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Welcome to the Placeless 259.. 2

Hell Freezes Over. Apple Will Support RCS.. 3

We’d Love to Get Your Top 10 Holiday Songs for Our Annual Countdown.. 5

Accessibility on the Job.. 10

Memories of the KGS Graphical Braille Display. 12

Thoughts on the Vosh Third-party Screen Reader for MacOS.. 13

Apple Watch Streaming Radio App.. 16

Vosh, All the Light we Cannot See, and More.. 17

Questions About Gmail, Audio, and More.. 19

Justin Ng From Sneaky Crab Discusses the Game Timecrest 22

In Toronto, They Built a Bike Path on a Sidewalk. 35

The Bonnie Bulletin.. 39

Closing and Contact Info.. 54





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Welcome to the Placeless 259


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.


Coming up on the podcast this week: more thoughts on a possible third-party screen reader for MacOS, bikes and other wheeled vehicles making life tough for blind pedestrians, and Justin Ng from Sneaky Crab talks about Timecrest – a fully accessible game.

Great to be back with you for this episode, which is 259.

And we’ve reached an historic moment! Generations of people will remember this episode because there’s no North American area code 259, and there’s no country code 259, either.

They did tentatively allocate country code 2-5-9 for Zanzibar, which is still using the Tanzania country code.

Mate, there’s a great Billy Joel song on the 52nd Street album called Zanzibar. It’s got some epic saxophone playing on it. And if you get the Billy Joel compilation called “My Lives”, you can hear an extended version where the saxophonist is just really going for it. Very good.

So we’re all on our own. No country code or area code 2-5-9.

Somehow, we will have to just keep calm and carry on. And one way that we can do that is to take advantage of the Black Friday through Cyber Monday sale.

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That is a heck of a deal, especially if you’re inclined to help other people out, spend a little time assisting somebody who’s got a tech problem, perhaps. So do that without limits for a year for just $90. I mean, that’s a good enough deal as it is.

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Hell Freezes Over. Apple Will Support RCS

Beep beep! Do you like the Eagles?

I like the Eagles. They did some good stuff.

And they broke up in 1980 in great acrimony.

There’s a documentary you can buy. (I think it’s still on the iTunes store, and it’s probably available on some of the streaming services.) that tells you the history of the Eagles.

It got pretty rough. It actually turned into a bit of a brawl between a couple of the band members.

And when they split up, people kept asking, “Why don’t the Eagles get back together?” You know, a bit like the constant hankering for a Beatles reunion that went on all the way through the 1970s.

And one of the Eagles members (Was it Don Henley?) said, “The Eagles will get back together when hell freezes over”.

And then, they got back together in 1994, so they did an album called Hell Freezes Over. [laughs]

I tell you this as a huge non sequitur to segue us [laughs] into the fact that hell has frozen over in the tech industry because Apple has announced that they are going to support RCS.

This is a big (insert Joe Biden word here) deal.

So what is RCS, and why are people so excited about it?

RCS stands for Rich Communication Services, and it’s something that’s been alive and well on Android for quite some time. For this to work, your phone has to support it and your carrier also has to support it.

It’s an open standard designed really to be the long-awaited next generation of SMS (short messaging service). That’s your basic text message. It’s been around for a long time, and it went viral in a way that its designers really could never have anticipated.

So RCS is a lot more secure, and it’s a lot more powerful as well. It does a lot of the same things that iMessage does.

So if you send an RCS message to someone on Android and the recipient’s got red receipts turned on, then you’ll be able to see when they have read the message.

You can send multimedia easily through an RCS message.

The trouble has been that if an iPhone user messages an Android user or vice versa, then they can only use SMS at the moment because Apple has declined to support RCS. They’ve perceived iMessage as a major advantage of the iOS platform. It encourages people to use iMessage. There’s something kind of a little bit elitist about that bubble that you get in the iMessage app when you’re sending an iMessage.

It’s encrypted. It’s robust. And it’s a lot more secure.

And the lack of operability of a good quality message protocol has been tremendously beneficial to third-party apps like Signal, and even WhatsApp. WhatsApp is extraordinarily popular, particularly in some countries.

Well, it’s amazing how the threat of regulation can focus the corporate mind. And there has been some talk about regulation coming Apple’s way because of iMessage.

And suddenly, out of the blue, Apple has come out after dissing RCS for ever so long. Tim Cook only quite recently said, “We don’t hear any kind of hankering from the masses to embrace RCS.”

And now, they’ve said, “Okay, we’re going to do it. We’re going to do RCS in 2024.” It may be something that comes in iOS 18.

So this is great news. It means that using your native message app, the platform you’re on will matter less in terms of who you are messaging. You’ll be able to do long messages easily, multimedia content, all that kind of stuff. And it will all work, assuming that your carrier supports RCS. And most do. It’s becoming a hot property.

I don’t think that’s going to be the big issue. This is the way it should be.

Of course, when we send an email, it doesn’t matter what client our email recipient has or what operating system they use, because email is an open, well-developed, well-implemented protocol.

Things started going off the rails a bit, I think, with instant messages. In the early days, you had ICQ and you had MSN Messenger. AIM was another big one, wasn’t it? AOL Instant Messenger, and probably lots of other ones that I’ve forgotten. And that’s when it kind of started to unravel that there wasn’t any consistency about protocols for some of these new technologies.

But finally, we see some potential regulatory intervention. And at least in the messaging world, RCS is going to be universal.

That’s fantastic news. Good on you, Apple, for coming to the party at last.

We’d Love to Get Your Top 10 Holiday Songs for Our Annual Countdown

We’re less than a month away from Christmas now. That is exciting! I’m starting to feel the spirit. Put on a few Christmas tunes already. I’m so ready for it.

And we’re also ready to bring you another Mushroom FM holiday countdown and Christmas party. I know a lot of people really look forward to this every year. It’s become one of those traditions. We look forward to bringing it to you as well.

And we always find new people who say, “Why didn’t I discover this years ago?”, or “Why didn’t I get involved years ago?” You know, people get a bit grinchy and something tempts them in, and then they’re hooked, and they look forward to the holiday countdown and Christmas party every year.

So the door is wide open. Do join in the fun. It is really good fun.

There are a number of elements to this.

The first is that we need you to think now about your top 10 holiday songs. These change from year to year for a lot of people. There are some people who just have their all time favorite Christmas song, and nothing’s going to change that. But some people think about it every year, and they come up with a different song every year. Either is fine.

Not everybody can think of 10 holiday songs off the top of their head, and they feel a bit daunted about doing that. But don’t worry, because the Mushroom FM holiday countdown has you covered there too.

Because when you go to, you can either type in the name of the song you want into the edit box. And obviously, your number 1 song is the most important song. Your number 10 song is still a good one, obviously, because you’re voting for it, but not as important as number 1. That’s significant, and I’ll explain why in a moment.

But if you don’t have inspiration for all 10 choices, there’s a nice big combo box. And this is a kind of a crowd sourced thing because over the years that we’ve been doing this, (and I think the first one we did was back in 2011, so it’s a long time now), every time someone votes for a song by typing it in the edit box that wasn’t in our database, before, we add it to the database. And now, it is a pretty comprehensive database of Christmas and holiday tunes. So you can just select from that list if you need some inspiration.

And just moving through that list is actually quite fun, because you do find some pretty obscure Christmas songs. And you think, “What on earth is that about?” So you go and check it out on Apple Music or Spotify, or whatever your music service of choice is. So it’s a lot of fun.

Now, when you have voted for your top 10, (and I will show you this process in a bit) and you’ve completed the accessible CAPTCHA, (because we do take the integrity of the vote very seriously), you’ll want to find out, I hope, how your vote turned out and what songs made it to the top 100, which is what we play over a 10-hour extravaganza. That is happening this year on Saturday, the 16th of December, between 7 AM and 5 PM US. Eastern time. That means that it starts at midday in the UK, 1 AM on Sunday morning in New Zealand. You can check the Mushroom FM schedule as we get closer to find out when it’s on in your timezone.

But if you ask one of your smart assistant things to convert 7 AM Eastern into your timezone, I’m sure it will tell you as well.

Now, you’re welcome to just settle back and listen to the Top 100 as we play it. The show is live. We have a lot of fun doing it.

But to get into the spirit of the season, we do this Christmas party an online Christmas party.

We used to do this on Twitter, before things got weird over there.

And last year, for the first time, we did it on Mastodon. And that was a bit controversial at the time because Twitter hadn’t truly imploded yet. It was just threatening to, but it was clear to me that we may as well just make the move ’cause the move was inevitable. And now, of course, our Mastodon infrastructure is further developed and a lot more stable, and we’re really looking forward to that party on Mastodon.

If you voted, we assign you to a virtual table at our virtual Christmas party. And we will publish a seating chart the day before the countdown is broadcast, which you can check. And you can find out which table you’ve been assigned to and who your table mates are.

You can get on Mastodon, and basically participate in the frivolity.

If you come up with some really bad Christmas jokes, or you just participate with something interesting, then you will be assigned Christmas crackers for your table. And the table that wins the most Christmas crackers at the end gets the bragging rights for the year for being the winning table. Mate.

Now, Christmas crackers are something that not everybody seems to be aware of. They’re big in this part of the world. They’re big in the UK. I think they’re big in Australia. But in the United States, Christmas crackers are pretty rare. I think you can find them on if you look, but not too many people are aware of them.

Some people who haven’t heard of them before assume that they’re related to food, but they’re not edible at all. They’re actually small explosive devices. Well, they used to be small explosive devices. [laughs] They’re kind of cylindrical things.

In a traditional Christmas dinner in certainly Commonwealth countries, they sit above your dinner plate, and you pull the Christmas cracker with a table mate and they go bang! And then, inside, there’s usually a terrible Christmas joke and a silly little Christmas gift, and an even silly little hat that you’re often expected to wear at the Christmas table at which incriminating photos will be taken.

So we award you virtual Christmas crackers for your participation in the Countdown Christmas Party. But of course, you are very welcome to just vote and sit back and listen and enjoy the music as well. The choice is yours.

But you know what they say, right? If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain if some dodgy song gets to number 1.

So I would like to demonstrate the voting system, because we do actually take this very seriously. And I want to thank Mushroom FM’s Gordon Luke for building such a robust infrastructure around the Countdown.

When you vote, the position to which you assign a song influences its weighting in our internal little database. If you vote something at number 1, it will give it more points internally on our little algorithm than if you vote something at number 10. And so constantly, this algorithm is calculating the top 100 songs.

One year, I think it was a couple of years ago, we did have a tie. That was the first time that happened. And we split the tie by looking at how many people voted one song at number 1. And we awarded the number 1 position to the song that had been voted number 1 by more people when there was a tie on points. So you know, we do take it seriously. This is a truly authentic Countdown going on, and we would love for you to participate. You can do that now by visiting

I’ll just briefly show you how this works.

As coincidence would have it, I just happened to have a browser open to Isn’t that marvelous? And I’ve got my JAWS 2024 and my Microsoft Edge, all here on my Windows computer. While you can vote on any device, if you want to scroll through the incredible list of songs, I think a Windows computer is the way to do that if you have that option because you can use first-letter navigation. That might work on the Mac as well.

I can’t verify that at the moment, but I don’t think that is the case on iOS. So scrolling through that long list on iOS might be a tad laborious, but it can be done.

Let me talk also, while we’re on this page, about voting for specific versions of songs. We learned a long time ago that we have to show some common sense here because if we allowed people to vote for a specific version of particularly the most famous songs and carols, we might end up with 100 versions of Oh Holy Night, or Silent Night, or something like that. So you can vote for a particular song, but not a specific version of a popular song, so that we don’t just get a very boring countdown.

So here we are on this page. I shall verify that by pressing the window title key.

JAWS: Holiday countdown and Christmas party 2023 – Mushroom FM Microsoft Edge Dev.

Jonathan: There is a lot of information on here about the party, about how to vote.

But what I’m going to do is press the letter F in JAWS, which will take me to the first form field.

JAWS: Position 1. Write the name of a song here, if you like. Edit.

Jonathan: And right there is position 1. Now, if you prefer, you can just write the song in here. Just type it in. So we’ll turn forms mode on.

[forms mode on sound]

JAWS: Position 1. Write the name of a song here, if you like. Edit.

Jonathan: And I’ll now just type, say, “A Holly Jolly Christmas”. I do actually quite like the Lady A version of that.

What really does help us a lot is if you are typing in the name of a song, (because it’s not in our database, or even if you’re just typing the name in of a song and you haven’t checked if it’s in our database), please do your best to make sure that the title is correct. Because sometimes, we get votes for songs that we haven’t heard of. We do check every single vote out.

It is our earnest desire to enter any legitimate holiday song that is voted for. But if somebody enters a title and it’s not the correct title, or they type a title and the artist and it’s not the right title or artist or something like that, it does make our life hard. We spend a lot of time researching these things. So if you are able to cross-check that you’ve got the title and if necessary the artist of the song right, that helps us out immensely.

Now, if I press tab, …

JAWS: Position 2. Write the name of a song here, if you like. Edit.

Jonathan: Now, this is quite intelligent code. Because I typed in the name of a song in position 1, it is not allowing me to choose from the list.

So if I shift tab now, …

JAWS: Position 1. Write the name of a song here, if you like. Edit. A Holly jolly Christmas.

Jonathan: Very good. There’s no list anymore.

But now, if I press tab, …

JAWS: Position 2. Write the name of a song here, if you like. Edit.

Jonathan: I can leave the edit field blank, but I can press tab.

JAWS: Combo box. Select a tune for position 2. column 4.

Jonathan: And this is where we have a nice long list of songs. So let’s say I want to put “Wonderful Christmas Time” by Paul McCartney in position 2, I can type as many of the characters as I need to. I can type W-O-N.

JAWS: Wonderful Christmas Time, Paul MCCartney.

Jonathan: And there he is, and it’s all selected. So now I can press tab, …

JAWS: Position 3. Write the name of a song here, if you like. Edit.

Jonathan: And we can go through and vote for our 10 songs.

I’ll just tab through this.

JAWS: Position 10. Combo.

Your full name. Edit.

Jonathan: Now you’re asked to enter your full name, so that we can make sure you are appropriately recognized at one of our tables.

JAWS: Your email address. Edit.

Mastodon user ID. Optional. @ edit.

Jonathan: This is where you can enter your Mastodon username if you want to and if you have one, and that will be published on the seating plan.

The idea here is that we promote a bit of social fun at Christmas time. And if you look at table mates or even just other listeners who are participating in this and you want to follow those people, then you can do that. It’s a good way to make some new friends on Mastodon.

But we will, of course, also use the Mushroom FM hashtag, so you can simply track that hashtag and keep up with what’s going on.

So enter your Mastodon username here if you have one, and if you’d like to.

JAWS: Any extra things you think we should know? For example, you may wish to tell us why you chose a particular song. Edit.

Jonathan: This is quite useful. As one of the people who is playing these songs that you’ve voted for, sometimes, I look to see why people have voted for the number 1 they have. And this information just gives us a bit of good stuff to work with and things to mention on the show.

JAWS: Which of these is a body part? House, prison, or face? Edit. Blank.

Jonathan: This is our incredibly clever, accessible CAPTCHA.

We do have a CAPTCHA in order to protect the integrity of the votes. And we wanted to make sure that it was a truly accessible CAPTCHA that didn’t discriminate against anybody who couldn’t hear well, or couldn’t see the characters, obviously.

So this is a quick kind of intelligence test, and we have a range of questions that will pop up.

JAWS: Submit your vote, button.

Jonathan: And there’s a submit the vote button. And that’s all there is to it.

When you do submit the vote, you will get an automatic response confirming that the vote has been received.

If you don’t get that, then do check your spam folder.

We also have someone manually collating the data, entering it into the system, and checking the integrity.

And when that’s done, you will get your official invitation to the Christmas party.

So this is a fun thing. And I do hope, even if you haven’t participated in it before, that you will. We love to get a representative sample of the community voting for their top 10 holiday songs.

Votes are open now, and they will close on Thursday evening, the 14th of December, at [11:59], so that we can then put the show together.

There is a bit of campaigning that goes on from time to time for particular songs. If there is a song that you would really like to see at number 1, then tell your friends, tell your family. I know a lot of people tell their work colleagues as well, and people vote. So the more the merrier.

Let’s spread the word, and all head over to, and exercise the festive franchise.

Accessibility on the Job

This email is from David Van Der Molen, and he says:

“Hi, Jonathan,

A question that has been percolating in my mind for over 20 years now, and I have no idea why I haven’t asked about this earlier, is whether there are podcasts or email groups where people discuss using JAWS or other screen reading technology on platforms related to their employment. I think such discussions would be so valuable for blind people looking for work so that when in a job interview, they could knowledgably speak about how they could potentially access specific software that a company uses.

For instance, what got me thinking about this question happened when I was interviewing for a call centre position in around 2002. I was asked whether JAWS worked with a call center platform called Swing. I had no idea.

Now, I’m in a situation at my work where we’re switching from our own database to one operated by SalesForce. And for me, the switch isn’t going particularly well.

I would love to join a group of blind people who use SalesForce on the job and hear about how they’re dealing with the challenges I’m having.

But there must also be people who are wanting to work, or currently working at banks, post offices, call centers, hospitals, and who knows where else, that have experiences and/or challenges related to the computer systems these places use. Why is a discussion like this so hard to find?

Keep up the good work, Jonathan. I look forward each week to a new episode of Living Blindfully.”

Thank you very much, David.

I see a lot of this going down on social media. It used to happen a lot on Twitter. It happens a bit now on Mastodon. Although of course, with the demise of Twitter from an accessibility point of view, the discussions have become a bit more fragmented. So social media is a good place to turn.

I do know a bit about SalesForce because where I work, we have implemented a CRM, a customer relationship management system, based on SalesForce, and we did a custom implementation and made sure that it was accessible.

SalesForce do know about accessibility, but it’s one of those environments that’s highly customizable. So just like Apple, for example, will put in its coding infrastructure technology to make it pretty easy to make something accessible, you can choose not to use it. You can bypass it, and some SalesForce implementations do that.

I believe there’s also quite a good complement of blind people who are working for SalesForce itself.

So I guess there are two questions.

Does anybody know of an email list where you can talk about these sorts of vocational tools? There are a lot of general blindness technology email lists out there, but I don’t know if there’s one specifically about this.

It might be something the NFB run. They’ve got so many interesting email lists on their listserv, so we’ll find out if anybody can tell us that.

But I would say that if the system’s working correctly, what you hopefully would be able to do is to go to your blindness agency when you get a situation like this and get the help of somebody who’s qualified to make a technological assessment of a piece of software to find out whether it needs to be changed or whether there might be some scripting done that will allow you to get the job done.

So good question, David, and I hope we get some feedback on this.

Memories of the KGS Graphical Braille Display

Robert is writing in. Good to hear from you, Robert.

He says:

“In Episode 257, you had a comment from a person who saw a multi-line Braille display some years ago.

I am reasonably certain that the person was looking at a display sold by Nippon Telesoft. The National Federation of the Blind had one of these displays in the International Braille and Technology Centre (IBTC).

The image portion of the display had a grid of 35 by 70 pins. In the front of the display was a single line braille display for displaying information about the display. Touch strips along two sides of the image allowed the user to change the resolution of the display.

If I recall correctly, the display sold for only a mere US $40,000.”


And Robert says:

“PS: I used to work in the IBTC, so had my hands on the unit.”

I certainly remember you, Robert. You see, I never forget a face. Nice to hear your name come up again, and I hope you’re doing well.

Voice message: Hi, Jonathan and listeners. It’s Kevin from the Bay Area.

This is in response to Ramona Mandy from Melbourne, Australia.

I remember touching and experiencing the KGS tactile graphics display, and I remember them being called Dot View 1 and Dot View 2. This was about 20 years ago as well.

I first saw it when I got a tour of the Living Skills Center for the Blind, a blindness rehab training program in San Pablo, which I later attended as a student in 2008.

Like Ramona, I remember an analog clock being demoed where it was possible to feel the different hands move real-time, and to be able to clearly tell what time it is.

I also remember being shown a map of the US where it was possible to feel the whole country map, then zoom into specific states.

It was definitely a desktop unit as, like Ramona said, it was 10 by 10 inches on the surface, and probably about 8 inches high or thick.

The tactile graphics that were shown were easily recognizable and easily understandable, which I’m not sure if I could say about the current form of these tactile graphics displays and blind displays in the past couple of years.

It was very cool to hear that someone else saw the KGS Dot View displays as well, have memories of it, and it’s cool that we are talking about it again.

I, too wonder what happened to KGS and these Dot View displays, as they were very cool and innovative for their time and could have been really amazing if they were still around today.

Thoughts on the Vosh Third-party Screen Reader for MacOS

Jonathan: Some comments on Vosh, the embryonic third-party potential screen reader for the MacOS platform.

Christopher Wright says:

“Hi, Jonathan,

Vosh sounds very interesting. And assuming it doesn’t crash and burn due to lack of interest, it could essentially become NVDA for MacOS.

We’ve observed that even though Microsoft and Apple develop their own screen readers, they don’t always receive the attention they should. Narrator updates aren’t nearly as frequent as they used to be, and I worry they’re getting to the ‘good enough for 99% of users’ stage Apple seems to be at with VoiceOver.

Perhaps, it really is true. The best way we get things done is if we do things for, and by ourselves.”

Amen, brother.

“With Open Source,” continues Christopher, “we dictate our own future instead of relying on corporations like Freedom Scientific, Vispero, or whatever name they’ve decided to call themselves this week. Said corporation has a history of buying all major commercial competitors and being more willing to discontinue them, forcing everyone to move to JAWS/ZoomText.

I said monopolistic behaviour before. And perhaps that’s not strictly true, since we have Narrator and NVDA. But how about anti-competitive?

Why is the JAWS annual licence program restricted to the United States and Canada, even though you claim you want to help everyone around the world?

NVDA is a big deal particularly outside the United States, because it allows everyone to have access to a very high-quality screen reader for work and other things, rather than having to pay for the Vispero privilege.

If Vispero decides to close tomorrow, that’s too bad.

With open source, as long as the community is willing to maintain the project, it’s not going anywhere.

I just hope Vosh doesn’t end up being maintained by a single person, like Orca.

Maybe this will convince Apple to finally start taking voiceover seriously.

More likely, it will do the opposite. Why should we do the work when a third party is doing it for us?

We live in interesting times.”

Thanks, Christopher.

While I partially agree with that, I don’t agree with your characterization of Vispero. And it’s not just because I used to work there.

I wouldn’t have worked there when it was Freedom Scientific if I didn’t believe in the products and what they do.

Let’s not forget that JAWS was developed originally by Ted Henter. Ted is blind.

JAWS for Windows’ architect was Glenn Gordon, and Glenn is still there, and Glenn is blind.

There are many, (I think possibly the majority actually still) of software developers working at Freedom who are blind themselves.

When you look at scripting and quality assurance, there are some of the best blind minds in the business who have devoted the vast majority, if not all, of their professional lives to making things better for blind people, and they can justifiably feel proud of that.

All of the technical support people (to the best of my knowledge) at Freedom are blind or low vision.

There is a lot of input from blind people still into JAWS.

Now undoubtedly, it is owned by a corporation, and Freedom Scientific/Vispero itself is a corporation. There’s no denying that.

And of course, there is a philosophical discussion to be had about the relative merits of open source versus closed source. We can talk about Microsoft Office, and Windows, and all sorts of things like that.

But I would still maintain that what goes into JAWS is very much controlled by blind people. Indeed, Ryan Jones, who is now the product manager for JAWS at Vispero is also a blind person.

Although I would contend that Eric Damery thought like a blind person. The way that he really intuitively understood what screen reading required was extraordinary.

Vispero does not have a blind Chief Executive. I reached out when the current Chief Executive was appointed and requested an interview. Never even got a reply, let alone a decline.

And I think in 2023, for a company such as Vispero that plays such a critical part in our lives in manufacturing the technology that many of us use on the job, to not have a blind or low vision Chief Executive is just flat out culturally inappropriate.

WindowEyes was undoubtedly a casualty of the acquisition of AI Squared. AI Squared bought GW Micro. And then the artist we now know as Vispero bought AI Squared.

The motivation, and I can tell you this with absolute certainty, was not to take WindowEyes out of the market. WindowEyes wasn’t really a sufficient threat to be bothered wanting to take it out of the market.

The motivation was that ZoomText was the dominant player in magnification software. They wanted ZoomText. They had the money to purchase it, so they got it. But because they acquired the company, WindowEyes came for the ride.

And I guess, it does make sense from a business standpoint when resources are constrained, not to maintain two screen readers. And clearly, JAWS remains the dominant player.

I completely agree with you about the software license. I keep meaning to reach out to Ryan, who’s very amenable and willing to come on the podcast, and I will do that at some point soon. And when we do, I do want to ask this question because Scott Rutkowski asked this question a wee while ago and I’ve been sitting on the question, waiting until I get Ryan on the show.

I completely agree that an antiquated dealer network appears to be prohibiting people from accessing JAWS at an affordable price, and that’s really very unfortunate.

It’s great that NVDA exists. It keeps the commercial player on its toes.

But I, for one, could not get my job done as efficiently with it. That’s not to knock it, but it is the truth, at least for my use case. When I look at the things that I do with my screen reader, I can be a lot more efficient. And for me, efficiency counts for a lot.

I also agree with you about Narrator. I’m really disappointed with how that seems to have slowed down, and it’s not evolving the way that I was expecting it to. I was hoping that by now, we would have had a pretty compelling scripting proposition.

And to me, the big threat to JAWS is not actually NVDA. That’ll percolate away, and that’s great. And it should always have its place. It’s doing a lot of good in the world.

But the big threat, in my view, is if Microsoft started to really get serious about Narrator and put a much more viable screen reader in the operating system, that was about more than doing basic things and working with the Office applications, but which offered scripting, provided an architecture for third parties to develop add-ons and sell them. That would be quite existentially threatening. Narrator is the one to watch, and I have no idea why it seems to have slowed down the way it has.

Caller: Hello, Jonathan. This is Dave from Oregon.

An alternative to VoiceOver on a Mac? That is exciting.

If I could get something like JAWS working on a Mac, I’d truly be happy.

Having used Windows for 2 decades before getting a Mac, I’m aware that VoiceOver is at best, a band-aid to allow us to use the Mac. But it is nothing like the power that we had from JAWS.

Jonathan: Thanks for your thoughts, Dave.

John Dowling writes in and says:

“I’m really excited for the future development of this screen reader. I watched the YouTube video, and it looks promising.”

Apple Watch Streaming Radio App

Luis is writing in from Colombia and says:

“Hi, Jonathan,

A couple of years ago, you mentioned a wonderful app that allows you to play radio on the Apple Watch. Unfortunately, I don’t remember its name, and I haven’t been able to find it searching through your podcast episodes.”

It is indeed an excellent app, Luis, and it is called Streamlets. That’s S-T-R-E-A-M-L-E-T-S.

And the cool thing about Streamlets is that it has a good internet radio database.

[Apple Watch sound]

See, my watch even agrees. It wants me to stand up in this app’s honour.

It has a good internet radio database, and it streams over the watch speaker.

So for those of us who wear made-for-iPhone hearing aids who are still frustrated that Apple Watch doesn’t pair with a made-for-iPhone hearing aid, this is a really super app. And it was Graham Innes who put a review of this together.

So do grab Streamlets. It’s a stand-alone Apple Watch app. You can say to your Siri on the Apple Watch, “Search the App Store for Streamlets.” I just did that. It came right up, so it definitely is still available. Fantastic app.


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 That’s

Or phone our listener line in the USA: 864-60-Mosen. That’s 864-606-6736.

Let your voice be heard.

Vosh, All the Light we Cannot See, and More

Here’s an email from Maurice Mines, which was sent just after I put out the announcement for Episode 258.

He says:

“Dear Jonathan,

I have some comments about your upcoming podcast episode.

In your announcement email, you mentioned that there is someone who apparently is developing a potential alternative screen reader to VoiceOver. I think this might have some potential.

However, if the screen reader is radically different from voiceover, user adoption might be very slow.

Also, if there’s a cost attached to the new screen reader, people will just avoid it and just stay with using VoiceOver, for instance.”

Thanks, Maurice.

I think it might depend in both cases.

I would gladly pay for a good quality screen reader that’s a bit more Windows-like.

I don’t know whether there’s much point in just duplicating the voiceover interface because if people are happy with that, there’s not really an incentive to switch. But if people love the Mac hardware and they really wish they could find something that for them is more viable, then a different look and feel may be just what’s required.

And I’m certainly relaxed about the fact that people got to eat, right? They got to put food on the table and pay the rent or the mortgage. So if it’s a good product, I will gladly pay.

But it will be good to have the choice because VoiceOver will always be there, (well, one thinks so anyway), and will always remain free.

Maurice continues:

“In your past episode, and maybe for a few episodes to come, you’re going to be commenting on All the Light we Cannot See, the Netflix series.

I am currently listening to the novel.

I think it is important to remember what time this novel took place. Also, let’s understand that history is just the history. We know, for instance, that blind people are treated much better today than they ever were treated in history.

I don’t think we should try to revise history.

Let me give you an example.

Recently, there was a video, (I’m not going to mention it here.), other than to say that it depicted an erroneous point of view about deaf-blind history. It tried to tell us that Helen Keller never existed.”

I’ve heard about this meme about Helen Keller not existing. What kind of absolute absurdity is this?

Maurice continues:

“Let’s not try to rewrite history.

History, in some cases, is there to teach. We need to learn from that history so it’s never repeated in the present day or the future.

The other thing that I’m thinking about that you might wish to consider devoting some time to on a future episode, is an issue that I’m struggling with these days, and that is Parallels Desktop for Mac, the Pro edition. I am using it because it allows me to use the very dictation software that I’m writing you this email.

Unfortunately, there are some challenges.

Many of the specialized devices we use may not work under an ARM version of Windows.

But I’m finding that the biggest issue is Parallels itself. Sometimes, even though you’re told that software should work with ARM, it does not because Parallels forbids it, it seems.

I will wrap this up to say this about Parallels. Unfortunately, attempting to get technical support for these frustrating issues, which can include issues with screen reader support, both on the Mac side and on the Windows side, leaves something to be desired.

I hope all is well, and I look forward to hearing or reading Episode 258 as soon as it’s out.

This leads me to a question. Has there been any thought given to how things may be made easier for those of us who use a Mac, in terms of downloading, …”

And I’m afraid the dictation has really messed this, and I can’t make sense of what the downloading is.

Sorry, Maurice. The dictation is really quite difficult, and I’ve done my best to translate it.

He says:

“I do subscribe,” meaning pay money “for every month, as a means of supporting your efforts.

Thanks, and I look forward to any response.”

Well first, thank you very much for your support, Maurice, and subscribing to Living Blindfully plus and making this viable. I really do appreciate that.

I’m going to assume that dictation I can’t decipher might be relating to downloading the premium versions of the episodes of Living Blindfully plus.

On the Mac, you do, I think, have two choices that would work.

One is to paste the URL into the Podcasts app on the Mac, the official Apple one. And I believe there’s a pretty good Downcast app on the Mac, which would do the job for you as well.

So you would take the URL that you were sent or that you can log into Pinecast to retrieve as a Living Blindfully plus subscriber. And then, paste that URL into the appropriate field of either Downcast or the Apple Podcasts app.

I hope that’s at least of some help, and I really do appreciate your support.

Regarding Parallels, I have heard it’s pretty inaccessible, and that it’s a bit of an art form getting it to work.

I’ve seen some really interesting posts from Kelly Ford, who seems to be a very proficient Parallels user on the Mac. But from what I’ve gathered from his posts, it’s not exactly easy, and it’s certainly not as accessible as VMware Fusion used to be on the Intel Macs.

Questions About Gmail, Audio, and More

To South Africa we go, where Gary Hough is writing in.

“Hi, Jonathan,” he says.

“I have a few questions, so please bear with me.”

Okay, Gary, bearing with you now.

“First of all, I have about a gazillion emails in Gmail, which I want to clean up. However, I don’t want everything deleted. I want to delete mails with a certain string such as group, which will pop up in the subject line.

I can find that by doing a search. I can delete 10 at a time. But I want to delete a whole lot in one go, but I can’t seem to figure out just how to do this.

Can you, or anyone else, please” (in blocked capitals), “HELP? I have been Googling to find out what to do, but I’m not winning.”

Gary, maybe somebody has a quick trick for you.

I’m not by choice a Gmail user. I choose not to use it.

But one way I can immediately think of is enable IMAP access. Log in with your email client of choice, and search for that thing. And then hopefully, you’ll get all the results in a nice list on your computer.

Press Control + A to select all of them, and delete.

Voila! (That’s your actual French.) That’ll be gone.

So I reckon IMAP might be a way around getting rid of a mass amount of emails like this using the search facilities of your stand-alone email client.

“Okay,” says Gary. “On to my next question.

In my work environment, I often have up to 6 or 7 windows open at a time. I don’t always use them in a particular order.

Sometimes, it can be pretty fast paced, and it takes a while to go through the programs that are open by holding down Alt and tabbing through until you get to the program that you want.

So is there a way, or an app, or some ingenious way to set up shortcuts to jump directly into a desired program from wherever you are?”

Well, there are a couple of things you could try, Gary.

If you’re a JAWS user, you can press the JAWS key with F10, and this brings up a list of running applications. And that list respects first-letter navigation. So press the JAWS key with F10, type the first letter of the window that you want to get to, whack, enter, (Whack that Enter key!), and you should be there.

If speed is really important, you might want to do what I do in live broadcasting situations, and that is to pin apps to the taskbar so that they always maintain their same position. Because when you do that, you can hold down the Windows key and press the number keys on your number row.

For example, every time I press the Windows key and the number 1 above the QWERTY row on my keyboard, I get Station Playlist Studio. If it’s not launched the first time I press it, it launches the application. And subsequently, once it’s launched, pressing the Windows key with the number 1 jumps me straight into that window and gives it focus.

Windows and the number 2 does the same with Microsoft Word.

I have a number of applications fixed to my Windows taskbar pinned in this way. And if you Google on this, you’ll get information about how to do this.

Once you’ve got it set up and you understand the windows and the number key that you have to press, it can save you oodles of time, and you’ll be able to get exactly where you need to go with a key press, and you’re up and running. Marvelous.

“Third question,” says Gary.

“I see that VT Remote from Station Playlist Studio can play .mp4 files. I don’t often do this due to quality that might not be good enough for broadcasting.

But I also discovered that Studio itself doesn’t want to play .mp4 files in a live environment.

Is there a setting or something that I don’t know of? I do use a lot of video music files when working. And sometimes, I want to play them in Studio.

If I can’t do this, I am faced with a choice – either convert those video files to .mp3, or just play them in VLC media player, which is open all the time.

And if it’s only music and not karaoke, I don’t worry too much about the music video. So I don’t need visuals for those particular videos.”

Okay. So if I’m understanding your question correctly, Gary, there are times when you do want the video to be on screen, right? Because I think this might be in a live DJ context that you’re talking about, as in DJing for parties and that kind of thing for functions.

And to the best of my knowledge, Station Playlist Studio is not intended for that purpose. I don’t think there is a way for the video to be rendered on screen in Station Playlist Studio because it is a live audio playback package.

“Okay. Last question,” says Gary, “I promise.

I checked out your demo of the Backpack Studio app, which was, as always, very well done.”

Oh. Thank you very much, Gary.

“You mentioned that you can edit videos.

Would I be able to import an audio and video file as one project, sync them up, and then mute the audio from the video file? I will obviously replace that muted audio with a better audio recording.

If I can do this, I’ll buy the app right now. It will solve a problem I’ve been having for quite a while.

Thanks again.”, says Gary, “for a brilliant and highly informative show.”

Thank you very much, Gary, for writing in.

I don’t think Backpack Studio is your answer here. To the best of my knowledge, Backpack Studio’s video capability is limited to taking a piece of audio, and then kind of overdubbing a nice little wave for me thing over the top of the audio. I don’t believe it imports video files and you can’t edit in Backpack Studio.

However, on your PC, I would use Reaper for this. Reaper would be perfect because on one track, you could import the video file. On the other, you could import your better quality audio file. You can make sure that those two files are absolutely in sync by listening to both tracks and getting them in absolute sync. Then, you simply mute the audio track from your video file and render as a new video file. And you’ve got it.

Reaper is just an amazing tool for so many things. This is but one.

If others have any answers to your questions, Gary, I’m sure they will not be backward in coming forward.

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Justin Ng From Sneaky Crab Discusses the Game Timecrest

Our community is hungry for quality games we can play, and Timecrest is one such game. It’s accessible, well-produced and, quite frankly, enthralling.

To talk about this with me, the game, its history, and the company, I’m joined by Justin Ng from the company that develops Timecrest, which is called Sneaky Crab.

Hi, Justin. Welcome!

Justin: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.

Jonathan: I’ve got to ask you. Where does Sneaky Crab come from? How on earth did you come up with that name?

Justin: [laughs] Yeah, so I founded Sneaky Crab with my partner, Lisa Goo. We brainstormed a lot of different names for our company before landing on Sneaky Crab. I guess you could say Lisa’s nickname, we call her the crab. And so we added the sneaky part to evoke a kind of playfulness we wanted in our games.

Jonathan: Fascinating. Alright.

You’ve had quite the career in software development, haven’t you? You’ve worked in a number of big companies before you went out on your own.

Justin: Yeah, I’ve always been working in technology. I’ve worked for Google, Microsoft, Facebook back before they were called Meta, and I worked in a mobile gaming company called StarMate, where actually Lisa also worked there.

And we really cut our teeth on being pretty early to developing games for the App Store. So I think that sort of set us up for making Sneaky Crab later.

Jonathan: Right.

The App Store is quite revolutionary, isn’t it?, in the sense that it really lowered the barrier to entry for many people. And what I find is that some of the best apps in the store are actually made by those small indie developers.

Justin: Yeah. I think that that’s really the magic of the App Store.

I think prior to mobile applications, there were a lot of big companies that had good distribution.

I think what the App Store solved initially was the distribution problem. It made it a lot easier to develop something and package it up, and Apple would take care of making it so that anyone who owned a phone could get your app. That is something that we take for granted now, but it was a huge change when it happened.

Jonathan: Not only is it taken for granted now, but I guess it’s not viewed favorably by everybody, and Apple’s being pinged for antitrust concerns, various other things.

Do you have concerns about the idea that there could be a fragmentation of stores in the future from which you can buy your products for your iPhone or your iPad, or is that a good thing?

Justin: Yeah. I mean, I think that that’s a kind of problem where, as a small app developer, we are just going to wait and see how things develop.

Honestly, the App Store has been a great platform for us. We were very lucky that when Timecrest first came out way back in 2015, Apple actually featured us, honored it with one of the best of 2015 lists, and the relationship with Apple has been great.

I think, as a consumer, more competition and more options is obviously a great thing. But I can say that while being very happy with what’s happened to us on the Apple platform since.

Jonathan: Yeah, I must say I’m mixed about this, because I go back, way back to the days of before cellphones were smart. And then, my first cellphones that were smart was Symbian. And you had to go all over the web trying to find where the websites for all these Symbian developers were.

So from a point of entry point of view and ease of use for those people who struggle with this kind of technology, knowing that there’s just one place that you have to go to find all the apps that are out there has some benefits.

Justin: Absolutely. And I think that it’s so easy to cast things as good or bad. And you really have to think about the whole package of it. And it’s complicated.

When you look at the App Store, there’s a great many wonderful things that it’s brought. You know, we talked about distribution as one of the big advantages of it for developers. It makes it simple. It’s not confusing.

As you said, on the Symbian platform, you had to go all over the place to try to find apps.

When I was a kid, I used a Palm Pilot, and it could be very hairy trying to find apps and get them to work. And it only worked on this version, and you don’t have enough memory.

We take for granted that things actually work.

But I think in trade off for that, Apple holds a lot of control in order to give that experience, right? And you can’t really have both things.

If you open it up to everything, then the world becomes a little bit more complicated, but you have more options, right? And more options and more possibilities.

Maybe there’s a different way that Apple hasn’t thought of that is great for consumers as well. So I see it as a very complex problem with a lot of different possibilities.

Jonathan: A lot of people dream of doing what you have done. Basically stop working for the big corporation and the regular 9 to 5 work for themselves, be their own boss. But it’s a huge leap of faith, especially when you’ve got the skills that you have where you’re eminently employable. You can go to a whole range of companies and use your software talent, and be assured of a salary.

Was it a scary process to actually start your own company like that, to actually go beyond dreaming about it and do it?

Justin: Absolutely. I think this was probably one of the scariest things that Lisa and I ever did, maybe aside from having a baby. That’s probably the scariest thing we’ve ever done in our lives together.

Jonathan: [laughs]

Justin: But it was also something we felt we had to do.

When we were thinking about starting a company, it was 2015. And in our minds, mobile gaming, we felt, was starting to stagnate. A lot of the games that were coming out had very simple themes, very simple mechanics, very simple ideas, and it was just sort of flooded with this. And then, there wasn’t this evolution of depth. I think what a lot of people were doing were just adding IPs to already very simple mechanics and themes.

And we felt that mobile gaming was the only medium that didn’t have deep emotional stories and narratives with stakes. And we really wanted to do something in this space.

Lisa’s always been an extremely creative person. She’s always been writing her whole life. She was a game director. She always took care of a lot of the creative aspects of games in her career.

I’ve always been on the technical side, but always deeply interested in story and narrative. I directed plays in high school.

And we found that we could do this collaboration where we could start telling stories on a mobile platform. And we wanted to make a game that would have a deep narrative, and big twists, and big emotional punches. And this was really important to us to do.

And not just that. We thought it would be really cool if you were the main character in the story. We weren’t happy that in a lot of games, you started out as a character in this. But then the options that you were given were just ultra-linear. They didn’t let you really express yourself. You didn’t really feel connected to the characters. You didn’t really feel like you were a part of the thing, right? That you were just kind of being guided by someone else into being someone else, and it wasn’t really you.

And so we were very proud of making Timecrest as the thing we felt like we had to do to solve all of these problems.

Jonathan: So when you put Timecrest together, is it a joint thing in the sense that you both write a little bit of code and a little bit of the storyline? Or is there quite a clear division of labor there where you’re doing a lot of the coding, Lisa’s pretty much designing the story and the text?

Justin: Yeah, I think the simple answer is that Lisa does all the writing. I think there’s more than 640,000 words now in this story, and she gets all the credit for that.

I do all the technical work, and the coding, and so on.

But our collaboration is very deep because we break a lot of story together. I pitch a lot of ideas. It’s hard for me to remember for different plot points in the story which ones were mine and which ones were hers.

And when it comes to the app design, she has a tremendous amount of feedback that I don’t remember. Did I design the feature this way? Did she do it?

We are constantly collaborating on every single aspect, and I think that’s why the partnership works so well.

Jonathan: When you developed Timecrest, did you do so with accessibility in mind? Or did you put it out there, and then blind people discovered it and told you it was accessible?

Justin: Yeah. We initially did not develop it specifically to be accessible. And I think that that’s a symptom of how my experience in the tech industry went. I’m very sad to say that accessibility was not a focus. And so naturally, as I went on to develop my own product, it wasn’t a focus initially.

But then, I was contacted by a blind user who said, “Hey, look. Your game is 99% accessible. But can you fix a few of the bugs here?”

And as soon as we saw that, we immediately realized within 24 hours we needed to make accessibility a very key focus on Timecrest. So we actually stopped everything that we were doing at that moment, and we redesigned the entire app.

I think we took, I want to say, 3 months. We spent the first half of that just understanding how to use our phones through VoiceOver features, turning screen curtain on, using all of our apps, using Timecrest, and just understanding what it’s like to use our phones as a blind user.

And then, we spent the last 6 weeks of that redesigning the entire app. I think we rewrote almost everything. Because we didn’t just want to add labels and make it kind of accessible.

I think, once we had spent enough time learning how to make an accessible app and using our phones in that way, we realized there were a lot of changes we wanted to make to make Timecrest not just adequate through VoiceOver, but to make it really fun and engaging.

Jonathan: When we, as blind people, contact the developer with a report like that, like there’s promise in this app, but it really could do with some work, often, you get feedback from the developer saying, “Thanks for this. We’ll add it to our list.”, which is basically a euphemism for “Go away!” [on reverb]

Justin: [laughs]

Jonathan: And you never hear from the developer again.

So what is it about you and Lisa that meant that that feedback that that initial blind user sent to you resonated, to the point that you put all that effort in?

Justin: That’s a really good question. I have to think about that because for us, it seemed very obvious from the get-go. As I said, we made the decision within 24 hours that we were going to stop everything and work on this. So it seemed very obvious to us that this was something important.

I think that Timecrest stands for building a connection between the person that is playing, and the characters in the game. I think that it’s really important that emotional connection is built, and that a lot of the conversations you have with the main character, Ash, especially in the early chapters, are designed to build that relationship where you can be kind, or you can be mean to Ash.

And so I think that in service of that, I think that when people write in and tell us about their experience and we realize this is something that is going to be a barrier to that connection, we have to fix it. At least, I think that that’s how I would think about it.

In hindsight, now that we have learned a lot more about this, I think I saw a stat that there are something like 240 million blind and low vision people in the world. I think it’s also a really great business choice to support accessibility in products.

Jonathan: Do you have any idea at all how it’s impacted your bottom line, in the sense that do you have some feeling about the percentage of your user base that are VoiceOver users?

Justin: Yeah. I’m not going to share a specific…

Jonathan: You can’t blame a guy for trying. [laughs]

Justin: No no no, absolutely. You should ask.

But it’s been significant.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Justin: I mean, if you look at our update notes, almost every single update has some VoiceOver or accessibility-related fix or feature. And so I think, that should show how important it’s been for Timecrest.

Timecrest is a game that can be played by both sighted and blind alike. And yet, we still continue to spend a lot of time there. So it’s been a very very important set of people playing Timecrest that are blind.

Jonathan: And it’s a niche that you’re filling right. As I said at the beginning in the intro, the community is hungry for games that we can play, and we really are underserved.

Justin: Yeah, absolutely.

You know, I think it comes down to when you’re developing a product, you got to start with building something that somebody can love.

And I think what’s really cool is that Timecrest is a perfect format for those using accessibility features. The fact that it’s so much text, it’s a story, and it’s communication, it lends itself really really well to being highly accessible. The funny thing is that if you are playing this game using VoiceOver, then all of the text is being read to you. So I would argue you may even be having a better experience than the sighted users.

Jonathan: Do you get a chance to tell that story to other developers?

Some years ago now, when I was doing consultancy work and running my own company, I ran a very short-lived podcast that was targeted at both the app development community and the blind community, to try and evangelize for app developers that actually, not only is accessibility the right thing to do. It makes business sense.

Do you get to tell that to developers very much?

Justin: Yeah. I mean, when I’m speaking to other developers, I certainly do not hide how important it has been for our business.

And I found that that’s the most important thing is. Showing success cases is the best way to convince others, at least, you know, from maybe this is a little bit inside baseball. But like, when we’re making decisions in meetings or I’m talking to other businesses, often just pointing at other successful cases is the best way to convince people to give things a try.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Justin: And so, you know, I’m proud that Timecrest, I think of as a great example of why, you know, other apps or games should be focusing on accessibility.

Jonathan: Now that you did that and you retrofitted the app so that it’s fully accessible, how much effort do you think is involved in continuing to make the game accessible as you develop it further?

Justin: It doesn’t take that much. Honestly, it’s mostly, I’d say it’s education, and it’s a mindset change.

Education is that as a sighted developer, it takes some time to build empathy and to learn how an app works using accessibility features. And I think that took a little bit of time to learn and invest in. But it was highly worth it because the rest almost comes for free.

I think realizing all of the pain points in Timecrest and rewriting it to be mindful of that, I think once that was all done, it was a lot of fun. It was just a mindset change in the future. When building in new features, when adding new content, when adding new things to Timecrest, as long as you’re thinking about accessibility from the beginning, I don’t even think of it as a cost. I think of it as just a different way of designing the future, if that makes sense.

Jonathan: Now, for those who haven’t played Timecrest, (and a lot of people have, of course) who are listening to this podcast (but there will be some who haven’t), let’s talk about the game itself.

Can you give me the elevator pitch? Tell me a bit about Timecrest, as if we were doing a 60-second ad.


Justin: Sure, yeah, absolutely.

So Timecrest is a story. It’s a young adult fantasy story where you are the main character.

So there’s a young mage named Ash who is contacting you frantically through their pocket watch, asking for your help. And that’s because Ash’s world, Alincia, is about to be destroyed by falling meteors.

You’re able to demonstrate the ability to save Ash’s world by turning back time.

But there isn’t long to celebrate, as Ash is suddenly being hunted by someone who informs both of you that you’ve done the impossible. Your use of time magic has broken the rules of magic.

So you know, whether you choose to save the world or do something else, we feel this is a journey that’ll let you explore a lot of really wondrous places. You’ll meet people that will either become your friends, or your enemies, and I think it’s an adventure of a lifetime.

Jonathan: And young adults are your target audience. Is that correct? Who do you see this appealing to, in terms of the demographic?

Justin: Yeah. I mean, I think we tried to write a story that was universal, that anyone could enjoy. But within that, you pick a genre. And we love fantasy stories, we love time travel, and we really sort of enjoy that genre. And we picked young adult because I think that there’s a sort of youthful perspective that Ash and the other characters of that age have that I think is refreshing.

I’m in my 40s now. And it’s interesting, sort of you can get more and more jaded, the older that you get in life.

And I think that it is actually refreshing to see a more youthful perspective on life.

I have a toddler, and she goes through life.

Jonathan: Oh boy!


Justin: She goes through life learning things, experiencing things, and there’s a certain sort of honesty to that that I think is really fun to experience, right?

So I think that even though the characters are young adult, I think that regardless of your age, it’s very enjoyable.

Jonathan: The toddler in my life, well, the soon to be toddler in my life is now my first granddaughter. So I’m at that great stage where if she gets a bit too much, I can give her back to her parents and they can sort it out. So you’ve got lots of fun to look forward to.

Justin: [laughs]

Jonathan: In terms of the game, it’s interesting because I started playing it, and I said to my wife who’s also blind, “You should play this, too.”

So we both play it and talk about it, and we’re nowhere near young adults anymore and getting older by the minute, in fact.

I also put my oldest daughter who’s in her 20s onto it because she loves games like this. And it’s great because we keep talking to each other about where we’re at in the story and the slight variations that we each get, depending on what we’ve done.

But what I like about this game is that there doesn’t seem to be a way to completely break it and find that you’ve killed off the characters and you have to start again, which is one of the most frustrating things about the old InfoCom text adventures that I used to play.

Justin: [laughs]

Jonathan: And I’m sure I’m dating myself by referring to them. But they were classic, and they were accessible.

But if you got to a certain point where you did the wrong thing in the story, you were toast, and you had to start from scratch again.

Justin: One of the things that we really did to try to make Timecrest special, …

When we started writing Timecrest, there were a couple of principles that we came up with that I’m proud that we stuck through with as much as possible. Timecrest I, Timecrest II, Timecrest III, through so much content. And you pointed out on a really important one.

A lot of games where you can make choices in the narrative, they try to trap you. They make you try to memorize the correct choices. They give you trap choices.

Oh no! Your character died if you go down this path. Oh, your character died if you went down this path.

And then, you start to realize this isn’t that great because the game is linear anyway. So why am I making choices?

They force you to do or say certain things, and the choices that you’re given don’t reflect what you wanted to say to the character.

So the first principle that we had was that there are no wrong choices. There’s nothing that takes you out of a story more than realizing there are wrong choices. We wanted it to feel relaxing that you could just express yourself how you wanted with the characters, and whatever choices you make can lead to a satisfying plot arc.

This rule was challenging because it meant that there are entire paths that Lisa might have spent 3 months writing out that you’ll never see because you just didn’t go down that path. But we felt like for the best experience, it was worth it.

The second thing we put in was that we said that choices should allow you to be yourself. Anything that is on the player’s mind should be a possible choice, even when for us, writing it might be inconvenient.

How often have you been reading a story or watching a movie and you want to yell at the character, “Why don’t you do this? Oh, you’re so stupid. You should have done this.” Right?

In this story, we want you to be able to yell at the character and say, “Hey, why aren’t you thinking this? You should be doing this.”, even though that can be difficult. It’s actually hard when you’re writing a story for there to be a character who can say almost any random thing.

But again, it was important that you had that so you felt like you were truly a part of this. You could express yourself, and you were making connections with the characters.

And finally, we wanted it that small moments could build connections. That means that in a lot of these kinds of things, when you make a choice, either you’re too powerful and suddenly, the whole plot changes in an unnatural way, just could impact and change everything so much. I mean, there are choices that do that, that completely change the course of things, no doubt. But what are missing often are the small moments.

The way I’ll say that is it’s not just what you do, but how you say it. The characters in this game have feelings, and they’ll remember how you made them feel. And so, future storylines and future things that characters say back to you might be because you kind of hurt their feelings, or because you were super nice to them. And so that small sort of subtlety was something we really thought was important to put in this.

Jonathan: I do wonder about that because at the moment, I am up to chapter 9.

Justin: Wow!

Jonathan: I’ve slowed down a bit because at the time that we are recording this, we’ve got an election on New Zealand. And political junkie that I am, it’s interfering with my Timecrest playtime.

Justin: [laughs]

Jonathan: But when I have this interaction with Ash, in my mind, Ash is like my kids when they were teenagers. And actually, particularly my daughters when they were teenagers. And I’ll come back to this question.

But now I kind of think, “How would I want to engage with Ash if Ash were my grandchild?”

And so I’m trying to do the empathetic responses, and appreciate that often, Ash is in some very difficult situations (without trying to put too many spoilers out there). So I try to be kind in my responses.

But obviously, you also have the choice to be quite brisk and grumpy, and a bit standoffish and offhand. And I have wondered what Ash’s responses would be like in return if I were not trying to be kind.

Justin: Absolutely.

We’ve had people tell us that they’ve done the sort of, I don’t know what you call it, the evil play through.

Jonathan: [laughs]

Justin: The play through where you do the opposite of what you would have said, just to see what would happen. And they sort of mentally protect themselves by saying, “Oh, I’m just doing the opposite. So this isn’t really me.”, and they try to separate themselves from it.

But I think that we wanted this to be a reflection of what you want to say and look like.

I’m actually the kind of person who likes to do the empathetic response.

But sometimes, I’m having a bad day. Sometimes, especially having a toddler, some days are difficult.

And then, I find like, you know what? I just want to be a little bit curt today in my play through in Timecrest. And I don’t think there’s anything that’s necessarily unfairly mean. But like sometimes, you can be a little bit curt.

And if that reflects your emotion, there’s something cathartic about that, right?

And the nice thing is that we tried really hard to make it that none of these responses are the wrong ones. It just creates a different story.

Jonathan: Interesting.

How many chapters are there in total?

Justin: Yeah. At the moment, there are 15 chapters.

You can kind of subdivide Timecrest into 5 chapter segments. We call chapters 1 through 5 Timecrest I, chapters 6 through 10 Timecrest II, and chapters 11 through 15 Timecrest III because that’s kind of the order in which we had released those blocks. But you can just play through from 1 through 15.

Jonathan: So you’ve opted to extend Timecrest rather than writing a variety of games. Is that correct?

Justin: That’s right. Yes. We’ve been working on Timecrest in and out. We’ve been updating this app for the last 8 years.

Our first release was pretty simple and didn’t have that much content. But we have, especially with the support of the community, continually added more and more over the years.

Jonathan: Hmm.

You’ve been careful not to tell us in the game whether Ash is a boy or a girl. It’s a gender-neutral kind of name. Now, do you have a picture of Ash in your head?

I have to say, for those who haven’t played the game, you’re kind of getting text messages. It’s like you are having a text conversation with this character called Ash, and you never find out what gender Ash is.

Ash, to me, texts like my teenage daughters used to text, really. And my wife, Bonnie, agrees that it’s like texting with a teenage girl.

Do you hear this a lot? Or are there people out there who think that Ash is male?

Justin: We’ve heard from both sides. There are people who think of Ash as male, female, something else, in fact.

It’s interesting. We decided to do this way in service, again, back to the principle of we wanted you to feel a deep connection to the character Ash. And so that’s why we picked a name that could be male, or female, or neither. And we thought it was important that you just imagined whatever Ash would be.

Whatever Ash is for you, then that’s who Ash should be, because that’s what’s going to build the closest connection.

And I can tell you that when I play-test Timecrest, I actually have a run through where I purposely, in my mind, try to imagine a particular type of Ash. This time, I’m playing through Ash as male. Next time, I’m playing through Ash as female, whatever the case.

Jonathan: So given that there is no right or wrong way to play the game and right or wrong answers, if you get all the way up to chapter 15, Is it worth starting a second time because you might get quite a different experience? Or once you’ve played the game, is that pretty much the storyline?

Justin: Absolutely. We’ve designed Timecrest to be something really fun to play over and over again because there’s anywhere from 2 to 4 choices you can make, and we tried really hard to make all of the choices you could make at every step fun and interesting to do. And so, it’s designed for replayability. It’s designed to go back, and explore, and see all of the different stories. You’ll often learn a lot of different, really interesting things about the characters, the plot, the story by going down different paths. And we still worked really hard in service to make those different paths still feel like they have a very strong beginning, middle, and end.

Not just that, but we also have these side stories called the Memory Oracle. It is a feature that unlocks once you get to chapter 9.

Jonathan: Hmm.

Justin: Think of it as little short stories that give you more of a background on some of the side characters within Timecrest.

There is, for example, this one featuring the first mage of Alincia, and that story is kind of a long one and it’s hard to unlock, but really gives you a history of where this world came from. I think it’s a really important story. So we’ll take many playthroughs to be able to unlock them.

We tried to make it fun to explore the game over and over again, that you continue to earn some memory fragments and some void crystals which you can combine in order to unlock these Memory Oracles, and get an even deeper experience of the game.

Jonathan: One thing I also appreciate, and I’m sure many in our community will, is that it’s essentially free to play. I mean, there are many things that you can unlock by paying for them. But at a basic level, and if you’re willing to wait for things to unlock, you can play a lot of the game without cost.

Justin: That’s right, yeah. And we felt that it was very important that we reach as many people as possible with this. And so it was important to us that Timecrest is designed to be a game where you can play completely for free – never spend a single dollar on the game.

It might take you a little bit longer to reach everything and unlock everything but eventually, you’re going to get there and you’re going to be able to experience all of the content in the game.

Now those people who choose to support us, we really appreciate if people use in-game purchases. You can buy in-game currencies that will allow you to speed up some of the timers, get some features that may double the relationship points that you’re earning with some of these characters.

There are fun little items that you can purchase like a teleport orb generator that kind of deepens your experience in the game.

And all of these things are optional and fun, for those who want to give those things a try and support us.

But at the end of the day, if you don’t want to spend, you don’t have to.

Jonathan: Yeah, it certainly does speed it up. And as you say, it’s great to support the work that you’re doing.

I bought the intro pack, actually, which really gave me a massive kickstart.

Justin: Thank you so much.

Jonathan: That goes for a week, and basically allows you to skip a lot of the time delays. And that was good.

Now, I’m buying time crystals and things like that, and I’m happy to do that. [laughs]

You’re on iOS, iPadOS, and WatchOS right now, I believe. Are you ever considering going to Windows?

Justin: Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think we’ve considered all sorts of things, going to other platforms. But at the moment, the reason we’ve stuck to one platform is simply that we’re a very small team. It’s just the two of us working on Timecrest. We’ve been doing this day in and day out. And so we have to continually make very hard decisions on where we put our efforts and what we support.

And every platform we add increases the time it takes to test, to make sure accessibility works, to make sure everything works. And so unfortunately, we’ve been unable to jump to a lot of different platforms that we’d love to be on. So the short answer is no, we’re not on Windows.

But depending on community support, depending on how successful Timecrest continues to be, we’re always open to expanding.

Jonathan: And I guess, some sort of web UI might be possible. If you can log into that web UI so you can keep your place, Timecrest might lend itself well to that sort of environment.

Justin: Absolutely, yeah. I think that would be a very fun way to play the game.

Jonathan: So this is Timecrest. It’s available at, if people would like more information. And you can search for Timecrest in the App Store. It’s a great game to play, and I think you’ve done exceptional work on the accessibility, and I really appreciate you coming on the podcast to talk with us about it.

Justin: I really appreciate you having me on. It’s been really fun.


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It’s a good game, that Timecrest. Holy muffy, it’s good. [laughs]

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In Toronto, They Built a Bike Path on a Sidewalk

Now let’s go to Canada, where we’re going to take a walk with David Lepofsky, who has got a problem with a bike footpath on a sidewalk, as they call them in North America.

He’s put a YouTube video together to advocate about this, and we’re going to have a listen.

David: My name is David Lepofsky. I am blind. I live in Toronto, Canada.

I’m a retired lawyer and a volunteer disability rights advocate. I’m the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. I’m also the visiting research professor of disability rights at the University of Western Ontario’s Faculty of Law.

Let me show you a dangerous new disability barrier that the city of Toronto has recently created in the heart of busy Midtown Toronto using public money.

Here is a new sidewalk on the north side of Eglinton Avenue running east from the Eglinton and Avenue Road intersection.

I have safely and independently walked alone on the sidewalks many times using my white cane before the city of Toronto made a very dangerous change to it. The city put a new bike path on the sidewalk, right alongside the road.

As I walk on the sidewalk, I have no way of knowing that there’s a bike path here. Even if you told me that there’s a bike path on the sidewalk, I can’t tell where it is so I can avoid walking in the bike path.

This is the first time I’ve encountered this ridiculous sidewalk design.

I have walked alone independently and safely on countless sidewalks. I am trained to use my cane systematically to tap the ground in front of me where I’m going to step.

My cane is an extension of my index finger. It points at the ground in front of me. I tap the tip of my cane back and forth in front of each foot, or I sweep my cane on the sidewalk back and forth in front of each foot. Before I step, the cane tells me if there is an obstacle.

Here I am, walking on a typical sidewalk. I use my cane to follow the sidewalk edge, either this edge on my left side which has a step down to the road, or the edge on my right which has grass along the edge. We call this shorelining.

On a typical sidewalk, it is easy to shoreline. I can even switch from using one shoreline to the other.

Here, I’ve switched to a more cluttered sidewalk. It is harder to shoreline along a cluttered sidewalk, like this one on the north side of Eglinton West, near the corner of Headington.

It is easy to walk east on the north side of Eglinton, approaching Avenue Road. Shoreline along the edge of the sidewalk to my right, where it steps down to the road.

There is a bike path to my right, down at street level. It poses no danger to me. I know I am safe up on the sidewalk.

But once I cross Avenue Road and walk east on the north side of Eglinton, the disaster begins.

On this new sidewalk, the city built this new bike path up on the sidewalk alongside the road. There is no clear, obvious cane detectable barrier between the bike path and the sidewalk’s pedestrian area. When I sweep my cane back and forth in front of me, nothing tells me there’s a bike path here. I only know there’s a bike path here because a sighted friend told me.

I’m walking east, shorelining along the edge of the sidewalk to my right.

The city can’t claim that there is a clear and obvious tactile difference between the bike path and the rest of the sidewalk. That would be dead wrong.

Toronto’s sidewalks have notoriously inconsistent tactile textures from one meter to the next. It would be foolish for a blind person to rely on any of that.

This is very dangerous for a blind person using a white cane or a guide dog. The dog won’t know that this is a dangerous bike path.

If I leave this Eglinton Avenue pizza joint and walk across the sidewalk to the curbside to wait for an Uber, I’m a sitting duck as I cross the bike path.

As a lifelong Toronto resident, this is infuriating. It feels as if my city has posted a sign here saying blind people are not welcome. It’s a cruel slap in the face in a city and province that say they’re committed to becoming accessible to people with disabilities.

This design endangers other pedestrians.

If a cyclist rides towards me when I’m walking on the bike path, they may have to swerve into the pedestrian area to avoid hitting me. This design endangers sighted pedestrians who are looking down at their phone texting and may unintentionally stray into the bike path. This design endangers little kids who might not expect bikes to be racing at them somewhere in the midst of a sidewalk. This design endangers cyclists.

If I unknowingly walk close to the bike path, my cane could get caught in their spokes.

Every few meters, there is a tree in the middle of the sidewalk between the bike path and the pedestrian area. Trees in the middle of the sidewalk are more clutter that makes it harder to navigate. It certainly doesn’t warn me that there’s a bike path here.

Who designed this? Who approved this? If they had bothered to think about it, it would be instantly obvious that this is dangerous for people with disabilities like me.

Not only is this bike path dangerous, it is illegal. It violates the right to equality for people with disabilities in the Charter of Rights, the Ontario Human Rights Code, and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It is illegal to create new accessibility barriers like this.

This danger would get even worse if the City of Toronto, God forbid, legalized those dangerous electric scooters. A few city council members want to allow them on bike paths. Here, that would be legalizing e-scooters on this sidewalk.

E-scooters are a silent menace ridden by uninsured, unlicensed, undrained joyriders.

Many disability organizations want e-scooters banned in all public areas, including, of course, sidewalks.

Here is a screenshot of a CBC News report about an innocent pedestrian on a Toronto sidewalk who was hit by an illegally ridden e-scooter, and knocked unconscious.

Bike paths are a great thing. We need more of them.

Toronto could have easily saved public money and a lot of grief if they had designed this bike path sensibly. This is not rocket science.

Toronto must immediately remove the bike path from this sidewalk and from any other sidewalks. No city should ever build a bike path in the midst of a sidewalk.

Any new bike paths should be built at road level, not at sidewalk level, clearly divided from the sidewalks.

Build a small barrier between the bike path and car traffic.

It is no solution to build a bike path in the midst of a sidewalk and put some kind of guidance tiles or bumps or other tactile markers in the sidewalk. It won’t work. Many blind people won’t know they’re there, or won’t know what they mean. Even if they installed some sort of tactile line, I won’t know which side of the line is the safe side. It would be a waste of money.

The city should make public who approved this dangerous design. They should never again design public infrastructure.

Toronto’s Mayor and Infrastructure Committee should join me at this sidewalk. Walk in my shoes. Tell me how I’m supposed to know where it is safe to walk on this sidewalk.

The Ontario government must also step up to the plate. We need a new provincial regulation setting safe bike path accessibility standards, so that this never happens again. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires the province to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025 by enacting and enforcing standards like that.

Creating new barriers like this wastes public money. It wastes public money if each city has to reinvent the accessibility wheel.

People with disabilities should not be treated as second-class citizen. We deserve better.

Learn more at, and on Twitter @aodaalliance.

Jonathan: Thanks, David, for sending the link to that YouTube video. A number of things to talk about here.

First, what we heard in the audio of that video, and obviously what sighted Canadians are seeing on YouTube when they look at that video is an example of excellent advocacy.

The audience here is clear. The audience is anybody who’s interested in justice, in fairness, in making sure that the law is complied with.

And it appreciates that not everybody knows how a white cane works. Most people hopefully associate the white cane with blindness, but they might not actually know what information a white cane provides to a blind person, or they may not know that a blind person isn’t just flailing the white cane around without any kind of method. So that’s explained to somebody who might not have any knowledge of that before watching this video.

It then simply, but clearly and forcefully, articulates the problem that this bike pathway is causing.

And then, it comes up with specific steps that should be taken to remedy this issue.

It also highlights the e-scooters which for many of us, where they have not been made illegal are the bane of our existence, or one of them anyway. I’d love to see e-scooters banned where we live.

So if you wanna know how to do advocacy right, it’s hard to go past that one. That was an excellent piece of work there.

In terms of the subject matter itself, oh my goodness! This is an old chestnut, isn’t it? But I suspect it’s becoming an even bigger problem as governments become more aware of the need to go green and encourage cycling.

But I can remember 30 years ago, being involved in an advocacy video here in New Zealand called “Who’s the Footpath For?” (Footpath is what we call the sidewalk in this part of the world.) And there’s certainly a bit of tension there between those of us who believe that the footpath or sidewalk is strictly for pedestrians and get wheeled vehicles off it altogether, and people who are concerned particularly about kids cycling to school on the road.

But hopefully, we can all agree that having a bike path inserted in an area that was once for walking without any kind of tactile way of discerning where the bike footpath is, is a pretty concerning development.

How’s it all going where you are? Have you got similar issues? Are you engaging with the authorities on subjects like this? By all means, get in touch.

And thank you for sharing a great piece of advocacy work, David.

If you want to comment on this,, 864-60-Mosen is the number in the United States, 864-606-6736.

The Bonnie Bulletin

Now, I have a sincere apology, a mea culpa to do, because we’re going into the Bonnie Bulletin. And I’m certainly not sorry about that, but I am sorry that I screwed up the recording rather badly.

And unfortunately, because of the length of this, and the fact that Bonnie’s got family commitments and it’s hard to be spontaneous a second time and a whole bunch of things, I can’t re-record it.

So yes, I know that Bonnie is clipping badly. It’s not her fault. It is mine. I haven’t used the iPhone 15 to record from FaceTime before, and forgot to recalibrate the levels accordingly. So sorry about the clipping. It’s totally my fault.

But Bonnie’s got some interesting things to say while she’s been stateside, so I hope that that makes up for it. Also, it does improve a little bit as we go along.

[Bonnie Bulletin music]

Jonathan: Never before has that song seemed more appropriate because Bonnie is indeed, over the ocean in the United States. And I thought it would be worth checking in for a Thanksgiving update. Actually, this is recorded on the eve of Thanksgiving.

Over to you, Bonnie Mosen!

Bonnie: Hi guys!

How are you?

Jonathan: I’m good, thank you. On behalf of everybody, we’re all good. All of us in 113 countries.

But more to the point, how are you doing?

Bonnie: I’m good. Weekend to the trip. Very tired, but doing well.

Jonathan: So what are the highlights so far? How was the trip over on that long flight? Was it about 16 hours?

Bonnie: 15. Actually, a little less than 15. About 14 hours and 15 minutes.

Jonathan: From Auckland to New York. Direct.

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: How was that?

Bonnie: It was good. I slept most of it, so it wasn’t a big deal.

Jonathan: And they had some sort of issue with the wifi, didn’t they?

Bonnie: Yeah, they didn’t know what it was. It only was working sometimes.

Jonathan: Outrageous!

Bonnie: So they weren’t sure.

So I had a sky couch, which was nice.

Jonathan: But this time, it must have been a bit easier. Although even though you didn’t have me, you did have Eclipse.

Bonnie: Yeah, but she wasn’t in the sky couch. She was curled up by the window. So I was able to put two of the seats up, and I put the little blankety thing down, and then I laid down on top of it and took a very long sleep, and it was great.

Jonathan: That’s the way to do it.

What did they feed you on that long flight?

Bonnie: Dinner was a chicken mushroom orzo. That was actually really good. I actually ate it. There was a brownie, and then there was a slice and I don’t know what the slice was, I didn’t eat it. And then, it got taken away.

Jonathan: [laughs]

Bonnie: And then for breakfast, they had bacon and egg pie with tomato relish, fruit cup, and muffin of the day, which I don’t know why they call it muffin of the day, but anyway.

Jonathan: Another day, you get a different kind of muffin. That’s why.

Bonnie: Or you could have a burrito. ’Cause we were flying over Texas, muffin of the day and a fruit cup. So it was kind of a strange breakfast, but it was actually 3 o’clock in the afternoon in the US, so I guess it was more of a brunch.

Jonathan: Some people just cannot imagine taking such a long flight without going stir crazy, but you obviously didn’t go stir crazy.

Bonnie: No, it’s worse if you have to sit up. But if you can lie down or stretch out in some way, it’s not too bad.

Jonathan: Excellent. You also had a good limo service, didn’t you?

Bonnie: I did. It was called MyLimo. And I’m not sure if they’re worldwide or not. I think they are. But I used them from JFK to get to my friend’s house, and used it to get back to the airport. So it was very very nice. They keep you informed at every stage of the journey, whether they’re on their way, and they’re really in good communication.

And JFK, there’s a lot of construction going on, but I was able to find them. They’re always in communication with you, so it was really good.

Got through customs really quick.

Jonathan: And that’s fine. They’re accessible app, right? They’ve got their own app.

Bonnie: They do, yes.

Jonathan: And you spent quite a bit of time in New Jersey, hanging out there.

Bonnie: I did. It was great, yeah. Had a really good time. Very busy, from dawn till dusk. Did a lot of things and saw a lot of friends.

And then Saturday, we had a Friendsgiving. So we had a big turkey dinner, and about 12 people that came over. And that was really nice. We had a fire pit outside.

Jonathan: Very good.

Bonnie: Christina has a fire pit, which she really likes. She likes lighting fires in it.

Jonathan: I see. Nothing like a bit of setting fire to things.

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: So what do you do? Do you cook food in the fire pit?

Bonnie: I think you can, yeah. I mean, if you wanted to.

It’s like this big round pit that you put a fire in, and then you can cover it up to smother it out.

Jonathan: ’Cause there’s this lovely Maori tradition called a hangi, where they bury food deep in the ground on hot stones, and leave it to cook. And oh goodness, it is so tender. It’s absolutely delicious.

Bonnie: I don’t think you could do a hangi in it, but you might be able to do s’mores.

Jonathan: One of the conversations that we’ve had that’s been interesting for me over the last little while is just you being reminded of things that are a bit kind of slower or different in some way in the States. Like for example, in the US, checks are still a thing, whereas they’ve been abolished here. And various other things that you’ve been reminded about the way the federal government grinds away.

Bonnie: Oh yes, and that they’re not very electronic, and that you have to do everything by paper or through a portal that doesn’t work half the time.

Jonathan: You’re still hanging out for info from the USDA?

Bonnie: Yeah, yeah. Hopefully, it’ll be here Friday where I’ll have to call them, which is impossible, but they claim they can get it back. So I’ll call and email them.

Jonathan: So that’s an example of what’s going on. ’Cause you initially thought you could do this via their portal.

Bonnie: Mm-hmm, but the portal was broken. And they didn’t know when it was going to come back up. And I’m like, “Well, I’m trying to wait on your portal to come back up.”

Jonathan: [laughs]

Bonnie: I kept having these conversations about portals, and I kept thinking it was some sort of, you know, conduit to another dimension, which it kind of is.

Jonathan: It might well be.

Bonnie: You know, the federal government’s in its own dimension. But anyway, …

Jonathan: So you’ve sent it off FedEx, right?

Bonnie: Yeah, overnight. But they haven’t sent it back yet.

Jonathan: They’re going to send it back using the FedEx tracking stuff you’ve provided, so you’ll be able to track it again.

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: Oh, gosh.

And, you know, Thanksgiving intervening as well, but I presume some of them work over Thanksgiving or something.

Bonnie: They won’t work tomorrow. They’ll be back Friday.

Jonathan: Right.

And now, here you are, in the famous state of Tennessee.

Bonnie: Yeah, yeah. I’m outside Nashville.

And I have family Thanksgiving tomorrow with everybody, so that’ll be good.

I’m Going to go see my cousins, hopefully on Saturday. And they have horses, so that’ll be exciting.

Jonathan: Hmm. Long way to travel.

Bonnie: Yeah, long way to travel.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Bonnie: It’s a long way to travel back. If you could just fax yourself back and forth, that would be good.

Jonathan: Well, and then there’s the added complication of just making sure the guide dog gets back.

Bonnie: Yeah, I’m not sure what we’ll do if they don’t send it back.

Jonathan: Well, I know. I know.

We’ll have to keep people in suspense for a week, because I’m worried about them sending it back.

Bonnie: Yeah, me too. I am worried about it. Otherwise, I don’t know what we’ll do.

Jonathan: Yes.

Has the Ministry for Primary Industries here in New Zealand got anything to offer there?

Bonnie: They like paper. They prefer to be in paper.

Jonathan: Right.

Bonnie: And I said, “Well, we have a time crunch.”

Well, if it has to go through their portal, we could do something about it.

Well, the portal doesn’t work. So now, we have to wait on the paper. So I don’t know what’s going to … It’s just a silly stamp. They have all the info they need to get back in the country. They just want a silly stamp. So I don’t know what will happen.

Hopefully, someone comes in with a big piece of fruit, and they’ll be all stirred up over that.

Jonathan: And you’ve still got all the documentation though, right?

Bonnie: Oh, yeah.

Jonathan: So if they don’t get you the silly stamp, it’s not like you’ve lost important documents.

Bonnie: Oh no no no. I have all the originals, yeah.

Jonathan: Right, right.

Bonnie: Guard them with my life. Like my passport, that and the passport are the two most important things.

Jonathan: Oh well, anything else to update us on?

Bonnie: I had some real pizza in New Jersey, so that was really good.

Jonathan: Is it actually called real pizza?

Bonnie: No. It was from Amati’s, but it actually is.

I mean, in my opinion, you can’t really get good pizza outside New York or New Jersey.

Jonathan: Okay. So what constitutes real pizza in your opinion?

Bonnie: I don’t know. I can’t describe it. It just tastes good.

Jonathan: What about Sal’s Pizza here in New Zealand where they do this big big massive New York style slice thing?

Bonnie: It’s okay. It’s close, but it’s not the real thing.

Jonathan: Close but no cigar. Where did the expression close but no cigar come from? [laughs]

Bonnie: I don’t know.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Bonnie: But it was good. I mean, it’s good, but it’s not as good.

Jonathan: Okay.

Bonnie: Sal seems to be kind of dry.

Jonathan: Alright then. Do they do fries with their pizza at this place?

Bonnie: No no.

Jonathan: See, pizza without fries is just a travesty. This is one thing I could not get over.

It took me quite a long time of visiting the US until I finally came to appreciate that most places in the States don’t do fries with their pizza, and I just don’t understand it.

Bonnie: [laughs] It’s kind of strange.

We did go to this nice, gluten-free cafe. that was really good.

Jonathan: It wasn’t only gluten-free, was it? It was keto, it was vegan-friendly. Vegan.

Bonnie: Yeah, it was really good. I mean they had meat and everything, but it sort of catered to everybody. But everything’s gluten-free in there.

Jonathan: Right.

Bonnie: But they try to make, … ’cause some gluten-free stuff doesn’t taste very good. So they’ve tried to really use different kinds of flours and stuff, like the brownie was really good. I had gluten-free grilled cheese, that was good. Christina had a pancake yesterday. Or yeah, I guess it was yesterday, that she didn’t think was that great, but it was made from buckwheat flour and some other things.

Jonathan: What was it like being back in New York and New Jersey and the whole sort of tri-state area?

Bonnie: Ah, it was nice. I love that area, so it brings back a lot of good memories.

And the people are really good. I didn’t hear one F word, and that was very unusual for New York and New Jersey.

I’d forgotten how bad the roads were, potholes. I was like, “Oh, I see they haven’t fixed the potholes around here yet.”

Jonathan: Infrastructure, yeah.

Bonnie: Infrastructure, I mean. I thought the roads in Wellington were bad.

Jonathan: And in terms of the tech, which I know a lot of people will be interested in, so you have a roaming plan with our carrier, which is One NZ. And when you get off the plane, it just picks the strongest cellular network, and you can chop and change cellular networks at will. I think you’ve been on Verizon, T-Mobile, and have you also been on AT&T?

Bonnie: No, no. It picked up Verizon at JFK. But then when I crossed into Jersey, it picked up T-Mobile.

Jonathan: But not AT&T?

Bonnie: Not AT&T. I’ve not seen AT&T. It’s mostly been T-Mobile.

Jonathan: Okay. That’s interesting, ’cause that could have something to do with 4G service when roaming and that kind of thing.

And it’s quite a sweet deal because they charge you a flat fee, I think it’s $8 per day, once you start the roaming.

And then, because we have unlimited data and unlimited calls at home, you also get unlimited data and calls, so that’s a pretty good deal.

And then also, you’ve got Wi-Fi calling. So when you connect to someone’s Wi-Fi network, if I call your number using the phone number rather than FaceTime, when you’re connected on Wi-Fi calling, it really just rings and sounds like you’re, you know, at the office on the other side of town or something.

Bonnie: Yeah, absolutely, like the telephone.

Jonathan: Yeah, so it’s pretty good. And some people get data SIMs and various other SIMs, especially for travel. But with the carrier that we’re on at the moment, this is a pretty sweet deal.

Bonnie: It is really good. And who wants to deal with a little tiny micro SIM thing? Because they’re so tiny.

Jonathan: But you don’t have to anymore. Because these days, a lot of those travel SIM providers use eSIMs.

Bonnie: Yeah, which is nice.

Jonathan: So you can just use an app and program it, and it all works.

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: So traveling is much more straightforward than it used to be, in terms of keeping up.

I mean, I remember when I first traveled to the US, and that was in 1988, and making a phone call back home was a huge deal then. You sort of say in advance, “Okay, I’m going to call at 7 o’clock your time on Saturday night.” or something. And everybody would be gathered around, and you’d have to talk quickly because it was like $1.80, or $2 a minute, or something.

And what goes on in the parts of Tennessee that you’re in? Is there any particular industry it’s famous for?

Bonnie: Nashville, of course, is country music.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Bonnie: It’s kind of a bedroom community of Nashville.

Jonathan: Right.

Bonnie: So that’s where Jimmy Buffett, I think, lived for a while. He used to talk about Mount Juliet, Tennessee.

And Charlie Daniels lived here, too.

Jonathan: And we’ve tried to apply for a New Zealand passport for you, now that you’re entitled to one, and there’s one little part of the process that isn’t particularly accessible, and that is when you have to enter an address, and it comes up with this automatic verification process that takes a lot of JAWS cursor work to get through. But you can get through it if you know what you’re doing.

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: And then we got to the final stage, where you upload the photo. And it didn’t like the photo.

Bonnie: It didn’t like the picture.

Jonathan: It said there was shadow around the eye. You need to try and keep your eyes open more or something when you get the photo taken.

But you’ve got your nephew, I guess our nephew now. Our nephew is a videographer.

Bonnie: Yeah, so hopefully, he’ll be able to do a photo, get a photo.

Jonathan: And also, he’s your nephew, so he won’t mind telling you, “Auntie, you have to open your eyes more.”

Bonnie: Mm-hmm. And speaking of nephews, the limo driver was Anthony Horvath.

Jonathan: Yeah. Isn’t that incredible?

Bonnie: Which was a bit scary.

Jonathan: Anthony Horvath. That’s just amazing. Did you call him Spotty?

Bonnie: No.

Jonathan: Thank you, spotty driver. Yeah.

Bonnie: I was a bit worried when I heard he was picking me up.

Jonathan: [laughs] Yeah, I’d be very worried.

Bonnie: I’ve met quite a few people that have been to New Zealand.

Jonathan: What are their impressions of it?

Bonnie: They liked it. They liked it.

Jonathan: Well, that’s good. That’s good.

Bonnie: Yeah.

It’s interesting the people you meet while traveling, you know, that you talk to when you’re suffering in the TSA lines. And I realize why I don’t travel on Thanksgiving.

Jonathan: We haven’t talked about the dodgy service, or lack thereof, you got at Newark.

Bonnie: Yeah, Newark is Newark.

And so we got there, and Eclipse walked me up to a counter, which happened to be the special assistance counter. And I needed to check in.

So I was waiting, and they said, “Oh, go over there and sit.”

So I did. And then I’m like, “Why am I sitting here?” I asked them. And they said, “Oh, this is where the wheelchairs come.”

And I’m like, “Well, I don’t need a wheelchair. Can you just tell me where a United check-in counter is?”

So finally, they found someone. She was very nice.

So my luggage was a pound overweight, which would have cost me a hundred and something dollars. And she goes, “I don’t really want to charge you that, so let’s open the suitcase and take something out, weigh it.”

Jonathan: [laughs]

Bonnie: I’m like, “Okay, this is just getting weird. This is not going to be a good day.”

Jonathan: So she opened the suitcase and took something out, and then weighed it?

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: And then did you put it back in again?

Bonnie: No, I put it in my backpack.

Jonathan: Oh, right. Okay.

Bonnie: Because I was going to put her food, because her food is what weighs the most in there.

Jonathan: What, the check-in person?

Bonnie: No, my food.

Jonathan: Oh, I see.

Bonnie: Eclipse’s food.

Jonathan: Oh, Eclipse’s food. Right.

Bonnie: And they said, “Oh, no, they won’t let you take it through security.”

I’m like, “Well, they have to. It’s a guide dog’s food.

But anyway, I’m not going to argue with you, because I just want to get to my gate.”

So then I said I needed assistance, and they said, “Well, we’ll wait for a wheelchair.”

I said, “I don’t want a wheelchair. I don’t need a wheelchair.”

And they said, “Well, we can’t assist you unless you take a wheelchair.”

And I’d heard this before out of Newark.

Jonathan: Yeah, I’ve heard that rubbish before as well.

Bonnie: I said, “I’m not taking a wheelchair. Where will I put the dog? And I don’t need it.”

“Well, then we can’t help you.”

They said, “Well, how will you get to the gate?”

I said, “Well, I guess I’m going to walk to the gate, because I don’t need a wheelchair. I’ll just keep asking questions which way is security.”

So I get up to security, and it’s a nightmare because you know it’s Thanksgiving, and there’s like hundreds of people literally in this cattle call, cattle, you know, where you have to go through all the gate, you know the line and it snakes around and I’m like oh boy, this is going to be fun.

So I start talking to passengers, and then I start worrying about getting my stuff out and putting it in the thing, and getting it back.

So I start talking to these people in line who are really nice, they just come in from Geneva, Switzerland, and they’re, she was actually Swedish originally. so we talked about Abba a bit.

Jonathan: Was she an Abba fan?

Bonnie: Yeah, yeah.

Jonathan: Oh, that’s good. Because when we got in the Uber in Stockholm, remember the Uber driver was not an Abba fan?

Bonnie: No.

And they were, you know, older, and her boyfriend was British, and they own a hotel in South Beach, I think it was.

So they’re like you know, this is ridiculous. So she’s like, we’re just going to go up and break the line.

So we broke through the line, and got up there and asked the TSA agent, you know. Because they were helping me, and so they thought that she was with me, like a relative, and I’m like no, she’s just helping me.

And then, she said, “Can my boyfriend come up because we don’t want to get separated?”

So then he walked up, and the TSA agent’s freaking out and goes, “Now everybody’s going to come up.”

Jonathan: [laughs]

Bonnie: That’s not my problem.

And I’m thinking to myself, “You know, that’s not my problem if you can’t assist me. If the whole line wants to follow me through, fine.”

Jonathan: Yeah.

Bonnie: So we got through without any trouble and got to the gate, but it was just ridiculous.

And then, got on the plane, well, we started to get on the plane. But then, they had to de-plane because there was a maintenance crew on board fixing a seat.

I’m like okay, whatever.

So then, it’s never a good sign when you’re sitting there, and the pilot says, “Okay, it’s going to be a rough flight.”, you know, “There’s weather moving in. That’s going to be quite bumpy.”

I’m like okay.

So it wasn’t that bad. I mean it was bumpy, but we weren’t able to get service for a long time.

So then we got to Nashville, and there were quite a few people who needed wheelchairs on the plane, so I had to wait to get off because the person sitting next to me needed a wheelchair.

So I had to wait until the cleaning crew was coming on the plane before I could even get off, because I was by the window, so I couldn’t move.

Jonathan: The question I have is, what did they expect you to do with Eclipse if you were sitting in the wheelchair?

Bonnie: The person I knew that was forced into a wheelchair the last time I knew her had to put the dog in their lap.

Jonathan: That is just absurd!

Bonnie: And we don’t have enough wheelchairs.

I think the next time I’m going to say, “You know, I’ll hang on to it, but I’m not sitting in it.”

They’re very obsessed with these wheelchairs, and I don’t quite understand.

Jonathan: Yeah. I mean, sometimes I have been able to de-escalate that way, but I don’t have a guide dog right now, so I’ve been able to say, “Well, if you insist on bringing the wheelchair, I’ll just put my backpack,”, which is heavy, as you know, full of technology, so I could use the break from it.

And I say, “I’ll just put my backpack in the wheelchair, and you can push that if you really must, and I’ll walk with you.”, but I will not sit in it. I’m not required to take an accommodation that I don’t need.

Bonnie: Someone told me that they do it because it’s faster.

Jonathan: Well, I don’t think so. They’re making an assumption that a blind person can’t keep up with their fast walking pace, and that’s not always the case.

Bonnie: Mm-hmm. Well, most of them won’t walk that fast anyway.

Jonathan: No, I know. I know. Yeah, so they’re making assumptions.

They’re like, “How are you going to get to the gate?”

I said, “I’m going to walk.”

“Oh, yeah I guess, because you have the dog.”

And I’m like, “Well, that doesn’t make any difference whether I have the dog or not. I’m going to ride the dog down to the gate.”

Jonathan: [laughs]

Bonnie: And I’m thinking, “I want to start a company that gets all this funding, and we travel around the world training airport staff.”

And then I realized, “You know what? It wouldn’t work.” [laughs]

Jonathan: Not only that. I would actually pay, as a frequent traveler, for, I guess, valet assistance of high quality. Like, if I could pay 50 bucks or something to get a person guiding me through this process with dignity, and, you know, who might be willing to stop off and pick up some food and do things like that, without the pressure of being worried about being thrust into a wheelchair or taking an accommodation I don’t want, or being sat down somewhere for a long period, even when I’m a frequent flyer and I’ve got access to the lounge.

Bonnie: Yeah. I don’t want to spend 2 hours at the gate when I can go to the Centurion lounge, which I have a right to do.

Jonathan: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Bonnie: Now, someone told me there are certain parts of American Express that you can get meet and greet at the airport.

Jonathan: Okay, that’s interesting. I didn’t know about that.

Bonnie: I think it may be Amex Black, but I don’t know.

Jonathan: Right, right.

And of course, you also, for the first time, had to complete that paperwork to actually fly internally in the United States.

Bonnie: Yeah, and they didn’t even ask for it. They said, “Oh, it’s in the system.”

I’m like, “Okay, cool.”

Jonathan: Yeah. Well, that’s good. That’s how it should work. Well, I’m not sure if it should work that way at all.

I’m surprised that consumer organizations aren’t just kicking up a major fuss about that.

Bonnie: The guide dog schools are with the DOT. I don’t know with NFB and ACB. I haven’t really heard much about it. They’re more concerned with the ride shares.

Right. I mean, we’ve got so many issues with the ride shares. [laughs]

Jonathan: Well, there are lots of fires to fight., yes.

Bonnie: They’ve got the airlines.

I mean, Air New Zealand’s not perfect,but when you fly domestic, you realize that Air New Zealand’s doing pretty well.

There was something that happened yesterday. I saw a Facebook post. It was posted, I believe, by the current CEO at Lighthouse that observed this in Dulles, or Reagan rather, where someone was being assisted to the gate by one of the they’re all contracted. They’re not through the airlines, the Meet and Assist. But it was someone who was disabled. I suspected they may have had an intellectual challenge. But the Meet and Assist was actually bullying them into giving them a tip, or a larger tip.

And it did not go down well with the passengers at the gate. I think they were reported to a supervisor and stuff.

Jonathan: See, that’s an interesting question. We don’t tip in New Zealand at all.

I was reading somebody on social media the other day. Actually, a New Zealander, not disabled, a pretty well-known journalist, who was going to the United States.

And he was quite anxious about going there because he was stressing about what to tip, how much to tip, when to tip.

Bonnie: I actually was anxious this time because I don’t want to tip.

Jonathan: Well, yeah, it’s just not in our culture at all.

Bonnie: It’s not in our culture.

And I did tip, you know, I tipped the limo guy well.

He said, “You’re over tipping me.”. I mean, I just gave him 20 bucks, but he was really good.

I think if someone has given you good service, you should tip them well.

But if they haven’t really done anything out of the ordinary, you know, if they’re just doing their job, …

Jonathan: Here’s a cultural question for you. Someone told me a long time ago that you should not tip, or you’re not required to tip for an accommodation. And that because Meet and Assist is an accommodation, you should not tip.

Bonnie: That’s true. I didn’t tip the Meet and Assist people.

Jonathan: Yeah, yeah.

Bonnie: I just tipped the limo driver.

Jonathan: Do you think that, is that correct? Is that something that people generally accept?

I’ve heard that you were not supposed to tip airline people, airplane, airport people. I don’t know how true that is. Someone told me that.

Sometimes I will, sometimes I won’t. It depends on what mood I’m in. It depends how helpful they are. Like if they stop, would I want to get something to eat? You know, I’ll do it just because it’s not necessarily in their job description.

And I mean, there was a guy at LAX a few years ago, when I brought Eclipse, when I was headed to New Zealand, who, you know, he took me to the area to relieve her, and she wouldn’t go there because it was gross. So he took me to where they take their police dogs.

You know, I gave him some extra money and said, you know, go get a coffee or something.

But you know, I mean, I didn’t have to tip anybody, and Meet an Assist at Newark ’cause no one assisted me.

Jonathan: [laughs]

Bonnie: It was the passengers that helped me.

Jonathan: You’re supposed to talk to the complaints resolution officer, the CRO.

Bonnie: Yeah, I didn’t. Well, I don’t know if the CRO is even over them because they’re contractors.

Jonathan: No, I believe you can, although I’m happy to stand corrected, of course.

Bonnie: I was like, you know what? I just want to get on my plane and get out of this, ’cause this is just getting weirder and weirder, so I just wanted to get to my gate before some other weirdness happened.

Jonathan: Travel fun, travel fun.

Well, we wish you safe travels back to New Zealand. You have been missed immensely, and it’s gonna be epic to have you back.

Bonnie: Are you sure?

Jonathan: Yes.

Bonnie: Yes, alright.

Jonathan: Thank you.

Bonnie: Thank you.

Jonathan: Goodbye!

Bonnie: Bye!

Closing and Contact Info

All that clipping offends my sensibilities. Lesson learned big time.

I’m going to go off and castigate myself now, but I will be back next week for another edition of Living Blindfully.

Thank you very much for listening, and remember to get those contributions in. We love that.

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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