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Voiceover: From Wellington, New Zealand, to the world, it’s the Living Blindfully podcast – living your best life with blindness or low vision. Here is your host, Jonathan Mosen.
On the show this week: a lot of feedback about iPhone and iOS, how New Zealanders vote accessibly in general elections, listeners share their thoughts on PC versus Mac, an RSS reader for Windows, and what it’s like to work with a guide dog.
Welcome to episode 252! It’s an absolute, complete and utter pleasure to have you here today.
Do you know what happened on March 22nd, 1998?
If you live in certain parts of North Carolina, you may remember that was when Area Code 252 was created in the United States. This area code is for quite a bit of North Carolina. Many cities seem to be covered, and I don’t know too many of them. But I have heard of Greenville in North Carolina.
If you are there, then you may be one of the lucky people with Area Code 252 and therefore, celebrating your day in the sun in the Living Blindfully family. Embrace, enjoy, soak it up. It doesn’t come too often.
Meanwhile, country code 252 belongs to Somalia, a country that has certainly had many problems in recent times – war, famine and all kinds of difficulties.
Last year, they did a population survey. A little over 17 million people live in Somalia.
Now, thanks to a fearless and diligent listener on Mastodon, I must correct the record. Because in episode 250, I credited the area code to Alaska. It turns out I was totally [wrong sound effect]. Very wrong. And I don’t know where this came from now because as I do my further research to collaborate what this listener said, it’s absolutely unambiguously clear that I was wrong.
Area code 250 does not belong to Alaska. Area code 250 belongs to British Columbia.
So welcome belatedly to you, and I apologize for short-changing your fine Canadian province for such a critical episode – episode 250. But better late than never, I guess.
Political tragic that I am (and we’ll be talking more about politics in just a moment, or the process of choosing one’s politicians), I did observe that over the last week, the US, in an historic vote, has gotten rid of its Speaker. Now, they’re looking for a new one.
I would just like to dispel all the rumors and the speculation and say I am not interested in the role.
However, I would like, as I said on Mastodon, to nominate a speaker for the United States, and I’d like to nominate the Sonos Era 300.
We’re very happy with our speaker, since we got it earlier this year. I’m sure it is going to last a lot longer in its position than Kevin McCarthy did in his.
So use your lobbying and advocacy muscles. If you’re in the United States, write or call your congressman and tell them to vote for the Sonos Era 300 for speaker in the United States Congress.
One of the reasons why I can’t step up to the plate (That’s an American baseball analogy right there. [laughs]) and be Speaker is because I’ve actually just been elected to another role. I’m very pleased and honored, surprised too, actually, to have been elected to this role, in addition to the chief executive role that I continue to occupy at Workbridge.
But I’ve been elected as the chairman of the New Zealand Disability Support Network, abbreviated to NZDSN over here. This is an association of disability provider organizations in New Zealand.
If you’re listening from Australia, it’s what they’d call a peak body over there.
There are many challenges facing the disability sector in this country. We also are likely to see a new government shortly, and that will mean that there’ll be new relationships to form, policy discussions to be had. And it is important that those organizations that provide services to disabled people have a strong, effective, constructive but firm voice to government in particular, so I really am very honored to have assumed the role.
Obviously, I’ve advocated for a very long time on the consumer side of the spectrum. And really, I don’t think there necessarily have to be sides. In the majority of cases, the needs of disabled people and those who provide disabled people with services are in alignment.
If we can, whenever possible, go to government with a united voice, then that makes us stronger. So I’m looking forward to knuckling down into this new role.
To my fellow New Zealanders, I hope that you are voting early and often.
We used to have a party here called the McGillicuddy Serious Party, and their slogan was [laughs] “Vote early, vote often, vote McGillicuddy.”
So hopefully you’ve only voted once.
I thought I would mention how voting works in New Zealand. There may be a bit of interest in this. And back on the Blind Side a long time ago, I think for the 2017 election, actually, we had somebody from the Electoral Commission come on the show and explain the process.
Here in New Zealand, we have a mixed-member proportional system.
I know we’ve got a good number of listeners in Germany. It’s the system we borrowed from you. There are a few little differences in terms of the party threshold and things like that, but it is very similar.
The way this works is that New Zealanders get 2 votes. The first vote determines who represents your local electorate or constituency.
Or in Canada, they call it a riding, which is an interesting word. I don’t know where riding comes from. I think it’s a very old English term.
But it is essentially like your Congress, like your traditional House of Representatives around the world, the kind of typical thing you have in a Westminster democracy where you elect your local MP.
The second vote is the crucial one, though, and that is your party vote.
It’s the total number of party votes cast that determines the number of seats that a party gets in Parliament. It is strictly proportional, with a few exceptions – like if you have a party that gets under 5% of the vote and doesn’t win an electorate seat. So if a party gets, say, 14% of the vote, then they will get 14% of the seats in Parliament.
If a party wins more party votes than the electorates can supply, … So let’s say that a party gets 14% of the vote but no seats at all through the electorate vote, then all of their members will come from a party list. That party list is ranked, and you just start at number 1 and you work through until all your seats are full. And that party list is published ahead of the election, so everybody knows who’s on the party list and what order they appear in.
Now, you can be in 2 places. So somebody could, for example, be say, 50 on the party list and therefore, very unlikely to get elected to parliament, but they may be very popular in their local electorate. So if they win their local electorate, it doesn’t matter that they’re way down the list. They’re elected to parliament.
There is a very rare phenomenon called overhang as well, where a party wins more electorate seats than their party vote entitles them to. And you know what happens then? They have to increase the size of parliament. So we get even more politicians than normal. Glory be! Hmm.
So we’re voting at the moment. Early voting started on the 2nd of October, and election day itself is Saturday, the 14th of October. We hold them on a Saturday in this country.
There are a couple of ways that blind people can vote in this country.
The first is one that has been around for a very long time, and that is that a blind person can take a person of their choosing with them to the polling booth, and assist them to vote. If you want to be absolutely sure that your vote has been cast the way you want it to be cast, you can check with an official at the polling place once your vote has been completed that it has been completed the way you asked. Obviously, that does compromise the secrecy of the ballot in a couple of respects.
But when my kids were younger, I used to enjoy taking them to vote. We’d all walk down on a Saturday to our local polling place, and there was some competition for who would assist with the voting.
Of course, there are two of us. There’s Bonnie, and there’s me. So somebody could assist Bonnie to vote as well.
It’s a really good civics education type thing. And I’m very pleased to say that all my kids do not need nudging to vote. They understand what a responsibility (and a hard won right it is), and they all vote. And they actually look forward to voting, which I’m thrilled about.
But it doesn’t survive the secrecy sniff test, you know. It’s not as secret as it otherwise would be if you were sighted.
And that’s why a few years ago, in conjunction with electoral officials, Blind Citizens New Zealand came up with this concept of voting by telephone. And it’s kind of basic, you know. It’s not electronic or anything like that. But it works, and it does safeguard the secrecy.
It also means that it’s kind of cool that you’re one of the few people in the country that can vote from bed. You know, if you sleep in on a Saturday morning or during the early voting period [laughs] and you just want to phone up and vote, you can do that.
The way it works is that there’s a registration period, and you can register right up until noon on election day.
So if you’re listening to this in New Zealand and you haven’t registered yet, it is still not too late by the time this podcast comes out. You can call the number 0800 028 028 to register. That’s 0800 028 028.
Make sure you exercise your franchise, I tell you. Because if your franchise doesn’t get exercised, it goes all rusty, and you wouldn’t want that.
So you register, and you get given a unique code. It can be texted or emailed to you, or they can just dictate the code to you and you write it down. This is all handled by one group of officials. As part of that registration process, you also nominate a secret question and an answer to that secret question.
Then when it’s time for you to vote, you call the same number, but you press 2 instead of 1. You talk to a different group of officials, and you don’t give your name. You simply quote the unique number that’s been given to you. They bring you up in the system. They ask the verification question, you answer it, and then they go through the voting paper with you.
When the voting paper is completed on your behalf, a second official gets handed the paper, and they read it back to you. So you get independent confirmation that your vote has been cast the way you wanted. Then, you hear it being put in the ballot box.
Now, it’s not quite the same as marking your own ballot paper, but it is an elegant system. It’s an accessible system as well. It works really well, and it involves humans and paper and all sorts of good things.
And that’s how we do it.
So I hope my fellow New Zealanders listening to this podcast will make sure that they cast their vote. There is too much at stake in this election not to. And it’s promising to be an interesting election night on the 14th of October.
And of course, they’re voting across the Tasman as well on that same day in the voice to Parliament referendum.
So for those of us who are major political tragics, the 14th of October is just going to be so exciting that I just won’t know what to do with myself.
And see, I’m not sure if you heard that, but even my Apple Watch is getting excited about it.
Advertisement: Living Blindfully is brought to you in part by Aira, and I thank them for their sponsorship of the podcast.
You know we’ve become used to some businesses offering free Wi-Fi. It’s a nice touch, and it makes us feel valued whenever we come across it.
And I know similarly that when I learn about a business that has purchased Aira Access, it’s like putting out a massive “Blind people are welcome here.” sign. I know that if I need it, I’ve got a trained professional agent available to me to provide assistance, and that means that the business cares enough to pay for that. I appreciate that.
From airports, to Starbucks, to Target, and more, Aira Access can assist you to navigate, shop, browse and not be reliant on friends, family or others who may not understand our needs as well. And don’t forget that as well as the offerings in physical locations, there are other businesses providing Aira Access that can be used from home.
So you should check out the app to find out what’s available. To do that, just open the Aira Access section in the Aira Explorer app on your favorite device. You can also visit Aira’s website to find out more at Aira.io. That’s A-I-R-A.I-O.
Let’s talk Apple things again.
Shawn starts us off. And he says:
thanks for your suggestion of starting emails in Drafts.
I find it strange that in all these years Braille has been available in iOS, that no configuration of the text cursor is possible.
Personally, I would like two choices, which may be unpopular. And I’m certainly not advocating for default changes.
First, I would like to see a standard dots 7 and 8 cursor, as most other screen readers allow. At the moment, the dot 7 cursor just looks strange to me.
Second, I would like the option to turn off the blinking of whatever cursor option. But again, would prefer the dots 7 and 8 together. Because of my BrailleSense, I have gotten used to a stationary cursor and much prefer it.
Additionally, if using a display with less quiet cells like an Orbit or fairly old Focus, the ticking caused by a blinking cursor could be distracting.
Wonder what thoughts you have?”
Yeah, sure, makes perfect sense to me. No argument. The more options, the merrier.
The one thing I would really like to see in terms of cursors in iOS (and this is not Braille-specific, this is just a general comment about VoiceOver and the cursor) is I want the cursor to behave the same way it does on every other Windows screen reader in terms of when you arrow around speaking what the cursor is on, rather than the character that the cursor is before.
It makes editing frustrating to me because every other product I use works one way, and then the iPhone works the other way.
On Mac, they have an option (or at least, they had one, I presume it still exists) to make the cursor behave like it does in Windows screen readers. And man, it would make life so much easier if iOS would add that option, too.
Those who have gotten used to it the way it is, or like it the way it is, I’m not saying we should change it or eliminate that behaviour. But a lot of Windows users like it the way it works in Windows. And I really do find it frustrating, even after all these years of using iPhone regularly.
Gerben is writing in from the Netherlands.
Please forgive me if I’ve mispronounced your name. It’s great to hear from you.
And the email says:
“I’m a long-time listener and a first-time contributor.
Thanks for the great podcast you produce each week. I have learned a lot from your podcast over the last few years. Keep up the great work.”
Thank you so much for listening.
“I would like to respond to a few points you made in your iOS 17 review.
- Point and speak.
I have had some success with this feature in identifying the buttons on my microwave and other kitchen appliances. It can sometimes be hit and miss.
I have found that clearly extending your index finger towards the button you are trying to read helps a lot. Make sure you only have one finger in the frame, so it is clear what you’re trying to capture.
It did require some trial and error before I got the hang of it.”
Excellent! Thank you. You’ve inspired me to keep trying. I will have more of a play with it.
If others are doing the same, do let me know how you are getting on.
“2. iOS has had the habit of only supporting some features when the phone language is set to English.
For example, screen recognition only works when the phone language is set to any variant of English and possibly, some other languages. It doesn’t work when you set your language to Dutch, or some other languages I’ve tried.
This is very unfortunate as these features are often promoted online, and a lot of people don’t realize they’re unable to use them in their native language.
This trend continues with the new Reminder List feature. I share this to make others aware that a language setting might well be the cause this feature is not showing up for you.
I would also like to ask you and the community whether it would be possible to make Apple aware of these language differences and bugs.
Of course, I understand that some AI language models will only be available in certain languages. But a feature like the screen recognition that has been in iOS for several years should be available in most languages, or at least be made invisible in those languages that are not supported. Right now, the feature is visible, but doesn’t work properly.”
Absolutely. I think individual advocacy is perfectly appropriate here.
Contact email@example.com and register your concerns about this. I’d also suggest contacting the World Blind Union, or the European Blind Union, or advocacy organizations who can sometimes have ways of getting to people at Apple that many mere mortals like us do not, and that can help as well.
So I think some sort of collective advocacy would be entirely appropriate here.
Your money is as good as anyone else’s. You’re paying for the phone and the accessibility is poorer because of the language that you speak.
Thank you for the great explanation of widgets in iOS 17.
You mentioned the app Widgetsmith. What does this app do and what is its use case next to an app like Launcher?
Keep up the great work with the podcast each week.”
Thanks for a great email. I really appreciate it.
In terms of Widgetsmith, it is, I guess, a competitor to Launcher. They do very similar things.
You can build your own widgets.
Widgetsmith has some built-in functions that you can use as well. I’m trying to remember off the top of my head now what those are. I think some of them relate to photo-viewing and possibly, media-playing and things of that kind.
And I believe that the app is free, with some in-app purchases.
But it is appealing to that same market as Launcher where if you want to create widgets of your own, and go under the hood a little bit and experiment and explore, Widgetsmith does give you a lot to play with.
I haven’t done that myself at this stage very much, just because of time constraints. Widgetsmith is one of those apps that I’ve got on my summer list when I’ve got a few weeks off [laughs] to really get into, in the same way that I got into Drafts last year.
There may, however, be others who’ve beaten me to it, and are using Widgetsmith. So if you are, tell me about what widgets you’ve created.
And Urh is writing in. And I’m going to spell that – it’s U-R-H. Again, please accept my apologies if I’m mispronouncing that.
And the email says:
I extend warm greetings from Slovenia.
I eagerly anticipate reaching episode 386, where I hope to hear my country code announced.” [laughs]
“I wish to express my gratitude for your exceptional podcast.
I have been a devoted listener for some time, though I haven’t contributed much. This is largely because the podcast has comprehensively covered all the topics I’ve been interested in.
I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge from your show, and I make it a point to tune in every week.
Please continue your outstanding work.”
Thank you very much. I appreciate that.
“Today, I come with a question that has been on my mind for a few weeks.
I am curious about the advantages of a Pro model iPhone for someone who is blind. I realize it may seem odd for me to ask this question, considering I recently upgraded from a 13 Pro to a 15 Plus. However, I genuinely struggle to understand the benefits.
Firstly, I doubt that many of us blind individuals, including myself here, utilize the camera in a way that a standard iPhone would not meet their performance needs for daily use.
Secondly, while the screen is better, it is unnecessary for us.
Thirdly, the Plus model has been recognized as the battery champion among all iPhones by multiple sources, even surpassing the Pro Max this year.
I am eager to hear if there are any features that a Pro model offers, such as improved audio quality.
I have been highly impressed with the performance and battery life of my 13 Pro, but there comes a point where additional performance no longer matters to us.
I believe it will be a considerable amount of time before we have access to console-based iPhone games that are accessible to the visually impaired. Even then, I am confident there will be workarounds.
I have not noticed any performance improvement in my 15 Plus compared to my 13 Pro, despite the 15 Plus running the A16 chip, and the 13 using the A15.
I am eager to hear your perspective on this matter, especially after hearing your review of the Pro Max in your last episode.
So far, I have not come across any features that would be particularly impressive for someone with no sight. In my opinion, it is wiser to save $300, enjoy the same level of performance, and benefit from even better battery life.”
There is a second topic in this email, but I’ll stop and address the first one ’cause it’s a very good point.
And the first thing I would say is that the best iPhone for you is the iPhone that makes you happy and meets your needs.
I was very intrigued to read the same tech information that you obviously have, indicating that actually, if you want the best battery life, go with the 15 Plus this year. So that’s certainly a consideration, although we’re not talking about a massive discrepancy. Still, the 15 Plus, according to all the benchmark testing, does have the best battery life of the range this year.
But I can immediately think of several benefits that people might want to consider.
You mentioned that you hadn’t really noticed any performance improvement between the 13 Pro that you had and the 15 Plus that you have now. And I’m not surprised by that, really because effectively, what you’ve done is you’ve upgraded from the A15, as you say, to the A16, which is the chip in the 14 Pro. So if you had upgraded from the 13 Pro to the 14 Pro, I wouldn’t have expected a difference.
What I can tell you is that a number of people I’ve talked to have upgraded from the 13 Pro to the 15 Pro, (which of course has the A17 chip, so a whole new generation of chip from the Plus), and they are telling me they have noticed quite a difference in performance. And these are not subtle geeky things, either.
Bonnie, who I don’t think would describe herself as a geek by any means, said to me when we got her 15 Pro up and running, “Wow! This really feels a lot snappier, a lot faster than my 13 Pro.”
So you’ll get that experience by going from the 13 Pro to the 15 Pro. You’re unlikely to see it so much going from the 13 Pro to the 15 Plus.
You make the comment about spending $300 less for the same performance, and that’s factually inaccurate. The performance of the 15 Pro is better than the performance of the non-Pro models, and it’s particularly noticeable this year because the architecture of the A17 chip is very different from previous chips.
So in a performance sense, the performance improvement between the 14 Pro and the 15 Pro is quite a bit bigger than the performance difference between the 13 Pro and the 14 Pro, which is what you are now experiencing.
And I’ve experienced the benefit of the faster chip in a way that I did not anticipate, and that I’m absolutely delighted about. And this relates to the HeardThat app.
We’ve been talking a bit about HeardThat in recent times on the podcast. But for those who haven’t listened to recent episodes, this is an app that filters out background noise when you’re in a noisy environment, sends it to hearing aids, or AirPods, or whatever you happen to be wearing.
Now, as I mentioned when we spoke with Bruce Sharpe, the chief executive of the company that makes HeardThat, with my iPhone 14 Pro Max, the latency was just distracting enough to kind of slow me down when I talked, to feel just a wee bit disconcerting.
And I thought, “Well, I’ll get used to this. I’ll live with it because the benefits of hearing in these noisy environments are so significant.”
With the iPhone 15 Pro Max, the latency has almost gone completely. You hear yourself echoing back just ever so slightly, but it is so quick that it makes very little difference at all. It’s not that same distracting, disconcerting thing.
So if you’re a blind person and you wear hearing aids or you just have trouble hearing in those noisy environments and you’ve resorted to HeardThat, if you’re experiencing this latency issue with your iPhone 14 Pro Max or even an earlier phone, I can tell you the iPhone 15 Pro Max almost eliminates it completely. For me, that is a huge upgrade, and worth getting the Pro over the regular iPhone. This makes a material difference to my life a lot.
The other thing too is that you’ve got to do the numbers. And it’s a difficult one to do. But sure, you’re saving $300 US if you buy a Plus versus a Pro, but you’re getting last year’s chip in the Plus.
So with the Pro, you may find that the phone lasts maybe an extra year at least, before performance issues start making you think, “Hmm. This is starting to get a bit sluggish. Should I replace it?” So in that regard, I think it might be an investment to get the faster chip. And kind of future-proof you for just a little bit longer. The numbers may actually work out in your favor.
But of course, you’ve got to have that 300 bucks in the first place, and not everybody does, you know. There’s a cost of living crisis on. We know about the socioeconomic issues in our community.
And the 15 Plus is no slouch of a phone. It’s a great phone.
Next, LiDAR. You’ve had LiDAR on the 13 Pro. You’ve lost it on the 15 Plus. That may or may not matter to you, but I actually do find the LiDAR features useful in certain situations.
Getting on a bus, for example, trying to find a spare seat, and using the people finder feature in LiDAR.
Sometimes, I travel these big, long intercity bus trips to go and see my kids, and I just find that very handy. It just adds a bit of dignity to be able to walk down the aisle and know where I’m getting to a spare seat without sort of tapping people, trying to find out if the seat is free, [laughs] and apologizing for encroaching on their space.
There are also other features like door detection. I’m not sure how useful I found that. I mean, it’s useful sometimes, not super reliable.
And now, of course, as we just heard, we’ve got point and speak.
You lose all of that if you don’t have a Pro model, and those are blindness-specific features.
Next, the Action button.
And we actually have an appendix from our correspondent on this subject which came through after the original email, and it says:
“You could also argue that the Action button is a very innovative feature.
For the first few days, I thought the same. But then, I remembered that Android has had that for years.
And even if you factor in the Action button, you can still do most of the things with back tap which for me, has worked flawlessly.
I won’t be paying $300 more just for a secret recording tool, as you can also use it for that, I realized.
But I do want to hear your view on this, too.”
Well, I thought the question we were dealing with was, “Is the iPhone Pro worth it for a blind person?”, so I’m not sure why whether Android has something or doesn’t have something is relevant here because you’re comparing two iPhone models. You didn’t ask about comparing iPhone and Android. So I think I’ll just scratch that, [laughs] and move on to the actual functionality of the action button.
I think it’s going to gain more functionality over time. Because at the moment, you can only press and hold it and get one function. Some people have done some very innovative things with shortcuts, so you can get a little menu that pops up. But I suspect in iOS 18, if not sooner, we’ll have the ability to double press and even triple press the action button for more functionality.
I’ll tell you how I’m using the action button. And for me, it’s really added a lot of value after a bit of experimenting, trying different things.
My podcast app of choice at the moment on iOS is Overcast, and we’re going to be talking about Overcast in just a little bit. But it does have some very nice shortcut functions available to it. So I’ve assigned the action button to start playing the podcast I was last listening to in Overcast.
The magic tap in iOS can get pretty busy. And sometimes, it doesn’t resume what you think it’s going to resume.
But I’ve always got a button now where if I press it, my podcast resumes. And I listen to a lot of podcasts.
You raise the back tap, and that’s a very good point because again, using shortcuts, I’ve been able to turn my iPhone into a lean, mean podcast playing machine. And I don’t even have to be in Overcast to make all this happen.
So the action button plays Overcast wherever I am in the system. If I double tap the back of the phone, it will skip forward by 30 seconds, or whatever the increment is that I’ve set in Overcast settings. If I triple tap the back of the phone, then it skips back by 30 seconds.
So I’m making use of all of these universal options. And as a very frequent podcast listener, I am loving it. I would not want to go back to a phone that doesn’t have an action button now. Now, not everybody listens to as many podcasts as regularly as I do.
But with the ability to assign a shortcut to the action button, really, you’ve got limitless possibilities.
One thing you might want to do, for example, if you take a lot of pictures, is to assign the action button to your particular app of choice to take a picture. Both Seeing AI and Envision have a raft of shortcuts for the various things that they offer in their app.
Currently, I have a Siri shortcut set up where I simply say to Siri, “Read this.”, and it pops up in its document reading mode and takes a picture. And I seriously considered putting that on the action button so I can just press it, Seeing AI is ready to take a picture and tell me what’s there. I’m hoping that the same will be available for Be My Eyes in due course as well.
So I think the action button is incredibly useful, particularly if you assign it to a function that you might want to press when you’re mobile. I carry my phone in my pocket a lot. The double tap and triple tap of the back is a bit difficult to do in your pocket, but the action button is very easily pressed. So I think it’s a good feature for us.
With the 15 Pro or 15 Pro Max, you also get the much faster USB transfer speeds, which may or may not be of interest to you, depending on how you use the device.
And you get the ability to record at least video onto a hard drive. I’m interested to find out as this rolls out whether that might also be extended in time to audio applications.
So you can attach a drive of some kind to the USB-C port, which is running much faster on the Pro models, and record high-quality audio straight onto that drive, which can make it easier to just pop it into a PC, or a Mac, or whatever you’re using to then process that audio afterwards.
You’ve also got Wi-Fi 6E on the Pro models versus Wi-Fi 6 on the Plus models. That’s not particularly relevant now, but it will be.
Wi-Fi 6E has some real benefits over previous generations of Wi-Fi, in that it’s getting into the 6 GHz spectrum, which is less congested. The throughput of Wi-Fi 6E is way better than Wi-Fi 6.
So while it might not bother you now, you might in a few years down the track when your router has been upgraded to Wi-Fi 6E, and you’re stuck with the Plus phone that doesn’t do Wi-Fi 6E think, “Man, I wish I just plonked down the extra bit of money to get the Wi-Fi 6E support when I could.”
Similarly, something that may not be of interest right now (but it will be, I promise you, sometime down the track) is that the Pro models support thread networking technology. And over time, in the very near future, that is going to be integral to Internet of Things applications, home automation. You’ll be glad that you have a phone with thread networking technology if automating your home is something that interests you.
There’s also 2GB extra RAM in the Pro models. And I think that is significant for those of us who use assistive technology.
When you’ve got a screen reader running in the background and you’ve got various other processes going on, the more RAM, the better. So in addition to the faster chip, those performance improvements really can add up.
Also, there will be some blind people who are doing quite a lot of photography. I’m not one of them. And I take your point. I think most of us probably are not going to notice a significant difference.
That said, I make a lot of use of Aira, Seeing AI, Be My AI and things like that, and I’ll take any little bit of camera goodness that I can get. So I’m quite happy to do that.
But again, buy what makes you happy, what works for you.
But those are reasons why I’m quite content with my decision to get the 15 Pro Max.
Now, let’s continue the email.
“On another note, and I want to emphasize that I know this is very unrelated. Do you have any suggestions for a good podcast-listening application for iOS? I’ve been using Spotify for quite a while now, but it doesn’t let me fill in an RSS feed, so I can’t subscribe to Living Blindfully plus.”
What? That’s preposterous.
“Any suggestions would be very much appreciated.
Once again, thank you for your outstanding podcast, and I eagerly await your response.
PS: sorry for my bad English. Wow! I have tried my best to structure it in a way that is logical, and I hope it will be just fine.”
Your English is great, like a native speaker. So well done. Thank you for making the effort.
I am a bit disillusioned with the Apple podcast market right now because I haven’t found one that I can truly endorse and say, “This is a tremendous app.”
Castro used to be that app. Castro has deteriorated quite a bit.
I think the best of them for the moment would be Overcast.
It’s accessible, and it has some nice features like a smart speed feature, where it just slightly compresses pauses in podcasts to speed things up, without you having to feel like you’re listening to something sped up.
It has some audio enhancements. I don’t think they’re necessary for this podcast, personally, but they are necessary for some. And you can turn them off on a podcast-by-podcast basis.
So I would go for Overcast. You can use it free. It has ads.
You can get a few more features and get rid of the ads by paying the developer a subscription. He’s an indie developer.
There are 3 criticisms that I have of Overcast.
One is that on my device and on some other people’s, but not everyone’s, it’s sluggish. I don’t think it’s blindness-related. I don’t think it’s VoiceOver-related because I was looking on the Overcast Reddit group the other day, and other people were complaining about sluggishness as well.
So I don’t know what’s going on, but I understand that Marco is rewriting it. So let’s see if there are improvements there.
It could be the number of podcasts I have. I’m not sure.
The second is I would really like to be able to go through my list of podcast episodes that have come in in the All Episodes playlist, select multiple items, and then delete them all in one go. That would make such a difference to my workflow.
And the third (and this has also been commented on in Reddit recently as well), the developer is not responsive to feedback. You might very occasionally get a response, but hardly ever. So it doesn’t matter whether you have the world’s best ideas. You can send them along. You can do your best. They may or may not be noted, but you seldom find out whether they have been.
And that’s a bit of a shame because it’s one of the benefits that you often find when dealing with indie developers, is that you don’t get fobbed off by the customer services department. You get to talk with the developer and have some really good-quality dialogue, and you feel some sense of loyalty to the app because you know you’re helping to make the app better, and the developer cares about you.
You do not get that with Overcast. Not in my experience, anyway.
Still, it’s an alright app, and it’s the best there is at the moment, as far as I’m concerned.
“Hi, everyone,” says this email.
“Dawn Davis here.
I have now had my iPhone 15 Pro for four days. My first impressions are that it is light, and feels very comfortable in my hands.
The one thing that alarms me, though, is how hot it gets, especially when I talk on the phone. I also find that even if the phone is locked and sometimes someone has rung me, it gets very warm and the battery charge seems to diminish quickly.
I’m hoping this will improve and stabilize in the next few days.
One question I have is this – how do I use LiDAR and door detection, and where do I find them on the phone?
Any help is welcome.”
Dawn, you are not the only one experiencing this issue with the heat of the phone.
Neither Bonnie nor I in our iPhone 15 Pro Maxes have seen this, but I’ve certainly seen many articles in the tech press about this.
Hopefully, Dawn, you have updated your iPhone to iOS 17.0.3 which recently dropped. Apple says this takes care of this issue.
Since I haven’t experienced it, I can’t verify that.
You’ll find all the LiDAR goodness in the Magnifier app. And in episode 197 of the podcast, we demoed some of the new features that are LiDAR-related in iOS 16 including door detection, and I think we made reference to people detection there as well. So you might like to check out episode 197.
Remember that if you are looking for something you’re pretty sure we’ve covered, you can go to LivingBlindfully.com. Right on the main page, there is an edit field. I just typed in door detection into that edit field, and a whole bunch of results came up.
So the Magnifier app is the one you need to look for to get all the LiDAR that you now have, since you’ve upgraded to a Pro model.
And if you want to play with it, the quickest way to get to where you need to be is to perform a 4-finger triple tap.
Bad news for you if you use handwriting on your iPhone, Jeanie Willis says:
“This one is a quick warning to anyone who uses handwriting regularly, and has previously in iOS 16 had the bug where if you write an E, you, in most situations, get an L and have to use a 2-finger flick down to change it to the option for E.
If you currently have this bug and are hoping iOS 17 will fix it, DO NOT UPDATE. I can no longer write an E at all. The 2-finger flick down now only gives L’s with various accents.
So basically, handwriting is completely broken.
I’ve never really managed to get the Braille input to work for me. Any tips on how to hold the phone, align the fingers, or how the thing to calibrate it is done? As I might just need to start using this more.
I have an SE which is quite a bit smaller screen. Might this be why I can’t seem to get it to work? It just never seems to input what I think I am typing.”
And there is a postscript of sorts from Jeanie. She says:
“Well, it seems an E can be written if you do it very small, very fast, with a flick up on the right side like you are handwriting, rather than printing and carrying on to the next letter. Oh. And preferably, in the bottom right of the screen.
So if you get all that, then it will be about 1 in 3 times, so no issues there.”, she says, laughing.
“However, handwriting of punctuation does seem to be completely broken for me and others. The only one I can get working is the full stop.
I have always used a 2-finger flick down to move through the various options from a full stop to get quotation marks and apostrophe, and I see a comma and semicolon is there also. But I can’t get a comma to work at all. And it was the flick down from that which was the only way I could previously get the question mark.
So, can’t get a question mark, &, exclamation mark, or @.
Can do a slash, and can even change it with the 2-finger flick down into a backslash.
And also, saying not recognized for hyphen and underscore.
So I’m out of things to try that I can think of to look for more. I’d really appreciate it if others could test this out and report it if they get similar results.”
I don’t think a lot of people use handwriting, so it tends to get underreported and underfixed. That’s frustrating for those who use handwriting, and some of these bugs do linger.
The issue with the audio destination rotor item is still there in iOS 17 as well, which means that depending on what happens, you may not be able to hear your VoiceOver very well on a call if you use made-for-iPhone hearing aids.
The interesting thing is that sometimes, you flick down and the audio destination is selected, even though it doesn’t actually appear on the rotor for you to rotate to. [laughs] So it’s kind of the luck of the draw.
And it’s so frustrating that this one is around because if you are on hold for a long time and you wear made-for-iPhone hearing aids, it’s very difficult to get other work done when VoiceOver is so faint that you can’t hear it. Extraordinary what they allow to not get fixed.
But not to take away from your issue with handwriting or Braille Screen Input. If you check out episode 144 of this podcast, Jeanie, that has got the best explanation and tutorial of Braille screen input that I’ve ever heard. It was produced by Judy Dixon, who is an expert Braille Screen Input user. I’m sure you’d at least then have a good understanding of how the feature is supposed to work.
Braille Screen Input is absolutely doable on an SE. I guess it might depend on hand size and that kind of thing. But give that a listen or a read because the transcript’s there as well of episode 144, and see if it helps.
Voice message: Hi, Jonathan! It’s Carolyn here.
I have discovered a serious bug with iOS 17. I have reported it now to Apple, and they agree that it is a bug.
I was trying to move some apps around on my phone today. It was only one or two apps that I wanted to move, and the focus and VoiceOver are not in sync.
So for example, when it says, for example, “Drop zoom after WhatsApp. Drop ready.”, you are going to get a folder created with WhatsApp and Zoom, rather than actually having the apps dropped in the order that you want them dropped.
Also, I discovered that even when there is one app left in the folder, … Now normally, if you drag that and you go to place it elsewhere, that folder gets deleted.
But no, it doesn’t. It won’t move, and the folder stays put with that final app in the folder. So really really not happy about that development.
And I’ve said to Apple, this is an urgent problem. They could see. They put me through to their accessibility desk, we did a share the screen on the phone, and they could see exactly what I was talking about. So don’t go moving the apps around on your phone.
My phone is now a complete mess because I went and did a home screen reset thinking, “Oh, okay. I turned the phone off, turned it on again.” thinking that would set everything back into place. But no, it hasn’t, so I’ve got more screens than I wanted. I’ve got folders that I don’t want, and I’m really not very happy with Apple at the moment because I’ve never had problems doing this before. So just a warning to everybody.
Jonathan: Thanks, Carolyn.
Yes, I know a number of us reported this during the iOS 17 beta cycle, and it’s not pretty. It’s pretty difficult to get your apps back into shape again if you use VoiceOvers provided methods.
The good thing is, this does seem to be a bit better in 17.1. I’m not so sure that it’s absolutely perfect, but it’s much better in the beta of 17.1 than it was.
While we’re talking about 17.1, I want to share an experience I had because we’ve been talking about this a bit on Mastodon. Not everybody’s there, and it may be relevant to people who have iPhone 15 anythings.
I installed iOS 17.1 beta 1. I went to my office/studio here at home to start my work day, and I plugged in my phone to my mixer, which is what I do. I sit here with my mixer. I can hear my computer. I can hear my phone. I can hear me. It’s a great accessible setup for someone with a hearing impairment, particularly.
And my phone rang. It was an important call. I did a 2-finger double tap to answer the call, and I could not hear the caller over the mixer. I certainly could hear VoiceOver.
But then, I discovered that what was actually happening was that the caller was coming through the ear speaker. You had to put your ear to the phone, which doesn’t suit me particularly well. It can, depending on the person, be a bit difficult to hear in that situation.
So when you connect a device like this to the mixer (and I’ve got my hearing aids via a cable connected to my mixer), the made-for-iPhone part of the MFI hearing aids is not working. So they’re not acting as made-for-iPhone hearing aids at this point.
And it’s a really good zero latency setup when it’s working.
I was really concerned about this, and I looked at all the usual places.
I restarted the phone and I thought, “What has Apple broken?”
And I thought, this is such an obscure kind of issue that if I need to try and let Apple know about it, goodness knows when, if ever, this will get fixed.
And it’s a very sobering moment when you realize just how vulnerable you are to something like this, that this is how I work. And suddenly, the iPhone was doing something different, preventing me from being effective in my job. All of this technology, it’s just so tenuous.
And it comes back to the speech I made at the NFB convention earlier this year. You know, we’ve got to really be careful when we’re at the bottom of the heap, in many cases, with these mainstream tech companies.
So it was pretty grim.
And I talked about this in various places, and it was actually Matt McCubbin. Shoutout and a virtual chocolate fish to Matt McCubbin for coming up with a solution to this.
And I had actually looked there.
So this is the interesting thing. The solution is that I had to go into sounds and haptics. So this has nothing to do with accessibility settings. You just go into the regular sounds and haptics section. And then towards the bottom, there’s an option there called headphone safety.
Now, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to say that I would never have thought to look in headphone safety for an issue like the one I just described.
But in desperation, I did look there before sounding the alarm. And what was interesting was that at the bottom of the screen, there is a button there called USB accessories.
Now, the first time I went in there to have a quick look, when I flicked through that screen, it wasn’t appearing for me in the flick order, and I backed out of the screen because I didn’t really expect to find anything relevant in there. So I didn’t go exploring by touch around the screen.
Matt, however, did not have that issue, and he was able to tell me that the USB accessories option was there.
Now, I did have a button for my little accessory that I plug into my mixer to specify whether it should be treated as headphones or not. Even when I toggled that, I couldn’t change the behavior. Phone calls were still not coming over the mixer through this cable, which was getting really concerning.
But then, I thought, “I’ve got to try this.” There’s a button there to forget all USB accessories.
And then after I press that button and I plugged the cable back in, it said, “Are you connecting headphones?”
And I said yes, I am.
And after that, it’s been perfectly fine ever since. So I’m letting you know that, just in case something like this happens to you.
Don’t let this happen to you.
I would like to think that before iOS 17.1 is officially released, they will forget all devices, so that you are asked this question when you connect a USB accessory that you may have used when you were running iOS 17.
So phew! I can tell you, I was very relieved to have this thing sorted out.
In terms of iOS 17 and sounds, Karen McDonald is back in touch, replying to my question from the previous episode. And she says:
“Good morning, Jonathan and all,
The sound I’m looking for is the harp sound. It is available in the phone tones, but not the text tones.
There used to be two levels of classic tones. And there still is for the phone tones, but not for the text tones.”
And somebody who is a very happy banana with his new iPhone (Although this may get our Android friends responding, and that’s perfectly fine. It’s good to hear the pros and cons.) is Ben, and he writes in:
“Hello and greetings from the windy city, also known as Chicago.”
That’s interesting, Ben, because Wellington is also known as the windy city in this part of the world. That’s because it really does get very windy at times.
We even used to have a radio station here called Radio Windy.
“First of all, I want to say that I am a Living Blindfully plus subscriber. I appreciate the wide range of topics and views discussed on this podcast.”
Well thank you for your support, Ben. I really appreciate that.
“I came from an iPhone 8 Plus back in 2020 to a Pixel 5, and I just got an iPhone 15 Pro Max.
Here are just a few reasons why I prefer the iPhone over the Pixel:
- The screen recognition features are brilliant on the iPhone.
- There is image description built in to VoiceOver directly. No third-party app required.
- The door detection and people detection are really handy, and really make this phone a really good tool to have in the toolbox when walking around.
- The responsiveness of the on-screen keyboard is much better on iOS than it is on Android with TalkBack.
- The camera app is better on the iPhone because it gives you a live description of whatever the camera is pointing at, unlike the Google Pixel which only tells you if a face is in view or not.
And finally, did I mention the speakers? Man, they are some of the best speakers I’ve heard on a phone in a while. It’s loud which makes it easy to hear over noisy environments, and the sound is surprisingly good for a phone.
Plus, all of the apps like Be My Eyes and Seeing AI work much better on the iPhone than they do on the Android phone.
Also, I just got access to the Be My AI feature on Be My Eyes, and all I can say is” [insert reverb here for next word] Oh, okay. “Wow!”
That is some of the best description I’ve had in a long time. It gets some things wrong. But overall, I don’t have to ask someone to describe things. I can just point and shoot, and get a live description with pretty detailed accuracy. And the fact that I can ask follow-up questions is amazing, in my opinion.
I’m loving my iPhone, and was holding out for Apple to go USB-C which I’m glad they did, finally. I guess it took the EU to convince Apple that this finally was the right choice to make.
Anyway, just wanted to say thanks so much for keeping the podcast going, and I appreciate what you and all the rest of the Living Blindfully team do.”
And that is Ben Blatchford in Chicago, IlliNoise, or Illinoir.
Thank you, Ben.
Glad you’re happy with your phone.
My son Richard was here recently, and we had a very nice dinner.
He’s kind of like the odd one out in our family because he is an Android user. Everybody else in our family uses iOS, and they cannot wait for the next iPhone to cascade down to them, you know. We’ve got a pipeline going. But Richard’s always liked Android.
I got my iPhone 15 Pro Max out and said, “This is the latest and greatest from Apple.”
And I said, “It’s got USB-C.”
And he said, “Yeah, that’s great.”
He said, “I remember using my first USB-C phone.”
And I said, “Yeah, like in 1982 or whatever?”
And he said, “Exactly.”
I mean, he’s only 25.
Caller: Hi, Jonathan! This is Dennis Long, and I am calling about the notification change.
They unfortunately got rid of Tri-tone again in the latest beta of 17.1.
This is a problem, not only for those that have hearing issues, but it’s just a problem in general because you can’t hear it.
We really need to band together and report this.
Now, the best of both worlds would be to give an option in the notification sound for those that like it.
A notification tone is useless if you cannot hear it.
This notification tone is too quiet for a few reasons.
Number one, you can’t hear it. If you’re in any kind of environment, you can’t hear it.
And also those with hearing issues, I could see having a problem with this.
So if we can all please band together and report this to Apple. I hope it will get at the very least either changed back to Tri-tone, or give the option for the user to use what notification sound they want.
But we all need to band together, just like we did on the Braille display issue that got fixed.
Also, another issue I reported is still not fixed, and that is the spell check issue in mail.
So if we could all report that, I would be very grateful for both of those.
Jonathan: When iOS 17.1 beta 1 came out, the notification default sound had changed back to Tri-tone. And I thought initially, “Wow! They must have received a lot of feedback.” because now, they have responded to some of the negative feedback about the new notification sound and changed it back, because some people do say it’s hard to hear.
But as I traversed the settings, (and I mean, what else do you do when you haven’t got a life? You traverse the settings of your iPhone.) I found that all of the new sounds had gone.
And I figured, “Oh, I see what’s happened here. There’s probably been a crossover in branches.” In other words, iOS 17.1 was being worked on before the iOS 17 release, and they snuck in these new sounds just as iOS 17 was being released, and it didn’t make it to the 17.1 branch.
And so it has proven to be. With the release of iOS 17.1 beta 2, and all the sounds back, including the new default notification sound.
I quite like the new sounds. And if I was offered the choice to switch back to Tri-tone, I would not personally do it.
I think the new sounds are kind of modern and groovy. And because I wear made-for-iPhone hearing aids, I really don’t have a problem hearing them.
But I would be the last person to discount or underplay anybody who has difficulty hearing anything. So I think the answer is definitely to allow a user to set whatever default notification sound they want.
Now obviously, every app can override that default sound if they want. In fact, it’s interesting. I haven’t checked this out in the health app since I got 17.1 beta 2. But certainly, some apps like health were using Tri-tone and not the new notification sound. So Tri-tone is still around.
And I do think it’s a reasonable request that people be allowed to go into the user interface and specify a default sound because you can’t please everyone. But that’s a way of giving you the choice, and Apple should be in favor of that. I’m really not sure what harm it would do to offer that choice.
The good news is this is not an accessibility issue. This issue affects everyone who listens to noise on their phone. So it’s a very large group, and the reception to these new sounds is mixed.
So if you feel like Dennis does, if you want the choice, definitely get in touch with Apple, and we’ll see whether they respond to feedback.
They may decide to tough it out and say, “Look, this is change. Change is hard for people. They’ll get used to the sounds in time.”
They may vary the volume. They may do any number of things.
But hopefully, what I’d like to see them do is give us the choice.
While we’re continuing to talk about Apple things, (There’s a lot of talk about Apple things on this podcast at the moment. I guess it’s the time of the year.), Bonnie got her iPhone 15 Pro Max last week. And like a dutiful husband who is asked to set it up, I set it up.
And one of the things I did want to report back on was the precision finding feature. Because now that we’ve got two iPhone 15 Pro Maxes in the house, I can test it out.
Precision finding is made possible by the new chip in the iPhone 15 range, and you get this whether you’re running 15s or 15 pros. This chip has quite a reasonable range, and you can use the Find My app to get precise instructions to finding a person when the two phones can see each other via this chip.
And it really does work. It’s kind of like when you’re trying to find someone, a bit like precision finding on an AirTag.
I don’t want to pursue this analogy too much because if word got out that I was comparing my wife to an AirTag, my wife would not be happy. [laughs]
But it’s a similar process.
So what happens is you go into the Find My app and you find the person in question, you double tap on their name, and then you find a button that says Find Nearby when the two phones can see each other via this chip. You double tap that, and then you get haptic and audible instructions to get to the person.
You do have a little bit of a conflict going on, in that this chip can see through walls and you can’t zap through walls. Or at least, I can’t. I mean, you may have superpowers that I don’t. That’s highly possible.
But it does, for example, sometimes tell you to turn left to get to a person via the most direct route. And you can’t turn left because there’s a wall in the way.
But if you bear those things in mind, it is highly directional, highly accurate, and it can guide you to the person that you want to find. So having two iPhone 15s with that chip, it’s pretty nifty.
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Let’s turn to one of those fun subjects that gets people going – Mac versus PC. This was raised some episodes ago.
And Devin Prater says:
“I thought I didn’t have anything that I could possibly add to the decades-long discussion of Mac versus PC, especially about accessibility, but I’ve come across something that I think is important. I hope it’s just me doing things wrong, and that there’s a much better way.
VoiceOver reads things in items or elements. On a page, if there’s a paragraph, VoiceOver reads the whole thing, not just one line at a time while using the VoiceOver cursor.
Nowadays, you can read using the arrow keys on websites and emails. But in other apps like the Book app, you’re stuck using the VoiceOver cursor.
The issue with this is that when you want to read a word, you can drill down into the text and move word by word, and then character by character. But that takes time, time in which a Windows user would have found the word and gotten its spelling. I’m not saying it’s a race, but it sure would be nice if using the Mac were much faster.
Now there are some great benefits to using a Mac. Being able to text and call from your computer is really nice, having VoiceDream Reader on the computer is sweet, and the VoiceOver sounds and position of audio is the icing on the cake that turns computing from boring and sometimes sleep-inducing to something that makes me want to come back for more and more of it.
Also, I do wonder what blind programmers can do with everything Apple has put out there with 3D audio and such, as far as games or even Braille translation apps, OCR apps, and so on.
As Windows continues to break (I had to restart my computer just to get the start menu to work again.), and the Mac hopefully continues to improve especially in things like reading books, we might see more blind people complete the Apple ecosystem with a Mac.”
Well thanks, Devin.
I guess it’s different strokes and all that kind of thing. But I agree with you about your analysis regarding getting to information that you said in the first part of the message.
For me, all the noises VoiceOver makes is just annoyance. And for anybody who even hears demos that I produce on iOS, you will note that I’ve turned off all the clicking that you get when you flick from element to element, and I’ve got my sounds very minimal. And that was the same when I was a Mac user.
I should say we still do have access to Mac. I kind of look at it and see how it’s doing. We do have an M1 MacBook Air, and we keep that up to date. I check in from time to time.
I suppose it’s difficult to objectively assess which operating system is the more buggy from a screen reader user’s point of view because the things that annoy you are the ones that inconvenience you every day, and that will differ from person to person. For me, the bottom line is productivity.
I certainly agree with you that texting is really great on the Mac and the whole ecosystem – the handoff, all of that stuff, and I think I talked about that when this topic came up a couple of episodes ago.
It’s all great. But in the end, it really does depend on where you are in life, what you want to do.
If you’re working for a company, for example, that is steeped in the Microsoft ecosystem, to me, there is just no contest. Whether you use Narrator, NVDA, or JAWS, you’re going to get a much better Microsoft Office experience, and be able to interrogate that document, and whisk around that document efficiently. Mac is far behind in that regard.
And if you want to create that kind of literary content and you’ve got an employer who’s given you deadlines, and you want to be as productive as possible compared to your sighted peers, really, there’s no contest.
The good news is of course, too, that you have choice. If your screen reader of choice develops a bug, you can always change to another screen reader to get you through until that bug is resolved.
Now if that happens to you on VoiceOver for Mac, you are up the soup creek, that’s what you are, because there’s no other screen reader option on the Mac, and I think that’s something we need to consider as well.
I also think that when something breaks, we have to ask the question how likely is it that we’re going to be listened to in a timely manner?
Now, you can contact Vispero and I think that their tech support is quite reasonable about logging issues and tracking issues. They do engage quite actively with the blind community. If you really need to, you can jump on FS Openline periodically, and talk to senior people at Vispero who can make a difference to addressing something in JAWS.
I have found Microsoft’s tech support to be fantastic. When you report an issue with something to do with Windows and Narrator, they will respond and they’ll work with you on it.
And of course, NVDA are everywhere. NVAccess is all over Mastodon. They’re on various social media presences. They are very approachable.
I do not perceive that Apple behaves that way. Apple has a secretiveness about it, I dare say an arrogance about it. That means that I’m not sure that I would want to trust my productivity on the job to them because if something breaks, who knows how long it’s going to take to get fixed? And we’ve all seen this pretty mission critical bugs that can take a long time to be addressed.
I also really appreciate having tools like Leasey and things, where I can press keys and get things done efficiently. There’s a philosophical debate to be had, I suppose, about that. And some people say it dilutes the user interface, it gives us as blind people a different user experience from sighted people.
You know what? I don’t care. I don’t care. What I want to be able to do is get the job done as efficiently as possible, and interrogate the information I need access to as efficiently as possible. If that means modifying the user interface, having to memorize some keystrokes, I’ll do it because I’ve got so much work to do.
Christopher Wright says:
I’m responding to the person who asked about VoiceOver on the Mac.
I personally love the way VoiceOver works, and its power when it works correctly. It’s definitely a different experience that takes time to master, but I think it’s a superior experience.
I like that VoiceOver treats you more like a sighted person.
For example, it doesn’t always announce information just because it can. For example, you only know a progress bar is updating when you put the cursor on it. If you don’t want to know about that anymore, move the cursor somewhere else.
This is essentially the same thing as a sighted person glancing at the indicator, and then looking at something else entirely.
I also really like that you’re taught to use VoiceOver navigation to navigate the system. While you can use tab and arrow keys, you’ll miss static information like the text in dialog boxes just like in Windows. In Windows, you need to have advanced screen reader skills to use things like NVDA object navigation.
For the curious, it’s essentially how interaction on the Mac works, except backwards. Instead of starting with a broad overview, you start at the smallest level and have to work your way up.
For example, you may be on a toolbar. But with NVDA, you need to move up a level to explore other things that are outside the controls on that toolbar. VoiceOver interaction allows you to quickly navigate through the interface, skipping things you may not care about such as toolbars or large lists of information.
Having said that, I will agree that sometimes, it’s used to an extreme. Navigation 3 or 4 levels deep isn’t the most efficient experience.
I agree with Jonathan that VoiceOver lets the Mac down, even though it is a powerful screen reader with a lot of untapped potential.
The Mac is a great operating system with tons of advantages I won’t list, otherwise this would be twice as long.
However, VoiceOver suffers from a lack of attention which I hope is changing for the better.
The trend started in Ventura with things like the text checker to quickly identify formatting, grammar, and spelling mistakes, and I hope this continues. I don’t have personal experience using the text checker because my Mac is too old, though some people have said it has some bugs which I hope are fixed in Sonoma.
I’ve been told VoiceOver is even more responsive in Sonoma as well, which is great.
I’m seriously thinking about getting an M3 Mac Mini, assuming that trend continues. I expect we’ll get that model either next year or in 2025, by which point we’ll be using the version after Sonoma which might be even better for VoiceOver users.”
Well, I hope so. I am simultaneously angry and sad about the state of Mac VoiceOver. We all know Apple can, and has done better, so I don’t know why they are dropping the ball so badly in this particular case.
Ultimately, use the tool or tools that work best for you. I have come to realise we benefit as blind people if we have access to all operating systems, which is why I have Windows with NVDA/Narrator, iOS, Android, Linux, Chrome OS Flex, and Mac OS. We can take the best aspects from all these different systems to make our lives better and more productive.”
Thanks, Christopher. That’s a very objective bit of feedback there.
And the world benefits from geeky people who are willing to play, to investigate, to kick the tyres of all these different operating systems and report back.
But then, you have people who are not necessarily that tech savvy, or who just don’t care. What they have is a job, a mortgage to pay, and deadlines to meet. For them, the technology isn’t an end in itself, it’s a tool. It’s a tool to get the job done. They use it because that’s what it allows them to do.
And then, they hopefully forget about it and move on with their lives.
Maybe they find learning different technologies a bit of a struggle, because there’s no doubt that there’s an extra layer of complexity that any screen reader is going to add to any operating system.
It’s not universal, of course. You do have some people who say “I switched to Mac and I’ve never looked back.”, and there certainly are those people. But I have also seen a lot of people who were inspired by their iPhone and the great experience that they had with it who switched to Mac, and then switched back because they find it unreliable and convoluted.
Now, part of that is of course, what you get used to. If you start off on Mac, then you probably go to Windows and you don’t have a clue what’s going on, so there is a familiarity thing.
And I think there are some unrealistic expectations that someone’s Mac experience is going to be very similar to their iPhone experience. There are some similarities, but there are also some big differences.
I have to say that I think your comment about having to have focus on a scroll bar to hear it being a feature is an incredible spin. You need to go into PR, or politics, or something.
I think this is a frustrating limitation. We absolutely have to have control over whether those scroll bars speak or not when they update. Because there’s nothing more frustrating than being somewhere on your computer and hearing 20 %, 30 %, whatever, and you don’t want to hear that. But to force you as a screen reader user to be in a specific control and essentially not be able to do anything else until that thing is finished is a bit limiting.
Now, to be fair, you can set up an area of the screen (like a hotspot I think they call it, isn’t it?) that talks. So you can do that, and you can save it on an application basis. So there are workarounds for that.
But I couldn’t agree with you more. I think every operating system should be accessible.
My dream is that we don’t have to worry about which one is more accessible or easier to use for blind people, that we all have the same choice as everybody else.
And sometimes, it just comes down to personal preference, rather than things like efficiency, reliability, all those things that we’ve been talking about in the context of screen reading.
Voice message: Hey, guys. Robin here.
Today, I want to talk about a news reader that will grab your RSS feeds and allow you to read stories in a really simple interface.
What is RSS? What are RSS feeds?
Well, it’s basically a way that a website allows an app like the one we’re going to look at now to easily go and check what new news stories there are on that website, published on that website, since you last checked. So really really simple. RSS actually stands for Really Simple Syndication. So yeah, it is simple.
And this is a really good, free RSS news reader.
And guess what?
It’s called RSS News Reader. [laughs] And you can download it from webbie.org.uk. And it’s really easy to install. It’s really accessible. It’s meant for people with a vision impairment.
Let’s give it a go.
I’ll bring up the Start menu, …
Screen reader: Search box, edit.
Robin: and type in RSS.
Screen reader: RSS News Reader, app. Press right to switch view.
Robin: There it is. I’ll hit Enter.
Screen reader: List box. AppleVis blog post(0), 1 of 14.
Robin: Okay, so there are 14 items here.
Now, I also use an RSS feed reader on the iPhone called Lire that’s been covered before, or at least, talked about before. That’s L-I-R-E, and that’s really accessible, too.
I had previously gathered together lots of feeds from my favorite tech websites. You can export a list of those feeds, and you can bring them into this app RSS News Reader too, which is why I’ve got 14 things already in this list.
And the UI of this app is really simple.
There are 2 lists. There’s one on the left, I imagine, which is your websites. And then, there’s one on the right, which is the news stories.
Now, because this first one …
Screen reader: AppleVis blog post (0), 1 of 14.
Robin: was highlighted when we opened the app, it actually refreshed the feed from that one. And there’s no new AppleVis blog posts since we last looked, which is why it says 0.
If I arrow down, …
Screen reader: AppleVis guides, 2 of 14, AppleVis reviews, 3 of 14, Ars Technica, 4 of 14, BBC News, 5 of 14, CNET News,6 of 14.
Robin: And I could carry on down.
Now, I can hit enter on any of these and it will simply refresh. It will give me all of the news stories published on that website since we last checked.
So let’s do CNET. I’ll hit enter.
Screen reader: List box. Best Samsung Galaxy S21, S21 Plus, and S21 Ultra cases of 2023-CNET (September 9th, 2023)
“Looking for a new Galaxy S21, S21 Plus, or S21 Ultra case? You’ve come to the right place. Here are our top picks.”, 1 of 25.
Robin: Okay. So there are 25 items in the list here.
If I tab, …
Screen reader: List box. CNET News (25), 6 of 14.
Robin: Okay. So we’re back to that thing. And now, it’s got 25 in brackets.
And that’s it. There’s just two lists.
If I tab again, …
Screen reader: List box. Best Samsung Galaxy…
Robin: We’re back on that item.
Now this is really really powerful, isn’t it? Because you can just now read down through this list by arrowing down. And it not only gives you the title, it gives you when it was published, and it also gives you a summary of the article.
Let’s hear a few more.
Screen reader: Best carbon monoxide detector for 2023-CNET.
Robin: Arrow down.
Screen reader: Best iPhone 14 camera accessories-CNET.
Robin: Arrow down.
Screen reader: Best 15-inch gaming and work laptop for 2023…
The best blood pressure monitors-CNET. (September 9th, 2023).
Robin: Okay. And if you wanted to read any of these, you would just hit enter. Now it doesn’t actually bring the article into the app, which is one downside maybe, but it’s pretty straightforward to just open up the article in Edge, say, (This is a Windows app, by the way), and then hit F9 to bring all the text of the article into reader mode and strip out all of the social shares and the adverts, etc.
So let’s do that. I’ll hit enter.
Screen reader: Opening new window. Best OTA DVR for cord cutting-CNET-Microsoft Edge-work.
Robin: I’ll hit F9.
Screen reader: Loading page. Loading complete. Immersive reader available. Best OTA DVR for…
Robin: I’ll hit H.
Screen reader: Best OTA DVR for cord cutting heading level 1.
Robin: Start arrowing down.
Screen reader: Blank.
Free TV is better when you can watch on your schedule. Here are our top picks for devices that pause, record and stream free over dash the dash air television with…
Robin: Pause it.
So OTA is over the air.
I’ll hit control F4.
Screen reader: Closing tab. Close.
List box. Best OTA DVR for cord…
Robin: And we’re back in the RSS news reader app.
Now, if you have listened to all of these and you think, “Okay. I’ve read the ones I want. I want to delete them all.”, then you can do alt I.
Screen reader: Items menu. Delete. D.
Robin: So you could delete the one that you’re on which is D. You can also just hit the delete key.
But if we arrow down, …
Screen reader: Delete all. D.
Screen reader: Leaving menus. List box. CNET news (0). 6 of 14.
Robin: Okay. So that right-hand column now is empty, and it’s taken us back to the left and it says 0 now.
If we carry on arrowing down, …
Screen reader: MIT technology review, 7 of 14.
New York Times technology. 8 of 14.
Robin: And we could enter on any of these and start reading the list of articles that it has grabbed for us.
So it’s really really easy to get through all of your RSS feeds, all of the articles from websites that you follow regularly, to be able to keep abreast of the topics that you’re interested in.
Let’s have a quick look at the menus.
If I hit the alt key, …
Screen reader: Menu bar. File. F.
Robin: Arrow down.
Screen reader: File menu. Import. I.
Robin: So import. That is where I brought in the list of feeds from another place.
In a moment, we’ll look at how you can add them individually as well. But yeah, you can export what’s called a .opml file, and then just bring it in here with this command.
Screen reader: Export. E.
Robin: We can export all of these feeds that we see here as an opml.
Screen reader: Exit. X.
Robin: We can exit.
Let’s arrow right.
Screen reader: Menu bar. View menu. Deleted items. D.
Robin: There’s only one item in the view menu, and that’s deleted items. I guess if you think, “Oh, I did want to look at those articles after all.”
If I arrow right, …
Screen reader: Menu bar. Feeds menu. Refresh. R.
Robin: You can refresh, but I just hit enter.
Screen reader: Next. N.
Screen reader: Previous. P.
Robin: I’m not sure why you would do this. I would just, you know, arrow down.
Screen reader: Add feed. A.
Robin: We’ll look at that in a second.
Screen reader: Rename feed. R.
Robin: And if you don’t like the name of the feed as it’s brought in, you can rename it.
Screen reader: Delete feed. D.
Robin: And you can delete the feed from the left hand list.
Screen reader: Open feed website. O.
Robin: You can go to the website.
Screen reader: Delete all website RSS news feeds. D.
Robin: That’s the nuclear option to delete the whole list on the left.
Screen Reader: Refresh. R.
Robin: Back up to the top.
If I right arrow, …
Screen reader: Items menu. Delete. D.
Robin: You’ve got delete.
Screen reader: Delete all. D.
Robin: And delete all. Both with the same hotkey. But anyway which we looked at in a moment ago.
If I arrow to the right, …
Screen reader: Help menu. Manual. M.
Robin: You can read the manual, but it’s very very simple.
Screen reader: Open feed URL. O.
Robin: Yep, that’s if you want to go to the website. I’m not sure how that’s different from what we saw in the other one, but anyway…
Screen reader: About… A.
Robin: And about is where it will take you to that dialogue which talks about webbie.org.uk.
I’ll hit alt key to get out of the menus.
Screen reader: Leaving menus. List box. New York Times technology.
Robin: Now, say we wanted to grab all of the feeds from the Living Blindfully podcast website. So it’s very very simple.
I’ll go to feeds which is alt E.
Screen reader: Feeds menu. Refresh. R.
Robin: Arrow down.
Screen reader: Next. Previous. Add feed. A.
Screen reader: Leaving menus. Edit.
Robin: Now, I could have grabbed the URL from the website.
So you can go to any website you want. Your favourite news website, and you can just go to the URL in the address bar at the top.
But here I’ll type http://LivingBlindfully.com.
Screen reader: List box. New York Times technology. 8 of 14.
Living Blindfully. 7 of 15. Robin: Living Blindfully. And it’s now in the list. And it says 7 of 15. It’s put it in alphabetical order.
If I hit enter, …
Screen reader: Coming up on Living Blindfully episode 247, we are ready for Apple’s next big reveal, frustration mounts over ACB’s absence from Mastodon, and Sammy Sweet Spirit encourages…
Robin: I’ll just hush that up.
So yeah. If you arrow down, …
Screen reader: Transcript. Living Blindfully episode 246.
Robin: So you’ve got the upcoming announcement for the next show, and you’ve got the transcript. And I imagine if any articles were posted to that website, then they would be featured here too.
And obviously, I can hit enter and I’ll be taken to the webpage with the transcript.
Let’s delete all of these. If I do Alt I, …
Screen reader: Item. Delete all. D.
Robin: Delete all. Screen reader: Leaving menus. List box. Living Blindfully (0). 7 of 15.
Robin: So it’s saying 0. And you know, if I hit enter again, …
Screen reader: List box. No news items. 1 of 1.
Robin: No news items because yeah. We’ve seen them all. Unless Jonathan published one instantly in between refreshing there.
So yeah. It’s that simple how to add a feed.
And so yeah. Really really easy to use. RSS News Reader.
You can grab it from Webbie. That’s W-E-B-B-I-E.org.uk.
Brilliant! Thanks, guys! Enjoy! And hopefully, speak again soon.
Jonathan: Thank you so much for taking us through that, Robin. Smashing job as ever.
I’m a big proponent of RSS. It’s how I consume most of my news, and it has real efficiency and accessibility benefits because you’re in a user interface that can be designed with accessibility in mind.
If you choose the right RSS reader, you can navigate through the articles. It’s all very efficient.
If you are interested in Lire (and its developer tells me that you pronounce it, Leer. It’s French, you know, but it’s spelled L-I-R-E), it’s an excellent app for your iPhone or iPad. works on Macs these days as well. Then you can go all the way back to Episode 80 of the podcast where I spoke with its developer, and also demonstrated the app at some length.
So that’s Lire for iOS and iPadOS and Mac, all the way back in Episode 80 of this podcast. Many moons ago now.
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Chatting with Ash is kind of like texting a friend who needs help. And I must confess, I’ve come to look forward to the text conversations and what’s happening in Ash’s life.
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On the subject of guide dogs, we have a couple of Australian contributions on this.
Dawn is in Sydney, and she says:
“When I first inquired about getting a dog, I was in my late teens, having just finished school.
I was rejected on the grounds that I was too light to be able to handle a Labrador. At the time, I was extremely disappointed.
But in the end, I used a cane for quite a number of years until I began to mix with more and more dog users and could see the advantages in increased independence. By this time, I had been married a few years and felt ready to take on the responsibility.
I must say, I’ve never looked back. Having a dog has brought me more independence and freedom of mobility than ever before.
I firmly believe that having a dog requires, along with dedication to her welfare and health, a good bit of common sense.
Having a sighted husband has meant that, to a certain extent, taking a dog on long trips is not always necessary or practical. In these situations, there is a lot to consider. I guess it’s a lot like taking a toddler away. There’s food and finding toileting facilities for a start.
That is not to say that having a dog is burdensome. In fact, I think the opposite is true.
I think a person has to find their own balance and make their own decisions about any limitations they might place on times, or places where they feel having their dog accompany them may just be too difficult.
I also believe that we should not feel guilty about having our dogs in kennels, or with friends. I look on the times when my dog has been left behind as a doggy holiday for them, as well as a bit of a break for me.
I would like to know what others think.”
Peter Sumner is also in Australia, and says:
“Hello Jonathan and friends, Living Blindfully. Good to be in touch again.
My wife Pearl and I have recently subscribed separately to Living Blindfully plus, and are very happy to support the podcast in this way, as we receive so much from each episode and commend you and the team for the enormous benefit Living Blindfully brings to the blindness community week by week.”
Thank you both so much. Really appreciate that.
“We both have Victor Reader Generation 2 Treks model 513, and found we could upload the podcast plus RSS feed script directly into these devices. For the transfer, we used a USB cable from a PC into each trek after we had accessed the downloaded Humanware Stream Companion software tool.
We also have a Victor Reader Generation 3. But surprisingly, the Stream Companion tool has not been updated yet to support this device. We shall have to get on to Humanware about this unwanted delay.
Jonathan, like you, Sammy Sweet Spirit and countless others, Pearl and I have been greatly helped and inspired by the writings of Eckhart Tolle which we first encountered more than 20 years ago. His first book, The Power of Now, was certainly a life changer for us.
Both this book and his second significant work, A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose are available from our National Talking Book Library, and I’m sure in Braille as well.
The audio version of A New Earth is actually read by Tolle himself, with his trademark faint European accent.”
Yes, and so is the Power of Now, actually, Peter. You can get that from him as well.
“In case some Living Blindfully listeners aren’t familiar with this later book, I’ll share the following brief quote that for me, seems to capture something of the spirit of Living Blindfully.
“Whatever you cannot enjoy doing,” Tolle says, “you can at least accept that this is what you have to do. Acceptance means, for now, this is what this situation, this moment, requires me to do, and so I do it willingly.
For example, you probably won’t be able to enjoy changing the flat tire on your car at night in the middle of nowhere and in pouring rain, let alone be enthusiastic about it, but you can bring acceptance to it.
Performing an action in the state of acceptance means you are at peace while you do it. That peace is a subtle energy vibration which then flows into what you do.
On the surface, acceptance looks like a passive state. But in reality, it is active and creative because it brings something entirely new into this world. That peace, that subtle energy vibration, is consciousness. And one of the ways in which it enters this world is through surrendered action, one aspect of which is acceptance.
Does this mean you can no longer take action to bring about change in your life?
On the contrary. When the basis for your actions is inner alignment with the present moment, your actions become empowered by the intelligence of life itself.
Unlike stress, enthusiasm has a high energy frequency and so resonates with the creative power of the universe. This is why Ralph Waldo Emerson said that “Nothing great has ever been achieved without enthusiasm.” With enthusiasm, you will find that you don’t have to do it all by yourself. In fact, there is nothing of significance that you can do by yourself.
Sustained enthusiasm brings into existence a wave of creative energy, and all you have to do then is ride the wave.”
Great stuff, isn’t it?“, says Peter.
It certainly is.
“Jonathan, following your invitation to write in about what it takes to care for a dog guide and what value I believe a dog guide adds to my life, I’d like to offer the following:
I received my first dog guide back in 1967. And now, at the age of 80, I’m with my 7th guide dog, Dexter. Pearl is now with her third dog, Gracie.
We live in the state of Victoria, which is in the southeast of Australia. And when you get a guide dog here, you sign a guide dog handlers agreement in which you undertake to cover the costs of your dog’s food, veterinary care, and annual dog insurance. The harness equipment, dog bed, a month’s supply of dog food, and the first year’s insurance premium are paid by the guide dog training agency.
The cost of good quality dog food and insurance is fairly expensive these days, and tends to rise each year. Added to this, dog guides in Australia are no longer treated pro bono by vets, and vet check-ups and care can be a significant cost, too.
Recently, Pearl’s dog broke a little toe in her right foot while running free under supervision in a dog park. And the vet treatment for this injury plus x-rays, etc cost a couple of thousand dollars, which fortunately was mostly covered by our insurance. These costs can be challenging and beyond the means of some blind handlers if they cannot get assistance for dog guide maintenance.
Currently, in Australia, handlers under the age of 65 can have their dog guide maintenance costs covered by what is called the National Disability Insurance Scheme, or NDIS.
Those who receive their dog guides when they are over the age of 65, however, must turn for support to the Home Care Package Program for Seniors, otherwise known as HCPP. Under this scheme, a handler can designate his or her dog guide as their primary preferred mobility aid and presumably have the dog’s maintenance costs covered by their package funding.
Unfortunately, I have to say that many HCPP provider managers are poorly trained and informed. And because the HCPP guidelines do not specifically include the term dog guide among listed mobility aids, claims for dog maintenance costs are often refused or disputed. This means that blind seniors in the Home Care Package Programme often have to battle with provider management to have their legitimate right to mobility aid maintenance recognised and granted. If you have too much trouble and resistance from one provider, however, there is now the option to easily transfer your package funds to another provider that is better informed and more friendly disposed to blind seniors and their dog guides.
As far as caring for your dog is concerned, dog food has to be organised and dispensed, of course, which only takes a small amount of time throughout the day.
Dog grooming can take from 5 minutes up to 20 minutes (depending on how thorough you want to be), and need not be done frequently. The dogs love a bath occasionally, and this helps to keep them more sociable.
Obviously, they will need regular exercise too, which they may get taking you to and from work, or a shopping expedition, or you can take exercise walks as time, energy and opportunity allow. This not only keeps the dog fit and their training reinforced, but it’s good for the handlers as well.
The other thing you have to be prepared for are some necessary toileting routines for your dog, but these arrangements can be simplified and accommodated without fuss as you would for any other beloved member of your household.
One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to take your dog guide with you everywhere all the time. Provided their basic needs are met, they can be left at home for a few hours if you’re going with a sighted family member or friend, or going to an appointment where you judge using your cane to be more appropriate given the circumstances. It’s often easier to leave your dog at home for short periods when they have another dog for company, but most dog guides can be conditioned to mind the house while you’re away, and be quite happy knowing that you will assuredly return before too long.
As to what benefits I believe my dog guides have added to my life, it will be understood that throughout my life experience, I’ve had different dog guides to match my changing needs and circumstances every 8-10 years or so.
When I was in my 20s and 30s, I hurried with my guide around our wide country on every form of transport as the director and promoter of our faith-based overseas aid organization. At this time, I was matched with very energetic and active dogs who had to listen to a hundred or more of my promotional talks each year, and sometimes amused audiences by getting up and yawning loudly before I’d finished.
The main benefit of those days was that I could do my work and get safely to any engagement in any part of the country with the assistance of my canine companion.
Now in my retirement years, I’ve had to slow down quite a bit. And due to increasing bone brittleness, I need to avoid tripping or falling as much as possible. With this in mind, my training agency matched me with my current dog, Dexter, who is very calm and works at a steady pace without pulling. If there’s even a slight up-thrust in the pavement ahead of us, he will slow almost to a stop until we have passed the irregularity.
I now have a medical condition where it’s very important that I get a certain amount of exercise every day if I’m to live for any length of time with my condition. So it means a lot to me that I can go out for a walk either with Pearl and her dog, or by myself with Dexter any time I like if the weather is OK, without having to wait around for a human guide to become available. You could say my dog guide is helping me to live longer and better.
Recently, I had to sum up for an aged care report what exactly my dog guide does for me as a totally blind senior. I summarized it in the following:
Dexter provides or facilitates for me mobility, exercise, physical support if necessary, fall prevention, general safety, community access, social interaction, independence, and better well-being through dognative therapy.
Dog guides, of course, don’t suit all blind people and their lifestyles. But for some, and no matter what stage they’re at – young, middle-aged, or older, they can find, with the right match, a dog guide that can be a wonderful enhancer of their life experience and a tremendous aid to help them achieve their goals, whatever they are.
Thanks again, Jonathan, for creating this forum where we can share our experiences and pass on information that might be helpful to others.”
Thank you so much, Pete. That’s quite an incredible testimonial there.
And George, who started this conversation with his initial email that we read on the Bonnie Bulletin, says:
“I’d like to thank both you and Bonnie for the incredible response regarding all my questions.
I have decided to go ahead with the application process.
However, I am slightly apprehensive, as I’m not great at remembering routes or navigating on my own in large, open spaces.
How can this be made easier and/or manageable?”
That’s a challenging one, George. And I wouldn’t want to give a glib answer about this.
If orientation and mobility training is available where you are, that may help.
But I do know of some people who have significant spatial awareness issues where even if the best orientation and mobility is available, they will still find it difficult. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of, but it is a reality for some in our community.
Practice may help. And also, obviously, having a guide dog may help.
Also, if it is possible (and it may not be), having access to mapping applications on a smartphone can also provide some backup. It’s never a substitute for good cane skills, but it can be a very useful adjunct to them.
“I also wanted to touch on the Africa and assistive tech issue.
You suggested in episode 249 that we should consider working with the governments in these countries in order to improve services. However, this probably wouldn’t get us anywhere.
Let’s look at Sudan, for example. As it was mentioned in a recent episode, they are currently having a civil war between two rival factions of the military. If they can’t even manage to maintain a lasting peace, how can they have any hope of creating and providing services for a small minority of the population?
Secondly, South Africa, where I live, is much more fortunate. However, our electricity crisis makes even the most basic tasks incredibly difficult.
I propose that the assistive technology companies could provide discounts to those countries considered developing. I’m not suggesting giving out free things, but rather a system that accounts for the lack of certain institutions that may exist in the West to help with procurement of these products. As far as I know, African countries don’t have the ability to go to an institution to request expensive devices or software, unless it’s being provided by an employer for work purposes. This hypothetical discount would really help blind people get access to Braille displays and notetakers.
I remember when I had to get my notetaker some years ago, I had to cover the entire cost of the whole thing on my own. I later ended up selling it for a tiny fraction of what I originally paid, as it wasn’t all that the company had promised.
Please let me know what you think, and thanks for the opportunity to address such an important issue.”
I think you’re on the right track with this, George, and I appreciate you writing in. It’s a topic that we should be talking about. I think there should be some sort of coordinated effort here.
It would absolutely be appropriate for assistive technology companies to have some sort of philanthropy budget, where they are making this technology available, even if it was refurbished technology or something like that. It would be a very useful thing to do, and I’d like to think that that could be done in conjunction with overseas aid agencies and programs. Some of those are provided by various governments in the Western world, others are private philanthropic projects, and a lot of this may well still be happening.
It’s not an area I know a lot about at all, and it’s something we will discuss in the future on the podcast.
It’s just a heartbreaker that you saved up and did all you could to get a product that you then found did not meet your expectations. That is very sad, and it’s a shame that you’re out of pocket as a result.
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 3 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 LivingBlindfully.com/plus. That’s LivingBlindfully.com/P-L-U-S.
Pay what you can. It all helps. Thanks for your support of Living Blindfully Plus.
This email reads:
“This is Melody Holloway from Columbus, Ohio.
I was an off-and-on listener of the Mosen Explosion and Mosen At Large for years. I now am working my way chronologically backwards through Living Blindfully, which is more than fitting to convey your steadfast message of advocacy and best quality of life for all blind/visually impaired people.
I want to talk about living with blindness, in addition to other disabilities, along with unconventional employment.
I have aspired for decades to obtain a certificate in healthcare, environmental science, law enforcement, journalism, vision rehabilitation, and most of all, one-on-one, in-home, round-the-clock care-giving.
For nearly 4 decades, I survived an impoverished life of unspeakable psychological abuse inflicted by my parents, 36 psychiatric hospitalizations, having been misdiagnosed and misunderstood by our local health systems, and bureaucracy, while simultaneously gaining independence under the radar.
I have prior experience caring for one of my most memorable life coaches, a lady with severe traumatic brain injury, who has since passed.
This past April, I finally moved to a HUD-owned 1-bedroom apartment living on supplemental benefits and a fixed rent subsidy.
In addition to congenital retinopathy of prematurity, I live with Ehlers,” (I’m not familiar with that, but it’s E-H-L-E_R-S) “Danlos syndrome, autism level 1 (no intellectual disability), ADHD, digestive disorders, chronic widespread pain, post-sepsis effects of back-to-back pneumonia and alpha variant COVID-19, acquired hearing damage, and debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder with disassociative symptoms. Of this plethora of conditions, total blindness is by far least disabling, however most visible to the sighted world.
Not only do those of us with multiple disabilities face societal misconceptions surrounding visual impairment when navigating daily life, we face preconceived ideology concerning each additional label we carry. These perceptions are bestowed upon us not just by people with sight; at times, other blind peers who may not be able to imagine themselves in our position possess them as well.
I have held on to hopes of becoming a mother, guide dog handler, and to pursue endeavours in the field of hospitality, generosity, and altruism. Conditional and circumstantial perceptions has become that one pesky pin of one cell on a faulty Braille display which changes course for the entire task.
Our upcoming ACB Ohio State Convention theme is “Defying Expectations”. How can we step out of comfort box and strive towards exceeding expectations if we are perceived to defy only those expectations commonly circulated throughout the blind community? Some personal backgrounds can be so tough to fathom that many we interact with have difficulty engaging, therefore begetting isolation for all parties involved. How can someone gain a footing as blind citizens if we sometimes find other equally capable blind adults question our capabilities?
Being a woman of 38, standing around 4 feet 10 inches with motor tics, disorganised speech, no eyes, medical braces and white cane in hand begets plenty of misconceptions. On the other hand, also bringing about opportunities for education, advocacy and kindness.
I have difficulty accepting the harsh reality that I most likely will not be able to achieve exact long-term goals, but will never back down from the practice of kindness and advocacy as long as this exhausted body allows.
In closing, my main purpose for this email is to convey that perception, appearance, and expectation are often within the eye of the beholder.
May I say hello and good day to my friends in the American Council of the Blind, Braille Revival League, for which I serve on the board of directors? And a special hello to two of my dearest confidants, Monica Williard and Shawn Thiel. Without you, I would not be listening or writing in.
Thank you so much, Jonathan, for your continuous efforts to improve accessibility, usability for, and acceptance of the global blind community.
Bonnie, congratulations for becoming a dual citizen!”
Melody, I just want to thank you so much for taking the time to write this. I think it takes an enormous amount of courage to disclose in the way that you have, and talk about your experiences.
One of the points that I made in the context of the Lyft driver discussion we’ve been having, and somebody said, “Well, this person is a person of colour, clearly. And yet, they have no empathy for disabled people experiencing discrimination.”
So just because we are blind, it doesn’t mean that it’s guaranteed that you will get understanding, and empathy, and support for those other conditions that you mention.
The intersectionality of being a woman, and then having multiple impairments, creates tremendous potential for discrimination and roadblocks that need not necessarily exist. We can, as a society, be very superficial, and the blind community isn’t excluded from that superficiality from time to time.
I wish you all the very best. And with all your tenacity and how articulate you are, I have every confidence that good things are coming for you.
So thank you for being in touch and for taking the time to listen over the years.
This email is from John Gassman, who says:
I don’t know if you have covered this subject. I couldn’t find it searching the website.
I live in a duplex so maybe it isn’t anything I need, but I always thought it would be cool to get an alert on my phone indicating that a package had been delivered, or that someone was doing something next to my front door on the porch. Having never had such a security system, I don’t know which are most reliable and accessible, in the event I want to purchase such a system.
Thanks as always for a great podcast, and all the many items that come our way on Mastodon.”
Thanks, John. Good to hear from you.
We have talked about this on and off.
I’ve got a Ring video doorbell, not because necessarily I think it’s the best one, but because it’s sold in New Zealand and it’s well-supported here, should the need arise for maintenance.
There are others. We had Steve Bauer some time ago now demonstrate the Google Nest, is it called? I think the Google Nest video doorbell, and the audio quality was much better than Ring. Bonnie and I both find the audio quality when you’re talking to someone who’s at your front door a little bit lacklustre with Ring.
And we’ve got the Ring video doorbell Pro so it’s all hardwired, and it uses 5 gigahertz Wi-Fi, so it tends to be reasonably reliable. And we do get notifications.
They’ve introduced a new feature recently where you not only hear when someone’s at your door. If it detects that a package has been dropped off, it’s looking for boxes and things like that, it’ll tell you that there’s a package waiting in your front door zone. And I find that very helpful.
The advantage of Ring also is that it is owned by Amazon so it works with all our Soup Drinkers, as well as the phone.
I get a notification that someone’s at the door. But if I’ve got the phone on do not disturb for any reason and someone is at the door, then the Soup Drinker will tell me that as well.
I’m a big fan of the Amazon personal assistant, so I like being in that ecosystem with the Ring video doorbell as well.
But I would be interested in hearing what other people are using, whether it be Ring and your experiences of their product, or Google, or any of the other players in this space.
You can, of course, attach an audio clip, or write an email down and send that email in to opinion@LivingBlindfully.com. Our listener line number in the US is 864-60-Mosen, 864-606-6736.
Let’s return to a subject that we talked about some time ago now. But Haya Simkin’s bringing it back.
I think it was a few months ago that you and the other listeners were talking about songs and sounds that make you feel weird or upset for strange reasons, or something like that.
I was reminded of this today when listening to you customizing Karen. You made the voice go as low and as high as it could go, and it reminded me of 2 sounds that used to freak me out.
I am of the cassette generation, and I don’t miss them at all. When I was a kid, there would be a number of things that made tapes sound weird. The battery would start to die on the Fisher-Price tape recorder that I would use, and would make the tape sound something like the slowest version of Karen. And it would also distort any speech, so you couldn’t tell what you were hearing.
My mother would dub tapes.
For the post-cassette folks out there, this is the process by which you copy tapes. You have a tape recorder with 2 decks, and you put the original in one deck and a blank cassette in the other, and you would hit play on the original and record on the blank tape.
I think my tape recorders had a high speed setting for recording, and my mother almost always used it for dubbing. I have spent countless hours eating meals in the kitchen accompanied by jabbering chipmunks, tasked with calling my mother if the blank tape reached the end of the side, or if the original tape reached the end of the first side so she could pause the recording, flip the tape over, and try to ram two sides of tape onto one. Because of this, I had to listen to the dubbing rather intently.
Both the too low sound and the too high sound would make me very uneasy, like eating something disgusting or being worried that something slimy or gross would touch you, or that you would touch it.
You could also do this with the talking book machine, and now with Karen.
Because of this, I used to have an aversion to recording anything ever to stretched tapes, especially when they warp or change speed, and to cassettes in general.
With digital recording, I no longer have an aversion to recording. And as for the cassette-related stuff, I hardly ever encounter them, and so the aversion is there, but it never comes up until today, listening to you play with Karen.
Does anyone know if this counts as misophonia?” (which for those who don’t know is the intense dislike of chewing or clicking sort of sounds)
“To counter this, I might write in with a list of sounds I like.” There you go. “And I will probably write in to offer my frustrated perspective on disclosing blindness.
Right now, I need to get back to writing my paper for my masters.
Other than Karen sounding like she’s going to eat me, I love your podcast.
Chin scratches to the dog to eclipse all dogs.”
Thank you. I will pass those on.
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Well, look at that. Our listeners are prolific with their contributions at the moment. Prolific, I tell you.
We will eventually get back to some interviews that we have in the can, but I appreciate very much all the contributions. Do keep them coming in.
Remember that when you’re out there with your guide dog, you’ve harnessed success. And with your cane, you’re able.
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If you’d like to submit a comment for possible inclusion in future episodes, be in touch via email,. Write it down, or send an audio attachment: opinion@LivingBlindfully.com. Or phone us. The number in the United States is 864-60-Mosen. That’s 864-606-6736.