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Welcome to 266.. 2

HeardThat Now Offers a Remote Microphone Kit 3

The Future of Castro Podcasts Looks Bright 5

Samuel Greene From Zoom North America Discusses Their New and Accessible Essential Series of Recorders. 6

More on Advocacy Strategies and Responsibilities. 17

Best and Worst Experiences Going Through Airport Security. 22

Sharing the Parenting Duties When It Comes to Transport 27

Deep Fakes in the US Presidential Election, Blood Pressure Monitoring, Apple Accessibility. 29

iPhone Action Button and Facebook Extra Verbosity. 32

Video Editing as a Blind Person.. 32

Sonos Question.. 34

Are Other New York Times Puzzles Accessible?.. 34

Accessible Crypto Options. 35

Google Password Manager on BrailleNote Touch+.. 36

Update on Apple Tech Support Woes. 36

Problem With iPhone Notifications. 36

AI Tools I Use Regularly. 38

What Do People Know About Matrix. 40

Lost Speech After iOS Update.. 41

Closing and Contact Info.. 43




Welcome to 266


Voiceover: From Wellington, New Zealand, to the world, it’s Living Blindfully – living your best life with blindness or low vision. Here is your host, Jonathan Mosen.

This week: more about a huge breakthrough for anyone who wants a top quality digital recorder that’s fully accessible, I speak with Samuel Greene from Zoom North America,tell us about your best and worst airline security experience, and how to fairly share the responsibility when you’re a blind parent with a sighted spouse.

Good to have you with us again. And if this is your first Living Blindfully episode, what a special welcome to you.

It is our 266th episode. And when I think of 266, I don’t think about any country code. We’ll talk more about the North American area code or lack thereof in a little bit.

But when I think 266, I immediately think of Wonderful Radio London, which was an offshore radio station that started from the NV Galaxy in December of 1964. They took the UK by storm, and they closed down in August 1967 once the Marine Offences Act became law.

Some people may consider what I’m about to say a bit controversial. I mean, how rare is this? I never say anything controversial on Living Blindfully. Never.

But I think that Wonderful Radio London is the best commercial radio station that there has ever been, and that’s because they took all the wonderful, slick American values from Cliff in Dallas, particularly, K-L-I-F in Dallas. So they had the PAMS jingles, they had the patter going on, they had the Top 40 rotation going on, and then they applied some British values to it. This is where a competitor that later came along, Swingin’ Radio England, kind of messed up because they tried to make it sound too American, which, for a UK audience, was just a bit too brash at the time.

Wonderful Radio London featured some amazing broadcasters, including Paul Kaye. Tony Blackburn eventually literally jumped ship, because he was on Radio Caroline. That’s how Tony Blackburn got his start. But he just loved the format of Radio London, so he moved over there. Keith Skues was similarly on Radio London for a while, John Peel in the latter part of Radio London’s life, Ed Stewart was on Radio London.

For much of its life, an Australian by the name of Tony Withers held it all together. He was the program director. He called himself Tony Windsor.

And then, there was a young man by the name of Morris Cole from Liverpool. He was originally looking at becoming a Catholic priest, but he had a fascination with reel to reel recorders, made all sorts of bizarre sounds at home inspired by the legendary Jack Jackson, who was a broadcaster in Britain as well. When Morris Cole got a job on Wonderful Radio London, he became known on the air as Kenny Everett, and he teamed up with Dave Cash to do some incredible radio with the Kenny and Cash show. It was legendary. And later, on Capital Radio in the 1970s, they got back together again to make More Magic, briefly.

I suspect Kenny Everett had perfect pitch. But he worked hard. He would go into his little studio at home, or in the Radio London days, there was a production studio on the ship, and he would work for hours on a little 30-second jingle that had multi-layered harmonies, in an era where that was actually quite difficult to do. You’d be doing sound on sound in those days, I’m sure, with the equipment that they had, at least initially. And that meant that if you made a mistake, the whole thing was ruined. So he had a good ear, he had attention to detail, and as I say, he worked very hard to come up with some amazing little jingles and funny snippets that may have only been used once or twice.

He died far too young in 1995, and I often wonder what magic he would be making with today’s digital technology. Kenny Everett was a genius. He also had very few filters which would get him into some trouble in his radio career from time to time.

But Wonderful Radio London reminds me a lot of the Beatles. What are the chances of getting that group of people together to make that kind of magic? I have a lot of recordings of Radio London from that era, and I still listen to them, I still enjoy them, and particularly listening to Kenny Everett is an absolute joy.

I understand that the estate of Kenny Everett is working on a podcast. I haven’t heard much about that in recent months, but I hope that is still coming to fruition because it’ll be great for people who perhaps are not familiar with Kenny Everett’s work. In my view, he is the greatest genius that Top 40 radio has ever produced. It’ll be great for people to hear him.

Now, there is no North American area code 266. It’s got special assignment, this one. I guess it’s because it’s similar to 866 and that sort of thing. It’s one of the easily recognizable area codes. So it is not set for geographic assignment, but it may be used for something cool one day. Maybe if they ran out of scope in existing toll-free number area codes they’ll eventually get to 266 and make that available for toll-free access in North America, or maybe they’ll use it for something else.

Meanwhile, the country code 266 is Lesotho. 75% of Lesotho’s population is rural so quite a small urban population, and there are only about a little over 2 million people in Lesotho. So if one of them is you, a very warm welcome to this episode of Living Blindfully.

HeardThat Now Offers a Remote Microphone Kit

In episode 249 and indeed in some other episodes of Living Blindfully, we have talked about the HeardThat app. This is an app that you can run on your Android or iOS device, and it helps you to hear in noisy environments by working out what is background noise and filtering it out, much like a lot of expensive hearing aids do. But in my opinion, it does somewhat better in certain situations because you can adjust the level of noise that you hear in the background.

Now, when we interviewed the chief executive of Singular Hearing which makes HeardThat, he did drop a few hints about a remote microphone solution that was coming for HeardThat. And now, it is available. It’s actually available through Amazon.

And while the proof of the pudding is in the eating, (yes, I’m using the correct phrase again), it sounds like a steal of a deal because you can get this kit for $69 US. But if you subscribe to HeardThat for a year, then you get the whole package for just $39 US.

So what precisely do you get? Well according to the blurb on the website, you get a little dongle, and it comes in 2 flavors. Do make sure you get the correct one because one has a lightning plug at the end for older iPhones, and the other has a USB-C port at the end for Android devices, and newer iPhones from the iPhone 15 onwards. This is a receiver, and you just plug it into the USB-C port, and it magically pairs with your phone and with the HeardThat app. You then get 2 wireless microphones.

So this is quite intriguing because it gives you a lot more flexibility than some of the stand-alone solutions like the Roger devices from Phonak, which are a lot more expensive. And if you were to buy 2 of those, you would be talking a pretty hefty price tag.

But you’ve got two of these wireless microphones. They have an omnidirectional pickup pattern. Based on the blurb, it sounds like these microphones have quite a reasonable range.

So if you want to, you could put these microphones at either end of a table if you’re in a busy dinner situation, and it should help you there. But also, if you want, if you’re in a noisy environment, or maybe you’re having a dinner for two in a very noisy restaurant, you can give one of these wireless microphones to your dinner guest and clip it on. Now, if you are dining with 2 dinner guests, then this kit is obviously fantastic because they can both be wearing the wireless microphones, and you’ll be able to hear them with perfect clarity. So it sounds like a very reasonably priced and exciting setup.

But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, (just in case you didn’t get the phrase correct the other times I’ve mentioned it in recent episodes) [laughs]. So I’ve bought one of these, and I’ll be waiting for mine to arrive. Sadly, they don’t ship to New Zealand from Amazon directly, so I had to use a forwarding service that sort of acts as an intermediary to get these products to New Zealand. But when I get it, I will certainly let you know how I find it.

But you might want to check that out. I’m sure there’s a link to it on the HeardThat website, and I will also endeavor to remember to put a link to this new remote kit in the show notes of this podcast.

But if you try it, I would love to know what you think of it. Is it as effective as you were hoping? You can give me a call, of course, and leave a message on the listener line at 864-60-Mosen, 864-606-6736.

The Future of Castro Podcasts Looks Bright

In other news, as they say, I did want to pass on that I’m feeling optimistic about the future of the Castro app. We’ve talked about this a lot on the podcast since all the way back in episode 18, when I was so enthusiastic about it.

Sadly, it has gone through rough times. It has been neglected. It has become unreliable. Even its very future has been called into question.

Now, it has a new owner, and he contacted me in the last week. And the reason why he contacted me is because as we mentioned when we last talked about Castro, he’s doing what he promised. They are going through all the support requests and a number of you, thank you for doing this, have raised with Castro the fact that Living Blindfully and some other podcasts that are hosted by Pinecast which is our podcast host, was not refreshing.

Matt from Pinecast and Dustin from Castro have got to the bottom of this. And I’m thrilled to see that Dustin, the new owner of Castro, is on the case and working through these issues, so Pinecast Podcasts are working properly in Castro again.

I mentioned to him that there have been some accessibility regressions. He is interested in working on those, once some of the back-end issues are sorted out. And quite understandably, that’s the top priority.

So very positive news. I look forward to feeling like it’s safe for me to go back to Castro, which is, when it was working well, the best podcast app I’ve ever used.

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Samuel Greene From Zoom North America Discusses Their New and Accessible Essential Series of Recorders

Zoom recorders have featured on several episodes of this podcast for good reason. There’s a versatile range of them, they’re great quality, and a few can even be controlled via a smartphone app, giving blind users some degree of independent access to configuration options.

We’ve given you audio walkthroughs of a few of the recorders to help you get up to speed, but there have been frustrations and limitations. We haven’t had the ease or totality of access sighted people have when simply holding the recorder in their hands, until now that is.

Zoom has announced the Essential series. There’s a lot to like, and we’ll cover plenty of it. But from a blind person’s point of view, the very big deal is that these recorders speak their menus out of the box. Perhaps it’s an overused phrase these days, but this truly is a game changer for blind content creators. And it significantly lowers the barrier to entry for blind people who don’t create content with professional digital recorders now, but would like to.

So to talk us through the Zoom Essential series, I’m delighted to be joined by Samuel Greene at Zoom North America. And if you, like me, are an audio geek, you’ll recognize Samuel’s voice from YouTube because he’s pretty prominent there. Samuel, it is a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you for coming on the podcast.

Samuel: I am so happy to be here talking with you, Jonathan, especially about this topic.

Jonathan: Just before we get to that topic, I’m interested to learn a bit about you. I know that you’ve been with Zoom for quite a while now. What do you do at Zoom and what’s your background?

Samuel: My title is Director of Product Development and Customer Support. I do several things. I am in contact very closely with our engineers who are based in Japan, in Tokyo, and the purpose of those conversations is both to develop new product that we’re making the best product we can, as well as issues and updates that we need to do for existing products. On top of that, I attend trade shows and I do some trainings for our dealers who sell our products, to make sure they’re knowledgeable about it. But I think most of all, I try to use our product knowledge to the best way we can for sales and marketing. Because it’s one thing to have a great product, but we have to make sure that people are aware and know how to use those products. And obviously, part of that is YouTube videos where we do introductions of new products, but also try to get into some deeper features. And then, really, the development of all the marketing content we use on our website and actually worldwide at our office at Zoom North America, we create a lot of the marketing content that you see around the world.

Jonathan: So were you tinkering with audio before you came to Zoom?

Samuel: Yeah. So I’ve been here for actually, it’s fast approaching 11 years, but 10 years under the belt. And I was a student in audio engineering before that, where I was focused almost exclusively on music, and then graduated and started here at Zoom.

And one of the things that’s been so fun for me is going beyond just music into all of the various places audio is used – in film, in podcasting, and all that. And seeing how different people take the same product and use it is always a blast. And I enjoy the opportunities when I get to talk to users who actually use these products, because I don’t want to be in a bubble here where I think the way I would use this product is the only way because that is certainly a minority of how people would use the product. And I like to know how everybody wants to use them.

Jonathan: It’s difficult to overstate the significance of the accessibility breakthrough in the new Zoom Essentials series. How is it that Zoom has come to include these spoken menus? You must obviously have some awareness that there are blind content creators out there.

Samuel: We do, and we’ve heard from that community for a long time, both people like yourself who have found ways to use them to the best of their abilities, but also people who are trying to use some of the ones that are less accessible and wishing that they were. So we’ve heard it for a long time.

And we did have one other product where we kind of pushed in this direction, which was the R20, where we went into the remote app you could use with that, and tried to make all the features work with the built-in iOS accessibility features. But that wasn’t stand-alone hardware, and we always knew that that was a limited use case for accessibility.

And so this Essential series – the H1 Essential, H4 Essential, H6 Essential, are replacing our most popular recorders. And obviously, we knew we wanted to go big with that, especially if we’re going to do all three at the same time. And the stars aligned that this is the right time for us to finally put this system into stand-alone hardware.

Jonathan: The previous H series has been around for a while, right?

Samuel: Yeah. I mean, the original H4 goes back to 2007, and the original H6 was 2013. So that product was out for 10 years, and we’re just replacing it. And the H1, similarly back in 2009, was the original H1. So yeah, I mean, these are products that we’ve updated before, but the updates here are big and really turn these 3 products into a family.

Jonathan: One of the first things that we have to contend with as blind content creators is getting the recorder out of the box, and you’ve got to set the date and time. Not a lot can happen until you do that, and that’s not accessible. It hasn’t been in the past.

Will it be possible for a blind person to take one of the Zoom Essential series recorders out of its box, switch it on, and get going without sighted assistance at all?

Samuel: So yes, when you purchase one of these products, you take it out of the box, you put the batteries in it for the first time and you turn it on, the first thing that happens is it asks if you want to turn the accessibility system on with the prompts to guide you through the couple of settings that are in there, so that you can turn that system on. And then, it goes to the date and time. So from step one of buying the product and turning it on, accessibility can be activated.

Jonathan: I mean, that’s pretty cool that the thing comes up talking. And actually, it’s a sighted person who has to opt out of it talking.

Samuel: [laughs] Absolutely. But it’s the way it has to be because the point of this system is to allow anybody to use these recorders right away. And so it wasn’t an option, that was the way it has to be.

Jonathan: I understand there were 3 choices at that initial startup screen, is that correct? You’ve got vocal prompts, you’ve got beeps, and then the whole thing just is off.

Samuel: Correct. You’re right. You could turn the system off, you could turn it on with voice and beep or beep only.

Jonathan: How comprehensive are the spoken menus? Is every option accessible?

Samuel: Yes. Every menu you go into, every adjustment you make – from your headphone volume to your mixer adjustments, everything has either a voice or in the case of headphone, a volume adjustment or something like that, beeps. And beyond just a single beep you could hear, there are different tones for up and down. And obviously, you’ll hear the volume of those beeps go up and down as you make that adjustment.

Jonathan: Do you have one of the recorders connected at the moment so people can hear that?

Samuel: I do. So what I’ll do is I’m going to go to my accessibility menu, I’m going to go to guide sounds and click English plus beep, and we will hear it turn on.

Guide sound: Guide sound. Battery level: medium. Rec standby.

Samuel: So what you just heard there was me going back to the main menu, which can be done by hitting the stop button. Whatever menu you’re in, hit the stop button, and it will bring you back to the main screen. And every time you go to that main screen, you get that status readout with your record status, as well as your battery status.

Jonathan: Are those prompts actually pre-recorded prompts, or do you have a text-to-speech engine in the device?

Samuel: I’ll be honest. I don’t know the answer to that.

Jonathan: Okay. So can you speed the audio up and slow it down, or is that one speed you’re showing us now the one speed that there is?

Samuel: Speed-wise, there is only the one speed available.

Jonathan: Right. Is there anything about the recorder that isn’t accessible, then?

Sameul: No. I mean, you know. You arm your tracks, you get an audible beep. You go in the mixer and you make your adjustments. There is no menu you can go into that you lose the functionality.

Jonathan: Yeah, I read about the mixer on the website. Can we talk a bit about that and its purpose in the context of the Essential series?

Samuel: Sure, and I’m going to take one step back to explain why these have this mixer, because it’s one of the buttons on the front of the unit. And this is specific to the H4 Essential and H6 Essential being that they’re more than just the stereo recorder. The H1 Essential being just stereo doesn’t need the mixer. But in the previous models, you had gain adjustments. On the H6, you had four knobs for your four inputs, plus a knob for the microphones on top. On the H4, you had a button to select a track, and then a rocker switch to adjust the gain. And that was the main way people would adjust the volume of their recordings.

These new recorders record 32-bit float audio. And we can kind of go more into the benefits of that, if you’d like. But the main thing about it is you don’t set the gain at all. You plug in your inputs, you point the mics, and you hit record. And you cannot clip, you cannot record too low and not be able to raise the volume in post-production without adding a bunch of noise.

So the gain adjustment being unnecessary, there is still the point that you may want to adjust the mix you’re hearing in your headphones. And that’s where the mixer comes in, primarily. So you hit the mixer button, …

Guide sound: Microphone. Input 1. Input 2.

Samuel: You go to the input you’d like to adjust.

Guide sound: 0. Minus 4. Minus 6. Minus 8.

Samuel: And you can go up and down as you’d like to adjust that channel in the mixer.

Leave that one, …

Guide sound: Input 1.

Samuel: Go to your next channel, and adjust there.

So that mixer allows you to adjust everything you’re gonna hear in your headphones. If you’re outputting to a camera, it will also affect the mix going out to that.

And I’ll tell you one other feature. You do have the option to select post-mixer recording. That option can be found in record settings, and a setting in there called record source. And there’s a pre-mixer and post-mixer option in there. And if you pick post-mixer, the adjustments you make in that mixer will be reflected in the audio recorded to the SD card. And therefore, it’s kind of like saving your mix.

But with 32-bit float, it does not matter what you do in that mixer. You can raise or lower the volume as much as you want in post-production.

For example, you could turn every channel on the mixer all the way down. You bring that file into your computer. It looks like there’s absolutely nothing there. Or raise the volume 70 dB and the audio sounds exactly as it would have if you hadn’t turned down that fader while recording.

Jonathan: I think that 32-bit float is also an accessibility feature that’s kind of a byproduct of 32-bit float because it means that a blind person, or also a blind person who might have a hearing impairment, actually can record in the field and not worry at all about levels. They don’t have to be concerned if they’re clipping. They don’t need to do a test recording, and they can fix it all in post-production and reaper, or whatever technology that they’re using afterwards.

And that’s actually why I swapped out my H6 (and I had all the mic capsules and everything) for an F6, because I thought that the 32-bit float was just such a significant accessibility feature for blind people.

Samuel: [laughs] You are 100% right. And for everybody, the more simple you can make the recording process, obviously the better. But I think especially for the blind community, taking out settings you need to do before recording is a natural way to make the whole process easier, and avoiding mistakes is something that benefits absolutely everyone.

Jonathan: Let’s talk about the 3 models – the H6 Essential, the H4 Essential, the H1 Essential and go through some of the unique characteristics and why people might want a particular unit.

Samuel: We’ll start at the H6, with the biggest one. The H6 Essential is a 6-track recorder. So you’ve got stereo microphones up top. They are part of an interchangeable capsule system. So there is a little latch that you can release, remove those microphones, and we will have additional capsules available that you can then attach to the H6.

I’ll give you a little preview of what we got coming in the coming months. One of those capsules is going to be a mono and stereo shotgun. It’s a stereo shotgun, you are able to turn the side mic off which turns it into a mono shotgun, so it can be used in both ways.

And the other is gonna be called the EX-H6E, and that capsule will have 2 additional XLR-TRS inputs you can use with the option of phantom power available, if you’re able to provide power through a USB-C port on that capsule.

These capsules are brand new for this recorder, the H6 Essential. You cannot use capsules from the previous H6 with it, and vice versa. And that is mainly because of the 32-bit float system, and needing to update the hardware to make it fully compatible with that.

Jonathan: Is it a relatively lightweight device? How does it differ in profile, and I guess texture from the venerable H6 that we’ve all come to know?

Samuel: It is nearly identical in size and very similar in weight. The overall design, having the mics up top, the 4 inputs, 2 on each side, towards the top of the unit. There are no gain dials on the front face of the unit, and that area is just the arming buttons for each of your inputs, with your transport controls under that.

The transport controls are different from the previous H6. However, they are in the same spot.

And then the screen is angled at the bottom, just like the previous unit.

The headphone output, line output, and the power switch have all moved. so even for myself, I find myself reaching for the wrong place for the power switch pretty often. You have different locations for all those functions, but they’re all still there.

Jonathan: And what’s the price in the US for the H6 Essential?

Samuel: So in the US, the H6 Essential is $299.99.

Jonathan: Now, I do want to ask you. We’ve had a few questions come in on the Blind Podmaker group.

And for anybody who’s not on that who would like to be, we’ve been talking about the Zoom Essential series a lot there. I kind of outsourced this interview a bit, and I said to people on the Blind Podmaker group, what do you want to know? So if you want to subscribe to that, you can do so by sending a blank email to

One of our members there said that he thinks there’s been the loss of a feature in the new H6 Essential in that the previous one did overdubbing, and the new one does not. Is that correct?

Samuel: That is correct. In the menu of the old H6, you were able to go in to an overdubbing mode where you were able to record on, say, track three, and then move the input to track four, and then record on that one and so on, and rerecord over some tracks. That functionality is gone from the current H6 Essential.

Jonathan: And why is that?

Samuel: We came out with another product called the R4 recently. That one does not have the accessibility system in it, but is a very full-featured 4-track recorder with 2 inputs and a bounce track. So you’re able to record 4 tracks, bounce, record four, and bounce again.

Jonathan: Oh boy! Like an old Porter studio. [laughs]

Samuel: [laughs] Just exactly like an old Porter Studio, but with no sort of saturation and no limit, and non-destructive. When you bounce, all your individual files are still saved and everything.

And it’s a really fun product to use, and it’s a great implementation of multi-tracking.

And we found in the H series, because the multi-tracking has also gone from the H4 Essential, which was in the previous H4 model. The features for multi-tracking in these products were never great. And now that we’ve made a product that does really great multi-tracking in this size and at a similar price point, we’ve decided that these products are gonna move towards straight recording.

Jonathan: If I read the blurb correctly, it is still in the H1 Essential. Is that right?

Samuel: The H1 Essential still does have an overdub mode where once you record a file, you can go into the menu, into the overdub mode, and layer audio on top of each other endlessly. There is a volume adjustment in that mode to allow you to adjust the volume of the different dubs that you do. And so that is there on the H1 Essential.

Jonathan: And continuing our tour through the range, the H4 Essential – the 4 means fewer inputs.

Samuel: Correct. yes. So you go from 4 XLR TRS inputs to 2, and those are on the bottom of the unit. And then the 2 microphones on top of the unit are fixed. They are not removable, so those are always there. And you can record those 4 tracks all together at the same time.

One thing I’ll take the opportunity to mention now are a couple other features on all 3 of these, which is that the SD card limit has been increased to a terabyte on all 3 of the recorders. At 32-bit float, 48 kHz, you can get about 40 minutes of audio per gig of stereo audio. So, you know, extrapolate that out, and on a terabyte, you can get hundreds of hours of recording on these recorders, which is a great update, especially the H1 and the H4 having a 32 GB limit in the previous models could be limiting.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Samuel: And the other is, these all can act as an audio interface to record directly into your computer. And the interesting part in the upgrade that we’ve done, because that was a function in the old units, is that you can record to the SD card at the same time as using it as an audio interface. One application for that is live streaming, and being able to record a backup.

But I think the one that’s a little more interesting to me is you can audio interface to your phone. You can open up a video recording app, and use the Essential Series Recorder as the audio input for there. Those video recording apps are probably gonna be 24-bit audio so the potential for clipping is there, but you can record a 32-bit float backup on the SD card that you know didn’t clip. So if something does happen to the audio on the video, you have this backup that you can go and sync up and you’ll have the audio.

Jonathan: And from a podcasting point of view, I do live in fear of some sort of power cut causing my computer to reboot in the middle of a great interview, like this one. [laughs]

Samuel: [laughs]

Jonathan: And everything disappearing. So that’s another reason why you might want to connect a Zoom Essential Recorder and have that backup recording away.

And 48 kilohertz isn’t the uppermost sampling rate supported.

Samuel: You can do up to 96 kilohertz sample rate.

Jonathan: Okay.

Samuel: I’ll take the opportunity to mention one other feature which is called Normalize, which for those not familiar with what normalizing is, when you normalize, you set a target peak, (say that’s -3 dBFS), and you apply the Normalize to a track or a file, and it will bring the peak of that audio to negative three. That could be in the up direction or the down direction, and then changes the volume of the entire audio file relative to that. So there’s no compression happening to the audio, but you are able to set the peak.

So in the units, there’s an export function where you hit play, you’re in playback for a file, you go to export. And on top of that normalizing feature which can be very helpful, there is an option to turn the export into a 24-bit file or a 16-bit file, if you were looking in the hardware to be able to downgrade that 32-bit float.

But I will mention now that every DAW and video-editing software is able to accept these files. Many people are already running 32-bit float sessions, so that’s great. But you could even load those files into a 24-bit session. And if for some reason the audio is clipped, it means that the mix engine is getting clipped and you could lower the volume on the 32-bit float file you brought in, and the audio will be clean. You just need to bring it down into the dynamic range of that mix.

Jonathan: Question about the audio interface function. Does it just show up as a stereo source, or does each channel appear as its own track?

Samuel: You have both options. You can select stereo, which is better for streaming applications. Or you could choose multi-track, which if you’re recording into a DAW, probably the one you’d go with.

Jonathan: In the PodTrack series, which is also very popular in the blind community, particularly the P4, I mean, there are a lot of blind people out there with P4s. [laughs] It’s exceptional value for money.

There is the ability to do loopback. Is that something that would ever come to the Essential series and the audio interface part of it?

Samuel: So there is not currently a loopback function in the audio interface of these recorders, but potentially something that could happen in the future.

Jonathan: And I will ask more about the future in a little bit, but let’s just make sure we cover the H1 Essential as well, which is a nice little recorder for many people to have. It may be all they require.

Samuel: The H1 Essential is so small and easy to carry around. It’s incredible.

And for those familiar with the previous H1n, the size of the H1 Essential is the same, with the exclusion of the cage that was around the microphones on the top. So imagine you just took that cage off an H1n. That’s the size of the H1 Essential.

It is small. You put 2 AAA batteries in it. You throw in your SD card. You’ve got the microphone – the 2 stereo microphones built on top.

One of the interesting features in the H1 Essential for me is there’s a button to change it from a stereo to a mono pickup, which is great if you’re just picking up dialogue.

There is a marker button right on the front of the unit. So while you’re recording, if you’re looking to put markers on that recording, that button is there for you at all times.

You’ve got the overdubbing feature like we talked about before. But there’s some other interesting features like playback speed adjustment, which is great if you’re looking to transcribe or anything like that.

It’s so small and easy to use, especially with the 32-bit float recording now. It’s just a joy to always have with you, and to use.

Jonathan: Well, that sounds like a great recorder for a journalist, for example – a broadcast journalist who might just want something very easy to carry. And you’ve got the 32-bit float, so what can go wrong? And it’s all just self-contained.

Samuel: Absolutely.

And one other thing that some might find interesting on there is there is a 3.5 mm mic line input that will override the microphones. But if you’re looking to record with a lav mic as opposed to the mics up top, you could plug a lav mic in there. It can provide plug-in power if the lav needs that. And it turns into a little pocket lav recorder.

Jonathan: And what’s your vision for how these products might expand in the future? Because you can upgrade the software of the Zoom products, so we may see features down the track.

Samuel: Yeah. I mean, we’re always got our ear out there for things that people are requesting. You know, on the one hand, bug fixes, which you hope for no bugs, but they do occur on occasion, so we try to push out fixes for those as soon as we can.

We’ve always got kind of a running list of the wish list people have out there. And unfortunately, we’re never able to implement everything, but we try to implement some major features as the products go along.

I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that you might find in these as far as big feature updates. They haven’t even really gotten in the hands of the public yet, and I’m sure the public will have some thoughts, and I can’t wait to hear them.

But in their current state, you know, they’re working very well and easy to use. So if there’s some great features that we’ll add, we hope to hear from you, and we hope to implement them.

Jonathan: Right. And presumably the update process is going to be fully accessible as well. So that’s really great because sometimes, remembering the key presses and verifying that the update has actually applied has been a challenge in the past.

Samuel: Yeah. And some of our products in the past, the firmware update would be done by holding a button while powering on. In these units, you go into the software version menu and select update once you’ve put the update file on the SD card. And so navigating to that menu is fully accessible.

Jonathan: Sorry. I’m jumping around a bit. But I did ask you about the price of the H6 Essential, but not the other two. So what are the pricing for those other 2 units?

Samuel: [laughs] Surely. So fairly easy to remember, at least for me. H1 Essential is $99.99 in the US, H4 Essential is $199.99, and the H6 Essential is $299.99.

Jonathan: Now understandably, I’ve had questions from the BlindPodMaker community about whether older devices might be upgraded to talk.

Samuel: And the unfortunate answer to that is no, and the reason being is there was quite a bit that went into the system. It required a little bit of extra hardware, some storage space, as well as some extra hardware as far as audio circuitry goes. So it’s not a system that we are able to put into older products, as much as that’s something we would love to do.

However, it was a technical hurdle to implement the system. You know, in terms of software development time, in total, it took about 25% of the total software development just to do the accessibility system, on top of all the other functions in the recorder. So that hurdle is jumped, and so it should be easier for us to put this kind of system into future products.

Jonathan: I mean, that is a significant dedication of resources – 25% to a feature like this. So that is great to think that the platform may now have been established.

Jonathan: Can we talk about the languages that this voice guidance is available in?

Samuel: Surely. So when you purchase the unit out of the factory, it is English only. The additional languages that are available, oh, let’s see if I can remember them off the top of my head: Spanish, Italian, French, Chinese, Japanese, German, English. I think I got them all.

And so the other languages other than English, on the website, it’s called the support and downloads page, which is something you can find on the individual product pages. So you got an H6 Essential you want to install the German language, go to the H6 Essential page, go to support and downloads, and those other language files will be there for download. You put those onto the SD card, and then you navigate to the accessibility menu in the unit. Obviously, out of the box, it will only be doing that in English. And in that menu, there is an install language file option. And so you can install that, and then it turns it into your other language.

Jonathan: I’m sure that you will be very interested in hearing how blind content creators get on with these recorders once they start reaching people’s hands, because this feature, it just doesn’t magically appear. It’s something you’ve been working on for a while. And finally, you get to put it in people’s hands, and that must be a good feeling.

Samuel: Absolutely, and the journey isn’t over for us. We know that there are improvements we can make to the system, and I’ll clue you into one, and anybody that buys these products and tries to use the accessibility system will become apparent very quickly, which is that there is no quick way to turn the guide voice on and off. And it was the first comment we heard from multiple of the first blind people that we gave one of these recorders to to try out was, “How do I turn it off very quickly?” And then once it’s off, how am I supposed to turn it back on? I had to teach scroll down 6, hit enter, scroll down 5, the whole bit. It’s something that we’ll absolutely be able to implement is some sort of shortcut to turn the guide voice on and off, and it’s something I think you’ll definitely be seeing in the first update we have for these recorders.

And that’s just one thing. I know there are going to be more, and we absolutely want to hear about them because we want to make sure the system is the best it can be.

Jonathan: What is the use case for a blind content creator wanting to turn it off?

Samuel: So, and this is what’s been told to me, but once you really learn the recorder well, and you’re just going through the motions of just hitting record, and hitting stop, and arming a couple of tracks, and hitting record where you’re not going into any menus, that having the readouts coming out was a little annoying in those cases when we’re not actually trying to navigate through anything. So every time we go to the main screen, we don’t need that status readout where we’re just arming buttons. We don’t need the beeps right now.

Jonathan: So does it talk at you in any instance when you’re recording or playing?

Samuel: Good question. So you can hear the guide voice from either the built-in speaker, which all 3 of these products have a built-in speaker that you can hear, or through the headphones. While recording, if you have headphones plugged in, you will continue to hear the guide voice. If you are using the built-in speaker, the second you hit record, it will turn off the accessibility until you stop recording. And that includes if you’re wearing headphones and you hit record, there’s a beep to let you know that you hit the button. But if you don’t have headphones plugged in, you will not hear that beep because we don’t want that beep to get picked up in microphones and potentially in a recording that you didn’t want it there.

Jonathan: Right. I have a little M2 MikTrack, and I’ve heard it making a very loud beep when you start recording which is reassuring to me, but it does come across the recording as well because it’s not intended for accessibility, it’s intended for movie syncing, I think. So that’s good to know that that’s been addressed.

When you are moving through the files that you’ve created on the recorder, does it speak the file names as you go through?

Samuel: It does, and you are not able to change file names. So the file names appear as date and time of recording, and you are able to adjust how you want that format to be. But by default, it is year, month, date, followed by time in 24-hour format.

Jonathan: Well, I’m looking forward to receiving all 3 units and putting them through their paces in a podcast episode to come very shortly.

I’m sure that many in the blind community would want me to thank you and everybody at Zoom for this game-changing development. There’s a lot of excitement in our community about it, and we really look forward to the Essential series and what comes next as well in future devices.

Samuel: And we are so looking forward to it, too. Releasing new products is one of the most fun things we get to do, and having people find out about them, find out about the updates and the upgrades, and hearing the feedback.

And so one thing I’m going to do here is tell everybody listening my email address, which is So And I say that because I invite everybody who happens to get one of these recorders, or beforehand, if you have a question, that’s fine too. But feedback is the only way we can make things better. And so I invite everybody to provide some feedback if they have any, and obviously no promises for perfection in implementing everything everybody could ever want, but we still wanna hear it because that is how we know what is going on out there with creation.

Jonathan: Brilliant, Samuel. It’s been a pleasure to get to know you throughout this process. Thank you so much for all that you and Zoom have achieved with the Zoom Essentials series.

Samuel: Jonathan, thank you so much for helping us get the word out and all excitement all around, and I can’t wait to continue the conversation.


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More on Advocacy Strategies and Responsibilities

Let’s return to this important discussion about not being idle bystanders when we want the world to change.

And John Riehl writes:

“Hi, Jonathan,

I’d like to add my 2 cents to the accessibility advocacy discussion you began in episode number 263.

I agree with you 100% that if we feel strongly about an accessibility issue, it’s up to us to step up and respectfully advocate for our position. I’ve spent all my professional life, 49 years, advocating either by myself or with others for greater accessibility to websites, tools, and technology, and have also done so on the outside.

You are, in fact, a model for the level and type of accessibility we should all try to emulate.

In episode 263, you presented a forceful case why using the Applications key for CoPilot is not a good idea from a screen reader perspective.

I’d love to join the ranks of those letting Microsoft know how I feel. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to go about it. I don’t have behind-the-scenes contacts with MS as you do, and I’m at a loss as to how to contact Microsoft so that my views will reach the right people and be factored into the decisions that are made about the Applications key.

This is true for other companies as well. So my recommendation is that, if you or listeners to Living Blindfully want us to advocate for something, please give us the appropriate contact information we need to go about it.

Thanks as always for your consistently professional, informative, and yes, provocative podcasts.”

And that is John Riehl, who is in Laurel, in MD. That’s a secret code for Maryland, in case you didn’t know.

Thank you very much, John, for the kind words.

First of all, but also for the reminder. If we are going to do advocacy, then we need to include a call to action. “Write or call your congressman today.”, or something like that.

Of one thing, I am certain. The CoPilot key is coming. And as I talked about in episode 265, they are really committed to this from a marketing point of view, and we’re not going to turn that tide around.

What I’d personally like to see, though, is an option in accessibility settings where you can nominate a key to be the context menu key. And if that’s the CoPilot key, then so be it, so I could do a demonstration on Living Blindfully about how to make a key become the Applications key if you don’t have an Applications key on your keyboard. And there may well be some interest in that.

But if you’re a bit bold and experimental, you could try getting SharpKeys. Also, I understand there’s a Windows PowerToy that will do this, but I’ve always used SharpKeys, which is a free utility, and you can map any key to any other key. It’s actually quite powerful.

But SharpKeys is a bit of a geeky piece of software. And I think for something as consequential as the application key, it should be easier. It should be something that a screen reader user can turn on at any time.

So here is my specific call to action. John, I take up the challenge. My specific call to action is, if you want to make sure that the application key is available to screen reader users using any number of keys, it might be that you assign the right-hand control key if you don’t have an application key currently on the right-hand side of the spacebar. It could be something else. It could in future be the CoPilot key.

I would suggest that you contact Microsoft’s Disability Answer Desk. Now, when I did this research, I couldn’t find a way of emailing the actual Disability Answer Desk. You can email the Enterprise one, and I know that address, but I don’t know of an email address to contact the Disability Answer Desk.

However, you can use Be My Eyes, and you can give them a call. There are numbers in many countries.

So get in touch with the Disability Answer Desk, and let them know that you would be concerned if there wasn’t a way to have an application key on your PC. And that because of the significance for screen reader users, you would like to strongly recommend that Microsoft add a feature in Accessibility Settings to allow you to customize which key on your keyboard will serve as the application key. And there may be several choices available to you in that Accessibility Setting.

Sure, as I say, you can install a third-party utility to do this, but it should be something very straightforward. This is a fundamental accessibility feature.

Voice message: Hi, Jonathan! This is Sy Hoekstra again from New York City.

On the topic of advocacy and burnout, and the application and Shift F10 keys and all that, I’m glad you appreciated the tone of what I had to say. I wouldn’t do it any other way.

And I will more than happily take a Living Blindfully t-shirt or something, if those become available. [laughs]

But I think there is a place where we sort of meet in the middle a little bit, but there’s still a point of disagreement that I think is important, which is why I’m emailing this in again.

I think there was one way that I wasn’t clear. I actually am quite bothered by the lack of an application key. I just switched to a laptop for the first time ever that doesn’t have one available without a SharpKeys reroute, and the Shift F10 is driving me up the wall. I’m going to have to do something about it.

And I would say that you’re correct that if we don’t bring this up and don’t advocate for ourselves, then nothing’s going to happen. I think there’s no reason to take on faith that things will work out for the best because our needs are not understood and because other people just aren’t going to stand up for them. I agree with all of that, and many of the other advocacy principles that you said.

I think the place where we disagree is a little bit on the framing though of dereliction of duty, if we don’t stand up for something. Or like you said in the first comments that you made on the subject, we have nobody but ourselves to blame. I think that’s where I’m focused at because you mentioned victim-blaming. I do think ultimately, that is still victim-blaming. And the reason is, like I said, it’s not our fault.

I agree with you. There’s a distinction between an Uber driver who passes you by because you don’t have a guide dog, and an enormous company that makes a marketing decision that they don’t realize is going to affect us in a negative way.

But using your equivalency principle from the NFB talk, they would never suggest this to a sighted person. They would never suggest taking away the right click key from sighted people because they understand other people’s needs.

And that’s how the discrimination happens. There’s no individual who’s intentionally doing it, and it’s not necessarily illegal. But I do think it’s still a moral issue, and it’s something that they have the resources to, you know, put systems together where this sort of thing gets nixed earlier on in the process. And the end result is still discrimination. And we are the victims of that discrimination.

So, you know, saying it’s a dereliction of our duty for not eliminating that discrimination, I think is still victim-blaming.

Even while I absolutely understand the history of how we got to the progress that we’ve gotten for blind people in the world has everything to do with our own efforts and very little to do, unfortunately, with other people’s efforts, and we’re not going to keep moving forward if we don’t keep pushing forward in our advocacy efforts, I just think it is important for our own mental health, our own keeping in mind what a just world for us would look like, to remember that none of this is our fault. And the fact that we are the only ones who are going to stand up for ourselves is just another layer of the injustice.

Again, I so appreciate your work.

By the way, I’m happy to write into Microsoft about this specific issue with the shift F10 and everything. I’ve confessed I’m not sure where I would write in about that. So if you want to let us know, I’d be more than happy to be part of the volume trying to convince them to do something else.

So thank you again so much for taking the time to explain your point of view. I hope this was helpful.

And just because you brought up what seems to be a pastime of both of ours, I will just finish by saying thank you so much, Bruce. This is Bruce signing off. And thanks also to all the Bruce’s and Sheila’s out there who are listening.

Jonathan: We better not talk about rule 1 and all that kind of stuff, because that has not stood the test of time very well. [laughs]

Anyway, thank you very much. I appreciate another contribution from you.

And yes, I am a proponent of universal design, as I’m sure is everybody who’s listening to Living Blindfully.

I think that when a decision is made, it is incumbent on a large corporation like Microsoft that has abundant resources to be able to structure their decision-making processes in a way that considers how these things will affect a range of minorities, blind people included.

We all know how difficult it is for blind people to find employment, and we know how many talented blind people are sitting on the sidelines, and many of them have tried to apply for job after job. It saddens me that diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives are under such attack in a number of countries around the world at the moment, because I have no doubt that if a blind person was around that table at the marketing meeting where there was a discussion about this potential new CoPilot key, then the blind person around the table would have said, “Hang on. What about blind people who need this? This is the equivalent of taking a sighted person’s right mouse button away.”

That’s exactly what it is. It’s like taking our right mouse button away. Can you imagine, coming back to that equivalency concept again, a sighted person tolerating their right mouse button being removed from them?

If a blind person was around the table, that point would have been made, and there would have been some sort of solution arrived at.

But we also have to live within the world as it is, while advocating for a better one. So while I would like to see a decision where this sort of advocacy isn’t necessary, we’re not there yet. And if we keep pushing these issues, then maybe companies like Microsoft will say, “Hmm. We messed up here.”

What processes need to change to ensure that disabled people are consulted at the conceptual stage of some of these things? Microsoft has very good outreach, actually, and they do meet quite regularly with a range of leaders from consumer organizations and blindness service providers around the world. And they do talk to that group about what’s going on, some of the developments with technologies like AI that are so exciting.

But what I would like to see is for Microsoft and other companies like Microsoft, the really big corporations like Microsoft, Apple, and Google, to put a wide range of leaders from the blind community under NDA (non-disclosure agreement), so that thought leaders can discuss some of these issues before they make it to market, before they make it to a public press release. And I think if we did have more input at that level, then hopefully, we would see structures taking shape that involve more blind people at conceptual stages.

But the thing is, while that’s absolutely right, it’s not what we have now, and it’s never been what we’ve had. And we wouldn’t have made the progress, as you say, that we’ve made, had successive generations not taken up the baton of advocacy which has been passed to us from previous generations, so that every generation of blind person is better off than the previous one.

And thank you for listening to my NFB presentation, because you will know the Little Red Hen analogy that I drew, and I think it’s appropriate to draw it again in this example. If we all think that someone else is going to bake the bread, but we’re happy to eat it, then if we follow that logic, the bread might never get baked. So I do think there is a moral obligation on those of us who care about an issue and have the ability to articulate our views to go out there and do the work.

Blind people are often just not on the radar. And the way right now for us to increasingly get on the radar is to continue to be a squeaky wheel.

Over my break, I read a 3-volume biography of Martin Luther King, which was written by the historian Taylor Branch. I highly recommend it to anybody who’s interested in civil rights, and specifically the civil rights struggle of African Americans.

The emotions that went through me when I read that were numerous and contrasting. At times, I was deeply moved. At others, I was profoundly angry and upset about human beings’ behavior towards other human beings, merely because of the color of their skin. And at times, I was profoundly inspired. African Americans who had so much to lose, who took so many risks, marched, went to jail, in some cases were killed or badly maimed for what they believed in, and they made progress.

And when you look at the tools at our disposal as a blind community in 2024, sometimes, sure, it’s appropriate to march. But most of the time we have it so much easier than they did. All we need to do to try and make some progress is put fingers to keyboard. Is that really too much to ask, as we try and move forward as a minority?

Progress does not come to us. Progress is something that we demand and we work for. That may be unfair. It may really suck. But unfortunately, it’s the cross that so many minorities have borne for generations.

Best and Worst Experiences Going Through Airport Security

We’re going to New York now for Sami Osborne’s email. And it says:

“Hi, Jonathan! Long time listener from New York here, but first time contributing.”

Well, welcome! It’s always nice to hear from our regulars and our newbies as well.

“First of all, I wanted to commend you for all the amazing work you’re doing with this podcast. I think Living Blindfully is the most insightful and comprehensive podcast on blindness and low vision I’ve ever listened to. I always look forward to Tuesday afternoons at 2 PM EST, which is when new episodes are released.

Keep up the great work.”, says Sami.

Well, I’ll let you into 2 secrets, Sammy.

First of all, thank you so much for the very generous, positive feedback. I really appreciate it.

The podcast actually comes out at 6 AM, New Zealand time. And at this time of the year, actually, because of all the time differences, moving around with the clocks equates to 12 noon Eastern Daylight Time. So that means that while the clocks are in the positions that they are, you can actually get the podcast 2 hours earlier than you thought you could.

And here’s another interesting thing. Shameless plug mode on. For as little as $1 a month, $1 a month, you could get the podcast 72 hours earlier and be a Living Blindfully plus supporter, if you want, only if you want.

Sami also says:

“Also, I know this probably won’t be for a very long while,” (No, it won’t.[laughs]) “but I look forward to the release of episode 845.” Oh, it breaks my brain just thinking about having recorded that many episodes. “which is my area code.”

I’ll try and remember to say hi to you when we get to 845, if I still have the brain cells to do it.

“In any case, I just thought I’d write in because I just had, what I now consider my best ever experience going through airport security I’ve ever had in my life.”

See, it’s good to get positive feedback sometimes as well, isn’t it? It helps us keep perspective.

“Last week, my mother and I took a trip up to Montreal, Quebec, to spend vacation for a couple of days. It’s a lovely part of the world that gets a bit cold. But having spent a bit of time there for work, I can tell you that the food is amazing. Oh my goodness!

I say my experience going through security on the way back was the best I ever had because, very surprisingly, the security agents at the Montreal Trudeau International Airport were very accommodating to me as a totally blind individual, and they did things I’d never had happen at security checkpoints before.

First of all, upon arrival at the security checkpoint, I put my cane on the x-ray machine, as I always do, since everyone has to empty their pockets and person before passing through the metal detector. Immediately after I put my cane on the x-ray machine, the agents offered to give me a different cane I would be using specifically for the security checkpoint, although I ended up politely declining because the cane was way too short for me.

Secondly, these agents actually knew how to do sighted guide properly, and as a consequence, were able to guide me through the metal detector. That has never happened to me going through airport security before.

After passing through the metal detector, what typically happens is the agents have me wait on a nearby bench for a minute while they finish scanning all my things. This time, however, these agents actually let me retrieve all my things from the x-ray machine myself, and they also made sure I had everything before leaving.

They also asked me if it would be okay with me if they patted me down, rather than just doing it.

Like I said, this was definitely the best experience I ever had going through security because I never encountered such kind, skilled, and accommodating security agents before.

My mom thinks it might be just a Canadian thing, and people just being nice as per the typical stereotype of Canadian people. While I don’t necessarily think she’s wrong, I still think it’s great when people like this are not just good, but actually care about their jobs and are eager to help people out.

Which brings me to my worst experience going through a security checkpoint, which, as it happens, just occurred this past summer.

Last June, my family and I travelled from New York to Washington state, followed by the NFB National Convention in Houston, to spend vacation.

When we were going through security at Newark Airport that time, I forgot to take my BrailleNote Touch Plus notetaker out of my backpack before going through the metal detector. The agents took an unusual amount of time (about 10 to 15 minutes) just scanning my BrailleNote. Worse, they said absolutely nothing to me at all, which made me think they considered me as being inferior to everyone else just because I happened to be blind.

My dad and younger brother already had all their things by that point, so they were able to head to our boarding gate. My mother and I, on the other hand, had to wait on the bench for a really long time until the agents were finally through scanning my BrailleNote, which seemingly took longer than the rest of my things. Oh boy!

I tried to stay calm on the inside. But internally, I was absolutely furious at these people for what they did. I was infuriated that they not only separated me from the rest of my family, but also offered absolutely no explanation whatsoever for this frankly inexcusable hold-up.

I had to remove my BrailleNote going through airport security before. however, in the past, the agents have usually asked me to remove my BrailleNote from my backpack and put it on the x-ray machine myself, or they otherwise didn’t care. This is why I consider this my worst ever experience going through airport security.

I posted about this experience on Facebook after my family and I arrived at our AirBNB in Washington. Some of my Facebook friends encouraged me to file a formal complaint with the TSA about how these agents treated me that day. In the end, I didn’t follow through with that though, because I honestly have no idea how the complaint filing process works with the TSA. I don’t know if I would need specific information such as the names of the agents in question, in order for my complaint to be followed through.

On the bright side, this experience made me decide I would always remove my BrailleNote from my backpack prior to clearing security from then on. That way, I wouldn’t run into this again.

As an aside, I also had what I considered to be my weirdest experience with airport security last January, 2023. At that time, I flew out with a friend to Los Angeles. On the way back, he and I ended up on the same flight on Southwest Airlines going from Long Beach, which made an intermediate stop at St. Louis, before continuing on to New York LaGuardia Airport.

As I was passing through the metal detector, my cane somehow caused the alarm to go off, even though it wasn’t made of metal at all. Noticing this, one agent asked me why I put my cane on the x-ray machine, and why I didn’t use it while going through the metal detector. I explained that I always do this while going through security for precautionary reasons. His response was then, well, you should always keep it with you at all times because don’t you use it for navigation? It seemed to me the guy was just as befuddled as I was as to how this could have happened. Frankly, I’d never been more baffled myself because just like everything else that had never happened to me before or since.

All that being said above, these experiences made me wonder whether you, Bonnie, and or other listeners remember your best, worst, and or weirdest experiences with airport security and personnel.”

Sami also says:

“PS: very late congratulations to Bonnie for becoming a dual citizen of both the United States and New Zealand. My mother, who is a native of France and a green card holder here in the US is considering maybe applying for dual citizenship as well. I’ve been a citizen of both countries since I was an infant.”

The whole subject, Sami, of airports and airport security is one that keeps coming up for good reason. It can be a very dehumanizing experience going through security.

If you can, it’s good to try and take charge of these situations, and it isn’t always possible because sometimes they’re just not communicating at all. But if you’re waiting there for something to happen, and it’s not clear to you what’s happening, you might be able to say, “Can I help you with anything? This is what this device does.”, Try and put them at their ease.

Notetaker type devices are notorious for bad security stories, and I guess that points to a poor level of training out there about what these devices are.

My worst security, … I guess I’ve got a couple of bad ones. But the first one that comes to mind immediately did happen to me in the United States about 15 years ago, and I was traveling with another blind person.

The TSA people didn’t follow appropriate security processes, even though we tried very hard to insist that they did. And then they got concerned about me potentially having passed something, or with the potential to pass something, to the person I was traveling with. I forget the specifics of what the snafu was. Even though we were quite adamant, you know, we’re not doing this right, you’re requiring us to do this wrong.

They wanted me, having got everything back in my backpack and all that kind of stuff, to go through security again, which would have meant unloading the laptop and the Braille display I was traveling with, and put it all in the bin again and go through again. And I said, “I am not doing this because you have caused this issue. When we tried to advise you what the appropriate protocol was, now you’re inconveniencing us.”

But what I really learned from that experience was there’s really no point arguing with them. There really isn’t. I mean, what are you going to do? I guess you could sort of have a sit-in, a one-person sit-in at the airport over a point of principle. But in the end, the right thing to do is just to comply, even though you don’t want to, and then make a complaint at some later time.

The other really dodgy experience with security that comes to mind happened to me in Sydney only about 5 years ago. I was working with Aira at the time, and I had a lot of gear with me. I unloaded all the things that you would normally unload like a Braille display, a laptop and that kind of thing, put my phone in the bin, all the stuff that you normally do every time you go through security. But I did have quite a few cables, cables for the Aira glasses at the time, different other things, because I was doing podcasts, so there were little microphones and things. And I don’t normally take those out because I’m not normally asked to take them out.

And for some reason, they decided to completely unload my backpack with all the different wires and bits and bobs, and my backpack accommodates quite a bit. It is a treasure trove of things, that backpack that I travel with. They didn’t tell me that they were doing this, and they didn’t tell me why they were doing it.

So I put my laptop and everything back in my bag, and I thought to myself, “This doesn’t feel right. It just didn’t feel heavy enough.” And it was only then that I reached out and discovered that everything else had been taken out of my backpack. They didn’t tell me, even when I was about to leave, they didn’t tell me that there was all this stuff still there. And I had to spend an inordinate amount of time just reloading that backpack and putting everything back. And that was just really frustrating. I don’t know what they were trying to prove, but it’s just such a random thing. I don’t know what the process is for making a complaint to the TSA.

When this topic has come up before about airport situations, I have heard about a complaints resolutions officer that you can ask for. And every airport is supposed to have one, I understand, and you can ask for them. But I think that is when you want to complain in real time. I’m not sure what the process is if you have had a bad experience, and you get home, and you want to notify somebody, presumably TSA, about that. So perhaps someone with good advocacy skills in the United States can talk us through the process of making a complaint about a TSA experience that you’ve had, because it is pretty bad from time to time.

It’s great that you had such a good experience in Montreal. And when I have a good experience like that, it just makes me think, why can’t the rest of the world be like this? This was effortless.

I always write to the company concerned, whether it’s an airline, or a hotel, or anywhere that I’ve had a good experience like that. Sometimes, I’ve written to telcos about a good experience I’ve had. Really any good bit of customer service, I think it should be praised, because we’re all too quick to fire up the keyboard or whatever when we’ve had a bad experience, we should be equally as quick to praise when it’s warranted.

I love sending letters like that, and the replies I get are just so nice. And I know I’ve just made someone’s day by sending a letter like that. So if you haven’t done so already, it would be good to see if you can find an appropriate person to let them know that you really do appreciate the experience that you had.

This question of whether you should have your cane with you when you go through security is an interesting one, and I think opinions vary about this. I must admit what I do, I travel with a foldable or telescoping cane, and I do put it in the little bin as I get ready to go through security. And what I advise the agent to do is walk backwards with me through it. So I kind of reach out to them and we walk through that way. And that works for me.

But I believe that there is a school of thought that says, just as that agent was telling you, that since you rely on the cane for navigation, you should never surrender the cane, and that you are entitled to walk through security with the cane.

So if anyone has any views on that, by all means, be in touch. This is an important subject because it can be such a demoralizing experience, just trying to get from one destination to another. It can be an enormous source of stress for people. And if you travel enough, you usually have a few strategies to get through it, you know how to put people at their ease, and you can perhaps give some instructions to the security people if they will listen to you about this is what I expect.

But for people who don’t do travel as often, it really can be very disempowering. So good topic, Sami.

864-60-Mosen is the number if you want to give me a call on this in the United States – 864-606-6736 or

Sharing the Parenting Duties When It Comes to Transport

Kelby Carlson raises an issue that I’m sure those of us who are blind parents have grappled with over the years. He says:

“As a father of 4 children, undoubtedly, your children had to go to a lot of different places. I’m wondering how you worked out transporting them where only one of the parents or none could drive. As my family grows bigger, I want to make sure my spouse isn’t overworked with all of the driving, but I have never tried taking my small children on public transportation or ride-sharing. I’m very curious how you handled this while your children were growing up.”

Thanks, Kelby.

I have experienced this 2 ways. My children’s mum is sighted. And when we were together, she would do most of the transportation, would just be pragmatic and say look, as a division of labour, it makes more sense for her to handle the transportation and I can do other things.

I was the one that typically read stories to them in the evening, and did other things. I would go and pick up the children from kindergarten because it was within walking distance of our house, and I quite enjoyed the break. I was working from home at the time, so I would just take a break in the middle of the day. Normally, they would finish kindy at about 12, and I would walk down there and pick them up and walk home, and I really enjoyed that because the kids would be full of chatter about what they were up to, what they’d done at kindergarten.

I would take them on outings sometimes, and that was the case irrespective of whether their mum and I were still together or whether by that stage, they had a blind stepmother. I’d take them to the zoo, for instance, and we’d just get on the bus and go to the zoo, and that was a lot of fun.

Sometimes, if there was a mission-critical thing like they had a lesson of some kind, (all the kids took up ballet or some musical instrument, or drama or something like that), and if I needed to take them there, then I would usually catch a taxi. There weren’t ride-share services then, so we’d catch a cab because of the time sensitivity of it, and that meant that I could book a cab over the phone and have some degree of confidence that it would turn up on time, and I’d be able to get them there, or it would turn up on time for me to go and pick them up so they weren’t stranded at the end of their lesson or whatever.

So you can make it work. With 4 children, it can be a big logistical exercise if you want to take them all to the one place, and that was a really big change for me going from a household that had one sighted person, where you could just be quite spontaneous and say, let’s go somewhere, and you’d load everybody up in the car and you’d go.

But when you have a 2 blind parent household, it’s not that simple. I mean, it can be if you’re lucky. If you’re in a city where there is sufficient supply of vans so that you can be spontaneous and you wake up one day and it’s the school holidays and you think, hey, it’s a lovely day, let’s go somewhere and you just call up the van and it arrives, then that’s great.

Sometimes, you could book a van with a few hours notice. But increasingly, what I found as they were getting older was that there was more demand for these vans, or maybe there were fewer vans, or maybe a combination of both. But sometimes, you’d have this bright idea and you would call to book a van and you wouldn’t be able to get one until the next day.

And sometimes, the bus route was incredibly complicated. I’ve got no objection to jumping on the bus. But sometimes, if you wanted to go to a particular place, there were multiple changes, and the kids get a bit fractious so sometimes, you’d have to postpone.

So in those situations where you’ve got two blind people doing the parenting, we found we did have to plan a bit more and we would say, all right, tomorrow we are going 10 pin bowling. And since that 10 pin bowling isn’t on the bus route, then we will take a taxi and we will order a van to transport 2 adults and 4 children to get there.

Sometimes, to avoid disappointment, you would just change the plan and say, well, we can’t do this, but we can do this because it’s on the bus route and we can all get on there.

I think using the bus will vary depending on the age of the children. Once they get to a certain age, they enjoy getting on the bus. They know what’s expected of them. When they’re very young, if you’ve got multiple children to transport, hopefully you might be able to have one that’s tethered to you in some way, or you can hold their hand and you know they’re not gonna do a runner and another smaller one if there’s a baby in a backpack or a front pack. I have done the bus that way.

So this is a really cool topic, and maybe others will chime in with some thoughts.


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Deep Fakes in the US Presidential Election, Blood Pressure Monitoring, Apple Accessibility

Avnish is writing in on several topics and wrote this towards the end of January and says:

“Last week, some voters in New Hampshire received an AI-generated robocall impersonating President Joe Biden, telling them not to vote in the state’s primary election. It’s not clear who was responsible for the call, but 2 separate teams of audio experts tell Wired it was likely created using technology from voice cloning startup ElevenLabs.

ElevenLabs markets its AI tools for use like audiobooks and video games. It recently achieved “unicorn” status by raising $80 million at a $1.1 billion value in a new funding round, co-led by venture firm Andreessen Horowitz. Anyone can sign up for the company’s paid service and clone a voice from an audio sample.

The company’s safety policy says it is best to obtain someone’s permission before cloning their voice, but that permissionless cloning is okay for a variety of non-commercial purposes, including political speech contributing to public debates.

ElevenLabs did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

What are your comments on this?“, says Avnish.”Could the next United States president be decided on input from ElevenLabs?”

I think it’s certain that people will continue to use ElevenLabs and tools like it for nefarious purposes. It is a shame. Like any technology, it can be used for good or ill.

This is just one example of DeepFake, and it’s manifesting itself in many forms. As your email came in, Avnish, for example, there’s a lot of talk about DeepFake involving Taylor Swift, and I understand that that is visual and not an audio DeepFake.

So it’s getting harder to tell what is real. And as a society, this is something that we’re all going to have to contend with, and it’s something that regulators are going to have to contend with as well.

How do we use this technology successfully? There’s no putting the genie back into the bottle, and the technology can be used for good.

For example, ElevenLabs technology is being used for translation purposes, which is the reason why the creators originally designed it. It’s also being used by people who are willing to license their voices for various audio projects, which is how Living Blindfully uses it every week.

It’s a bit like the computer. It’s a great tool. Computer technology is bringing us together from over 110 countries around the world.

Computers can also be used to do evil things. How do we, as a society, rein in those evil things? I don’t have any quick glib answers to this question, but we are going to have to grapple with it as a society.

“Second point, sometime back you reviewed a blood pressure monitor which is VoiceOver compatible/accessible.”

Yeah, that is the Qardio Arm, which we still have here, and it’s rocking along with its companion the Qardio Base, which is a great, reliable scale.

Avnish continues:

“The Samsung Galaxy Watch models 4, 5, and 6 are all now fitted with blood pressure monitoring devices. Though not very accurate, these may be a great fit for someone who wants to keep a tab on their blood pressure without having to carry around bulky blood pressure measuring equipment.

Unlike the Apple Watch which can only be paired with an iPhone, the Galaxy Watches can be paired with an iPhone.

It would be worthwhile if you tested out the Galaxy Watch blood pressure monitoring feature using a Galaxy Watch and an iPhone.”

I guess it might be, Avnish. If they want to send me one, I’ll gladly put it through its paces.

I personally wouldn’t buy one because I’m really happy with my Apple Watch. It works well in the Apple ecosystem, which for mobile computing is what I’m into.

And I guess I’m slightly unenthused, if that’s a word, by your comment that it’s not very reliable. Is there really any point in having blood pressure monitoring if it’s not very reliable? I suppose if the trends are consistent, you would at least be able to detect an increase that might be of alarm, I suppose, I’d have to read up on that and find out more.

But even better if someone in our community is using a Galaxy Smart Watch and you’d like to do a bit of a review for us, not just of the blood pressure monitoring, but how it works in general, that would be of interest, I have no doubt.

“Third point,” from Avnish, “That Apple continues to have totally voice inaccessible webpages on its website and on its native apps is really a big problem. If the apps created by Mr. Cook who touts to be a believer in accessibility for all himself breaks this rule, what hope do we have for other apps and websites following? How do we make Apple listen? It’s a perennial problem, very very frustrating.”

It is indeed. It’s strange the way Apple’s web presence continues to let the side down, given that their native apps are pretty good most of the time.

I have no idea what’s going on here. I don’t know where the disconnect is, and I don’t know what we do about it either. It’s affecting me as a podcaster because all that noise I made last year about Apple Podcast Connect has not made any difference at all. I’m wondering whether someone in the United States who is blind who also wants to use Apple Podcast Connect should take some sort of action under the ADA. Perhaps that’ll move them. I’m not sure whether I’m able to do that from here or not.

“Fourth, I am using iOS version 17.2 on an iPhone 15 Pro. Usually, when I am dictating text and want to add a new paragraph or insert a new line, I say new line, and the text would automatically move and the new line created.

Lo and behold, what happens now? When I say new line, it may add a line, but also types the words line or new line. This is most frustrating and slows down the entire process of typing an email or a message, etcc as I have come down back to my text and delete the word new line, which has been typed.

Do you have any workaround to this problem?”

I don’t use dictation very much at all. The only time I use dictation is perhaps for a quick text to Bonnie, or something like that, because I don’t trust it. I have seen so many emails and other things come in with errors that blind people have not picked up on because there’s a kind of a confirmation bias. You hear what you expect to hear, and some of the errors that come back in dictation sound so close to what you expect to hear that often when you listen to them back with VoiceOver, you don’t pick up the errors, or maybe people don’t care, or whatever. So I only use it for a very quick text to Bonnie, or the kids, or something like that. I don’t use it a lot.

But I wonder whether the new paragraph is the magic command. If I was wanting to put in a break like that, I would always say new paragraph rather than new line, but maybe others who use dictation more than I do have some ideas.

iPhone Action Button and Facebook Extra Verbosity

“Hi, Jonathan, from Dawn.”, says this email from Dawn.

“Two totally unrelated things.

I use the action button to turn VoiceOver off and on as I have many sighted friends, including my husband, who hate listening to VoiceOver if I ask them to look at the screen to give me help.

I do wish I could use it for more than one purpose. For instance, turning on silent mode instead of going to sounds to silence it.”

Well, Dawn, sorry if this is a really obvious question, but do you know that you can triple tap the side button to turn VoiceOver on and off? So just triple tap the side button. It will say VoiceOver off. Triple tap the side button again, it will say VoiceOver on. So you’ve got that functionality, and that’s been in the iPhone since VoiceOver was introduced. Except of course, in those days it was the home button rather than the side button that you used to triple tap. So hopefully that frees up a function for your action button.

There are some pretty cool shortcuts out there that allow you to assign a menu to the action button. So when that’s all set up and you’ve got your menu configured, you would press and hold the action button, a little menu would pop up, and you could make your choices from there. But perhaps relying on the triple click side button function that’s been in voiceover all along might free up your action button for the one thing you want it to do.

“Second subject.”,, she says. “Have people noticed that lately, the Facebook app has become more verbal? For every new entry, it will say profile picture or it will repeat the title of a group and then say hide. Is there a way to decrease this verbosity?”

I have noticed that, Dawn. It is annoying.

I don’t know of a way to decrease the verbosity, but hopefully there’ll be sufficient feedback from other users that Facebook might rethink this, because it really does slow you down. And I do so dislike verbosity that slows you down and really adds no value whatsoever. There’s a lot of it about.

Video Editing as a Blind Person

Voice message: Hi, Jonathan! This is Vaughan Roles from Australia.

Can I start with an indulgence? Welcome back to the podcast Airways for 2024.

I’ve got a quick question about video editing and recording. And the reason I’m asking is because I have a guide dog who shares my passion for outdoor activities, and we do a lot of these together.

So if I’m swimming in a fair distance out from the edge of the lake right out into the middle, and then we swim back to shore together. And he indicates which direction the shore is in. I carry a mobile phone with me with GPS and mark the GPS point where I enter. If I’m closer to the shore, he stays near the shore and waits on the edge. And when I call him, he comes, collects me from wherever I am in the lake, takes me back to the shore, and to my gear. It’s fairly unique for a guide dog to do this sort of stuff, and he hasn’t had a lot of training in it, but does it intuitively.

I’m wanting to capture some of that with a GoPro that I use, and also some of my hiking. I’m wondering, I know there’s totally blind people that do videoing, but I’m wondering if any of them edit their own content, or whether they effectively have an editor, and whether there’s any accessible video editing programs either for iOS or for Windows.

If you know the answers to these, I’d be grateful for your wisdom. If not, can I seek a second indulgence and leave an email address for your listeners? That email is And if they could get in touch, I’d be very grateful.

Keep up the good work.

Jonathan: Thanks, Vaughan!

And if people would like to share their experiences with us, I’m sure there’ll be many listeners who would be interested in these answers.

The first thing I’d observe is, wow! That is an exceptional partnership you’ve got going with that guide dog of yours. He sounds like an absolute treasure.

Regarding editing video, I’ve done quite a bit of this, but nothing like what you want to do. I’m just sitting here in my office and I might want to do a presentation for my staff. So I’ll record this using the camera here and this microphone that we’re using now, because I’ve now got it on a stand in such a way that the microphone doesn’t obscure the view of the camera. So I got good audio and as far as I’m aware, reasonable video, although I can’t verify the quality of that. I just take everything into Reaper.

I know that a lot of blind people are now producing some pretty cool video in Reaper. They’re adding all sorts of pictures and doing things that I have not done. So Reaper is not only a fully accessible audio editor, you can edit and save video that way as well. And that will work very well on Windows and Mac. And I’m sure there will be some other options that people will recommend as well. It’s cool to see more blind people getting into editing video.

I think that what I’m doing is relatively easy because I’m just editing talking to camera.

What I think would be the challenge as I think this through for a totally blind person is, if you’re editing what I would call action video, so you’re hiking, you’re swimming, there may not be audible cues that allow you to know exactly when you should make the edits and when you should stop doing the splice, as it were. So that might be a bit of a challenge, but I’m sure you’ve thought that through.

So let’s talk about video editing as a blind person. If you have any thoughts on this, I know there’s increasing interest in it. Give the listener line a call too, if you want. 864-60-Mosen, 864-606-6736. And of course you can do what Vaughan did and attach an audio clip to the email, if you like.

Sonos Question

Caller: Good day! My name is Kenneth Stuart. I’m calling from Trinidad and Tobago, land of Brian Lara, top class cricketer.

I bought the Sonos Roam and it is just great. I enjoy listening to music. I am listening to music more than ever before.

I am thinking about buying a second Roam so I can run a stereo and also purchasing a subwoofer to go with it. Do you think that is a good idea to improve my song system at home?

Thank you very much.

Jonathan: Kenneth. Brian Lara was just one of the most exceptional cricketers ever.

And I got to tell you, although it may not bring back good memories for you. One of the greatest live cricketing experiences I’ve had was when I was with Bonnie and my best friend, and some of the family in 2015, and we played that quarterfinal against the West Indies in Wellington. And Kirtley Ambrose, it almost felt like he was literally held together by bits of tape and bits of string, and he went out there and he hit an amazing innings. It wasn’t enough because Guptill had got a rare 1 day double century that day. Oh my goodness, that was an exceptional World Cup for us back in 2015.

But I certainly remember West Indies cricket from earlier times, and some of the amazing players that the West Indies have produced.

But anyway, I’m not going to waffle on about cricket because if I start, I won’t stop. [laughs] So I will stop now and answer your Sonos question to say that I have not personally done this. I own one Sonos Roam for when I travel. It’s fantastic. It fits so easily in a suitcase, or even a backpack, and even one fills the room.

I imagine that if you pair 2, so you get a stereo pair and you put them apart a little bit, it should sound sensational. Those Sonos devices are quite smart, so they can tell when they’re paired as a stereo pair and they modify their behavior accordingly. So I imagine it should be a pretty sweet experience.

I’m glad you’re enjoying the Roam. And if you get the second one, let us know how it sounds for you.

Are Other New York Times Puzzles Accessible?

Shall I let you into a secret? David Szumowski is hooked on Wordle. I know this because it says here in this email in front of me:

“I’m hooked on Wordle, and someone made an app that makes it work well on my computer.

Now, I’m finding that the New York Times has Connections and Letterbox, and both look fun challenges, but they are not readily accessible to working on my computer.

Are you aware of a workaround, or of anyone trying to make it accessible?”

No, I am not, David, but let’s put it out there and see if anyone else can help with this., or 864-60-Mosen, if you have any thoughts or recommendations for David about how to make these additional New York Times puzzles accessible.


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Accessible Crypto Options

In episode 265, Peter was asking whether there are some accessible crypto options. George McDermith says:

“Hi, Jonathan,

Regarding accessible options for crypto, I have found Robinhood to be accessible for purchasing a variety of crypto offerings, including Bitcoin. Setting up an account was accessible when I did so several years ago, and accessibility has seemed to be a priority for the company in the past, so hopefully it will bode well for those who wish to sign up now.

I have only used the iOS app, but purchases of both stock and crypto have been straightforward, and obtaining tax documents is also easy enough.

I have also used PayPal to purchase Bitcoin. This is accessible, but a fee is charged, and you don’t own your keys, so I’m uncertain as to the value proposition.

Nevertheless, for those who are interested, it is a way you can acquire Bitcoin. I have yet to find an accessible, independent way of owning crypto outside of Robinhood. I saw a project called Icy Wallet several years ago, but it never came to anything, rather like that Braille embosser that Intel built out of Legos.

Unfortunately, in the blindness field, we so often hear about products that might make a difference, but they either amount to nothing, or in the end, come along so belatedly that they practically do no good for the price. I’m looking at you, B2G.”, he says.

“Thanks as always for the great podcast. Always learn something new each time.”

Thank you, George, really appreciate the help.

Google Password Manager on BrailleNote Touch+

Here’s a word of advice based on the experience of Kathy Blackburn. She says:

“I have unfortunately made the mistake of using the Google Password Manager on my BrailleNote Touch Plus. Later, when I needed to edit some passwords to strengthen them, I learned that this cannot be done when accessibility services are turned on. This means I need a sighted person’s help to edit a password.

I am now reluctant to create any new accounts on this device.”

Update on Apple Tech Support Woes

And now, the saga continues.

“Hi again, Jonathan,” says Catherine.

“Thanks for reading my message on the podcast.

As a refresher for your listeners, I wrote in about my iPhone consistently deleting Siri Voice 3, which is my preferred VoiceOver voice, and the fantastically unhelpful process Apple’s disability tech support wanted me to go through to address it.

I opted not to do a total reset and restore on my phone, and just put up with another voice for a while.

You asked for an update. I’m happy to report that after another iOS update, I reinstalled Siri Voice 3 and it’s been working fine ever since.

I’m curious if there have been any further developments in your frustrating saga with Apple and the inaccessibility of its website for podcasters.”

Unfortunately, Catherine, there hasn’t been any update. I haven’t followed up in recent times with any further emails, or anything like that, but I think they hope that I will go away, so it’s probably high time that I got back to this.

I appreciate the nudge, and I’m glad that that Siri issue resolved itself for you. I was having a similar but not identical issue, and it seems to have resolved itself as well.

Problem With iPhone Notifications

Oh no! Howard’s got an odd iPhone problem, and he’s gonna tell us about it in this email, which begins:

“Hello, Jonathan and Living Blindfully listeners,

Ever since updating my SE 3rd generation iPhone from iOS 16 dot whatever to 17.2 and now 17.3, I’ve occasionally been experiencing a strange problem when a notification comes in while the phone is locked.

One of three things can happen.

  1. Normal behavior. The notification is spoken. The phone then waits a few seconds, emits the little chirp and goes back to sleep.
  2. Only the time is spoken, and the notification is not spoken at all. The phone then waits a few seconds, and then goes back to sleep as in number 1.
  3. The phone starts to speak the notification, but chirps and goes back to sleep before the whole thing can be completed. Sometimes, it will cut off right in the middle of a word.

I haven’t been able to figure out any kind of pattern as to when these strange behaviors will occur. I’ve had someone send me the same text message several times, and any one of the 3 behaviors can happen.

I know of two other people who are experiencing this. One says he has the problem quite often as I do, and the other says she only sees it rarely. All the phones are SE’s, but I think one is 2nd generation rather than 3rd.

I’ve played around with the settings under VoiceOver verbosity that control how notifications should be handled on the lock screen, but that hasn’t made a difference.

Does anyone have any ideas?”

Thanks, Howard!

I don’t have any ideas about this one. My notification use is a bit different from most. I keep my phone unlocked all the time when it’s in my pocket or on my desk, and I just hear the notifications that way.

I’ve got another issue with notifications, and I don’t want to sidetrack your issue, which is just as important. So if anybody has any thoughts on this, even just to say they’re experiencing the same thing, it would be interesting to hear whether it’s specific to SE phones or it’s wider.

The problem I’ve got is that in iOS 17, they have changed the way notifications are spoken when the phone is saying something else and a notification comes in. And I thought I would like this, but it turns out that I don’t because what happens is I could be skimming through, say, Mastodon, and a notification goes off, and I’m on a post that I don’t necessarily want to hear the end of, but I have to sit through the end of it now in order to get the notification, because the alternative is to stop and pull down notification center and listen to it. If I stop the post in midstream, I will miss out on the notification, so I think I would like to have a toggle where I can go back to the old behavior of speech being instantly interrupted when a new notification comes in.

The other thing I find very disconcerting about this new iOS 17 notification behavior is that it’s really broken when you’re reading continuously. If I’m reading a webpage, or a news story in Lire or something like that and a notification comes in, I don’t hear the notification, and my speech stops, my continuous reading stops, so it’s a lose-lose situation.

AI Tools I Use Regularly

Kevin is writing in from Malaysia with some AI tools that he uses regularly.

And before doing that, he wants to see the transcripts of the episodes of Living Blindfully on the same page as the audio episodes. We’re not going to do that, Kevin. And the reason for that is that accessibility is paramount with Living Blindfully. Accessibility has wide benefits, that’s one of the beauties of accessibility. But we’re doing transcripts first and foremost so that the deaf-blind community can participate as equals in this podcast.

The audio episode pages of Living Blindfully are busy because of how effective we’ve made them. The show notes are there, and the timestamps for the show notes are there, and you can simply click through to the timestamps and get to where you need to be. But that means that the pages are busy already. And for a deaf-blind person solely using a Braille display who has no audio at all, if we were to cram everything on one page, it would be very busy, even if we used good heading markup, it would just be a lot of clutter. So we absolutely will be keeping transcripts separate from the audio on the actual Living Blindfully website itself.

As podcasting 2.0 evolves, we may find a way to amalgamate them in the RSS feed, but that will be different from the website, where as I say, accessibility is paramount.

A side issue is also that practicality is paramount, too. And on rare occasions, we do need to republish an episode. Perhaps there’s some sort of technical glitch that has occurred. Perhaps there’s some sort of late breaking thing where we need to update the episode, or delete a small thing. And if we do that and republish the episode and the transcript is on the same page, then the transcript would get overwritten. And we certainly don’t want that, and to leave our deaf-blind listeners in particular out in the cold.

Now, on to some tools that he uses daily that are AI-based.

Perplexity. At the time of this writing is a very accessible AI powered search engine available as mobile and web apps. The iOS interface has changed a bit, causing some screen reader productivity loss. But it’s still wonderful.

The coPilot is great for comparisons, or deeper searches. There is another underrated feature called focused, where you can choose modes of operation for the app like searching Reddit, or doing writing.

Another AI search engine that can do very powerful things like writing code and more complex 40-page research crawling is

That’s a pretty cool URL, isn’t it?

“The downside of both apps is the high cost of unlimited genius/CoPilot functions. But you can still use them 5 times a day, which is enough for many casual users.

Yup, Kevin. I’m a pretty regular perplexity user myself, and I think it is a very cool research tool. It’s amazing what it knows. I mean, you can ask it actually quite complex JAWS questions, for example. And in my experience, it gets them right most of the time.

If you love walking and talking into your voice recorder/voice memos, there is Whisper Memos. You can record voice notes, and as soon as you stop, it will transcribe and send them to your email.

I love this feature, as I can use it to record snippets of meditation that I’m listening to on my external speaker. The uniqueness of this app is that it turns your ramblings into paragraphed articles, and emails them to you. At the same time, you can access all the well-formatted transcripts of your speech in the app itself, which is quite accessible with VoiceOver.

Another similar tech I’ve yet to try is AudioPen, an AI-powered transcription tool that converts voice notes to text and provides summaries. It seems to have more advanced workflows.

I haven’t played with emotional support AIs like Replica, but one I love is PI.AI. It’s designed to be a good companion. Rather than straightforward answers, it asks questions and brainstorms with you, beautifying answers with dilemmas and emojis. The iOS app is only available in some countries. I was able to get it using my US Apple ID.

I’m using the Chrome extension YouTube Summary to summarize YouTube videos I watch. After installing it, you can go to any YouTube page, press Control X twice quickly, and it will open ChatGPT with the entire transcripts and prompt on the clipboard. You can paste that into ChatGPT, and press enter for a summary. I tweaked the extension settings, not very keyboard accessible, to change my LLM to Claude and set it to obtain full transcripts for longer videos. I also customized the summary prompt for more details.

Kevin talks about Whisper, which is a pretty impressive speech to text interpreter which runs on a range of platforms, and he’s provided a URL to a Windows based option.

You can also check it out online if you’d like to generate machine-based transcripts at That’s all joined together. That’s That requires payment for longer bits of writing. So do check out Whisper. It’s also available on Mac, and I have a version running on iOS as well. And I’ll have some URLs in the show notes for that.

2 NVDA add-ons that are great for using OpenAI LLMs are the OpenAI NVDA add-on and add-on content describer.

For those who are more technical, there are many ways to run LLM chatbots locally, but few accessible options on Windows. To address this, Chai Kim created VolLama, that’s V-O-L-L-A-M-A, an accessible chat client for LLama.

For context, LLama allows you to run open source large language models (LLMs) locally on your machine. It supports various models, and now has accessibility.

Chai Kim also created V-O-C-R, a popular AI-powered OCR tool for Mac that enables accessibility in many previously inaccessible apps.

There are other apps like LLMStudio, (that’s all one word), and GPT4ALL (that’s GPT, the number 4, and then ALL) for running LLMs locally, but we likely need to work collectively with their developers to add screen reader accessibility.

Ask Envision is now available to scan text in the Envision app. I love it, especially how it displays text from my pictures and screenshots.

Apart from AI, I’ve long been hunting for a good web app to manage Mastodon, as I’m not a fan of Tweesecake. I’m glad the discontinued is still usable, and has been forked by a receptive developer. This fork is called, and is continuously being developed, retaining semaphore’s familiar keyboard shortcuts and menu structure. A familiar home with new features.

Well, I do hope that one of the new features is to be able to read posts in the order that they were sent, because that was why I was never a semaphore user. To me, it makes absolutely no sense to read social media in reverse chronological order. It’s like time going in the wrong direction. So that’s why I pretty much exclusively use Mona as my Mastodon client on my phone, because it reliably keeps my place and I can read things in the order that they were sent. That’s particularly important if you’re covering a breaking news story, or something like that.


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

So why not share yours?

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

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

What Do People Know About Matrix

We are going to talk Matrix now, but not Matrix in the sense of are we all living in some sort of simulation? And is someone just pulling the strings? Are we mere puppets in the universe?

This is actually a much easier subject, I think, from Christopher Wright. He says:

“Hi, Jonathan,

Do you or any of the other listeners have any experience using Matrix? It sounds like an interesting voice and video chat platform. But I’m a little confused about how to get started, what options are available for blind accessible clients, etc.

I don’t care about Mastodon because I’m not interested in microblogging, but the decentralized nature fascinates me. The idea you can create your own community with its own rules without the need to be beholden to anyone other than a server provider is why I enjoy using TeamTalk currently.

I know Discord is extremely popular, but it’s centralized, I don’t like the client, and their terms of service specifically prohibits third-party clients.

If I’m correct in assuming Matrix offers the same open API support as Mastodon, this is definitely something I’m interested in exploring as a potential replacement for TeamTalk.”

Thanks, Christopher.

I’m no expert on this, so I’m not even going to try. Hopefully, somebody else knows a lot more about this than me.

My understanding, though, and it could be wrong, is that Matrix and ActivityPub are kind of similar, but Matrix, for example, doesn’t use ActivityPub. Matrix is a protocol that is supposed to make voice and video chats clients universal, so they can all talk to each other.

I don’t know anything about accessible clients or anything like that, but I’d be very interested in learning. So if somebody can clue us in,, or give us a call, 864-60-Mosen in the United States, 864-606-6736.

Lost Speech After iOS Update

Voice message: Greetings, Jonathan and Living Blindfully listeners. This is Stan Warren Litrel in Medford, Oregon, and I wanted to let you know what happened to me and how I was able to solve the problem with assistance from one of my friends.

Last week, I attempted to do an installation of the latest version of iOS with my iPhone 15 Pro Max, and I didn’t check the battery status. I know that it used to be customary. So the phone was at, let’s say, less than 50% than you plugged it in. Otherwise, for charging while you were doing the installation of the iOS upgrade.

I didn’t look at how much battery status I had before I attempted to do the upgrade. And things went along swimmingly, until, … And of course, it showed that all I needed to do was hit the area where it says install now. And I hit the area where it says install now. That is when my problems began.

I attempted to see where I was in terms of, … because I had no speech. The speech completely went away. And this caused a little problem because I wasn’t sure how I was going to complete the upgrade, or where the problem was.

So okay. Because I have a landline, I called Apple Accessibility.

I must say, the gentleman that took my call, I don’t remember his name, but he couldn’t have been more delightful. Of course, I get the customary question that we all get. Do you have a sighted person with you that can read the screen? Of course, I couldn’t be too angry at him because he’s so cool. And I said, well, no. There’s just me, myself, and I.

And so, as time went on, he told me how to possibly get the phone restored, meaning you press up volume, then the down volume, and then press the side button on the other side of the phone. And I did that. And still, I wasn’t able to. It spoke for a little while, and then it went back into its usual tricks.

So since I knew I was going to my place of choice, I said, well, when I get there, I will have access to a sighted individual. And I always say a sightie, and that’s what I do.

Anyway, I got this individual to look at the screen, and he was able to guide me through the restart because the screen, he could read what was on the screen and do something I could not.

So I guess the moral of the story is, no matter how much battery level you have, you might want to consider plugging your phone in when you start the upgrade because I was not a happy camper when the problem happened.

Jonathan: I can well imagine that, Stan. It must have been frustrating.

You do have me curious about what the message was that your sighted friend was able to see on the screen that he was able to bypass. Because if you were able to perform that reset of pressing volume up, volume down, and then holding the side button for a while, and it came up talking, then I’m not quite sure what might’ve been going on there.

I’m perplexed by this. But I think you raise a wider point that is important. And that is that it would be good if Apple could find a way to give some very basic updates with speech when this process is taking place. If there could be something deep in the phone where you could do a triple click of the side button while the update was taking place, just to get a bit of feedback, even if it was just beeps or something, ascending tones so that you knew the update was taking place. That would be very helpful.

And these things might happen, you know, because for years we were saying, we want the phone to vibrate. We want the phone to make a sound of some kind when we switch it on. And now, you can do that.

And in the Mac, I think, when you’re performing a software update, there’s a very basic version of VoiceOver that can be running. So you know that it’s in progress. It would be very good if we could get that equivalent in iOS.


Advertisement: Transcripts of Living Blindfully are brought to you by Pneuma Solutions, a global leader in accessible cloud technologies. On the web at That’s P-N-E-U-M-A solutions dot com.

Closing and Contact Info

. On next week’s episode of the show, we’re going to be talking about a pretty hot topic in parts of the consumer movements in the United States at the moment. So we’ll look forward to that, and also to your contributions, because there were some great ones in this episode. I really appreciate you taking the time to send them in. Do keep them coming.

In the meantime, remember that when you’re out there with your guide dog, you’ve harnessed success. And with your cane, you’re able.


Voiceover: If you’ve enjoyed this episode of Living Blindfully, please tell your friends and give us a 5 star review. That helps a lot.

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.