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Living Blindfully Taking a Break Over the New Zealand Summer. 2

Welcome to 260, With Some Help From ChatGPT.. 2

There’s Still Time to Vote in the Mushroom FM Holiday Countdown.. 4

The Castro Podcast App Is Being Shut Down.. 5

JAWS and Fusion Aren’t as Accessible With RIM As They Should Be, and Users are the Losers. 9

The Quality of iOS Vocalizer Voices Has Become Really Bad.. 15

Anyone Know of an Accessible DAB Radio?.. 17

Wireless Lavalier Microphones That Don’t Break VoiceOver. 18

Vosh, Travel, and Notetakers. 20

A Fun Travel Story. 23

Catch-up with Pneuma Solutions. 25

Problem With My Sonos ARC.. 41

Bose Versus Sonos. 43

The Language Rotor in iOS.. 44

Object Orientation With Be My AI 45

Spectrum Access App and PhoneLink. 46

Closing and Contact Info.. 47




Living Blindfully Taking a Break Over the New Zealand Summer


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.


This week: It’s the end of the road for the once popular and accessible Castro podcast app for iOS, why after all this time do Vespero products and Remote Incident Manager still not get along better?, And we have a catch up with Matt Campbell and Mike Calvo from Pneuma Solutions.

Are you glad December is here?

I am super glad December is here.

We will of course be taking a break over the summer in New Zealand, so Living Blindfully’s last episode for 2023 will be on the 17th of December. That’s for plus subscribers, so it will be on the 20th of December for the public feed. And then, we will be back again for plus subscribers on the 28th of January.

This break is a really important tradition for me. It’s something that many New Zealanders do.

I know a lot of people in Europe do it at a different time of year, of course, in their summer time (July and August). You just need to take some time off sometimes.

And in my busy life as a Chief Executive, doing this podcast and running Mushroom FM, and various other things [laughs], it’s just so important to take that downtime to really recharge.

And you can be sure (well, we can hope), that I’ll come back all invigorated and rested, and that’s a marvellous thing.

So thank you for your understanding. Maybe absence will make the heart grow fonder, one hopes, and you’ll enjoy the next season, if you will, of Living Blindfully.

Welcome to 260, With Some Help From ChatGPT

Meanwhile, since there’s been so much excitement about the ChatGPT voice feature rolling out even to free subscribers using the ChatGPT app, I thought I would enlist its help to talk about the country and area codes, now that we’ve reached episode 260. Imagine that? 260 episodes of this malarkey.

So we’ve got the iPhone here. We’ve got the ChatGPT open. Let’s establish communication with this not-so-intelligent life form. Let’s see.

Hello, little ChatGPT!


ChatGPT: It sounds like you’re mentioning different technologies developed by OpenAI.

ChatGPT and GPT-3 are earlier versions of this language model. GPT-4 is the most advanced version.

DALL-E, on the other hand, is a separate AI system designed for generating images from textual descriptions.

Is there something specific you’d like to know or discuss about these technologies?

Jonathan: I mean dude, I was just saying hello.

Actually, what I would like is for you to tell me about North American Area Code 260.

ChatGPT: Oh, got it.

Hello there!

About Area Code 260, it’s a telephone area code serving northeastern Indiana in the United States. It includes cities like Fort Wayne, Decatur, and Angola.

This area code was created in the year 2000. It’s part of the North American Numbering Plan, which assigns phone numbers in the US.

Is there anything specific you’re curious about regarding Area Code 260?

Jonathan: Is there a country code 260 as well?

ChatGPT: Yes, there is.

Country Code + 260 is for Zambia, a country in southern Africa. It’s used for making international calls to Zambia from other countries. Each country has its own unique country code, and Zambia’s is 260. If you’re calling Zambia, you’d start with +260, then the local number.

Anything else you’d like to know about international dialing or Zambia?

Jonathan: What’s its population?

ChatGPT: As of my last update in April 2023, Zambia’s population was estimated to be around 19 million people. However, population figures can change. So for the most current number, it’s best to check the latest data from a reliable source like the World Bank or the United Nations.

Would you like more information about Zambia’s demographics or something else?

Jonathan: I’m good for now. Thanks, mate.

ChatGPT: You’re welcome.

If you ever have more questions or just wanna chat, feel free to drop in. Have a great day.

Jonathan: Positively charming, don’t you think? And sounding quite chipper now that they’ve got their Chief Executive back. What an extraordinary thing that was to follow as well.

There’s Still Time to Vote in the Mushroom FM Holiday Countdown

I do wanna remind you that voting is still open for Mushroom FM’s Holiday Countdown and Christmas Party.

If you missed episode 259, we gave you a demo of how to vote accessibly and simply online by going to It’s really cool to see so many Living Blindfully listeners availing themselves of the chance to exercise the franchise.

All you have to do is pick your top 10 holiday songs. Score yourself an invitation to our virtual Christmas party where we play the top 100 back.

And I gotta tell you, we’ve got well over a hundred songs voted for already. That means there is kind of competition for those coveted 100 spaces, and your vote will make a difference in terms of what gets played.

So do join in the fun. It really is great.

And this year, that playback happens, that virtual Christmas party happens on Saturday, December the 16th, at 7 AM US Eastern time. That is noon in the UK.

Advertisement: We bring you transcripts of every episode of Living Blindfully. And that’s possible, thanks to sponsorship from Pneuma Solutions.

One of the cool things about the Internet is that it connects us with the wider world. But another cool thing about the Internet is that it can create places just for us. Of course, Living Blindfully is one such place. And another one is Sero.

Sero (spelled S-E-R-O) is a social network designed by us, for us.

Sero is available everywhere. It’s on your smartphone, your Apple TV, your Amazon Echo, and of course, on a fully accessible website.

If you download the Sero mobile app from wherever you get your apps for your mobile device, you’ll be able to sample some of the content free. And that includes this podcast and Mushroom FM.

But paying a subscription to Sero gives you access to a treasure trove of information, including newspapers, forums where blind and low vision people can discuss a wide range of issues, a handy accessible email client, and so much more.

You have to check out all the features. You’ll be amazed at how much is there.

Go to That’s Access the products link, and then choose Sero for more information.

Oh, yes. And it’s a perfect time to talk about that, isn’t it? Certainly for me because over my summer break, it’s a chance for me to read a lot of fiction and catch up with a lot of Netflix things, stuff that I don’t often get to do during the year. So looking forward to that.

I also just need to correct some pricing I gave you in last week’s episode of Living Blindfully. This is regarding this really cool deal that is available for RIM (Remote Incident Manager). We’re going to be talking quite a bit about that in this episode.

There is a weekend pass available, unlimited access, every weekend, for a year. And I mentioned that that was $90. It is, in fact, $99. Still a steal when you get all that access. It’s available as an add-on if you’re a RIM subscriber, or stand-alone as well.

There’s also a subscription package, if you really want to push the boat out. For $199, you lock in that unlimited weekend access, plus you’ll get 30 minutes free, and 3 hours per day. So as my New York friends say, you can really knock yourself out with all that remote access.

The Castro Podcast App Is Being Shut Down

I do have some sad news to report, and that is the Castro iOS podcast app is being shut down over the next couple of months. This is according to PodNews, which is a newsletter you can subscribe to about the podcast industry.

For those who don’t go way back on this podcast, (Gosh! I think it was about episode 18, or something.) Well over a couple of hundred episodes ago, I was so enthusiastic when I took some time again over one of my summers when I tend to really experiment, explore, and take the time to learn new things, and I found Castro. And it, hands down, was (when it was working well) the best podcasting experience I’ve ever had.

And it was very disappointing that when iOS 16 came out, it really started to become unreliable. And it was clear that this was something unique to Castro. It wasn’t a general problem.

So the problem doesn’t appear to lie at the feet of Apple. Castro just became unresponsive. They wouldn’t reply to emails anymore, and there were more and more podcasts that didn’t work.

What I liked about Castro was it was a very simple system of having all of your items in an inbox (a little bit like email), so it worked well for those of us who subscribe to a lot of podcasts. You could quickly flick through your episodes. And when you found one you wanted to listen to, you’d just go, “Yep, I want that one.”, and you’d put it in your queue. It was as simple as that.

And when you’d gone through all the episodes and all you were left with in your inbox were the episodes that you didn’t want to hear, you just deleted them all at once.

It was very elegant, really efficient. Far more efficient than any other experience that I’ve found on any other platform.

And then, Castro made a bit of a comeback. You know, it’s a bit like the Elvis Presley comeback special of 1968. Out of the ashes of mediocrity came this shining moment of glory, and Castro came back for a while.

Unfortunately, it became a lot less accessible and in my view, a lot less intuitive, because they started to add all sorts of other stuff to it that took away from that simplicity and the elegance of the app. It also had some great things like side loading from YouTube, various other things.

I really liked that app a lot, and I was so disappointed to see it go by the wayside.

Now the news that the app is being shut down altogether, according to PodNews, has come in a surprise post from Mohit Mamoria, a former senior Castro staff member and a current partner of Tiny Capital, which is the investment company that bought Castro back in November of 2018.

Meanwhile, according to PodNews, the app itself has been down for a number of days with a database server issue.

I didn’t know that because sadly, I’ve given up on the app a wee while ago, and I deleted it, and that did make me quite sad.

PodNews continues that there’s no way to export your library. The company warns a fix might take some time.

Pod News continues that Tiny Capital’s co-founder Andrew Wilkinson removed Podcast from his phone in 2021 because they made him anxious.

Alright then, bit of an occupational hazard if you’ve got an investment in a podcast app.

Castro was removed from Tiny Capital’s website in January this year, though Wilkinson did post about a forthcoming Castro 3 that month, referencing Mohit Mamoria as the company’s contact point.

And they did get pretty active on social media for a while. They’re not tweeting a lot about the app, but about podcasting in general, which was a bit disappointing.

The PodNews article continues that the co-founder of Castro left in 2019, and the other co-founder quietly left in October of last year, posting that he was “sad that my own time on Castro petered out like an Irish goodbye”, (whatever that means) “rather than coming to an end in a public and celebratory manner”.

Jesse Herlitz (That’s the name I’m familiar with, and I think I’ve been in touch with Jesse in recent years.), most recently the GM of the company, left in February of 2021.

Okay. So that may explain quite a lot, in terms of why I haven’t been getting answers. [laughs]

The app last updated its blog in November of 2020, and users have reported spotty updates to shows in recent months.

That’s right. It was all server-based, and so often you would have to go through quite extensive hoops like manually refreshing to get your updates.

So I think most people will have moved away from Castro by now. Anyway, its best days were long behind it. but it’s sad to mark that occasion because boy, when it was working well, it was a fantastic app.

I do hope that with the long-awaited revision to Overcast which is the app that I’m using now (and I do think it is the best third-party podcast app that’s out there at the moment), maybe we will get some of those Castro-like features back. If we could just simply delete on mass the episodes in a playlist that are there, delete all button, and then we can move those episodes we want to a queue, we’ll have most of those good Castro features back I think.

So I do think Overcast is pretty close, but at the moment, it’s nowhere near as efficient to sift through my considerable list of podcasts as it was when Castro was in its heyday.

And John Dowling is writing in about this very thing, this very thing with the subject line “Castro is dead, what’s next?”. I remember seeing quite a few publications with that headline some years ago, but I think it was in a different context.

John says:

“I don’t know if you’ve seen Mastodon lately, but the popular podcast player Castro is becoming no more. I wonder what’s next.

I gave up on Overcast since when you play audio, VoiceOver lags and I haven’t found any contact info to get a hold of the Overcast developer.

There’s also the default Apple Podcasts app, but I can’t find the chapters list in the Now Playing screen.

Looks like the only alternative is Downcast.”

Its a good point you make, John. This laggy thing where when Overcast is running, the phone gets extremely sluggish is odd because it only affects certain people.

We’ve tried to dissect this on Mastodon, and worked through what are the common factors. For those who are experiencing this extreme lag which I have demonstrated on a previous episode of Living Blindfully, what’s causing it? Can we break it down?

And no one has been able, to the best of my knowledge, to say if you do this your phone isn’t going to lag when you’re listening to a podcast. Because sometimes I must admit, I do want to do a bit of multitasking and have a podcast on in the background while I flick through a few things, and it’s much harder to do that when Overcast is playing a podcast.

That was another benefit of Castro – that you didn’t get that atrocious lag.

Downcast is a good app. There are a few things that I just personally don’t like about it, but it’s a very good app, it’s well-maintained, and the author, very importantly, does respond to feedback and is very willing to engage, so you might look at Downcast. And if I’m remembering correctly, one of the big advantages of Downcast is that it pulls the podcast feed directly. Apps like Overcast, and for that matter, Castro, and this got Castro in a bit of strife when their pulling mechanisms didn’t seem to keep up, have you connect to their servers and then they’re polling the podcast feed and they’ll let you have the episode if their servers indicate that something’s new. This means, for example, that many people who subscribe to Living Blindfully Plus have to go into their personal feed on Overcast and manually pull to refresh to get the episode when it’s released With Downcast.

Because it’s pulling the RSS feed every so often, it may well drain a bit more battery. Although I’m not sure how relevant that is now that batteries are more powerful, but you are guaranteed to get the podcast if the feed has been updated.

So I think that is actually a pretty significant thing in Downcast’s favour.

You might also look at Pocketcasts. It’s a cross-platform app. And one of the really good things about Pocketcasts is that it’s available on Sonos as well. So if you have a Sonos device, you can listen to your podcast, they all stay in sync across their various apps.

The thing that stops me from moving to Pocketcasts, which can give you an almost Castro-like experience, is that every time you want to hear the show notes for an episode (which is particularly important when you’re listening to a lot of news podcasts like I do), you have to go in and view the show notes every time. Whereas a lot of other apps that we’ve talked about such as Overcast and Downcast will just speak the show notes to you, or at least part of the show notes, so you know a bit more about the episode before you decide whether you’re going to play it or delete it.

If Pocketcasts would remedy that, I would probably give it a really good go. But I have written to them about that, and got a kind of “thank you for your feedback” type message. “What a good idea.” type message.

But has anything happened? No, it has not.

As for the developer of Overcast, he is not very responsive. We’ve talked about this before. There’s been comment on Mastodon, and on Reddit, and all over the place, (not just from blind people) about how it’s just hard to engage.

Every so often, he will respond to someone or something. But there seems no rhyme or reason who he responds to and why.

I’m afraid I just do not like the whole user experience of the Apple Podcasts app. It’s not like there’s anything wrong with it, other than the fact that as you say, they’ve made the chapter button inaccessible. I think you might be able to find it using screen recognition, but it’s not natively accessible, which is a major dropping of the ball for a company like Apple.

But even if it were, I just don’t like that user interface. That’s a personal preference thing.

And if you get on well with it, then that’s really good. It’s just not for me, I’m afraid.


JAWS and Fusion Aren’t as Accessible With RIM As They Should Be, and Users are the Losers

I wouldn’t normally read an entire blog post on Living Blindfully that isn’t mine, especially. But I do want to make an exception in this case, because I think that Brian Hartgen has hit this one out of the park, and it’s a really important issue that he raises.

I fully agree with everything that he says, and we’ll add some comments at the end.

But here’s what Brian says:

“First of all,” he says, “If you as a blind person are reading this, and especially if you are contemplating working in the access technology field, I urge you to please contact Vispero with a similar request so as to encourage them to liaise with Pneuma Solutions in this regard.

Please let them know that you are using Remote Incident Manager alongside JAWS or Fusion and how the lack of Braille support, (and viewing the visual changes made by Fusion), are impacting your effectiveness in terms of support provision.”

Brian goes on to suggest that if you want to boost this on social media, (and you can look at this post directly by going to That’s You can boost this on social media. And he also suggests you might like to raise it on FS Openline.

“As you will see below,” says Brian, “a number of us have attempted to do this with little result.

While I accept there will need to be a commitment of time and resources on both sides, I hope what I am requesting is fair and there will be tremendous gain for many people.”

And here’s the letter that Brian has put together.

“Dear Sir or Madam,

I would like to please formally request that Vispero give serious consideration to working with Pneuma Solutions in order to make it possible for JAWS and ZoomText Fusion to communicate more effectively with their Remote Incident Manager tool.

To be brief, RIM is becoming increasingly popular with blind people in order that we can more effectively train people in the use of assistive technologies and, of equal importance, to troubleshoot and resolve difficulties people may be having. The vast majority of actions on a computer can be conducted: from the updating of the Windows operating system, through to installing applications including JAWS or Fusion, carrying out repairs to those tools and even demonstrating concepts and programs a person may not have installed on the computer.”

And then Brian provides a link to the product information about RIM. If you’re a regular listener to this podcast, you’ll be pretty familiar with what RIM does.

Brian continues:

“How one connects to the user’s computer is achieved through one of two very simple procedures: either a mutually agreed key word can be entered by both the controller and target user, or in some cases, an”Unattended Installation” can be configured in order that a company representative can automatically connect to the computer belonging to the person having difficulty. This second option is extremely helpful as will be described below. Naturally, one must not abuse the privilege the user has agreed to.

Please do not be under the misapprehension that RIM is only being used to support users at home. Through effective advocacy, I have been able to ensure that RIM is installed on users’ machines in corporate and similar environments so I am able to carry out JAWS scripting and training every week.

For many years, JAWS has contained a level of such support through its Tandem feature. A person can at no additional cost connect to a user’s machine to carry out training and troubleshooting. However, JAWS Tandem has considerable disadvantages over using a powerful tool such as RIM.

Let me start with the most important. It is by no means an easy process for the user to enter the required User ID. Since Tandem was introduced, I have strongly advocated for two fundamental improvements to JAWS Tandem:

  1. For a shortcut to be placed on the Windows desktop so as to drop straight into Tandem, rather than having to locate the JAWS window, select Utilities and open up Tandem.
  2. To improve the mechanism for entering a suitable Meeting ID. There are hundreds of blind people using JAWS who seriously struggle to do this. Some users have no hands, are learning to type, have learning difficulties or they possess poor keyboarding skills. As a result, they use software to talk to the computer. If that software is not functioning, it is impossible either to locate JAWS Tandem or enter the Meeting ID. Even if it is functioning, by speaking to the computer, letters and numbers can be misinterpreted and so the connection is unable to be established.

If a user has rudimentary keyboarding skills, (perhaps he or she is just learning to touch type), much time is lost by having to work through the logistics of locating JAWS Tandem and entering the Meeting ID.

Vispero product users with little or no keyboarding skills are at an immediate disadvantage. They are JAWS or Fusion users but they are unable to access a core component of what they are paying for.

These are not extreme cases. People who have recently lost their vision are likely to have little or no keyboarding skills, so they have no chance of ever getting the JAWS Tandem process started. This is an extremely serious situation which should not be overlooked or ignored. People in this category of users are being penalised; at best these people struggle to use Tandem and the worse case scenario is that they cannot use it at all.

JAWS Tandem has other disadvantages.

  1. People while away from home are unable to log into their computer since JAWS Tandem requires the entry of the previously mentioned Meeting ID.
  2. If JAWS inadvertently restarts, the Tandem connection is lost. When considering this point, please bare in mind my earlier observations concerning the hardship presented to JAWS Tandem users when initiating a remote connection using this tool. If it does occur, the entire process needs to be started again.
  3. If JAWS is not installed at all, there is no mechanism by which a remote Consultant could install it.
  4. The machine cannot be restarted to complete updates.
  5. Files cannot be transferred to the target machine and vice-versa. This is particularly of benefit when carrying out scripting for applications or for sharing documents or support materials during training sessions.

These and other factors are reasons why many of us are turning to RIM from Pneuma Solutions. Everybody wins. As personnel supporting other blind people, we can resolve more technical difficulties in a shorter time-frame. We can also provide more effective training as the end user is not stressed to the point where he or she cannot focus upon it due to the inability to connect via JAWS Tandem.

What are the difficulties when using RIM with JAWS or Fusion?

There are two significant problems which need to be overcome and where Vispero’s assistance is required:

  1. While it is possible to control all aspects of the target computer including JAWS-based functions, and hear speech output as a result, there is no Braille output. The disadvantages of this are:
  2. People who are deaf-blind cannot provide the same level of high quality technical support to users.
  3. If a Trainee is using a Braille display, time is wasted since a description of what is being shown on the display needs to be communicated back to the controller.
  4. If scripting for an application, and where there is an emphasis on Braille support, it is not possible to immediately see the result of the newly created access.
  5. If using Fusion, visually it is not possible to determine the effect Fusion is having on the target computer. The sighted user is unable to verify the effectiveness (or otherwise) of Fusion-based features which have been implemented, such as colour changes, the magnification level which has been set, and so on.

How Can Vispero Help?

On 22 August 2022, Pneuma Solutions and I wrote to your company seeking your assistance. This was prior to the release of JAWS version 2023. While there was a clear expectation that no action would be forthcoming for JAWS 2023, it was hoped that some progress may have been made within the time between August 2022 and now.

Since that time, I have discussed this with Vispero personnel, with the end result being correspondence I have received, stating that this is not something you are able to attend to at this time. This is disappointing news to say the least. JAWS Tandem is a feature which has not been improved upon, almost since its inception. I hope I have highlighted the need for such improvement. I would have thought that if the enhancement of JAWS Tandem is not part of your product roadmap, it would be in the interests of everyone to perhaps set some time aside so as to assist Pneuma Solutions in providing the access we are seeking, thereby assisting many of your customers in turn.

Specifically, What Is It That Pneuma Solutions Require?

Since screen-readers such as JAWS communicate directly with Braille displays, a program like RIM doesn’t currently have a clean way to find out what is being shown on the Braille display so it can send that information back to the controller, nor does RIM have a way of sending raw Braille input back to JAWS. The NVDA screen-reader is able to facilitate this through a specially prepared Addon Pneuma Solutions have created. But this is not currently an option for JAWS.

Pneuma Solutions are seeking your input so as to create an API that allows them to receive the output that would go to a Braille display, regardless of whether the machine actually has an active display. This output should be already translated to Braille cells, so they can show exactly what the target user is getting on their Braille display if they have one, for training and tech support purposes. The API should also allow for the passing of raw Braille input events back to JAWS.

Note that this API should work concurrently with the target machine’s actual Braille display, if it has one. It would not be desirable to implement a virtual Braille display driver that would replace the target’s Braille display representation, since the technician or trainer may be working together with the target user.

In addition, while the RIM remote session window is focused on the controller machine, it is necessary to display the raw Braille cells received from the target, and send raw Braille input events to the target.

Presumably, a similar high level discussion (and manipulation) would need to take place centring around relaying the visual aspects of ZoomText Fusion.


I understand that you did provide a level of assistance to Pneuma Solutions to allow for JAWS keyboarding to be handled more effectively with RIM and I sincerely thank you for that. But given the difficulties some users have with JAWS tandem as stated above, and that this need for your input and expertise has been requested over many months, I am asking you please to seriously consider working with Pneuma Solutions so as to reach a point where the need for Braille output (from JAWS) and visual representation of Fusion visual activity can be satisfied. In fairness to yourselves, I will also be actively requesting that other blind people who are faced with the same request should contact Vispero in whichever way they feel appropriate in order that you can learn the depth of feeling behind this very important issue. Let us work together to foster a positive change.

Thank you for reading.”

Very well written, Brian, I agree with every word of this.

Ever since Tandem’s inception, people have been clamouring for the ability to set up unattended sessions. And Freedom Scientific, Vispero, have declined to do that, citing security concerns.

Well, fair enough, but it would be great if they would come to the party and fully support a fantastic product.

I mean, I use RIM daily to maintain the Mushroom FM machine. I’ve used it from halfway around the world. I use it for all sorts of things. Heidi and I use it sometimes when I want some assistance with an inaccessible site.

And the thing to appreciate is, a sighted person who wants to assist a blind person doesn’t have to download the demo of JAWS and install it. That’s a big ask. But all someone needs to do to provide assistance with RIM is download a very small package. It’s up and running in no time at all, and they can give any blind person running any screen reader assistance. It is a brilliant product.

And I’ll tell you one thing as well. I could probably have counted on the fingers of two hands maybe, the number of times I used NVDA before RIM, and I have become a lot more familiar with NVDA commands as a result of RIM because I can use it on someone’s computer who doesn’t have a screen reader installed, thanks to the NVDA add-on. It is a fantastic feature, to just sit there at someone’s computer and have a screen reader that I’m familiar with, without them having to have a screen reader running at their end. And I want to be able to use JAWS for these things because it’s what I’m most familiar with, but I can’t.

So even if Tandem is improved, (and I hope it is at some point) to allow your own keyword and to allow unattended sessions, that would be great. RIM will still have its place because it is screen reader agnostic. You can run Narrator and use Narrator on someone’s machine if you want, or Dolphin’s screen reader, Supernova, or whatever it is. A JAWS user can provide remote support to an NVDA or Narrator or Supernova user.

There’s a place for a product like this out there, and Pneuma Solutions are filling that niche beautifully. So sure, let’s have it all. Let’s have both improved Tandem, but also make sure that this agnostic solution is fully supported.

Don’t forget that the acronym JAWS stands for Job Access with Speech. Many people are using RIM on the job, to do their job, to facilitate other people doing their job through scripting maintenance or scripting development. It’s really important that this gets done. So I hope that you too will contact Vispero and encourage them to get on with this.

Vispero is engaging with Brian on this topic, suggesting a couple of things. But those things that they are suggesting such as running Tandem and RIM at the same time, or making a change to Fusion that requires a restart, are really just trying to work around the problem rather than devote any resources to fixing the problem properly in a spirit of collaboration between two assistive technology companies. And the trouble is, the workarounds being suggested are not actually practical.

So it is kind of sad to see Vispero dragging the chain on actually working with Pneuma Solutions to make the changes that would be necessary to give us a good experience here. And I think as paying customers, we are entitled to ask for a good experience in this regard.

I don’t think that Vispero should view RIM as a competitor. I don’t know whether they do or not. But if they do, that’s not the way to think about this.

There are many software companies that offer basic functionality in their software. Look at, for example iOS, where they’ve got a journal app now. But then, there’s also Day One journal which offers many more features. You look at Windows, where they have the basic security features. If you want more advanced security features, you buy Esit, or whatever it is that you want to use, and you get a premium product.

RIM is a premium product compared to tandem. It does so much more. So I do hope that there’s not some sort of anti-competitive thing going on here, and Vispero’s deciding not to put any energy in this because they essentially don’t want to help RIM out and take attention away from JAWS Tandem, because JAWS Tandem does not do what this thing does.

It could be an unfair attribution of motive, of course, on my part. I accept that, but it has been a year now since this issue was raised politely. We’ve now got a whole new version of JAWS out there, JAWS 2024, and nothing’s any better.

Now as you’d expect, I reached out to Vispero, Freedom Scientific, for any comment they wished to offer on this. And I really do thank Vispero (and also Humanware’s great about this as well). When we do reach out, they more often than not, do comment.

And in this case, we do have a comment from Ryan Jones. He’s Vice President of Software at Vispero, and he sent me the following statement. I’ll read it in full.

“On behalf of Vispero, I would like to thank Brian for his thoughtful and well-articulated feedback regarding using JAWS or Fusion with Remote Incident Manager.

Brian has been a long-time beta tester for JAWS, and has made enormous contributions to our products and the blindness community around the world.

As he mentioned, collaboration between Vispero and Pneuma Solutions has taken place in regards to handling keyboard interactions with JAWS and RIM.

As part of our mission, we believe in the need for accessible remote access capabilities, and this led to the introduction of JAWS Tandem over 10 years ago.

Our commitment hasn’t changed, and we are absolutely exploring what the future will look like for JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion as it relates to remote control capabilities, whether it be directly from our products or as part of third-party applications such as RIM.

While I cannot share any specifics around timelines, I can commit that remote computer control access via speech and Braille” (with an uppercase B. Go you, Ryan! Sorry, can’t help myself there. [laughs]) “is a focus for us as we move into 2024.

User feedback is very important to us. I encourage our users to share with us how you use remote computer control capabilities like JAWS Tandem, RIM, or other means. Please write to us at” (Now, software suggestions is all joined together, just one word. You can mix case it if you want to. It makes a difference.), “and tell us what your needs are, so that we can most effectively direct our energy in the future.”

Thank you, Ryan, for taking the time to put that together.

I mean, [laughs] it doesn’t make any kind of specific commitment at all but sometimes, you gotta spin.

And I guess the good thing we can take away from it, though, is that they want to hear from more people. And so, Brian is saying, “Write to Vispero.”. Ryan is saying, “Sure, write to Vispero. Tell us what you want.”

If I can just close by reiterating that I don’t think the answer is just to beef up Tandem. I think the answer is to give the user the ability to use a third-party solution that will allow them to engage with a very wide range of people, some of whom do not have JAWS on their system and don’t want JAWS on their system, and that’s their absolute right.


Voiceover: On Living Blindfully, we hear the opinions of blind people from all over the world.

So why not share yours?

Drop us an email. You can write it down, or attach an audio recording. Email us today.

Or if the phone is more your thing, phone our listener line in the United States: 864-60-Mosen. That’s 864-606-6736.

The Quality of iOS Vocalizer Voices Has Become Really Bad

Here’s Christopher Wright. He says:

“Hi, Jonathan,

I don’t know when this started, though it might have been around the end of 2017. However, it became much more irritating once Apple switched to the new version of Vocalizer in iOS 16.

The voices are very compressed and sound absolutely atrocious. The file size is also decreased significantly.

I don’t understand why this is considered an upgrade. There is no reason to decrease file sizes, particularly in the modern era of plentiful storage.

I’ve contacted several companies that have “upgraded” to this inferior version, and was told that it was the highest quality offered.

I can’t use these voices anymore because they’re so bad. I use Ava via Voxin on Linux with Orca, but only because it sounds better than eSpeak even though it’s compressed.

Is it possible we can come together as a community and send a message to Nuance or whatever entity owns these voices, and firmly request that this change be reversed ASAP? If not reversed, can we at least get the older, higher quality voice models as an alternative option? I’ll gladly take files twice or triple the current size, as long as it means good voice quality.

I have no idea how to contact the people that make these changes.

I tried bringing this to the attention of Harpo Software, Apple and NextUp, but they probably won’t do anything because they’re customers and most likely have to abide by some ridiculous contract.”

Thank you for writing in again, Christopher.

Have others noticed this?

I’m using what used to be called the “compact voices”. I don’t know what they’re called now. And they are a bit different, but I’m not super annoyed by it in the way that Christopher is.

But what do others think?

Because text-to-speech is crucial, isn’t it? And when a company makes a change to something as fundamental as the speech that you’re listening to for very long periods at a time, it’s a big deal.

So let me know whether you’ve noticed any difference, and whether you would support some sort of approach to see if we can get the option to get the old voices back.

You can always contact me at, and of course the listener line number – 864-60-Mosen in the US, 864-606-6736.

When you email, you can either write it down, or give my voice a break and our poor listeners’ ears a break by sending in an audio file.

Anyone Know of an Accessible DAB Radio?

To the Kingdom of U we go where Ali is writing in, and he says:

“Hi, Jonathan,

Hope you’re keeping well.

I am in the market for an accessible DAB radio.

There seem to be plenty of very nice DAB radios around, most of the good ones made by Roberts, as far as my research indicates. But they all seem to be heavily reliant on the screen.

I am looking for something small, about the size of a mobile phone, and preferably with speech. Or failing that, something which has nice preset buttons which can be easily used after obtaining sighted assistance to initially set up the presets. Such radios seem to exist only in larger sizes, but I am looking for something pocket sized, which I can use on long train journeys.

Do you know if such a thing exists?

When travelling by train, internet radio was not an option due to poor data signal.

I must say, I thought this quest would be a lot more straightforward than it has turned out to be.

Personally, I would not mind the Stream or SensePlayer being a bit chunkier if it meant the inclusion of a DAB radio.

Many thanks.”

Thanks, Ali.

We don’t use DAB here. And in the United States and Canada, they don’t use it either.

So for those who don’t know what we’re talking about, DAB (digital audio broadcasting) is one particular way of making digital radio.

And I am wondering, Ali, whether if you’re having trouble with cell service on a train, would DAB be any better? I presume you have researched that, and that you know that on the trains you catch, DAB somehow penetrates better than the cellular data network does.

So does anybody in a DAB country know of a good, accessible, portable DAB receiver? See if the community can work its magic yet again. is the email. Attach an audio clip, or write it down. Or give the listener line a call in the United States – 864-60-Mosen. 864-606-6736.

Wireless Lavalier Microphones That Don’t Break VoiceOver

One thing that is actually epic about this podcast is when a listener asks a question and the community comes through with an answer.

And Reg is an example of this. He’s got a great message for us here.

[voice message]

Reg: Hello Jonathan, and any listeners that are interested.

I got these microphones last summer, and I can’t say the brand name, but they’re really something for what they are. The name of them is K-O-P-D-K-E-S, I don’t know two-pack wireless lavalier microphones. They do come as a set, and they’re about $15 US on a limited time deal that’s been going on since last summer. It says discounted 40%.

These are 2.4 gigahertz, so they’re not Bluetooth.

They come in a cardboard box, and they have a small lightning receiver that goes right through my iPhone case and snaps into the bottom of the iPhone, and there’s a lightning pass-through if you want to hook up the charging cable while you are using them with your phone.

I have an SE 2020, and they work just fine.

The microphones have the transmitters built into them and the clip to clip them onto your shirt, and they have little foam windscreens that come with them. I keep them in the box because it’s such a small set, and the lid just slides over the foam insert that contains everything.

The receiver doesn’t have to be charged. It powers off of the iPhone.

The microphones charge with a little twin USB-C cable that comes with them, so two USB-C male plugs that Y to a USB-A male plug. And that’s how you can charge the microphones. They claim 8 hours a charge.

The bottom of the microphone is actually the on and off switch. So when you plug the receiver into your phone, VoiceOver still comes through the speaker.

The receiver is mono, unfortunately, but it does pick up both microphones either at the same time or separately. They really sound pretty good. They don’t have quite as much frequency response as the iPhone microphone, but they’ve got a 60-foot range and there’s basically no delay unless you’re using them with AirPods or some other listening source and you’re using an app that supports live monitoring like Dolby On, which is a free wonderful recording app.

So these microphones, I’m very impressed with for their price because as I said, they’re only about $15 for the full 3-piece set, with the receiver and the 2 microphones.

I’ve been speaking into the bottom microphone of the iPhone into the Dolby On app, and it does have under mic details where you can turn on live monitoring.

My workaround for VoiceOver coming over the phone is that if I turn on my AirPods or my Bose sunglasses, VoiceOver will immediately switch to that, but it’ll continue to pick up the lavalier microphones through the lightning receiver that plugs into the bottom of your phone.

So right now, the microphone is turned off. I’m just going to use one of them. I’m going to plug the lightning receiver into the phone so you’ll hear silence for just a minute. And then, I will turn on the microphone. It’ll take about 5 seconds to come up. And then, you will hear my voice again coming through the microphone. You won’t hear VoiceOver at the moment because it’s coming through my Bose Tempo sunglasses.

Here we go.

I held down the power for about 2 or 3 seconds on the bottom of the microphone. And now, you should be hearing me through the lavalier microphone. I left the windscreen on.

As you can tell, the frequency response isn’t quite as good, but it would be perfectly fine for interviewing someone or doing a podcast. I’ve used them for putting on a tour guide, for example, and then interviewing them at the same time as we’re walking through an event.

So these are the lavalier microphones, and I’ve included a link.

Jonathan: Thank you very much, Reg. I’ll do my best to remember to include that link in the show notes.

I do hope that they come out with, or that they already have a USB receiver for those of us who’ve gone on to the iPhone 15. Because all iPhones will be USB-C going forward, and it would be great to have something like this in the USB-C arena.

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Vosh, Travel, and Notetakers

Rich Beardsley is writing in again with some comments on episode 258. He says:

“The first topic I want to discuss is the Vosh screen reader.

As I stated in an email I sent back in May or June, I haven’t been a Mac user for a few years, (unless you count a few days I had an M1 Mac last year, since a lot of people had been saying how good it was). But I will definitely follow the development of this product.

While I may not be too impressed with Apple’s accessibility on the Mac, there’s still a lot the Mac does well.

If this product gains traction and becomes a viable option, I may give macOS another shot in a few years.

One thing I am curious about is how this app will work with Microsoft Office products. I was using Word on the Mac in 2020 while I was waiting for the state to get my Windows laptop. And although it worked, it was not a good experience, and I was not as efficient as I am on Windows. A lot of that may have to do with the fact that the Mac version didn’t seem to have a lot of the key commands that the Windows one does, or it did and I couldn’t figure them out.

Either way, it will be interesting to see where this product will go, and what Apple’s response will be, or if they’ll even have one.

The next topic I want to discuss is Be My AI. I signed up for the beta as soon as the option became available.

I think it’s a great tool to have, but I wish it could handle the API key better. Sometimes I’ve gone to use it, but I can’t because the API key has reached its limit.

Thankfully, the developers get things fixed within 24 hours, so you aren’t locked out of the service for too long.

I saw the Be My AI option for Microsoft a few weeks ago, but I haven’t had the need for it. I decided to test it today and ask it for a shortcut to enable Narrator on a touchscreen device, but I haven’t had the chance to test it to confirm if the steps are accurate. I did ask it if it would be able to help me with navigating a computer’s BIOS if you took pictures, and it said it could assist. I have no need to do this right now. But if I ever do in the future, this seems like it would be useful.

On the topic of travel, I don’t have any interesting travel stories, but I have developed a bit of a track record of being stuck at an airport due to a delay of some sort.”

That’s a fun track record to average.

“In 2021,” he says, “I got stuck at an airport for over 9 hours because the original plane I was supposed to take had electrical problems.

They weren’t able to fix it, so they decided we were going to be put on another plane that was coming, and we had to move to a different gate.

The airline gave us $10 food vouchers, …”

Woah! Don’t hold back, airline! [laughs] Don’t hold back on all those vouchers!

“which was nice, but I was getting bored sitting in the airport.

My mom said she was thinking of driving all the way from Florida to get me, and we had been in touch with my uncle to see if I could stay at his house for the night if needed, since he doesn’t live too far from the airport I was at.

The plane finally came. We boarded, but we couldn’t take off due to bad weather.

Once we were finally able to take off, it was a good flight, but there was bad weather at my destination airport, so we couldn’t land right away.

We finally did land, and I didn’t end up getting to my house until after 11 that night.

Last year, my grandmother, great-grandmother and I were all going up to spend a couple of weeks with my uncle, and we ended up being stuck at the airport for 5 or 6 hours, and we didn’t make it to my uncle’s house until late at night.

Not sure if it’s something to do with me or that particular airline. But every other trip I take that involves that airport has something go wrong.

On November 21, I will be flying out of state to celebrate Thanksgiving with some of my family. This will be my first time doing everything on my own, and it’s my first time flying with a guide dog. The last two times I flew alone, I was driven to the airport by a family member. This time, I will be taking an airport shuttle from my great-grandmother’s house, and I will be relying on the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired Specialized Help Provider through Be My Eyes to navigate the airport.”

There is more, but I will pause Rich’s email there and say I hope that went well.

Rich, it’s a big step. It’s great to see you growing in confidence in your independent travel.

And one of the greatest gifts as a frequent traveler that I’ve given myself over the years is the gift of meditation, because things can go wrong. You can have frustrating experiences.

It’s important not to lose your cool, and it’s always good to have lots to listen to and to do if you ever find yourself stuck, and the time passes.

And I think it’s important to always know what you can realistically have control of and what you have to surrender to, and just take in your stride.

And the more flights I take that have weird things happen, the better I get at it.

I remember once I was on a flight that was being put on by Continental. It was an early morning flight. And the captain came on the little speaker thing and he said, “Have you noticed that so many airline pilots sound the same?” You know, they kind of lean into the mic, and they talk in this kind of voice, you know, “It’s your captain speaking.” You don’t know what they’re saying half of the time. Anyway, he was that kind of captain. And he leaned into the mic, and he said they had a problem with their computer system, and he appreciated that it was very early, and that the sun wasn’t up yet. But he was going to have to restart the plane, and that would cause the lights to go out, so people just had to be patient, and it wouldn’t be too long until they came back on.

[laughs] And the reason why this story sticks with me in particular is because he then said, “It’s just kind of like pressing Control Alt Delete on the computer, you know. We’re pressing Control Alt Delete on the plane.” Excellent, geeky way of putting it there.

Now, Rich’s email continues:

“Next, I wanted to respond to what you said about the BrailleNote.

I understand that educational institutions may not care about the Android version, and I also understand that it’s not realistic for these devices to always be running the latest version of Android.

That being said, if a company is marketing a product as their latest and greatest piece of tech and they’re selling it for almost $6,000, it should be running a version of Android that is still receiving security updates, and it needs to be able to connect to Wi-Fi and sign in with specific services.

While they may be able to get by with some of this stuff now, the fact is that eventually, it will stop working. Anyone that knows anything about technology knows that running such outdated software is bad for so many reasons, and why Humanware continues to do so is beyond me.

One of the problems mentioned in the Perkins article is the inability of the touch to connect to certain Wi-Fi networks.”

All fair points, Rich. Can’t argue with any of them.

He continues:

“On the topic of Braille” (with a lowercase b) “displays, I understand that they have their place. But the problem is that you’re always tethered to another device.

With a notetaker, you don’t always have to bring a tablet or computer with you, and you don’t have to worry about connectivity issues with your screen reader.”

Well increasingly, Rich, there’s kind of this hybrid that has developed where even some Braille displays like the Focus line and certainly the Mantis and Brailliant line have quite a lot of good notetaker functions.

But even if I had a pure Braille display with no other functions, I’d be totally cool with that because I always have my iPhone with me. There’s never a time when I don’t travel with my iPhone.

And increasingly, of course, Braille displays work with the Apple Watch on your wrist. And on my iPhone, I’ve got tools like Ulysses and Drafts, and various other apps where I can do some serious work.

So even if I left my computer behind, I wouldn’t need the built-in functionality of a notetaker.

A Fun Travel Story

Hello Jonathan and fellow Living Blindfully subscribers. This is Jim in Wisconsin.

Jonathan, I just heard your story about coming home in a limo, and I had a similar thing happen a number of years ago. I wanted to share the story.

So I had moved from Wisconsin to another city here in the Midwest United States to take a job, and I did that in mid-October.

So a couple weeks later, it was Halloween and I really didn’t know anybody in this new city yet. I had really met a couple people from work but really didn’t know anybody else yet.

So I heard that the downtown area of this new city was having a Halloween party. And I thought, “What a great chance to get to know some people.”

So I thought, “Well, I need a costume.” Well being from Wisconsin, I thought a cheese head is a perfect costume.

So for those of you who don’t know, a cheese head is a big hat made out of foam rubber that is in the shape of a wedge of cheese, and also has little holes because it kind of looks like Swiss cheese.

So I thought, “Well, I’ll just wear my cheese head hat. That’ll be a great costume. I can go to this party and meet some people and it’ll be a fun time.

So I got out of my job around [4:30], 5 o’clock and I wandered downtown. The party didn’t start until about 6 o’clock, so I was just kind of hanging out, waiting for things to begin.

When this man walked up to me and tapped me in the shoulder and says, “Oh, you’re dressed up like a blind guy. That’s a great costume.”

And I went, “What?”

He went on for like two minutes about how great my costume was, and how I had a cane and everything, and it was a really really great costume.

Finally, I stopped him. I said, “Sir, the blind guy part isn’t the costume. The wedge of cheese is the costume.”

And he stopped and he took a step back, and he started laughing.

He says, “You know what? I didn’t even notice the wedge of cheese on your head.” [laughs]

So he was very apologetic.

And, uh, it turns out he was one of the VIPs for the radio station that was actually sponsoring this event.

So he said, “I’m really really sorry about that.”

And I said, “No, no problem. It’s all good.”

And he said, “Tell you what.”, he said. “I have to leave this event fairly soon. Here are my passes that will get you into the backstage area for this event.”

And he said, “I have to leave. You might as well use them. Please accept these as my apology.”

So he gave me these passes. And yeah, they got me into the backstage, and I got free food, and free other stuff all night long.

So it was a fun story, and one of those great things that happen when you’re traveling around.

So just wanted to share with my fellow Living Blindfully listeners.

Jonathan, I really appreciate all that you do for the podcast. I’ve learned a lot from this podcast over the years.

And my fellow Living Blindfully listeners, thank you for your contributions. I’ve learned a lot from you as well. So thanks to all of you.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season. Take care.

Jonathan: Oh boy! We’re getting to the season’s greetings time of year. That’s very exciting. That’s a good omen, that’s what it is.

Good to hear from you, Jim.

That is a brilliant story, and I think it illustrates something that we’ve talked about before on this show, which is that people just see the blindness, don’t they? I mean, there you are with this cheese wedge hat thing on, and all the guy notices is that you’re a blind person.

And the way that this also manifests itself is that so often, you can be a blind person and completely mistaken for another blind person who looks nothing like you.

Bonnie has a bunch of stories like this where she’s been misrecognized as somebody who’s very tall, and perhaps even African-American or whatever, but it’s the blindness that they notice. And it’s just extraordinary.

That’s a great story. Thanks for sharing it.

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Catch-up with Pneuma Solutions

Jonathan: It’s been a while since we’ve caught up with Mike and Matt. Matt and Mike. Whose name do we put first?

Mike: I don’t care.

Jonathan: Okay.

Mike: We refer to ourselves as MC squared. [laughs]

Matt: Mike.

Jonathan: I mean, is it Lennon-McCartney or McCartney-Lennon?

Anyway, from Pneuma Solutions. So welcome back to you both, and we’re going to talk about some of the innovations that are going on, particularly in the context actually of some of the discussions that we’ve had on Living Blindfully of late, which has really been looking at the terrible digital divide that exists for blind people in developing countries.

Would one of you like to start us off and tell me about your thinking on this and what you’re doing with RIM and other technologies?

Mike: First of all, Jonathan, thank you so much for having us back. We enjoy listening to the podcast and the Living Blindfully stuff. You know, now that you’ve got the Living Blindfully plus, which we are members.

Jonathan: Thank you.

Mike: It is awesome.

I don’t know if I speak for you, but I’m an old guy. We’ve been around doing this for 24, 25 years now. You know, this AT thing.

And I remember when we started Serotek, we used to refer in internal meetings and stuff to the disenfranchised blind consumer community.

Fast forward 24, 25 years later, and you know what? It’s different now. We have a way of communicating. There doesn’t need to be a disenfranchised community. Because before it used to be a couple of blind people here and a couple of blind people over there, you know, and the only times we would get together was in these big public gatherings, whether it be a convention or whatever.

And now, you know, you can have vertical groups of blind people everywhere. The internet has been the great equalizer for us, and really allowed us to do everything from communicate and deal with political issues, and technical issues, and technology issues and all that, to cultural differences, to really being able to get into different verticals and really focus on what we want to do as a community.

And I’m honored to have been a part of that. Matt and I have brought a number of technologies to the market.

And it started way back with things like SAToGO, where we felt that it was important that everyone on the planet have a screen reader. And not only that they have a screen reader, but the biggest challenge was okay, how do we get to that screen reader when everybody on the planet doesn’t have a darn computer, you know?

And first we did the CD, and then we did the key, and then we did the thing from delivering it from the web. And it went on from there.

We started the Accessibility is a Right Foundation, and did some stuff in Columbia, and all kinds of fun stuff that you can read about on our blog from back then. And the international view of things continues with Matt and his AccessKit project, and things of that nature.

This is really important to me. I am of Cuban descent. My parents came to this country in the 1960s. And had it not been for just great people along the way and all of that, my immigrant parents would not have known what to do with me. And they didn’t know what to do with me anyway once they got to know me, but as a blind person, I mean. Culturally, they were ignorant. They had no idea.

And that’s what the AIR Foundation was based on, is to raise the awareness to the capabilities of the visually impaired in developing countries. In my case, primarily South and Central America and the Caribbean. Although we’ve done work in other countries as well for the AIR Foundation.

But to me, bringing technologies like RIM, bringing technologies like Scribe for Meetings to the developing world is so important to us. It’s so important that with RIM, you can get a person from the US to help you. Not because you’re a poor blind person, but because you’re family, man. You’re one of us, and you need help.

You know, it broke my heart to hear the gentlemen, you know, to hear the costs of AT in developing countries, what the crazy taxes are, if it’s even available, the story about his guide dog and all of that. It broke my heart because these are things that as blind folks here in the US at least, (and I can only speak for the US), I think a lot of us take this stuff for granted. It’s just there.

I just get on, and I got 4 screen readers to pick from, or 3. Which one do I wanna use today? And I’ve got an iPhone and a couple of Macs. These folks, they don’t have all that.

So whatever we can do to help, … And sometimes, we’re too used to telling people, I mean, even we do it in support. “Oh, that’s a Microsoft problem. Call the Windows support desk.” Oh, that’s an Apple problem. Call the Apple support desk.” “Oh, that’s a Sero problem. We can help you with that.” You know, that kind of thing.

But how do folks in developing countries help each other? How can we help them from thousands of miles away?

Even a day pass or an incident pass for RIM is 10 bucks. That’s a hell of a lot of money to some people in developing countries.

So we thought on this for a while. And one of the things that you’ll notice now when you go to Pneuma Solutions is that we have a number of languages that we’ve rolled out. Matt and Jack have really worked hard to get this together – to get all of our documentation, all of our previous blog posts, even from Serotek from before, all converted.

Right now, we’re at 5 languages. Right now we’re English, Spanish, French, Italian, and Swedish of all things.

Matt: And German.

Mike: And German, I’m sorry. Thank you.

And there’s gonna be more.

Why? Because we’re using AI to do it. And you know, you can buy AI by the pound sometimes.

But what we really wanna do as well is we’ve registered with what they call a merchant of record. And a merchant of record is literally an international reseller. You sign up with them, you put all your purchases through them, and they handle all the different taxation, and all the different countries, and all of the different jurisdictions. They handle everything, and they handle local payment processing.

So I don’t know what you have in New Zealand, Jonathan. But the next time you go to pay your RIM bill, if you went to go look, I bet you you’d find that we have changed some payment processors that are available to you and that kind of thing.

And what we wanna do is to provide localized pricing and localized service, so people in developing country A can help other people in that country at a very very reduced rate. Or people from a developed country can help folks that are in a developing country, so that we can help each other out and really start to change the culture, even if society doesn’t change in that way.

You know, change starts inside of us. It starts for us to say, “I can do that. I have a friend. Yeah, they’re in America, or yeah, they’re in the UK, or yeah, they’re in Australia, or New Zealand, or whatever, or they’re in France or Italy, but they can do this. That means I can. I communicate with this person. They got on this RIM thing, and they taught me how to use it.”

“I was able to participate in a meeting because of Scribe for Meetings.” And right now, those costs are inhibitive.

Jonathan: Right.

Mike: But we can’t just lower the price for everybody. It would kill us. [laughs]

Jonathan: To take advantage of this, obviously, somebody will need a computer first, and a screen reader.

Obviously, there’s a free screen reader out there for Windows, and computers may potentially be a bit cost prohibitive for them to be able to access RIM in the first place.

Mike: That’s true, but what we found when we did SAToGo is that there are still a number of blind folks that go to coffee shops and whatnot in their country. So even if they could create a RIM session to be taught by a real Braille teacher, or a real teacher that teaches the visually impaired but is thousands of miles away and wants to volunteer their time to do so. This is definitely a grassroots thing where I’m saying, “Let’s start talking about this.” I don’t hear enough talk in our community about helping folks in developing countries change the social stigmas, and change the dynamic, and build a community.

Jonathan: How does this work in practice, then?

So if I’m in a developing country, and I’m finding that a day pass or an Incident pass is a bit cost prohibitive for me, and I know somebody, perhaps through social media, who is willing to assist me to learn something, what are the practical steps required to effect this partnership, and how much is it going to cost?

Mike: That’s a great question, and that’s what I’m here to do.

I’m not here to say, “Hey folks, I got the answers for everything.”

We’ve got the technology, we’ve got the desire to do it, we’ve got the bandwidth. But we can’t do this alone. We need to do it with the community.

I’m open to suggestions. I mean, we wanna work with NGOs. Hey, it would take one small NGO to say, “You know what? We can give RIM to, name your country, through geofencing, absolutely free, unlimited time.”

Jonathan: So then, it would be the NGO that pays for that, correct?

Mike: Absolutely.

Jonathan: Yeah. Because this is the thing. I mean, you can have all the good intentions in the world, but you’ve got a business to run, and you’ve got overheads, and you can’t just give stuff away. And I suppose this is the dilemma that a lot of assistive technology companies have.

Mike: Right.

Jonathan: You’re spreading your costs among a very small number of users. And the will is there, but finding the business model to actually turn this into something sustainable and practical is the challenge.

Mike: Yeah. I mean, Matt and I have always been community-oriented, as you have been. I mean, all kidding aside, you’re my freaking hero, man. You have taken our community and made it. When the history books are written, your name will be there as one of the founders of this blind community online, and well-deserved.

And I want to be able to see, I wanna know that there’s an, I wanna meet an African Jonathan Mosen, Hungarian Jonathan Mosen, you know what I’m saying? I want this to keep going. There needs to be more communication between us.

And you know what? It’s the power of us. It’s the power of the collective mind saying, “Yeah, how can we do this? How can we figure it out?”

And so I’m open. I wanna talk about it.

I came here not to tell people some great new RIM package that we’re doing or whatever, but to truly take advantage of what I think is the Living Blindfully way, and that is, folks, we’re all blind here. We’re blind first. And being blind first, we have a responsibility to one another. We have a responsibility to ourselves. And dare I say, we have a responsibility to the blind children that are coming along.

I never had a mentor when I was growing up, so I grew up selling drugs and doing all kinds of craziness, until I met a bunch of other blind people and stopped doing that stuff, and realized that, wow, I’m actually part of a bunch of people. I’m not this POS that I used to think I was back in the day where I was told to be normal and not to work too hard to get my goals because I wasn’t gonna make them anyway. We need to stop these types of negative cultural thinking and ignorance.

It’s not stupid. I mean, yeah, sure, we run into some stupid people in our lives. But a majority of the time, people are ignorant and it’s because we as a community, we need to get up and be heard. We need to communicate to one another, and we need to share our experiences – good, bad, and ugly, and we need to laugh with each other, cry with each other.

There’s translation software out there now that we can talk to people in other languages, right from our iPhones, for free.

So many different tools that I think if we really started pointing our hearts, if you will, at the international community, at the developing community of blind folks and said, “I wanna do my part, not just to pay something. I wanna spend some time helping.”, I think that there’s a lot to be done.

Jonathan: When I pay for an airfare, particularly an international airfare, one of the choices that I have is to offset my carbon credits and I can volunteer to pay extra to do that.

And I’m wondering whether there might be a program that would be set up where somebody who wants to can add to their RIM subscription, some sort of donation that makes RIM available to those who might not be able to afford it.

Mike: Great idea. Yup, yup, yup. And we would take the money, we just put it in a pool.

Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. And then, of course, you have to think about how do you access that?

And Matt, it sounds like you’ve got geolocation technology under control, is that correct? That it might be possible to offer a slightly different style, or tier of service based on the country that someone’s coming in from?

Matt: Yes. So we already have IP address-based geolocation. And in fact, we use that already when you first sign up with RIM, so we can intelligently parse your phone number based on what country we think you’re in.

Mike: And direct you to the right relays and all that kind of stuff, so we can keep your data in your country.

Matt: Or if not in your country, then at least keep it nearby so the latency is under control.

So yeah, we’re looking forward to using that same technology to offer localized pricing, as Mike said earlier.

Jonathan: Do you think it would be possible to make RIM work in some way on Chromebook-type devices?

It might be possible that it would have benefits, if somebody’s just wanting to get assistance with certain websites, for example. And Chromebooks are quite a bit cheaper than Windows PCs.

Matt: I haven’t looked deeply into this yet, but my guess is that we probably wouldn’t have a way of hooking as deeply into the operating system as we need to, in order to connect to a Chromebook.

A Chromebook could be a client for RIM if we did a web port or an Android port of the RIM controller side, but I don’t think it’s likely that a Chromebook could act as a RIM target.

If you’re aware of other third-party remote access tools that allow a Chromebook to be used as a RIM target, …

Mike: Then let us know.

Matt: We want to know about that.

Mike: Yup, yup.

Matt: I mean, as a remote desktop target with whatever third-party app.

But I don’t think it’s likely that we can do that.

Jonathan: So really, this is challenging the community to think about how do we provide assistance to those with a lot of potential, but not a lot of means in terms of finances and potentially equipment?

Mike: I love your idea, by the way. I think it’s really cool.

And it’s funny because I see that here, like when I order from Walmart or whatever, they say, “round up.” So if your bill is $17.05, they add the 95 cents, and they take it, and they donate it to your favorite whoever.

And it comes in, it trickles in, but that’s the whole idea.

We’re not looking to make money on these developing countries. Not because they’re anything less than anybody else. It’s just we gotta crawl before we walk. We gotta walk before we run as a community.

And I still remember that 25 years ago, man. I remember when success for me as an AT guy was going to a conference and getting 3 people to show up to my demos. That was success, you know.

And we need to return to those years. We haven’t made it, people.

Just because we have an iPhone 15 in our pocket that we got on a good plan, you know. There’s people out there that just, … They don’t have any of it.

Jonathan: You mentioned the Colombian government, and that’s a very interesting situation there because for whatever reason, they’ve become quite proactive. And they are the only country that I’m aware of where they have this national JAWS license, where anybody who’s blind in Colombia who wants it can get JAWS at no charge because the government’s paid for it, and they’ve got a national license.

I wonder whether we just need more bandwidth, as it were, more advocacy bandwidth to go to other governments and say, “Look, we’ll cut you a pretty reasonable deal that provides country-wide licensing.”, because you’ve got to make money out of this. I imagine that the more users you have, the more infrastructure you require, the more your bandwidth bill goes up or that sort of thing.

Mike: Sure.

Jonathan: And the last thing that anybody wants is for some well-intentioned plan to cause Pneuma to go out of business ’cause you’re being too philanthropic.

I wonder whether there might be some partnership that say the World Blind Union might do to go to some of these governments and say, “Actually, education, good quality training is critical, and here’s a way of getting it done.”

Mike: That’s absolutely correct.

I mean, with Colombia, … I don’t know if you remember back in the day.

Back in 2000, that was 2013, 2014, I had just stepped down as CEO of Serotek and taken the directorship role over at the AIR Foundation. And my first stop was Colombia to work with the Tablets for Blind Kids program. So we did a pilot there with Windows, Android, and Apple devices, and we actually got money from some of those companies to perform the pilot.

At the same time, they were working on this national JAWS license. So we all kind of piled on at the same time. And with Olga Ruiz, who was the head of the blindness organization back then at the time, we really started advocating within the government. And unfortunately, the JAWS license went in, so on and so forth.

But my pilot for the blind kids, it went through and we saw some amazing things with kids using the tablets, but they weren’t, you know, tablets not as productive as a PC.

Fast forward, I left Columbia because they had started having trouble with FARC and all kinds of other stuff, political stuff.

And I came back in 2018, and I was like, “Man, it’s so sad that that didn’t happen.”

And they’re like, “Oh yeah, it did. You started a movement here. And now, in Columbia, kids from first grade on all over the country get a PC, a fully decked out PC with JAWS.”

And I don’t know if that includes ZoomText now, but I know definitely JAWS from first grade on up. And that was just an accomplishment that I was so honored to be just a small part of.

And it doesn’t take much. I mean, RIM is not a resource-intensive thing, simply because my machine connects to the RIM server. It says, “Oh, you want to connect to Jonathan? Okay, here you go.”, And then it goes away.

And now, my machine’s talking to your machine, and the RIM machine’s out of the picture.

You know, the only time that we have to provide bandwidth per se is when we’re using a relay.

Jonathan: Right.

Mike: Outside of that, it’s peer to peer, man. So it scales well financially.

Jonathan: Okay.

There are some cultural considerations here as well. I mean, this is an enormous problem. In the first instance, a country, or a community, or a culture has to acknowledge and accept that blind people are worthy of being educated.

Mike: Yes.

Jonathan: And I know that sounds obvious. But when you’re going into countries where it’s often the expected norm to protect, and look after, and care for blind people rather than promote their emancipation, there’s a lot of cultural stuff going on here. So it’s a big job.

And it sounds like it’s one of those things where a community of interests, probably involving organizations that are members of the World Blind Union or the World Blind Union headquarters itself needs to get behind.

And it stuns me when I look at the list, and I see we have listeners in 113 countries. We don’t always hear from many of them, but they’re out there, and they’re listening and they’re wondering what’s going on, and they deserve a voice, and they require empowerment. And that is a real challenge.

It does sound like RIM is being taken up more widely though, since we last talked. You mentioned there are a bunch of organizations around the world who’ve adopted it.

Mike: Yes. Right now, we have right in your neck of the woods over there, we have Australia, Vision Australia, the NFB, the main office here, talking to some folks in the UK, you know, RNIB, we’re looking at you. We’ve done some demos for them. We’re waiting on that. Canada, of course, CNIB, you know, and then there’s a whole list of them on the website, you know.

And the stability, I mean, you know, you attest to it every week. And folks, that’s not advertising. I mean it is, but it isn’t. We don’t expect, demand, require Jonathan to say anything positive about us on a personal level at all. There’s no strings attached.

So what Jonathan says about our product, first of all, it’s an honor, and thank you. But also, it’s a wonderful testament to a product that is solid.

And that’s why we’re trying to grow, because we believe that there’s Pneuma goodness to go around.

Jonathan: I genuinely like RIM. I do use it regularly. It’s a lifesaver in many cases.

The big question that I get from people when they talk to me about RIM is, now that it is available on the Mac, (and I think that’s the last thing that we all talked about when you were on here was the rollout of the Mac), will it ever come to Aira? Are you getting any traction with Aira on this?

Mike: Nope. Crickets. We have the self-advocacy kit out there where people can send Aira a letter, you know, call to action, . Get out there and send them the call, you know, the letter. They haven’t done it.

And things have stayed the same, or gotten worse, with all of the keyboard stuff that goes on with trying to get TeamViewer to work with Aira.

Jonathan: Yes. It’s unfortunate, because Aira is the only reason why I still have TeamViewer on my system. Everybody else that I work with has switched to RIM.

And when I have to do a TeamViewer session, (and I love Aira’s service too, you know, they get me out of many many binds). But I kind of think, “Oh my God! This is so clunky compared to what RIM is offering.” [laughs] I do wish that the two of you could get together in a marriage made in heaven.

Mike: Hey, I agree. I’m open, I’m open. Come and get me. I’m waiting here at the altar. Let’s do this.

Jonathan: [laughs] Yeah, I’ll let that imagery fester for a while.

But Matt, if I can talk with you about something that I know is going on for you outside Pneuma Solutions. This is something that you’re working on in a personal capacity, but it will be of enormous interest to many of our listeners.

And this is AccessKit. I’ve seen you refer to this on numerous occasions on Mastodon. Developers have been talking with you about it. It’s obvious that you’re confident that it can make a big difference to the lives of blind people.

What is AccessKit?

Matt: AccessKit is a software library that developers of desktop applications, specifically GUI toolkits, can use to make their applications or toolkits accessible. It’s basically a wrapper over the various accessibility APIs such as UI automation on Windows, NS accessibility on Mac, and the API on Linux.

So there are a lot of applications that are not at all accessible with a screen reader or other assistive technology because they don’t implement the various accessibility APIs. And if you’re developing an application that has custom controls or where the whole UI is custom, then implementing those APIs from scratch is harder than you might think.

And so AccessKit implements those APIs, and wraps them in a more convenient API that to a large extent, is inspired by web accessibility standards such as ARIA. And it just makes it easier for developers of applications with highly custom UIs and the toolkits that those applications use to implement accessibility.

Jonathan: Okay. So we’re geeking out there, and that’s good.

Let’s talk about somebody who runs an app, say on Windows, and they find that it’s full of button button, or they tab around and nothing happens. There’s just no keyboard navigation at all.

What should they say to a developer of an app like that that they really want to use?

And actually, it might be a pretty significant app. Because in a lot of workplaces, you come across these proprietary apps that have been created for a particular workplace. And if you can’t use one of those proprietary apps, you may not be able to do your job. So this is a serious issue with a serious solution here, potentially.

How does an end user engage with the developer community, tell them about AccessKit, and encourage them to implement it?

Matt: Well, first of all, AccessKit isn’t always the right solution.

You mentioned a couple of different scenarios, and I’ll go through them and unpack it a bit, trying to focus on what is helpful for the end user.

So if the screen reader is recognizing that there are buttons there but they’re unlabeled, that is something that the developer can fix pretty easily without having to bring in something like AccessKit.

If the screen reader recognizes that there are buttons there but the tabbing behavior isn’t working correctly, then again, that’s something that the developer can fix pretty easily without having to use something like AccessKit.

But as often happens with, say, VST plugins or a lot of other audio production type tools, (just to choose a niche where I know this happens a lot), if you bring up the app and your screen reader is just not finding anything in the window at all, including when you’re using screen review commands, so you use your JAWS scan cursor, or your NVDA object navigation, or things like that, and it’s not finding anything in the window, then an application like that is a strong candidate for being made accessible with AccessKit because that means that they’re using a highly custom UI.

And you as an end user could tell the application developer to go to It’s an open source project. All of the source code is there.

We’re still working on documentation. We still have a lot of work to do on, particularly introductory and tutorial type documentation for developers just coming up to speed on accessibility.

But I’m going to have to get a little bit geeky again here. We have a C API for AccessKit, which means that developers working in pretty much any programming language have a way of using it now,assuming again that the nature of the accessibility problem is such that AccessKit would be a good fit.

So, and there’s a link from there to the GitHub repository where they can find all of the code.

And the read me on the GitHub page gives a pretty good overview, I think, of all of the pieces that are there.

And we do have a couple of sample programs that people can look at to get an idea of how to use AccessKit.

Mike: Jonathan, tell him (and you can edit this out), but tell him to toot his horn a little bit about the Linux Foundation and The Gnome Foundation, the Devs, the talk he did over at RustConf, and who’s using the technology too, ’cause he’s not talking about that.

Jonathan: Tell me more about that, Matt.

Matt: We are beginning to get users.

For instance, there is a voice control and speech recognition application that you might have heard of called Talon, that’s T-A-L-O-N at They recently made the UI of that application accessible with AccessKit.

Another application that’s using it now that I think is safe to say is the largest real-world usage of AccessKit to date. You might have heard of the Quorum programming language, which has been used by several schools for the blind in the US that are using it to teach introductory computer science.

They’re still using their own accessibility implementation on Windows, but they recently started using AccessKit to make their development environment and applications written in that language accessible on Mac.

I gave a talk about AccessKit at a conference called RustConf, which is the largest conference for the Rust programming language, which is what AccessKit is written in. And so I’m getting the word out there now.

Also, I am going to be starting another project which is actually specifically about accessibility on Linux. So yes, getting back to where I started.

The Gnome desktop environment, which is one of the most popular desktop environments for Linux, has started a project to revamp and modernize their accessibility implementation, and I have agreed to work with them to implement a brand new accessibility implementation, which I think is an improvement in some ways compared to accessibility on any platform in terms of responsiveness and robustness, and even potentially down the road, enabling exciting new things such as accessible screenshots, or including accessibility information in screencast type videos.

And I did a blog post on the new GNOME Accessibility blog about what I’m going to be working on, the problems it solves, getting moderately technical about it. And I will send a link to that blog post, so you can include it in show notes if you do that.

Jonathan: Absolutely. That’d be good.

Can I just wrap up by talking about the question of accessibility overlays, or whatever the current non-offensive term is that the industry’s embracing?

We’ve talked about this before, and Pneuma came out with an extension called AccessiByeBye, and this came up several times in the interview that we did with Lionel Wolberger from Userway.

One of the challenges that I have is that I understand that AI is advancing quite quickly. And even since we started having the AccessiBe discussions a few years ago, it may well be that AI is coming along and maturing to the point that it is helping, that there is some remediation that is making a positive difference.

But it’s getting harder to tell because as a screen reader user, you can’t toggle the remediation on and off.

Now Pneuma put out AccessiByeBye, which is a Chromium browser extension that essentially intercepts and blocks that technology. So you get the webpage as it was originally developed.

We talked on that interview about my perplexity, with respect to is this thing doing good, or is it not doing good? I really cannot tell as an end user, who’s at least convincible.

Are you gonna come to the rescue here and give us a toggle that will allow us to switch that extension on and off, so we can see the difference that these technologies are making?

Mike: Wait. Before Matt even answers that, I’ve got to say, we are proud members of the opposition, as he called it. [laughs] We are proud members of the opposition.

But just to clarify, especially with AccessiBe. The thing that ticked us off about AccessiBe and others like it is, it made blind people look like a bunch of raging, you know, sue-happy idiots. “Oh, you need to do this to protect yourself from those evil blind people.”

Jonathan: Right. Yeah, the marketing was atrocious. I think everybody can agree about that.

Mike: Yeah. And you know what? As much as I understand that he, you know, they do other things, you know, if that’s one of the things you sell, then you’ve got to deal with that. And it’s not a matter of the opposition. These things happened, and it was, you know, industry-wide. And if you’re in that industry, too bad. Now you’ve got some cleaning up to do, you know, and you have some splaining to do.

Jonathan: And to be fair, they fronted up, right? Both AccessiBe and Userway fronted up to the NFB convention and faced the music. So they deserve credit for that.

Mike: Yeah, yeah. I mean, that being said, marketing BS aside, I applaud. I mean, listen. The job of remediation, whether it be documents, whether it be websites, whether it be the damn pictures that we show in an album, whatever it is, it’s too big for humans.

And now that we have AI, now that AI is truly part of the conversation, I applaud the possibilities.

But we need to, you know, and he used to say a little bit more strongly, but we need to learn to separate the fly poop from the pepper, as my old partner used to say. And I guess fly poop and pepper look the same. But we need to learn to differentiate, you know, what something can do.

And I think that a switch, like the one you’re proposing, in fact, going about it and saying, “Hey.”, not only can you just put check boxes for which ones do you want to block, which ones do you not want to block? That way you can pick and choose. Because if they clean up their behavior, …

Jonathan: Right, right.

Mike: We’ve been contacted by some of these overlay companies that said, “Please take us off of your list.”

And I was like, “No.”, you know.

“Well, we’re going to behave. We’re going to do this. We’re going to do that.”

Okay, so, you know, it’s about time maybe that we did a little bit of a UI overhaul on that and provided a little bit more configuration. Because you know, they were all created equal. They were all the enemy, you know.

And if some of them are finally getting their act together and actually talking to the very people they claim to be, you know, helping, then, you know, maybe we as a company in our community need to extend the olive branch and do the same thing. I think it’s a great idea.

Jonathan: Well, this technology is evolving all the time. And it may well be that, … For example, we talked extensively about the Motley Fool website, which is one I’m looking at with increasing degrees of depression every day. [laughs]

Mike: Why? Your Amazon should be going up. They made 13% more money than they did in the last quarter.

Jonathan: [laughs] What is going on? What is going on?

But you’re supposed to invest for the long term, right? So I’m gritting my teeth and carrying on.

So I go to the Motley Fool website, and I think, actually, it’s not too bad an experience.

But as I said to Lionel, what I can’t tell is the degree to which Userway is making that difference. And as an informed consumer, I want to know that.

I mean, and when I switch Userway off, it may be that the site gets so bad that I gain a renewed appreciation of what they’re doing.

But it’s just impossible for me to tell. I cannot be the informed consumer that I want to be.

Matt: Yeah.

And you said that you’re convincible. So are we.

And we will definitely be adding some more configurability in that plugin. A quick global on/off switch, as well as checkboxes for each of the overlays.

Jonathan: OK. When am I going to get it?

Matt: A month tops.

Jonathan: Right. Okay.

I’ll look forward to this when it’s ready, because I think that will really help.

And as I say, a number of people are convincible. Technology evolves. And let’s just see what it’s doing.

But that will be a very useful contribution. And if we find that one provider is behaving a bit better than others, then we may be able to switch some of the others off and leave them on.

Mike: Sure. Yeah.

I mean, look, there’s a difference between ignorance and stupidity, and I have never had a problem with anyone’s ignorance.

I do have a problem with stupidity, and to not rehash and relive.

But some of those providers have just been plain stupid in the way that they dealt with our community, and very insulting.

And they need to work their way back from that by doing exactly what they’re doing. Come cater and talk to the community that you claim to serve. Go to the NFB conventions.

I applaud what AccessiBe and others are doing by going to the convention, but you should have been doing that to begin with.

Jonathan: Yes, absolutely, yeah, yeah. It was a misstep. You’ve got to engage with your potential end users when you design a product at that inception stage.

I guess they perceived websites as being their users, kind of treating disabled people, blind people like passive recipients, and that’s not appropriate either. It’s just culturally unacceptable, the way that many of these entrants got into this market.

Mike: I’m a person, Jonathan, that I believe the buck stops here. If you get the glory of being able to stand in front of a group of people and say, “Yes, I’m the leader of this amazing team,”. When that team drops the ball, it should be because of your leadership. In other words, you need to fall on your sword with the rest of your team.

And I think that the AccessiBe guy saying, “We fired the entire team. It’s not gonna happen again.”. And what happened to you, dude? You were leading it. You should have been fired right along with us. Saying you’re 28 years old is no excuse.

Jonathan: Well, yeah, he was the person that hired the team that he fired, and so the buck stops with the people who do the hiring, right?

Mike: Yeah. Well, supposedly, he runs them too. So he’s the CEO.

Jonathan: Right.

Mike: And saying you’re 28 and ignorant isn’t enough.

And that’s my own personal opinion. That has nothing to do with anything else.

That really bothered me. To me, it was just a hell of a personal cop-out, and not really accepting full responsibility.

You know, he was talking out of both sides of his mouth. “Oh, you know, but I didn’t lose my job, but everybody else did.”

Jonathan: But look. In the end, it’s all forgivable if we find, a year or two down the track, for example, that millions more websites are more accessible and more usable by us than they otherwise would be.

I think, as I say, the difficulty that we have is it’s getting harder and harder to tell the difference that it’s making, because it’s a little bit more subtle now.

You used to go to these websites and you’d get a message which said, “Push this key to invoke accessibility mode.” In fact, in the early days, you’d get it many times every minute [laughs], prompting you to. It was horrible.

And now, it’s all a bit more subtle. So it’s harder to tell.

So I think we should just try and keep an open mind. And if you’re able to make that contribution by giving us that degree of granularity with the extension, that would be a huge contribution.

Mike: You peacemaker. Okay.

Jonathan: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Mike: I’ll behave. I’ll sit down and be nice. Geez!

Jonathan: Yeah. Well, you know, look, the thing is that …

Matt: Hey, I’m a peacemaker too, so Mike, you’re outnumbered.

Jonathan: We can’t afford to be kind of too religious about this, if you know what I’m saying, because many of us depend on the web not just for access to information and entertainment and buying things, but to do our jobs.

And I mean, if this thing really does scale, and it really does make a difference, then fine.

But for me, the evidence is not there that it makes any positive difference whatsoever.

When I get that evidence, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that it exists.

Mike: Very well stated. And yeah, I mean, I agree with that. I mean, that is the voice of reason.

Jonathan: One tries, one tries.

It’s great to have you both on.

And I am noticing a change in the culture of the assistive technology community, particularly in blindness because we’ve tried to start the process of co-designing a process which will make RIM more widely available to those who can’t afford it, but would benefit immensely because of the training and other assistance that would be available.

I also note what Freedom Scientific has been doing in this Next Big Thing concept, where they’re essentially outsourcing, they’re co-designing, that kind of stuff.

So this is good. It’s involving the community. It’s a true example of self-determination.

So it’s good that we can be a conduit on this podcast, in some way, for some of this.

Mike: Well thank you, Jonathan, for giving us the platform, for providing the platform.

Just about anybody can put out a podcast these days. But it takes, as you know, much work, much dedication, much consistency, great content, fair, …

And I’ve seen you take some serious crap from people you’ve interviewed that I wouldn’t take, but you want the answers you want, and you’re patient and respectable, and I find that to be refreshing because I find myself saying, you know what? This guy is doing it the right way, and I need to tone myself down and not cut the advocacy.

But there’s just a way to say things, and I appreciate the way that you say what you say. I think you bring, like I said, a voice of reason, a patience, of wisdom. you know, don’t mean to make you sound old, man, but wisdom to what you do.

So thank you for allowing us to be a part of this platform, for the privilege of watching this community of ours grow and being a part of it. So thank all of you, and thank you, Jonathan, really.

Jonathan: Thank you both, really appreciate all you’re doing, and I appreciate that.


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Problem With My Sonos ARC

Let’s talk Sonos once again.

And very interesting, by the way, to see that there are some leaks coming out from Sonos that indicates that 2024 is going to be quite a bumpy year.

It looks like we’re getting a new high-end soundbar that will replace the Arc.

Sonos is getting into the headphones business. And they’re even getting into, according to the leaks, a set-top box to compete with Apple TV, Roku, and similar.

So it’s going to be a fascinating one to watch. Let’s hope that they’re taking accessibility into account with all those products, particularly the set-top box.

Here’s John Riehl talking Sonos. He says:

“Hi, Jonathan,

I have the Sonos Arc soundbar connected to a Samsung TV in my living room, with the Amazon VoiceView turned on. I have the Arc connected to the special Arc input on my TV, and my remote configured such that the soundbar comes on when I turn on the soundbar.”

I’m thinking that might be turn on the TV, that the soundbar comes on.

John says:

“I’m having two issues.

First, there’s a long, over 30-second delay between the time I press the On button and the soundbar comes on.

Second, and more serious, when I’m listening to the TV through the soundbar, every minute or so, VoiceView announces the volume level. I have to turn VoiceOver off to watch TV through the soundbar.

I can live with a delay. I can’t live with hearing the volume level every minute or so.

Got any ideas on how to fix this?

Thanks as always for a great podcast.”

Thank you for writing in again, John.

I’m a bit confused about your configuration because you say you’ve got a Samsung TV, but then you talk about Amazon’s VoiceView.

And Samsung does have its own screen reader built in, so I’m not sure where Amazon’s VoiceView is coming in here if you’ve got a Samsung TV.

But nonetheless, the bottom line is it’s obviously pretty frustrating if you’re hearing that volume being spoken every minute or so.

On our Samsung TV, we’re not getting this, and the Sonos arc does seem to detect when audio is coming from the TV quite quickly. I’d say within about 4 or 5 seconds.

Anyone got any ideas for John? Anyone can help him out?, or give us a call in the United States – 864-60-Mosen, 864-606-6736.

Bose Versus Sonos

Kayla says:


Well, hello to you, Kayla.

“I am writing in regarding the conversation about Sonos versus Bose in the recent podcast episode.

We use Sonos products throughout our house and as of now, the Google Assistant is available on the Sonos platform.

We enjoy the sound Sonos speakers offer, though confess that we haven’t used Bose speakers.

Currently, we have a Beam in my bedroom, a Ray/Arc/subwoofer combo in the living room, along with another Beam in the second bedroom.

Regarding the touch controls, most of us in the house don’t find the touch controls necessary. In fact, my speaker is currently dusty on the top because I haven’t touched it to use the touch controls often at all.

I used the touch controls more when we had HomePods as our only speakers, to be honest.

A problem we have found with the Sonos system and Google Assistant is that it doesn’t always hear you, or becomes triggered by all the wrong things. Ours once started listening in response to “Hey, Grandma”. [laughs]

For that reason, we have recently switched over to the Amazon Assistant, in part because we shop with Amazon, and in part, at least for me, because I like her voice better than Google’s voices.

All this to say, Sonos with Google Assistant is doable, but can become annoying.

Sonos with the Soup Drinker is much better, or seems to be from my experiences.”

Thanks for writing in, Kayla.

Whether Google Assistant is available on Sonos or not depends on what you have.

There’s an ongoing patent dispute. Sonos had a big victory, then Google appealed, and Google has now had a big victory.

And even though Sonos says this has nothing to do with it, (you’d have to be pretty naive to think it doesn’t have anything to do with it), there is no Google Assistant on newer Sonos speakers.

For example, earlier this year we purchased some Sonos Era 300 speakers. They are awesome. The 100s are pretty good as well. If you buy the 100 and the 300, you don’t get any Google Assistant. So on certain products it’ll be there, but on other products it will not.

You’re absolutely right though, that if you’ve got some of the older products like ARC, and Beam, and Ray, and some of those other speakers that have microphones, Google Assistant will work.

But my experience mirrors yours in every respect. I don’t find myself using the touch controls often.

I didn’t find Google Assistant’s implementation particularly good, and that may be one of the reasons why they’ve killed it in recent Sonos speaker offerings as well.

The Language Rotor in iOS

Let’s return to the subject of the iOS language rotor, and the fact that in the recent version of iOS, Apple took it away from the defaults, so you have to go back in and enable it again.

Fanny says:

“In episode 255, you told us that in iOS 17.1, there’s the option ‘language’ among the rotor options. There, it would be possible to get the language switched back to the rotor.

But unfortunately, I cannot find it. In the German version, this option doesn’t appear.

I can only find the ‘speed’ option for the speech.

Is there any other way to bring that option back?

Per your recommendation, I started playing Timecrest, and it’s very hard for me to understand the English chats I read in German pronunciation.”

Thanks for writing in, Fanny.

I don’t have any experience of the German release of iOS 17.1, but I’ll show you exactly where I’m finding this in the English version.

First, let’s go to the right place by talking to the thing.

Open VoiceOver settings.

Now that we’re here, we need to touch

VoiceOver: Rotor, button.

Jonathan: Rotor button, and double tap.

VoiceOver: Rotor items, button.

Jonathan: This is the rotor items button. There are a few elements on the screen, but it’s the rotor items button that we need to be concerned with.

So we’ll double tap.

VoiceOver: Selected. Braille Screen Input.

Jonathan: Now, we have a long list of things that you can select and deselect. And if I keep flicking through this long list of items, eventually, in the fullness of time, I will finally find…

VoiceOver: Selected. Language.

Jonathan: There’s language, and it is selected.

So if I double tap it, …

VoiceOver: Language.

Jonathan: It is not selected, and it won’t appear on my rotor.

And for some inexplicable reason, that is the default in iOS 17.1 to disable the language rotor, even if you had multiple languages going before you installed iOS 17.1.

Don’t shoot me. I’m only the piano player.

So I’ll double tap again.

VoiceOver: Selected. Language.

Jonathan: And now, I can just back out by performing a 2-finger scrub gesture, and we’re back there. Loads of items.

So if you’re not seeing language in that long list, Fanny, I cannot account for it, but at least this ensures that you’re looking in the correct place to find it. So best of luck.

Object Orientation With Be My AI

Greg Epley says:

“Hello, Living Blindfully listeners,

To the listener from episode 257 wondering about orientation of documents, I can confirm that on multiple occasions, whether with documents or other items, I have had Be My AI report orientation.

This is not as fast as perhaps Seeing AI offering this information.

I suppose a lot of recognition apps simply don’t offer this information, since the goal is getting whatever information to the end user, regardless of orientation.

But Be My AI has been generally helpful to me for this purpose.

One example I’ve used for this purpose is when I had to scan some sort of document to send to someone sighted, and didn’t want to send an upside-down scan.

Love the show, even though I only discovered it back around episode 235 or so.

Jonathan got me through some difficult times with his ACB main menu show back when. I really missed him when he was no longer doing it.

I haven’t liked main menu as much since, but thankfully there are plenty of other VI podcasts like Living Blindfully.”

It’s nice to connect with you again, Greg. Thank you very much. Glad you found the podcast, and that’s a very useful tip indeed.

Spectrum Access App and PhoneLink

Voice message: Good morning, Jonathan. This is Shawn Thiel here.

It is early in the morning, and I am waiting for my allergy pill to take effect, so that’s why I sound kind of funny.

Anyway, just wanted to mention two things.

  1. Slight correction. The app which provides movie description access by listening and trying to sync them up that you were thinking of is actually not offered by Comcast. It is offered by Spectrum, and is called Spectrum Access.

And the only reason I know is because a couple years ago, ACB was really promoting Spectrum Access. So there is that.

Second of all, thank you for cluing me into the fact that PhoneLink for Windows 11 has iPhone support now. I was under the impression that it still did not because I believe in Windows 10, it does not.

This goes a bit further than I was expecting because you can also take an incoming call on the PC.

I was helping somebody with RIM yesterday, and I don’t have a mixer for the new laptop yet. But I was able to assist using the USB headset.

Now, because we were probably going to have to do several reboots, I didn’t want to use RIM’s feature for conversations because I didn’t want her to be unable to speak to me while that was going on. So I still sometimes prefer to call people on the good old fashioned phone for that.

So anyway, take care and have a good podcast.”

Thank you, Shawn.

I like the PhoneLink app. I think it’s a pretty good effort, and I like being able to text with it.

I particularly like when I’m working away on my laptop in the night. (Yes, I know I probably shouldn’t be doing that.) I get my phone in my DND with VIP focus, and I still get all the notifications sent to the laptop, but not the phone. So it’s really cool when I’ve got a cable connected to my hearing aids on the laptop, and I get all my iPhone notifications there.

It is good that you can make and receive calls. I haven’t found a quick hotkey to answer a call on my laptop when I get one. So if anyone has the magic trick for the most efficient way to answer a call using the PhoneLink app, that would be good.

But yeah. I do texting with it, and it’s limited in the sense that it doesn’t keep a history of texts unless those texts have come through since you ran the app.

But it’s still an improvement over nothing, right? And it’s quite accessible.


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Closing and Contact Info

I suspect that next week, we will have a bumper Bonnie Bulletin because she has had quite the wild adventure.

She’s not actually home yet as I record this podcast. But she should be, all being well, by the time that the podcast is published, even for plus subscribers. So stay tuned.

It’s been a wild ride for Bonnie, and I’m sure she will tell you all about it in due course, as they say.

But we will wrap it up for this week.

Don’t forget to vote in that holiday countdown. You know if you don’t vote, you got no right to complain. Isn’t that what they say? But we complain anyway. So We’d love to get your vote for your top 10 holiday songs.

I’ll be back with you next week.

Thank you very much for listening and spreading the word. I really do appreciate 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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If you’d like to submit a comment for possible inclusion in future episodes, be in touch via email,. Write it down, or send an audio attachment: Or phone us. The number in the United States is 864-60-Mosen. That’s 864-606-6736.