will report back. We’ll have a bit of canned content while we’re away, but we will report back after convention with a lot of news, interviews, and stuff.
Bonnie: If we brought any toys home with us, …
Jonathan: We don’t need any toys. See, it’s like you and I have flipped our roles on this because you know, those of you who were listening to the Mosen Explosion will know the incredible campaign that was launched for many years about the sonos in the bathroom.
But now, I’m saying, “What do we need really?”
Bonnie: Get a Brailliant.
Jonathan: You’ve got a Mantis.
Bonnie: I know. They’re actually the same, except the Brailliant has noise, makes a sound.
Jonathan: Funny enough, I know that. [laughs]
Bonnie: I know. Yeah, well, someone was pointing that out this morning.
Jonathan: So what else?
Bonnie: I just remember the last time I was at NFB, and the Victor Stream was coming out, and I was so excited, and I was working.
Jonathan: Get a Stream 3, if you want.
Bonnie: I was working The Seeing Eye table, and like “We got the Victor Stream. This is so exciting.”
And it was disappointing because they had to ship it so you couldn’t take it home with you.
Jonathan: Yeah, I like that instant gratification. If you get to buy something at the exhibit hall, I like being able to take it away.
Bonnie: “No, we’re not shipping yet.” But everybody was like, “This is just the most exciting thing in the planet.”
But it looks like there’s some cool booths that sell some interesting stuff. You know, a lot of times they have independent vendors who are members of organizations and they sell some products. And there’s one that does a lot of that kind of bath and body stuff that I like.
I think I saw the different groups are selling. I think Virginia is selling peanuts, or popcorn. I think they’re selling popcorn. So that’ll be fun.
And looking forward to the Puerto Rican chapter because they’re going to have Puerto Rican coffee.
Jonathan: Right. So is it good?
Bonnie: Yes. Oh, yeah. It’s very good.
Jonathan: Perhaps I need to have some Puerto Rican coffee before I get up there and talk to the general session.
Bonnie: [laughs] I’m sure they can arrange it. But I wonder if they’ll be like selling beans, or something, or ground. We can’t bring that back in, though, can we? Can you bring coffee in?
Jonathan: Yeah, I think we would need to check about the biosecurity around that.
Bonnie: Yeah. You can’t bring honey.
Jonathan: Right. No, you can’t bring honey.
Bonnie: Which people found out recently. [laughs]
Jonathan: I can mention this because President Riccobono has already mentioned that. We had President Riccobono here for dinner, which he did mention in his presidential release. And his assistant was here, too. And she brought honey and they took it away.
Bonnie: Honey sticks, which I don’t know what a honey stick is.
Jonathan: But they took it away.
Bonnie: But yeah. Well, one of the reasons, bees here, one of our major exports is Manuka honey. So they don’t want anything funny coming into the country to upset.
Jonathan: No funny honey.
Bonnie: [laughs] No funny honey to upset the bees. You know there’s something called mad honey? It’s like a psychedelic, I think, up in the Himalayas.
Jonathan: Really? Trippy.
Bonnie: So yeah, no bee honey. But they did allow someone to bring in fermented mares milk from Mongolia. So I’m not sure. [laughs] I don’t know. We’ll have to find out.
Jonathan: Well, we will catch up with you after the convention, and find out what the highlights were for you.
Jonathan: All right.
Bonnie: And look us up.
Jonathan: All right.
Bonnie: And if you have a dog, I definitely want to give it a hug.
Jonathan: Well, naturally.
And on that note, I’m out of here. Thank you very much for your company over the last couple of hours. I do appreciate you checking out the podcast every week.
And speaking of guide dogs, remember that when you’re out there with your guide dog, you’ve harnessed success. And with your cane, you’re able.
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