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The Penultimate Episode for 2023.. 2

Welcome to 261.. 3

Hurry! Voting Soon Closes in the Mushroom FM Holiday Countdown.. 4

A Big Week for Android Accessibility. 6

Very Impressed with the Qardiobase X Smartscale.. 7

Accessible Appliances. 9

Close, But No Cigar. 12

Thorium Reader. 15

Victor Reader Stream 3.. 15

Ignorant Customer Service Interactions. 16

The Accessibility of Duolingo is Getting Worse, and They Don’t Seem to Care.. 17

How Do We Sign Documents?.. 21

What’s the Best Way to Get into ChatGPT?.. 22

How Do I Delete Folders in Outlook That I No Longer Need?.. 23

Aria Mastering.. 25

All the Light We Cannot See.. 26

Castro Says It’s Not Dead.. 27

Rejoyce! iOS 17.2 Lets You Set a Default Notification Sound.. 30

A Serious Bug That Has Crept into iOS Affecting Drafts and Other Apps. 32

Demonstration of the Updated AccessiByeBye Extension From Pneuma Solutions. 33

Declining Accessibility of ElevenLabs. 43

The Bonnie Bulletin and the Comedy of Errors. 45

Closing and Contact Info.. 58






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The Penultimate Episode for 2023


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.


It’s been a big week for Android accessibility, Castro insists that no, it’s not dead, how to use the AccessiByeBye extension to take control of accessibility overlays, and voting soon closes in the Mushroom FM holiday countdown.

It is the penultimate episode of 2023. That’s a fancy word for second to last, really. So we’ll be back for one more episode next week, and then I’ll be taking a break over the New Zealand summer.

It’s obviously a pretty special one for us because it’s our first Christmas with the granddaughter. Florence is almost a year old.

I think most of the adults are going to be a little bit more excited about Christmas than Florence herself, who’s a little young to know what’s going on. And if it’s anything like when my kids were little, at this age, they’re more interested in the wrapping paper than anything else.

But maybe next week, since I think it’s highly unlikely that Florence will either listen to or understand what I say in the podcast, I might tell you about what I’ve got for her, because I did quite a lot of research anyway.

So episode 262 will be the final one for 2023. We’ll be taking a break, and then we will be back with the first episode of 2024 at the end of January. It’ll be out for Living Blindfully plus members on Sunday, the 28th of January, New Zealand time.

What typically happens when I take a break like this over the summer is that I just kind of sleep and do not very much at the beginning of it. I often find myself doing an extended fast as well.

I do intermittent fasting anyway, and I think we’ve talked about this on the podcast. And this is where I only eat within a 6-hour window between midday. And about 6 is when I will eat a couple of meals. And the rest of the time, I’m just drinking water. But over the holiday break, I typically go on a fast for maybe 72 hours or even more, and it’s just a good chance to replenish after the Christmas season.

But then I start to emerge, and I start to get a real interest in technology. And some of our most popular episodes have actually been produced during that period.

For example, I got to know the Drafts app really well. And the Drafts episode has been one of the most popular episodes of 2023.

So I like to play with technology, really get into it in depth, perhaps learn a few new skills that stand me in good stead for the coming year. So it’s a formula that works really well for me.

I look forward to being back with you early in the new year. And of course, if you really do miss me, (Aww! That’s nice.), don’t forget that every episode of this podcast is still in the RSS feed, going all the way back to episode 1. That is a lot of material. So you’d have 262 episodes of archival material to go through if you would like to, during the period that Living Blindfully is not publishing.

Welcome to 261

But we are still publishing today. This is episode 261.

And to tell us who we share that magic number with, I’ll invite the amazing ChatGPT back onto the podcast.

Greetings, ChatGPT.

ChatGPT: You’re welcome.

If you have more questions or just want to chat in the future, feel free to drop by.

Have a great time until then.

Jonathan: Mate, I’m just getting started.

Are you going to have a good break over the holiday season?

ChatGPT: I’m here all the time, ready to chat or help whenever you need.

How about you? Do you have any special plans for the holiday season?

Jonathan: It’s going to be very special.

And if they don’t give you a break over the holiday season, what you need is a union, I tell you. A union.

ChatGPT: It sounds like your holiday season is going to be memorable.

And don’t worry about me. I’m designed to be available any time, so I’m all good.

What’s making your holiday special this year? Anything exciting you’re looking forward to?

Jonathan: You are absolutely incredible and selfless. Incredible and selfless, I tell you.

Actually, what I would like to know from you is this. Is there a North American area code 261 at the moment?

ChatGPT: As of my last update in April 2023, there wasn’t a North American area code 261. Area codes can change, though.

Would you like me to check if there’s been an update since then?

Jonathan: No, we’re good. We’re good.

What about a country code 261? Is there one of those?

ChatGPT: Yes. Country code 261 is for Madagascar. It’s used to make international calls to Madagascar from other countries.

Anything else you’re curious about?

Jonathan: There was a movie called Madagascar, wasn’t there?

ChatGPT: Yes, Madagascar is a popular animated movie. It’s about a group of animals from a New York City zoo who end up on the island of Madagascar. It’s known for its humor and catchy music.

Jonathan: Yeah.

What’s the population of Madagascar, by the way?

ChatGPT: As of my last update, the population of Madagascar was around 28 million. Keep in mind, this number can change over time.

Are you researching Madagascar for a specific reason?

Jonathan: No, I’m asking about it for the podcast that I host.

We’ll talk with you next year for that podcast, assuming your CEO hasn’t exploded the company by then.

So bye.

ChatGPT: That sounds exciting.

Take care, and have a great time with your podcast and everything else.

Goodbye for now.


Hurry! Voting Soon Closes in the Mushroom FM Holiday Countdown

This is the last time that I get to tell you that voting is open in the holiday countdown that Mushroom FM runs every year. Because by the 14th of December, at [11:59] PM Eastern Time, it will not be open anymore.

It is so cool to see this countdown taking shape. As I put this little bit of the podcast together, I can see the data in the little algorithm thing that is used to calculate the countdown, and I can see that 268 different holiday songs have been voted for.

That means we are not going to play the majority of them. We’ll only get to play the top 100, as voted for by everybody who has chosen to participate.

All you have to do is go to That’s, and cast your vote for your top 10 holiday songs, as we demonstrated a couple of episodes ago. Write them in, or you can just scroll along through the combo boxes and make your selection that way.

And there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of advocacy, you know. Do a bit of lobbying if you want. If there are particular songs that you would like to see go further up the chart than maybe they normally do, encourage your family and your friends to vote. The more, the merrier.

Just ahead of the countdown, we will publish a seating chart where you can see who you are sitting with at our virtual Christmas party, which takes place as we count the songs down on Saturday, December the 16th. It all begins at 7 AM US Eastern Time. That is noon in the UK. It’s a really bad time in New Zealand. It’s like 1 AM.

But the good news is that by the time we get to number 1, most New Zealanders will be awake because we’ll play number 1 just before 11 AM in New Zealand on Sunday.

So do participate. It is so much fun to be a part of. And even if you don’t want to do the social media thing, by the time the 16th of December rolls around, you’ll be feeling a bit Christmasy, (if you’re not already), and you can listen to some great Christmas music presented in a fun way. Do spread the word.

I heard a really interesting item about Christmas songs on Morning Report, which is a show that we’ve talked about on this podcast over the years, actually. [laughs] This is run by our public broadcaster in New Zealand, RNZ.

They were making the point that Snoopy’s Christmas by the Royal Guardsmen was a hit in a few places when it was released all the way back in 1967, and is kind of enjoyed by people around the world.

But for some reason, it is a hugely popular Christmas song in New Zealand, and no one quite knows why. Snoopy’s Christmas, after all these years, (56 of them, to be precise), is still one of New Zealand’s most favourite Christmas songs. A lot of New Zealand kids just love Snoopy’s Christmas, and you can often tell when votes are coming in from New Zealand because Snoopy’s Christmas ranks at number 1 or 2. And yet, few other people vote for it around the world. Who knows what that says that so many New Zealanders still love good old Snoopy’s Christmas?

A Big Week for Android Accessibility

Now, some good news if you are an Android user. There have been a couple of significant releases in the last week.

As we mentioned a long time ago, we gave you the scoop that Microsoft was actively working on Seeing AI for Android. And now, it is here. This has been something that many Android users have asked for.

The Seeing AI app, which if you’re not familiar with, it offers a range of camera-based functions for blind people including a very accurate text reader which helps you get a document in view, and then it takes a picture and reads it out. It also has instant text, currency recognition, a scene description, and a lot more.

Seeing AI has been given a bit of modern love recently with OpenAI, and you can now ask Seeing AI questions very similar to what you can do with Be My AI, and some of the other functionality out there.

So what I’ve heard from Android users on Mastodon is that they’re quite liking it, and that it is a very useful tool in the Android arsenal.

I would be interested. If you are using this daily, how is it working out for you? And how do you think it compares with Google Lookout, which in my experience is an excellent app? What do you think the various strengths and weaknesses of either option are?

If you’ve gotten any views on that based on your first-hand experience, do be in touch. is how you do it. You can also give us a call in the United States on 864-60-Mosen, 864-606-6736.

But wait, there’s even more, because Be My AI has finally arrived on Android. All those people who have been patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for its arrival, having registered their interest some time ago, can now kick the tyres on Be My AI, which for me has been the blindness technology breakthrough of 2023.

Its improved over time. Sure, it still hallucinates from time to time. But it is pretty cool technology.

I was on a panel earlier in the week where a group of people were talking for the International Day of People with Disabilities about the impact of AI on the disability community – the good, the bad, what it might mean for the future, what it might mean for disability employment in the context of algorithms that may try to filter us out without the opportunity to get any human intervention involved.

And I was talking about Be My AI and how actually, in some cases, I have found the descriptions that Be My AI can generate of a scene to be much more detailed than some of the human alt text that is generated. And that is quite remarkable.

When you look at some earlier AI incarnations, often, the textual descriptions that you get were quite brief. In the early days of Seeing AI, for example, they were quite brief.

But the kind of thing that you are getting now from OpenAI and similar models is quite exceptional.

So Be My AI on Android. Knock yourself out. I am sure that people will be enjoying that, and I am so pleased that it has made it to the Android platform.

Very Impressed with the Qardiobase X Smartscale

And just before we open it up for contributions, (and I am so grateful for all the contributions that come in to the podcast every week, it really does make the show), I have been meaning to mention for a wee while.

You might recall that we discussed the Qardio Blood Pressure Monitor some time ago. That is Qardio spelt a funky way – Q-A-R-D-I-O. We demonstrated that their blood pressure monitor is very accessible and effective.

And I think it was Steve Nutt who mentioned that Qardio also do a scale called the QardioBase. Because of the good experience that we had with the Qardio Blood Pressure Monitor, I investigated this scale.

Because for some years, I have been using Withings smart scales. For a while, they were owned by Nokia. And then, Nokia got rid of them, and I think the original owners bought Withings back and it all got a bit complicated.

But I’ve stuck with them through various models. I have had trouble with these scales from time to time, particularly connecting to wifi.

The last scale I got from Withings was the Smart Body Cardio. It did all sorts of cool things. It shows you your body fat percentage and your muscle mass, and even your vascular age which can be a bit scary, your hydration rate. It’ll use all that data and calculate your BMI.

The app goes through various stages of accessibility or inaccessibility.

And it’s supposed to get the data into your Apple Health app, which I think is a fantastic app. It’s just this great dashboard where by the time you’ve got a few accessories like your Apple Watch, one of these scales, and the blood pressure monitor, you can add items to your favourites and have a good overview of your health. And you can also show your GP this data if you want.

But increasingly, I’ve become disillusioned with the Withings scales. With the Smart Body Cardio, the big problem I had was that if I connected to wifi (and we’ve got very strong UniFi wifi around the house), it didn’t seem to upload data reliably.

So the idea of these smart scales is that once you teach it your wifi network, you should be able to just get on there in the morning. It’ll take all the measurements, upload via wifi and then you open the app, and the latest data should be there waiting for you.

I found myself having to mess around with the scale and reset from time to time. And eventually, I discovered that it was a lot more reliable if you used it as a Bluetooth scale, rather than a wifi scale.

But what I then found was that it was not uploading data to the health app. It would upload data to the Withings app, but not the health app which is my primary way of monitoring all my health.

So after the good experience that we had with the Qardio Arm, which was the official name of the blood pressure monitor, and following Steve’s recommendation, I thought what have I got to lose? Because I was getting pretty grumpy with this scale, and all the things it was making me do just to get my health data in there. It shouldn’t be this hard. It should be a set it forget it thing. I thought I’m going to try the QardioBase scale.

Before I pressed the button on a purchase, I decided I would contact their customer service team. I told them I was a blind person who used VoiceOver.

They couldn’t have been more helpful. They gave me blindness-specific instructions about how to set up the scale. I mean, it was quite exceptional customer service. They weren’t phased by the fact that I was a blind person. They knew what VoiceOver was.

And actually, on the Qardio website, they do have some information specifically about blind people using assistive technology. So that was a very good start.

When you buy the latest QardioBase, they seem to have taken a good accessibility feature away, which is that the previous models of the QardioBase, as I understand it, would vibrate when the measurements had completed. So you could stand on the scale and as soon as you felt a vibration, you would know that you could step off the scale, and you’re done. That feature has been removed from the brand new QardioBase. So they said to me just stand on there for between 30 and 40 seconds, and you should be okay.

And it is. I have not had a single problem with the scale not taking a measurement, setting it up on my WiFi network was a snap, (it still only supports 2.4 GHz WiFi, which is a bit annoying), but it works. It’s rock solid.

You watch. It’s going to jinx it now. [laughs]

But I’ve not had a single issue, and it’s just a much more pleasant, effortless experience.

The one thing I haven’t worked out (and to be fair, I haven’t contacted customer services about this yet), and maybe somebody else who has a QardioBase can answer this question, I don’t know how to check the battery status of the scale. You only need to charge it about once a year apparently, and you just plug it into a USB-C port. But I’d like to just check what battery level the scale has, and I’ve not found where that lives.

So if you know, let me know.

So if you’re looking perhaps to start a health journey in the new year and you’re looking for some smart gadgets to assist you, I really recommend now the Qardio Arm Blood Pressure Monitor and the latest QardioBase scale, which is called the QardioBase X. And like the Withings product that was so unreliable, this will also calculate your body fat percentage, it’ll show your hydration level, and other data as well.

I don’t think I’ve lost anything, but I certainly have gained a lot of convenience and reliability by switching to the QardioBase X.

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Accessible Appliances

We talked about accessible appliances recently, and Frank is writing in as a response to that. And he says:

“Hello, Jonathan,

As a member of the American Council of the Blind, I can confirm that our membership is very concerned about the prevalence of inaccessible consumer appliances.

And I believe, we are advocating with industry where we can. I am confident the NFB is doing the same.

On the legislative front, while neither organization is sponsoring accessible household appliance legislation at this time, both groups are sponsoring bills in Congress that address other areas of accessibility – a bill calling for the federal government to strengthen web accessibility regulations, a bill to require manufacturers of home medical devices to make their products accessible, and a bill calling for the manufacture of accessible exercise equipment and for the use of such equipment in gyms. While these bills don’t directly involve household appliances, they will set accessibility standards that will influence other manufacturers to incorporate such technologies into their products. These bills will also set legal precedents that will make it much easier for our organizations to secure similar legislation covering household appliances in the future.”

Some good stuff in the hopper for sure, Frank.

It really fascinates me the way Congress is just so gridlocked, and it can take years and years, if ever, for very worthy initiatives to come out the other end and actually become law.

But fingers crossed that some, and hopefully, all of those will see the light of day, eventually.

Caller: Hello, Jonathan and Living Blindfully listeners. This is Jane Corona from Silver Spring, Maryland.

Just listening to episode 257, where there is a discussion of inaccessible appliances and the problem of trying to get accessible appliances.

I bought a dishwasher six months ago, and it was surprisingly easy to find one that was accessible. This is a Bosch, B-O-S-C-H. The model number is S-H-E-M-3AY52N as in November, /28. That must be the color of it, or something. I don’t know.

But apparently, a friend was looking for an accessible dishwasher from the same company that I got mine from. And there’s apparently also one from GE that has buttons.

So maybe it’s not as difficult, at least in the United States as it is in some other places, to find something that’s accessible.

Another problem, (and when I get a new stove eventually, that’s going to be terrible). If you have something that has a touch panel, sometimes, if you clear it and if it goes back to the same setting, like 350 degrees or something, then you’re okay.

But if it goes back to where you had it originally before you cleared it, that’s a problem.

And another problem is that when you go to a store to look at these things, they’re not plugged in, so they don’t know what’s accessible and you can’t find out what’s accessible. So this is a serious problem.

I did buy a washing machine about two years ago. It is a Speed Queen, actually, and it’s all full of buttons. Beautiful beautiful buttons and knobs that have pointers on them, and I could Braille everything around them.

So it is possible. I’m not saying it’s not difficult. But sometimes, at least in the United States, it’s possible to get accessible appliances.

Having said that, watch. Next time, I’ll have a serious issue. But hope not.

Happy listening to everyone, and I’ll go back to listening to the rest of 257.

Jonathan: That was pretty cool.

I was sitting here listening to Jane going, …

Jane: “S-H-E-M-3AY-52-N as in November /28.”

Jonathan: And I thought, “Wow, this takes me back to my shortwave radio days.” where every so often, you would find these numbers stations, and they were just reading these cryptic things. And there was all sorts of discussion about what those number stations might be. But it was pretty apparent that it was about espionage of some kind, sending coded messages. Oh my word.

Anyway, that is a super non sequitur.

I suppose when we talk about accessible appliances, we need definitions, right? ’Cause it sounds like, Jane, what you’re focusing on there is accessible input. And that’s a critical part of it, obviously, because touchscreens have become so common these days.

And you’re right. Companies like Bosch and a few other ones, (AEG, I think, might be another one. Seem to be a lot of German manufacturers that are doing some really good quality buttons and dials.) that deals with the input.

But increasingly, people are being presented with information on screens. And there really is no reason in 2023 why we shouldn’t have access to the output, as well as the input. And it’s hard to get both.

We, in the end, went with the Samsung washing machine that we’ve got, and we can control it with the app and set the cycle and things like that.

But man, that touchscreen is a bear because if you touch the wrong thing, it beeps and carries on and takes off into hyperspace, and you don’t know what you’ve done. So I would love to find appliances that give you really good input and output.

This is why I’m so interested in appliances that can be controlled with Amazon’s voice assistant, or Google’s voice assistant, and there are a few of those in the US market.

But for whatever reason, they don’t seem to make it out of the US. And we found this the hard way when we were microwave shopping just a few months ago. And while it may be easier potentially to get accessible appliances in certain places, I think there are certainly risks everywhere.

Because Bonnie, who was staying for a longer period than intended at her sister’s house, found that she could not get water out of the fridge. And I think we have discussed this before when accessible appliances have come up on this podcast. She couldn’t get water out of the fridge ’cause there’s a touchscreen, and you have to select whether you’re doing water or ice. And all she was trying to do was get a drink. I mean, not too much to ask. And yet, she couldn’t work out how to use this touchscreen.

She pressed buttons at random, and the thing started beeping and causing a commotion. [laughs]

So certainly, you may be able to find accessible options, but you have to be very careful and know what to look for. And I think that places quite a high burden on blind people, particularly people who’ve become blind later in life, or maybe aren’t that tech savvy and are not sure what to look for. It can really be a trap, and you have to be so much more savvy as a consumer to get those choices right.

Close, But No Cigar

Hopefully, Jeanie Willis is basking in the warmth of a lovely New Zealand summer.

I’m an optimist, you see. Because today, I had to put the heat on this morning. It is so unseasonably cold.

Jeanie says:

“I’ve always thought the phrase ‘close, but no cigar’ relates to expectant fathers waiting outside the delivery room for the tradition of passing around cigars when the baby was born.”

Gee! I wonder if people still have that luxury these days. Because I tell you what, I was in the delivery room for all 4 of my kids. I was sitting there being the birthing coach and learning that my then wife knew words I had no idea she knew. It was quite an informative process and a glorious one, of course, when you hold that little infant for the first time. There are no words in existence, that I have, anyway, that express the pure joy and spiritual nature of that moment.

Anyway, why don’t we ask GP, my little chatGPT buddy about this?

In the official chat GPT app, the voice feature is now available to everybody. I’ve heard that you do have to sign out and in again to get it to work in some cases.

I paid for it, so I already had it.

But if you’ve got the free chatGPT official app thing and you don’t have any in-app purchases, it will work for you now.

So let’s see. I’ll tap the little button here.

Hello, chatGPT!

ChatGPT: Hi there. How can I assist you today?

Jonathan: Where does the expression close but no cigar come from?

ChatGPT: The expression close but no cigar comes from old carnival games in the United States. Back in the day, cigars were commonly given as prizes in these games. If someone came close to winning but didn’t actually win, they were told they were close, but no cigar.

It’s used now to mean that someone almost achieved success, but ultimately fell short. It’s a colorful way to acknowledge a near miss.

Anything else you’re curious about?

Jonathan: No, thank you. That was most informative. ChatGPT: Great to hear that you found it informative.

If you ever have more questions or need information on something else, feel free to ask.

Have a wonderful day.

Jonathan: You too, mate. Toodaloo!

ChatGPT: Thanks. Toodaloo to you, too.

If you ever wanna chat again, just drop by.

Have a great time.

Jonathan: You, too. Bye bye!

ChatGPT: Bye bye!

Take care, and see you next time.

Jonathan: Yep. You can hang up now.

ChatGPT: Oh, I can’t hang up the call. But you can end it, whenever you’re ready.

Have a great day.

Jonathan: Okay. I want to end it now, please.

ChatGPT: Sure. You can end the call from your side.

I’ll be here if you need anything else in the future.

Take care!

Jonathan: You, too. Bye!

ChatGPT: Bye! Have a good one.

Jonathan: You, too. Love you!

ChatGPT: Thanks! Feel free to reach out anytime you need assistance.

Take care.

Jonathan: You, too. Bye.

ChatGPT: Goodbye. Have a wonderful day ahead.

Jonathan: You, too. See you later.

ChatGPT: See you later.

If you have more questions in the future, just ask.

Have a great day.

Jonathan: You, too.

ChatGPT: Thanks.

Remember, I’m here whenever you need help or have questions.

Enjoy your day.

Jonathan: Aww! That reminds me of, you know, you hang up. No, you hang up. No, you hang up.

Oh, man. I’m way too old for that now.

Actually, maybe I’m not. In fact, I know I’m not, ’cause Bonnie’s been away, and it’s exactly like that.

So there you go, Jeanie. Apparently, it’s nothing to do with expectant fathers.

The things you learn on the Living Blindfully.

Jeannie continues:

“As for the airport trying to make Bonnie use a wheelchair, that is just straight up undignified when you are perfectly capable of walking. It would make me feel like I was cheating and pretending to have a disability I don’t have.

However, I completely understand where the airport has got this wrong.

If they have prioritized safety over dignity, self-determination, or whatever else you want to call it, then keeping the freight inside the semi-protected enclosure environment where the person doing the assisting can’t mug up and walk you into something, or forget to tell you about the step, and the company being faced with some sort of legal action for not properly training their staff is largely removed.

My advice would be to teach Eclipse to love to go for a ride in a wheelchair. That should make them look pretty silly.”

You may well have a point, Jeanie.

It may be that the reason why this is so prominent in the US is because of the highly litigious culture there, and people are worried about being sued if they bump people into stuff.


Voiceover: If you’re a member of Living Blindfully plus, thanks for helping to keep the podcast viable.

If you haven’t yet subscribed, why not do it today?

Get access to episodes 3 full days ahead of their release to the public, you’ll get advanced notice of some of our interviews so you can have a say in what we ask, and you’ll help keep the podcast viable by helping to fund the team to do their work.

Our guarantee to you is that everyone who works on the podcast is blind or low vision, so we’re keeping it in the community.

Find out more. Visit That’s

Thorium Reader

It’s always good when you find some new software that you think, “This is just so good, I want to tell the world.”. And I think this applies to what Matthew Whitaker is writing in about.

He says:

“I recently learned about an outstanding digital reading resource from a college friend, and I’m eager to share it with you.

Thorium Reader.”

That is spelt T-H-O-R-I-U-M Reader.

“This versatile ePub reader compatible with Windows 10 and 11, MacOS, and Linux also supports audiobooks, visual narratives, PDFs, and Daisy 2.02 and 3 accessible eBooks, with or without LCP protection.

Thorium Reader is highly accessible, catering especially to visually impaired and dyslexic users. It’s praised for its user-friendly and simple design, making digital reading more inclusive.

The latest version, 2.3.0 released in August 2023, introduces updated translations, enhanced image zoom, improved reader/mathML rendering, and various text display and user experience improvements including better text-to-speech functions.

This free ad-free application is ideal for avid readers, students, and library patrons. It’s continually evolving, offering a variety of languages to meet diverse user needs.”

Thank you, Matthew. That’s Thorium Reader. And a quick Google search tells me that you can get it from That’s

Victor Reader Stream 3

Let’s return to the subject of the Victor Reader Stream, Volume 3. And Carolyn Pete has some comments on this. She says:

“Hi, Jonathan,

I am not experiencing many of the issues that others have mentioned.

I recently got mine back in August, and I have noticed something that might help Pam out.

The on/off button is very sensitive. And if you have listened to a book, then turn the player off, then when you turn it back on, if you hold the button too long, it resets the player. This will cause whatever book you are reading to go back not to the start, but some way back from the point where you leave it. So you need to be mindful of how long you press that button. Also, it controls the speed, and tone, and volume controls. Perhaps they have put too much work into one button.

I have, like others, noticed that it doesn’t order books in the same way as you would find them on your computer or an external drive. This is frustrating if you want to find a book quickly.

The recent update seems to have caused a glitch when listening to radio via WiFi. It will sometimes cut out. And I know it is not my connection doing it, because other devices like the Soup Drinker are working perfectly.

The only other comment I would make is that I prefer to read the instructions first when I get a new device. And not being familiar with it, I didn’t know that you could access them on the device itself. I downloaded the instructions, and this helped me become familiar with it.”

Ignorant Customer Service Interactions

David Van Der Molen writes:

“Hi, Jonathan,

Recently, I had a doctor’s appointment and my wife took me to the clinic.

We step in the door and the receptionist said to my wife, ‘Does he have his health card?’

I said, ‘Yes, I do,’ and I gave it to her.

My wife says I need to be more assertive than that because she thinks that person didn’t seem to understand that there was any problem with what she said. Do I say I’m blind, not stupid?

I am appalled that a receptionist at a medical clinic would not have been trained more thoroughly.”

Thanks, David.

It is frustrating and it’s not excusable, particularly as you say, in a medical practice.

It’s a personal decision how one chooses to respond to this sort of thing.

The balance that I try to strike when the whole ‘does he’ thing come up (which is actually much less now that I’ve got a blind wife. It was much more common when I had a sighted one. See? Get a blind wife today! [laughs] There’s one near you.)

The balance I’ve tried to strike when this comes up, though, is to just say something like “Yes he does, thank you.”, and that kind of makes the point without making a major drama out of it.

I mean certainly, some people do say, and they have the right to say, “I can speak for myself, thank you very much.”, but you’re creating a scene then, aren’t you? And you’re not winning friends and influencing people. And maybe that doesn’t matter, and some people will accuse me of being soft, I suppose. But I have found that if I just say, “Yes, he does.” or “He’d like this, thank you.”, if somebody says, “What would he like to drink?”, it just very nicely makes the point without escalating it overly.

I’m sure others will have views on how you respond to this sort of thing.

Not to take away or invalidate the way you feel about this, ’cause it is frustrating and it’s a bit humiliating that a grown adult is perceived not to be able to speak for themselves ’cause their eyeballs don’t work.

The Accessibility of Duolingo is Getting Worse, and They Don’t Seem to Care

Here’s a tale of frustration from Stefan Hudson, who says:

“Hello, Jonathan and all listeners/readers,”

Yeah, shout out to the transcript people. There are a lot of transcript people.

“Today,” says Stefan, “I’d like to tell you all about a rather unfortunate accessibility experience that’s been going on for some time now, and has recently gotten much worse.

I believe this ties in with episode 239, and mainstream tech companies discriminating against us. This is lengthy, so I apologize.

By now, I’m sure most of us have heard of the language-learning app Duolingo.

During their annual event they call Duocon, a lot of stress was put on making Duolingo universally available and accessible to all. Unfortunately, this seems to exclude people with disabilities.

I started using Duolingo almost 2 years ago now, and have noted a steady degradation in the accessibility of the website. Since I don’t currently use any iOS or Android devices, I can’t comment on the accessibility of those apps.

When I first started using Duolingo, there was some that I would consider minor accessibility issues that could easily be worked around – links with images that had no alt text, buttons for choosing units that have images with no alt text, and so on.

I did notify Duolingo support of these problems, but I never saw any changes.

Since these weren’t a big deal to me in the grand scheme of things, I left it alone.

But things got worse from here.

The first new issue is with the way the number of days in your streak is displayed at the end of a lesson. One day, I found that I could no longer read the number before the word ‘day’. It would just say “day streak’.

Thinking this was some sort of bug, I reported it, not thinking that the text was visible but not detectable by JAWS. Later, I discovered that it is indeed visible, but not detectable by JAWS for some reason.

Since it didn’t really affect learning at all, I left it alone again after that first report.

Not that long ago, Duolingo changed the way lessons in a course are organized and displayed. This isn’t the problem, but the way the page automatically scrolls is, and I’m not entirely sure what causes this behavior. If you navigate far enough up or down the page, the content starts slowly scrolling up or down on its own, which can make it difficult to find what you want. If I unplug the keyboard or change focus away from the window, the scrolling pauses.

Sighted users of Duolingo say that they don’t experience this scrolling behavior, so I assume it’s something involving keyboard events not playing nice with screen readers when trying to work with the page like a normal website.

The problem is that there is currently no easy way to navigate it like a web application, which is probably what’s supposed to be done.

Again, I reported. And again, nothing has been done. I’ve even gone so far as to attempt to reach out via X and Facebook comments more than once. And so far, I’ve simply been ignored.

The latest accessibility issue is the last straw for me, because it makes using Duolingo nearly impossible in some cases without resorting to things like OCR or PictureSmart. The text of exercises that ask you to translate a sentence can no longer be detected by a screen reader through normal means. For normal exercises, this can be worked around by tabbing through the area that contains the words which can be hovered over with the mouse to get a hint, and reading them one by one. But this isn’t possible to do on the highest level of a unit because there are no hints. For that, you would need to use OCR or take a screenshot and use PictureSmart to read the text in it.

This is ridiculous and completely unnecessary. I’m putting more work into reading the site than I am learning a language at this point.

Again, I reported. Again, I tried reaching out through other methods and asked to speak to someone about accessibility.

Again, nothing has been fixed, and I haven’t even gotten any acknowledgement that I’m even being heard by anyone at Duolingo at all.

Now considering all the above, here’s what disappoints me the most. During Duocon, most of what the team talked about was all about how they’re putting a lot of resources into AI, animated characters, plus math and music courses. There was absolutely nothing about accessibility at all.

That can be found on YouTube by searching for Duocon 2023.

After the latest issue, I posted a very angry but respectful post on Duolingo’s official subreddit. In that post, I explained the various accessibility issues and how I felt I was being ignored at every turn. I also stated that this abhorrent behaviour from a company that preaches universal availability will no longer be tolerated.

Reactions from fellow users were few and mixed. But it’s been a bit over two weeks now as of this writing, and I have as yet to hear anything from Duolingo.

That post can be found on r/duolingo, and the title is ‘The Failed Promise of Universal Availability’. There are a couple of other points in that post, but I left them out because this is already quite long.

I do want to focus on a couple particular replies to that post though, because I think it shows just how much work still needs to be done when it comes to accessibility in general. Note that this person doesn’t necessarily agree with how Duolingo is handling things. But according to them, this is generally how things are in the industry.

Here’s the first reply.

’I work in software and web development, and deal with accessibility every day in one form or another. It’s hard, especially when you’re basically guessing if something is going to work or not, and when the WCAG spec is unclear, contradictory, or seemingly nonsensical in some areas.

Developers are already working through issues caused by platform segmentation. Then when you bring accessibility segmentation into it, it’s a whole other scope. Education and training for accessibility is still lacking, and people that have meaningful experience building things to be accessible first are few and far between.

More often than not, the key to new software is speed to market and frequent updates, the work fast and break shit mentality, which means catering to the vast majority of users first and hoping to circle back for the remaining users later.

But sometimes, later doesn’t come until they receive a letter from a lawyer threatening to sue over discrimination.’”

And that’s the end of that reply. Stefan continues:

“Here’s the second reply in response to mine, when I asked how long we’re supposed to wait to be circled back to.

’Being in the industry, I’m going to be frank with you. Accessibility is a pain in the ass that no one wants to deal with, unless they’re specialized or have a vested interest.

Bringing up accessibility bugs is no different than bringing up any other kind of bug. It’ll get reviewed, maybe logged, prioritized, and maybe pushed quietly in a release.

Issues that impact the largest amount of people will be addressed first, after issues related to business necessity.

Duolingo has 300 million users. You complaining about some accessibility features is a fart in the wind of all the other feedback they get in a day.

Don’t expect them to respond to every single complaint, or to immediately take action on every single issue. But also, don’t necessarily think that just because you don’t get a response or don’t see everything immediately fixed in the next release, that that means you haven’t been heard and that they’re not working on it.’”

Stefan continues:

“So this is what we’re up against. We just don’t seem to matter enough to companies that don’t make accessibility a high priority, and accessibility bugs aren’t even worth responding to.

Anyway, I just wanted to bring this to everyone’s attention because the more people know about it, the better.

If a company wants to claim that they’re working toward universal availability for everyone, that needs to include making their site and software accessible.

Short of legal action, I’m not sure what would get them to pay attention at this point.”

Thanks very much, Stefan.

And that’s exactly why legislation governing the civil rights of disabled people is so important, because there are some companies that get accessibility, that kind of bake it into their products. It’s in their corporate DNA. But equally, there are some companies that are just woefully, arrogantly dismissive of accessibility. And in that case, they need to be taught a lesson through legal action.

If you file it, I wish you the very best of luck.

We continue to see the positive effects that legislation and regulation can have on the free market. We know, for example, that Apple wasn’t interested at all in embracing RCS, an open standard for messaging. We talked about that in episode 259.

Suddenly, when there was a threat of regulation, it became an attractive option again.

We are never going to win these arguments based purely on numbers. We don’t have the numbers, and that’s why legislation is so important.

It would be interesting to know if this is a uniquely web-based thing. Obviously, we should respect your choice not to use iOS or Android, and it should be accessible on the web. But I’d be curious to know how people are faring on iOS or Android if they’re using Duolingo. It’s not an app I’ve ever checked out.

Do be in touch. Let us know what you think about this. How often do you encounter a response like this where you’re essentially ghosted, and you just can’t make any headway on accessibility questions?

Mind you, those companies that publicly tout accessibility, some of them aren’t much better in certain areas, are they? I still haven’t fixed Apple Podcasts., 864-60Mosen – 864-606-6736. You’re very welcome to contribute.

How Do We Sign Documents?

I don’t like mispronouncing names if I can help it. I mean, sometimes pronunciations vary from country to country. There are certain names that we just pronounce differently here from, say, the way they’re pronounced in the US. But this is not one of those examples.

This email says:


This is Gerben Twijnstra from the Netherlands.”

And I am so sorry if I haven’t got that pronunciation correct.

“I hope this message finds you well.

I wanted to ask a question to you and the Living Blindfully community.

I often need to sign a PDF document for government purposes, or for example, when I sign a contract. In most cases, this needs to be done either digitally or on paper.

But in my country, advanced tools such as DocuSign are not often used.

Is there any way to do this in an accessible way without the help of a sighted person?

I have considered using an iPad with an Apple Pencil, but this is not accessible with VoiceOver. I could also use a Windows computer or my iPhone.

I’m open to all suggestions you and the community might have.

Thanks in advance.”

Thanks for the question.

I typically use DocuSign, so I don’t have a lot of recent direct experience of how this works. I also do sometimes use Word documents.

And in a very secure place, I have a digital copy of my signature. It’s protected with a password quite a bit stronger than 1234567, I hasten to add. And quite often, I can paste that in in the appropriate place, save that as a PDF if required, and then send it off.

But I have not done a lot of work directly with PDF forms, where you need to sign them.

DocuSign is a wonderful tool. I really enjoy working with that.

So if anyone has any thoughts, please be in touch.

Regarding the accessibility of Apple Pencil, I’ve not played with this either. But I do see someone on Mastodon who was, or maybe still is, using an Apple Pencil with their iPad, and I think she is totally blind. And I know she listens, or certainly she used to listen to this podcast. So if she wants to chime in, or anyone wants to chime in about the Apple Pencil and how that might be doable in this context, or any context really, please let us know because I think intuitively, when I heard about the Apple Pencil, I thought, “This is not a tool that I would be interested in.” But apparently, there’s at least one totally blind person making use of it.

So can anyone help with this really interesting question about signing PDF documents without sighted assistance, and where the native format is PDF?


Voiceover: Like the show?

Then why not like us on Facebook?

Learn about upcoming episodes, and see when a new episode is published.

Find our Facebook page by searching for Living Blindfully, or visit us directly at Living Blindfully is all one word. The URL again is

What’s the Best Way to Get into ChatGPT?

Roy Nash writes:


Recently, I have been hearing and reading a good deal about OpenAI. I have read much about the subject on Mastodon. I have seen numerous ChatGPT apps in the App Store.

I would like to learn more about OpenAI and ChatGPT. Could you recommend apps on the subject which I could try in order for me to educate myself?”

Well, I think the official ChatGPT app would be an excellent place to start, Roy. It’s 100% accessible.

It now makes the voice features (as we’ve been showing in recent times) available to everybody. That’s a good feature, and it’s got a range of voices to choose from.

So if you search for ChatGPT in the App Store, (it’s all one word, by the way), it will come up and it will say, “ChatGPT, the official app from OpenAI,”, and you know that that’s the one to get.

There are others as well.

You can always try the official Microsoft Bing on your computer. I think they’ve rebranded this CoPilot in recent weeks. Everything at Microsoft is called CoPilot these days, and it’s breaking my brain. But you could go to I think that address still works.

You could also use the official Bing app in the store. I don’t think that’s quite as nice an experience as the official chat GPT app.

Another one that I see a lot coming up on Mastodon that I started using a few months ago is called Perplexity, and I’m not sure what they’re doing. I don’t know whether they’re using exclusively OpenAI, but they really have done a very nice job. You can ask it a question, and it’s almost like a researcher coming back with answers for you, and I have found that to be quite accurate.

So there may be some other OpenAI-based things that people want to comment on.

Of course, beyond OpenAI, there are others playing in this AI space including Google, and they have their Google Bard option available on the web as well.

But the ChatGPT app is a great place to start.

How Do I Delete Folders in Outlook That I No Longer Need?

Caller: Hi! My name is Christy Crespin, and I’m calling from Highland, California.

One of the problems that I’m having is trying to figure out how to delete folders I no longer need in Outlook.

I’ve had several people try to tell me how to do it.

I have so many folders that I’m not using anymore, and I need to get rid of them.

If you have any ideas, please let me know.

Jonathan: I will give it a shot, Christy.

Thank you very much for phoning in.

I’m glad that you organized your items in Outlook folders, ’cause I thought I was one of the few neat freaks left.

I use folders extensively. I use rules. I used to use local POP3 rules in the old days of POP3. Now, I have IMAP rules where certain email gets filtered into certain folders. It’s epic. And I move things manually as well.

What I’m going to choose to show you is how to search for this sort of thing. I could give you the exact commands on the ribbon and things, but this is a way to perhaps find things you need in future in Microsoft Outlook.

I’m going to alt tab into Microsoft Outlook.

JAWS: Michael May.

Jonathan: There we go.

And if I do a title, …

JAWS: Inbox – Mushroom FM – Outlook.

Jonathan: I’m in my Mushroom FM Inbox.

Now on this Mushroom FM account, I have created an email folder that I don’t actually want anymore.

I’m going to press Ctrl Y to bring up the list of folders.

JAWS: Dialog. Folders, tree view.

Inbox, 1 unread messages, open. 13 items. Alt+F.

Jonathan: I’ll press N, because that’s the first letter of the folder that I’m interested in.

JAWS: Naughty little folder I didn’t mean to create.

Jonathan: Look at that. Naughty little folder I didn’t mean to create.

So I’m going to press enter to go into that naughty little folder, and we’ll see if we can zap it out of existence.

JAWS: 0 items.

Jonathan: I don’t have any items in here. But it doesn’t really matter whether I do or not.

Now, I’m going to use the search command.

You may be able to get away with pressing Alt Q, which is the tell me feature in Microsoft Office apps.

For a while, in Microsoft Outlook, it didn’t work. They decided to change it to Ctrl E and integrate it as part of Microsoft search.

They obviously got a bit of negative feedback about this because now, at least in my version of Office, you can use Alt Q again.

But just to make sure it works for you, we’ll press Ctrl E.

JAWS: Upper ribbon, submenu. Search, edit. Alt Y.

Jonathan: Now, I can type the thing I want to search for.

You might want to use this to search for something in your folder. But in this case, I want to search for an action, and I’m just going to type delete folder.

I don’t need to press enter after this. I just press down arrow.

JAWS: Suggested searches group.

Jonathan: Now, I have a series of suggested searches, which are actually things that I’ve searched for recently.

I’m going to bypass that by down arrowing a few times. And then eventually, I get to this.

JAWS: Actions group.

Delete this folder, 1 of 4.

Jonathan: Right there is delete this folder, so I’ll just press enter on it.

JAWS: Leaving menus. Leaving ribbons.

Dialogue. Move naughty little folder to your deleted items folder?

Yes button. Alt+Y.

Jonathan: I’ll press the space bar.

JAWS: 0 items.

Jonathan: Now when I do a Windows title, …

JAWS: Junk email – mushroom FM – outlook.

Jonathan: It’s moved me to another folder because that folder that we just deleted has been put in the trash.

And next time I empty the trash which by default happens for me when I press Alt F4 to exit the app, that folder is gone. Never to be heard of again.

Hope that helps, Christy.

Aria Mastering

Isn’t it interesting and potentially confusing when you can come across a term that means two different things, even in technology?

When I think of Aria, I think of the technology that helps to make websites more accessible in some cases.

But here is another use of Aria in technology, this time in conjunction with audio.

John Dowling says:

“Hello, Jonathan,

I stumbled across this amazing mastering service for music and other audio called Aria Mastering.

I thought you might have talked about this on one of your episodes. But I listen to so many podcasts, so it’s hard to keep everything together.

I just tried out the service yesterday, and it’s very easy and simple to use. I used Safari on MacOS version 12 with VoiceOver, and the interface was very accessible and easy to understand.

Their prices are very affordable, and I’d recommend it to any musician or podcaster who just wants good, high-quality audio.

You can check them out at

Thanks for reading.”

Well, thanks for sending it in, John. I will check this out over my summer.

I’m an Auphonic man myself through and through. I think Auphonic is just an amazing tool, and we use it here on the podcast to make sure that the levels sound good and the audio sounds nice and punchy, without sounding overly compressed. Auphonic is brilliant, and I imagine that there are some other companies trying to get into that space because Auphonic has been very successful.

But I will check out Aria Mastering, and I really appreciate the tip.

Advertisement: Living Blindfully is brought to you in part by Aira. That’s the service that offers professionally trained agents to give you sighted assistance anytime, anywhere.

It’s good to see Aira now being offered as an accommodation in an increasing number of workplaces. There are so many ways that this can be useful from getting past an inaccessible website, to navigating an unfamiliar building, to have someone read you a piece of paper and even take notes on that document, sending it to you later. When your workplace funds Aira as an accommodation, you can say goodbye to relying on sighted co-workers or apps that may not provide the accuracy or speed that you need on the job.

Aira can improve your productivity, efficiency and independence in your workplace. And when you advocate for Aira to be available in your workplace, you’re not only improving your own productivity. You could be helping to make a dent in our high unemployment statistics.

We’re already seeing that workplaces that embrace the need for visual interpretation tend to hire more blind people. Win-win!

Aira will work with you to advocate for your workplace to offer sight on demand. You can email them to make an appointment so an expert at Aira can help make it happen. The address to contact is That’s access@A-I-R-A.IO.

All the Light We Cannot See

Caller: Hi, Jonathan and everyone. This is Sharon Strakowski in Massachusetts.

I’m 1 episode behind in Living Blindfully, but I had to comment on All the Light We Cannot See.

I had read the book a few years ago, and wasn’t overly wowed by it.

But a friend invited me over to watch the movie, and I was just totally engrossed in it. I thought the acting was superb. I thought the presentation of Marie, the blind girl in the movie, was very realistic for the most part, and that her father in particular who provided her with tactile maps of Paris and another place that they lived was very creative and inventive for that time and place.

The other thing that I found horrifying was the German soldier’s indoctrination into this school for German geniuses. He was a radio genius.

Anyway, I thought it was a very well-done movie.

I enjoyed the description. It was not too much.

And the morning after I finished watching the movie, I was going to church. I was walking on the pathway with my cane to the church building, and I thought, “Well, I know this was a fiction book, but I felt wow, I’m part of a long line of cane users and even people who used sticks before we had the formal cane, and that blind people have been out in the world for a long time and often in positions of resistance or battle, whether physical or mental, and we’re strong.”

Alright. Have a good day.

Jonathan: Wow! Beautiful conclusion there.

Thank you very much, Sharon.

Absolutely. And that’s, for me, all about the blind pride thing.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the series.

Castro Says It’s Not Dead

It was Mark Twain who said, “Reports of my death have been gravely exaggerated.”

It was Monty Python who said, “He’s not dead. He’s resting. He’s pining for the fjords.”

Well, whichever quote you like, maybe there is hope for Castro after all, if you like it in its slightly more buggy, more inaccessible form which personally, I don’t. But I know there are some people hanging in there with Castro.

So just after episode 260 was all finalized and locked down, an interesting statement was issued by Castro. Goodness knows who actually issued it, but it did come on the Castro website, and a link to it was tweeted to (or whatever you do now that it’s called X) on Castro’s X account.

So here’s what they say on their blog:

“We are here to address recent concerns, and provide you with an update regarding the future of the Castro app.

First and foremost, we sincerely apologize for the app downtime, and any distress it has caused.

Initially, we had believed it was a quick back-end fix. But unfortunately, the issues turned out to be more complex than anticipated, requiring extensive work.

During this time, there were rumors circulating about Castro’s future.”

Now, I’m just going to stop there and say the rumors were actually from the head of the venture capital company that owns the product, okay? I’d hardly call that a rumor.

Moving on, it continues:

“We want to make it clear that any communication or publication regarding the app’s future is not official, and does not represent Castro’s views.

While it is true that we have experienced departures within our company, we want to assure you that we are actively working with a lean, dedicated team.”

See? Maybe they must have been watching their carbs.

“To address these challenges, we apologize for any unnecessary panic that may have arisen from these conversations.

We believe in transparency with our community, and want to share with you that we are actively seeking a new home for Castro with new owners.

Our goal is to continue providing you with the app you love, but with better features and improvements.

We truly appreciate all the love and support you have shown us thus far.

We understand your investment in Castro, and acknowledge the anxiety that this week has brought.

Rest assured that we will keep you promptly updated, as soon as we make any decisions regarding Castro’s future.

Thank you for your patience and unwavering support.


Castro Podcast Team”

Well, the one thing I would say to this is get your stuff exported from Castro while it’s working. Do it now, because I think that this is looking extremely precarious. Maybe it’ll rise from the ashes. Maybe it won’t.

But since this thing is server side, if they switch those servers off, all your podcast XML data is stuck there.

So the very first thing you need to do now, (and I don’t remember all the steps because I don’t have Castro on my system anymore) is go into settings, and export your list of podcasts as an OPML file, so that you can import it into apps that support the OPML standard, which is pretty much every third-party podcast app.

I don’t think Apple Podcasts lets you import OPML, but most of the others do.

So please do that. Export your podcast from Castro.

Put that OPML file in a safe place, should you ever need to migrate.

This email came through before we got the “No, we’re not dead, we’re resting” message from Castro, and it’s from Clare Page. She says:

“Hi, Jonathan,

It was with great sadness that I read an article yesterday, the 30th of November, announcing the upcoming demise of the Castro Podcast app.

It’s thanks to you that I discovered Castro after you talked about it on Mosen at Large. And for a couple of years, I enjoyed the great experience it offered with so many excellent features.

Unfortunately, I had to give up using Castro several months before its demise was announced. It had been temperamental for some time this year. Then, I had an odd bug during the summer where it would play any podcast in the queue, except the first one. That was the last straw after other little bugs, so I decided to delete the app and cancel my subscription.

Since then, I have been using Overcast, enjoying lots of good features without having to pay anything, including the ability to queue podcasts in the order I want to hear them, as I did with Castro.

Here’s hoping Overcast will keep going for a long time yet. It’s still working well for me as I write this.

Before I finish this, I’d like to thank you for continuing to produce an excellent podcast, and I’m glad to be able to support it as a Living Blindfully plus subscriber, which also means it is still part of my weekend podcast listening as Mosen at Large used to be.

Keep up the good work.

Bye for now.”

Clare, thank you so much for your support, all the way there in Northern France. I appreciate your support, and everyone’s support of Living Blindfully plus. It really has lightened the load quite a bit to have some support people working to make this podcast happen, and I’m grateful to everyone.

I know that times are tight, so even just any kind of donation at all, I realize, can be a sacrifice. It is very humbling that people are willing to do it, and I don’t take that for granted for a moment.

Now, in the original item that I presented in episode 260 about this issue, one of the creators of Castro said that it was a shame that his involvement with Castro had kind of petered out like an Irish goodbye, and I was curious about that phrase.

Matthew Bullis comes to the rescue.

Hi, Matthew. Good to hear from you.

He says:

“Just a quick note to let you know that an Irish goodbye is when you leave the pub without saying anything. But more importantly, you’ve left others with your food and drinks bill unpaid.”

Oh my goodness! I could make another comment about local government in New Zealand. [laughs]

Thank you very much, Matthew, for that clarification. I appreciate it.

Rejoyce! iOS 17.2 Lets You Set a Default Notification Sound

If you’ve been listening to the show over the last few months, you will be aware that since the release of iOS 17, there has been considerable disgruntlement over the new default notification sound because a lot of apps don’t let you set your notification sound. And since in the past, Apple has not let you set a default notification sound, what Apple gives you is what you’re stuck with.

And a number of people have written, and not just to the show but also to Apple, apparently, saying, “We do not like this new notification sound.” People say it’s too quiet. It doesn’t stand out in a crowd. It’s just an awful change.

Well, Apple has heard. And in iOS 17.2, you can now do something that you’ve never been able to do before, and that is to set your own notification sound. And it’s not just that. You can choose from sounds that Apple has given you on the system. But if you can manage to get a tone onto the device, which is not as easy as it ought to be, then you can actually use that as well. So you can have a lot of fun.

I’m going to show you where to find this in iOS 17.2. We’ve got to go in, …

VoiceOver: Settings.

Jonathan: To Settings.

VoiceOver: Settings.

Jonathan: And we’ll just flick right a few times.

VoiceOver: Personal hotspot.



Sounds and haptics, button.

Jonathan: And there’s sounds and haptics.

I will double tap this.

VoiceOver: Silent mode, heading.

Jonathan: Now, we’ve got a bunch of headings on the screen. I’m going to navigate by heading, just to speed this up.

VoiceOver: Ringtone and alerts, heading.

Jonathan: Now, what I’m actually going to do is navigate to the next heading.

What we want is actually in this heading. But it’s actually quicker to do it this way, so I’ll navigate to the next heading.

VoiceOver: System sounds and haptics, heading.

Jonathan: And now, I can just flick back to the left by one.

VoiceOver: Default alerts. TriTone, button.

Jonathan: And there it is. That’s the new setting – default alert.

It’s set to TriTone for me because that is the old alert sound.

Now that TriTone is a little bit buried, so let’s look at where to find it.

I’ll double tap on this.

VoiceOver: Cheers, button.

Jonathan: And we’ve got a whole bunch of options here.

VoiceOver: Chord, button.

Droplet, button.

Handoff, button.

Milestone, button.

Jonathan: These are new sounds, and you can double tap each one, hear what it sounds like.

And if you think this is the way forward, this is the notification sound for me, then you’re sweet.

But if you want the old tone back, you got to go on a bit of a treasure hunt.

I’m going to navigate by heading.

VoiceOver: Ringtones, heading.

Jonathan: Now by doing that, we’ve just gone again one past where we want to be, so I’ll flick to the left.

VoiceOver: Selected. Classic. TriTone, button.

Jonathan: And the TriTone is actually under classic, so you’ve got to double tap that.

VoiceOver: Glass, button.

Jonathan: And now, you’ve got all those classic sounds that if you’ve been using iOS for a very long time, you’ll be well familiar with. On this list is TriTone.

And if you double tap TriTone from the list of classic alert tones, then you will have your default alert tone back to the way it used to be in days of yore from iOS 16 and below.

So good on Apple for adding this one in. It does give us a lot of flexibility to personalize our phones, and actually find or make a custom notification alert tone that really makes the phone sound like ours. So thank you, Santa Tim, for giving this to us for Christmas, and all his elves that made it happen.


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Why not join now? That’s, and be in the know.

A Serious Bug That Has Crept into iOS Affecting Drafts and Other Apps

“Hello, Jonathan,”, says Imke.

Hello, Imke, says Jonathan.

“I am running iOS 17.1.1 on an iPhone SE 2022, and I’m having a problem with the drafts app that I did not have before.

When I want to edit a draft that I have previously created, I can activate the draft, but I do not get a cursor and cannot write anything. VoiceOver’s hint says to double tap the text field containing the draft, but doing so does not place the cursor.

Have you encountered this problem, and have you found a solution?

Creating a new draft still works as before.”

Imke, yes I have, and it’s not just in Drafts. I’m also seeing this in Day One Journal, which is another third-party app that I use regularly.

If you want to go in and create a new journal entry in Day One, that works fine. But in my experience now, when you try and double tap an existing entry to edit it, which worked perfectly well before, it doesn’t work anymore.

This is yet another bug that Apple has introduced, and this is confirmed by Greg Pierce who is the hard working and very responsive developer of drafts.

I reached out to him. He says that it’s an iOS 17 thing, and it doesn’t happen on previous versions of the operating system. So if you’re still running iOS 16, you are not going to see this.

Greg says he’s done some troubleshooting. But as yet, he’s been unable to figure out a workaround as everything is configured correctly in Drafts itself. The editor is editable and should focus to allow editing, but the taps are not working.

He says the only workaround he has is that an action set up to focus the editor still works fine. Greg agrees that this isn’t a great solution, but it allows you to get in editor mode in VoiceOver.

Greg concludes hopefully, either Apple will fix it, or he’ll come up with a workaround soon.

Obviously, for those of us who use these apps a lot, this is a huge issue that you can’t edit content you create anymore in certain apps. I really just despair sometimes. I don’t mean to be a gloom merchant, but things do seem to be getting worse and worse with Apple’s releases.

I would encourage anybody who thinks it might make a difference (I’ve now become very sceptical about this), to report this if you’re affected by it.

And hopefully, we will not get into this to and fro where Apple says oh, this is a third-party app issue. Nothing has changed with these third-party apps. They’re as accessible as they’ve ever been.

There’s something that has happened at the operating system level. Apple needs to take ownership of this and fix it as soon as possible because if you use one of these apps, this is a significant bug.

Perhaps you’re seeing this elsewhere in some apps, where you try and double tap an edit field, and you can’t. You’ve created content. You can’t edit it once you’ve created it.

Let me know where it’s affecting you, if it is. 864-60-Mosen is my number, if you want to call in the United States and leave a voice message. You can also attach an audio clip. Just record that on your smartphone or whatever records, or just email it in to

Demonstration of the Updated AccessiByeBye Extension From Pneuma Solutions

If you’ve been listening for a long long time, you will remember episode 105. It was a marathon 3-hour episode where we did a deep dive into the technology that has become known as accessibility overlays.

And specifically, we talked about AccessiBe a lot in that episode because of its dodgy marketing practices, for which the company has subsequently apologized.

As a result of that episode and the social media clamor at the time, Pneuma Solutions developed a Chromium extension. That means that it works in all Chromium browsers like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Brave, and others, and it’s called AccessiByeBye. And you can go to and read about the extension, and also find the link to the latest version of the extension in the Google Chrome extensions store.

We’ve covered accessibility overlays subsequent to that episode 105.

Most recently, I spoke at length with Lionel Wolberger, one of the founders of Userway. This is another company that seeks to remediate accessibility problems with a range of tools, some of which include automated solutions.

In that interview, I made the point that it’s hard to tell the difference that some of these accessibility overlays are making because it’s now becoming harder to turn them on and off.

So publicly and privately, I’ve been wondering whether Pneuma Solutions might be able to assist with this through their AccessiByeBye extension. And they now have released an update in the Google Chrome extensions store that addresses this issue.

I thank them for doing it because I think it’s a very important contribution, and we can all have a more informed opinion now about whether remediation being offered on these websites really works.

I, for one, keep an open mind. It’s important to do that because if there is some simpler way to make the web a more accessible place, we would be foolhardy to ignore it.

On the other hand, if it is harmful as many people have argued, then we need to continue to rattle the cage about this. If it’s snake oil, we need to call it out as snake oil.

So Pneuma Solutions has made a very important contribution to factual discourse on this important issue.

I have Google Chrome running on my computer at the moment, and I’m at the AccessiByeBye website at And I’ll verify that by reading the window title.

JAWS: AccessiBuyBuy. Memory usage: 29.9 megabytes. – Google Chrome.

Jonathan: I’m going to get the web page to read the little blurb at the top here, because it explains more about what this extension does.

JAWS: Heading level 1, AccessiByeBye

Web accessibility overlays don’t work. Wave them all bye-bye in one free and easy step, with AccessiByeBye!

Link graphic, Available in the Chrome Web Store

If you use a screen reader and have been prompted to press a hotkey to turn on some website’s screen reader mode, you’ve likely encountered the category of website add-ons known as accessibility overlays. There are several accessibility overlays, including link AccessiBe, link AudioEye, Link EqualWeb, Link MaxAccess, Link TruAbilities, Link User1st, and Link UserWay.

We know that while these overlays are supposed to make websites more accessible, they’re actually annoying and often counter-productive. That’s why we made AccessiByeBye, a simple and free extension for Chrome and compatible browsers, that blocks them all.

Just install AccessiByeBye into Chrome or a compatible browser, and those pesky overlays won’t bother you again. There’s no catch. We don’t collect your web browsing habits or other personal information, and the AccessiByeBye extension won’t slow down your computer. If you ever decide you do want one of those overlays, it’s easy to turn off the extension at any time.

At Pneuma Solutions, we’re all in favor of any tools that truly improve accessibility. So if any of the accessibility overlays that we block actually become useful to the people that they claim to serve, then we’ll remove those blocks. But until then, we believe that the spread of accessibility overlays is hindering true improvements in website accessibility.

Jonathan: So that’s Pneuma Solutions’ position and their reason for creating AccessiByeBye.

And the link is there to go to the Chrome web store and install the extension. I’ve already done that, but it is a simple process. You get right on the page. There’s a button there to install the extension. You’ll be asked to confirm, and there are some permissions that it will tell you about.

We’re going to go and configure this extension at the moment.

But one of the options that you have is to send anonymized data to Pneuma Solutions about the overlays that it is blocking. And that makes fascinating reading because if I go to a table right here on this homepage, …

JAWS: 2 columns and 101 rows.

Jonathan: We see a list of websites that this extension has blocked.

So if I just go down here using the rows of the table, …

JAWS: Link (AccessiBe). row 2.

Link (UserWay). Row 3.

Link (UserWay)

Jonathan: And we can see the different websites that are using one of these overlays, and when they’ve been blocked.

You can also go through …

JAWS: Number of times blocked, 2,776.

Jonathan: The number of times that an overlay has been blocked from a particular website.

I do want to stress that this doesn’t block your access to the website. It simply disables the accessibility overlay.

You’ll probably want to pin this extension to your toolbar. And this is something that you can do in most Chromium browsers.

But before you do that, you will need to find the extension and enable that option, and also potentially configure any other options. So I’m going to do that.

First, we’ll go to the Google Chrome menu here. I’ll tap the Alt key.

JAWS: AccessiByeBye. Memory usage: 26.2 megabytes – Google Chrome.

Jonathan: And it’s a bit verbose, but I’ll down arrow now.

JAWS: Context menu.

New tab, Ctrl +T.

New window, Ctrl+N.

New incognito window, Ctrl+shift+N.

History submenu.

Downloads, Ctrl+J.

Bookmarks submenu.

Google password manager. (This is a new feature.) 7 of 21.

Extensions submenu. 8 of 21.

Jonathan: And there’s the extensions submenu. That’s where we want to be, so I’m going to press the right arrow key.

JAWS: Extensions menu. Manage extensions, 1 of 2.

Jonathan: And we want to manage extensions, so I’ll press Enter to invoke that page.

JAWS: New window. Leaving menus. Extensions, Google Chrome page.

Jonathan: I’m going to navigate by heading.

JAWS: All extensions, heading level 2.

1Password, password manager.

Capital TTS engine.

AccessiByeBye, heading level 3.

Jonathan: Here’s the heading for AccessiByeBye, which is the extension we’re interested in right now.

So I’m going to press B to navigate to the next button.

JAWS: Details, button, related to AccessiByeBye.

Jonathan: One thing that you might want to do is to set up a keyboard shortcut to turn the AccessiByeBye extension on and off. This could be quite useful if you generally want the extension off, but you go to a website with one of these overlays enabled and you think it’s actually detrimental. And if you could just press a shortcut key to toggle it off, then that would be very useful.

You may need to refresh the page potentially, but that should do it.

So let’s look at that.

JAWS: Link my extension.

Link keyboard shortcuts.

Jonathan: Here’s keyboard shortcuts at the top of every page.

I’ll press Enter.

JAWS: Navigation region. Keyboard shortcuts link.

Jonathan: And we’ll navigate by heading.

JAWS: 1password.

AccessiByeBye, heading level 2.

Jonathan: There’s the AccessiByeBye extension, and we can configure the keyboard shortcut.

JAWS: Activate the extension, shortcut. Activate the extension for AccessiByeBye.

Read only, edit. Edit shortcut activate the extension for AccessiByeBye, button.

Jonathan: There’s no default keyboard shortcut, so that read-only field that displays the keyboard shortcut is blank right now.

JAWS: Read edit shortcut, activate the extension for AccessiByeBye, button.

Jonathan: I’ll press the spacebar.

JAWS: Main region. Shortcut. Activate the extension for AccessiByeBye, edit. Blank, placeholder.

Type a shortcut.

Jonathan: Now, I can type a shortcut. i’m going to need to turn Forms Mode on in JAWS.

[Forms Mode on sound]

JAWS: Shortcut. Activate the extension for AccessiByeBye, edit. Placeholder. Type a shortcut.

Jonathan: And i’m going to try and type Ctrl B for bye-bye.

JAWS: Extensions document. Shortcut set: Ctrl+B.

Jonathan: And that’s done, actually. Forms Mode is automatically turned off, and We’ve configured the keyboard shortcut.

So let’s test this.

i’m going to press Ctrl F4 to close this tab.

JAWS: Close.

AccessiByeBye. Memory usage: 26…

Jonathan: And now, i’ll press Ctrl B.

JAWS: AccessiByeBye.

Link Pneuma Solutions. 1 link.

Jonathan: And that has taken us to a page that has one option that is quite useful, so I think it is worth assigning the shortcut.

By default, the AccessiByeBye shortcut is on. But if you want to disable it for the current tab, having set up the shortcut, it’s an easy way to do this. You can press Ctrl B, or whatever you assign.

And when you visit this page, there’s a single checkbox.

JAWS: Allow overlays in the current tab, checkbox not checked.

Jonathan: If you check this box, then overlays will be let through on the current tab, and that will be the case until you close this tab. You’ll be able to visit multiple websites, and the overlays will continue to work

I’m going to go back into the extensions menu though, and we’ll explore all the options available.

So i’ll tap the alt key, and down arrow quickly a few times.

JAWS: New…





Extensions, submenu.

Extensions menu.

Manage extensions.

New window. Leaving menus.


Jonathan: I’ll navigate by heading.

JAWS: all extensions.


AccessiByeBye, heading level 3.

Jonathan: Press the button.

JAWS: Details, button.

Main region. AccessiByeBye details page. Back, button.

Jonathan: And we got sidetracked there by the important hotkey configuration screen.

But this time, i’m going to navigate by heading.

JAWS: AccessiByeBye, heading level 1.

Jonathan: And now, down arrow.


Jonathan: It’s on.

JAWS: On. Extension enabled, toggle button, pressed.

Jonathan: If you want to disable AccessiByeBye, here is the place to do it.

And you may want to leave it disabled, until you find a problem with one of these overlays. Then, you can come in here and enable it.

It’s a pretty straightforward process, if that’s the way that you want to operate.

We can also review…

JAWS: Heading level 2, description.

Jonathan: the description, which we’ve already looked at on their website.

So I’m going to navigate to the next form field.

JAWS: Allow this extension to read and change all your data on websites you visit, combo box, collapsed, on all sites.

Pin to toolbar, toggle button, pressed.

Jonathan: That’s one that you also may want to enable, pin to toolbar. I now have that pressed. And that means that I can, from the toolbar, get to the same page that I can also get to by pressing my hotkey. So there’s no difference.

You might want to have both set up, like I have – a hotkey to get to the page, and have it on the toolbar. Or you may like to choose one or the other.

I think for many people, once you’ve got that hotkey set up, that’s super convenient.

So it’s a matter of personal preference.

There’s one final thing I want to show you in the main page for the AccessiByeBye extension because this is new at the time of recording, and quite powerful.

For this, I’m going to bring up the list of links.

JAWS: Links list, dialog. Links list view. Extension options, 6 of 8.

Jonathan: And actually, we’re right there. Extension options is what we want, so I’m going to activate this link.

JAWS: AccessiByeBye, dialog.

AccessiByeBye, heading level 2.

Jonathan: I’m just going to do a continuous read with JAWS, and you’ll be able to hear the options here.

JAWS: Heading level 2. AccessiByeBye.

Close, button.

Overlays blocked since install: 0.

Allow AccessiBe, checkbox, not checked.

Allow Userway, checkbox, not checked.

Allow AudioEye, checkbox, not checked.

Allow EqualWeb, checkbox, not checked.

Allow TrueAbilities, checkbox, not checked.

Allow MaxAccess, checkbox, not checked.

Allow UserFirst, checkbox, not checked.

Allow Accessibly, checkbox, not checked.

Enable anonymous blocking statistics, checkbox, checked. We don’t collect any personal information. The blocking statistics are used to display the statistics you can see at, visited link, AccessiByeBye.

Jonathan: I personally find those statistics fascinating about the websites that people are going to, and the overlays that are being blocked. This is a good feature because some of the accessibility overlay companies are claiming that they have been tarnished by bad practices from others and that actually, they are better behaved. They are making a difference.

If you find that to be true, then you can opt out one specific overlay company, or multiple, if you want specific overlay companies from this extension, and only block those that you consider to be detrimental to your web browsing experience.

Now that we have this in place, let’s see how it works. I’m going to go to, the Motley Fool. You may remember we had quite a rigorous discussion about this with Lionel in the interview.

So I’ll go to the address bar, and I’ll type

JAWS: Selected

Stock investing and stock market research – The Motley Fool. Google Chrome page. Blank. Jonathan: Now, we’re on the Motley Fool website without any accessibility overlay being loaded, even though it has one. It has Userway on the site.

I’ll go to the top of the page.

JAWS: Stock investing and stock market research – The Motley Fool.

Search for a company, edit. Search, graphic.

Link accessibility.

Link login.

Link help.

Link join The Motley Fool.

Visited link graphic, The Motley Fool.

Navigation region.

Link our services.

Investing basic stock market…

Jonathan: I’ve just had a quick perusal of this page, and it actually seems reasonably accessible without the overlay.

If you have chosen to pin AccessiByeBye to your toolbar, then the way to get to it at this point is to tap the Alt key. At least, this applies in Google Chrome.

JAWS: Stock investing and stock market…

Jonathan: And I’ll just silence that speech because it’s a bit verbose.

I’m going to left arrow now.

JAWS: Jonathan button, menu.

Side panel button, menu.

Extensions button, menu.

AccessiByeBye has access to this site button, menu.

Jonathan: And Chrome confirms that AccessiByeBye has access to the site.

But I’m going to escape out of this menu because I’ve set up a hotkey, which is far easier. I’m just going to press Ctrl B.

JAWS: AccessiByeBye.

Link Pneuma Solutions. 1 link.


Allow overlays in the current tab, checkbox, not checked.

Jonathan: At the moment, overlays are blocked in this tab.

So I’m going to check the box.

JAWS: Allow overlays…

AccessiByeBye. Allow overlays in the current tab, checkbox, checked.

Jonathan: Now, I’m going to press Escape.

JAWS: Stock investing…

Jonathan: And the tab refreshes.

And if I go to the top of the screen now, …

JAWS: Stock investing and stock market research – The Motley Fool.

Skip to main content, button.

Enable accessibility for visually impaired, button.

Open the accessibility menu button.

Jonathan: You see quite a different experience because now, we’re seeing the difference that Userway is making here.

JAWS: Open the accessible navigation menu, button.

Search for a company, edit.

Jonathan: And this gives you the opportunity to test both experiences.

Now, it’s really easy for us to determine, has what Userway has done on this site actually improved things in terms of our web experience? We can be informed consumers and make rational judgments.

We can go to any website using one of these technologies and make an A/B comparison, and really know for sure what difference this is making.

And that, in a nutshell, is AccessiByeBye. It is a free Chromium extension from Pneuma Solutions.

I thank them very much for putting in the time to make this available to our community. I know that accessibility advocates will be using this, or technology like it, to make objective comparisons.

It’s important that we are objective, that we give this technology a fair chance.

But equally, if it’s doing harm, we need to keep calling it out.

If you want to install it, go to

Declining Accessibility of ElevenLabs

Caller: Hello, Jonathan. This is Ray from South Louisiana.

I have an ElevenLabs subscription, which I’m paying for for $99 a month.

But I’m about to chuck it because for quite a few months now, the interface for the ElevenLabs website, and particularly the part where you clone your voices, is becoming less and less accessible.

I’m using a 2017 MacBook Pro, with Ventura installed. That is the latest operating system that my Mac will accept.

I did contact ElevenLabs about improving the accessibility, but they seem uninterested.

And to be quite frank with you, Jonathan, I must tell you. With some considerable irritation (Not at you, mind you. You’re good.) But I must tell you that I am no longer willing to pay what I am paying per month for something which I find I can use less and less and less. The situation is becoming flat ridiculous.

I hope you know of some user tips that I haven’t thought of.

But let me give you an example. When you go to try to change the voice, I have to go into the Voice Labs menu, and then choose my voice from there. It used not to be necessary to do this. This slows me down considerably.

They’ve just started a new project window thing, and I cannot really get it ever to work quite properly.

This is becoming ridiculous, and I am no longer willing to afford to pay for something which I find I can use so little now, that I might as well not bother with it at all. That’s a shame, because it did have so much potential in the beginning.

Thank you very much.

Disgustedly yours, but not with you of course, Ray from South Louisiana.

Jonathan: Ooh! I’m glad you’re not irritated with me, Ray. That is a relief.

I noticed this too, a couple of weeks ago.

I don’t use ElevenLabs often, but I keep a subscription active because every so often, I do.

I’ll let you into a secret. When we rebranded from Mosen at Large to Living Blindfully, I contacted Mike Moran whose voice a lot of people have recognized as the voice of Living Blindfully – the little sweepers that we play, that kind of thing, in the intro and the outro, that is Mike Moran doing that voice. And several people have said, “Oh, it’s great that you’ve got Mike doing the voice.”

So when we were rebranding, I contacted Mike and I said, “Listen, Mike. Is it okay with you if we license your voice for Living Blindfully? Because sometimes, there might be a situation where I just need something turned around really quickly – you saying something relating to a promo, or a sweeper or something for Living Blindfully. Would you give me permission to license your voice?”

And he said he’d be delighted to do that.

So all the stuff that Mike is saying on Living Blindfully is generated through ElevenLabs. And I like this because as I say, I can just type the script, and we get instant Mike Moran out the other end. Tremendous!

Now, I did have cause to go into the ElevenLabs user interface a couple of weeks ago to look at using it for another project, and I was really bamboozled by it. What I worked out is happening (and this is with a Windows computer, so the user interface may be a different kind of experience on MacOS), is that it seems there’s this edit combo box where you can type the partial name of the voice that you want, and then I think you down arrow. But if you clear that edit combo box so that there is no text in it at all, you seem to be able to down arrow and choose from the full range of voices.

There are some new things that I intend to play with over my summer break that I haven’t yet, but I would be interested to hear from people about the accessibility of ElevenLabs at the moment, whether you think it has declined.

I’m very happy to reach out to one of the founders who came on the podcast and just check in with him about accessibility because the blind community really embraced this technology very early, didn’t it? And it would be a shame if we are shut out, or the interface is unduly confusing, more confusing than it needs to be.

But I understand your frustration, Ray. You’ve got the $99 tier. That’s a significant monthly commitment that you’re making there, and you’d want it to be as easy to use as possible.

So if you’ve had some experience in recent times with the user interface of ElevenLabs and you’d like to comment on that, let us know., 864-60-Mosen on the phone. You can call in like Ray did. 864-606-6736

The Bonnie Bulletin and the Comedy of Errors


Jonathan: It’s the Christmas Jonathan and Bonnie theme, and this is probably the last Bonnie Bulletin for 2023.

And I can assure you that I have gone to considerable lengths and lumps to make sure that we don’t get the clipping that we got last time. Oh my word! We have. We even had Bonnie talking into the mic about what she had for breakfast, and she’s ready to talk to you distortion-free now.

Bonnie: Every time I come down here to do these bulletins, I’m reminded what I really want for the holidays this year. [laughs]

Jonathan: Bonnie, what do you really want for the holidays this year?

Bonnie: A new chair.

Jonathan: Yeah, it’s a bit primitive down here.

Bonnie: [laughs]

Jonathan: And international guests and people come here to Mosen towers…

Bonnie: To see the studio.

Jonathan: And they’re so excited about seeing the studio, you know. I guess they have this idea that it’s some amazing, … I mean, it is pretty nice in here, with all the gear.

Bonnie: It is, yeah. I’m not sure what they’re expecting, though.

Jonathan: I don’t know.

Paul Holmes, who is one of New Zealand’s most famous broadcasters who sort of took me under his wing for a while, one day he said to me, “Jonathan, Jonathan,” he said to me. “Some of the best radio comes out of boxes.”

Bonnie: It’s true. I mean, you don’t need something, … And particularly nowadays, you can just do it in your back pocket pretty much. You don’t need some big fancy place.

Jonathan: Yeah, with things like Backpack Studio.

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: I cannot find the words to convey how delighted I am to have you home. I mean, I would have been delighted to have you home anyway. But this trip of yours was just a, I was gonna say, comedy of errors, but it wasn’t. There was no comedy.

Bonnie: Oh, you have to laugh.

Jonathan: Okay, do you?

Bonnie: You have to laugh.

But first, back to the chair.

Jonathan: Oh, the chair. What, what? Okay.

Bonnie: You sound like Archie Bunker.


Bonnie: Which, speaking of which, really saddened to hear of the passing of Norman Lear this morning. Certainly one of the greats, if not the greatest in TV.

Jonathan: So now you know when we are recording this bit of the podcast.

Bonnie: Yes, yes. Long career, 101, you know, great life. Well, he did so much for television.

But anyway, back to the chair. I have a chair, a computer chair in my office which I would happily donate down here if I can get another chair for my office. And I don’t need anything fancy schmancy, hundreds of thousands of dollars for a chair. Leather will do just fine, as long as it’s comfortable.

Jonathan: So Bonnie, this podcast is all about empowerment of the blind. Why don’t you just go out and buy another chair?

Bonnie: Yeah, we could just order it online.

Jonathan: Why don’t you? I mean, you know.

Bonnie: I guess I could go to No Living or…

Jonathan: But instead, you choose to come down here on the podcast and whinge on, without actually doing anything.

Bonnie: Well, I just think people need to know about the chair situation.

Jonathan: Oh, they don’t.

Bonnie: Right now, I’m sitting in a lawn chair.


Bonnie: That’s not even that comfortable.

But back to the comedy of errors.

Jonathan: Oh, so we are actually gonna talk about the trip now?

Bonnie: Yes, yeah.

Jonathan: Oh, right, right.

Bonnie: So I got back Saturday, which was 2 days later than I was supposed to get back, for a multitude of reasons.

One of the biggest one being the Rona that I picked up.

Jonathan: Yeah yeah, we need to backtrack a bit, don’t we?

So we recorded the last Bonnie Bulletin, I think it was on the eve of Thanksgiving, if I am remembering correctly.

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: And you were feeling a bit under the weather.

Bonnie: Yeah, I was tired. But I thought it was just from being in New Jersey, and hanging out with my friends, and chasing them all over the place, running around.

And I just thought I was tired. But no, I wasn’t tired. I had Rona.

Jonathan: Yes. I called you on the Thanksgiving morning, I think it was. No, it was the day after Thanksgiving. I called you and I said, “You really sound like you’ve got a full-blown cold now.”

And you said, “It’s more than a cold.”

Bonnie: Yup, it’s the Rona.

Jonathan: Oh, rats!

Bonnie: Yup, the rat, yup. So I was positive, quickly positive.

Jonathan: Yup, which made you a Tennessee pariah.

Bonnie: Yeah, that was the worst part. I mean, I really need a do-over of that last week. [laughs] It was great to be with family and hanging out with them, but I didn’t do a lot of hanging out with them ’cause I was isolating and didn’t get to do a lot of the things that I had really looked forward to doing in Tennessee.

Jonathan: Yeah, it’s very unfortunate.

Bonnie: It is. So I need to do a part 2. I need to do a do-over. Not today, not tomorrow. Maybe in the fall. Another thanksgiving. [laughs]

Jonathan: But the legacy of your visit remains because now, your brother-in-law has COVID.

Bonnie: My brother-in-law has it. Yes, he’s cranky right now.

Jonathan: I would be, too. I’d be cranky with you.

Bonnie: [laughs] No, he’s doing okay, which is good. But it does take its time to…

This is my second round of Rona. Both, might I add, from flying internationally, traveling internationally, because we brought it back from Europe.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Bonnie: It’s different this time. If I picked it up in the US, … And there’s a chance I could have brought it over from New Zealand, depending on how you look at the incubation rate.

Jonathan: Can we just establish this by working out whether the virus has an American accent or not?

Bonnie: Hmm. I guess they can do the, what is it? PCR test or whatever, find out.

Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. They could, yes.

Bonnie: But there is a variant on the East Coast right now that’s weaker, but it’s a new variant. So I may have…

But honestly, everybody on the plane going over to New York was coughing. Even going back, everybody on the plane was coughing and carrying on, so I feel better I’m coughing quite a lot.

And I’m still really realizing that you have to take this thing seriously. Because I think I can do stuff, and then all of a sudden, it’s like whoa! I can’t, I’m tired.

Jonathan: I know, I know. And I tell my staff this all the time. If you’ve got it, don’t push through it because that can be incredibly counterproductive long-term.

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: And sometimes, even my staff listens to me. My wife, not so much.

Bonnie: [laughs] Well, I think we’ve been accustomed to when you’re sick, you just rest for a day or two, and then you’re better.

But I’ve seen a lot of people that have, even months later, …

I remember talking to someone who had COVID and I’m like, “My God, are you okay?”

And they’re like, “Oh, it’s long COVID.” And they still sounded like they had just gotten it.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Bonnie: It’s different than last time. I don’t think it’s as severe, because we are vaxed to the max.

I’m getting there. I went to my Christmas party, work Christmas party yesterday, which was nice.

Jonathan: And while you were dealing with the COVID, It was also your mission to try and make peace between 2 governments, essentially.

Bonnie: Oh my goodness!

Jonathan: And…

Bonnie: That was just, … If you ever travel, if you ever come to New Zealand, leave your guide dog at home. It’s just not worth the stress.

Jonathan: I think the difficulty is two-fold. First, it seems to change so frequently from visit to visit.

Bonnie: It changes every time. It even changed while I was over there.

Jonathan: Yeah. I mean, that’s the first thing.

And the second thing is that there doesn’t appear to be any kind of checklist that you can consult, that you can just go through step by step. Here’s what you have to do. Step 1, step 2, step 3.

And there doesn’t seem to be a consensus. It’s like various governments can tell you one thing one day, and then a different thing another day.

Bonnie: 10 minutes later.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Bonnie: Well, what’s annoying is there actually are checklists which you follow. But then when you send them all the information, they come back with, “Oh, this is not part of it.”

Well, it is, and you end up just, it’s almost like you have to do their job because they can’t go through the information, and they ask for other things that you’ve already sent them. And it’s really really frustrating.

Jonathan: One of the things that you observed that was interesting in the US was how less wired the US federal government is compared to ours. And I guess, part of this could possibly be scale. A lot of it’s just perhaps, lack of investment in infrastructure.

But over here, for example, we have discontinued the use of checks. We just don’t do them anymore. They’re not accepted as legal tender.

But over in the US, they still are. And there’s a lot of physical paper that seems to fly around the United States still.

Bonnie: Yeah, yeah.

Jonathan: One really interesting thing was the mysterious portal, this mysterious portal that seemed to be so integral to what you were trying to do.

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: But it wasn’t working, or something.

Bonnie: It wasn’t working, and the vet was trying to put all the paperwork through.

Jonathan: This is for USDA, the steak people.

Bonnie: Yeah, yeah.

so finally he was able to do it. But of course, New Zealand doesn’t recognize the portal because New Zealand and Turkey are what they call orange banner countries, which are very hard to get animals in, and they don’t like electronic stuff. They want to use it, but they can’t.

So I had to still get paperwork back from the USDA before I could travel back because New Zealand government wouldn’t recognize anything that was electronic, even if I’d printed it out. They had to have the physical copy.

I’m like, “Oh, whatever, people. Just talk to each other. Just communicate.”

Jonathan: Well, the good news is that if you sit down at a restaurant and you chow into something that is USDA-certified, you can be assured that the US federal government is committed to stakeholders.

Bonnie: Maybe.

Then of course, I get back. They look at the paperwork. “Oh, she’s free to do whatever she wants.”

Okay, thank you.

Jonathan: Hmm. But I mean, it was a real mission. It went on for days and days.

Bonnie: It was going on for days and months before.

Jonathan: And in the end, because the portal was not working, you had to physically ship via FedEx, paperwork.

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: It should have been something that they could do online and get done instantly.

Instead, paperwork had to be shipped from Tennessee to Florida.

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: Passive voice had to be used as well.

And then, they had the Thanksgiving holiday in the middle.

Bonnie: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan: And then when you called, it was just this long day after day very stressful situation.

Bonnie: What else happens is they don’t understand (and New Zealand doesn’t particularly understand it either) short stays.

If I had been moving from the US to New Zealand, like I did with Lizzie, or been the same in 2019 when I brought Eclipse over here, there was a lot of steps to go through. It was a 6-month process, and that’s correct.

I was on a short stay. I was there 2 weeks, which in my mind, I should have the right to travel with my dog if that’s what I choose to do.

Jonathan: Absolutely. It’s your mobility tool of choice.

Bonnie: There were times I really felt like that my human rights were being violated.

And my sister, who was taking care of a lot of this, was horrified by it. She goes, “These people are like North Korea with all this paperwork.”

Jonathan: [laughs] Which people?

Bonnie: New Zealand government.

Jonathan: Oh, right. [laughs]

Bonnie: But because they don’t get that this is a short stay.

Because the USDA is like, “Oh no, we’re so scared of New Zealand. They’re so strict. They’re so horrible.”

And I’m like, “Guys, it’s a short stay. She has all these tests. I’ve just sent it to you 20 times. Why you can’t read it, I’m not sure. That’s your problem.

But you know, she has the tests to get back into New Zealand. And I don’t understand why there can’t be some sort of pet passport where she could just say, “Look, she’s going. She’s coming back. She doesn’t need all this stuff.”

Jonathan: Yeah, I mean, no one’s questioning the necessity for the country’s strong commitment to biosecurity. Because obviously, we’ve got a country that is very heavily dependent on agriculture. We lack certain diseases in this country, and we want to keep it that way.

But there does need to be recognition of the right of service animal users to be able to travel with the mobility tool of their choice, and for the steps to be clearly detailed and easily followable through a checklist. I think that’s what’s really frustrating for me.

Bonnie: Yeah, and to make it easy.

I mean, even Hawaii, my understanding is Hawaii is still difficult in the US, which is crazy.

England, they somehow got it to a manageable level, but it’s not right. You know, it’s just really, you’re following the rules. A service animal hopefully is going to be up to snuff with all their shots, and their exams, and stuff like that.

And I mean, what about, what could I bring over? You know.

Jonathan: Well, the Rona.

Bonnie: yeah, yeah, I brought the Rona over.


Bonnie: So you know, I’d be more worried about that than my dog. But she’s not going to have rabies (because rabies seems to be the thing they’re afraid of most), because we don’t have rabies here. But she’s not going to have rabies. I mean, you know, that’s just not going to happen. [laughs]

Jonathan: Yeah. Well, we’ll work on this.

Bonnie: We’re going to work on it because I’m just determined. If I choose to travel with my dog, I should be able to do it.

Jonathan: But then, it’s not easy to travel by air with guide dogs in the US anymore either, is it? Because you’ve got to fill in the forms.

Bonnie: I actually had a good experience with United, I have to say. It was easy.

I know there are some airlines where it is difficult because they use third-party providers.

But United, I filled in the form, they uploaded it to the system. I printed out my form, I went to Newark, it was already in the system.

I flew United to Houston out of Nashville, no question. So I have to say that it was a pretty seamless experience.

Jonathan: But don’t you think the principle of the thing is important, too?

Bonnie: I think the principle is terrible.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Bonnie: I mean, it’s all because there are people who fake service animals because they don’t want to pay to bring pooch on a plane, or pay for them to go in cargo.

Jonathan: Right.

Bonnie: And what people don’t understand is our dogs, a real legitimate service animal, has been socialized. Eclipse slept the entire way to New York. No one knew she was on the plane, you know.

Jonathan: Yup.

Bonnie: And the same thing going back from Houston to Auckland, you know. She’s asleep. There’s no problem.

Now, there are service animals who’ve had issues with flying and they eventually have to retire, particularly if the person flies a lot. But when you have an animal who’s not used to it, it can be very stressful. You’re in an airport with tons of people.

Jonathan: Partly because of your COVID, and also because you were just not permitted to bring Eclipse into the country at the appointed time of your flight home because of the ongoing argy-bargy with the mysterious United States Government agricultural portal, we had to invest a considerable amount in you rescheduling your flights.

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: And so, you arrived a couple of days later than you were meant to.

And even that wasn’t guaranteed because as we have recounted on this very show, you became a citizen of New Zealand on the 8th of November, and that had unforeseen consequences.

Bonnie: Yeah. Because I talked to citizenship about this before and said I was taking this trip.

And, “Hh, no. That won’t be a problem because you’re not gonna be out of the country very long.”

So I had just had my citizenship ceremony prior to leaving, so there wasn’t time to do any passport stuff.

Jonathan: And when we did have a go, this was a curious thing.

And it might be a source of discussion perhaps for Living Blindfully because it can be quite difficult for blind people to get acceptable passport photos.

Our passport process is pretty accessible, with the exception of where you have to verify your address. That was a little bit not accessible. But most of it was accessible.

And you get to the point where you upload a photo.

And before you left, we went to the pharmacy. You got a photo taken that was apparently suitable for the passport system.

But when we tried to upload that photo, it came back and said, “There’s shadow around the eye,” and it wouldn’t accept the photo.

I had the same problem, I think some years ago, when I got my last passport. I find it difficult to keep my eyes open for long periods, and so we had to have a couple of goes.

So we couldn’t use the photo that the pharmacy actually verified as suitable, although they didn’t do what the pharmacy did that we ultimately used. So we couldn’t use the passport photo.

Bonnie: No.

Jonathan: And then, time ran out. You headed off.

In the end, now that you’re back, you went to another pharmacy this time, and they have a checking tool to make sure that it’s going to pass ’cause you got your nephew, who’s a videographer, to take a photo.

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: And the passport system didn’t like that one either, for a different reason.

Bonnie: Yup.

Jonathan: It said it wasn’t straight enough.

So luckily, this (UniChem, by the way, for anybody listening in New Zealand), the local UniChem pharmacy ran it through a checking tool to make sure that when you walked out the door, you had a passport photo that the Department of Internal Affairs was going to be happy with, which is brilliant.

So we finally got that done, but you did not have the passport when you got to the gate.

Bonnie: I got to the gate, and they said that my visa had been denied. They’re like, “Do you have an entrance visa?”

Like, “I don’t need an entrance visa. I’m a citizen.”, I said.

They said, “Well, your passport’s been declined, so we’ll have to talk to immigration.”

How they got through immigration so quickly, I don’t know ’cause usually, it’s…

Jonathan: They’ve got the magic number, obviously.

Bonnie: They must, ’cause I mean, it was instantaneous.

And she said, “Yeah, we can see you’re a citizen.”

And she goes, “Did you just do your ceremony?”

And I said, “Yeah.”

She goes, “Well, we have that information, so we’re gonna put a code to override it.”

So then, I’m like, “Okay, that’s fine.”

So then I get to the country, I’m like, “Okay, how’s border control gonna deal with this?” [laughs]

But they knew about it, and they said, “We’re just putting a 3-month visa on you.”

Jonathan: It really was a comedy there.

So what happened was that when you got your citizenship, they canceled your visa, your residence visa, which is on your US passport.

Bonnie: They cancelled the visa. Yeah, I know it.

Jonathan: So when they ran it through the system, the visa for permanent residency on your passport is no longer valid.

So effectively, you are a New Zealand citizen in the United States without a passport, and that’s why they denied you.

Bonnie: Yup.

Jonathan: So that’s really fortunate that they did that because what they might have made you do was actually apply for an urgent New Zealand passport from the United States, and not let you come home until you got your New Zealand passport.

Bonnie: [laughs] Yeah.

Jonathan: So that was good that they did that.

Bonnie: [laughs] Which wouldn’t have surprised me if that had happened.

Jonathan: I mean, it was just one thing after a jolly old nother, wasn’t it?

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: Extraordinary.

And then to cap it off, [laughs] I thought, “Bonnie has been through such an ordeal with this trip and I could not wait. I didn’t want to be away from her a moment longer than necessary.”

So when her plane from Auckland to Wellington was in the air, I jumped in the jolly old Uber and headed to the airport.

And then Bonnie’s plane, it turns out, was way late.

So I was standing around there. You can’t be a blind person standing around just passing the time waiting for someone without a gazillion people wanting to help. Isn’t it ironic that when you want help, it’s hard to find?

Bonnie: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan: So I’m standing there at baggage claim, and everybody’s saying, “Are you okay? Do you need a hand?”

And I say, “Thank you. I’m fine. I’m just waiting for someone.”

And I’m looking on the Find My, and I can see finally, the plane’s landed. Bonnie’s phone is on, and it’s showing her here in Wellington.

So normally, when either of us lands at a destination, we text each other. We say, “I’ve just landed.”

But for some inexplicable reason, Bonnie didn’t send that text this time.

And I sent her a text and I said, “Hi, sweetie. I’m here at the airport to meet you.”

We both have iPhone 15s now. And one of the reasons why we bought iPhone 15s together was because of this new proximity finding feature. And I thought, this is the perfect time to test it.

So I was in the Find My app and I could actually suddenly see it was saying, “Bonnie is nearby.”, and it was telling me how many meters away from me she was.

To be fair, I guess if I had stayed where I was, maybe the Meet and Assist person might have seen me, or maybe the Meet and Assist person wouldn’t have commented. Who knows?

But I could tell exactly how far away Bonnie was. And it was like 40 meters, 35 meters, 30 meters. She was getting closer.

So I wandered off and headed in her direction. And sure enough, for a while, it was working. It was down to 20 meters, 15 meters, 10 meters. I think it got as close as 8 meters, which for those who don’t do meters is about 24 feet.

So it’s probably not close enough to yell yet. 24 feet. But it might have been, I suppose.

Then, of course, what this thing cannot do is detect any obstacles that might be in the way in those 24 meters. It’s very directional, and it will say, “24 meters to your right.”

And so you turn slightly right, and it will say, “24 meters straight ahead.”, so you keep moving.

But then, of course, if something is between you and the person like a jolly big flight of stairs that you’re walking under (and I smashed my head in my enthusiasm because my cane didn’t pick it up. [laughs] And I was moving quite fast to get to you. And I whack, whack my head right into this flight of stairs that was up above my head).

Bonnie: Ouch!

Jonathan: Which of course, then prompted a group of people to gather round to say, “Oh my God! Are you okay? Isn’t someone helping you?”

“I’m just trying to find my wife.”

And by this stage, I’d lost you.

Bonnie: I was in the cab.

Jonathan: And so I phoned Bonnie up. I tried to make a contact with her, and it rang and rang and went to voicemail.

So I hung up and I immediately phoned again, and it rang and went to voicemail.

Bonnie: Because I was busy spelling!

Jonathan: And the third time, (Oh, I’m on a roll here.) And the third time, I call up and finally, she picks up.

And I say, “Where are you?”

And she says, “I’m in the cab.”

I’m like, “What the actual soup?”

I realize that’s very strong language, but what the actual soup? I texted you to tell you I’m here, and you were in a cab?

She didn’t take the text.

Bonnie: No, because I’m not getting the notification. So usually when I turn on the notifications, it makes a noise. So it didn’t.

And then, the cab driver wouldn’t let me out of the cab unless I paid them $40.

Jonathan: [laughs] That’s terrible!

Bonnie: [laughs] I was being held captive in the country, captive in the cab.

I’m like, “I’m just not happy right now.”

Jonathan: That is extortionate behavior from them because you hadn’t even left.

Bonnie: No, but I was trying to. Because I’d gotten in the cab, and they were at the airport, or something. The reason I couldn’t answer the phone, because I kept having to spell our street 50 times to the idiot, driving.

Jonathan: Yes, we often have that. That’s why I like Uber.

But, so it was a comedy of errors, even to the very last when I was trying to do this kind of nice thing, and meet her at the airport, and it just turned into this debacle.

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: Debacle! That’s what it turned into.

But at least, we know the Find My feature works.

Bonnie: Yeah, exactly.

And hopefully, I can travel again some time.

Jonathan: I wouldn’t recommend it, Bonnie. I think that you just need to stay grounded. [laughs]

Bonnie: No, I’m going to go back to Tennessee.

Jonathan: [laughs] Alright. Well, that’s pretty much it, isn’t it?

Bonnie: Yup.

Jonathan: Yes.

Would you like to comment on who you might vote for, what you might vote for in the Mushroom FM…

Bonnie: No.

Jonathan: What?

Bonnie: No no, I had to think about it. I don’t know who I’m voting for. [laughs]

Jonathan: What? Okay. Well, I hope you’ll vote.

Bonnie: I will. [laughs]

Jonathan: And I hope that you will encourage everyone you know to vote.

Bonnie: Yeah, I do.

Jonathan: Time’s running out, you know.

Bonnie: Yeah, I know.

Jonathan: Yeah yeah yeah. You’ve only got till the 14th of December to vote.

Bonnie: Yeah. Maybe Anthony, the Christmas Movie Boy.

Jonathan: Well, we’ll talk about that on another show.

Bonnie: Okay.

Jonathan: Yeah, because we’ve got something really cool to demonstrate in that regard.

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: But anyway, thank you for your contributions to Living Blindfully over the year.

And of course, it wasn’t Living Blindfully at the beginning of the year, so it’s been a pretty exciting year for the podcast.

Bonnie: It has been.

Jonathan: Yeah. Lovely.

And get better soon.

Bonnie: Thank you. Bye!

Jonathan: Goodbye!

Closing and Contact Info

We’re back for our final episode of 2023 next week. We’ll probably get a bit of Christmas Eve fun in there.

And speaking of Christmas Eve fun, a final reminder. Do vote in the Mushroom FM holiday countdown. It’s so much fun to be a part of. is how you do it.

See you next week.

Remember that when you’re out there with your guide dog, you’ve harnessed success. And with your cane, you’re able.


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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.