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Welcome to 278.. 2

In Loving Memory of Pauline Mosen.. 3

the Downloading From YouTube on iOS.. 5

Looking for Accessible Real-time Translation App.. 6

Keeping Access to Windows 10, and Zoom H Essential Recorders. 7

YouTube Accessibility Issue.. 9

Notetakers in the Past, Present, and Future.. 11

Verifying Identity Online in the US.. 16

BrailleSense Notification That Won’t Go Away. 18

Baseball Commentary Accessibility When at the Venue.. 19

The ARA Device.. 20

Blind People in Wheelchairs at the Airport 21

Crossword Puzzle Apps That Work With JAWS.. 23

Mastodon Versus Bluesky. 23

Dustin Boggus From the My Homekit Home Podcast Discusses Home Automation.. 26

New Hearing Aids. 39

It Is Wrong to Boycott Israeli Assistive Technology. 42

The Subtitle Reader Add-on for NVDA.. 43

Setting Up Complex Medication Schedules in Apple Health.. 43

Sound Without Sight Brings Audio Creative Professionals Together. 44

The BT Speak Is Excellent Value for Money. 44

Comments on Episode 277.. 45

Closing and Contact Info.. 46




Welcome to 278


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.


On the show this week: the enticing world of home automation. How do you get started, and what are its benefits? Dustin Boggus gives us some tips, discussions about notetakers now, then, and in future, and one person’s struggles verifying their identity online in the United States.

This is episode 278 of the podcast. Remarkable, isn’t it?

And area code 278 is another one that is not assigned in the North American numbering plan. One day, it could be yours. Time will tell.

Advertisement: Our transcripts have become one of the most valued features of Living Blindfully. And they are made possible, thanks to the generous sponsorship of Pneuma Solutions.

Pneuma Solutions, among other things, are the RIM people. If you haven’t used Remote Incident Manager yet, you really want to give it a try. It is a fully accessible, screen reader agnostic way to either get or provide remote assistance. And it works for PC and Mac completely transparently. So if somebody assisting you is using a Mac and you’re using a PC or vice versa, RIM will handle that no problem at all.

We all want to use accessible websites whenever possible, right? But there are some times where we just have to get something done on a website that’s not accessible.

I try not to do it too often. But every so often, I’ll get in touch with one of my adult children and ask them if they have a couple of minutes to get me past a difficult accessibility problem on a website, or even in a specific app. For this, we use RIM.

I like it because I don’t have to tab around looking for some sort of arbitrary code in a semi-accessible app. We can choose the keyword that is going to be used.

I’m pleased to be a RIM user because Remote Incident Manager was designed by blind people with blind people in mind. But it has advantages over other remote access solutions that sighted people have been used to using, but are nowhere near as accessible. So if you have a family member sometimes assisting you through a murky web situation, I’m sure you won’t regret switching to Remote Incident Manager to get the job done.

To get the app for PC and Mac, you and the person assisting you can head over to That’s

In Loving Memory of Pauline Mosen

I’d like to take a few minutes to pay a special tribute. And I’ll try not to take too long, or to be too self-indulgent. and of course, the podcast is segmented by chapter so you can skip forward if you’d like, and I completely understand.

But just after midnight on the 14th of April, my mum, Pauline Mosen died at the age of 87, and I’d like to pay a tribute.

I come from a family of 5 children. I’m the youngest. My parents were working class people.

My brother, who’s 15 years older than me and the oldest child, is also blind. When he was born, my parents were very young and they didn’t know what to expect of a blind child, or how to raise one.

By the time I came along, they knew a lot more. They had bought a house close to the school for the blind, so I could live at home and walk to school like everybody else.

As is now a matter of public record, at that school, I experienced both physical and psychological abuse.

Mum was born a country kid in the 1930s and had no educational opportunities beyond primary school. People of her generation and background respected authority. But when she saw the distress I was in as a result of what was happening at that school, she never doubted me and she never wavered.

Like it often did at that time, the system closed ranks. Those she went to for help believed the teacher, sent me to a psychologist to have him work out why I was making up stories about such a good teacher.

Again, I say, mum never wavered. For a shy woman to take on the system like that was an incredible act of courage, a profound act of love, and a life lesson that I took to heart. Mum showed me that sometimes you have to take on the system. She showed me the importance of advocating for what is right.

Sometimes, you feel the fear but you do it anyway. I have no doubt mum felt the fear as well as the outrage on behalf of her child. Had she not been unreservedly in my corner at that critical time of my life, I honestly don’t know what would have become of me.

I have been on the radio in New Zealand since I was 4 years old, and mum loved it all. When I worked full-time in commercial radio, no matter when the show was on, be it in the middle of the night or the middle of the day, I always knew I had at least one devoted listener. Despite being shy, if I was doing talk radio and she detected a bit of a lull in the calls, she’d call in using an alias to keep the conversation going.

I would be in the newspapers a lot for various reasons, and mum would keep all the cuttings and discuss them with her large extended family and friends.

Mum didn’t tune in during my time setting up and running ACB radio. But when I started travelling for work, she became more interested in this internet thing so she could keep in touch with me.

I bought her a computer and set it up, so she could use email and Skype. I’ve got to tell you. It wasn’t always an easy ride back then to be mum’s tech support person to fix things remotely when they broke, and I would spend a lot of time in that tech support role on the phone. But she became more proficient than I was expecting, and grew in confidence.

When the iPad came along, I thought that might be a much easier tool for her, and it changed her life in her mid-70s. She became a loyal Mushroom FM listener not just to my own shows, but to many others, too.

She heard about this thing called Twitter that we were talking about on Mushroom FM, and asked me to set that up for her. Once done, she’d tweet in to many Mushroom FM radio shows, as well as communicate with other listeners.

She heard about my old podcast, The Blind Side, and decided that I should set podcasting up for her as well. And she listened without fail every week, even though almost all of the topics would have been of no direct interest.

Bonnie and I used to do a talk show on Mushroom FM called A Cuppa at the Mosens, and mum would always text me every week to make sure that it was going to be on. And then, she’d text me with a bit of a wrap of what she thought of the show. She loved all the conversations.

And after one show in which we’d been talking about things we did as kids (I suspect it was related to the telephone in some way), she texted me and she said, “Gosh, son! With all the things you got up to as a kid, no wonder I’m an old lady.”

She saw me, or perhaps another family member playing Dice World, and decided to give that a go as well. And she became a regular, I mean a major major regular. [laughs] She called herself Nana Mo on Dice World. And if you were on that game several years ago, chances are you came across her. I think she had a very high rating on the leaderboard at one point. She would frequently text me, having been to the supermarket to pick up another iTunes gift card, and she’d send me the number, and I’d top up her account so she could buy more gold.

Texts between Mum and me were frequent and varied.

When it came to our favourite sport, cricket, she played the role of the pessimist, so I would be the counterbalance. In these last few days after her death, I’ve been reading the thousands of text messages I’ve saved between us. The cricket ones would go something like this.

Mum: Do you think we can win this? I don’t think we have enough. Not sure I can watch this anymore.

Me: Win it? We’re going to thrash them, mate. It’s going to be an annihilation.

Mum: Gosh! I hope you’re right, son.

Of course, sometimes she was right, and sometimes I was.

Sometimes, she’d send a text with a unique combination of parental pride and chastisement.

“Hello, son! Saw your picture in the paper this morning. Very gd.”

Gd, by the way, was the only text speak she ever used, and she’d use it frequently.

“So proud of you.”, the text would continue.

“You need a haircut. Lots of love. XXX.”

She eventually discovered emojis, her favourite one being heart with ribbon.

And when we bought her an Amazon Echo in 2018 so she could hear any song she wanted, She thought it was both magical and miraculous.

Some Mushroom FM listeners have commented over the last few years that they miss hearing from Mum on the shows. I’ve not said a lot about that while she was alive. But the reason why you haven’t been hearing from her is that she started developing symptoms of dementia in 2018 or 2019, and it has been a slow, hard-breaking decline seeing someone you love slipping away. I know it’s something many people have experienced before. It has been a long goodbye, and we haven’t had the mum we knew for some time. Yet, even though you’re prepared intellectually for the inevitable, the actual reality of it is something that I don’t think you can ever prepare for.

The children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, extended family, and friends who were touched by this remarkable woman will ensure that in some form, she lives on. And of course, there’s a little bit of her that will live on in this podcast, too.

Love you, mum!


Downloading From YouTube on iOS

This question comes from Crystal. She writes:

“On your podcast, you said you sometimes use VDR (Voice Dream Reader) to listen to things you download from Youtube.

I was wondering. What is a good app to accomplish this on iPhone?”

There may be one, Crystal, but I’m not aware of one.

When I used Castro, which I do hope I can get back to at some point soon, there was an item in the share sheet, “side-load to Castro”. And you could just be listening to a YouTube clip in the app, and then send it to Castro. It would take care of it. It would take a wee while to process, but then you could listen to it with all the features that Castro had, like speech enhancement and compressing pauses, that kind of thing.

When Castro became exceptionally unreliable, that’s when I started using Voice Dream Reader for this purpose.

But the only way that I know of to do it is I use Pontes Media Downloader on Windows, and I download the audio as a FLAC file or an MP3 file. I’m not actually sure that Voice Dream Reader accepts FLAC. I should check that. So normally, if it’s going to come into VDR, I put it in MP3, send it to Dropbox and pick it up from there.

I’m not aware of a downloader on the iPhone itself, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. And if there is, I’m sure our marvelously talented Living Blindfully community will point us in the right direction.

Looking for Accessible Real-time Translation App

As a blind person, it wasn’t until I traveled to a country where English was not the first language that I fully appreciated just how much can be communicated through gesticulations that a blind person can’t pick up. [laughs]

So here’s a very good question from David Andrews. He says:

“Over the next several years, I will have the opportunity to do some overseas travel. Unfortunately, my only language is English.

I’m looking for recommendations on any iPhone app that will do translation. That is, I could speak into it in English and have it come out in another language.

At this time, I know I will need French and Portuguese. There will be others.

I have played a little with the Translate app that comes with iOS. It seemed a little clunky to me, but that may have been due to my unfamiliarity.

Thanks in advance for any recommendations.”

There are a few of these around, David. I know Microsoft and Google both do translation apps, and there are others as Well. I can’t comment on what’s the best in terms of its effectiveness, and also what’s the best in terms of accessibility.

If there’s anyone out there who can help and recommend a really good solution, that’d be great.

I presume you would want it to be 2-way, yes? So when you talk, you will want it to be converting to the language of the country you’re in so people can understand you. But when they talk back to you, you’ll want the reverse to happen.

I’d be interested to see whether anybody has a firm recommendation on this as somebody who’s used them.

I was looking at this a little bit when I went to France. But my daughter was with us and we were there for such a short time, I didn’t pursue it too much.

I’d be interested in the answers on this. 864-60-Mosen, if you want to give us a call and leave a voice message. Or you can send an audio attachment or a written response to

Merci beaucoup. Danke schön.


You get the idea.

Keeping Access to Windows 10, and Zoom H Essential Recorders

Caller: Hey, Jonathan and to all the Living Blindfully people. This is Alex.

First of all, I got to just say real quick about your Windows podcast when I left the message a while ago about Windows 10 and extensions. Well, I just want to make a couple of points here first, and then I’ll get to Zoom.

They did announce the prices for Enterprise users. I think it’s like $61. I don’t know if that’s a year or if that’s for 3 years, but that’s an odd price – $61. I wonder where they got that from.

Now, who knows what it’s going to be for home users, for just regular users?

And you know, it’d be nice if screen reader companies would negotiate some kind of Microsoft screen reader partnership, so that screen reader users could have Windows 10 for free if they don’t want to go to 11, or if their machines are too old for 11 with the processor and all the requirements and stuff.

The other thing I just wanted to say is the exploits you were talking about. There were some exploits you were saying. I think those exploits weren’t exactly exploits because back then, anyone who had a Windows 7 or Windows 8 product key back then could update to Windows 10 for a certain period of time.

Now, you can’t do that. So from what I understand, that loophole is closed now.

But they wanted to get to a billion users. And now, Windows 10 is the dominant operating system. So we’ll see what happens. We’ve got some time left, but thanks for your comments on that.

Now onto the Zoom recorder.

I haven’t gotten mine yet, but I have heard a lot about it. I’ve heard a lot of reviews. I know a lot of people that have it.

One of the complaints that I’ve seen people say is that when you try to set the clock, … I think our format in the United States is month, day, year. When you try to set that, it will not speak. so you have to change it to one of the other settings, I guess, and then set the clock. And then, you can change it back. That, I hope, is something I feel that needs to be addressed.

The other thing that they should address is when you press the play button and it says playing or something, it should say playing. And then after it starts, after it says playing, then it could start playing afterwards.

So that’s something I’ve been in touch with Zoom a little bit and they say they’ll work on it, but I know they’re really busy with other types of stuff too. So we’ll see.

My birthday isn’t for a while. I plan to buy it on my birthday.

And the person who’s using the Olympus unit, I will just say that I love Olympus unit still, and I use them for different purposes. I still want to be able to use the Olympus for MP3 recording, so I don’t have to export the files to MP3 in my editor later. So for direct MP3 recording, the Olympus is very, very good.

And the other person talked about the Eltrinex B12 Pro recorder made in the Czech Republic. I only know very little about that because I don’t have one, and the Olympus does more what I need than that one would do.”

Jonathan: Thank you, Alex.

I have heard of this bug as well.

I do think that it should be fixed because if something’s available to sighted people, it should be accessible to us. No question.

I would, though, tout the advantages of leaving the date format as it is because if you have year, month, day as the naming convention for your files and you end up having a lot of files on your SD card or wherever you copy them to, they are logically sorted. If you have files that are up to a year old and you’re sorting by month, day, year or day, month, year so you don’t have the year first, then they’re going to get out of chronological order.

So I think that Zoom’s default is the best, which puts year and then month and then day. But if you want to change it, you should absolutely be allowed to change it.

Caller: Hello, Jonathan! This is Donald Hanson from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

I recently purchased an H4 Essential, and I must say I was really disappointed with it because it won’t do what I need it to do, which is multi-track recording. I want to record my guitar, my bass, etc.

But anyway, that’s my thoughts on it. I thought your presentation was very well done, though.

Jonathan: Thank you, Dennis. I appreciate that.

And it’s always a shame when you buy something and it doesn’t do what you need it to do. Hope you can get a refund on it, if that’s what you want to do.

But you’re right. If you want to, say, record a track and then go back and play that track while you’re recording another, the H series definitely isn’t your product.

I believe there is a product with some limited accessibility that does some of the stuff that you’re talking about – the ability to play one track while recording another. But Zoom has kind of an alphabet soup of model numbers, and I don’t recall what it is.

But I do remember Samuel telling me, either on the recording that we did or perhaps off it, that they first started with a product that was for musicians. And that would do what you want, but I’m not sure how accessible it is.

YouTube Accessibility Issue

Voice message: Hello, Jonathan! My name is Nikola, and I come from Serbia.

I’m a new listener of the podcast. I’ve listened to the latest couple of episodes, and I must say, I have really enjoyed them.

Now, in this particular recording, I would like to demonstrate an accessibility issue with the YouTube app on iOS.

The YouTube app on iOS used to work reasonably well with VoiceOver. But unfortunately, recently, an issue was introduced that I find quite annoying.

Now, I tried to report this via the Google Disability Support. But unfortunately, I did not have any success because they kept convincing me that there is nothing wrong, and that everything on the screen reads with VoiceOver which is absolutely true. I never said that VoiceOver does not read something, but it is very inefficient as you’re about to see.

So I have the YouTube app opened here already, and I’m just going to perform a search. The search button is somewhere near the top right corner.

VoiceOver: Search, button.

Nikola: There we go, this is the search button.

We’re going to double tap.

VoiceOver: Back, button.

Nikola: And now, we are going to type something. In this case, I’m just going to type something simple like iOS VoiceOver.

VoiceOver: Braille screen input. Orientation locked. Landscape.

I-O-S V-O-I-C-E-O-V-E-R.

Portrait. Back, button.

Nikola: And now, I’m going to touch the first result, which is somewhere near the top of the screen.

VoiceOver: How to navigate your iPhone or iPad with VoiceOver. Apple support – 4 minutes, 19 seconds. Go to channel. Apple support – 668K views – 4 years ago. Play video, button.

Nikola: As you can see, this is the first result and everything is reading as it should be.

Now if we swipe right, in the past, this moved to the next result. But now, this does not do that. It does this.

VoiceOver: How to navigate your iPhone or iPad with VoiceOver. Apple support.

Nikola: It repeats the video name. If we swipe again, …

VoiceOver: Apple support – 668K views – 4 years ago.

Nikola: Now, the channel name is repeated.

VoiceOver: Action menu, button.

Nikola: Now, we have the action menu button. Now, we have something that does not even speak.

VoiceOver: 3 key moments, button.

Nikola: And finally, we have the next element which is 3 key moments.

And then, we swipe.

VoiceOver: How blind people use technology. My Apple products.

Nikola: This is the second result.

So basically, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 swipes until we reach the next result.

Now, the same issue exists on the home tab. Let me go to my home tab.

VoiceOver: Selected. Home tab, 1 of 5.

Nikola: This is the home tab.

VoiceOver: Selected. Cast, button.

Nikola: And if I tap one of the recommended videos, which the name is not so important. But if I’m here, and then I swipe right, …

VoiceOver: Go to channel, button.

Nikola: We have the go to channel button, …

VoiceOver: Action menu.

Nikola: We have the action menu button, and then we have the next recommended video.

So basically, here, it’s a bit better in the sense that it’s 3 swipes to reach the next video, but it’s still generally not how iOS apps work and function. So this is not something that’s inaccessible, but it is very inefficient and pretty annoying, if I might say so myself.

In the past, this used the actions feature of VoiceOver, the rotor actions, so you could just swipe up and down to access the actions if that’s what you wanted. But now, swiping up and down does not do anything.

And I would really appreciate if more people reported this problem, and if Google could reconsider this decision.

That’s it for now.

My best regards, and keep up the great shows.


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Notetakers in the Past, Present, and Future

Jonathan: On to an email from Elijah Massey now, and he says:


I enjoyed your conversation with Deane Blazie and found it very interesting, and the BT Speak is a very intriguing product. I will most likely not be buying it because of the price, but I definitely like the idea of a notetaker based on Linux and with access to the Linux desktop, in addition to the programs written specifically for it.

Notetakers have been a significant part of my life. The first computer I ever used was a notetaker when my vision teacher started teaching me how to use the BrailleNote in 2nd grade. I’m pretty sure it was an MPower, and I continued using it throughout elementary school, even while I was also taught Windows and used an iPad.

I was also given a HIMS VoiceSense, and I used that sometimes too.

I enjoyed learning and exploring these devices and trying different things, since I’ve always been curious about computers. I found these notetakers easy and pleasant to use as well. They would freeze sometimes, but not very often. And the web browsers were limited, but I had other devices I could use for that if I needed to.

Then, I was given a BrailleNote Apex that I personally owned around when I started junior high, and my new school district gave me a HIMS BrailleSense U2.

However, my new school district used Google Classroom and Google Docs for most assignments, which meant that I used an iPad to do most of my work because neither the BrailleNote nor the BrailleSense supported Google Docs.

I still use them as Braille displays for the iPad and for checking my email, doing math, and some other things. But this definitely showed me the limitations of these Windows CE notetakers.

The Braille math editors on these devices were definitely very important for me in math and sometimes science classes, and I still don’t think they have been surpassed. Both notetakers allowed you to type Nemeth quickly into a document and have it translated accurately into a format sighted people could read, and the BrailleSense even converted it to MathMarkup in RTF files, which displays as visual math instead of ASCII symbols and words like the Apex’s math output. I still cannot find any solution for typing Braille math into a computer that is as efficient and accurate.

Junior high was also the time when I started teaching myself programming more than the scripting I was doing before.

I spent lots of time researching ways to sync Google Docs with the local file system, or access it in a different way, or even from notetakers because I really didn’t like the Google Docs interface and wanted to use something better. I also didn’t like having to have 2 completely separate folder structures – one on my notetaker for math and some other stuff, and another in Google Docs. And I hated how Google Docs got so unorganized, especially with Google Classroom, and how hard it was to keep in a neat folder hierarchy, and how it would sometimes randomly undelete files or move stuff around.

I was able to use Pages on the iPad with a WebDAV server that connected to Google Docs and converted documents back and forth for a while. But eventually, that became insufficient and later stopped working. My school also set up a WebDAV server in 6th grade for me to share documents with teachers, and that worked well in Pages before I started using Google Classroom for everything.

I also tried a program for Windows called SyncDocs, but I constantly had problems with it.

I never really found a solution I liked, and nothing that worked at all on a notetaker.

I also did a lot of investigation on the Apex and the U2 to figure out how they worked, mostly because I was curious, and also to try and make them more capable. I also was able to get access to the root directory that had all the Windows CE files in it from the file manager on both devices by typing … as a directory name. I figured out that the applications on the Apex were all in one executable keysoft.exe. While on the U2, all the applications were separate executables. I discovered the file that specified the main menu on the BrailleSense as well, and the format was pretty easy to understand. I even tried to de-compile the HIMS applications, and I thought of figuring out the API and writing my own applications for it. However, since they were written in C++ and not C, and I have very little programming experience, I did not get very far in understanding the API.

I also tried to run regular Windows CE programs on both devices, and I tried to run a debugger and attach to it remotely, but I never really got anything to work. Although luckily, I never damaged either device by doing this.

You mentioned in the interview you did called In The Arena that you wanted to create an SDK for the BrailleNote, and I’m disappointed that your idea didn’t get implemented, since I would have enjoyed programming for it a lot if I could have back then.

In high school, I was given a BrailleNote Touch. And since it’s based on Android, it was way more capable than my past notetakers.

However, as I started doing almost all my work on it, I noticed that it broke more often than the Apex or the U2, and it was really slow sometimes, especially in third-party Android apps.

I liked how I could do more with it though, and the graphing feature added to the Math Editor was extremely useful. Although using the Math Editor seemed to cause the device to freeze more often, and it was slower than the ones on the Windows CE notetakers. I also appreciated how the word processor supported modern Word documents natively. The email client was also much better than the one on the Apex.

I still had to edit Google Docs separately from other documents with the Google Docs app, and I still used the iPad for some things that it was better for. But things were definitely better.

When I started college, I chose not to get a notetaker from Vocational Rehabilitation, choosing to get an APH Chameleon instead. My reasons including the fact that I wanted to have a very portable display like the Chameleon and I couldn’t choose both, and I heard that the BrailleNote Touch Plus still has issues with freezing and being slow, and still runs an old version of Android, although newer than the original Touch.

I eventually completely stopped using my original BrailleNote Touch entirely because Humanware stopped updating it when the Touch Plus came out so features gradually stopped working and eventually, it became incredibly slow all the time. Some of the Braille dots also stopped coming up because I used it so much in high school. I ended up selling it a few months ago.

And considering that both the BrailleNote Touch Plus and the BrailleSense 6 are over $5,000, I will definitely not be buying that kind of notetaker with my own money. They both have old versions of Android, and I have heard their hardware is still behind mainstream hardware. I heard that the BrailleSense 6 is much more responsive than the BrailleNote. But since I already own an iPad Mini, a Samsung tablet, and 2 Braille displays, I don’t really see very many benefits in the BrailleSense. I also think that even the blindness-specific software on these Android notetakers is not as efficient and easy to use as it was on the Windows CE ones, which kind of defeats the purpose of getting a notetaker in the first place.

I type my math in LaTeX now, and that’s not too bad. Although I still wish I could find an easier way to type in Nemeth.

Luckily, I don’t have to use Google Docs as much in college. And often, I will create and edit my documents on the Linux command line because I really like the flexibility and efficiency it gives me.

I used to use the editor on the Chameleon to take quick notes. But since some cells and keys stopped working, and I got the NLS eReader which lacks this function, I mostly use the Drafts app for this.

I also use SyncThing, a program that syncs files between devices automatically without a cloud service. It runs on Linux, Windows, macOS, iOS and Android, so I have access to all my documents on all my devices and virtual machines, and can edit them anywhere I want.

That being said, I do think there is value in computing devices with Braille built in, and with an interface designed from the ground up for Braille with speech.

Using an iOS device or Windows with a Braille display still feels less efficient in some ways than using a notetaker, and require more workarounds, and have more strange issues. And those two are probably the best for controlling with a Braille display.

The Optima seems very promising. I really like the idea of a laptop without a screen and with a Braille display that runs full Windows, and also has some applications written specifically for us like a Braille editor and book reader. Since it is based on the Framework, it will contain the newest hardware when it comes out and will be user-upgradable.

I wonder if the JAWS Braille Math Editor will work well on it, since it has a Braille input mode where the home row on the keyboard can be used as Braille keys. And perhaps the suite of apps written for it will give some tasks like taking notes and reading books the efficiency they had on the old notetakers, with none of the disadvantages of an outdated OS and software.

Devices like the OrbitSpeak, Victor Reader Stream 3, and SensePlayer are interesting, but not for me because of their price and limitations on what they can do, and because they don’t support Braille output. Even for listening to books, I think I would likely have some books that I can’t play on these devices such as Kindle or Audible books. And while the Android integration on the SensePlayer would help with this, using that would probably not be any better than using my Android tablet or watch, especially since Bard is only supported through the Android integration, and Bard is where I get most of my books.

The BT Speak is really interesting to me because of how open it is, while still having a really good Braille-first interface. I’m pretty confident that all the built-in apps are just as efficient and responsive as the OrbitSpeak or the old Windows CE notetakers, if not more so, especially since the interface is based on the Braille ’n Speak. Yet, you can also access a Linux terminal and a full Linux desktop and install anything you want. And the hardware is pretty powerful, too. That means that if the built-in apps are not sufficient, you can use a Linux GUI app, a web app, or a Linux command line program, and even run services like SyncThing.

There’s also a Linux program that can let you access Google Drive as if it was a local folder, and even converts documents back and forth between Word documents and Google Docs, and a program called rClone that can sync with lots of cloud services and is very customizable.

You can also install a Braille translator that supports Nemeth, or you can simply type LaTeX into the built-in editor, and convert it to a PDF in Linux, and figure out how to convert any unsupported books to supported formats with Linux tools.

I think you could also figure out how to run Android apps on it in a container, opening up even more possibilities.

And you could run Emacs, an incredibly powerful and efficient text editor.

The BT Speak, along with the Optima, are probably the best notetakers available right now by far. I just can’t justify purchasing either right now because of the price. Although I am very tempted by the BT Speak, and I wish it was available back when I was in school.

However, I’m starting to work on my own project right now. My idea is to make an AI assistant that could control multiple platforms including Linux programs, Android apps, Windows, and possibly macOS in the future, similar to what the Humane AI PIN, or Rabbit R1 claimed to do, as well as my own integrations for services like Gmail and Matrix. It’s going to be able to use multiple AI models including GPT4, Gemini, and local models like Llama 2, as well as a simpler intent system for triggering less complex tasks and custom shortcuts.

I planned for everything to be controlled by voice and for my system to have a very flexible architecture, which would allow people to add their own plugins and integrations and to interface any any AI with any integration. It would also be easy to give access to other voice interfaces, which would allow controlling Windows with Microsoft Voice Control or Dragon, and Android with Google Assistant or Voice Control, or using the Soup Drinker.

My project would run on a pocket-sized single-board computer like a Raspberry Pi or Orange Pi, while using some cloud services when necessary for AI or virtual machines with more computing power.

It would also be able to connect to smart glasses like the Seleste glasses, and send photo and video from the camera to anything you want including AI models for image description, Android apps like Seeing AI, Be My Eyes, and Aira, or Windows, or Linux programs for things like video calling and making smart glasses work with more things is what first gave me the idea for this project.

However, listening to that episode gave me the idea to also make a notetaker out of this, since the infrastructure I will create for my AI assistant platform could be a good foundation for a notetaker platform.

The project will be based on Linux so I could write custom programs like a Braille editor, book reader, and math editor that can be controlled with an external Braille display or keyboard.

Then, I could add the ability to access Android, Windows, and Linux programs using Braille and speech with their existing screen readers, in addition to my voice.

I cannot promise a time frame since I barely started working on this. But hopefully, a useful system will eventually come out of this relatively soon. I plan to start small at first and add features over time, since everything I have in mind will probably take a significant amount of time to implement.”

Good luck with that, Elijah. Sounds like what we in the biz call a product roadmap you have there, and prioritizing the features, building them in the right order, getting the foundations correct will be an interesting task.


Voiceover: Has something on the show got you thinking?

Share those thoughts with the rest of the Living Blindfully community.

Send us an email. You can include an audio attachment recorded on your computer or smartphone so we can hear your voice, or you can write it down. The address is That’s

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

Let your voice be heard.

Verifying Identity Online in the US

“Hello, Jonathan,”, writes Randy Reed.

“I am writing to submit a contribution about an ongoing situation and a turning point for myself.

At the time I am writing this, tax season is coming to a close here in the US, and I have decided to try filing my taxes online this year because my bank had a way to do it right from their app.

I was going along quite nicely and had already been promised a sizable return, when I got to the part of the process that required me to verify my identity with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The IRS uses a third-party called requires the user to scan their government-issued ID, and then take selfies to allow their facial recognition to verify the identity of that user.

Needless to say, I was unable to complete the scans.

I contacted support, and first got a list of camera troubleshooting tips. This is frustrating, but par for the course these days.

I calmly responded that my camera wasn’t the issue, that I am totally blind, and unable to complete the scans.

I then received an email telling me a live agent would be in touch with me in 2 to 3 days.

A week later, I got an email back from support restating my issue as not having the proper documents. They went on to say they could do nothing to help me verify my identity, and advised me to contact the IRS directly to solve the problem.

I responded that I had the document and was unable to scan it, and continually being dismissed was unacceptable. I also let them know I found their response time unacceptable in 2024, where we have tools for faster support.

Here’s where my personal turning point comes into play.

Up to this experience, I’d always felt that getting along in society as a person with a disability was an effort by me and the people in charge. I’m expected to be courteous to my Uber drivers, and they shouldn’t refuse me a ride because I’m traveling with someone who uses a guide dog. I generally consider filing ADA complaints with the Department of Justice off-limits, except in the most extreme cases.

The issue is that this unacceptable form of ID verification is becoming more and more available on social media and dating platforms, and nobody has an answer for this.

Two other experiences I have recently had are with Twitter and Hinge.

We also have states like Florida, where I live, that are passing their own age verification laws regarding the internet.

I also saw that specifically is being used for state employment verification, RX management, and accessing social security benefits.

Furthermore, we are becoming more and more digitized. I feel like being told that customer support agents can’t override the system and show me how to verify my identity and telling me I have to settle for a lesser existence in some way is a bit like going to a restaurant and being asked to leave or eat in a back room if you have a physical disability that makes other customers uncomfortable.

In the cases of Twitter and Hinge, the situation sucks, but at least I can vote with my wallet. I’ve recently been reflecting on how companies that approach design of their products and services with accessibility first are more likely to get my vote. In fact, I have recently left Twitter and have called out Blue Sky for continuing not to address accessibility issues.

With, there is no voting with my wallet. They hold government contracts and are inaccessible to me.

For the first time ever, I have filed a formal ADA complaint with the Department of Justice. It was surprisingly easy.

Keep up the great work.”

Thank you, Randy!

Well, you keep up the great work. Good on you for doing that.

In New Zealand, we have a government ID system called RealMe. And you have to physically show up, and there’s a process for getting it. But once you have it, you just log in with your RealMe, and that’s the verification done. So a bit of a gruelling setup process. Nothing inaccessible, though. And then, it just works.

Has anyone else tried Have you got any further than Randy has? What do you think of it? Is it causing you trouble?

I’d be interested to hear all about this. 864-60-Mosen, if you want to give me a call. That number is in the United States. 864-606-6736.

Or drop me an audio attachment, or write something down. Send it into

BrailleSense Notification That Won’t Go Away

Byron Sykes is writing in from sunny Louisville. (I think that’s where he is.) And he’s got a problem that I can’t help with, but maybe you can.

He says:

“Using the BrailleSense 6, I have this push notification from the Android side that I have tried acting on, that won’t go away.

It says, ‘New ad privacy features now available. Get more choice over the ads you see while protecting your identity.’

When I click on it, an Android page comes up with the traditional navigate up button.

After about 4 tabs, I click on the account I am to sign on to.

The next screen talks about how wonderful this is, and has a Got It button. I click that.

The next screen repeats how wonderful it is with a No Thanks button. I click that.

What appears to be the same screen comes up with no more indication that my option has been selected, and the notification is still in the Notifications part of the 6.

Usually, it would go away. Asking to delete all is of no use. Still there.

Any thoughts?

Thank you for your time and attention.”

We’ll open this up, Byron, and see if anyone knows., or 864-60-Mosen. 864-606-6736.

Baseball Commentary Accessibility When at the Venue

It’s been a wee while since we talked to the Drinker, and I have cause to talk to it now.

Soup drinker, sing Take Me Out to the Ball Game.


Soup Drinker: Take me out to the ball game,

Take me out with the crowd.

Jonathan: [reverb] Wuhu!

Soup Drinker: Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,

Jonathan: [reverb] Yum!

Soup Drinker: I don’t care if I never get back.

Let me root, root, root for the home team,

If they don’t win it’s a shame.

Jonathan: Aww!

Soup Drinker: For it’s 1, 2, 3 strikes, you’re out,

At the old ball game!

Jonathan: She does a good job of singing that, the Drinker.

But I have some questions about this song.

I get the buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks. And then, it says I don’t care if I never get back.

And what that makes me wonder is, does that mean that the person who’s singing the song doesn’t care if they are forever stuck in the line for peanuts and Cracker Jacks? And presumably, they’re there with friends or family, or something. Wouldn’t their friends and family care if they never got back?

I mean, it’s like one of those true crime podcasts in the making. This dude is there with a whole bunch of friends and family at the baseball game. And he says, I’m just going to go and get some peanuts and Cracker Jacks. And then, he never gets back.

And you wonder 20 years from now, what happened to this guy who left his friends and family just to get peanuts and Cracker Jacks? It was supposed to be a quick thing. And he never got back. It’s a very interesting line there, and I’ve never truly understood it.

But you know, someone who does intend to go to the ball game, and maybe he goes to the ball game quite a bit as it is and picks up the peanuts and the Cracker Jacks, but wants to follow the commentary is Andy Smith. And Andy says:


I was wondering if any listeners had any thoughts regarding baseball game accessibility. How are people accessing the action in person?

The only thing I can think of is having a friend or family member narrate what’s going on. Or if you choose to go alone, you could bring a radio or listen to an online stream. But those tend to lag behind by 30 seconds or more. So if anything happens – a home run, outs, strikes, you don’t hear about it until much later.

At one point, I thought the NFB had a resolution about this. But I’m not sure if it went anywhere, or if anyone had any ideas.

Play ball!“, says Andy,”and go, Yankees!”

Oh my word! That’s probably the most controversial thing anybody’s said on Living Blindfully for a very long time.

Yeah. That resolution was passed at the 2023 NFB convention.

So if anybody is listening from NFB who can report on whether there’s been any fruitful dialogue with baseball officials on this, that would be really good.

I know what you’re going through, Andy because when I go to cricket matches, we are usually pretty lucky. It’s actually been a few years since I’ve been to a live cricket match, though, and quite a bit has changed with radio commentary of cricket in this country.

But when the World Cup was on here in New Zealand in 2015, I went to some matches where New Zealand wasn’t playing and they weren’t being broadcast on the radio. So I had to use all sorts of VPN jiggery-pokery to actually listen to the BBC’s commentary of a match that was going on in my own hometown, and the lag was terrible. So you’d hear people yelling and screaming and carrying on. And 30 seconds later, you’d find out why.

But it is frustrating that if you bring a terrestrial radio with you to hear a local game that’s being broadcast on the radio, that you’ve still got a lag there.

So let’s see if we get any updates on this, especially since it’s now the season, isn’t it?

The ARA Device

Let’s talk about something called the ARA device. This is spelled A-R-A.

Paul Hopewell says:

“Hello, Jonathan,

A friend recently alerted me to this device, and I wonder if you are aware of it. It claims to help blind people safely and easily navigate their environment through a chest-worn array of ultrasonic and LiDAR devices connected to built-in AI, which converts the received sensory data into haptic feedback across the chest.

If it lives up to its claims, it sounds interesting and sensibly priced.”

And looking at the URL that Paul has sent, this one comes from StrapTech, which I have heard of. So it’s, if you want to check that out. That’s

We should probably reach out and see if they’d like to come on the show to have a chat to us. There’s a lot of stuff going on in this space at the moment, isn’t there?

Blind People in Wheelchairs at the Airport

Here’s Mohamed turning to that perennial subject of wheelchairs at the airport.

He says:

“Hi, Jonathan,

Really enjoying your podcast, as always.”

Thank you very much. I appreciate that.

“All the stories about being asked to use a wheelchair by airport assistance staff made me think of the one time that I accepted the offer.

I was flying back from the US to Europe with a layover in Atlanta, Georgia. As we approached the airport, a severe shower broke out and we had to delay our landing by something like 30 or 45 minutes. I was getting progressively more nervous as we waited for the shower to pass because my next flight was almost leaving.

We finally landed. And luckily, the assistant agent was waiting for me at the door.

She knew about my connecting flight and that it was about to leave, so she said we would hurry. “Just get into this wheelchair.”, she said. It’s right in front of me. “I can guide your hand towards it, if you want.”

I protested, saying that I didn’t need one.

She stayed silent for a while and then insisted, saying that we would be faster.

I didn’t believe her. I usually walk faster than most sighted people. My family and even the odd mobility instructor always tell me to slow down, not because I’m making too many mistakes, but because other people can’t react to me.

It’s especially bad in places I know, like Amsterdam Central Station. I used to commute through there every day. And while training to get a guide dog, (I sadly don’t have one now because I work from home, and I don’t think I’d have enough work for it.), I walked my daily route with a mobility instructor.

At some point, she stopped me and described the scene I left behind, as I apparently stormed my way through the station.

“Alright, Moe.”, the mobility instructor said as she put her hand on my shoulder to stop me. “Let me just describe what just happened.

As you were going through the door, an old lady was trying to go out by the same door. She froze as she saw you coming and had to be pulled away by, I assume, her daughter.

Then, you entered the hallway where people walk every which way. I think you knew that by the sounds around you. and I saw several people jumping out of your way to avoid either you or your cane.

Not all of that is your fault. But if you’d walk slower, you’ll give people a bit more time to react. People are genuinely trying to make space for you, but you’re making it impossible.”

So I promised I’d try not to barrel through crowded places like a runaway train anymore, and I do try to slow down.

The problem is, when I get lost in thought or I’m distracted some other way, I speed up again.

Like I said, it’s mostly a problem in places I know, since I wouldn’t have the luxury of being distracted in places I don’t. But still, I walk pretty quickly.

So, here I was in Atlanta, trying to think of a way to convince the assistant agent to leave the wheelchair there and just walk.

I really didn’t have time for an extended discussion, though. And so I sighed, sat down in the wheelchair, anticipating a fast, perhaps even thrilling ride through the airport to catch my connecting flight.

As we started moving, I got progressively more puzzled. We were moving at a snail’s pace, extremely extremely slowly. I remember thinking how this person could possibly think that this is faster than me walking.

It was 2020 so in the middle of the pandemic. And in light of that, something more concerning happened. The lady’s started breathing more and more heavily. I admit, I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable.

Fortunately, though, I didn’t get corona on that trip in the end.

I kept looking at my watch as we huffed and puffed our way through the airport.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Atlanta, …”

Oh yes, I’ve been there. It’s a peachy airport, I tell you. Peachy.

“but the airport is absolutely massive. I was tempted to stand up and start walking a couple of times, but ended up not doing that.

Luckily, we came whistling and wheezing up to the gate just before they closed it, so I got on my flight.

As I was on that long flight back to Amsterdam, my thoughts went back to that encounter a couple of times. I didn’t feel good about giving in there. I think we would have been faster if I walked. Discussion and all.

In the end, she would have had no choice but to respect my wishes, and in fairness, she was a nice lady. We had quite an enjoyable talk on our trip through the airport. I don’t think she would have been very stubborn about the wheelchair had I pressed.

Lesson learned. As I think back on it now, I’m more amused than anything, especially when I think about the irony of her assertion that the wheelchair would be faster.

When I landed in Amsterdam, the assistant agent asked me if I wanted to use the wheelchair. I politely declined.”

Yeah. I have heard of a couple of situations where a person has been declined meet and assist because they would not sit in the chair, and I suppose that’s not a risk you might want to take when you have such a tight connection like that.

But it’s not legal for them to behave like that in the United States. You do not have to accept an accommodation that you don’t want. And in this case, clearly it’s an accommodation you didn’t need.

Crossword Puzzle Apps That Work With JAWS

Here’s someone where the only thing that comes up in their from field is their email address, so I’m not sure who this is, but it asks a simple question.

“Does any crossword puzzle work with JAWS?”

I’m not a crossword puzzle player myself, but I’d be very surprised if there wasn’t some sort of accessible option out there. So if anyone can enlighten us, and 864-60-Mosen on the phone. [music]

Voiceover: Mastodon is the social network where the Living Blindfully community is most active. Join us there for conversation about the most recent episode, and items of news to help you live your best life with blindness or low vision.

All you have to do from any Mastodon instance is follow That’s

Mastodon Versus Bluesky

Stefanie is writing. I know this because she says “I am writing” right at the beginning here.

“because I just saw your blog post calling for ACB to have a presence on Mastodon, or at least on a site which isn’t Twitter. And yes, I refuse to call it by the new name.”

Well, the good news is, Stefanie, that ACB now does have a presence on Mastodon, and that’s fantastic.

Stephanie continues:

“I see that you have run ads on your podcast touting the Mastodon podcast community.

I am interested to know if you have tried Blue Sky. I realize that this social network was invite-only for a while, and you may not have picked it for that reason, but that has been lifted.

All that aside, and even though it took me a while to get an invite code, I found signing up for an account easier than I did on Mastodon for one important reason.

I ran into a CAPTCHA barrier. And since I haven’t found a good program which will solve these for me, I had to write to Mastodon Support to get it resolved.

I will note that Support was very prompt and my account was registered and ready to go by the evening of the day I sent this email. But this experience didn’t give me as good of an impression as I might have had.

Also, it is my experience that logging in is a little confusing, what with all the different servers available.

I don’t know if it is for this reason or communities tend to migrate to the same places, but a lot of the communities I follow use Bluesky, and it is my understanding that they like that it is like Twitter of old.

I haven’t used it much. But once I got my invite, I found it easy to sign up and follow accounts.

What are your thoughts?”

Well, Stefanie, we have talked about this a wee while ago.

My thoughts on Bluesky are that it is going nowhere, it has no future, and that ActivityPub is the future of social media that we should all be embracing.

ActivityPub is an open protocol. Mastodon is but one option that uses ActivityPub, as people keep telling me if I don’t mention this.

The ActivityPub protocol has provided us with a vibrant community of all sorts of great services. We even see entities like Threads from Meta turning on ActivityPub support, and that rollout will be complete well before the end of the year. And that means that if you have a Mastodon account, you can follow anybody on Threads who wants to be followed in that way.

This is making social media a lot more like email. If I’m on gmail (which I would never be, by the way). [laughs] But if I were, and you’re on, let’s say, I can email you and it doesn’t matter that we’re on different services.

And yet in the past, that hasn’t been possible with social media. I would have to join Facebook to follow you on Facebook. I have to join Bluesky to follow you on Bluesky because for their own reasons, Bluesky has chosen, at this stage anyway, not to adopt ActivityPub.

If they want to remain relevant in the long term, or even the medium term, they’re going to have to cave on this one and embrace ActivityPub, and make sure that there’s some sort of bridge.

Now, I believe that there is actually a bridge available now that a third-party has invented, and that’s been a little bit controversial and I haven’t really followed that too much.

But why not just go with the real thing and get on Mastodon?

You talk about Mastodon Support. But there really is no Mastodon Support. Mastodon is just a piece of software, and anybody can get that software and install it and create their own instance.

I suspect what you might be talking about is Support. And many people go to when they’re just getting started with Mastodon and get up and running, but that is only one of many many instances that you can choose from.

It is true that because of spam and other security issues, some instances have enabled CAPTCHA , but not all. If you were to register an account, for example, on, I don’t believe that they have turned CAPTCHA on.

And this is the thing. When you choose your Mastodon instance, there may be several factors that influence that choice. It could be how many characters can you send. With, for example, you can send 3,000 characters maximum compared to the standard 500 characters on many other instances.

There might be CAPTCHA on some, and no CAPTCHA on others.

Also, Mastodon has a great ecosystem of brilliant third-party apps. And if you go back to episode 227, you can hear a demo of Mona for Mastodon, which is my favorite Mastodon app on any platform, but particularly for iOS.

So no, I have no interest in getting on another failing social media platform. If they embrace ActivityPub in a formal way, then sure. If someone’s on Bluesky and I can follow them via Mastodon, happy to do it. But I’m not really interested in getting on another one, particularly when we’re now starting to see the wide scale adoption of ActivityPub. It is the future of social media.

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Dustin Boggus From the My Homekit Home Podcast Discusses Home Automation

Whether it’s saving time, greater accessibility, or the undeniable hey wow factor, many people are interested in home automation.

But what’s out there? How do you get started? And how do you navigate what has historically been a raft of incompatible protocols? Thankfully, we’re starting to see some positive change in that regard.

To discuss home automation and hopefully give you some inspiration, I’m joined by Dustin Boggus, Home Automation Tragic, and the host of the My HomeKit Home podcast.

Dustin, it’s great to have you on the podcast. I’ve been on yours. I’m delighted to welcome you to mine.

Dustin: Thanks for having me, Jonathan. I appreciate it.

Jonathan: So accessibility, convenience, and coolness. Would there be any other primary categories that you would add in terms of the overall benefits of home automation?

Dustin: There are a lot of benefits, I think. You know, one of the main reasons I started to get into it was the coolness factor, of course. And then kind of over time, I started to notice that I was actually saving time. And then, I started to realize its accessibility implications. And then, you know, it just sort of took over my life from there.

Jonathan: What are the accessibility benefits of home automation that you’ve experienced?

Dustin: They’re numerous. You can look at it from a lot of different perspectives.

Of course, you know, I look at it from a blindness perspective. And there are a lot of things from notifications – so open door, open window notifications.

I think a lot about facial recognition with video cameras. So whether it’s through a video doorbell, or if we’re talking about just cameras that you have placed throughout your property, or even in your home.

I am somebody who is constantly, I don’t want to say frightened, but just taken off guard by family members just coming up behind me while I’m deep into editing or something else, and I just get scared.

But if I have a camera facing behind me, I can get a little notification that says, “Hey, there’s somebody behind you.” And it might be your 3-year-old daughter who’s attempting to scare you. So that helps out quite a bit.

You can even get into things like security. I don’t use a lot of lights, personally. But one of the things that we can do with home automation is to have lights randomly turn on and off to make it appear that someone’s home. So this is great if you’re home, or if you’re away as well.

You can do things like smart shades and smart curtains and have those automated, to make sure that the blinds are closed when you want them to be, and when they should be.

And it also helps out quite a bit in terms of energy costs as well. You can automate smart curtains and smart blinds along with the sunnier periods throughout the day and really make sure that your shades are drawn when they need to be, in order to maximize your heating or your cooling.

Jonathan: I’m sure there are lots of smart blinds listening to this podcast right now. [laughs]

Dustin: [laughs]

Jonathan: One of the benefits that I would also add to that excellent list, … I don’t have light perception at all, so I just do not see light from dark. And one of the things I’ve found very useful having automated every single light in our house is I can say to Siri, “What lights are on?”, or “Are the lights in the living room on?”, for example, and know. Because sometimes, a blind person without light perception can waste quite a bit of energy costs by not realizing that lighting is on when they can’t see that it’s been left on.

Dustin: Absolutely. I still have a little bit of light perception, but not enough to where it’s usable, nor can I always tell that. Unless I’ve got the contrast between light and dark, I can’t always tell that lights are on.

So one of the things I’ve actually done is I’ve set up an automation that actually plays a sound on my HomePods throughout the house when lights are turned on, and it’ll play a different sound when the light in that room is turned off, so that I get that audible cue that the lights are on or off.

Because I live with people who do appreciate light, and it’s a good indicator for me, especially with, like I mentioned earlier, with my 3-year-old.

Jonathan: Yeah. And the cool thing is that you can also consolidate these things into scenes, which you can control, say, with a Siri command.

So you might like to say, “Good morning!” And by the virtue of the fact that you’ve said good morning, you’re pulling your curtains, you’re doing various other things. You might turn a coffee maker on. So you can consolidate things to happen with a single command.

Dustin: Absolutely. And you can even take that a step further and have your newsfeed come up, you can get the weather, you can get your calendar events for the day, any messages that you may have received while in sleep focus. The list really goes on, and you can get as complicated as you really want to be these days.

Jonathan: So how do you get going with this? If we’re talking to someone who just doesn’t have any of this gear in their house at the moment, it can be very daunting. How does somebody get started?

Dustin: So I think one of the main ways is you want to kind of look at how you use technology, first and foremost. Are you an Android user? Are you an iPhone user? Because that’s going to dictate, you know, …

I’m in the HomeKit world and Apple Home world because I am obsessed with Apple products, right? And so I can use my iPhone, iPad, my MacBook, my iMac, all of these things to control my home. And I really appreciate that seamless experience. So if that’s the world that you live in technologically, then that’s probably going to be your best bet.

If you’re in the Android world, depending on the phone you have, you can look at things like Google Assistant or looking at Amazon’s assistant. And for me, they’re not as seamless of an integration. But you know, they do work.

I’ve made my platform choice, but I’m not one to bash one or the other.

So that’s one of the things you want to look at. And then, kind of start to plan out what is it that you want to do. And that’s kind of hard to determine when you don’t know what you can do, right?

So think about anything that’s connected to electricity in your home. A lot of people start out with lights. I know I did.

But then, I quickly moved into sensors. And then, controlling those lights.

So you can control lights using door sensors, window sensors. These are just little magnetic sensors that determine whether something is open or closed. You’ve got motion sensors, you’ve got vibration sensors. And so getting into the sensors is really where you start to see home automation magic happen.

And then, you can get into all sorts of other things – automating fans. And those are all the simple things.

And of course, we’ve got appliances. You know, air fryers, refrigerators, and dishwashers.

And yesterday, pouring over everything from CES this year, There is a smart chest freezer that was just released. I hadn’t thought of it before, but it’s actually kind of a good idea. So the possibilities are kind of endless at this point.

Jonathan: You’ve obviously gone well into HomeKit, and your podcast actually has HomeKit in its name.

One of the difficulties in the past has been that that’s a key decision that you have to make from the get-go because …

We’ve got a situation here in New Zealand where HomeKit accessories are much less available than accessories that are compatible with Amazon’s ecosystem, for example. We can control all the temperature, the mode of our heat pumps at Mosen Towers with the Amazon assistant, but we can’t do it with Siri. And we also have, for example, other appliances like this. For some reason, the manufacturers who were offering appliances to this market just aren’t getting in with the Apple ecosystem.

And this, I guess, is where Matter matters, if I might use that expression. [laughs] Because hopefully, Matter is going to change all that, and it won’t be such a struggle to make a choice.

Many of us do have iPhones and iPads. But many of us also have, say, Amazon voice assistants all over the place. And it’s a shame when you have to make a choice that says well, I’ll choose my doorbell that works with this, even though it won’t work with the other.

Actually, that’s another example for us. We have a Ring video doorbell. Overall, we like it. I think the audio quality could be a bit better when you’re talking with someone.

But there is no Siri integration, no HomeKit automation still with the Ring video doorbell. So that’s been a frustration.

Dustin: Yeah. And there are solutions, you know, for these, I don’t want to call them antiquated devices, but your devices that aren’t supporting Matter. Ring hasn’t said anything about supporting Matter, and I don’t think they’re going to, since they do have such a huge market share. I don’t think they need Matter.

But there are ways of getting different devices that don’t natively support Apple Home into Apple Home using things like Homebridge, or Hoobs is a solution that uses a raspberry pi, uses a lightweight no JS server, and you can bring these things into HomeKit fairly easily. There are lots of tutorials online that go through it step-by-step and really make these things easy. It is kind of one of those things that is supposed to be this smart home savior. And I have been very skeptical, and I’m still very skeptical as to how well it’s going to work. I haven’t had the best experiences with it personally, and I don’t think it’s quite ready for prime time, but it’s getting there. And I hope it does get there.

Now for me, as someone who lives in the Apple Home ecosystem, it’s not going to change things very much, at least up until now.

We got the Matter 1.2 spec late last year, and it’s going to bring in, I think, 9 new device categories, one of them being robot vacuum cleaners, which Apple Home users for the longest time have been pining for. It’s going to bring in things like refrigerators and dishwashers, and a lot of product categories that we haven’t had in Apple Home.

But I think the biggest sticking point here, at least for the time being, is that Matter controllers, so things like your Amazon devices, your Google devices, your Apple devices, have to write in support for the Matter 1.2 spec. And so they haven’t done that yet.

And although if you look at any robot vacuums coming out of CES, they’re all talking about supporting Matter. But even if they do, to the matter of vendors, right? So your Apple, Google, Samsung, Amazon, they haven’t written in support for it yet. So it’s going to take a while.

For me personally, thinking about robot vacuums in Apple Home, specifically, since there is no relationship between your physical home and your virtual home, we’re not going to be able to do things like send a vacuum using Siri natively in Apple Home to clean a specific area. So if you wanted to clean, say, the dining room, you’re still going to have to use the third-party app to do that, since there’s no mapping functionality in Apple Home yet.

I’m really hoping that changes. Apple Home has kind of been overdue for some HomeKit-specific platform improvements. We haven’t seen any new automations. We haven’t seen any new conditions. We haven’t seen any real new product categories come to HomeKit in a few years now, and I think that’s one thing that is definitely needing to change in 2024.

Jonathan: So for those who aren’t still clear, Matter is a standard that’s been agreed to by most important technology manufacturers that is seeking to solve this problem that some home automation products will work with one ecosystem, but not another. So this is supposed to be a common standard, but there is a lengthy transition period going on at the moment.

Dustin: Yeah. And it’s been quite a while. It started out as Project Chip. And then, it’s kind of switched over its name to Matter, and then rolled out its first spec.

There are loads of Matter devices on the market that you can buy now. And they do have varying degrees of success when bringing them into your smart home platform of choice.

But I’ve got an Echo Dot or two, I think. I don’t use them, so I don’t know if they’re even connected which you would think that’s something I would know, but I just don’t. [laughs]

But one of the ideas behind Matter is that you have this multi-admin support so that you’re able to bring a device into your Amazon system, your Google system, your Apple Home system, your Samsung SmartThings system, and everything just works nicely together.

But another thing that I think a lot of people forget about with Matter is local control.

One of the main reasons I’m such a big proponent of Apple Home is the fact that everything stays local. So that means that even if a vendor goes out of business and completely stops supporting that device, because HomeKit supports that device, I don’t have to worry about it being bricked. It’s not sending any information to the cloud. Everything is done locally through your HomePods or your Apple TVs, and all that information is locally processed before it goes anywhere. And so that’s one of the main benefits of Apple Home that they actually contributed to Matter.

Jonathan: Yes, that’s certainly a significant benefit.

We are very steeped in the Sonos ecosystem. In fact, once I called Sonos support and they had a look, and they said, “Well, you’ve got 15 Sonos devices.”

And I’m like, “Yeah, we love our Sonos devices.”

And they all have Amazon’s assistant available to us. So we’re never, when we’re at home, short of being in hollering distance of the Amazon assistant.

Now, that meant that in the past, we’ve had to make choices. So we’ve often chosen products that meant that we’re likely to use them when we’re at home a lot, and we just want to be able to yell at them wherever we are.

But in the case of, say, automating your smart cooker, we bought a smart plug. And this is actually quite a cool way to automate all kinds of things. They don’t always work if you have products that need to be not just powered on, but specifically switched on at the device. But with something like a slow cooker, what we found was that we could put stuff in the slow cooker, have it switched on at the wall, but the smart plug disengaged.

And Bonnie, my wife, used to really entertain people when she was studying journalism at [11:30] in the morning. She would get out her phone and say to Siri, “Start the smart cooker.”

And that’s the command that we’d assigned to switching that particular smart plug on.

And people were amazed, you know. “How do you do that?”

So it’s good that we no longer, hopefully in the near term, have to make those decisions about what particular device this particular contraption is going to work with.

You mentioned appliance control, and I think this is a really important accessibility benefit for blind people. Because increasingly, we have these touchscreen input devices with output that we can’t verify.

And we have this at home as well with our home automation of our washing machine, in that we can load the washing machine, and then we can start it from the app. We can check what part of its cycle it’s up to. We can get a push notification.

But that washing machine has got a horrible touchscreen. You can’t really even explore it with your finger particularly well because just touching a button, even if you’ve labeled it, triggers it.

So that’s another benefit for us.

Dustin: Absolutely.

And that’s kind of one of the kickers of Apple Home is that it is limited in the product categories that it supports.

My probable next purchase is going to be a 12-in-1 air fryer that works with the Amazon Assistant, where I can just say, “Preheat the air fryer to 475 degrees.”, and that’s all I have to do.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Dustin: I don’t have to worry about the touchscreen. And that is, it’s a liberating thing.

I think about just this last week, visiting my mom for the holidays. I had to put bump dots on her oven to use the oven to be able to help with holiday meals.

Jonathan: What a nice son you are.

Dustin: I know, right?


And you know, all of that is just completely avoided.

The one that I have in mind, hesitant to mention brands. But the one that I have in mind at the moment, it’s only 150 bucks, and it’s a 12-in-1 cooker. It does everything under the sun, and it’s got a huge air fryer basket. And I’m excited to get my hands on it. Just haven’t been able to justify it quite yet.

Jonathan: And this is where availability can vary a lot.

So recently, our microwave bit the dust. And I said to Bonnie, “This is an opportunity, not a problem.” And I thought we will get a microwave that has home automation capabilities in it, so we can control this with the app and fully utilize it.

There was not a single microwave available that supported the 220/240 volt standard that had any kind of home automation integration. I looked on Amazon and I found several really good compelling products, but they were all for the North American market. They were not dual voltage. There was absolutely nothing out here in New Zealand or Australia. And I’ve subsequently heard that people in the UK have the same problem.

Do you understand why that is? Is there some sort of regulatory thing going on, or what’s the deal with that?

Dustin: I don’t know specifically, but what I imagine is the market. There are just fewer people in Australia, New Zealand, the UK than there are in the US. And so, if I have to produce a product for mass production, am I going to choose the voltage that’s going to work with more people, or fewer people?

Jonathan: But when you add the numbers up, Dustin, I mean, if you add the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, that’s an awful lot of people to leave out of selling to.

Dustin: It is, and I’m not justifying it by any stretch of the imagination. [laughs] But that’s the only thing that I can really come up with, is that manufacturers are limited in their resources. And that’s the big excuse or the big rationale that they give for devices not being accessible, is that it’s just the market. How big is that market? And so, it is one of these unfortunate things where we see this across the smart home.

If you think about smart locks, right? And that’s something that there aren’t a whole lot of Euro-style locks that are smart, and even fewer that are even retrofit models.

And we see this across the board. In Europe, there are tons of smart smoke detectors, but not so many in the US because of regulatory restrictions. And you know, we see these limitations, I think, a lot in the smart home, and a lot of it has to do with the customer base, with the market share. And I think, a lot of it also has to do with just regulations and how vendors think they’re going to be able to maximize profits because at the end of the day, they’re still businesses, and they need to be able to make money.

Jonathan: One of the other benefits of home automation relating to doors is, of course, that you can grant and revoke access. So if you’re someone who goes out to work and you hire a cleaner to come in, you can give them some sort of code if you have a keypad on the door.

And there are 2 benefits of that. First, if that relationship ends, you can revoke the code. But also, you’ve got documentary evidence of when they arrived and when they left. so you know how much time they spent there. And if they try to overbill you, then you’ve got some evidence there.

Dustin: Yeah, absolutely.

And I think about a video I did on the YouTube channel not too long ago, I guess, (actually, it was maybe almost a year ago) of a smart safe produced by Yale. And it essentially functions as a smart lock, but you have codes that you can give out. You can restrict up until the time and which days of the week. So if you, for example, have a small business where people might need to get access to specific things in the safe, if it’s daily cash, or cash drawers or whatever it may be, you can restrict that access to specific times. So there’s specific shift on specific days of the week which is pretty powerful, especially for a small business owner.

Jonathan: You mentioned earlier things like Raspberry Pis and HomeKit bridges to things that don’t natively work with HomeKit, and I wanted to talk about the degree of geek creds that are required to set this stuff up, because we have people listening with a wide range of technological comfort. There will be people listening who see the benefits of this, but are really worried about whether they can pull it off. How much geek cred is required if you want to, say, pick an ecosystem that you want to be in, like Apple or the Amazon one, and then get stuff set up?

Dustin: That’s a really interesting question, and it really depends on how complicated you want to get.

There are loads of instances where people just from the ground up, they want everything to be local. So you could even develop your own voice assistant. This is something that’s happening within Home Assistant at the moment, is being able to create your own ChatGPT-based local voice assistant, and that’s way over my head.

When I started My HomeKit Home and all of it (the blog, the YouTube channel, and then subsequently the podcast), it was all based on me just having this fascination with the smart home in the Apple ecosystem, and not really having anybody to talk to about it.

I don’t come from any sort of technological background. I’m an ESL teacher by training. I come from the arts. I’m trained as a linguist. And so I don’t really have any background in technology.

And if you’re interested in it, then you’ll find that the difficulty level really is as difficult as you want to make it.

My mother, who would not appreciate it if I gave her age, but she is my mother and she’s, let’s say at least 25 years older than I am, she started her own smart home. And while she didn’t bother consulting with me about it, which I find a little offensive, [laughter] she is able to completely control her smart home. She has smart door locks. She has loads of cameras everywhere. All of her lighting in her house is smart. She’s got a number of smart devices strewn throughout the house.

And so I think for me, it’s really about what do you need? What do you want? And the level of complexity can range from as simple as it can be, to as complex as it can be.

Jonathan: I suppose there are home automation expert places out there that you can go to and say, “Hey, Mr. Or Ms. Home Automation Expert, help me automate my home.” And I would imagine, although I don’t know for sure, places like Best Buy in the US and equivalents in other countries would offer a sort of a department or a consultancy that can get you started. Would that be true?

Dustin: I imagine. I haven’t really looked into that because I’ve been kind of on the DIY side of things.

But I do know there are more complex systems that can really get expensive, but there really are, if you look at like systems from Savant and some other ones. You can get as complicated as you want.

And there are people out there that offer the services. They’ll consult with you, see what you want, and then they’ll just build it and install everything for you.

For me, personally, it seems like there would be a disconnect. And I guess, for the people offering those services, it’s good because if the system fails in some sort of way, well, the owner is going to call you and ask you for the help. So that’s just kind of, you know, keeping your business going. [laughs]

But at the same time, for me, I’ve always been kind of DIY, and it’s really easy enough for anybody to get started.

Jonathan: System failure is something that’s worth considering as well because I suppose, there might be a danger of being too dependent on this stuff. If the internet goes down or power goes out, what happens then? There could literally be a health and safety risk potentially for some of this home automation.

Dustin: Sure. This is a concern that people always have.

And my first answer to that is if it’s an issue of your power going out, well, your power’s out so you can’t use anything anyway, unless you have a battery backup for your house. If the power goes out, regardless of whether or not your lights are smart, you’re not going to have any lights. That’s something that people always kind of forget about.

Now in terms of the internet going out, that’s one of the benefits of that local control. And one of the reasons why I’m such a big proponent of Apple Home, Matter, and your local networks that are specific to the smart home, is that you don’t run into those issues. If the internet goes out, since these systems aren’t using the internet to communicate back and forth, you don’t have to worry about your lights not turning on when you flip the switch, or when you hit your button, or your automations because all of those things are happening locally and they’re not dependent on the internet to actually send and receive any messages.

Jonathan: Being hacked, being spied on, having information that you don’t want passed on to some sort of other provider are also concerns with this sort of technology.

And I had an interesting issue over the Christmas break, actually, where I ordered a Ring video doorbell for my son and daughter-in-law. It was in serious danger of not arriving. So I ordered another one from another place, because I didn’t want to be giftless at Christmas time.

As it turned out, They both turned up. So my wife and I had this big discussion about who shall we give the second one to? And my wife suggested my oldest son.

And I immediately said, “Don’t even bother asking him.” because he’s the kind of guy that has repurposed his Android phone to have a different operating system that’s not so Google-centric, and not reporting everything back to Google. I mean, he is a security purist and a privacy purist. [laughs]

But she asked him anyway, and he said exactly what I thought he’d say. Basically, I wouldn’t be seen dead with a Ring video doorbell. [laughs]

What do people need to consider in terms of security when making these initial purchasing decisions and assessing their own tolerance level?

Dustin: So I think, one of the things to keep in mind in terms of security and privacy is that I like to look at the analogy of building a house, right? So you build a cube, right? But if you want access to the outside world, you’re going to need a door. And so opening that door, that’s one vulnerability.

But maybe if you’re inside the house and you want to look outside maybe without having access, then you want to build a window.

Each time that you build a window, you build a door, you’re increasing your vulnerabilities.

And so, looking at being hacked in terms of the smart home, yes, it is something that is completely possible by adding a smart device to your home. Generally speaking, if you’re connecting that device to the internet, that’s one more way that people can hack you.

However, think of it this way. There’s the old adage of okay. Well, what is easier? Hacking into your smart home, or taking a rock and bashing your window? And of course, bashing a window is infinitely easier, too.

But the reason that I don’t personally have a lot of concerns about security when it comes to the smart home is number 1, I’m in the Apple ecosystem. And it’s by no means flawless. It tends to be significantly more restricted than your other platforms. And that’s why with HomeKit, you have traditionally a much lower level of device saturation because there have been such strict regulations and processes behind getting HomeKit certification.

Also, at least in my mind, there are easier ways for hackers to infiltrate your network than certain devices.

Me, personally, I’m like your son. I would not be caught dead with a Ring video doorbell.

Jonathan: [laughs]

Dustin: But I think for me, it has less to do with the security implications and just what Ring’s policies are, in terms of sharing video footage without your consent. That’s for me, personally.

I think these are issues that thankfully, at least in the US, they are being addressed by Congress at the moment. There are panels being brought together and there are talks of okay, how are we going to measure security? How are we going to measure privacy, especially in the IoT? And that’s a necessary discussion that we need to be having.

But for me, you don’t see a ton, at least in the US, you don’t see a lot of hacks going on because of IoT devices, at least for now. I think that hackers realize that if they’re going to go after IoT devices, they’re probably better off trying to get into a corporate IoT network rather than John Doe’s.

Jonathan: IoT is Internet of Things.

It’s interesting. You know, I switched to another internet service provider.

In New Zealand, we’ve got a pretty cool internet infrastructure where we’ve got multi-gigabit fiber going right to the home, and you can choose any number of providers to give you the bandwidth. And I made a switch a few months ago.

And after having made that switch, I saw a massive attempt by multiple people in multiple countries to get into our Synology network-attached storage device. I’m savvy enough to monitor those logins, and I’ve got some pretty strong security procedures in place. But I could still see that they were being attempted.

So there are bots and things scanning for devices on the open internet, seeking to log into them. But I think on average, you’re right.

The major concern is with products like Ring where what happens if somebody actually hacks them? And you’ve got so much personal information there about people coming to your door, packages that might be identified that have been delivered, and that’s not within your control.

So what’s your appetite for risk there in terms of, say, if Ring were to be compromised and you had your private information, your private video footage leaked out there? That’s a bit concerning, isn’t it?

Dustin: Yeah. My personal stance on that is that cameras go away from you. So I don’t have any cameras that point toward my house. They’re all going out.

I did, and I still have a smart baby monitor. But as soon as we deemed it no longer useful to have that constant camera on my daughter, we repurposed that camera.

And I don’t like cameras facing inwards. I just don’t think it’s something I personally need.

Now, that’s not to say that I don’t find them useful. They can definitely be useful. there are loads of cameras that can record, and they can record locally. You can easily set up, like you mentioned with Synology and any sort of NAS system, you can have cameras record locally directly to that NAS. And you can also find numerous cameras that have privacy features built in where they have a physical shutter, so it’s not just a okay we’re going to cut the stream, but it’ll actually cover the lens of the camera physically so that even if the feed is still live, it’s recording darkness.

And for a while, I did have a camera in my studio, just because it’s the studio and there’s loads of stuff in there. But I still don’t appreciate cameras facing inwards in my own home.

Jonathan: One scary thing I heard a few years ago was when somebody actually compromised the password of someone’s Ring account, and was able to talk to a child through the Ring talkback kind of feature. And that was really concerning.

So I think the most important advice that I have no doubt you will agree with is that if you are using a service like this where information is being stored in a cloud that you don’t control, please turn on 2-factor authentication, preferably not by text message, and make that robust.

Dustin: Absolutely. Authenticator apps are definitely the way to go.

Yeah. That’s disturbing, to say the least.

And I think one of the things that we’ll see is that as companies like Ring grow, they’re going to become more vulnerable because hackers know that they have more opportunities to succeed in their attacks with a company that’s as robust and as prevalent as Ring is, which is kind of one of the reasons why I don’t really like Ring.

Now, that being said, I mentioned my mother’s house. She has 6 different Ring cameras around her home. And, you know, again, she didn’t bother consulting with me before this happened, and it’s disturbing to me. But it’s her choice, and everybody has their own choice for their own smart home. And security and privacy, we definitely need to be aware of.

Jonathan: Are there things that you would like to automate that you can’t at the moment?

Dustin: It’s hard to say that can’t.

I would like to see pressure sensors more readily available. So if you step on doormat, then something can happen. Or if you set a skillet down on a counter on a trivet, that trivet underneath has a pressure mat, and then that in turn can do something. Think about beds, lying down in bed. You have a pressure mat under your bed that can trigger an automation. I’d like to see those be more readily available.

There aren’t any ones that natively work with Amazon, Google, or Apple Home. They can be wired and made to work, but there aren’t any that are just off-the-shelf compatible. So I’d like to see that.

I’d like to see more interior door knobs. I know there are a couple that will be coming out this year, which I’m excited to see. I’d like to see more of that.

I’d like to see more, like you mentioned, I want to see more kitchen appliances, more domestic appliances with smart functionalities like toasters, air fryers, microwaves, dishwashers, these sorts of things.

Jonathan: Yeah. It’s interesting that the pressure sensors are a problem because I can remember even as a child, walking into a corner store, and there’d be this little mat. And under the mat would be a thing that you walked on, and it would buzz to let the proprietor know that there was a customer who’d walked in.

Dustin: Yeah. They exist, but they do involve a lot of wiring.

And the interesting thing is that they don’t really need to. It can all be done wirelessly.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Dustin: And taking that same idea and slapping a, say a Zigbee radio or a Thread radio into that device, and then having it communicate back to a central hub, I just don’t know why manufacturers aren’t doing it.

I think of fans – stand-alone desk fans, floor fans. There aren’t a lot of those that are smart. I’d like to see that.

Also, dehumidifiers. Humidifiers are pretty common. Smart humidifiers are pretty common, but we don’t see a ton of smart dehumidifiers. I’d like to see that as well.

For about the last 10 years, I lived in Mexico, and kind of making the transition back to the United States now. And in Mexico, homes are made of concrete block. And so these places tend to be extremely humid. So I would really liked to have, you know, a smart solution to dehumidify these spaces.

Jonathan: That’s interesting because I do have a Gold Air dehumidifier. And I think Gold Air is a brand that lives in this part of the world. And I can control that fully from Amazon’s assistant.

Dustin: Interesting. I’ve never heard of the brand. I’ll have to look into it.

Jonathan: Yeah.

So shameless self-promotion time. Tell me about your media channels, and what people can find there.

Dustin: So I am pretty active on a lot of the big social media channels. I do have the My HomeKit Home YouTube channel. I also have the My HomeKit Home podcast. I also have the My HomeKit Home blog, where we do written reviews, written tutorials, and just kind of a landing spot for everything that we do. Also, I’m pretty active on Instagram, Threads, X, Facebook, everywhere. And I can be found anywhere online @MyHomeKitHome. Or if you want to just drop me an email, I can be found at

Jonathan: You might be inundated, inundated, because it’s such an exciting area.

I love home automation, and there is lots more that I want to do. So I really appreciate you sharing your expertise, and I am subscribed to the podcast. I really enjoy it when new episodes come out.

So will look forward to staying in touch, and thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Dustin: I appreciate it, Jonathan. It was a great conversation.


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New Hearing Aids

Let’s go back to the subject of new hearing aids. What? What? What? Pardon? Don is writing in, and he says:

“You are not the only one looking for new hearing aids. I have been trying since the first of the year, testing ones.

The first ones that I tried were the Starkey Genesis 2400 AI ITC, which were rechargeable.”

Sounds like a Nimbus 2000, or something.

“Like yourself, I have always used 312 batteries for much of the same reason.

After having had them for six weeks, I got to like the rechargeable ones.

I did find that the MyStarkey app certainly was not accessible.

They were MFI compatible, which worked very well with the Bluetooth connection to my hearing aids. As far as the connection to my computer, they did not work well, as the remote mic was quite sluggish.

My audiologist spent about 18 hours in the 6 weeks, trying to get them working for me. We both got fed up with the Starkey. During all this time, I have been doing my own research.

The next ones that I tried were the Phonak Virto ITC90, which were not MFI. The Bluetooth connection to my computer worked extremely well. They were not sluggish at all.

MyPhonak app was quite accessible.

However, the Bluetooth connection to my hearing aids was very intermittent. At times, the speech would work through my hearing aids. And other times, through the speaker. It was very frustrating. When I answered the phone, sometimes, it would go through the aids. And other times, through the speaker.

I did find out that only MFI (made-for-iPhone) hearing aids send the sound through the hearing aids very well. So Phonak are not MFI compatible.

Now, I am waiting to try Signia AX hearing aids, which are rechargeable. They are MFI compatible, just like my old ones, which are Signia NX7 312 battery ones.

If the Signia AX ITC rechargeable ones work well, my audiologist hopes that he can arrange for me to upgrade to the Signia AX AI rechargeable ITC ones, which are not out yet.

MFI hearing aids connect in VoiceOver in hearing devices. This way, you can make adjustments directly from the iPhone for the aids.

Phonak and some other hearing aids connect via Bluetooth itself. Those hearing aids have to use the app to make adjustments. Alas, most apps are not accessible.

I’m looking forward to hearing how you make out with the Lumity.”

Thank you very much, Don.

Well, let me give an update on this. I am having some very good experiences, and some not so good experiences, which is par for the course with new hearing aid things.

As you can appreciate, I’ve been in a variety of situations over the last week or so following my mum’s death – some very noisy, and some extremely quiet.

And what is interesting is that with the initial fitting of my hearing aids, I found that I’m not doing very well at all in very quiet, calm situations. It might be where people are sitting around a table and speaking in a reasonable tone of voice, or it could be a soft environment where people are speaking quietly such as a hospital. And the aides should be capable of compensating for that by doing some expansion, and they’re not doing very well at all.

But this is just the default fitting, so I’m confident that my audiologist and I can keep doing some more work on this.

Interestingly, the areas where things tend to be trickier, noisy environments, I’m noticing substantial improvement. It is really nice to go to an airport, check in, and chat to people with some confidence, even in quite noisy situations. So that’s really good.

The MyPhonak app is fantastic. It’s brilliant.

And one of the things I’m enjoying so much is that you can make your own programs and store them in your hearing aid without having an audiologist do it. Now, it’s not the same as having the full software that audiologists have access to. But what you can do is you can take a base program, and then tweak it. So this has helped a little bit in those quiet situations.

What I did was I took the base automatic program, and I went in and created a new program with the compression that I have access to maxed out. And also, more mid-range frequencies. And that’s helped a wee bit. The compression especially has helped a bit. So that feature, being able to make your own custom programs with some limitations is very nice indeed, and the app is 100% accessible.

The one thing you have to be mindful of though, is if you want to create a program like this, you’ve got to disconnect the audio connection between your hearing aids and your iPhone. And the reason for that is that the program that you want to customize has to be active. And what happens is you can start customizing your program, but then because VoiceOver is talking, it switches back to the Bluetooth streaming program.

So it’s doable. You just got to have VoiceOver talking through its speaker or some other source when you are getting this set up.

I am loving the integration with the Roger On, just being able to switch that on and have it go anywhere.

And I have also, Don, experienced what you have regarding making or answering calls and finding that they’re not coming through your hearing aids. The surefire way to make it work if you are receiving a call is to double tap on the hearing aid, rather than to do a 2-finger double tap on your iPhone. And that does always seem to work. But of course, that doesn’t cover initiating calls.

What I found helped immensely (I can’t say it’s cured it completely yet, but if it hasn’t cured it completely, it has reduced it substantially), is if you go into Bluetooth settings, and you find your Phonak hearing aids, and you swipe up, you’ll find a more option for your Bluetooth device. You can double tap that, and one of the options in there is to define the kind of device you are using. I don’t believe that is set by default. It’s just sort of set to some generic profile. If you set that to be hearing aid, it seems to be much much more reliable, in terms of the phone. And that has made a big difference for me.

So I will keep updating people, as we go through this journey.

I might not keep the Phonak Lumity. But I hope to, because there are just so many things to like.

Obviously, if I can’t sit around a table in a pretty regular environment and hear people clearly, that’s kind of a showstopper, right? I mean, it’s bizarre that I’m having that problem. But as I say, I’m pretty confident it’s a fitting issue that we can get resolved.

I’ve got my next audiology appointment the day after this episode is published for plus subscribers. So I’ll certainly let people know if we can get some substantial improvement, which I believe we will be able to do.

And good luck with your own search, Don. Do let us know how you get on with the new Signia.

It Is Wrong to Boycott Israeli Assistive Technology

Let’s go back to this question about boycotting Israeli products that was raised in episode 277.

Rebecca Skipper has some thoughts on this.

“Let me be clear here. I hate wars, and I blame both sides for the horrific humanitarian toll this has taken on civilians on both sides.

Governments are to blame here, not private assistive technology companies. We would be hurting blind entrepreneurs. The founder of AccessMind was impacted by the horrific attack on October 7th.

Consider this. Would anyone even think about boycotting assistive technology companies in the United States after 9/11? Probably not.

Some would argue that our invasion of Iraq in 2003 was irresponsible. Yet, no one called for a boycott of assistive technology companies then, and they work with federal and state governments.

I believe it is unjust to blame civilians and companies that are trying to meet the needs of the disability community for the actions of political leaders.

However, I will acknowledge that I have always felt uncomfortable with the military-industrial complex.

Remember, Israel is a small country, and their citizens have been through a lot. The civilians in Gaza have also suffered because of the actions of their leaders.

Boycotting assistive technology companies because of their location is discriminatory in my view. Consider how these companies may have been impacted through no fault of their own.

I will support AccessMind and any other Israeli assistive technology company who develops a product I need or want, just as I will support assistive technology companies in the US or Europe. Scientists and entrepreneurs who are trying to improve lives should always be supported regardless of where they live.”

The Subtitle Reader Add-on for NVDA

Voice message: Hello, Jonathan!

Found a new NVDA add-on called Subtitle Reader. This add-on automatically reads the subtitles. This works with YouTube, Netflix, Disney Plus, KKTV and Maru Maru.

This is developed by a Chinese developer.

After the installation, you may or may not encounter a dialogue box. I could not able to read it. I believe the dialogue box is written in Chinese. There are 2 options – L button, and S button. Select the S button, then you are good to go.

To toggle the add-on, that is subtitle reading on and off, press NVDA key, that is insert or capslock, plus the letter Y.

This makes watching regional language youtube videos more enjoyable, as the subtitles are being read automatically.

I wish Freedom Scientific introduces this as a feature in JAWS.

Thank you!

Setting Up Complex Medication Schedules in Apple Health

Here’s Kathy Blackburn, who writes:

“Dear Jonathan and Living Blindfully listeners,

I have used the medication section of the Health app, just enough to set up the 2 prescription medications I take – a once daily pill, and a once weekly pill.

My question is whether this app can handle a 21 days on and seven days off cycle for a medication like the one my husband takes. If the health app can’t accommodate this, is there an app that will?

Thank you for the work you put into this informative and entertaining podcast.”

Well thank you, Kathy. Good to hear from you again, and I hope that you’re well.

I don’t have any direct experience of this, and a bit of a Google search didn’t draw up much information.

So I went to my buddy ChatGPT, and I asked it. And according to it, yes, you can.

You go into the Browse tab, and then you choose Medication, and add a new medication.

And in there, when it comes to the frequency, you choose Custom. And apparently, from within there, ChatGPT says that you can log 21 days on and then a 7-day break, and come back to the next 21 days.

So give that a shot. If it’s not right, well, I guess it’s a hallucination.

Perhaps somebody else who’s had some direct experience of this can comment. If you do get it working, let us know.

Sound Without Sight Brings Audio Creative Professionals Together

This message says:

“My name’s Zenny, and I work for a small non-profit music organization called Sound Without Sight. We are essentially a hub of all types of information and resources for blind and partially sighted musicians, voiceover artists, audio engineers, and other creatives, and part of our role includes bringing the creatives together to share and contribute their knowledge and learn from one another.

People can get involved via our discussion forums and our knowledge hub.

In an additional effort to bring people together, we have started hosting virtual monthly meet-up sessions, which take place on Zoom every 3rd Thursday of the month. The sessions are an opportunity for musicians and creatives to come together, and each session features an established blind/partially sighted creative industry professional to share some of their tips and expertise.”

And Zenny goes on to talk about this month’s session, which will be a little bit late by the time most people receive this podcast.

But you can find out more. Check out their knowledge hub, and sign up for the email list. And it’s all at That’s sound without sight, all one word, .org. Definitely check it out.

And thanks for writing in, Zenny.

The BT Speak Is Excellent Value for Money

Voice message: This is Reg George in Yakima, Washington, formerly of Kansas City, and I would like to respond to the person in episode 276 here that was not excited about the price of the BT Speak notetaker that Blazie has produced.

To me, this is being sold at a much better price than any voice notetaker in years and years. And I think, it made one heck of a statement. When you bring a product back from being gone for almost 30 years, and sell it for the same price that it was sold for at launch in 1987, without even taking into account inflation. $795 in 1987 would be well over a couple of thousand dollars now. And I feel by launching at that price, they were making an incredible statement that current proprietary blindness technology is way overpriced, and costs much more than it has to.

All these companies originally launched the most underpowered, poorly thought out notetakers, when Windows CE went away and everything switched over to Android. And the first Android notetakers still cost 5 or $6,000, and barely operated.

I don’t know if anyone remembers the Braille2Go from National Braille Press. You couldn’t even open up a book and put that thing in say all mode, and expect it to read to you without crashing the device. I think that notetaker only lasted about a year or 2.

And the BT Speak, I mean, you can always say they should have waited for a better chip, or they should have done this, or they should have done that.

But the fact is, the last voice notetaker that I can remember that was really successful was the VoiceNote. Maybe HIMS made something equivalent. But those notetakers cost around $3,000. The web browsers weren’t very good at all.

BT Speak has an incredible keyboard. I can type faster on it than anything that I’ve used in years.

Sure, it’s not perfect. Yeah, there’s some issues with headphones not being loud enough when you use the USB-C adapter, and it not going back to speaker when you unplug headphones.

But it definitely does the things it says it’s going to do, and they’re rapidly releasing firmware updates that are fixing the worst of the problems.

This product seemingly came out of nowhere, and the fact that they were able to make a deal to include the DECTalk software and bring that back is also incredible for those of us that have been missing it all these years, and don’t have any way to reinstall that into Windows.

I also feel it’s a shot across the bow of these major blindness companies like Freedom Scientific and HIMS to show that a quality product can be made at this price point, and that you don’t have to charge 2, 3, $5,000 to come up with something that is really useful for people.

I can’t wait till there’s a case, so that I can wear it and take notes anywhere that I am.

I know they’re working on a voice recorder for it.

I really enjoy the text-to-Morse code feature as a ham radio operator. I realize it’s quirky and maybe not necessary, but it’s great, and there’s nothing else out there that has it.

And also, there’s the option for voice commands.

There’s just so many different things that they can do. And for a first-generation new device based on an old concept, and the fact that these things are selling like hotcakes is just fantastic.

And it is a great device that was made in the USA by a family-owned company that was put out there out of love and support for a pioneer of this industry. I commend them so much for getting it out there quickly. They have set the bar as far as I’m concerned.

Comments on Episode 277

George McDermith writes:

“I wanted to respond to a few topics in episode 277.

I found the Glide interview interesting, and will be eager to see how the device develops.

I have found that use of apps and devices aside from the cane or guide dog can inhibit individuals’ orientation while traveling. Although things like Aira and other apps certainly have their place, I am always concerned about an over-dependence on such things, particularly if there is a poor connection, or the technology fails. I plan to support the work, but do not see it displacing a long white cane or guide dog anytime soon.

Perhaps the developer will prove me wrong, and I agree with him that anything that gets more blind and low vision people out living lives is a good thing.

I tend to take 10 milligrams of Melatonin to assist with my sleep schedule. This seems to do the trick for me. But I believe sleep habits are so individualized, that each person has to figure out what works well for them.

I appreciate your thoughts on use of sleep and meditation apps for getting through those wake-up periods.

Finally, I wanted to thank you for the careful and respectful way you discussed the situation in Gaza and Israel. The viewpoints were well stated, and I particularly appreciated Adi’s response.

I will be making a point of buying the Optima when it comes out. I was excited about it before. Now, I consider it a mandatory purchase.

Thank you for always providing an interesting podcast, and all the work you do for the blindness community around the world.:

Thank you very much, George. I really appreciate that.

Closing and Contact Info

And thank you for contributing, if you have, and listening as well which you obviously are, or you wouldn’t hear me saying this. I really appreciate that, and I’m looking forward to being back with you next week.

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


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