Transcripts of Living Blindfully are made possible by Pneuma Solutions, a global leader in accessible cloud technologies. On the web at http://PneumaSolutions.com.
Chris Peltz: Chris Peltz here with The Blind Grilling Experience, where we talk all things cooking, grilling, and barbecue, tips, tricks, and techniques for the blind and visually impaired, all things accessible technology centered around food. If you like brisket and breads, you like pizzas and pies, folks, we will leave you hungry and wanting more. Check out The Blind Grilling Experience on your favorite podcast app or visit our website at blindgrilling.com.
Speaker 2: From Wellington, New Zealand to the world, it’s the Living Blindfully podcast, living your best life with blindness or low vision. Here’s your host, Jonathan Mosen.
Jonathan Mosen: Hello. This week listeners share their experiences testing iOS 17 and they share their experiences kicking the tires on the new 2.0 firmware for the HIMS SensePlayer. Why are some consumer organizations failing to keep up with the changes in blindness social media? It’s the 244th episode of this podcast. Incredible. Area code 244 in the North American numbering plan is unassigned yet again.
They’ve got a few gaps in that two-four range, haven’t they, for future expansion? However, if we look at our country codes, then we say hi to the great people of Angola who have country code 244, Siri tells me that in 2022, there were 33,086,278 people there. That’s an incredibly specific number. Hi to all of you. I hope you’re all listening to Living Blindfully this week and can enjoy the moment where we celebrate Angola and area code 244.
Dennis Long: Hey, Jonathan, it’s Dennis Long. How are you doing? I’ve been testing the iOS 17 Beta and I’ve come across a really concerning bug for productivity. If you have predictive and autocorrect turned off under keyboard, if you write something in mail and you go to spell-check it, it does not, after you’ve corrected the word, remove that from the needed corrections.
Now, it’s very important to me that this is corrected. Again, it only happens in mail. It doesn’t happen in messages or anywhere else, it’s just mail that this happens. I have taken screen recordings and sent them to Apple. This is a very important bug. I would rank this up there with the Braille bugs, and I’m going to tell you why. If I’m on the road and I’m replying to a support email or to a company, to a professional email, I need that email to be professional. I need to make sure my spelling errors, if there are any, are corrected so that I sound intelligent, so my email is not all a bunch of garboly garbage.
It’s really a bunch of bull soup that they didn’t fix this when it was first reported. This should have been given urgent priority. Like I said, this is affecting productivity. My concern is not only for people like me that use email, but my concern is that this and the other Braille bugs won’t get fixed in time for 17.0. I would please ask that others report this, again, turn off predictive and autocorrect, correct your mistakes in an email message. Go back through your misspelled words, and those words you corrected will still show even after you correct them as misspelled. If we could all rally together as a community and please report this, I would be most grateful.
Jonathan: This is interesting, Dennis, because what I can say is that for some years now, the spell-check feature has not worked at all for me in mail, and it’s only the mail app. It must relate to some setting that I have enabled pertaining to the keyboard. I just figured that it must be that way for everybody. What I mean by this is that when I rotate using the rotor to the misspelled word options and I flick down, mail reports no misspelled words at all. It gives a little clunk sound that indicates that it’s not finding any misspelled words.
I’ve tested this. I’ve deliberately misspelled something to verify that this is an issue. This is why I now compose all my emails in Drafts, the app that we featured so extensively a few episodes ago on this podcast because the spellchecker works as advertised in Drafts. Then I can copy and paste from Drafts into email.
Should that be necessary? No, it should not, but I’m rather fascinated to hear that all this time the spellchecker may have been working fine for others in mail. For years it has not worked at all for me, and it’s only in that one app. I should also add that this is another reason for the defect equity framework that I outlined in my speech to the NFB convention a couple of months ago.
If you’ve not heard that speech, it is in this podcast, but you can also go to mosen.org/nfb23. That’s mosen.org/nfb23, where you can read the text and listen to the audio of the speech because if there were public databases of these sorts of bugs, we’d be able to pool our knowledge and perhaps help Apple and other companies to fix these issues. I just assumed that spell-checking being completely broken in mail was how it was. I’ve long since given up expecting Apple to fix it.
Scott Rutkowski has written in from Australia. He says, “Hi, Jonathan. I hope you are doing well.” I am so well, Scott. It’s unbelievable. Thank you. Hope you are too. “Please find below an email I have sent to Apple accessibility outlining my disappointment and frustration at the end call button changing its position in iOS 17. I hope others also voice their opinions to Apple regarding this upcoming change in iOS 17.
Dear Apple support team, I wanted to share my feedback regarding the recent change in the position of the end call button in the in-call interface of iOS 17. While I appreciate your ongoing efforts to improve user experience, I must express my frustration and concern about the decision to reposition the end call button to the bottom right-hand corner.
The previous placement of the end call button had become familiar to many users, especially those who are blind or visually impaired. These users had taken the time to memorize the position of the button, allowing them to efficiently navigate and use their devices. Unfortunately, the change in position with iOS 17 disrupts this familiarity, requiring them to relearn the interface and adjust to the new location of the button.
It’s important to consider the impact of such changes, especially on users with accessibility needs. Consistency in design elements is key for these individuals to navigate through their devices comfortably and independently. I understand that design updates are necessary, but I urge Apple to prioritize accessibility and user familiarity in the process. I kindly request that you take this feedback into account and consider providing options for users to customize the button placement or offer settings that allow them to choose between different layouts.
This would go a long way in ensuring that all users, regardless of their abilities, can continue to use their devices with ease. Thank you for your attention to this matter. I believe that by working together, we can find solutions that enhance the user experience for everyone.” That’s from Scott Rutkowski. Thank you very much for sharing that, Scott, and it’s certainly a respectfully written letter.
Nevertheless, I would respectfully disagree with it for three reasons. My first reason for disagreeing with it is that, in my experience, almost every voiceover user performs the magic tap, a two-finger double tap to end the call. That is still going to work. It’s far easier than locating the end call button, regardless of where it’s placed on the screen. I genuinely don’t believe it’s going to inconvenience many voiceover users at all.
Second, there may be some people who choose not to use the magic tap for whatever reason, but is this actually a blindness issue? Are we saying that blind people are so incompetent that we can’t cope in the same way that anyone else would cope with a repositioning of a button on the screen? In fact, it may be that putting it in the bottom right-hand corner might be easier to find than centering the button, but I accept that that’s a matter of personal preference as well.
There are people who just don’t like change, and there’s certainly been a significant groundswell of public opinion on social media about this, objecting to the change. It could be that, look, it’s just muscle memory. People are used to putting their thumbs or whatever they do at the right place on the screen to end a call. It’s second nature. It’s been that way for a long time. Those are all valid arguments, but I still maintain that bringing blindness into this is sending a signal that somehow we are less able to cope with the user interface change than other people. I’m not sure that’s a good signal to send, and I don’t agree with the premise.
Third, the reason why I disagree with this letter is that we have a limited amount of political capital. When you look at some of the challenges we face as the release of iOS 17 gets closer, do we really want to expend that political capital on this issue, which is not actually a defect that’s going to affect our productivity, our daily lives, while these issues persist that could have a detrimental impact on the way we do our jobs, the way we study, our ability to read the books we pay for and on and on?
I think we do have to be careful not to nitpick and expend that political capital unnecessarily, but it may be very important to other people. To be fair, the idea of customizing the user interface is not without precedent, because people may remember that Apple moved the address bar. Was it last year or the year before? It all gets a bit of a blur after a while, but in a recent update to iOS, they did move the address bar from the top to the bottom and a lot of people objected strongly to that, so much so that they made it a configurable option.
Now, thanks to the marvels of recording technology, I can, of course, point out that Scott’s email and my reading of it and my replying to it all happened before the release of iOS 17 developer Beta 6. I’m on the developer beta cycle and I can’t recall what public beta we’re up to. It might be 3 or 4 by now. This is all a moot point in a way because Apple has capitulated, capitulated, and they have moved the end call button back to where it was.
I could have just erased my original comments from the podcast before it was published, but I didn’t want to do that because I think it does make some important points that we might want to discuss about when do we make a noise if it’s just a simple user interface change. We can cope with that. If we are upset about it, should we complain to Apple accessibility about it or just go through normal channels?
Isn’t it interesting that the backlash to this simple moving of the end call button was such that Apple has changed its mind before the release of iOS 17? Yet here we are as a blind community with really serious show-stopping issues, and it’s really difficult to get people to take any notice of those issues. More on that in a little bit.
Reg George is chiming in on iOS 17. He says, “Dear Jonathan. So far so great. I love the new capability to crossfade tracks in Apple Music. Although it seems to be a bit, I guess the word would be wonky or inconsistent as it only seems to work on certain types of music. I like that you can adjust how long something will crossfade in the iPhone settings under music. Crossfading must be enabled as it is not turned on by default. If they don’t talk about this the first time you open the music app, people will not know it’s there. It feels a bit strange to have so much control over advanced parameters for the eloquence voice but to have so little control of the digital voices.
Also, I would think Community Dictionary would be enabled by default for all voices. I’m disappointed that we haven’t gotten more new sounds for ring and alert tones and more ability to customize sounds for more of our notifications. I have noticed on my iPhone SE 2020 that it seems I have to be much more precise on my double tapping of things. I could be wrong, but it seems like I have to work much harder to get things to open even though I raised the double-tap timeout setting in voiceover. Maybe it’s being less tolerant if your finger changes location during the double tap. Can anyone replicate this issue?”
Yes, Reg. In a word, yes, I can replicate this. It is much more difficult to double-tap something in iOS 17 at the moment than in previous releases of iOS, and they must be getting plenty of feedback on this. Reg continues, “I think the standby feature that turns your iPhone into a clock when it’s plugged in is annoying and unnecessary for a blind person, so I turned it off. This would also run your battery down if you’re using a battery case because the phone will think it’s plugged in.
The third public beta has just been released and wondering if there has been any progress or comment about the implementation of the HID drivers for Braille support. I didn’t see any type of change log I could look at to see what had been improved. Knowing what to test and a quick review of how to easily report feedback to Apple during this crucial time would be a help.” As we covered last week, Reg, no improvement with Braille HID. It’s extremely concerning.
Lastly, he says, “I saw a YouTube video discussing an upcoming change in the 6.0 firmware for AirPods that I was very excited about. It appears they will be adding a mute function, at least to AirPods Pro and Max versions. If you squeeze the stem once on the Pro, the microphone will mute, which is wonderful for Teams, FaceTime, and Zoom calls because you no longer have to touch your phone.
To hang up, you would squeeze the stem twice. This I am sure will cause consternation and anger in those who don’t care about the ability to mute yourself quickly during conference calls, but they need to get over it. This feature is long past due. There are other improvements to transparency and adaptive listening coming as well. The other day I saw a note from a person starting a petition to improve accessibility for Amazon services.
Just in the last month, the Amazon app, for me, has become almost impossible to use, where before I could turn the rotor to headings in voiceover and move neatly from result to result in my searches for products, suddenly I am faced with every single keyword in the summary of every product being a level-two heading. Making them headings at all is problematic on the iPhone, where the only tool you have to navigate is the rotor and you must step through every heading on a page. Now it takes much longer to go through the list of products. This was already bad on the auto-generated list of best-selling products where there was no headings at all.
On the link called Visit the Store, most products are unlabeled images making it nearly impossible to know what you are listening to. Calling accessibility only elicits a willingness to write up your complaint and usually nothing changes, but I will keep trying. I just wondered if others are having the same issues. Thank you for sharing these concerns and continuing to be our worldwide voice for change.” Well, thank you very much, Reg. That does sound concerning. I haven’t done any Amazon shopping in the last month or so, and notwithstanding your comments about the overuse of headings, which sounds ghastly.
Navigating by heading is so common on the web that I’ve assigned that function to its own gesture. I personally don’t use the two-finger flick right and flick left default gestures that Apple had assigned in iOS. I change them to navigate by heading. I really benefit from that because headings are used just so many places, not just on the web either, but in other apps as well, that I know that if I want to navigate to the next heading, I can just perform a two-finger flick right and a two-finger flick left to navigate to the previous one. It’s one of the best customizations I’ve made to voiceover.
Now, let’s talk about the big one, for me anyway, which is the Braille issues in iOS 17 that are causing some people not to be able to use their Braille displays effectively depending on the Braille display. Devon Prater is writing in and he has sent this after iOS 17 developer Beta 6, the latest one, has been released. He says, “I’m experiencing the iOS 17 Braille bug with my NLS eReader and APH Chameleon 20, and it’s gotten worse. Now even if I restart the device, Braille doesn’t come back. I’m hoping this just means that they’ve patched out the Braille support as they work on a fix, but I’m not holding my breath.
Ironically, if iOS 17’s release still has this bug, I’ll probably jump back to Android and get a pixel this time instead of a Samsung since Samsung’s talkback is usually at least six months out of date. At least with Talkback 14, I can plug my eReader into the phone and get stable Braille. No, there’s no auto-scroll and turning pages while panning only works in Google Playbooks, but it’s a respect thing.
If Apple thinks so lowly of us that they’ll blatantly disregard a critical Braille bug, whether it be due to lack of resources or otherwise, and Google’s Braille is woefully underdeveloped, but still usable as a basic solution and stable at that, then there’s something I think the community can discuss about both accessibility team’s ability to create a stable product. I’ve looked at the update logs for iOS betas and there is no mention of this Braille issue, so DeafBlind beta testers don’t even know this is going to happen before they update. Apple didn’t learn from the Apple Watchgate.
Devin continues, “In iOS 17, Apple added a new way for Braille users to open an app. I’d much rather see Braille bugs fixed than yet another new feature built on a shaky foundation because now that whole structure has collapse. With Braille, somewhat even more so than speech, stability is critical.” Thanks, Devin. Actually, the new Braille feature is cool if we can get it all working, and the idea is that you can press enter from the home screen and then type the partial name of an app. I really like that feature and it’s analogous to what you can do with Braille screen input, actually. That’s nice if we can just get these issues sorted out.
Now, I’ve been working several back channels, and I know others have as well, and I am quietly confident that we might see a fix to these issues in iOS 17 developer Beta 7. Now, if the current cadence is followed, that will be the beta that drops for developers on the day that this episode is made public. It will be a few days after it is available to Plus subscribers. I might be overly optimistic, but I’m hoping that the next release actually gets Braille working for those who have been affected by these issues.
I have heard now from two sources completely independent of each other that Apple knows about it, has fixed it, and that that fix will be rolled out quite shortly, so that’s great. Thanks to everybody who contributed to that, both in terms of raising awareness of it with Apple and to the Apple engineers for getting on this and taking care of it before the release goes public. It would have caused significant chaos. Now, we’re not there yet. I am hopeful that my sources are correct. We’ll just have to be vigilant and see what happens next.
Living Blindfully is brought to you in part by Aira. That’s the service that offers professionally trained agents to give you sighted assistance anytime, anywhere. It’s good to see Aira now being offered as an accommodation in an increasing number of workplaces. There are so many ways that this can be useful from getting passed and inaccessible website, to navigating an unfamiliar building, to have someone read you a piece of paper, and even take notes on that document, sending it to you later.
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Let’s talk about the SensePlayer 2.0 firmware. Christopher Wright starts us off with a very comprehensive email. He says, “Here are my initial thoughts on the new SensePlayer update. As I expected, navigation in third-party apps isn’t quite as efficient as the first-party ones like the media player. You have to use left and right arrow to go through items just like you do when using Smart Connect or swiping on an Android or iOS device. You can use up and down to move between controls and grit items that are directly above or below the current one, which works well in apps like Bard.
I like the approach of using the app installer to quickly download apps that are known to work well, and I assume the list will be updated as time goes on. It also makes it super easy to get up and running, particularly for our less techy homo-sapiens. Currently, you have access to many popular services, such as, Bard, Audible, Apple Music, Netflix, Spotify, Pandora, Skype, and Zoom, just to name a few. I’ve only played with Netflix and Audible thus far.
The one thing I’m still curious about is how will apps be updated. Perhaps the app installer can do it, but we’ll have to wait and find out. Chrome and eSpeaker also in the installer. From what I’ve been able to figure out, Chrome is used to allow you to log in to various services, such as Amazon and Bard, while eSpeakers necessary in apps like Bard and TEAMtalk that have some self-voicing capabilities. In most cases, the device will continue using the vocalizer voices you’ve set in the sense interface. I wish you could switch to an Android TTS engine like eSpeak in the sense interface as that would make the device much more responsive when navigating.
I’ve tested a few third-party apps. The TEAMtalk conferencing system, a package of casino games called Pontes Game Zone, and the system information app CPU-Z work well. I found a website called APKMonk that appears to have many APK files for popular apps. Anything using Google Play services such as YouTube immediately crashes. I also believe anything that tries to log in to Google will fail as well.
I’ve worked around this by installing the Amazon Appstore and then installing a YouTube player from the store that seems to be a method of accessing the YouTube website. The problem with this is that it’s very clunky because it’s a mobile web interface, but I was able to search for and play videos on the device. I wonder if it would be possible to use the YouTube support from the Fire TV.
Amazon somehow allows you to browse and even sign in to your account without Google Play services. If it’s proprietary to Amazon, I understand why it wouldn’t be possible. There are other limitations as well. Anything that wants to access location services such as Amazon’s soup drinker won’t be able to do so, and you may also get errors when loading apps. Let’s say they can’t function without Google Play services.
Sometimes these messages can be ignored, and you can still use apps with limited functionality, sometimes you can’t. It’s all about experimentation for the more technically inclined among us. I still need to try Prime Video. It may even be possible to install Google Play services in the Play Store just like you can on the Fire tablet, but I haven’t tried that yet.
Ultimately, I ended up resetting the device back to factory conditions after doing some experimentation. It’s possible using a specific button in a specific circumstance, but I won’t mention it here because I understand why it’s not listed anywhere obvious. You should not do this unless you understand the ramifications of a factory reset, which obviously resets and deletes everything. Contact HIMS support, they’ll tell you as long as you explain you’re savvy enough to understand what that means. I was quite surprise because I thought they would simply refuse to give me the information.
This is a very exciting little device, and I look forward to the future. I still hope we get Braille keypad input down the road. I’m a little curious if more apps are available on the model with a camera, but I’m not going to buy one to find out. It may be possible to connect a webcam via USB and use apps like Lookout, Envision, or OneStep Reader. I’m enjoying my toy. Boys and their toys, right?” Apparently right. Thank you very much for that, Christopher.
As a result of the SensePlayer firmware 2.0, the obtaining of APK files is the latest obsession in bits of the blind community. Aaron Lindson is writing in to help us out further on this. He says, “Hi, Jonathan and Living Blindfully listeners. To download APKs for SensePlayer owners, either use APKMirror or APKPure websites. Aaron further reminds us, apps that use Google Play services to retrieve or store information won’t work with the SensePlayer. The cost of licensing the SensePlayer as a certified device for play services use is very expensive. However, apps that don’t require play services such as Google, Lookout, and Envision work quite well.”
There you go, Christopher. It apparently does work all right with a camera. “Some apps like Bard are self-voicing, so please download the eSpeak TTS before attempting to run the Bard app, in particular. As the play services would require knowledge of purchased voices, other synth apps like Acapella can’t be used, I’m sorry to say. However, the speed and accuracy of Lookout on the SensePlayer OCR is incredible. Well worth the money. Not to mention the Smart Connect feature that I use on a daily basis when my iPhone isn’t connected to a Braille display.”
It gets the thumbs up from Rebecca Skipper. She says, “I have to commend HIMS for their approach here. I find that the Bard and Audible apps work great, though, the streams interface is easier to learn. Finding APKs can be daunting, though. I’m amazed at the fact that HIMS has included Zoom and Skype in their list.” It’s very interesting to see this rollout, isn’t it? Because it’s like a hybrid for people who want basic functionality and buttons.
They’ve got that with the SensePlayer functionality built-in, and then they may be able to branch out over time and perhaps increase their tech-savviness. This is definitely fascinating to watch roll out.
Direct from HIMS, Jenny Axler has written in with some additional comments. “There is a little bit of crossover in terms of what we’ve heard from other listeners, but this is a good way to recap this section, and there’s some new information as well.” She says, “One, eSpeak is present to handle only those items in various accessible apps that insist on self-voicing.
Anything that Google accessibility would normally handle can also be handled in our screen reader, thus is spoken using the user’s chosen nuanced voice, as is everything on the internal system. For example, in BARD Mobile, the speed controls, and rewind and fast forward increments are spoken by eSpeak. However, all other controls and information within the app are spoken by your nuance voice. In apps like Audible and BBC Sounds, everything is spoken by the nuance voice used in the main system.
In general, the only things eSpeak handles are the special self-voicing controls sometimes included in apps specifically designed for the visually impaired. As we are not able to include Google TTS, we needed to offer something that could cover these situations, but it only steps in when it needs to, and cannot even be chosen as one’s main TTS for the unit. Two, while it is true that side-loading is possible and that many are experimenting with various applications, we do also offer an installer for various popular applications, like BARD Mobile, Audible, Apple Music, Sero, Dolphin EasyReader, Dropbox, Spotify, Netflix, Skype, Now with AI Chat, and Zoom.
This is a simple connection to a file server, thus, the app installer will remain dynamic as we can add or remove applications at any time, update the versions of the apps that are present, et cetera. While it currently contains only 16 applications, we will continue to grow the installer as we test and discover additional applications that are especially compatible with the SensePlayer’s general purpose and that work without many limitations related to the lack of Google services.
This is not meant to be an Android smart device replacement, it is a multimedia and communications device, and the apps we include in the installer are generally meant to expand and enhance that purpose. At the same time, we don’t want to limit users to only those apps that we have deemed acceptable enough for the installer. However, we have made it very clear in the documentation that workarounds may be necessary and support may be limited for those things that users do experiment with. Yes, there has been a lot of experimenting, and no doubt this will continue.
We know this is a bit of a unique service model, and we fully expect to learn a great deal between now and the next upgrade in terms of how to handle it in a way that remains simple and intuitive but continues to remain open enough for advanced users with individual interests.” Thanks very much as always for writing in, Jenny. Great information. Much appreciated.
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We’ve had an interesting wee discussion going over the last few episodes, where people have been recommending different white cane manufacturers and techniques. As part of that discussion, we had a listener recommend a company called DCanes and the quality canes that they produce. He said in his email that they were made of titanium.
Well, Alicia has contacted me because she also loves the canes from DCanes, but didn’t realize they were manufacturing titanium canes. She wrote to the proprietor of DCanes, who has actually said, “No, we are not.” Everybody agrees, at least the two people who’ve spoken of the company, that they make great canes, but the manufacturer himself confirms they are not made of titanium.
Beth: Hello, guys. Beth from Virginia Beach here. I have a few things to say about the cane. First of all, let me remind you, I think I put this in the other novel that I wrote you some time back. I use sighted guide the vast, vast, vast majority of the time. When I do use the cane, I use the constant contact method. For one thing, I cannot stand the tap tap tap sound. It has always driven me wild, but I still have the problem, I have never, and I mean never ever been able to feel down curbs or one downstep of any sort with a cane, which has given me a lifelong fear of steps, and I had that even before I started using the cane after falling down steps at a very young age multiple times.
The idea of little kids using canes, I’m not in favor of. I wonder if there will be a study someday of people who later get nerve damage in their arms or their hands after having started using a cane at such an early age. My nerve damage is nothing compared to some other people. Some people have numb fingers and I don’t. My nerve damage is in both elbows, and I’m sure it’s because I used the Perkins Brailler to a great degree when I was a kid. I understand that each keystroke takes 20 pounds of pressure on the model, which is not electric.
I also did typing with my medical transcription career. I really hate to see kids using their arms and hands to such a degree with a cane starting out early. The cane, to me, has never– and the dog, much as I love dogs, I did try dogs, and neither thing has been something that I felt comfortable with continuing to use.
Raz: Hi, Jonathan. This is Raz in Colorado, USA. Oh, and also hello to fellow Living Blindfully listeners. Regarding hearing in noisy places, this is not something that can work for everybody. It’s not like a hearing aid solution or anything, but I found sets of earplugs that help me out whenever there’s just too much background noise and it’s a little bit tough. I guess, these are designed to both protect your hearing and to funnel conversation into your ears.
I have two different sets. The ones I use a lot when I’m like on the bus or anything are called the Loop Engage earplugs. They have a little ring in them. You put an earplug in as normal, but it’s got a little ring that funnels the conversation into your ears. It’s a little tricky to describe. They feel interesting. I think they were about $35 US. Definitely worth the price, I think. When I’m having trouble out and about, they come in really handy.
The other set I have also by Loop, L-O-O-P, are the Loop Experience earplugs, and these are heavy-duty style. These I’ve worn at concerts. They allowed me to hear everything just fine while I was at the concert, but I didn’t damage my hearing, so that was great. I will say, I’ve been finding that the Loop Engage earplugs actually come in really handy when I go to see the movies these days because, for some reason, they have the volume just cranked up painfully high at the movie theater.
Even with the audio description headset on, I can’t take it, so I find myself putting in those Engage earplugs when I go out to the movies, when I’m at a restaurant, when I’m on the bus. Sometimes when I’m just having a rough day and I can’t handle noise outside my own home or the air conditioner, I will put those in. That may be something that folks who are just finding themselves overwhelmed might find useful.
Anyways, thank you very much for your podcast. I do like the change of the name, Living Blindfully. I ended up subscribing because I do value what you contribute. I’ve found a lot of great resources and things through the podcast and it’s a fantastic resource. Thank you for everything you do. Thank you, everybody, who listens and phones in and emails and hopefully, these parts might help somebody.
Jonathan: Well, thank you, and I hope it does too. I did want to report back while we’re talking about this subject on the iHeard app, this was something that Robin Christopherson told us about in last week’s episode. I hadn’t heard of iHeard before Robin mentioned it. I said to Bonnie, “We have to try this.” We toddled off to a cafe and it wasn’t as noisy a cafe as I might’ve liked [laughs], which is ironic because I’m typically asking Bonnie, “Do you know of any fairly quiet cafes where we can actually hear each other talk and those old fashioned concepts?”
It was mildly noisy, and I got this iHeard app out because I’ve got a 30-day trial and you can have one too if you download it, you get a 30-day trial. I switched this app on and first of all, I put it into directional mode, and I positioned the phone so that the microphone iHeard was using in directional mode was facing Bonnie.
It was pretty amazing actually. It was like sitting next to her in a quiet room and it was like nobody else was there. It was quite eerie in some ways. You can adjust that, so that’s what happened when the slider was set to 100%. Then you can take the slider back a little bit and you get a bit more crowd noise. I found actually that just to get a little bit of ambience from the cafe, about 75%-70% seemed right for me.
I then also switched it into the omnidirectional mode and that allowed me to hear the waiter pretty well when the waiter came by and was talking about some of the specials on the menu. I would like to play with this some more with larger groups and in noisy environments. What I can say at this stage, certainly for certain situations, namely one-on-one, it is working absolutely brilliantly far better than any hearing aid technology that I have.
Now, a reminder, this will work with made-for-iPhone hearing aids. In my case, I switched my hearing aid microphones off and obviously, you lose directionality when you do that, but it was pretty cool to be able to hear so clearly in that kind of environment. You can do both. You can keep your hearing aid microphones on, but that does give you a kind of echo because there’s just enough latency for you to be aware of that. Certainly with the MFI hearing aids that I have.
That was the one disconcerting thing. One thing I noticed is that when I talked, there was just enough latency for me to feel myself slowing down because it sounded a bit weird when I talked and it’s probable that if I use this more I’ll just get used to that. It’s worth it to have that kind of hearing in those sorts of environments.
The app is not just restricted to or marketed to hearing aid wearers. As Robin mentioned, if you’ve got some really good earbuds, this could work for you as well. It’s iHeard, all one word and as we mentioned last week, it’s available for both iOS and Android. I was pretty jazzed when I got back from my meal.
I wrote to the company that makes the app and I said to them, “Dudes.” I said, “Dudes, you need to come on the podcast and have a chat about this because this is really cool.” I would say also that I found the buttons where you switch modes from very directional to omnidirectional a little bit ambiguous and it could do with just a little bit of accessibility work.
It’s not a showstopper, but it could just be improved a little bit. I haven’t heard back from them yet, so maybe they don’t want to have a chat with us on the podcast. I hope we can get them on because it’s very intriguing technology and it goes to show what’s possible now using AI and analysis with the kind of power that you’re carrying around in your pocket now. Much more power than a hearing aid can provide for determining what is noise and what is relevant.
If this is a problem for you, whether you are a hearing aid wearer or not, definitely this iHeard app is worth checking out. If you do and you take it places, I’d be really interested to know how you find it. Get in touch on this or any other thing, email@example.com is the email. Attach an audio clip or write it down, firstname.lastname@example.org, and we have that number in the United States as well that you can phone, 864-60-MOSEN, that’s 864-606-6736.
Voiceover: If you’re a member of Living Blindfully Plus, thanks for helping to keep the podcast viable. If you haven’t yet subscribed, why not do it today? Get access to episodes three full days ahead of their release to the public. You’ll get advanced notice of some of our interviews so you can have a say in what we ask, and you’ll help keep the podcast viable by helping to fund the team to do their work.
Our guarantee to you is that everyone who works on the podcast is blind or low vision, so we’re keeping it in the community. Find out more, visit livingfully.com/plus. That’s livingblindfully.com/plus. Pay what you can. It all helps. Thanks for your support of Living Blindfully Plus.
Jonathan: Now let’s sit down with an eclair and say bon jour and comment allez vous to Budapest. What? Yes, it’s Peter in Budapest, and he says, ‘Hi Jonathan. I would like to seek advice from your audience regarding how could I join a general discussion French mailing list for blind subscribers?” Of course, he says, “I tried to find one on the internet, but I haven’t. What seems to be available were a list for parents raising blind children and another that gave me the impression of being a paternalistic forum for blind people, but about blind people for sighted family members.”
The time may have passed when mailing lists were a popular way of communicating in a group of people, but I’m somehow stuck with it. I’m not on Facebook, Twitter, Mastodon, or whatever newer places of public discussion exist. My goal is to make my French speaking skills a bit up to date.
For 26 years I’ve been reading novels and articles in French using Braille. I have no problems with understanding stories and news, but my capabilities are limited to this method of processing information. I have a hard time when I’m listening to the news or audiobooks. My CPU on the maximum speed, I only manage to understand 50% or 60% of the text. It gets even worse when instead of receiving information passively, I need to phrase sentences using the vocabulary and apply grammatical rules properly.
My other weakness is the everyday language. When I’m listening to a French rap singer, for example, Ninho, that’s N-I-N-H-O, I practically understand nothing. I thought joining a blind general discussion group was a good idea because this way I could be dealing with an area that’s familiar to me anyway. It can be interesting to get to know other blind people’s lives in France, Belgium, Canada, or whatever part of the world.
Thanks for putting my audible traffic lights demonstration on the podcast. I hope the audience survived my Hungarian accent. At least they are recovering. This time I wanted to give a chance to my new shiny professional voice clone that would do the job. Unfortunately, the speech that ElevenLabs produces is somehow degenerating from the beginning slowly towards the end of the recording. When it gets to the end it sounds terribly strange. Maybe I’m doing something wrong, but I ran out of patience playing with this undoubtedly special and innovative tool.
Jonathan, I’m proud to be part of the Living Blindfully community, even as such a less significant way as subscribing to Living Blindfully Plus. Thank you for creating and maintaining this international arena of thoughts, views, information, and opinions in our community. All the best from Budapest, Hungary, says Peter. Well, good luck, Peter.
I hope that somebody will come to your aid and tell you about a general blind French discussion list that you can subscribe to. Thank you also for the very significant act of subscribing to Living Blindfully Plus, it all adds up, it all helps, and it makes it significantly easier to maintain this podcast. I even get to watch an occasional thing on Netflix these days because I’ve got a bit of time, so thank you.
Regarding your comment about ElevenLabs, I have seen it do this and it generally happens when there is some weird glitch in some of the samples that you’ve provided. The cleaner the audio you can give it, the better it’s going to be. No blemishes, no clicks, preferably no echo, really good quality audio talking right in, say to a USB mic or headset, make sure you’re not rattling that headset. It can be quite sensitive to any blemish at all.
I am thinking that what’s causing this is some sample, some little bit of speech that it’s drawing from that’s upsetting the whole caboodle.
Time to go to Australia to hear from one of our legends. It’s none other than Peter Sumner, whose voice I remember hearing very regularly as a child. He says, “Hello Jonathan. It’s Pete Sumner here from Melbourne, Australia. Though we’ve spoken on and off over many years, I think this was the first time I’ve written to you in Braille with an uppercase B. To introduce myself to Living Blindfully listeners, I should mention that I’m now a totally blind senior with moderate to severe hearing loss.
My wife Pearl is also vision impaired and has severe hearing loss in one ear. We are both avid followers of your very informative podcast and thank you and your team for the broad range of opinions and helpful topics you present week by week to the worldwide blindness community. We particularly appreciate your segments on the difficulties faced by blind people with multiple sensory deprivation and who would benefit greatly from technically advanced hearing aids.
I’m responding to your invitation in a recent podcast for blind hearing aid users to share their experience of endeavoring to maintain their independence, social communication, safety, and well-being with this extra challenge. I’d like to tell Living Blindfully listeners about a recent discovery we made concerning the provision of hearing aids for blind people in Australia. It’s a little-known government program that allows eligible blind people access to a broader and more advanced range of fully subsidized hearing devices.
Pearl and I have been eligible for this government assistance program for well over a decade. Yet we only found out about it a month or so ago through a chance tip-off that led us to ask the right questions where it mattered most. Prior to this, we had relied on advice from commercial audiologists who failed to tell us of the special government hearing services especially provided for blind people with significant hearing loss. I’m sure there may be similar assistive programs for blind people with hearing impairment in other countries as well.
I hope my sharing of our experience will encourage Living Blindfully listeners with multiple sensory deprivation to investigate the full range of services available in their country and to persist in asking the right questions of public health agencies until the right answers are found. In Australia, the Federal Department of Health and Aged Care runs what is called the Hearing Services Program. This program provides a subsidy voucher of about $1,500 to go towards the cost of needed hearing aids for any citizen over the age of 50.
The commercial audiologist we went to told us about this subsidy and applied for it on our behalf. As the advanced aids we required cost about $8,000, we were required to make up the difference after the subsidy was obtained. This was a significant amount of money for both Pearl and me, but we felt that these hearing aids were essential for us and so the extra funds were scraped together and duly paid to the audiology practice.
What we were not told and did not know to ask about was that the same government Department of Health had another rarely publicized program for people like us with multiple sensory loss. This program has an obscure name and provides special hearing services and advanced hearing aids, which were government funded for blind seniors contending with significant hearing loss.
This program is called the Community Service Obligations Program or the CSO Program for short. The CSO Program is delivered only by a government audiology service called Hearing Australia, which has a number of centers across the country. These centers are different to the more numerous commercial audiology practices that are found in most towns and cities.
About a month ago, a blind friend happened to mention to Pearl that she had heard recently that the government had some kind of program to assist older people with multiple sensory deprivation. We inquired immediately with the Department of Health and were informed that this support was indeed available and that we were probably eligible for it and had been eligible for the past decade or more.
We then made an appointment to attend our nearest Hearing Australia Center and quickly became clients with full access to their special hearing services and technology. They listened carefully to our explanations of our indoor and outdoor hearing needs and subsequently devised better hearing aid settings for when we’re out working with our guide dogs. They adjusted our Unitron aids for optimal pairing with our iPhones, TV, and other devices we use.
We found they even made home visits if necessary and all without charge. The special service is also resolving an intermittent issue Pearl has been having with her hearing aid recharger. We’ve been astonished that none of the blindness or deafness peak bodies or agencies in Australia seem to know about this obscure government program. Even though it was set up to provide blind citizens with significant hearing loss or for that matter, hard-of-hearing citizens with significant sight loss with the essential support that they need.
As far as we can discover, there is no reference to this service on any of the agency websites or in any of their literature. We are making it our goal now to correct this glaring omission and to encourage the Department of Health to do more to publicize this immensely valuable but half-hidden community service obligations program with blind seniors.
Your reading this letter, Jonathan, on Living Blindfully, we know will be an important step in the right direction. Thank you again for giving us all the opportunity to share our discoveries and experiences that may be of benefit to many others. Thank you, Pete. It’s a pleasure to hear from you and I’m glad to know that that program exists over there. What a wonderful thing that is.
Voiceover: Mastodon is the social network where the Living Blindfully Community is most active. Join us there for conversation about the most recent episode and items of news to help you live your best life with blindness or low vision. All you have to do from any Mastodon instance is follow email@example.com. That’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jonathan: We haven’t talked about Mastodon for a wee while. I did want to mention a very nice feature that has been added to Mona for Mastodon. In episode 227 of this podcast, we devoted it to a comprehensive tutorial of this app, which is available for iOS, iPadOS, and Mac OS. They’ve added something that sounds a bit little and inconsequential, but it’s made a big difference for me, and that is that they now allow you to invert most of the timelines.
What does that mean in practice? Well, if you have read over the years my top 10 wishlists for iOS, I don’t think I did one this year. iOS is a pretty mature product now. It might be quite hard to find 10 things, but one wish that has not been granted is my suggestion for iOS that they allow a reverse say “All function or read all,” I think they call it in iOS. What I mean by that is that when you read continuously, voiceover will read from the top of the screen to the bottom, and then hopefully if the circumstances permitted, it will continue to scroll and that’s absolutely logical and the right thing to do in most situations.
When you get into certain social media apps like Twitter, when it was good and before it became X and all that kind of malarkey or for that matter Mastodon, what I want to do is read the posts in the order that they occurred.
It’s never made sense to me to read posts like tweets or they used to be called tweets. What are they called now in X? Posts, I think, aren’t they? They’re also called posts there, but it’s made no sense to me to read those sorts of social networks in most recent to least recent order because often you see things evolving, actually developing stories, particularly if you follow a lot of journalists, for example.
For a good app, in the old days where we had really good third-party Twitter apps, it was no problem for me to do exactly this, but I couldn’t set a continuous reading function going. If I wanted to catch up with tweets or whatever on the treadmill, I’d have to have one hand on the phone flicking around or actually to develop some pretty cool options with voice control to get that done.
As your cardio kicks in and you’re finding it difficult to breathe, it’s annoying to have to give voice control to your phone. Anyway, Mona has taken care of this really well by allowing you to invert your timeline. What that means is that at the top of the screen, there’s the least recent toot, and at the bottom of the screen there’s the most recent toot, and that means that you can use voiceovers continuous read feature by default.
That gesture is a two-finger flick down. On your keyboard. You would press the voiceover key with the letter A and just continuously read the posts. When you get to a point where you might want to reply, you can just perform a two-finger tap to stop the continuous reading and focus will stay where you were, and you can reply if you want to, but this means that you can catch up on your Mastodon while you’re doing other things.
It’s brilliant. Just a little thing, but it makes a big difference for me anyway. You might want to give that a try. If you don’t have Mona yet, it really is an app worth supporting that app developer. It’s just one individual and he’s very responsive to the requests of voiceover users and our feedback, and it makes Mastodon a great place to be. There’s obviously lots of other buzz around at the moment about other social media networks.
You’ll notice that Blue Sky had its very brief moment in the sun. That’s fizzled out because Mark Zuckerberg has got this new social network called Threads and for a while, everybody was talking about that. People seem to be talking about it a bit less now though. I think what those discussions overlook is the fundamental point that when you become a publisher and you publish that content on a proprietary platform like that, you are giving your content away to people who can do all sorts of bad things.
We’ve seen how Twitter has become increasingly difficult to access, killing all the third-party apps bar one, which seems to be flying under the radar at the moment, and interestingly enough, that is the Spring app, the app that is developed by the author of Mona for Mastodon. We also way back on Living Blindfully when it was Mosen at Large, did a pretty comprehensive review of Spring as well. Brilliant app, that continues to work.
It’s this really exciting fight, battle of wits that’s going on there. Never mind about Zuckerberg and Musk and their cage fight. This is a battle of wits between Twitter or X and the Mona developer and it keeps coming back. It will not die, which is quite good, but we can’t depend on that. All you then have left really that’s going to be guaranteed to last are the official X apps, including their website.
There are some serious bugs. It’s quite difficult to scroll a long way through X on your iPhone. You can make a chronological timeline pop up and scroll through, but you can only scroll so far before you hit a voiceover bug and it’s very difficult to scroll any further. Not to mention the fact that obviously if a company has shown such disregard for disabled people by firing their entire accessibility team, is it something we want to be a part of?
This is something that NFB made very clear in the resolution that it passed in the convention.
We do see some exciting things happening on Mastodon, including the BBC, realizing what’s going on, understanding the dangers of proprietary platforms like X and Threads. They have set up their own little Mastodon instance and you can now follow some BBC accounts including BBC Radio 4 and a few others. There is a slowly, very slowly increasing number of journalists on Mastodon and that’s very good. Of course, Mastodon is but one of the options for the Fediverse, the federated social networking open standards platform. If I don’t mention that then people are going to ping me for not mentioning it. There are other things as well.
Reddit is another example of course of a social platform that can go badly wrong when someone gets a bad idea. There are now Reddit alternatives in the Fediverse as well. It’s not just about Mastodon, it’s not just about the experience, it’s about the principle that we must own our content and that ultimately the people should control social networking and the public discourse.
If we’d taken a stand on this a bit earlier, we may not be in the quagmire w’re in at the moment regarding algorithms amplifying horrible conspiracy theories and nonsense to people who are all too eager to consume them. I also find it interesting to look at those organizations and companies that have their fingers on the pulse of the blind community to the extent that they understand a good number of us who engage regularly on social media have gone there, have gone to Mastodon.
I’m also intrigued by those who don’t seem to get it, they seem to have bought into this narrative that, oh, Mastodon might be a passing phase or it’s complicated, or I don’t get it. There are many blind people who would be happy to explain it to anybody who doesn’t get it. It’s cool how many of the sponsors of this podcast are on Mastodon. Ira is on Mastodon, which is great. We also have Pneuma solutions. Of course, they are there and others too.
We’ve got NV Access who I believe were the first technology company for blind people to get on Mastodon. They really do have their fingers on the pulse and they got it, so well done to them. It’s great to be able to keep up with Vispero, Freedom Scientific in particular, they are posting to Mastodon. There are others as well.
What I find interesting and actually really sad is some consumer organizations are not on Mastodon. I’m thinking why is this, isn’t it a bit– I don’t want to be too strong about this, but isn’t it a bit morally outrageous that you have consumer organizations posting frequently on a platform that fired its entire accessibility team, yet they are nowhere to be found on a platform where blind people have moved in significant number, at least those who are frequently engaging with social media.
I don’t understand that and what disappoints me is that I founded ACB Radio in 1999 and the culture was very let’s embrace this, let’s go for it. Let’s be innovative, let’s lead the pack. There was a view back then that ACB was cutting edge. NFB was stodgy. Now it seems like the reverse has happened, at least in the context of this issue, at least in the context of social media.
I remember raising with several people connected with ACB before the convention. Are you guys going to get on Mastodon? Particularly in time for the convention because, by this stage, NFB was on there with great gusto. They didn’t just set up a Mastodon account, which would’ve been sufficient. I think people would’ve been happy with that. They actually have their own instance and they’re thinking about really innovative ways to use that instance.
I’m sure that discussion is ongoing but they realized, look, there has been a significant turning of the tide here and we need to get on with it. They got on with it. The implication of that was that when everybody was looking at the #NFB23, there was activity there on Mastodon, there was a little bit on Twitter, so NFB didn’t abandon that, but they realized that this was the future and they made a statement to that effect publicly as well as by way of resolution at the convention.
Now, I said to ACB people that I know, “When are you guys doing this? When are you getting on Mastodon?” I kept hearing, oh, we’re discussing it or we are thinking about it or we’ve formed a committee or something bizarre. The convention came and went and there was no ACB official presence on Mastodon. I don’t think there was too much activity discussing the ACB convention apart from one or two people who mentioned they were presenting there or that they went there or whatever.
It was pretty low key and there was no official presence, so okay, I thought, well, maybe they’ll all get together at the convention and sort this out. It’s a shame that they didn’t make it for this convention, but surely they’ll be there soon. Here we are now towards the end of August and there’s still no official ACB presence on Mastodon. I find that absolutely extraordinary.
You may well even find it deplorable. I couldn’t possibly comment, but it is extraordinary to me that on Twitter or X, still find it very strange calling it X, you’ve got ACB. Are they mainly tweeting to sighted people? Is that what they’re about? Because a lot of blind people have abandoned Twitter because they had to, their apps were nuked. The Windows apps, TweeseCake, TW Blue, those sorts of things that goneburger.
People don’t really want to use the website very much and there are as I say some issues with the iOS apps. Who are they, if you will, broadcasting to when they continue to persist with Twitter but completely ignore Mastodon after all these months? Really, the mass exodus to Mastodon began in November. It was over nine months ago. There are various ways that you can dip your toe in the Fediverse water. You don’t have to set up your own instance.
It would take all of five minutes to set up an account called ACB@ and then you choose the instance. It could be mastodon.social, it could be any number of places, it doesn’t take any time at all. Then you connect it with your social media tools. Buffer, for example, is one of those tools that’s actually reasonably accessible and allows you to post to multiple places at once. We use it on Living Blindfully.
At the very least, surely it’s a courtesy to say, we realize a lot of blind people feel strongly about this. A lot of blind people have gone to Mastodon now, we need to be there. Isn’t that a part of a consumer organization being accountable to its membership?
Then if you want to set up your own instance a little bit later when there’s time or whatever, or when you’ve got the infrastructure sorted out, and that can take some time for all sorts of technical reasons depending on how much control you want to have over the instance. I completely get that. You can migrate that account to the new instance when it’s ready but to just sit there and do nothing and just keep tweeting away on a discredited platform that has shown contempt for blind and other disabled people is an extraordinary response or lack of response.
It must be something about the letters A, B, and C because it’s not just ACB that’s doing this, it’s also Blind Citizens Australia. I used to really enjoy their posts because there’s so much great innovation going on in Australia, but I seldom check into X anymore. It’s become a toxic platform and it’s become a very difficult platform to access. The only news I get now from Blind Citizens Australia is their very excellent New Horizons podcast, which comes out every week and I enjoy catching up with that, but I do miss the posts. The social media posts and I don’t understand why Blind Citizens Australia isn’t on Mastodon either because certainly throughout the pandemic they showed a commendable use of all kinds of technology.
They had a bunch of really cool Zoom meetings. I believe they still do actually, although I have no idea because I can’t read about them anymore unless I try and make my way through Twitter. That’s not as accessible as it used to be, but they have in recent times really embraced technology in a meaningful way, and yet I see a number of blind Australians contributing to the Fediverse, being on Mastodon, and they are not being broadcast to either by Blind Citizens Australia on Mastodon anymore.
There are also some technology companies who are not on Mastodon and it’s extraordinary to me as well. In vision, I really miss hearing about them. I do get email from them from time to time, but are they broadcasting to sighted people now on X telling them how marvelous they are but neglecting their blind customers? Why on earth isn’t Envision on Mastodon by this stage? Also, Access Mind and Orbit Research who are doing some great work and we had them on the podcast last week, I don’t believe I found them on Mastodon either.
I’m thinking why? Do all these companies not appreciate the poor PR signal that this sends? That so many Blind people feel betrayed by Twitter and yet these people just keep on playing like the dance band on The Titanic.
Voiceover: Has something on the show got you thinking? Share those thoughts with the rest of the Living Blindfully community. Send us an email. You can include an audio attachment recorded on your computer or smartphone so we can hear your voice, or you can write it down. The address is email@example.com. That’s firstname.lastname@example.org or phone our listener line in the USA 864-60-MOSEN. That’s 864-606-6736. Let your voice be heard.
Jonathan: Rob Powell is writing in from the UK. He says, “Hi Jonathan and all the Living Blindfully community. I enjoy your Living Blindfully podcast though Office Spellchecker doesn’t like the final word of the title very much.” Wow, whip it into shape, Rob, whip it into shape. Add “blindfully” to the dictionary. That’s what I’ve done. Now it doesn’t come up with a spelling error when I use it.
Rob continues, “I’m a bit of a gadget man so all the reviews and demonstrations of the technology really float my boat. I will normally send you voice recordings, but having written once or twice before, I want to make sure this gets to you. In addition, I’m really struggling at the moment learning REAPER. I’m transferring from GoldWave. I find the older I get the harder it is to learn new software.
I’ve just, following your articles, acquired the Vocaster and I can see that it’s a great product, though I’m still at the frustrated stage at the moment. Are there any training materials for REAPER that you could recommend?” Oh, my word Rob, there is a plethora, plethora of REAPER resources that I could tell you about. Some of them include a jump-off point for many REAPER resources is the REAPER accessibility Wiki. You can go there by going to repearaccessibility.com.
Among other things on that page, you’ll find a link to the Reapers Without Peepers email list, which is extremely active and a lot of REAPER users are on there. You may also want to subscribe to the podcast creator’s email list, which does talk about REAPER from time to time in the context of creating audio material. You can send an email to email@example.com. That’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brian Hartgen from Hartgen Consultancy has recently updated his Reaping the Benefits audio tutorial. Again, very good, if you’re interested in using REAPER for spoken word material and you can find that as well as other Hartgen Consultancy products at hartgenconsultancy.com.
You can also go to repearteacher.com where there are fairly regular meetups via audio that discuss all aspects of REAPER. Finally, there are some introductory resources that you will be able to find at the globalvoice.info/reaper, and those are audio tutorials that you can download. These are free and they give you basic information about how to get started with important aspects of REAPER.
The good thing is that REAPER is very widely used in the blind community by both PC and Mac users. There’s plenty of help out there. It is a wonderful product and of course, we use REAPER to produce Living Blindfully. I really like it because it’s just so powerful and fun to use and it’s almost endless the things you can learn about it. There are still things that I’m learning about REAPER even though I’ve been using it for, I don’t know, eight years or so, maybe a bit more.
Rob continues, “I do, however, want to wade into the notetaker debate. I’ve just ordered a new BrailleSense 6 Mini, which I paid for personally, as opposed to getting any funding for it. I like devices that have Braille with a lowercase B at the heart of the device instead of it being an afterthought as it is with Apple and mainstream Android devices.
I suppose the difference is that one device accepts Braille; the other was built to be used with Braille. I will be using the BS, translate as you think fit,” says Rob, “with my iPhone. However, there are lots of things that I will be able to do more quickly with the BrailleSense as a standalone device. I can’t wait to be able to write an email with a Braille keyboard. I’ve been an iPhone user since 2009, and a Braille note-taker user since 1987. I started with the Versa Braille 2+ at uni. ”
See, I love the original Versa Braille, Rob. I didn’t like the spongy kind of keyboard that the Versa Braille 2 had. I felt that was a real regression personally. Anyway, it’s what you get used to. Man, those Versa Braille with the clunky old cassette drive, fun times.
He says, “I keep almost despite myself returning to Braille Notetakers despite having and being pretty competent with a Windows 11 laptop with JAWS.”
Don Breeder: Hi Jonathan and fellow listeners. This is Don Breeder from New York City wanting to give some thoughts about Notetakers. I am not a huge fan of Notetakers. I never have been, although I was a heavy user of the Braille when Speak when it was out many, many years ago, and I loved it. However, one major, major failing of Notetakers in the last 30 years has not been addressed, and so far, even the wonderful Adi Kushner hasn’t addressed this.
Although I know it’s well within their capacity to address this, and this is why I bring it up. The one failing that I have been griping about for 30 years with Notetakers. I’ve brought this up to Humanware several times. I’ve brought this up to HIMSS several times, the major players in the market. You cannot search across files for a string of text.
Now, why in heaven’s name would you call a device a Notetaker when you have no way to have an easy time of finding a note that you may have created six months ago? You don’t remember what file you put it in. Yes, all right, that’s a user failing, okay? A user failure, you don’t remember what file you might have put that note in, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
For you to find that note will take inordinate amounts of time because you can’t do a text search across all your files. I think there’s no excuse for that in this day and age. I really think that any Notetaker that doesn’t include that feature has no right to be called a Notetaker. What do I think some of the advantages of Notetakers are that make them so appealing? One is that they’re small. Two is that a lot of them when you turn them on, you’re instantly booted up and in the file where you last left off, some of them that’s a settable option.
I think those are terrific advantages and really make the ability to take a note very easy and very efficient. If you can’t find that note, then why bother? Adi for the Optima, which I’m very much looking forward to, you have utilities and windows to accomplish this task very easily, such as flying string, select, and of course, some free versions of grep. On Android devices, you have aGrep for Android. I think in Adi’s case, the Find string utility, or whatever, could be brought out to the Braille UI, as well as just running native in Windows to make it easier for users who want to run within the Braille UI to search across files for text. That’s a feature that was in the last run of the original Braille ‘n Speaks, and we haven’t seen it since. That’s a disgrace. Let’s go guys. “Thanks, Jonathan. You have a great, great podcast. You do an awesome job, and I really hope you’ll include this in next week’s podcast.”
Carolyn: Hi, Jonathan. It’s Carolyn here. Forgive the croaky voice. I’m still recovering from the belt of laryngitis and the winter bugs that I’ve had over the last few months. Anyway, just an update on my Google Home situation, for just a quick recap for people, because of updates that had happened back in late May, early June, my Google Home got disconnected from the network, hence I had to do a full reboot. In doing so, in resetting it, I was given the option of trying a male voice, and I decided, “Oh, I’d like to see what this male voice is like.” I decided that I’d do it, and I thought I could easily change it back to the original female voice if I don’t like it.
Wrong, that wasn’t as easy. I quickly discovered that while looking for the instructions on how to change it back when I wanted to that the app was not accessible. “Okay, the app’s not accessible. I need help in this area. I’ll contact Google Accessibility.” Google Accessibility didn’t want to know me. It’s a Google Home problem. I went to Google Home and I got a very helpful person who tried very, very hard. I did appreciate his efforts on the phone to help me out, but clearly it was a Google Accessibility issue. “I will refer you back to Google Accessibility.” I told him that Google Accessibility had bumped me to them so that he was to be aware of this. No, that was fine.
For the last few months, I have been going backwards and forwards between Google to try and get them to honor their service promises of contact either via email or via phone to get the problem sorted. I’ve even deleted my Google and reset it completely as a new device and the male voice still pops up and I do not get the option for the female voice. The latest attempt to contact Google and to talk to them about this, they told me to change the language settings, that in New Zealand, I don’t have the option to change the voice, so I need to change it to American English.
I thought, “Well, this is crazy because it wasn’t using American English to start with when I did change it,” but we’ll go with the flow and see what happens. No, I couldn’t do it because another update to the app has now hidden the language settings. I go back to them and said that this doesn’t work. Can you please tell me what your complaints process is because, frankly, I have had enough after three, nearly four months of trying to resolve this issue? I’ve heard nothing from Google. They will not tell me what their complaints process is. I’ve tried to find it, I cannot find it. If anybody knows what the complaints process is for Google and how to use it, I would really appreciate knowing that. I’ve just given up.
I’ve unplugged Google, I’ve put it away, and I’ve said that in my household Amazon is king because quite frankly, they are so much easier to communicate with. They are so much more helpful than Google has ever been in the last few months. I’m really sad about that considering that Google does have Google Accessibility through Be my eyes. To be perfectly honest, my experience with them, it’s not worth it, and I don’t know why they’re bothering to be there.
Jonathan: Thanks, Carolyn. For those who were listening at the time that Google announced their revamped Braille support, and I was trying to establish whether Braille HID was going to work over Bluetooth or not, you will recall the terrible experience I had with Google Accessibility, just getting a simple answer to a pretty straightforward question. I’m not surprised, but it’s disappointing, and there may be somebody who was listening from Google who may be able to help to escalate this. If that’s the case, please be in touch, email@example.com, if you do know of how to escalate something to a complaints level.
Obviously, Carolyn has really been shunted from pillar to post over this. Clearly, if she is a voiceover user and she’s not able to use the Google Home app to do what she needs to do, that is an Accessibility issue. There’s no ambiguity about that. For the Accessibility people to just fob her off to the Google Home team is entirely inappropriate in the first place.
This is sometimes what happens, that you get shunted from one department to another without resolution. As long as one department can think, “Oh, well, that’s one we can clear off our agenda,” they’re happy and the customer is not satisfied. Have you had similar experiences with Google Accessibility? Please feel free to share those as well, firstname.lastname@example.org. If anybody has any solution for Carolyn, we’d love to hear that too. Oh, but wait, there’s breaking news coming through.
Whoa, just as we go to press, Carolyn Pete says, “I have managed to solve my Google problem myself.” [applause] Whoa, look at you go, Carolyn. This morning she says There was an update to the Google Home app. I managed to find the language settings and change them to English US, then change the Google Voice back to the original voice. This area is colored so the Aussie voices listed as Sydney Blue. Then I tested it and it worked. I quickly changed the language back to English Australia, so I get the correct temperature reading and not Fahrenheit readings.” That’s a good outcome, Carolyn, but such a shame that it was an ordeal to get this thing resolved.
Transcripts of Living Blindfully are brought to you by Pneuma Solutions, a global leader in accessible cloud technologies on the web at pneumasolutions.com.
Alexander’s writing in on the subject of accessibility testing. He says, “I’ve been a JAWS beta tester since JAWS 14. Since 2020, I’ve worked for the Federal German monitoring body for accessibility in ICT. This organization was implemented as part of the WAD, Web Accessibility Directive, which each EU member state has to implement into their local laws. As Germany is organized as a country with 16 states, we have 17 monitoring bodies, one for each state and the federal one, which cares about accessibility of the public sector bodies on a federal level. We do tests for web pages and mobile applications. The WAD describes two test methods for this, a simple test method and an in-depth method.
As an accessibility standard, we have the EN 301 549, which has different clauses for different aspects or object types. A part of the EN is the WCAG 2.1 A and AA criteria, which we use for web pages and non-web documents and for some parts of mobile apps. As an add-on, we have the PDF/UA standard for PDF documents. I work at this organization as an accessibility consultant, so I’m doing tests and a lot of consulting. In your audio diary, you talked about a company called Access Desk, I think. You said that they think they focus on blindness issues. As you may know, I am blind myself, but as part of my work, I have to make sure that digital objects like webpages and mobile apps are accessible for everyone.
This means that I have to make sure that some requirements people may have are not standing against requirements others have.
Following the accessibility standards mentioned above, make sure this does not happen. The EN 301 549 and the WCAG standard have all user groups in mind who may need specific accessibility implementations. When doing accessibility tests for webpages and/or apps, I recommend that people follow the standard in order to make sure no user group is left out or at worst kicked out of business.
As a person with a disability, you may not be able to do a full test of an object. This makes sense as a blind person. You can only test things you can see with a screen reader. Things that are not shown by a screen reader cannot be tested by you. Also, the use of the keyboard is different from using a screen reader or doing a test without a screen reader. We often see things working correctly with a screen reader but fully fail if we do the same test without it. Clearly, I cannot do a test without my screen reader.
To solve this issue, we work in a good team and discuss our test results with each other. I know other companies who define personas, one persona for each group of people they test for. The testers then need to learn to use the digital object like this specific person would do. They do a lot of training to make sure the testers get all the knowledge they need to do a test, which provides as much feedback as possible. As said, doing user tests is always a great idea if you find good trained people. Also, you need a few testers to make sure that one person cannot crash your test results due to his knowledge or lack of knowledge.
I also see in my work that many issues are also process-based, meaning, that the way an organization is working from a process perspective can influence accessibility a lot. If people come to me and ask for help, I always try to point them in this direction. I know you are a huge fan of Scribe for Meetings and for your perspective it may be a help in some cases. We should always keep in mind what this tool does. It takes a PowerPoint file and renders it as an HTML file. It will not fix any accessibility issues. This means if the source file has bad contrast or has alt text missing, you will have the same problems in your resulting HTML file.
If you use tools like Scribe for Meetings, the creators of PowerPoints are not set free from making sure their presentation is accessible. They have to make sure their content can be accessed by screen readers or magnifiers. They have to make sure their presentations follow the accessibility standards for documents, this is clause 10 in EN 301 549, which is mainly WCAG A and AA.
We advise that meeting organizers send out the presentations to those who need it prior to the meeting. We recommend sending out the PPTX file as creating a fully accessible PDF file requires extra software. This is why I am looking with two eyes on solutions like this. On one hand, they can help one part of people who need accessibility maybe. On the other hand, those solutions may keep people from thinking about accessibility in the creation process because they know that there are solutions out there which will “fix all” issues for them.”
Good to hear from you, Alexander. I certainly endorse what you are saying about the importance of accessibility at source being paramount in everybody’s minds and it really does help if a PowerPoint presentation is fully accessible from the get-go. That’s really not the major value that I see in Scribe for Meetings. The major value that I see in Scribe for Meetings is that if you are on a Zoom call, certainly, when a PowerPoint presentation is run, it’s coming up as an image that a screen reader user can’t engage with. Now, sending the presentation out in advance is a poor substitute, in my view, for Scribe for Meetings because you can’t tell when somebody has scrolled onto the next slide. It may be that you can train some people to say next slide, but let’s face it, there is a bit of pressure often.
When you’re running a PowerPoint presentation, people have a lot to think about. They’re focused on delivering their content and making sure that it has maximum impact. For them to say, “I’m scrolling to the next slide now,” well, they may intend to do it, but they may not actually do it in the heat of the moment. If you are on a Zoom call and they’re using Scribe for Meetings, when they scroll the PowerPoint presentation, you can see it scrolling on your Braille display and you know the slide that they’re referring to. That is something at the moment that you can’t do any other way. Now, it would be ideal if Zoom would take care of this, but at the moment they have not, and this is what I see to be the real value add in terms of Scribe for Meetings.
Alexander is writing in from Munich and says, “I enjoy every episode of this great podcast and already know that subscribing to Living Blindfully Plus was one of the best decisions of the year.” Thank you for your subscription and for your enthusiasm. “First of all, I would like to thank you very much for the detailed demonstration of drafts. The same evening after listening to the episode, I installed the app and already defined my first actions. Before, I had heard about the app but could not quite imagine which advantage another text input thing would give me. I would like to very briefly discuss three topics from the current episode. That’s episode 241.
About the Braille displays from Help Tech, I also like them very much. I had the Activator under my fingers at this year’s site city in Frankfurt and found the concept very innovative. One small disadvantage, speaking from my usual use case, is that you can’t wear this device in a carrying case around your neck and read or write text while standing in the subway, for example. That’s how I like to use my active Braille, but the idea of recreating some of the user experience of one of the well-known Braille Note Takers using the iPhone is quite clever.
I agree with you, Alexander. That’s one of the things I raised with them, that there needs to be some way of using this device when you’re on the move that would be critical for me. There are challenges because obviously, the keyboard flips so how will a case accommodate the fact that sometimes you might want to use it as a QWERTY device and sometimes you might want to use it as a Braille device. Then, of course, there’s the dock as well for your iPhone. Should or could the case accommodate that as well? Hopefully, they will figure these things out.
“On the subject of white canes,” continues Alexander, “my recommendation is Svarovsky–” Now I’m going to spell this in the Russian accents and things, but it is S-V-A-R-O-V-S-K-Y canes, and there’s a link which I will endeavor to remember to put in the show notes. “It’s a small factory from the Czech Republic. However, I don’t know if they sell the cane outside Europe. The facts, non-rotating ceramic ball has, in my opinion, the best tactile response properties in combination with the folding cane. For example, five segments made of a composite of metal and carbon. I mostly use the tapping technique when walking. It often gives me clearer acoustic feedback from my surroundings. At least that’s how I experience it.
Only in the case of tactile indicators, for example, on a railway platform or in public buildings, do I switch to swiping. Oh, yes, good old apps from the old days, I can only think of an app called Talking Alarm Clock. It offered the possibility of being woken up with a sound, a short-spoken weather report, and one or two headlines from a newspaper of your choice or related to your current location. I think that was really cool. I used it 12 years ago in the first months of my journey so far with the iPhone. Thanks again for the very inspiring episodes. In the meantime, I have become an ambassador for the concept of blind pride here in Germany. Actually, I have been for a long time, but for a few months now I have eventually found the term for it that really sums it up. Thank you so much and rock on with the blind pride in Munich.
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Jonathan: There’s been quite a bit of chat on social media and elsewhere about Living Blindfully 242 where we talked about the Activator Braille display from Help Tech that’s just been released. Dawn Davis is writing in on this very matter all the way from Sydney and she says, “Hi, Jonathan. I was so fascinated listening to the interview and demonstration of the Activator on your last program. I went on YouTube to see if I would find anything. However, most of the videos are in German, so I went on to the Help Tech site to seek more information.
I must say the whole concept of having both a Braille and QWERTY keyboard and a 40-cell Braille display sounds almost too good to be true. At the moment. I use a Mantis, which I am immensely fond of, but if I get the chance, I will definitely be checking out this intriguing piece of equipment. Thank you for all the time you put into making this one of my favorite podcasts.”
Thank you, Dawn. I’m flattered that this is one of your favorite podcast. Yes, it’s an intriguing device, innit? I’m not sure if it’s intriguing enough for me to abandon the Mantis, which I like very much because it is quite a pricey device but, gosh, it’s classy. It feels classy scrolling with all of that automatic stuff where it’s detecting when you reach the end of a Braille line is so, so slick. Especially for the kind of reading that I’m doing on podcasts like this, there’s a lot to like.
The dancing queen herself is in touch on the subject, Jackie Brown. She’s just back from an amazing epic trip to London where she saw ABBA Voyage. She also saw Mamma Mia and loved every moment of it. She went on a cruise around the Thames as well, so it sounds like she did a lot of the things that we did when we were there about a year ago. Jackie says, “Hi, Jonathan. I enjoyed listening to the podcast where you talked with Help Tech about their new kid on the block, the Activator. I am a huge fan of the Help Tech Braille displays. I have requested a demo from the UK distributor, VisionAid Technologies, so I look forward to getting my hands on it.
I don’t own one of their displays but I have seen how the ATC works. It’s brilliant. I like the idea of harnessing the power of an iPhone to the SmartDock of the Activator, especially given you can flip the keyboard and use Braille or QWERTY input. The support and 3-year warranty is very generous and shows how confident Help Tech is in its product range. I will let you know what I think of it once I have had an opportunity to put it through its phases.”
Good on you, Jackie. I would appreciate that. I’m on the verge of requesting a demo unit. [chuckles] The only thing is, if I request a demo unit, I may not want to give it back and that could be quite disastrous on the bank balance.
Here’s an email from someone I can’t identify because only their email address is in the from field and not their name. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting one.
It says, “Hey Jonathan.” Hey, anonymous person back. “Are you in the Office insider program?” it says. “Well, I was until very recently. Then I hit a very nasty bug with Microsoft Word that temporarily was affecting both JAWS and Narrator. Interestingly enough, it didn’t affect NVDA for which I was very grateful otherwise my speech to the NFB could potentially have been derailed and subsequent things I was trying to do at work could have been essentially derailed. I got a lot of great help from some very tolerant people at all levels of this. Eventually, I believe it is now sorted but I got out of their insider program, and I decided that my productivity was too important and I had too few hours in the day.
While I like messing with the latest and greatest, I don’t want to be an office insider anymore. It was too traumatic.
I can’t blame them for being buggy. That’s why you do the insider thing, to test. I just realized my Microsoft Office is too important so I got out of that thing. That’s what I did. If you are, which I’ve now established I am not anymore,” says the email, “have you tried the new version of Outlook on Windows that Microsoft is testing?” No, I didn’t when I was an Office insider. The reason I didn’t was I’ve known about this coming for some time. I’ve known that we are a long way from productivity and optimal accessibility. It’s going to take quite a bit longer for that to be the case.
The email continues, “I switched to it. They’ve completely redesigned it. I’m not sure how to navigate it and get things done anymore. Is there any way you can look into this and possibly do a comprehensive demo, or if not a demo, at least explain how it works? I don’t want to switch back to the old Outlook because the new version actually syncs my Gmail contacts and calendars which I’ve been wanting Outlook to do for some time now. I may have no choice to switch back if me not understanding how to navigate the new interface will prevent me from getting things done. That’s the bottom line, innit? You’ve got to get things done. At the moment from what I know you can’t get things done very efficiently with the new Outlook because it’s a work in progress.” I will see what I can find out in terms of when this might be ready for prime time for screen reader users.
Empish Thomas is writing in. She says, “Hi, Jonathan. I wanted to respond to the caller who was having problems with Fiverr. Last year I was accepted into a program sponsored by Fiverr for people with disabilities. It was a small group of us and not all were blind or low vision. We were given a coach to help us create our Fiverr profile. We learned how to get the attention of sellers so we could get gigs but much like the caller, there were accessibility issues. I use JAWS, Windows 11, and Google Chrome. I had a hard time actually creating my profile and uploading samples of my work.
I ended up using Aira. They have a program for people who are self-employed. I was able to use that assistance without any extra cost. I did inform my Fiverr coach of all the problems I was having and she promised to pass the info on. I am no longer working with Fiverr so I don’t know if any changes have been made. Perhaps the caller can use Aira to get around blind accessibility challenges. I wish them the best of luck. Thanks for all you do to help us in the blind community.” Thank you so much for that and thank you for writing. It’s a pretty exciting platform and it would be good if it were more accessible so maybe there’s some interest there. Let’s hope there is.
Kathy: Hi, my name is Kathy Marberger. I listen to your podcast in the United States. I have your phone number but I have trouble getting through. That’s one of the things I’m calling about. The other thing is somewhere I heard on something that you put out about an application that will help you tell what is on a flat touchscreen. When you put your hand on the button it speaks and tells you what it is under your fingertips. I can’t remember where I heard it and now I can’t find it.
Jonathan: Oh, Kathy, don’t you hate it when that happens? I hope that I can help. There are two ways that you might achieve this. Thank you for listening to and calling into the podcast by the way. The first is that there is an app available right now in the app store and it’s called VizLens. It is spelled V-I-Z, or Z as you say over where you are, L-E-N-S. V-I-Z-L-E-N-S. That is all one word and this does exactly what you describe or at least it purports to. I haven’t had a lot of experience with this app myself at this stage. I’d be interested in hearing people’s real-world experiences of how well VizLens works.
The idea is that you run this app, you put your finger on different elements of an appliance. It could be a touchscreen, it could just be buttons and you don’t know what the buttons do, and VizLens is supposed to tell you what those buttons or items on the screen do. Now this app is about to be sherlocked. Yes, sherlocked I tell you, which is a term that means that Apple comes along and they build into the operating system what a third-party app developer has developed. It’s being sherlocked by the Magnifier app. This is only going to be available in Pro models.
If you are in the market for an iPhone, what is really clear is that the magnifier feature in the iPhone Pro models because of the LiDAR sensor is becoming more and more interesting and capable. This has been going on for a few years now with things like people detection, door detection, and now this new VizLens-like feature. It’s available in iOS 17. If you’ve got one of the newer iPhone Pro models and iOS 17, you should also be able to run the Magnifier app and try this as well. I hope that helps and if anybody has tried either option, VizLens or the new magnifier feature on iOS 17, do let me know how you get on with it.
John Gassman is in touch talking about the Optima and it starts off in an interesting way. Johnbathan it says, spelt, J-O-N-B-A-T-H-A-N. Sounds like I might be in the bath. Anyway, I’ve been called worse. “As I remember,” says John, “You were the one discussing customizable thumb keys on the original Braille Note many years ago. That may have been the feature I loved best among everything the Braille Note, and later, the Apex, had to offer. I forgot to ask Adi, Veenkatesh Chari and Andre when we had them on the Tech Talk this last Monday if the thumb keys were customizable so that we can change their order.
I think the Braille Note order you recommended was Advance, Back, Next, and Previous.” That’s correct. That’s how I have mine set up. “I can always email them but just wondered if you have the answer. I’m very impressed with this new device and for its potential. I can’t wait to load JAWS on it and try it out. See you on Mastodon,” says John. I can’t wait either, John. It really is an exciting device. I’m pretty confident they are programmable because they’re just keys that you’ll be able to use JAWS and the keyboard manager to reassign. All those functions in JAWS keyboard manager are scripts that you execute. It shouldn’t be any problem at all to assign them any way you want.
Let’s talk iPhone and iOS app memories. Mark Higgins says, “Hi, Jonathan, greetings from Barnet, UK. I doubt many of your listeners are familiar with this part of London/Hertfordshire. That’s a great debate after a few beers, but if you’ve ever been on a trip to London and ridden the Northern Line on the London Underground, you may have heard the automated announcement, ‘This is the Northern Line Train terminating at High Barnet.’ That’s us, and by the time it gets there, only myself and a few diehards are left on the train. Barnet is also where Oliver Twist meets the Artful Dodger for the first time.”
?Speaker: You’ve got to pick a pocket or two.
Jonathan: “In 1471, the Battle of Barnet saw the end of Henry VI.” I got to watch my Roman numerals there but yes number six, “And the death of the Earl of Warwick.” I have no doubt that Wolf Blitzer was there to cover the whole thing on CNN. “I love the podcast. I must confess that at the moment, with all the Ashes and Rugby World Cup podcasts to consume, I’m only finding time to look at the transcripts, but I do listen to the whole thing when I can, and I am going to subscribe as you do great work.” Thank you, Mark, I appreciate that.
“A bit of iPhone nostalgia for you. I got my first iPhone in 2010 when my Nokia 6220 Classic refused to switch on.” I’m just stopping to say I’m trying to remember what the 6220 was like. They had so many numeric identifiers, didn’t they Nokia? It was difficult to keep up with which phone was exactly what. Mark continues, “I’ve never been so unenthusiastic about a purchase as my iPhone experiences up to that point had been a bit scary.
A few months previously, for example, I’d been at a dinner for lawyers and judges. I am a barrister/trial attorney, and one of this country’s most senior judges had asked me about voiceover. ‘No problem,’ I said, ‘You can try it on your own iPhone. Here’s how to activate it.’ All went well and he was fascinated but then his phone locked. It was only then he mentioned he had a passcode, but he couldn’t get the hang of standard typing, nor, as it happens, could I, not yet owning an iPhone. The upshot was I managed to enter his passcode for him at the final attempt before his iPhone would have been erased.
I bought my iPhone, not at all confident that I would be able to use it. I spent the first week of ownership wishing I had my Nokia back with a good old keypad and all that, but then I discovered the TuneIn Radio app, which at the time, let us listen to all the BBC County cricket commentaries. From that point, the iPhone began to win me over and the rest is history. TuneIn was one of those apps I used to love, but which has fallen away over time. A lot of broadcasts I’m interested in, particularly sports commentaries, are no longer available.
There was also another handy little app called @Thermo, which used to use your GPS location and tell you what the current outside temperature was. There were also some great TV apps, TVCatchup, for example, which wasn’t a catch-up service at all as it allowed you to watch live TV using the iPhone.” I’ll just pause reading Mark’s email to say we covered this on Mosen At Large when it happened.
What happened to TuneIn in the UK is just quite bizarre and scary because I was concerned for people in the UK, obviously, but also for people around the rest of the world because it may have set a precedent, but there was a court case which essentially neutered TuneIn in the UK and it’s so unfortunate. I’m just glad that it hasn’t happened to us or that this hasn’t spread anywhere else in the world because TuneIn is still a pretty useful app elsewhere. It’s just been severely constrained in the United Kingdom for some reason.
“Now, speaking of TV,” says Mark, “you asked about accessible TV outside the US. Sky does a really good job over here. Granted, it took some time for them to get there, and they relied a lot on the efforts of other developers, such as the guy who gave us TV Planner Remote for Sky, one of the best apps I’ve ever used. Finally, however, we’re at the point where the Sky Q boxes we get here are excellent.
Sky Q is self-voicing, admittedly, and that comes with its limitations. It won’t speak if you’re watching Amazon Prime, for example, so only my sighted wife can watch Prime on our TV, and I have to use my phone. Same goes for other streaming services, but in the Sky ecosystem, I have to admit, I was really blown away by how good it was compared with Sky Plus, its predecessor. Still, there’s no getting away from the fact that we had to wait a very long time for that, and it took some pretty serious effort and advocacy to get that far. Thanks again for the great content, and enjoy the early mornings next month following the All Blacks.”
Thank you very much, Mark. We did have Gordon Luke do a Sky Q review on this podcast so people can go back and check that out if they’re interested in how well it works and it does seem quite impressive indeed.
Rich Beardsley has some comments on episode 243. He says, “Hello, Jonathan, I’m going to try to hit the points, hit those things in the order they appeared on the show, but I may put a couple of things in the wrong part of the message.” I will be watching out for you Rich and we’ll be castigating you.
I’m going to skip the bit about the SensePlayer because the point about the eSpeak TTS has been made a couple of times now, but we’ll move on to the next point. He says, “I’m considering getting the iPhone 15 this year and I’m also considering getting a new watch, but that decision isn’t official yet since my watch is getting watchOS 10 which surprised me. I have a Series 4 and I was expecting it to lose support this year since Apple dropped the Series 3 with watchOS 9. When I think about it though, I shouldn’t be surprised. If I remember correctly, Apple dropped the Series 2 back in 2020, dropped the 3 in 2022 so it’s a high likelihood that the Series 4 will get dropped in 2024.
I’m considering the 15 Pro Max or 15 Ultra. I’ve heard different leaks and rumors that refer to this phone by both names, so I don’t know what it will be called. Some more recent stuff is suggesting that Apple will not give us an Ultra iPhone this year, but we’ll find out at the event next month.” Yes, indeed. One thing I will say, Rich, is that if you upgrade from a Watch Series 4 to the new Apple Watch, you will certainly notice a significant performance increase. Everything will just seem to happen much better. I suspect the battery life will improve. There are some benefits.
On the other hand, word is leaking out from a very reliable source, namely Mark Gurman of Bloomberg, who seems to have impeccable sources on the inside of Apple that are leaking to him like a sieve on a regular basis. He’s saying that next year for the 10th anniversary of the Apple Watch, they’re going to be releasing an Apple Watch Series X, spelt with an X. It’s a Roman numeral 10, in the same way that the iPhone X was spelt that way.
He’s saying it’s going to be quite a significant redesign. It’s going to be the first major overhaul of the Apple Watch since its inception. If you can hold out one more year, you might be in for a treat with the Apple Watch Series X. Although, people might not like it of course. It sounds like it is going to be quite a radical overhaul and we’ll just have to see what that’s like. I guess there is some suggestion that all those Apple Watch bands that we may have accumulated over the years could possibly not fit but maybe Apple will come out with yet another adapter. They’re good at those.
“The final topic I want to discuss is guide horses. I know they exist, but they aren’t as common as dogs, and I wouldn’t want to get one. Yes, they live a lot longer, but in recent months I’ve been hearing a lot of conflicting information as to whether or not they’re still considered service animals under the ADA. Some sources say they are, and others say they aren’t. I am a new guide dog user, and I love my dog. As of right now, I can’t say for sure if I’d get another one when I have to retire her. It depends on where I am in life and whether or not having a dog would be more inconvenient than beneficial.
On the plus side, the school I went with provides food and covers preventatives, and the annual vet visit for the dog’s working life. I’m responsible for getting the nails cut and any emergencies, but that’s it.” Well, enjoy that partnership, Rich. It is a very special one.
Thanks to you for listening, for all the contributions. It is amazing. Do keep them coming. It’s fascinating to hear what people are thinking about. Remember when you’re out there with your guide dog, you’ve harnessed success, and with your cane, you’re able.
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