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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.
Plenty of Apple talk once again this week with iOS 17.1 and people getting new iPhones, iOS versus Android, we look at a prototype of Farmer Noah – an orientation and mobility training tool, and Bonnie is having trouble leaving the country.
Good to be back with you once again for episode 255.
Now, the North American area code for 255 is unassigned. It says that it’s available for non-geographic use. So maybe they’ll eventually get to toll-free numbers that start with 255, because they started with 800, didn’t they? And then they had to expand to, what was the next one? 888, maybe? And then, it’s gone down and down.
So maybe one day, there’ll be area code 255 for toll-free numbers or some other non-geographic purpose. We will wait and see. Maybe we’ll live long enough to find out.
Meanwhile, there is no ambiguity or no question at all about country code 255. It belongs to Tanzania.
There are a lot of people in Tanzania – about 67 million of them. And if you are listening in Tanzania, a warm welcome to Living Blindfully.
Not too many sleeps now, not too many sleeps.
As I mentioned back in episode 235 of the podcast, Sir Paul McCartney was doing an interview on BBC Radio 4, and he rather casually dropped the fact that there is one more Beatles song to come.
And if you’re interested in how this Beatles song came about, my speculation was right on the money. And I mean, there’s nothing particularly meritorious about that.
If you’re a Beatles fan, you will know that Now and Then had to be what they were working on. And Now and Then, the final Beatles song, is set for release on Thursday, the 2nd of November, at 10 AM Eastern Time.
Because the clocks have gone back in the UK but they haven’t gone back in North America, the time difference is shorter this week. It’s only 4 hours between US Eastern Time and UK time, so 2 PM in the UK on Thursday, that’s going to be bright and early at 3 AM on Friday morning here in New Zealand.
Would I miss it? [laughs] Well, what do you think?
I was actually up at 2 o’clock in the morning last Friday to get the announcement of what the Beatles were planning with respect to Now and Then, because I knew that that’s when they were making the announcement.
I do hope that you will join me on Mushroom FM for a Now and Then live listening party. It begins an hour before the global release of the song. So it will begin live at 9 AM Eastern.
It’s going to be live. It’s going to be interactive.
If you would like to share your reaction to the song when it’s eventually released, if you’d like to write in or call in to comment on the impact the Beatles have had on your life, all of those things, you’re very welcome. I’ll be there live in the middle of the night in New Zealand to bring it to you.
We’ll also hear from Sir Paul, Sir Ringo, Sir Peter Jackson from here in New Zealand, Giles Martin, son of the legendary Beatles producer George Martin who’s been working on this project, and also from Sean Lennon as well, and they’ll all be talking in the hour before we get the song about how this song was finished. And as we mentioned in that episode 235, it’s really all been made possible, thanks to some remarkable new technology that Sir Peter Jackson’s studios developed for the Get Back documentary.
Scarily, it’s going to be 25 years in December since I started doing this internet radio thing – a quarter of a century. And over that time, I have been able to bring you some pretty cool Beatles exclusives.
One of the really fun ones was when the Beatles remasters came out in 2009, and this was really before the widespread availability of music online, and certainly Beatles music online in any sort of official sense.
But one of the advantages that we do have in New Zealand is the timezone advantage, and those Beatles remasters were released on 09/09/09. And as Beatles fans will know, John Lennon had a bit of a fascination with the number 9.
Well, the 9th of September came to New Zealand before it arrived anywhere else. I called a CD store proprietor that I knew pretty well, and I explained my situation.
I said, “Would you come in nice and early so that I can pick up these albums? I realize you can’t give them to me early. But the moment that we get to the 9th of September, we’re on, right? And if you come in, I’d be super grateful.”
So I paid over the phone with my credit card, and I got the stereo box set and the mono masters, which he actually had to order in because there wasn’t too much call for the mono masters, but I wanted them both, and I organised it early enough.
And he said, “Yeah, okay. I’ll come in.”
So what I did was I got in my cab, and I called him up on my mobile phone and I said, “I’m on my way. Be on standby.” It was like some sort of clandestine pick-up operation, you know. So he was waiting outside.
When I pulled up in the cab, he opened the door, handed over the boxes, shut the door. And I said to the driver, “Back home, driver, and step on it.” I felt like one of those cool people in a Hollywood movie.
We got home, and we had two computers all ready to rip – one for the stereo remasters, and the other for the mono remasters, and we were doing them simultaneously.
And then, I jumped on the internet radio and did a 5-hour special, and we were able to play the Beatles remasters before they were available in most stores. And what an exciting broadcast that was, with so many people listening from around the world, hearing these Beatles remasters.
Since then, we’ve had lots of other special firsts as well, like the release of Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, which hit New Zealand before anywhere else. And I’ve been up at 4 in the morning, or whatever it was, playing the newly remixed album and giving people effectively a global premiere.
So it’s been great, and we’ve done that with lots of the other remixes that have come out subsequently.
This time, of course, I don’t have an exclusive.
When you’ve got a brand new Beatles song, (and it just gives me chills, it gives me goosebumps to even be able to say that – “a brand new Beatles song”), it’s a global musical earthquake.
So it’s being carefully managed, it’s being released worldwide at the same time. But I’m still doing this because many of us have shared these Beatles moments, and this is such a special thing, and it’s the last time anyone will be able to say, “Here is the new single by the Beatles”, that I really wanted to do this and share it for those people who’ve experienced these memories with me over the years.
So I hope you’ll choose to be a part of it, too. It is one of those occasions where we’ll remember where we were when we first heard this song – Now and Then by the Beatles.
So do join me on Mushroom FM at 9 AM US Eastern Time on Thursday, the 2nd of November. You can check the Mushroom FM schedule page to find out when that is in your time zone because if you go there, we can usually tell where you’re coming in from and show you the schedule in your time zone.
So we’ll see you there. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to feel like an age, but it’s really not that long to wait.
Voice message: Hey, everyone. This is Derek Lane.
Just letting you know that as of October 16, 2023, Reaper 7 has been released.
There are a lot of really interesting changes in Reaper 7. But 2 that I think that you guys will find particularly interesting, especially those of you who do any sort of editing or mixing, be it dialog, vocals, music, etc., the two interesting changes are that we can have up to 15 alternate keyboard layouts, and that you can run effects in parallel.
We’ll talk about effects in a bit.
But these keyboard layouts are exactly what you would think they would be.
You can configure multiple keyboard layouts in Reaper that are customized for a specific task that you may perform often. For example, you could have the default Reaper OSARA keymap, but you could also have an alternate keyboard layout which would have the insertion of a particular effect associated with various keys.
So although the process for doing this is a bit advanced, you could make it so that you would go into your second keyboard layout and press [lower pitch] P to add a pitch shifter to your track. And then, [reverb effect] maybe R to add reverb on top of that, without even going into a menu. You could then switch back to your default keyboard layout and continue.
[normal voice] That was just a silly example, I know, but it certainly gets the point across, and rather quickly.
Speaking of effects, with Reaper 7, you can run them in parallel. What this means is that instead of having the first effects output fed into the second and so on, the two effects run, and the combined output of those effects is what you hear instead.
Now, this is a really bad example of the usefulness of parallel effects. But parallel effects get really interesting if you’re doing some mixing, or mastering work, or even some performance work, you could, for example, take one track and run two different instrument plugins on the track, each configured separately.
So for example, you could add a piano. [piano music] And if you add a plugin which gives you strings, nothing really changes. But if you run those two effects in parallel, you have the nice sound of both the piano and the strings as you play your keyboard.
There are other changes, of course. But like I said earlier, I think those two will be the most interesting to the listeners of Living Blindfully.
Jonathan: I see what you did there, Derek.
Thank you very much for that.
I’m really enjoying Reaper 7.
I gladly paid my upgrade license. Because the last time I upgraded to Reaper was version 5, and the way it works is that you pay for 2 major versions and it does last you a while.
I think it’s been about 6 years since I paid for a Reaper license, maybe even 7 years. And that’s really good value considering that for non-commercial use, it’s only $60 US.
It’s such an accessible tool. Thanks in part, of course, to the company that makes it. But also to the cool people who work on OSARA, the little plug-in intermediary thing that sits between Reaper and screen readers and makes it work so well.
It is a brilliant environment to work in. So gladly, I have forked over another 60 bucks, and it will take me through until Reaper version 9.
My sincere thanks to Pneuma Solutions for making transcripts of Living Blindfully possible.
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More Apple related comments, and here’s Joe Norton.
“I don’t yet have a demonstration of this, but I haven’t heard any comments regarding the live voicemail feature of iOS 17.
Here are my first observations.
If I can figure out a good way to demonstrate the feature, I will. But right now, I have no way to connect the iPhone to my system. And due to the hour, I have no one available to help me test the feature.
Firstly, I wondered about how one would answer a call with a message in progress. Normally, when a message is left, your iPhone’s call is forwarded away to the voicemail system, which then takes over and does its thing.
Your iPhone is aware of a missed call, and that’s it, until the voicemail alert is sent.
So I tried to guess the method the phone would use to break in on that process. Would you hit a button as the transcript is running across the screen, and your phone would call the voicemail machine and it would connect the two trunks together? That was one thought I had. Of course, that would require software updating of all the voicemail machines, and possibly additional hardware to accomplish the voice connection.
However, it turns out not to be that complicated. What happens seems to be this. When your phone is called, the phone has a recording of your greeting stored and ready. When your phone has rung for the allotted amount of time, or you decline the call, the phone picks up the call, plays the greeting to the caller, and goes into a record mode and actually records the message in real time. At the same time, the message is displayed as it’s being left.
In addition, there is some kind of icon in the status bar of the phone. And on my phone, VoiceOver says ‘Diagnostics in progress.’ I don’t know if that’s unique to my iPhone, or if they just haven’t labelled the button properly.
If you double tap on that button, a dialogue opens showing you the transcript, and there are buttons to answer the call, and a couple other buttons. One of which, if I remember correctly, is unlabelled. If you double tap on the Answer Call button, it does just that, and you can start talking to the caller immediately. I think you can also just hang up, ring off, if you don’t want the recording to continue. You can block the caller, or respond with a message if the caller is in your contacts.
As one person pointed out on the Apple Insider website, there is a slight delay before the words appear on the screen, and I can confirm it’s a little difficult to get into the dialogue before the caller has finished.
VoiceOver seems to read the text. However, my Braille display gets very busy trying to show me the text coming through. It’s so busy that I haven’t been successful in using it to answer the call, or do anything else while a message is being left.
I wish there was a setting to just let me hear the caller doing their thing instead of the transcript, you know, just like the old-fashioned answering machine. Maybe that’ll be an option one day.
One more thing about that. If your iPhone happens to be in low power mode or offline, the normal voicemail process is used.
Now, just a quick thought on the use of ableist language.”
Oh my goodness, we are switching topics.
“I can’t help it. I sometimes use the expression ‘I see’, said the blind man as he picked up his hammer and saw.”
That’s the way that Phil Parr used to end the Home Handyman Show. [laughs]
“What can I say? I’m a sucker for puns.
I just listened to an episode of My Word.”
Now for those who don’t know it, My Word is an old BBC panel game. It was a lot of fun.
“One of the panelists was asked to define bald money, which is an ornamental plant. He said, ‘Well, your income tax would be bald money because it’s money you’d have toupee anyway.’ [Aww! sound effect]
Man, that is a groaner of a pun. Love it!
“Anyway,” says Joe, “nothing really to showcase. I would demonstrate the IB emulator program, which emulates the IBM PS1 machine, complete with the hard drive and floppy sounds and the slowness of the 80286 or the 80386, which can be maxed out at 33 megahertz. But I may just leave that for my own test podcast in the future.”
Well, that’ll be a good podcast, Joe.
Thank you very much for that.
This does actually explain a phenomenon I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of.
Bonnie has her language understandably set to US English because for directions and things, even after all these years, 10 years living in New Zealand, she still finds it easy to think in miles and feet rather than kilometers and meters.
And since she’s had iOS 17, I’ve noticed she’s got this American voice saying, “Your call has been forwarded to an automatic voice mail system,” or something like that. And I’ve never heard this before. I’ve never heard it from any of our carriers.
So I think what’s going on is that because she’s got her language set to US English, she’s got access to the voicemail thing.
But of course, we don’t have visual voicemail on any of our carriers here. So I’ll have to try and see if I can get that disabled.
Voice message: Hello, Jonathan. My name is Edvard. I’m your new listener.
Ever since I updated to iOS 11, I stopped getting notifications from podcast app.
It’s really strange because in iOS 10, I was able to get notification that a new episode from such and such a show is available. And then, I can check it out.
Am I alone getting this issue? because even though I have notifications turned on, I am still not getting them whatsoever. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.
So I just turned them off.
I really enjoy your episodes, actually. I came across them in the recommendations, so I am actually following them now.
Keep up the great work.
And also another question is, since this is an opinion podcast, I was wondering what your opinion on this.
Now, I don’t know about your level of visual impairment. But I have light perception, and I personally think that it counts as seeing something.
Although, I was told by other people that it’s actually nothing. But if it’s nothing, then it would have been in complete darkness. Like in my opinion, nothing is complete darkness.
Severe visual impairment or visual impairment is seeing lights or at least, some shadows.
So just let me know what you think about that, because I was told by other people that “Oh. Even though you can see lights, it’s nothing.”
But in my opinion, it is something because I use it when I turn on my iPhone, because my model doesn’t make a chime sound because my phone isn’t an iPhone 14 Pro. It’s an iPhone 11. So the only way for me to identify that it’s coming on is to look at the screen. And when the screen lights up, I know that it’s actually in the process of loading up.
So just let me know what you think about it.
Keep up the great work, and I really enjoy your episode.
Jonathan: Thank you so much. It’s great to have you listening.
Always nice to hear a new voice on the podcast, as well as all our familiar friends in the Living Blindfully family.
I’m a bit confused about which operating system you’re running, because surely it’s not iOS 11.
I’m trying to work it out. Assuming it’s the latest version, iOS 17.something.
I still can’t help [laughs] because I don’t use the Apple Podcast app.
I really do not like that app. I think it’s convoluted. I don’t think it’s particularly feature-rich.
So at the moment, I’m using Overcast for my podcast-related needs on my iPhone.
So if anybody knows about this, if you used to get notifications, presumably from the Apple Podcasts app and now you don’t, is this a thing? Let me know. I have no experience with that app.
I check it out every so often, reaffirm my belief that I just don’t want to be bothered with it, and go back to whatever I’m using at the time.
But that must be annoying if you’ve had such a useful feature and suddenly, it’s not there anymore.
Regarding light perception, I’ve been totally blind since birth without any light perception, and I don’t really perceive myself to be in darkness. I just perceive the fact that my eyes don’t do anything.
But I would have thought if you can detect light, you are seeing that, aren’t you? I don’t know. It’s not something I’ve thought about.
But obviously, you’re able to use it in certain situations.
And Bonnie’s the same. If people ask Bonnie whether she’s totally blind, she says, “I can see light. And occasionally, I can see a kind of a few shapes”, or something like that.
So legally, it falls within the definition of total blindness.
But I guess, you are using your eyes for some sort of techniques for identifying certain things.
Let’s talk Apple Watch now.
Steve Seaton’s in touch. He says:
I am a new listener, and I’m really enjoying the clear and concise way in which you explain things.”
Well, welcome aboard, Steve, and thank you.
“I have an iPhone SE 3rd generation, with an Apple Watch 8.
I am a blind runner, and have always struggled to get the audio feedback for kilometers or miles to read out loud in the Watch’s workout section.
When contacting Apple, they have told me they are aware of the issue and that it only works with wireless earbuds.
I bought some compatible earbuds from Sony, but this has not resulted in audio feedback.
I don’t know if I am doing something wrong, or if this is just a very long-term feature that has yet to be resolved.
Any advice you can give me would be gratefully received.
And that is Steve in Bristol. That’s a nice part of the UK, isn’t it?
Now Steve, I don’t know anything about this, really.
When I’m running, I’m just using my treadmill. I’m normally using the indoor walk or indoor run. And I have to switch the watch on and quickly check the face, which is actually much easier said than done when you’re running. And I do find it difficult.
I don’t know if there’s supposed to be a better way, what feedback you are wanting, and what feedback is supposed to be received, so none the wiser.
But if you want to elaborate further on what you understand it should be doing, that would be interesting.
It might be another one for the bug list.
This email comes from Karl-Otto, who says:
“When I installed the first beta of iOS 17.1, I discovered that the languages item had disappeared from the rotor.
This makes it impossible to switch languages when you want to read info in a different language.
This is probably not a major issue at Apple campus because most of them have English as their primary language.
I reported it through feedback. And as beta 2 came, I made some testing and added to the original feedback.
Today, iOS 17.1 without any beta tag appeared, and I installed it. But this major issue still exists.
So I added even more details to the feedback, and also sent a mail to Apple Accessibility with the feedback ID, and asked why they let these kinds of bugs through, even when they are reported.
For all listeners out there that rely on being able to switch languages or voices, do not update to iOS 17.1.
I really second your request to have an official list of existing accessibility issues that each platform vendor publishes. Once updated, you’re out of luck. So we really need to know beforehand.
By the way, handwriting into punctuations is still broken.
Keep up the great work.”
You’ve obviously spent a lot of time and had a lot of hassle trying to get this sorted, Karl-Otto, and I’m really sorry to hear this.
There is actually a very quick fix to this.
If you go into the standard rotor settings where you see all the options that you can toggle on and off, language is now there, and language is toggled off by default in iOS 17.1.
So a couple of things that stem from this.
The first is why on earth didn’t someone from Apple just reply and tell you that, that that is the easy fix?
Second though, why have they done this? This is another example of Apple changing a default, not notifying anybody, and causing a lot of angst to a lot of people.
The other one that I can immediately think of relates to iOS 17, where they changed notification behavior. It used to be that notifications would play their sound, and then you would hear the notification spoken.
In iOS 17, the notification isn’t voiced, unless you go into the verbosity settings and turn the voicing of notifications back on.
Now, if they want to change defaults like this, a number of things should happen.
First, if a default has been set one particular way, it should be set that way going forward for legacy users. In other words, if you are upgrading from version 16 to 17 and you’ve had your notifications being voiced a particular way, that should be preserved. And when new users install the operating system, if you want to change the default, then fine.
Second, it needs to be documented very clearly that that is now the default.
Unfortunately, people like me who used to write books about iOS and still do the occasional podcast on iOS kind of let Apple off the hook, because their documentation in terms of what they’ve changed or added with VoiceOver in iOS is lackluster to non-existent.
But at least it’s not a bug. You can go in and enable your language rotor right away, and it will stay enabled.
I don’t know who has sent this message, but I will read it.
You are my last hope and my last resort for solving some of my major problems.”
Ooh! No pressure there. It’s like “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”
The message continues:
“I recently took the decision to upgrade from the iPhone SE 2022 to the iPhone 15 Pro. This decision seems a major disaster.
For the past one week, I’m trying to get used to the iPhone 15 Pro, but have failed miserably. Some of my major problems are:
- I just cannot get Face ID to work. I have tried installing it at least 4 or 5 different times with sighted help.
It says ‘Face ID successful.’ However, when I try to open the phone with Face ID, it invariably goes to asking for my passcode.
This is really a great setback for me, because I could open the old iPhone with a Touch ID in a jiffy.
How can I resolve this problem?”
Well, I’ll stop and answer these as we go, I think.
It’s hard to know the answer to this question for certain without knowing how you are using the phone.
But typically, what I find with people who are having difficulty with Face ID is that the phone isn’t far away enough from their face. You want to be about 25 to 50 CM or 10 to 20 inches away from the phone when you’re unlocking it with Face ID.
Hold it straight in front of you, so that the camera is in view of your face. It is a different way to unlock the phone, but I have found it exceptionally reliable.
The only time I personally have difficulty with it is if I’m outdoors in bright sunlight, and I need to unlock the phone when I’m ordering an Uber or something like that. It can be tricky occasionally there.
Other than that, it works for me all the time, so do persist with it. It’s new. It’s different. But it will get better, and you’ll get the knack, eventually.
The next point, …
“2. a few times, Face ID did work in opening my phone, unlocking it, that is. However, then it takes me to the screen which shows my flashlight and camera. It does not take me directly to the home screen. It asks me to swipe up to go to the home screen.
This seems such a waste of time. I want to go directly to the home screen when I have unlocked the phone. How do I do that?”
The short answer is you don’t. The lock screen has now become a pivotal part of iOS. You can add widgets to it, you can add all sorts of information to it, and it may be that just simply unlocking your phone and doing the VoiceOver equivalent of glancing at that screen is all you need to get some quick notifications, or check the weather, or whatever.
But if you want to go home, just swipe up from the bottom. That’s the way it now works.
“3. as if problems 1 and 2 aren’t bad enough, I have a third major problem, and I haven’t even started using my phone as yet.
Disgusted at not being able to unlock and get to my phone home screen quickly enough, I decided to shut it down and try again after a couple of days.
However, when I shut down the phone, even the slightest touch on the side button wakes it up again. With the early iPhone models I used, I had to press the side button for some time before the phone started to wake up. With the iPhone 15 Pro, even an accidental brush on the side button wakes up the phone.
This is really terrible.”
Well, let me see if I can answer this one.
I wonder if you have actually shut the phone all the way down because if you have, you need to press the side button for about 3 seconds, maybe a little less, before in an iPhone 15, you’ll hear a chime letting you know that the phone is powering up. There’ll then be a pause. And then, you will be at your lock screen.
Because you’re turning the phone on again, you will be required to enter your passcode. Biometric authentication, whether it be touch ID or face ID, doesn’t work until you’ve authenticated with your passcode once you’ve booted the phone up.
So it sounds to me like the phone may not ever have been properly and fully shut down.
To do that, you can say to your assistant on your phone, “Shut down this device.” And it should say to you, “Are you sure you want to shut down the device?” You can reply, “Yes.” You will hear the chime indicating that the phone has shut down.
You can also go into settings, and then general. And then, right at the bottom of that general screen, you can shut down the phone from there.
You can also hold down the volume up or down button while pressing the power button for a few seconds, and you’ll get the shutdown menu there.
If you want to be sure that you’re only waking up the phone when you are pushing the button, you may also want to turn the raise to wake feature off in settings.
“If I turn off the iPhone 15 Pro and I’m putting it on my bedside table, slightly touching the side button wakes it up again, and I have to go through the whole process of shutting it again. Even if it’s in my pocket, with the phone shut down, it invariably wakes up on its own.
How do I resolve these 3 major problems? I’m seriously considering returning this phone and getting back to the old iPhones with Touch ID.”
So that confirms to me that the phone is not being shut down. What you’re doing is putting the phone into standby.
And you want to turn Raise to Wake off. You’ll find that under Settings, and Display.
And I’d also suggest that you go into standby mode and turn that off as well, since it’s of limited value and may consume some battery. And hopefully that will save you some battery life as well.
But hang in there. Do keep persisting with your Face ID because it will get easier in time.
And you’ve certainly got a very powerful device there in your iPhone 15 Pro, with all kinds of features that you didn’t have before. So it’s worth the wait.
You will tame this beast. I feel sure of it.
All the very best to you.
David Goldfield writes in and says:
“Jonathan, I’m reaching out to you and your listeners about a problem which was recently brought up on Living Blindfully. This is the problem where some users are reporting that the standard 1-finger double tap gesture does not behave reliably on both iOS 17, as well as on WatchOS 10. This issue was initially reported with iOS 17, where the standard double tap gesture wasn’t always being accepted.
On iOS, this can be solved by going into Settings, Accessibility, VoiceOver, and increasing the value of the double tap timeout setting. For me, setting this to a value of 0.5 seconds seems to be the magic number.
In my case, double tapping behaves just as it did in previous versions of iOS. Some users may be able to get away with setting it to a lower value, and others might need the value set to a bit higher, depending on how quickly they perform the 1-finger double tap.
This tells me that Apple may have made a slight, but still noticeable change to this double tap timeout value setting.
However, while this problem also occurs on the watch, there is no equivalent double tap timeout value setting on the Apple Watch. I immediately noticed this after my Series 7 updated to WatchOS 10, and I couldn’t even enter my 4-digit PIN.
I don’t panic easily when it comes to bugs that I encounter with my technology. But this was a notable exception, and I seriously wondered if I would be able to use my Apple Watch.
Having said all of that, let me leave you with some words of hope and encouragement.
First, the way to work around this problem is to double tap a bit faster. In fact, I suspect that the reason why some users are not encountering this problem is because they already double tap fairly quickly. If you are naturally a fast double tapper, you would be unaffected by this bug.
The other good news is that I’ve reported this to Apple, both with the iPhone, as well as with the watch, and the representative saw the problem and clearly understood the seriousness of this bug.
I can only hope that my call will help. But I encourage anyone who is being impacted by this bug to reach out to Apple about it.
I consider this to be an extremely serious issue.
This is particularly a problem with the watch, where the double tap timeout value cannot be changed.
Even though users can change the double tap timeout value on an iPhone, it may still be challenging for some users to even get to this setting, since you have to double tap several options in order to even get to it. People with certain dexterity issues may find doing this challenging, or even impossible.
Apple Watch users can also assign a hand gesture, such as the pinch gesture, as an alternative to performing the double tap command by going to Settings, Accessibility, VoiceOver, Hand Gestures.
But Apple really does need to address this issue.
Not to mention that, at least for me, the hand gestures don’t operate on the screen where you need to enter your PIN. I don’t know if this is just operator error on my part, a deliberate choice on the part of Apple, or a bug, but it seems to me that users with dexterity challenges would require hand gestures to work when entering their PIN, just as they would on any other screen.
Of course, you can work around this issue by ensuring that your watch unlocks once you unlock your phone.
I hope this will be of help to other users who are being impacted by this problem.”
Thanks for reiterating that, David. I have mentioned in the past that extending the double tap timeout does fix this issue, but it’s worth reiterating once again for new listeners who didn’t hear that.
I’ve personally not encountered the issue on the watch. But yes, given the lack of a setting to change it, that would be extremely frustrating if people have found that.
Again, it would be really helpful if Apple would tell us that they’ve made this kind of change. And I share your hope, a fervent hope, that they might listen to the fact that it is a change that seems to have unsettled quite a few people.
Let’s get back to the subject of face ID for this question from David Mann, who says:
“I have been thinking about getting an iPhone 15 Pro.
I am totally blind, and have heard that the face recognition needs to focus on the person’s eyes.
But my eyes do not open very well. Can a totally blind person use the face recognition on an iPhone 15 Pro?
I’m currently using an SE 2020.”
Good to hear from you, David. Hope you’re doing well.
Yes, face ID is usable by a blind person who has prosthetic eyes or who can’t open their eyes very well because by default, when you’re running VoiceOver, iOS turns off what they call attention mode which requires you to look directly at the camera.
Now, that does reduce the security of the phone a little bit. What it does mean, for example, is that someone could snatch the phone out of your hand, point it at you, and unlock the phone with your face because you don’t have to focus directly at the camera.
So you might want to try with attention mode on. And if you can’t get in, if it’s causing all sorts of issues, turn it back off again and you should be fine.
My eyes are a little bit recessed and they don’t open very well either, but I’ve been quite surprised that I can make attention mode work with my face ID.
That will not apply to everybody, of course.
Scott Davert sent this message in prior to the release of iOS 17.1 but there are some useful tips in it, so I will read it.
“First, to address a listener comment, the find feature with VoiceOver in 17.0 will be fixed in 17.1, as will the issues surrounding the weather app and focus not shifting.
If the user wishes to not upgrade to 17.1, the find function seems to work for me under 17.0.3 by doing the following:
Press space with F as normal, and type the text you wish to find.
When ready to execute the search, instead of pressing dot 8, press space with dots 27 followed by space with dot 8, and your search should be carried out.
There are some concerning things I and others are finding about the iOS 17.1 release, specifically for Focus 4th and 5th generation users. Your results may vary regarding how stable your Bluetooth connection will be.
With the 14 Pro Max, I’ve found that though the Focus connects fine initially, after locking the iPhone screen, the connection would not resume as expected.
I’ve had my phone forget the Focus. I’ve reset the Focus, and also reset network settings as troubleshooting steps. It’s still not working for me.
However, other users seem to be not having any issues with the connection at all.
I’ve also heard that the same sort of connection issues are happening with the Orbit writer.
It still seems to feel like it may be more of a risk to upgrade to 17 for Braille-only users than it’s worth, but that’s an opinion.
The fact is that Braille users aren’t all reporting consistent results with Braille displays and Bluetooth connectivity.
Specific to the Mantis, (Jonathan, please add your own thoughts if you feel comfortable), I’m finding that it will randomly slow down and stop responding when I’m writing a lengthy email message or note.”
Absolutely. I am seeing this. It is making working an email absolutely hideous.
I’ve taken to making sure I keep composing all my emails in Drafts. Otherwise, I can’t get things done.
“If I leave my iPhone alone for 30 seconds or so, the problem seems to fix itself. That’s not a good workaround to the issue, but that has been my experience.
With the Brailliant and Chameleon, however, I’ve had good experiences and a less buggy time of it. Though I know some users with the Brailliant BI40X who have also reported issues with connection stability.
The issue regarding the Mail app and typing a new message using a Perkins-style keyboard where the cursor would jump backward has returned.”
Oh. Welcome back, old friend. That’s me talking, not Scott.
“This seems to be an experience many are reporting, and doesn’t seem to change depending on device.
Finally, for those using the language rotor, you may wonder what happened to this option. It’s still there, but you have to enable it in the rotor settings.
While I think having this be optional (like all other elements in the rotor) is nice, I would think it would have made more sense to leave the feature turned on as it behaved before, instead of just making the change for those who upgrade automatically.
One area where Android is much better than iOS is that Android will inform you of such changes.
I understand these changes may be larger and more frequent on iOS, but feel it would be very helpful if Apple would include something with each release which explains to the user how to revert to older behaviours in iOS if the user still prefers this. I think the way it is currently done makes users more resistant to upgrade.
Moving away from discussing the operating system, I’d like to address one further issue.
I find Be My AI to be a very liberating application in so many use cases. If I am sitting somewhere and am curious about my environment, I am able to simply snap a picture of it and get details about my surroundings.
The only thing missing after taking a picture is the ability to text a volunteer. Since it is possible to call a volunteer via audio, it would seem like the inclusive thing to do would be to add the option to text a volunteer as well. While it’s true you can ask Be My AI questions, I feel an equal experience should be available to those who can’t, or don’t wish to speak.
The Be My AI feature works quite well with Braille, but this is the missing piece of the puzzle.
Besides, what if as a blind person, text is significantly easier to utilize for environmental reasons?
I have brought this to the attention of the BME developers during the beta cycle. But short of a response that it may be considered in the future, I’ve not gotten anything more of a reply.
I would like to please ask listeners to include this feedback, if they provide any feedback to Be My Eyes. Let’s work together to make this amazing service more accessible to more people.
Thank you, Jonathan, for your continuous dedication to putting these podcasts together for the community. I’m happy to do my small part to see it continues on for a long time.”
Thank you, Scott. Really appreciate your support, and a very informative email.
I couldn’t agree with you more. There are times when I’d like to be able to just text a volunteer as well.
I realize that might be quite a complex back-end change to implement, but it’s worth doing. And I hope that in due time, and not too far away, they will do exactly that.
This email comes from Rob Sleath, and he says:
“Good day, Jonathan,
Allow me to begin by saying I have joined the masses, and am one of your newest disciples,” [laughs] “having recently found and subscribed to your weekly podcasts. I look forward to the wealth of knowledge you share with listeners each week, and have yet to come across a podcast wherein I have not learned something new. Keep up the excellent work with your informative and diverse podcasts that focus on accessibility for persons with sight loss.”
Thank you very much, Rob. I really appreciate it. It’s great to have a new listener.
I recently bit the bullet (mortgaged the house, or at least it felt like I was going to need to), and upgraded to the iPhone 15 Pro with 1TB of storage.”
[laughs] Wow! That is voluminous. What are you going to do with all that storage, Rob?
“The improved performance with the A17 chip over my iPhone 13 is very noticeable.
The jury’s still out on the door recognition function built into LiDAR, but I do appreciate Apple having provided an array of functions so that each user can now configure the action button to their individual liking.
I am not at all displeased with the 15 Pro, but I look forward to the day when Apple modifies the operating system such that the action button can be configured to execute several different functions based on, perhaps, the length of button push, or the number of repetitive pushes.”
Amen, Rob. I’m looking forward to that function being extended as well.
“One area that left a very sour taste in my mouth as I upgraded to the 15 Pro was what can only be classified as Apple’s extremely poor customer appreciation, and withholding of critical information.
During the hour or so that I sat in their store while I was left to configure the new phone pretty much on my own, the Apple employee did up the administrative “paperwork” to take my iPhone 13 in on trade.
Once done, she then demonstrated the action button and a few new settings that needed some further attention.
She then launched into what came across as a scripted presentation with respect to all the virtues provided by the USB-C connection, and how it would make digital access infinitely better.
We talked about the USB-C cable versus the lightning cable, the former of which she proudly told me was included in the box with my shiny new iPhone 15 Pro.
What she failed to tell me was the USB-C cable has a USB-C male connection on both ends, and not a USB-A to USB-C connector that will work with Apple’s former wall adapters.
I suspect they left this simple but critical fact out for one of two reasons. She didn’t want to tell me that I would need to shell out even more to purchase a USB-C wall adapter, or she knew I would ask her to throw it in, given I’d probably be eating a steady diet of bread and water for the next few months while I try to find ways to cut back on my discretionary spending to pay for my new phone.
I do agree that Apple has made a wise decision about discontinuing the inclusion of a wall adapter with every iProduct they sell. But come on, Mr. Cook. How tiny a nibble would it take out of the company’s trillions to offer a USB-C wall adapter for a customer who was trading in an iPhone 13 for a 15 Pro? Or at the very least, inform me of the different connectors in detail.
I never thought to ask if one end of the cable was USB-A and compatible with the Lightning wall adapter. But you don’t know what you don’t know. At least, not until you get home and go to charge up your new phone.
The epilogue to my story is that I politely but firmly launched a valid argument convincing the store manager to provide me with the necessary USB-C wall adapter by returning to the store a few days later, and comparing Apple’s tightwad approach to the backside of a mallard duck floating on a pond.”
I think that’s right, to some extent. It is important that when someone leaves the store, they are told that they are going to need a charging brick with a USB-C input.
Apple actually did use to provide a USB-C charging brick in the box because their more recent Lightning cables were USB-C at one end, and Lightning at the other. And actually, you used to have to feel pretty carefully, so you could distinguish which was the USB-C end and which was the Lightning, because they’re not identical, but they are quite similar.
But obviously, what seems to have happened for you is that the cycle that you’ve been upgrading on means that you have missed out on that because you obviously got your last iPhone at the point where they stopped putting charging bricks in the box, so you never got that adapter.
They really should just check that out to make sure you’ve got an appropriate charging brick, for sure.
“In closing, a warning for others and a puzzle that perhaps you can help me solve.
One afternoon, I was conversing with a friend in my home when my 15 Pro began to ring from my incoming call.
I chose to ignore it completely and let it go to voicemail, not touching the phone whatsoever, while I continued the conversation with my friend.
A few seconds later, after the ringing had stopped, my friend remarked that he thought he could hear someone calling out “Hello? Hello? Are you there?”
I was a bit confused as well, but didn’t think too much about it until my landline began to ring. I chose to answer the landline, and it was the person who had tried to reach me on my iPhone.
He told me that my iPhone seemed to answer, but it wasn’t my usual voicemail greeting. And then he said he could hear me talking with someone in the background.
Here’s the warning, and I’ve discovered it relates to live voicemail which was introduced in iOS 17.
Keep in mind that I did not touch my iPhone when it began ringing. My iPhone 15 Pro, which I have aptly named “expensive piece of fruit”, automatically answered itself. And had my calling friend sat quietly on the other end and not said a word, he could have eavesdropped in on the conversation with my other friend in the room with me.
I contacted Apple Accessibility. And while they were somewhat baffled by what had happened, they walked me through the process of changing the live voicemail setting, which was mysteriously set at 35 seconds and has now been changed to off.
Jonathan, I’m curious whether you have come across a similar experience with your 15 Pro Max. And/or have other Living Blindfully listeners had the same experience?”
As I mentioned earlier in this segment, unfortunately, we don’t have live voicemail in New Zealand, so this is a feature that I have not been able to test.
So let’s hear from the community, if they’ve got any thoughts on what you’ve experienced.
“And finally, a podcast or two ago, you mentioned your installation of the Ring Video Doorbell Pro. I, too, have the same device, and am wanting to know how to configure my expensive piece of fruit to allow me to instantly open the microphone in the Ring app when someone comes to the door and activates the doorbell.
My iPhone is always locked, as I have a Microsoft Exchange account on board which prevents me from setting my iPhone to never lock, and my office is 2 floors up from the main floor.
Failure to get down to my front door quickly usually means my ham and pineapple pizza is being consumed by the delivery driver as he pulls away, thinking I’m not home, heading off to his next delivery.
Do I need to configure the action button to activate a shortcut that opens the Ring app? And if so, how do I get to the microphone button quickly as the Ring app, when the live view option is activated, seems to almost mute VoiceOver?
I’ll happily share my next ham and pineapple with you and Bonnie if you can assist me with this frustrating problem.”
Well hopefully, your pizza place sells salad as well, Rob. And that’d be lovely ’cause I’m the low carb person in the family, and haven’t had a pizza for quite a long time now. [laughs]
But it’s good to hear from you.
The only way that I know of is to go into your notification centre. Or if you unlock your phone with Face ID, the notification for the Ring doorbell should be right on the lock screen, and you should be able to double tap it, get into the app, and then double tap the unmute button.
You are right. Unfortunately, what seems to happen is that VoiceOver starts coming over the earpiece or the ear speaker when the Ring video app is activated. I have had a look at this, and there are quite a few people who would like the ability to have the unmute occur immediately when you activate a notification. At the moment, that is not an option.
So I probably haven’t earned the pizza. But I would like to say that I thoroughly support and endorse pineapple on pizza. It seems to have become controversial for some reason, and I have no idea why.
Voiceover: Has something on the show got you thinking?
Share those thoughts with the rest of the Living Blindfully community.
Send us an email. You can include an audio attachment recorded on your computer or smartphone so we can hear your voice, or you can write it down. The address is opinion@LivingBlindfully.com. That’s opinion@LivingBlindfully.com.
Or phone our listener line in the USA: 864-60-Mosen. That’s 864-606-6736.
Let your voice be heard.
Christopher Wright says:
“You were asking how MacOS handles file transfers over USB for iOS devices.
From what I’ve been able to gather, it really doesn’t. When you connect to a Mac, nothing happens.
Unlike in Windows, it doesn’t mount the photo library as a drive, presumably because they want you to access it using Photos or iCloud. Though I really don’t have experience using Photos in general, for obvious reasons.
The Finder in newer versions of MacOS does the same thing iTunes does.
I think file sharing is still available, but it’s clunky like it’s always been.
The best way I’ve found to transfer files locally is either using AirDrop, or the Lightning USB 3 camera adapter.
Both have drawbacks.
AirDrop works really well, as long as you live in Mac land. Open the context menu on a file in the Finder. Choose Share, then AirDrop, and select your device in the list. When received, iOS brings up the share sheet to choose where the file goes.
Going in the other direction is just as easy, and is how I prefer to get photos and videos onto my Mac – share them from the Photos app, access the transfer on the Mac, and choose to save them as files in the Downloads folder.
The other method which is operating system agnostic is to use a USB drive. This should be significantly easier with USB-C, even if you have to use an adapter to convert older USB-A devices to C.
The way it works on Lightning devices is via the Lightning to USB 3 adapter. But this requires you power the adapter with a Lightning cable because it can’t provide enough power. I find this ridiculous, as it’s not very useful while on the go.
The Files app now has dedicated sections to view files on connected drives, iCloud or other cloud storage services.
Or you can view the local device storage. This is also a way to vastly increase available storage space without paying Apple insane fees for onboard space, or using cloud storage you can’t access while offline or with a slow connection.
I can, for example, copy MP3 files to a flash drive, transfer them to the iPhone using the Files app, and either play them in that app, or copy them to apps like Voice Dream. iOS has come a long way in terms of opening the platform, and allowing us to do things we take for granted on desktop systems and Android.
The Files app also lets you connect your network shares, though I haven’t really tried this.
Speaking of Android, MacOS doesn’t support the MTP protocol, so you need a third-party app to transfer files to and from the internal storage. Shame on Apple for being so anti-competitive, but it’s not shocking.”
Yes. I agree with you, Christopher. The Files app has come a long way.
I’m really enjoying the freedom of the USB-C in this context. For example, we were talking about the PortCaster recently on this podcast, and I have an SD card that goes into the PortCaster. I can just put that in a little USB-C-based SD card reader, plug it into the iPhone 15, and it all just works, and I can see that reader as a destination on the phone itself. Very cool.
I can also report that connecting my file share with my Synology Network Attached Storage device works very well in the Files app, too.
I do wish that they would open it up though so you can just copy from your Windows desktop device to the right place on your iPhone.
If they want to get all proprietary and shield us from the system files, well okay, I can live with that. But not to be able to do a simple thing like plug into the USB and transfer files across is, to use your vernacular, Christopher, ridiculous!
Here’s a handy tip from Liz, who says:
“On a recent Living Blindfully episode, a listener wrote in inquiring about a tool that visually impaired and blind individuals can use to locate studs in their walls.
I’m not sure how well known this trick is, and wanted to share it with our VIP community.
Since studs contain screws, you can locate each stud in your wall using a strong magnet. They are often called rare earth magnets.
You simply slide the screw along the wall until it sticks, as the magnet will detect the screw through the wall. This will tell you exactly where the stud is located.
I hope that is a helpful little trick.”
It’s genius. Thank you very much, Liz.
Haven’t heard that one before. But then, I’m not exactly a very handy home handyman.
Recently, we’ve been talking about PC versus Mac. Now, we’re talking about iOS versus Android.
My goodness! This is the brave little podcast, I tell you.
Henk Abmer is writing in, and he says:
Thank you for creating 2 hours of interesting podcast every week. Looking forward every Saturday evening.”
Well, that means you’re a plus subscriber, Henk, so thank you very much for being a plus subscriber and showing your support. Truly do appreciate that.
“In episode 252, there was someone called Ben who told us why he likes his new iPhone 15 Pro Max so much. I was especially struck by point 5, where he mentions that the iPhone camera can describe what you are taking pictures of, whereas the pixel only says that 2 faces are in view.
I have owned several iPhones since 2009, including an iPhone 15, but never came across this feature.
Since you read it without commenting, I assume I must have been missing something. I am curious what feature Ben is talking about.”
We actually covered this, Henk, way back when it was introduced. I forget which version of iOS or which phone it was, but we did a big demo and made a big song and dance of it at the time.
What you do is you open the camera app, and you put focus in what’s called the viewfinder, towards the top of the screen.
If you don’t put your VoiceOver focus in the viewfinder, then it’s only going to say 1 face, that kind of thing. If you do put your focus in the viewfinder, however, it will tell you things.
So for example, if I wave my camera around here in the studio, it will tell me that it’s seeing a wooden desk, a chair, a microphone, etc., and I know what I’m about to take a picture of. It’s a very cool feature.
“An observation I agree on with Ben is the quality of the speakers. It sounds as if most brands don’t care what speakers they put in the phone, as long as there is some sound coming out of them.
I have seen and owned several Google Pixel phones, and the strange thing to me is that the A series, which are the cheaper ones, come with nicer sounding speakers than the devices without the A. So the speaker of a colleague who has the Pixel 6A and my old trusted Pixel 3A sound far better than my Pixel 7.
I am still performing tests. But at this point, I believe my Pixel 3A is making cleaner audio recordings than the newer Pixel 7 as well.
These things are hardly ever tested in phone reviews, so I have actually no idea which company puts premium audio chips in their products and which company doesn’t. For example, I don’t think the iPhone microphones have changed over the years since the iPhone 8.”
And I’ll just stop there and say the interesting thing about iPhone, Henk, is there’s a lot of software processing of the audio going on. And there are some recorders out there that allow you to turn that processing off. When you do, and if you’re careful with your levels, you actually get very nice audio from the iPhone.
“it was very nice to be able to attach the VoCaster to the iPhone 15. It worked better than expected. However, the battery of the iPhone was draining fast with this setup.
On Android, I could only use the VoCaster as a playback device using the USB-C port. When I tried recording something, Android couldn’t handle the stream of data the VoCaster gave it.
Regarding the advice you gave Dennis Long on his small desk setup, there is still the PodTrak P4. It is cheaper than either VoCaster 1 or 2, and has more functions.
The VoCaster is nice, too. But unfortunately, the software issues that are present since version 1.3 are still not solved in 1.4.1.
For those considering the VoCaster 1, the line input of that device is mono, for some reason.
The VoCaster 2 has stereo line in, Bluetooth, an extra mic, and headphones. So if I had to buy a second VoCaster again, that would be a VoCaster 2.
Now, I have a 1 and a 2.”
Yes thanks, Henk.
The VoCaster, without the 2, is a mono device so I’m not particularly surprised by that.
If you want value, I think the Vocaster 2 has much better value.
I would not recommend the PodTrak P4 for the scenario that Dennis was outlining. And that’s not to say that it’s not a good device and that it doesn’t have its place, because it absolutely does, and we’ve covered the PodTrak P4.
But rather than recommend one particular brand all the time, I tend to say well, what are you specifically wanting to accomplish? And it’s nice that we’ve got to this point with audio devices that we can think about the use case, and then come up with the best device.
The PodTrak P4, when you connect it to a computer or any kind of external device, does not allow you to assign the 4 different inputs to separate tracks. And I think for this sort of thing that Dennis is talking about, that is quite a serious limitation.
If you are going to be recording a lot of technology demos, and if portability – the ability to record stand-alone in the field isn’t important to you, I think you’re better either with a VoCaster 2, or even potentially an EVO 4 or EVO 8.
The PodTrak P4 does not offer loopback. And I think that can be a very useful feature for someone who just wants to record a screen reader demo, be it on PC or Mac. You can assign you to one track, your computer to another. Loopback also makes it easy to record from a variety of VOIP solutions.
And also, the VoCaster 2 has some very nice audio processing on the mic chain. And for somebody who was just getting started with audio, being able to add a bit of audio processing on your voice to make it sound a bit more professional is a very nice feature.
If, however, you’re wanting to record a full podcast in the field including music beds and things like that, then sure, the PodTrak P4 is definitely a contender. And of course, when you’ve recorded directly on the device, then everything is its own track. So you can bring it back into Reaper.
Now, I suppose you could argue, well, why not just even if you are sitting at your desk, record everything on the PodTrak? I think when you add complexity and potential inaccessibility (because you can’t monitor levels), this is not a 32-bit float recorder. If it’s peaking and you don’t really understand about peaking, and then you bring it into Reaper later, there’s not really much you can do about that audio.
So I think it’s a much easier process to get a VoCaster 2 when you are not going to go and take this thing out with you in the field.
If you want to record in the field without the carts and various other things, there are much better field recorders out there.
So yeah, it’s a very specific use case that the P4 has.
If I was recording a group podcast and I was sitting around a table with a bunch of people, it’s really hard to go past the P4. And also, you can bring in some remote guests and record it all on the same device.
But for the scenario that Dennis outlined he wanted to use it for, I still maintain the VoCaster 2 is a much better option than the PodTrak P4. I would also say that some of the new things from Focusrite and Audient are good.
I would put the P4 way down the list, given this particular use case which doesn’t involve complete podcast recording in the field.
Advertisement: Thanks to Aira for sponsoring Living Blindfully.
Aira may be available on more devices than you realize. Trained agents are available on the devices that you use every day. For example, you can use the Explorer app on your Android or Apple smartphone.
The apps always supported the rear camera, of course. But the latest version of the apps also support the front-facing camera. And that means you can even get help to take your next great selfie for uploading to social media.
Regular Living Blindfully listeners will be very familiar with the Envision smart glasses. If you own a pair of those, you can use Aira hands-free to assist with a variety of tasks, including guiding you through unfamiliar locations. If you’re doing a bit of travel again, it’s a great alternative to waiting for meet and assist at an airport.
Aira is also on the BlindShell Classic, so you’ve got access to your phone at the touch of a physical button. And it’s on your PC and Mac as well, which makes it always within reach when you come across an inaccessible website, or you just want to speed up the process when you’re on a busy website and time is of the essence. Aira is there on your device, on your terms.
To learn more, you can visit Aira at their website at Aira.io. That’s A-I-R-A.I-O.
Chris Hekimian Discusses His Invention, an Orientation and Mobility Training Tool Called Farmer Noah
Jonathan: We’ve been talking about a lot of what I would call traditional blindness technology at NFB.
But there are things going on in more innovative spaces, and one of those is a concept called Farmer Noah.
Chris Hekimian is with me, and he’s been working on this concept.
Chris, it’s a real pleasure to talk to you. Thank you for coming on the podcast.
Chris: Thank you, Jonathan.
Jonathan: Your first NFB convention. How’s that going? What do you think of it?
Chris: Wow, it’s quite an experience. I’m really impressed with the energy, and the motivated people.
I try to stay out of their way as much as possible because you might get mowed down in the aisleways.
Chris: There’s a lot of people there.
Jonathan: People on a mission, yeah.
Jonathan: But you’ve been showing this concept.
Tell me a bit about your company. Because when I looked at the website, it sounds like you were doing a range of quite interesting things. This is the only one, as far as I’m aware, in the blindness space. There are a range of other concepts that you’ve been working on.
Chris: Yeah. Well, thanks for asking.
DXDT Engineering and Research is a company that I set up, probably 20 years ago or so, and it’s really my inventing space. Okay. So I try to come up with new concepts, and this isn’t my first concept for the blind.
When I started losing my vision in 2010, I also developed one of the first, probably the first and the most multifunctional computerized Amsler grid for use at home. So that was a product that I was advancing.
But then as my vision further deteriorated, I started working on this Farmer Noah concept in about 2020.
Jonathan: What is Farmer Noah?
Chris: Farmer Noah is a system of technology which isn’t so much about the technology. It’s not particularly advanced or anything, but it enables cognitive growth and learning. And I’ll go into it right now, if you don’t mind.
Jonathan: Sure. Go.
Chris: I have what I call one of my animals right here. I’m gonna turn it on.
Chris: It’s waking up.
Chris: That lets me know that it’s turned on.
And so if I were to hit this object with a cane, …
Chris: Wait a minute.
Well, Bonnie, it’s a turkey.
Chris: Okay. So anyway, I have an object that if you hit it with a cane, it makes the sound of a farm animal.
And it also beeps out a unique serial number with a radio. And what I do with that is …
I’ve got 8 of these objects. I’ve got 2 turkeys, 2 cows, 2 goats, and 2 pigs.
And what the O&M trainer does with these objects is he goes into an environment. Maybe it’s a classroom, maybe it’s a clinic, maybe it’s a home. But it could be outdoors. Different environments are useful.
And they deploy these objects on the floor, in different configurations. Maybe the goats are against the wall over here, or one goat is there, one goat is down a hallway or something, where it kind of sprawls all over the environment.
So by laying out these 8 objects, we’ve made 4 unique paths connecting the pairs of animals. The goats are gonna have a certain path connecting them. The cows are gonna have a path connecting them. And these are gonna change, depending on how you lay these animals out.
So the concept is having laid these animals out, the O&M trainer challenges the trainee to match up the pairs of animals.
So we’ve given them a task and an activity. And by virtue of doing this activity, they’re going to encounter these intervening non-visual cues in the environment.
The things like connecting the goats, for example, there’ll be an edge of a carpet, there’ll be some furniture, there’ll be moving air from an air vent, there’ll be radiant heat from a window, there’ll be geometric aspects of the room that they’ll find with their canes that are going to be non-visual cues.
Now, these non-visual cues are things that sighted people take for granted. They never have to use them. They never have to rely on them.
But they’re there for the blind, and the blind can use them as landmarks in mental maps that they create.
And so what we’re trying to do is to develop 3 key skills. The first skill is detecting these non-visual cues in the environment, the second skill is using these non-visual cues as landmarks to develop detailed and accurate mental maps, and the third skill is the ability to understand the person’s location and orientation, relative to those mental maps which of course, translates to their physical space. So those are the three tasks that we’re aiming for with the Farmer Noah system.
Jonathan: Yes. And there’s plenty recorded that indicates that if you gamify learning, it’s fun and it tends to stick, it tends to resonate.
This sounds like the O&M instructor will be saying to the child, “Okay. What is it that has allowed you to find these animals again? What was it in your environment that means that you were able to get back to where you were?”
And as a person that’s partially sighted myself, …
I mean, I was in the restaurant area downstairs one of these evenings, and I had to go to the restroom. I went to the restroom, and I came out, and I wasn’t too sure whether I had made a right turn or a left turn.
Now, to me, that’s very frustrating because I get lost, and I know it’s got to be extremely frustrating for a totally blind person to be in that same situation.
So I thought to myself that if I can help enhance the skill of remembering whether you made a right turn and understanding what the space looks like for a person, that I might really end up helping that person. And so that’s what I’m aiming for.
And I can’t say I’ve trained with the system myself yet. I haven’t. [laughs] But I think I might need to and want to in the future, so I can get around easier myself.
Jonathan: And as we said, this is your first NFB convention. Did you come to the convention looking for feedback on this concept? And if so, what have you got back?
Chris: When I developed this concept, first it was an idea, and I went to Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind and NFB Baltimore, and I asked them what they thought of the idea. And they all thought it was a great idea.
And I asked them, “Really? Do you think I should go ahead and make the prototype?” And they encouraged me to do so, so I did do that.
About a year later, I had a prototype, and I went back to them hoping that they could find somebody that would help me commercialize the system.
They don’t do grant programs. But they said, “You really need to come to the NFB convention because you will meet a lot of people there that would have a stake in this kind of product,and would want to see it being used in their clinics, or their schools, or their summer camps for kids, or what have you.”
And so we prepared over the course of several months to come to this event, and it’s exceeded our expectations as far as meeting people. And the warm reception that Farmer Noah has gotten has really been encouraging.
But the main reason we’re here is to find that organization that will help us take this from something that I built in my basement, to something that will come out of a factory, and be very much better – more compact to carry around for the O&M trainer, something that’s smartphone-based, something that’s switchable between 3 operating modes – a children’s mode which would be Farmer Noah.
We have an adult concept which would be Bandmaster Stevie. That’s where you match up musical instruments. And as you match up the pianos, you’ll hear a section of a piano clip. And then when you match up the drums, you’re going to hear the drums and the piano until you build the whole clip of the song.
Jonathan: [laughs] Yeah, that’s very cool.
Chris: And speaking about contacts, one of the people that visited me yesterday at my booth is Eric Smith. He’s a musician and band leader. And I think, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to draw on his skills to provide me those overlaying musical tracks for my system. So I have yet to work it out with him.
But that’s the type of useful contacts I’m making, and a lot of organizations that are asking me, “Is this system ready? How do I get one of these?”
And I say, “I don’t have a commercial version, but there’s been a lot of interest.”
And I would say 99% approval, but there’s always one person in the crowd that’s going to disagree with something.
Chris: [laughs] But we’ve been very encouraged.
Jonathan: When I think education in the United States, I think of APH and their quota funding. Obviously, if you’re able to somehow get the product on there, that would be quite significant for educators.
Chris: They came and visited with me, and I hope that our conversation continues.
They’re great. They’re highly motivated people trying to stay at the cutting edge of helping people. I appreciate that.
I wanted to tell you. One of the exciting aspects of the Farmer Noah concept is all of the benefits that it can deliver to blind people.
And what I’m saying is that if you use this system, if you train with it for a few weeks or months, (I’m not too sure what it takes. It’ll be different for different people, depending on what different environments you’ve done it in.), then I maintain that you will have developed these skills of detecting the non-visual cues in your environment and building more accurate and more complete mental maps, and using those mental maps to understand your position and orientation within an environment with greater fidelity and accuracy.
And so, those types of advantages or benefits that we expect to get out of the system are just as available to the deaf-blind community as they are to the blind community. Because I remember the people at Lighthouse for the Blind and NFB said, “Don’t forget about the deaf-blind community.”
I talked to one of the people, a deaf-blind person, at the convention, and it occurred to me that this object doesn’t have to make the sound of a farm animal or a musical instrument. I can easily make it vibrate the fingers on a haptic glove. And if it vibrates your pinky, you have to find the other object that vibrates your pinky, you know, along down the 4 fingers that we would vibrate.
In that way, every benefit that the blind could get, the deaf-blind could also get. We’re very excited about that.
Jonathan: That is very interesting because in my own situation, I wear hearing aids now and my hearing has degenerated over time as a kind of a bonus of the condition I have that causes my blindness. So you know, I’m just waiting for the steak knife next.
Chris: Wow. Yikes!
Jonathan: So in earlier times, I would have relied a lot on echolocation to get around. And I was a very effective echolocator.
Now, that’s more difficult.
So it might be possible to retrain with a toolkit like this to be less dependent on echolocation, and I guess reactivate that spatial memory another way.
Chris: Well, we hope so.
A lot of people look at it like technology. But actually, it’s not so much about the technology. As you can see, the technology can be replaced with sound or haptics at the end.
It’s what happens in between these objects. It’s the cognitive ability of a person to detect the non-visual cues and to organize them, and to refer to them. Those are cognitive skills, and those are the things that we’re focused on trying to improve.
So I think that through practice, those types of skills can be improved, and this system gives a basis for doing that kind of practice and training.
Jonathan: There’s a very strong hypothesis here. And it seems to me that the next step would be to try and do a trial of some kind of study which would look at the effects that this technology is having, or that this tool would have. Do you think that that might be possible?
Chris: Yeah, I definitely do think it’s possible. I think it’s necessary, and I think that since I’ve been here, I’ve got resources now that I didn’t have before I came. We’ve had a lot of people come up and say, “I’m with the parents of blind and visually impaired children.”
Jonathan: Right. They’re a very strong NFB division.
Chris: Of this date, they said, “We have people. We can set up a trial run for you, so you can put it in front of kids.”
And we are very excited after the convention to follow up with these groups, so we can get some pilot programs underway.
The National Federation of the Blind had an interesting concept.
I kind of cut you off there, Jonathan. That’s because I’ll lose my train of thought. [laughs]
But I had told them, you know, early on, I said, “I think this system’s only going to be good for very blind children.”
And they disagreed. They said, “There’s a lot of kids in classrooms, and they’re surrounded by sighted students. They’re always having to do different activities and things than the sighted students.”
And they said that this game could be done in the classroom where the sighted kids would be wearing blindfolds, and they could see what it’s like to have to get around without your sense of vision. And I thought that that was a very good point, and the idea that all the kids could be engaged in this activity at some point and maybe teach the sighted kids what it’s like to be blind.
Because I’m telling you, I’m 62 years old now and it’s not till I came to the NFB convention that I’m beginning to understand what it’s like to not have any vision.
Jonathan: And that a very full life is possible. Obviously, you’re meeting with all sorts of people who rock in the world, basically doing what they do.
Chris: That’s what they’re doing. It’s an honor to meet so many of them. And the way they’re motivated, active, and highly functional is extremely impressive.
And resilient. Some of the stories that I’ve heard from people that have lost their vision within the course of a week, now that would be crushing for most people that I would imagine.
But here they are, leaders of organizations helping other people that have lost their vision.
And it’s just amazing, the mission of the NFB. I mean, they’ve made me very emotional before as they’ve told me that they’re gonna be there for me, so I can get the most out of my life if I lose the rest of my vision, which looks pretty likely.
They’re a great organization.
Jonathan: The technology itself, … You talked about a smartphone app. How does it all talk to each other? The geek in me is curious about this. How do they all interconnect? Because they’ve obviously got to be wireless devices, right?
So the one that I’ve built in my basement here is kind of clunky, and it’s made with pretty simple components. It’s got, basically, a hobbyist microcontroller, and a very cheap transmitter, and sound card, etc.
The objective system, it’s gonna be around the same size. But these objects will be nestable. So you can take 8 of them, and they really won’t take up more than like a foot high, and maybe 8 inches wide put together.
But they’re going to have a compact and efficient microprocessor that’s integrated with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The engineer in me tells me that we’d probably go with Wi-Fi for greater range. But if it turns out that Bluetooth would also give us the same result, we might go with Bluetooth.
But the system would be switchable between the 3 modes.
And we’d also have a data collection system.
So another good thing about the concept is that it’ll time each session, and it will tell you how long it took the person to match up all the objects.
And that metric can be tracked session by session by session, so you can start to see how much progress is being made as they master their environment, and when it starts to taper off, and when you can just say you know what? At this point, any environment that you go into, you’ve developed those skills that we’re looking for, so you don’t need the system anymore. Just go in there.
These skills will now be self-reinforcing as you detect the visual cues, and as you practice making the better mental maps and track yourself with more fidelity.
Jonathan: Very interesting.
Do you have a price point in mind for the complete system?
Chris: The price point that I have in mind is between $800 and $1,200.
This would be something that the O&M trainer would have, and they would use it on whichever clients they find it would be most beneficial for. We think everybody could benefit from it.
So it would take that kind of investment up front, but I’m not considering any kind of subscription, or recurring fee, or anything like that because I’m kind of old-fashioned, and I think, once you buy something, it should be yours. [laughs] Call me crazy.
Jonathan: Good for you. That would resonate with a lot of our audience.
Chris: Yeah, oh my god.
Chris: And I’m not a great businessman. I’m an inventor. So I mean, I have the luxury of doing better deals for people if I want to.
Jonathan: How will people be able to track what happens with this Farming Noah concept? Will there be updates on the website? Or how will people keep informed?
Chris: Well, there will be updates on the website. And they can always contact me through the website, and I will let them know when the ground moves.
Right now, not a lot is going to move.
And I’m not a very talkative person when it comes to email.
Chris: I have nothing to tell people until I get a commercial system ready.
But I really want to talk to people that can help me find those organizations that might be willing to invest, or want to partner with me so I can.
I’m thinking maybe a couple hundred thousand dollars to get the first 20 of these systems out of production.
They’re going to be fully functional, and they’re going to be operable by blind people. So O&M trainers that are blind, we’re going to make sure that they can use these systems as well so they can help others.
Jonathan: Right. That’s absolutely critical.
Look, I very much look forward to finding what happens next, Chris. It’s an intriguing concept that you’ve come to the NFB.
And I think, that is just so compelling because one of the things I mentioned in my speech (which hasn’t happened yet at the time that we record this, but it will have by the time we play it), is that so often, people come along and they think they’ve got this great concept. But they’ve never actually asked any blind person. And when that hypothesis is tested with a blind person, it all sort of falls flat.
So the fact that you’re here in a genuine spirit of co-design really demonstrates that you’re on the right track, I think.
Chris: Thank you.
And as an inventor, believe me, I recognize what you’re saying.
And when I first went to Columbia Lighthouse with my list of 2 or 3 ideas that I thought were going to empower and revolutionize the world for blind people, they looked at me, shook their heads, and said, “None of these are good ideas, and this is why.”
And I’m like, “Oh, really?”
And I said, “Well,”
And that was the end of the meeting. And I understood that they were doing me a big favor by telling me the truth about it.
But on the way out, one of them said, “You know what we could use? We could use something to help train young people how to use their canes correctly.”
I had been a contractor for the Department of Defense for a while. And part of what they did was to train people how to use metal detectors to find hidden bombs. And there’s a technique and a discipline to doing that.
And I thought well, maybe there’s a synergism here that I could exploit.
But having thought about that and thinking about it, I thought, Wait a minute. Somebody else can teach them how to use a cane, But I think I might have a way for them to understand the objects and their environment around them, and to use that information more effectively to develop their confidence and mobility.
And so I focused on that. And in the context of those activities, you can teach them cane technique, too.
Chris: And maybe in a fun way.
My wife said, “Chris, make sure you remind them that it’ll be a fun activity.” [laughs]
So that’s my wife, Christine, talking there.
Jonathan: No, it’s good advice.
And I think what you’re finding is that when somebody does approach the blind community in a genuine spirit of partnership and with a willingness to collaborate, the blind community is very inviting and responsive back. Because so often it does not happen, and we’re just relieved when it does.
Chris: Well, I wish that I had contact them a couple of years before because there’s a lot of very technically talented people, coders and people that really know the business that might’ve saved me some time or effort. I mean, I had to learn in 2 computer languages to get this product out of my basement. And I know there’s a lot of people in the blind community that have already mastered those computer languages. So that might’ve been helpful if I made those contacts.
Jonathan: Oh, you’re on the right track. Thank you so much for this.
And also, best of luck on your own personal journey. I’m sure that is challenging, and I admire the way that you are responding to it.
But we’ll keep in touch, and I hope that this does come to fruition.
Chris: Thank you, Jonathan, and thanks to your many listeners and followers.
And thank you, Bonnie. It was nice meeting you today.
Jonathan: [laughs] [music]
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Voice message: Hello, Jonathan! Hope that you’re good.
It’s Charlie in South Africa.
First of all, I’d like to talk about guide dogs.
I had, or have a guide dog, if I can be more specific, and his name is Billy. But I love to call him Billy Adrian Porter. Gave him a second name and a surname, hey?
It makes it fun to think that he’s from Yorkshire, England, but he’s actually born and bred here in South Africa – born on the 30th of March, 2019.
Why am I talking about him? It is because of the fact that I find myself in a space where I have to give him up back to our local guide dogs.
And why is this? This is because of family problems that I have incurred.
I’ve been living on my own for quite some time, but I had to give up my flat due to retrenchment, and I had to move back home.
And it was this moving back home that actually spearheaded my family saying, unfortunately, “We have been accepting of this dog previously when it came for the first time to live with us. And unfortunately, at this time round, we can’t accept the dog anymore.”
Although it is my mobility aid and I love Billy with all my heart, I find myself in a position where I have to actually make a decision – that he has to go back in order to get more work, so he can be actually utilized more and so forth.
But coming to the comment that George made about Africa and assistive devices, I’m going to shock you a little.
George is spot on. Our electricity grid right now is really really really at a stage where you sometimes can’t do anything. You have power outages (and I’m going to call them power outages for the European market), and they can range from 2 hours, 4 hours, or 8 hours at a time.
It depends which stage are you. Stage 1, 2, that can be 2 hours, and stage 3, 4 can give you 4 hours. Stage 6 can give you 8 hours per time.
People who are in South Africa will correct me if I’m speaking it wrongly.
It’s called load shedding. Now, what does this mean? It means that the power grid is actually taking a breather.
Or sometimes, it could be that the power stations are being restored because of some power outage that happened within the station. Could be Koburg, which is here in Cape Town, or the other power stations that are across the country.
Our devices here will cost an arm and a leg. Last time I checked, the Apex, which is the notetaker as well, that cost you a lovely, lovely 70,000 rand in our currency, and your Mantis Q40 Braille display, that cost you 48,000 rand. And last time I checked, the Android Touch, that would cost you a lovely 90,000 rand in our currency.
Now these prices are exuberant. And sometimes, you can’t even afford them. Imagine me trying to buy myself any brand I take right now and I am out of work.
I had to forfeit voice artistry jobs because of this because I could not read the stuff that they’re providing for me on the fly.
So now I must wait, in order to get myself even a Braille notetaker that can connect to my iPhone which is an SE 2020, which is only 64 gigs but is packed to the brim with a lot of stuff that I still need and can’t delete at this current moment.
So as you see, there’s a lot that we have to deal with on this side. But yeah, what I’m trying to say, George was spot on with what he was saying.
Thank you so much for a beautiful podcast, and I wish you nothing but the best.
Jonathan: Thank you, Charlie.
I wish you luck as well, and I appreciate you taking the time to further acquaint us with the situation that you’re experiencing.
I am really sorry to hear about the guide dog situation. That is a wrench. The bond that develops between a blind person and a guide dog is incredibly deep and special. So for you to have to surrender your guide dog because of your circumstances must be absolutely heartbreaking.
I have been following in the news (because I follow a lot of international news) the situation with the power grid in South Africa, and it really does sound incredibly destabilizing and difficult to deal with.
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Jonathan: All that stirring post Sir Paul McCartney concert music ushers in another Bonnie Bulletin with the famous Bonnie Mosen.
Bonnie: Hi, guys!
Jonathan: Man, there is so much to talk about since we were last on the radio.
Bonnie: I know, I know.
Jonathan: No, it’s a podcast.
Jonathan: It all gets very confusing, doesn’t it?
Bonnie: It does.
Jonathan: Where do we start?
Well, let’s start with the Sir Paul McCartney concert.
So we get up very early on Friday morning. You got up at [2:30], didn’t you?
Bonnie: I did, just to make sure everything was ready.
Jonathan: Yeah, [2:30].
And we got an Uber ordered for [4:30], headed out to the airport all excited about the big concert, passports in hand and everything.
And then, disaster strikes.
Jonathan: We’re checking in and everything. And the bag gets checked in, and we’re assigning the seats and everything.
And then, she just casually says, “Oh, have you got a visa for Australia?” And the terrible thing is that a few weeks ago, I do remember saying, “Don’t we need something, because you have an American passport?” And you sort of said, “I don’t think so.”
And then I was so busy with everything, I didn’t follow up, which I’m kicking myself about.
Bonnie: Yeah, yeah.
Jonathan: And so it turns out they would not let you on the plane, because you did not have …
Bonnie: I wonder what would have happened if I said yes. I don’t need one.
Jonathan: They might have required proof of receipt or something.
Jonathan: But then you would probably have been turned away at the border, which would have been even worse.
Bonnie: Yeah, that’s true. I would have had to fly back.
Jonathan: All the way back, yeah.
Jonathan: It was devastating.
Bonnie: It was pretty devastating. [laughs]
Jonathan: You were standing there, you couldn’t get on the plane, and we had to leave you behind.
Bonnie: Yeah. ’Cause they’re like, “Oh, you can apply for it now, and it won’t take that long, but the flight’s closing in 10 minutes, so you won’t catch this one. The next one’s not until eight o’clock tonight.”
And I’m thinking, “Well, no.”
So that’s when I said, “You guys go ahead. I’ll have Nicola,”, ’cause Nicola was staying here to look after Eclipse.
So then I went back home and we looked, and it’s not something that can happen very quickly, according to the app. It takes 4 weeks.
Jonathan: New Zealanders on a New Zealand passport, we don’t have to apply for these visas because there is special arrangements between New Zealand and Australia.
Jonathan: So I’ve never done this. But I’d be interested to know from anybody who has how accessible the process was. Is there an iOS app that you download?
Bonnie: There is, but you have to take pictures of the passport, and Nicola was having a lot of trouble doing that.
And then, you have to scan the chip in the passport, and it’s just crazy.
Jonathan: Does the chip scan with the NFC thing?
Bonnie: I think so.
In the end, though, it looked like they said it could take as long as 4 weeks just to get this thing.
Jonathan: So that was really disappointing, and I missed all of your constant chatter.
Bonnie: Yeah, I know. But you and Richard had a great time.
Jonathan: Yeah. Richard and I went, and we had a really cool time.
Bonnie: So that was the important thing.
Jonathan: We went to the Moulin Rouge performance which is on at the Regent in Melbourne. And that was really good. We managed to get tickets.
But that was a saga because in the afternoon, we were looking at things to do. And Richard said, “Oh, there’s Moulin Rouge. That’ll be really cool to see.”
And I said, “Yeah, I’d be happy to see that.”
And there was a matinee performance on the Saturday afternoon which would have been perfect, and turned out to be perfect because the Sir Paul McCartney concert started at [7:30] at the Marvel Stadium in Docklands on the Saturday night.
So we thought we can go and do the matinee on the Saturday afternoon. Richard first looked, and there was only one seat left in the whole theatre. So we thought that’s a shame.
But he kept refreshing it. He said, “Dad, there are two seats available now.”
And I was like “Go for it.”
And when we went to check out, it turned out you needed a Ticketek Australia account which obviously, we didn’t have.
So we set one up. And by the time we set it up, the tickets had gone.
So I called the American Express concierge service, and I said, “Can you do anything for us?”
And they said, “No, not with this one. We don’t have any kind of special allocation or anything like that.”
So I said to Richard, “Keep refreshing it, and let me know.”
So he kept refreshing it periodically throughout the night, and nothing was going on.
We went down to breakfast on the Saturday morning. And just after breakfast, he said, “Hey, dad, it’s available. It’s available.”
So we logged into the Ticketek account. My trusty Amex card was already set up in there, and it wouldn’t process it. It kept saying your payment has been declined for security reasons.
So I got the Thinkpad out and logged in with the Thinkpad, and that took us to a different payment portal. And it emailed me a security code for the Amex.
And I thought we’re going to make it. We’re going to make it. And it declined it then, even though I’d entered the security code. They wouldn’t take bookings on the phone.
And then I thought, “Oh well, I’ll call the theatre.” I got put on hold for a very long time.
And I said to Richard, “I’ll tell you what. While we’re on hold, since it’s taking so long, why don’t we walk down to the theatre?”, because it’s not far from the hotel.
So we’re walking down, I’m on hold. And of course, as soon as I leave the hotel, what happens? The call drops because I was on Wi-Fi calling in the hotel. And now, I’m on cellular and it didn’t seamlessly hand over between Wi-Fi and cellular.
So I had to call again and get in the queue. By this stage, we’re walking along, and I’m boogieing to the Dancing Queen from the Mamma Mia performance, which is on hold.
Finally get there, still listening to the music, and no one’s at the theatre.
And I said to Richard, “We’re doomed! We’re not intended to get this!”
But while we’re standing there thinking, “What shall we do next?”, the woman finally picks up after about 25 minutes on hold, and we got the last 2 tickets for the Merlon region.
It was a very professional production. It was really good.
So that was the afternoon.
And before that, we actually went to the Australian Centre for Moving Images, and that was a kind of like a, obviously as it sounds like, a movie museum.
And that was pretty interesting, with different technology that they use. A lot of it behind glass, though.
So they had the piano there, for example, that was part of the Jane Campion movie, The Piano. You seen that?
Jonathan: You have seen it?
Bonnie: Yeah, it’s a good movie. Won an Oscar.
Jonathan: I haven’t seen that movie.
And it had all sorts of information about it. And what was really cool was that I was able to take pictures with Be My AI of the various exhibits, and it gave incredibly good descriptions of them. So that was really good.
And then we walked to the stadium, and that was an amazing night.
You know, Paul’s 81. And obviously, his voice is a little rough around the edges.
But it’s still very very impressive that the only thing he changed the pitch of was “Obladi, Oblada”, and I’ll forgive him for that, because he did sing it in the key that there was a cover version, I think by a group called, was it Marmalade, I think, that did the cover, and they sang it in A rather than B flat, so that’s all right.
Everything else was in the right key and sounding great, and it really was very very impressive. So we had a great night.
And the fact that he’s 81 and he performed for nearly 3 hours is just absolutely impressive.
Bonnie: That is impressive.
So we had a great time. I missed you, though.
But what was really interesting was I’m always reminded when I go to Australia how littered with tactile indicators Australia is.
Bonnie: Yeah, they really are. [laughs]
Jonathan: They’re everywhere. They’re everywhere.
Jonathan: When you get to the top of stairs, when you go down to the bottom of stairs, you know, there are tactile indicators everywhere.
Bonnie: There are.
Jonathan: It’s quite interesting.
Bonnie: Yeah. on the ramps, in the airport, everywhere.
Now, this is not the only excitement that you’ve been experiencing, though, because your saga relating to taking Eclipse on your forthcoming trip to the United States continues.
Bonnie: I’m not sure I’d call it excitement. I think I would call it undo, anxiety-inducing stress.
There’s a lot of paperwork to come back to New Zealand. And apparently there’s now a lot of paperwork to leave New Zealand, which I’ve never done before.
Jonathan: Who’s requiring that paperwork? Is it the US government or the New Zealand government?
Bonnie: No, the US doesn’t care. I am very confused, and I’m trying to get clarification on it.
She does have to have certain things to leave to get an export certificate.
I don’t remember doing this in the past. I really don’t.
Maybe I did. I just don’t remember. It’s been 7 years.
So she has to have … A lot of this is to return, to come back in. Rabies test, testing to see if she has rabies, being treated for all kinds of internal and external parasites, making sure she’s healthy to travel.
So we’re doing with all that, and got all these forms that I’ve had to fill in multiple times because usually, with government entities, one department does not communicate with the other. So because you have import and export.
So then, I get an email Friday from Live Animal Exports that she has to have a vet visit by an MPI vet when we leave.
Now, I knew that we had to have one coming back in. That’s always been standard operating procedure. You know, you get off the plane, you show the paperwork from the US to come into New Zealand, and you know, that’s how you hope everything’s good.
But now, they’re telling me that I have to go to Auckland the day I travel, (and they only work from 8 to 4.) And their last appointment’s at [2:45], which I’m not there yet to have a vet checker for travel.
And I asked them. I said, “Is this something new? I’ve never had to do that before.”, and they couldn’t answer. I don’t know how we did it in the past.
And I said, “There’s something just, … This is not setting with me.” Because I looked at the paperwork, a lot of it is for shipping containers and putting animals, and what they do is they make sure that the welfare of the animal is fine to go in a container, and then they seal the container.
Well, Eclipse isn’t going in a container.
Jonathan: I hope not.
Bonnie: No, I’m going in it with her if they make her go in there.
Bonnie: They’ll get a little surprise when we get to JFK.
But I’m like, this is just, … There’s something not right here.
And they’re like, “Well, you could come at 8 in the morning.”
I said: “I’m flying from Wellington. My flight’s not till [7:05] at night. I’m not hanging around Elkin Airport all day.”
I said, “You’re worried about how long the flight is for the dog, it’s 15 hours. But if you add another 20 hours on that, it’s going to make it even worse for us, and I’m going to have to change a flight now because of this thing.”
So I’ve emailed another section of MPI to say …
Jonathan: That’s the Ministry for Primary Industries.
Bonnie: And I said, “Has something changed? Because I have never had to have a vet look at her before she leaves.” The only vet I’ve ever had to sign off was a vet here in Wellington that did her external parasites, 48 hours or within the 5 days before we leave.
And I said, “You know, this is just kind of overkill.” And I’m really really confused about it because, from what I understand from the US side, unless the dog is coming from a country or transitioning through a country where rabies is very prevalent, which is certainly not New Zealand, then they have to bring a rabies certificate, which I’ll have all that information anyway. So I am very confused.
Jonathan: Yeah. I think the issue is that it’s just not clear what the procedure is supposed to be. There’s no clear checklist.
Jonathan: There’s no step-by-step. They don’t assign a single person that you can talk to to process these things.
And obviously, I’m very sympathetic to the fact that we are an agricultural nation. We export a lot.
Bonnie: Oh, absolutely.
Jonathan: We’ve got to keep our borders safe, and all that kind of stuff.
However, it is important that people be able to travel with what is, in the end, a mobility tool, and the process needs to be streamlined and clarified. And it seems there’s just a lot of ambiguity, that the level of strictness appears to vary every time you do this.
Jonathan: And there’s no rhyme or reason to it. And I think that does need to be clarified.
Bonnie: Addressed. Well, a lot of the policies I’ve noticed have not been updated in 30 years, because they’re citing the 1993 Biosecurity Act or something. So that tells you …
Jonathan: It’s not uncommon for legislation to last that long.
Bonnie: Yeah, yeah. But a lot of times, they’ll say, “Get a pet transporter.”, and that’s what a lot of people who are transporting their dogs and cats do. They get a pet transporter.
A lot of people get into the mindset there’s one way of doing things. She’s not a pet. She’s an assistance dog. She’s a guide dog.
So when I’ve contacted pet transporters, just to ask can they help with the paperwork side? They don’t need to ship her. They have no idea what to do because it’s a guide dog. That’s not in their realm.
And so they say, “Well, why can’t the guide dog school, the assistance dog school do?”
Well, it’s really not the guide dog school’s job to be doing that. And a lot of the forms are at best, questionably accessible.
Jonathan: Some of them really are not. I mean, there are some that have some serious accessibility issues, actually.
Bonnie: But I can’t even enjoy the next three weeks. I’m constantly checking my phone. ’Cause just when you think you’ve got it kind of worked out, there’s something else pops up with another form. And a lot of them, I feel like I filled out several times.
And again, the people at MPI have been great. They’ve been very nice. They’ve been good to work with.
But it’s just the process and the policy that is, it’s horrible. I mean, I was in tears Friday because I’m like why do I have to have to go to Auckland Airport hours before I’m supposed to leave to have a vet check? I mean, I don’t even understand this.
Jonathan: Now there will be some people who will say, “Well, why don’t you just board the dog and travel with a cane?”
Bonnie: That’s a good question. And the reason is, … And sometimes that’s appropriate if it’s a short stay.
When we went to Texas in July, we were going to the NFB convention. That was not a really good place to take Eclipse. Eclipse wouldn’t have been happy there because at conventions for dogs, it can be very stressful.
And when we went to Europe, that was all ’cause there was a lot of flying, and we were visiting several different countries.
Although traveling around the EU was a lot easier than with a guide dog, although they’ve changed some of those policies too.
But the reason is the way I look at it, it’s a fundamental human right for me. I choose to travel this way.
you know, she’s a guide dog, she’s well-trained, she’s healthy, it’s obvious she’s healthy, she’s not going to cause an issue.
And to me, this is impeding my freedom of movement. I mean, it’s starting to feel that way. Everything I’m doing, every movement I’m making is being questioned.
Jonathan: Well, when this is behind us, we’ll have to look at some of the systemic issues behind it because it’s really quite stressful.
Bonnie: Yeah. It’s very stressful.
Jonathan: And it’s time-consuming.
Bonnie: It’s time-consuming, and it’s expensive.
Bonnie:I’m having to pay money because of my disability. I mean, MPI will waive the fee in terms of processing their paperwork, and they always have done that as long as you can prove it’s an assistance animal, which is easy to do, a legitimate assistance animal.
I don’t know whether some of this is stemming, because we were kind of joking the other day when I was on a Zoom call with my friends, they’re like, “What do they think? You’re running some sort of black market trade on getting pets in and out of the country pretending they’re service animals or something?” Is that what’s behind a lot of this?
Because the US, it’s gotten difficult to fly on US carriers now. I have to fill out paperwork to fly on a US carrier because she’s an assistance dog to prove she’s a guide dog.
Jonathan: Yeah, this is new. This is new since you last took Eclipse to the US that you have to complete that form when you fly.
Bonnie: You have to fill out a form. I don’t know whether it’s stemming from that.
We haven’t started having that problem in New Zealand yet, but it’s hard to know where a lot of this comes from.
But I have never had to see an animal exporter when I left the country.
So now I’m having trouble leaving the country. I mean, I knew it was difficult getting back in.
Jonathan: Yeah, they don’t want to let you go. They didn’t want to let you go on Friday.
Bonnie: They won’t let me leave on Friday. I’m being held… [laughs]
Jonathan: New Zealand is like the Hotel California of countries.
Bonnie: I know. You can check out, but you can’t leave.
And someone said, “Get the State Department involved.”
And I’m like, “Well, not quite there yet.”
But I do have to laugh because apparently, the vet was telling me about an Egyptian diplomat that was having trouble, and they got the Egyptian ambassador involved. And apparently, things got done real quick. [laughs]
Jonathan: Yes. Well, we’ll talk to Mr. Blinken. See what he’s got to say.
Now on the bright side though, you become a citizen of New Zealand on the 8th of November.
Bonnie: Yeah, I do.
Jonathan: So not too far away now.
Now, I think last time you were on the Bulletin, we mentioned that your citizenship had been approved in very quick time. Very quick time.
Jonathan: And now, it’s all happening in an official ceremony.
Bonnie: Yeah, and I have to wear my costume.
Jonathan: Yeah, right.
Bonnie: I’m probably just going to wear a navy dress and red earrings.
Bonnie: And Nicola said I could show up in Daisy Dukes and flip flops, with a big American flag and a beer.
Bonnie: I said that could be interesting. I don’t think I’d want to, but yeah, that is a thought. Wear a cowboy hat.
Jonathan: Or like some sort of American Eagle costume.
Bonnie: [laughs] Go as an Eagle? Lovely.
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah, tremendous!
Anyway, we’re looking forward to that. That’s gonna be an exciting moment.
And then, you will be able to get your New Zealand passport, and never have that problem getting into Australia again.
Bonnie: Oh my goodness.
Jonathan: It’s a comeback, Sir Paul. And this time, come to New Zealand. ’Cause if he’d come to New Zealand, we wouldn’t have had this haji baji.
Bonnie: No, we wouldn’t have had.
But I did get a cool mug. I got 2 cool mugs.
Jonathan: Yes, yes, we bought you the merch.
Bonnie: We bought the merch. I got this cool, it almost looks like a beer tankard, but it’s a mug. But it’s just very cool looking. And it has like this textured top. It’s very, it’s heavy too. It almost looks like it’s metal, but it’s not.
And then I have a Moulin Rouge mug, which Richard was funny ’cause he’s like, “Now, I like this mug much better.”
Bonnie: He really enjoyed the Moulin Rouge.
Bonnie: He did.
Jonathan: It was a very professional performance.
Bonnie: Yeah, it was kind of cute.
And then, I got this perfume that I wanted to get out of duty free called Wild Blueberry. Wild Bluebell, sorry.
Jonathan: Wild Bluebell, yeah.
Bonnie: By Jo Malone London. And it’s very very light scent.
Apparently, you’re supposed to buy another fragrance to layer with it.
It’s out of London, and they do a lot of … Orange Blossom is one of their big ones, and Wild Bluebell and Pear and Fresia, and different things like that.
Well, we may well talk with you before you head off to the United States.
Bonnie: If I’m allowed to leave.
Jonathan: We might talk to you while you’re there.
Bonnie: If I’m allowed to get there.
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah.
Bonnie: A lot of people are gonna be angry if I don’t get there.
Jonathan: Stay tuned for the next Instalment.
Bonnie: We’re gonna have a Friendsgiving.
Bonnie: So I’m going to my sister’s house for Thanksgiving. But a week before that, I’m having a Friendsgiving, and there’s going to be a turkey, and all the fixings, and a bunch of people.
Jonathan: All the fixings.
And does everybody have turkey at Thanksgiving, other than the vegetarians and the vegans?
Bonnie: Most people do. I mean, some people have ham, some people have chicken and dressing. But a lot of people have turkey.
And my understanding is that the original Thanksgiving had duck. So the pilgrims actually had duck.
Bonnie: And apparently, you can go to Plymouth where the Plymouth Rock is, and you can get this sandwich called Governor Bradford’s sandwich. Someone was posting about it yesterday on Facebook.
It sounds horrible! But it’s this monster sandwich, and it has bread soaked in gravy, turkey, cranberry stuffing, then more bread soaked in gravy. [laughs]
A, it sounds messy, and B, no, no, I don’t think so.
Jonathan: Very good.
Well, we will be in touch with you soon for another exciting episode, which may be hopefully a bit less eventful in some ways.
Bonnie: Yup. I hope so.
Jonathan: Alright, then. Goodbye!
And that is where we leave it for this edition of Living Blindfully. Thank you so much for listening again this week.
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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