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Welcome to 281.. 2

The New Apps From Sonos Are Nothing Short of Appalling.. 3

Following Sports Events When You’re at the Venue.. 10

Zoom Recorders. 16

PocketCasts for Android.. 18

Is Android Viable for You Now?.. 19

Unimpressed with the ARA Device.. 21

Seeing AI Unavailable in Uganda.. 25

Canada’s Federal Parliament Discusses Poor Service to Disabled People from Airlines in Canada.. 27

Translation App.. 42

Closing and Contact Info.. 43




Welcome to 281


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.

In a breathtaking display of contempt, Sonos has released new apps that are inaccessible and even a lot of sighted people are furious, more discussion about following live sports events at the venue, and Canada’s parliamentary inquiry into the treatment of disabled people on airlines is the catalyst for a global discussion.

Howdy, y’all! That’s your actual American English right there.

I welcome you to episode 281 which is in celebration of Area Code 281, which is one of numerous area codes for Houston, Texas.

Who knows if we will make it to episode 713? But I know that area code because when the space shuttle was going up in its early days, I was absolutely fascinated with it. And somehow, (I think it was through a show called Media Network that I used to listen to regularly on Radio Netherlands. It was hosted by a guy actually originally from New Zealand called Jonathan Marks. And there was so much good stuff on those Media Network shows. And Bonnie tells me they’re lurking about on the Internet.) I think it was that show that told me about this phone number that you could call and listen to the space shuttle communications. And I thought to myself, “Myself,” I thought, “this is just too epic not to do.”

So I dialed the 713 number. I think I memorized it long enough to get to a Perkins Brailler and write it down. And then the next time the space shuttle went up, I called that number and had a good listen, and it was just amazing! It was epic!

Until, that is, the bill came to my house. [aww sound effect] Because calling the United States, I think it was like $2.80 during the day per minute, and $1.80 at night between 10 PM and 6 AM. And I don’t remember whether I had the good sense to call between 10 PM and 6 AM.

But still, if you are listening to the space shuttle for about an hour, totally enthralled by it and oblivious to the consequences, you are making an appointment with destiny. And your destiny is probably being grounded and having to do chores you don’t want to do for the rest of your life.

But I did get to hear the Space Shuttle at length, and I will always know area code 713. I mean, area code 281 is like its sibling, isn’t it? So it all just fits together.

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The New Apps From Sonos Are Nothing Short of Appalling

There are times when you wish you weren’t right about something, and this week represents one of those times.

Unfortunately, it has been a very rough week for Sonos users. As was feared, the app is every bit as dodgy as people were suggesting it was going to be. It is not in good shape from an accessibility and functionality perspective for screen reader users. And understandably, there’s been quite a backlash from the blind community. I was delighted to see the National Federation of the Blind come out with a media release urging Sonos to fix this.

I have had some dialog over the last week with a senior person at Sonos (not the chief executive, but another senior person at Sonos), and I think that dialog is taking place in good faith. They tell me that they are going to make some significant improvements to the app by the 21st of May. And in fact, they went public with that information as well on the Sonos community. And then, by the end of June, it’s their aim to have parity with the old Sonos app.

For some of us, it wasn’t even smooth-sailing with the old app because for a period there, if you went into the browse tab, and you went through the services that you had configured, and you went into Apple Music, There were a lot of elements in the old Sonos app that had become inaccessible. It was pretty horrible. You couldn’t drill down into albums. You couldn’t hear what your playlists were as you flicked through the screen. It was just giving you no feedback at all about what you were going through.

And I stress again, this is with the old app. Some people were getting this, some people weren’t. I went to the Sonos community and pointed this out. Others confirmed it, while others said, “It’s not happening to me.” And then somebody who had it before said, “Ha! It’s just gone away.” They’ve obviously fixed this server side.

It took a while for that push to make it to me. But it now has, and at least Apple Music is now accessible again under the old Sonos app.

But this whole situation suggests a massive hemorrhaging of institutional knowledge when it comes to accessibility.

When you consider the track record of Sonos in recent years, they were pretty dependable. Perhaps one or two things got a bit rough for a while. They were quickly fixed. But this whole situation is just absolutely diabolical.

They’ve released a new web app. The idea is that you can fire up a web browser anywhere in the world, log in with your Sonos credentials, and control your speakers at home, even if you are not at home. That would be a pretty interesting trick, wouldn’t it? – to just suddenly start playing some random song when your significant other and your kids are at home, and you’re not. And suddenly, some significant song comes on the speakers like a ghost.

That app’s not accessible, either. There are a whole bunch of unlabeled buttons.

For goodness sake! Associating text labels to buttons is Accessibility 101. You don’t have to be a super accessibility expert to know that if you’ve got an actionable element, it’s got to have a text label associated with it, and not, say, some sort of nebulous button, especially when a whole lot of services available in the web app say exactly the same unhelpful, inaccessible things.

So you’ve got the mobile apps that are a problem. You’ve got the web app that is a problem. It is not a good look.

And what’s concerning to me is Sonos hasn’t really fessed up at this stage and said, “Look, we right royally screwed up, and we’re very sorry. We are going to put it right as quickly as we can. We ask for your patience and forgiveness, and we promise not to do this again.” None of that. Instead, they’ve really doubled down.

Even though some blind people were saying, “Brace yourselves. This is going to be pretty difficult.”, I wrote to the Sonos chief executive, Patrick Spence, and I said, “Patrick, mate, you are heading into major reputational risk territory if you release this app with accessibility like it is.” He saw fit not to reply, and they released it anyway.

Sonos was saying it’s got basic accessibility to start with. “We know we’ve got work to do, but it’s got basic accessibility.” But it’s hard to even determine what rooms are grouped together anymore. You don’t get the selected or unselected status. It’s cumbersome. It’s unwieldy. If you attempt to explore any screen in this app by touch which is what expert users will do who’ve become familiar with an app, you can’t. As far as exploring by touch is concerned, it’s as if the screen is completely blank.

So all I can say is that if they are suggesting that this app has “basic accessibility”, that is spin, at best. There are other things we might call it as well, and I would suggest that the honest thing we can call it is completely and utterly false.

So there’s been a huge breach of trust with sonos. Do we trust them? If they said that this app was going to come out with basic accessibility and we’ve got what we’ve got, their definition of basic accessibility is different from every blind person who’s been in touch with me so far, who actually needs to use this thing with a screen reader on a daily basis.

So if they got that so wrong and they indulged in pretty fanciful spin, can we actually rely on them to put this right by the end of June? I suppose, time will tell. But we can’t let up on this, those of us who’ve invested heavily in the Sonos ecosystem. Some people have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on these things over time.

I guess if there’s any consolation, this app has really annoyed a lot of Sonos users. This goes well beyond the blind community because there’s some core functionality that has vanished from the new Sonos app for sighted people.

In an environment that is now much more competitive than it ever was for Sonos, and at a time when they’re getting into a new product category (they’ve got some premium headphones coming out very shortly), you have to ask. Where’s the rationale for annoying everybody?

If the app is not feature-complete, don’t release the app. And I would also include accessibility as more than a feature, actually. Accessibility is a foundational requirement. If you’re an ethical, responsible company, you do not release apps that aren’t accessible. Simple. It’s non-negotiable.

But they’ve done that, and they’ve also released an app that is absolutely feature-incomplete. The whole world of Sonos users are now beta testing.

If there is some reason for doing this, like for example, the old Sonos app is not going to be retrofitted to support the new headphone product category, then what you do is you release a new version of the app in the App Store, and you call it something cool like Sonos Ultra, or something that incentivizes people to get it. But that way, people could have continued to use the old Sonos app that is feature-complete, it’s not missing things they need, and they could have the new one on their system. And gradually, as the app grows, they could gravitate to that app.

And of course, that would have been a good solution if they really are going to release something that isn’t fully accessible. Sonos did none of that, and they’re not even apologetic for it.

Sonos’ chief product officer wrote this. And what I would suggest to Sonos’ chief product officer is you should not be publishing statements about a product that is causing this much backlash without heavy reliance on public relations consultants.

Right. This is how serious this has become. The whole of Sonos’ reputation at this point is going down the toilet. This is more than a blindness thing. There are lots of sighted people absolutely livid with Sonos, and Sonos expects people to buy their headphones, and there’s a new Sonos Roam version 2 about to come out, by the way, when this memory is fresh in their minds.

Listen to this statement of utter obliviousness and frankly, contempt for their customers.

“Redesigning the Sonos app”, it says, “is an ambitious undertaking that represents just how seriously we are committed to invention and reinvention. It takes courage” [laughs] “It takes courage to rebuild a brand’s core product from the ground up, and to do so, knowing it may require taking a few steps back to ultimately leap into the future.”

I don’t know about you, but the last time I recall the word courage being used in a technology statement like that was when Phil Schiller got up at one of the Apple events and said Apple was being courageous for taking away the headphone jack.

Here is what I think would have been much more courageous. It would have been much more courageous to have a meeting on the 6th of May, the day before this app was supposed to be released, where they said, “We cannot do this to people. We cannot and we should not, as a customer-focused company, release a new app with so many shortcomings, and we certainly cannot and should not release something inaccessible. That’s morally wrong. That’s unethical. We are an ethical company. On that basis, even though we’ve been hyping this, it’s the right thing to do. It’s the brand-protecting thing to do to say, ‘Sorry, we promised you this on the 7th of May, but it’s just not ready. And we will not inflict an app on you that is just not ready. It’ll be worth the wait, but we need more time.’” That would have been the courageous thing to do.

Shafting your customers, is that courageous? No. I’d use another word starting with C to describe that, and it’s contemptuous.

Now, I have received so many great emails that people have forwarded to me that they have sent to Sonos Chief Executive Officer, Patrick Spence. And I could actually fill literally, the rest of the episode with letters to Patrick Spence. It’s quite amazing. But I will read just one, and I think this is an excellent one. I will give a shout out to the person who sends an email with the subject line, “my house now has a bunch of bricks”. But this one comes from Jackie Brown, and she said this by email to Patrick Spence. At the time of recording this, no reply from him. She says:

“I began my Sonos journey around seven years ago.

I am totally blind, and always admired the way the Sonos app was so user-friendly with VoiceOver on an iPhone, TalkBack on Android, or any of the Windows screen readers on a PC.

But to my utter shock and dismay, I have recently learned that the new app which is to be released within days is not accessible. There is a large Sonos following in the blindness community around the world, and this bombshell of a new and inaccessible Sonos app does you no favours, whatsoever.

I have 11 Sonos products around my home here in the United Kingdom, and I have many friends who are also Sonos users. I continued to build my system because I believed that you, as a company, were committed to making your app accessible. And now, I am told by those who are beta testing it using their screen readers that they are unable to navigate the screen and do all the things we can currently achieve on the existing app.

The blind users among us have now disabled automatic updates on our phones to prevent the new app being installed. This is not satisfactory, nor a long-term solution, since it is inevitable that the existing app will be discontinued at some point.

So let me ask you, Patrick.

  1. Why did you not consult with blind people when you first decided to revamp the app, and allow confident beta testers to work with you in making it accessible?
  2. Now the new app is imminent, when do you propose to put right this appalling injustice to those of us who depend on accessing the Sonos app as we have been for so long?
  3. Are you still committed to making your products accessible to blind people going forward? And if so, how?
  4. If you don’t make the app accessible, do you propose to refund all the blind people who have purchased endless speakers that will be locked out of the Sonos ecosystem from 7th May onwards?

This has done your reputation, as a company with accessibility at its forefront, real and irreversible damage, and I feel sure that you won’t have heard the last of it if you don’t put things right for the very loyal blind people who have spent hundreds of dollars purchasing Sonos equipment over the years.

Right now, if I could afford it, I would move away from the Sonos ecosystem not because I don’t like it, but because I feel disregarded and extremely let down by your attitude.”

That’s Jackie’s email to Patrick Spence, CEO of Sonos.

No one has received a reply directly from Patrick Spence that I’ve been told about. And you know what’s disappointing is with all that malarkey about courage, (you know, That courage it takes to annoy everybody who paid for the products and therefore, pays the wages of the people who are doing the annoying), they never said a word about accessibility in a public statement. Sure, they’ve gone on to the community and they’ve now said they think they’ll have it fixed by the end of June. And as I say, time will tell. But there has not been an apology from Sonos for dropping the ball in such a dramatic way on accessibility.

And if there had not been some whistleblowing before the Sonos app was released, we wouldn’t know. because whenever we contacted Sonos via social media, they said, “Yeah, it’s all peachy. It’s all good. It’s accessible. Don’t worry your little head about it.” And we would have updated, and we would all be in soup creek because our accessibility to our Sonos systems had become so bad. That is a shocking way for Sonos to have behaved.

And, you know, one of their staff members compounded this behavior by trying to shut down discussion on the Sonos community when people were pointing out, “We have it on good authority from beta testers that this app is unusable.”

And the Sonos staff member did not respond with any kind of compassion or any constructive reassurance. He just lambasted people for violating a non-disclosure agreement and then saying well, it’s unfair to judge what a release product is going to be like based on a beta. He didn’t actually come out and say yeah, we know about these bugs. They were horrible, but don’t worry, they’re fixed for release. What he actually said was, “Well, I don’t know anything about the beta, but I’m just told it’s accessible and therefore, it is.”

Can I suggest that there are a lot of competent blind Sonos users out there with plenty to offer? Why not make amends in part by making one of those people chief accessibility officer at Sonos? That would be a sign of really good faith. If they created that new role, they gave it to someone who has credibility in our community who’d talk to us here on Living Blindfully, discuss plans for Sonos, make sure that this sort of debacle never happens again. That would be Sonos putting their money where their mouth is, and it would be a very tangible, positive step forward. So in addition to that apology that I believe we’re owed, I think the creation of a chief accessibility officer position at Sonos would be a very positive move.

Christopher Wright says:

“I really hope this awful situation with the Sonos app is cleared up quickly.

I don’t own any Sonos products, as I think they’re too expensive. Though the headphones sound very interesting.

If the rumors are true, I’d be willing to pay the premium Sonos tax for Bluetooth LE audio headphones with a removable battery that also connects to Wi-Fi and has all the other Sonos features, but only if the current situation is resolved. Who knows? Maybe I will become a Sonos fan after all, though most of the services don’t interest me as I mainly use Bluetooth and listen to audiobooks.

Is it possible to add custom podcast feeds so your Sonos devices can, for example, directly play the episodes from this podcast without the need for another device?”

Well, not directly, Christopher, but there is Sonos support for PocketCasts. And if you have a PocketCasts account, you could put a private RSS feed into that, and you could listen to Living Blindfully plus that way.

If you’re not interested in subscribing to plus, you can just add Living Blindfully to PocketCasts, and it will be available with Sonos.

He continues:

“It’s truly sad to hear the company may have gone through a regression in terms of accessibility. The fact the CEO didn’t respond is very concerning.

I say give them a month. If nothing is done or no one says anything, then we should initiate negative publicity.”

Yeah. I think that ship has sailed, Christopher. And in my view, rightly so.

Luis Peña is in touch from Colombia, and he says:

“I have followed closely your concern about the recent Sonos update.

I also have 9 different Sonos speakers. And needless to say, I am very disappointed about the lack of respect on the part of Sonos regarding the accessibility of the new Sonos app.

I also have followed your instructions to prevent updating until the app is fully accessible. However, something unexpected happened to me a few minutes ago. When I opened the Sonos app, it displayed a message asking me to update. Fortunately, I refused to update. I was expecting to find the update in the App Store and not within the Sonos app.

I think you should update your post and warn your audience about this new update process. It is very easy to fall into this trap.”

Well, Luis, the good news is [laughs] if there’s any good news about all of this, that button’s just going to take you to the App Store. You do update from the App Store. It’s just an opportunity to open the page on the App Store. It’ll take you from the Sonos app into the App Store app. You’ll be on the Sonos page, and you’d have to then double tap update. But it’s very difficult not to double tap update all, actually, in the App Store.

I was having a chat to Judy Dixon (because we’re going to be talking to her on Living Blindfully soon in her capacity as the president of the International Council on English Braille), and she said she’s actually done the opposite because of that propensity to click the update all button. So what she’s done is she’s kept the old Sonos app (the good one) on her test device. And whenever she wants to control Sonos, she just uses her test device, and she’s continuing to update all her apps on her main production iPhone.

So that’s another way to do it, for sure. I think the key is if you do have an old iPhone that you use for testing (maybe you didn’t trade it up, maybe you didn’t give it to a relative who was glad to take it off your hands), then on one device, have the new one. On the other device, have the old Sonos app. Which way you go is obviously up to you.

Now, I am trying to keep up with the latest news on this developing story on my blog. I’m frequently updating, at the moment, a blog post on this Sonos accessibility issue. So if you want to check in with it, feel free to check from time to time. I have a revision history at the top of the document, so you know if there have been any changes since you last checked. is the URL for that. That’s


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

So why not share yours?

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

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

Following Sports Events When You’re at the Venue

Caller: Hey, Jonathan! I just wanted to comment on Andy’s call or message. This is Dennis Long.

As far as for baseball games, (and I have been to Yankee Stadium, it’s been several years, And I’ve also been to the Phillies games in recent years, it’s also been several years.) But when you’re in the ballpark, that 30-second lag tends not to happen because it can detect you’re in the ballpark.

Now, you can do one of 2 things. You can either bring your phone and play the stream (and because you’re in the ballpark, it should play), or you could buy a separate Walkman or radio and tune it to the station.

And Andy, I feel your pain. Yankee broadcast will never be the same because after 35 years, John Sterling, a longtime voice of the Yankees, retired. And Yankee broadcast will never ever ever be the same. That guy had a unique way of calling a game and you just felt like you were there, even if you weren’t.

I don’t know who they’re going to get to replace him. I know they’re going to rotate people in because he retired in season. But I don’t care who they get to replace him. You’re not going to replace somebody that’s been doing it for, this would have been the 36th season. Call it 35 and what? 35 and not even a quarter years, almost 36 years. You’re not going to get a legend to replace them. Legends like that just don’t come around often.

But the short answer to the question is either listen on your phone in the ballpark which should detect it, or take a Walkman into the ballpark, and there shouldn’t be that 30-second lag. You should be on par with everybody else.

Jonathan: Some comments on this topic from Mark Riccobono. He’s president of the National Federation of the Blind, and says:

“Hello, Jonathan,

Thank you for your mention in Living Blindfully episode 278 of our efforts to bring US Sports leagues to the table to discuss solutions to live audio during sporting events.

As you and the listener who corresponded with you mentioned, we did pass Resolution 202305 concerning this issue last year. Pursuant to that resolution, I sent a letter to all of the major sports leagues.

In addition, some of our affiliate and chapter leaders have engaged with local teams and their venues to address their concerns about long audio delays. In particular, Everette Bacon of Utah successfully convinced the Utah Jazz basketball team to implement a system whereby devices similar to those used for audio description in movie theaters are provided to blind patrons. These devices receive a direct feed of the live game broadcast.

For more detail on all of this, I refer you and your listeners to an article in the April issue of our flagship magazine, The Braille Monitor.”

And I have that link. I will endeavor to put that in the show notes. However, you can, if you’re not checking out the show notes, go to, choose publications, drill down to The Braille Monitor. You’ll find the April edition there and you can read the article.

Mark continues:

“To date, we have not yet been engaged by any of the leagues at a national level, but we remain committed to this initiative.

I do believe that our national work can be leveraged locally to build relationships and make progress with individual sports teams. However, follow-through is needed.

I recently took my youngest daughter to the New York Mets opener against the Milwaukee Brewers.”

No question who you were cheering for, Mark. [laughs]

“I was excited to learn that the Mets have implemented a system called Listen Everywhere, which provides a real-time feed via Wi-Fi. However, after my attempts to get it to work failed, I engaged the assistance of an usher who also could not get it to work on his device. I suspect they have not done any testing to start the year. Also, it took me a number of weeks to write an email to the Mets’ accessibility address.

I was pleased to receive a call from key Mets’ personnel within 48 hours of my message. Their call was a good example of people seeking to do the right thing getting tripped up by being part of a big, complex organisation where the key people in the moment did not execute the procedures in place. I was impressed that the Met staff were eager to continue the dialog and do even more.

If anyone in the United States has positive or negative experiences with these issues, please let me know at OfficeOfThePresident” (that’s all one word), “, so we can help and coordinate these efforts.

Since we are on the topic, if there are any sports clubs out there who are doing innovative things to make the fan experience fully accessible and inclusive, please share those best practices.”

Thank you, Mark. I appreciate the information.

Robin Williams writes:

“Hi, Jonathan,

I’d like to respond to the item in the previous episode regarding attending live sport as a blind person.

I live in the UK, (more specifically Exeter in southwest England), and attend a lot of live sport. I often attend Exeter City football matches and the Exeter Chiefs rugby matches, occasionally cricket in the neighbouring county Somerset, And I also often go to my favorite sport, horse racing.

With the exception of racing, we are very lucky here in that almost all professional domestic football, rugby, and cricket is covered by the BBC either on one of the national stations, or particularly at lower levels on the local BBC county radio station. I am fortunate to be very confident that when attending live sport, whether at home or away, I’ll be able to find a commentary on the radio somewhere. Often, these are still broadcast on FM, in which case there is almost no delay between the action and the radio commentary, certainly no more than a few tenths of a second. Occasionally, the broadcast is on DAB (that’s digital audio broadcasting), in which case you might experience a delay of a second or at most, 2. This is enough to be slightly annoying, but not enough that it seriously inhibits the experience.

In addition, many football clubs provide their own in-house audio commentary. I used to struggle to understand what the advantage of this would be over a standard radio commentary until I experienced one for myself. The commentary is fully focused on the game, with less input from pundits, and less reporting on scores from other matches, and so on. The descriptions of players are more vivid, for example.

I am hoping to attend a couple of matches at the European Championships in Germany this summer, where English audio commentaries will be provided in the stadiums.

When I go racing, there is typically no associated radio broadcast, but there is an excellent commentary over the PA. The only frustration can be that, particularly on busier days, it can be hard to hear the commentary in the last 20 seconds or so. This is obviously the most important part of the race. But I am able to follow it until that point, and whoever I’m with on the day will fill me in on anything I might miss.

The exception to this is at the Cheltenham Festival in March, which is the pinnacle of national hunt or jumps racing in the UK, which does have an associated radio broadcast. I usually attend at least one day of this festival, and I’m always sure to bring my trusty radio with me.

Unfortunately, I suspect I would struggle to enjoy racing so much if I was hearing impaired. I have been contemplating contacting the Jockey Club who own and run a lot of the UK’s race courses to suggest the idea of streaming the content from the PA through some kind of loop facility that could be accessed by hearing aid users and anyone else, including myself, who would benefit from not having to strain to catch the commentary.

In October, my wife and I traveled to New York, and I was very keen to take in some sports. The only event for which we could get tickets during our stay was the New York Islanders hockey match. I came prepared with a couple of radios and spent time looking up which frequencies the game would be broadcast on.

To my surprise, when we arrived and I tuned in, it was as if the station existed but had been blacked out. There was no white noise, just nothing. I now suspect that this is by design, but it confused me at the time.

We went to ask a member of staff at the accessibility desk, but they weren’t able to provide any useful information. In fact, the idea of listening to sport on the radio seemed quite alien to them.

I eventually managed to get a very delayed stream by signing up to TuneIn Premium, but it was a bit frustrating knowing that a live commentary was being broadcast from the building, and that I couldn’t tap into it. I still had a great time, but I don’t think I would be a regular attendee at hockey matches if I lived in the States for this reason.

Similarly, I am putting my plans to travel to Pittsburgh on hold for now. I have adopted Pittsburgh as my US sports city after reading an excellent book about the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team, along with the success of the Penguins in hockey and my soft spot for the Steelers in the NFL. I would like to time a visit to Pittsburgh such that I could take in all 3 of these teams in one trip, a trip that massively appeals to me, if somewhat less to my wife. However, until I can be confident that I can pick up radio commentaries at the events I think I’ll be holding off.

In summary, while I often think that the US has a more accessible society than us in the UK, and I am somewhat envious of the people-led movements in the NFB and ACB, it sounds as though us blind sports lovers have a good deal in the UK. I really hope the ongoing cuts to the BBC don’t impact on their coverage of live sport.

I have made and continue to maintain friendships through attending sport, and it would be a sad day if I no longer thought it was worth my time.

Thank you for all your great work in producing this podcast. I have somewhat of a backlog of other issues to contribute to, but I think I will contribute in separate emails.”

Good on you, Robin. Thank you for that very interesting email.

Now, let’s get a Canadian perspective from Keith Rempel. He says:

“Hi, Jonathan,

As a lifelong hockey fan, I have enjoyed attending games, following the action on the radio with my Walkman. It was a great way to take in a sporting event, visit with friends, and enjoy the right to pay unimaginable sums of money for beer, just like my sighted peers.

In 2016, a brand new arena opened up in Edmonton, and a friend managed to get tickets to a game. My wife, also a hockey fan, was very understanding and allowed me to go to the game, even though we had a 6-week-old baby.

When we arrived, I was disappointed to discover that AM radio signals could not reach the inside of the arena, presumably due to modern construction and RF interference. They did offer headsets for the hearing impaired, but those only carried the audio from the public address system, not the play-by-play.

I didn’t want to ask my friend who offered me the ticket to leave the game, so we ended up sitting in one of the lounges in the arena that was playing the TV audio. Possibly because we were in a lounge and not seated in the crowd as I had hoped, I drank several beers. In order to cope with the disappointment of not being able to listen to the game on my Walkman, we also went out after the game and drank more beer.

This was the one and only time in my marriage thus far that my wonderful wife kicked me out of the bedroom onto the couch. Any chance I had at winning husband of the week evaporated.

All of this to say, a few years later, I heard an advertisement on a Tampa Bay Lightning broadcast for something called ProWire. As I understand it, it can take a feed from the radio broadcast and send it over the stadium Wi-Fi network to an app on your phone. It claims to deliver audio without delay.”

If you want to find out more about this, you can go to

And I can’t help observing that my Braille display is using the O-W contraction in the middle of ProWire. Naughty Braille display.

Keith continues:

“There are some other National Hockey League teams that have installed this technology. But sadly, nothing here in Edmonton.

If there are any listeners out there who have tried ProWire, I would love to hear how well it works.

Thanks for your work on the podcast. I am amazed at how fluently you are able to read Braille.” (with a lowercase B).

“I am a lifelong Braille reader, but picked up the bad habit of only reading with one hand in elementary school. By the time my teacher’s aide noticed, it was too late, or I was too stubborn to change things.

I can read moderately well, but a little bit slow with my left hand. Reading with my right hand is frustratingly slow, probably in the neighborhood of 10 words per minute. I think this is also hindered now by calluses I have developed from playing the bass.

If I had a time machine, I could go back, lecture my younger self on the importance of reading with 2 hands, then travel to that hockey game and advise a few less beers.”

Ah. There are lots of people who have no sight but hindsight, Keith. Lots of us. [laughs]

Thank you very much for that great email.

To sunny Kentucky we go for an email from Byron Sykes, who’s getting back to the really important question. He says:

“I may have the answer for you regarding Take Me Out to the Ball Game. I think they are saying I don’t care if I ever get back home, not from the peanuts and crackerjack stand. Seems they are having too much fun at the ballpark.”

Hmm. We are not done with this subject, I tell you. We’re not done with it.

Now, Byron also says:

“And the thing, I agree. For us, it is totally inaccessible for a totally blind person. I have a sighted techie temporarily living here who did the video and ID photos, so it worked. That was the only way.”

Byron says:

“If I can be of any help with the Department of Justice, I am happy to do that.”

He says, “If needed, you can forward my email address to that correspondent.

Thank you for all you do.”, says Byron.

Well thank you for writing in, Byron. I appreciate that.

Mike May is talking about the really important critical issue here. He says:

“Never thought about that line about getting back in the ball game song. Now it is going to bug me every time I hear it.”

See? See? Glad to be of service, Mike.

He says:

“I have worked a fair bit on this issue of delayed radio broadcasts. There are 10 or 12 ballparks where there is no delay, either by using a closed circuit radio provided by the stadium, or listening to a lower power transmission. There are a few local radio stations not delaying the broadcast.

The problem goes back to an FCC rule passed in 1997 around profanity.”

Ooh! Did someone say holy soup at a baseball game?

He says:

“5 or so years ago, some station got sued because a bad word from that list came through on the broadcast.”


“So the larger radio companies now have an 8-second or more delay to catch those bad words.”

Oh, gosh! This reminds me of when I worked full time in radio, and I did a talk show for a while. And we had that system, you know. We had a 7-second delay. And if somebody said something defamatory, or rude, or whatever, you push the button, and the listeners lost the last 7 seconds. Pretty cool tech, really. I’m not sure how it was done back then, either.

Anyway, Mike continues:

“At the very least, it would be good to have a list posted of the stations that do not have a delay, and what type of service they provide.

During the NFB convention, I went to the Houston Astros stadium. They had special radios. But it took a lot of asking and advocating to find them, and then to get them to work.

It is really a shame not to be able to enjoy a live game independently, especially when many of us grew up with this access, now one of those things that has mostly gone away. I still have a small Sanjin radio, just in case.

I urge anyone interested in this topic to find out if their local team has no delay, and then letting us know.”

Absolutely, Mike. I’d be happy for this podcast to be a vehicle for conveying that information. This is an important accessibility issue.

What’s also sad to me is that all the times I’ve been in the United States and Canada, and I have never attended a baseball game live. I really need to remedy that at some point.

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Zoom Recorders

To sunny Minneapolis, Minnesota we go. And Gordon says:

“Hi, Jonathan,

I’ve enjoyed your podcasts and audiobooks for a long time, going back to the iOS Without the Eye series. Thanks so much for great work.”

Well thank you, Gordon. I really appreciate that.

“While I’m only occasionally able to catch the recent podcasts, I very much appreciated your series on the Zoom H1, H4, and H6 recorders.

I’ve been thinking about getting a new portable recorder for quite a while to replace my nice, but aging Sony PCM recorder.

I use digital recorders in the field for bird recordings and other natural soundscapes. I wasn’t sure about accessibility of the various Zoom recorders including the H series and the F series. I so much enjoyed and benefited from your podcasts.

I recently purchased the H4 Essential. I’m figuring it out with your help, and it looks very good.

By the way, the pre-record feature is especially valuable for recording bird calls and songs, which of course, are often highly unpredictable.

Have you had success getting the AB repeat feature to sync the A and B markers with points in the audio file? I’ve learned how to set the A and B points using the scroll wheel, which I gather moves a pointer through the visual representation of the audio waveform.

If it’s not possible to set the A and B points directly during audio stream, maybe it would be a good suggestion for the Zoom folks to implement such a feature.

Again, thanks for your great work.”

Well thank you, Gordon.

I have not played with this very much. I must confess, it’s not something that I have a need to do. So I’ve been recording a bit of late with the Zoom recorders, but I haven’t used that.

If anyone has anything to share on this, please, of course, be in touch.

Hello to Randy Knapp, who says:

“I bought an H6 Essential recorder, and I like it a lot.

However, when I play back a recording, it loops…”

However, when I play back a recording, it loops. Sorry!

“unless, I manually stop it.

What setting do i need to change to stop this?”

Randy, I’ve not found one. This is coming up quite a bit on the Blind Podmaker group as well, and I’m not aware of anyone who’s found one, either. It is annoying. I’d like to be able to turn this off myself.

Randy says:

“Also, a quick hi to your wife. I was in Seeing Eye with her, and we had the same trainer.

Please tell her that my dog, Ian, is nearly 8-years-old, and going strong.

Again, thanks for the podcast and your help.”

Sadly, Randy, I’ve been no help at all on this one. But I hope that this is something that Zoom will turn its attention to. The fact that we are seeing updates to these recorders and that they’re making good accessibility improvements is very encouraging.

Jerry Maccoux says:

“I have just discovered your Living Blindfully podcast, and I have found it helpful for me.”

Well thank you, and welcome!

“I recently purchased the Zoom H4 Essential, so I was instructed to listen to podcast 273.

I noticed one very neat thing that the H4 does when you are using the line-in jack located just above the headphone jack to record from another device. If the recorder detects that the volume would be loud, it will say ‘line-in overload’.

You then turn down the device and turn up the microphone input using the mixer button, stop and start the device, and make your volume adjustments to the device until it stops giving you the overload message.”

Thanks, Jerry.

Yes, I have found this on the H1 Essential as well. That line in jack is quite a sensitive wee beast, so it’s a useful tip.

PocketCasts for Android

Kathy Blackburn writes:

“I was hoping to find a better way to listen to Living Blindfully plus on my BrailleNote Touch.

I downloaded PocketCasts to my device. I typed Living Blindfully into the search box, but nothing came up, so I uninstalled the app. Did I miss a step?

I can listen in browser using the private URL, but there’s no support for podcast chapters. And worse, there’s no way to skip forward or back. The seek bar is flashing at the end of the Braille display, but I find no way to move forward or back through the content. My place won’t be kept if I’m interrupted.

I had hoped follow using URL would work in Apple Podcasts, but no such luck.

I do enjoy the shows, though. Most of the time, I just wait until Tuesday afternoon, when I can download the newest podcast to my Victor Reader Stream 2.

I will be watching for further developments with the BT Speak and the Glide Mobility Aid. I hope that BT Speak will eventually produce a model with a Braille display.”

Yes, Kathy, so does Bonnie. Bonnie keeps saying if they produce one, she wants it. So we’ll have to see what happens there.

I don’t have PocketCasts for Android, but I do have PocketCasts for iOS, and I’m hoping it works similarly.

When I open PocketCasts, you get to the home screen, and there’s a search box. It’s labeled search for podcasts or type a URL. And it’s into that field that you should paste your Living Blindfully plus private RSS URL feed.

I understand there are people who are using Apple Podcasts for this as well. I don’t use Apple Podcasts, but it works fine in Overcast and Downcast. So you could always download Overcast which is free, and try pasting the URL in there, and it works a treat in Overcast.

If by chance it doesn’t work, do make sure that you have the full URL selected. That private RSS feed URL that is available when you log into your private Pinecast address is quite lengthy, and you want to make sure that there are no extraneous characters at the beginning or the end of the URL.

I wish you luck, and thank you so much for subscribing as well, Kathy. I really appreciate that.

Is Android Viable for You Now?

Wesly Martin says:

“Hi, Jonathan,

The last time you talked about Android, you mentioned 3 reasons why you would not currently switch. One was Braille” (with an uppercase B). Way to go, Wesly. “It has been partly addressed in version 13, where they introduced built-in support for Braille displays. And in version 15, they now have support for HID over Bluetooth.”

[applause sound effect]

Oh Wesly, Wesly, Wesly. Look what you’ve gone and done. You have got the production crew very excited in here. Now, get back to your work, people. Back to your work.

“The second”, says Wesley, “was multi-touch, which all Google and Samsung devices now have.

The third was regarding your MFI hearing aids, which obviously would not work in Android. But since you have new hearing aids now, …”

Well, I don’t quite yet, Wesly. I’m still trialing hearing aids. But anyway, I take the point.

“that issue is also addressed.

So do you think Android, for you personally, would be worth a revisit?

I am”, says Wesly, “on a mission to listen to all the Living Blindfully/Mosen at Large episodes.”

Oh my word!

“I’m working on episode 31 right now.

Some months ago, I asked how to integrate chapters into Buzzsprout podcast episodes with Audacity. I just use Buzzsprout’s very accessible website now to do this.

However, I’ve recently abandoned Buzzsprout for the same reason you have, which is that they downsample your audio to 96kbps mono. No way! But also, on their free plan, you only get 2 hours a month, and the episodes are deleted after 90 days.

So I’ve made the switch with my new podcast to Podomatic, which is also very accessible and offers a very generous free plan of unlimited episodes in your feed with 500 megabytes per month, and 15 gigabytes of bandwidth per month. So far, very happy with it.

But their embedded player definitely needs some work. I did reach out to their team, and got a ‘We will add to our list of updates.’ reply.

Anyway, your podcasts are souper.”

Now, you know what he’s done there? See, that’s a backhanded compliment, if ever there was one. [laughs], because he spelt it SOUP-ER. Very naughty, Wesly.

“Keep it up.”, he says.

Regarding your Android question, it is fantastic to see that Google has finally done what they should have done a long time ago. And in Android 15, are indeed supporting HID Braille displays via Bluetooth. Given that they were one of the original proponents of the standard, it really is a shame that it has taken so long.

Yes, new hearing aids will resolve the MFI issue, and you’re right about multi-touch.

The question then becomes, why would I switch? What’s the incentive for me to switch? Keeping in mind that I’ve got a lot of apps in the ecosystem, I know the iPhone well, I like the hardware, would I get any benefit from switching?

I want blind people to have the same degree of choice as sighted people. And it’s great that Android has become quite viable now. I think most people would have to concede that.

The thing is though, Android takes forever to catch up with Apple. I mean, look how long Apple has had HID Braille display support. Apple has had multi-touch support since the very beginning of VoiceOver in 2009.

And people can rejoice about the fact that Android is there now. And that is indeed great. But the thing is, Apple just keeps moving forward, so it feels to me like Android is constantly playing catch up.

So it’s great that there are all these devices running Android because you’ve got a lot more flexibility. You can choose a device that really works for you, and I like that. There’s a wide range of form factors and price points in a market that’s very price-sensitive. Although with all of the older iPhones on the market, it is possible to find an iPhone at a pretty reasonable price point, too.

So I’m glad for those who want to use Android for whatever reason, but I scratch my head and I say, why would I want to switch? What could I do every day on an Android device that would make my life better than I’ve got it as an iPhone user?

Two things I can immediately think of, in answer to my own question.

  1. I could just plug the device in and use it as a drive. I love that. That is very appealing indeed.

The second one has actually come up during this Sonos debacle, and Ed Green left a comment on the blog to talk about this. With Android, you can disable updates of an app on an individual app basis. But with Apple, it’s all or nothing. That also appeals to me.

But I can’t think of too many more things.

And when I last looked at Android, I had the devil of a job finding an RSS app. In fact, I could not find an RSS app with the feature richness of Lire, which I use on my iPhone all the time. I didn’t really find as good a mail experience either, but that may have improved now that actions are more of a thing on Android.

So I am willing for the Android heads to try and sell it to me. You know, I’m not wedded to any particular technology. I’m always up for making a change that will allow me to get the best technological solution for my current requirements. And if anyone wants to chime in, they’re very welcome.

But good on you, Google, for finally getting HID support working properly after all this time. For those who haven’t been following that, that means that Braille displays like the Humanware range, the APH Mantis, and other devices that have, in good faith, adopted HID as the future are now compatible with Android over Bluetooth.

Unimpressed with the ARA Device

Recently, a listener was asking about the ARA cane replacement device, and Amanda Lacy has some first-hand experience to share.

She says:

“I used and returned an ARA, the cane replacement sold at StrapTech last year. My experience with it was terrible.

First, anyone thinking of buying one should be aware that it still has no app, even after several years of development. This means that the setup and update processes will require you to have an old insecure router with a WPS button.

The onboarding material comes in 2 sections. The first is everything you need to know before receiving the ARA. The second link is to instructions for actually setting up the device once you have it.

Here are some steps given at the first link.

Before receiving your brand new ARA, make sure you have a router/modem with a physical WPS button. It is necessary for ARA to connect to the internet and be updated. If you don’t have a router/modem with a WPS button, we recommend asking your ISP (internet service provider) for recommendations on what router to purchase, or if they have available options.

We also recommend the following routers.”

And then there is a list.

Amanda says, “I left out the links because visiting them will cause every subsequent visit you make to Amazon to default to Spanish. Having one of these ancient routers with a WPS button is like putting up a giant ‘Hack me!’ sign on your house.

When I first got my device, I couldn’t charge it because it came with no brick, and the brick it required was a non-standard one. None of the bricks we had on hand would charge it, so my husband had to go searching for one.

Then, we had to go to someone else’s house before it would connect to Wi-Fi. I was never able to get it to connect to my home internet, so I couldn’t update the device.

The ARA had no speech. All of its various modes and functions are communicated via beeps, so I could never be sure if I had succeeded at anything. The site mentions a sound that indicates a successful update without demonstrating what that sounds like.

Now, let’s continue with their second instructions page. Note that the content I’m sharing hasn’t changed in at least 2 years.

‘White cane mode comes activated by default, and the downward-looking sensors are turned off. White cane mode lets you use your white cane or guide dog without causing any unwanted vibrations.’

Note: Currently, the low obstacle detection is in beta version. They said nothing about this feature being in beta when they sold it to me. Basically, they’re telling me that the entire reason I bought the device is turned off.

’ARA has 3 sensors in charge of detecting low obstacles. Since we use proprietary artificial intelligence, 2 out of 3 sensors are being used to gather data for 30 days to accomplish maximum resolution, to detect curbs, branches, irregularities, and recessed obstacles such as holes, downward stairs, and more. In the meantime, there is one of the sensors available for low obstacle detection if you decide to turn off white cane mode.

Low obstacle detection beta version has a minimum resolution of a foot tall obstacle protruding from the floor and no recessed obstacles from the floor.

If you wish to turn off white cane mode, press and hold the volume down button for 5 seconds.

Before the 30-day time frame, we recommend using ARA in an environment with no recessed obstacles, such as holes in stairs.’

But I just got out on recess. Seriously, all the thresholds and curbs around here are less than a foot tall, so the device is useless.

This also raises a bunch of questions.

Do I have to walk around without a cane for 30 days while it trains itself, since the sweep of the cane interferes with the sensors?

Doesn’t training AI require huge amounts of computing power? How is this device training itself without access to the internet?

What happens if I hardly use it within 30 days?

After 30 days have passed, what will the resolution be then?

It seems like I am being trained to distrust this device. If it doesn’t replace the cane, then it’s just one more thing I have to remember to wear before I go out.

And finally, why doesn’t this thing come with an app like every other modern smart device in common use today?

When I finally got to use the device, it was disorienting. Whether an obstacle was detected off to my left or my right, the buzzers on both sides would go off, causing me to feel like the obstacle was straight in front of me. I had no idea how far away it was. I could tell if it was at head level when the buzzers on my shoulders would vibrate, but I couldn’t make any other distinctions.

Also, when my arms moved, the buzzers would vibrate. So I had to walk in an unnatural and unsafe way with my arms held back behind me.

You can conceptualize how the sensors worked by imagining a cone emerging from your chest and going wider as it gets farther away from you. Whenever that cone touched anything including my arms, all the buzzers on my chest would go off.

At first, my husband thought I just needed to give the signals time to make sense. But he eventually realized I was distressed because I lacked the information to move safely.

If you compare what they say on their websites with their Q&A section, you’ll notice some discrepancies. The main page describes features which don’t actually exist on the device.

For example, the device is supposed to vibrate using a “haptic language”, of various patterns and intensities, depending on the type of object and the distance to that object, respectively. As of June, 2023, after ARA had already been in development since at least 2020, it still didn’t actually have a haptic language. It just buzzed a lot. Their Q&A says, “We are in the process of developing a haptic engine for our ARA device. Yes, there are different vibration patterns and intensities for the user to understand what is in front of them. Our team has developed haptic actuators in each over-the-shoulder strap and in the main core of the wearable device. With this development, ARA offers a different sequence of vibrations for each situation.”

ARA is also supposed to give us feedback that would enable us to walk in a straight line. This was my other reason for purchasing the device. But again, this feature was never actually implemented.

I believe Strap’s business model is primarily storytelling. Philanthropy is big business, allowing rich people to essentially pay to have their good deeds done for them. In this case, storytelling. Good deed is helping people with weak vision. The wealthy donors have no ability to evaluate whether or not they’re actually helping anyone, since they know just as little about blind people as everyone else. The storytellers can then make some device, sell a few hundred units, and then keep whatever money is left for themselves.

It now costs over $1,000. For that price, you get what appears to be an Arduino connected to some sensors, beepers, and buzzers.

I, along with several other blind people, have already raised all of these issues to the CEO and one of the developers, and they still haven’t been addressed. I don’t think we should waste any more airtime or money on this.

After this experience, I also don’t think it’s possible to replace the cane, since the replacement would have to enable me to feel the ground without actually touching the ground. My cane enables me to feel all kinds of textures and judge the height of a step up or drop off, all without thinking. It’s an extension of my right arm, and an extension of me. When I’m walking in a dream, my cane is naturally there. I don’t want or need it removed.”

Well thank you, Amanda.

If you have experiences to share of this ARA device, be they positive or negative, Be in touch., or on the phone at 864-60-Mosen. 864-606-6736.

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Seeing AI Unavailable in Uganda

This email says:

“My name is Charles Okello, and I am a visually impaired individual residing in Uganda. I am an ardent listener of your podcast right from the time of FScast Days from 2016. I equally discovered the Mosen at Large podcast in October, 2019. I have been listening to you till now. However, this is my first time writing to your show.”

Well, welcome, Charles.

“I’m writing to bring to your attention an issue that is affecting the blind and low vision community here in Uganda.

As you certainly know, Seeing AI, a remarkable app developed by Microsoft, has been a game-changer for blind and low vision users worldwide. It harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to describe the visual world around us, providing essential assistance in our daily lives. The app can read text, recognize products, identify people, and even describe scenes all through the lens of a smartphone camera.

However, despite its availability on the Android Play Store, I am deeply concerned that Seeing AI is not accessible through the Uganda App Store. This discrepancy has left many of us puzzled and frustrated. We rely on technology like Seeing AI to navigate our surroundings, read documents, and interact with the world independently. Its absence from our local App Store severely limits our access to this invaluable tool.

I understand that you have a strong voice in the blindness and low vision community, and I kindly request your assistance in raising awareness about this issue.

Here are some key points to consider:

Inequitable access

While seeing AI is accessible to users in other regions, Ugandans are missing out on its benefits due to its inavailability in our App Store. This disparity is disheartening, especially considering the positive impact it could have on our lives.

Advocacy needed

As someone who champions accessibility and inclusion, I believe you can help amplify our voices By highlighting this issue. We hope to encourage Microsoft to address the situation promptly.

Community support

Our community of blind and low vision individuals in Uganda stands united in advocating for equal access to technology. We urge Microsoft to make Seeing AI available to us through our local App Store.

Before raising this to your platform, I tried to reach out to the Seeing AI team, and this is the reply I received.

’Hi, Charles,

Thank you for reaching out.

We’ll forward your request on to our Seeing AI team to consider adding Uganda on the list of supported countries for Seeing AI.

Thank you for helping us to improve the Seeing AI channel.’”

Yup, so a fairly generic response there.

I appreciate you bringing this to my attention, Charles, and the frustration you must be feeling.

I love the Seeing AI app. I wouldn’t want to be without it. Of all these apps that are out there, it’s the one I use the most. It’s the one I find just works reliably.

So I reached out to the product manager for Seeing AI at Microsoft. He was good enough to have some dialog with me about this, and he says that he is contacting Microsoft’s legal department to see what would be involved in bringing Seeing AI to the App Store in Uganda.

He’s not in any position right now to give us any guarantee about whether it would happen, let alone when it would happen. But the good news is that the product manager who looks after the Seeing AI app does now know about the issue, and he’s looking into it.

So I hope you get some resolution there, Charles. I really appreciate you getting in touch.


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

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

Find out more. Visit That’s

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Canada’s Federal Parliament Discusses Poor Service to Disabled People from Airlines in Canada

A few weeks ago, David Lepofsky sent me an email with a link to some interesting testimony. And when I got this, I thought, maybe this is a little bit country-specific. Of course, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. I find it interesting. And maybe you do too, to know how things differ for blind people around the world. How are our struggles similar, and how are they not?

But having heard this testimony, I realized also that this is a subject that keeps bubbling away on Living Blindfully, for good reason. The subject is airlines.

And if we travel regularly enough, I suspect that most of us, at some time or another, no matter where in the world we live, have experienced feeling like we are being treated worse than the baggage is being treated. We’re made to wait around. Sometimes, we’re thrust into wheelchairs we don’t need. We are patronized. There’s a lot of this about.

So I thought if we play this testimony from David Lepofsky (and I’ll explain the context in just a moment), we can have an in-depth conversation from our global audience about what airline travel is like for you. What are the most common issues that you face, and do you face them often? Or where you are, is a poor experience the exception, and not the norm? If, like me, you travel regularly and you’ve travelled for decades, do you think things are getting better? Or is it so bad for you where you are that you feel a knot in your stomach when you’re about to go to the airport and board a plane because you’re concerned about how you’re going to be treated?

Not only might this vary from country to country, but it may even vary from airport to airport. For example, I’ve had some great experiences in the United States. My worst airline experiences have also happened in the United States.

When I was younger, so much younger than today, I didn’t use meet and assist very often. I enjoyed exploring airports.

As I got older and my hearing started to deteriorate further as part of the congenital condition that also causes my blindness, I’m not doing that anymore. It’s just a wall of sound, and it’s harder for me to navigate in those environments, so I gladly take meet and assist.

The vast majority of the time here in New Zealand, I get excellent meet and assist. There may be one or two little wrinkles from time to time. But normally, it really is very good here, and I’m thankful for that.

That doesn’t mean we have a 100% track record, though. Far from it. And I have had some interesting battles with airlines in this part of the world.

Some years ago, when an airline called Pacific Blue made a brief appearance in this country, they would not allow blind people to book via their website. If you required assistance, you had to phone their call centre.

I made quite a noise about that. that’s discriminatory treatment, and I went to the Human Rights Commission and ultimately, we got that one sorted out.

More recently, I took Air New Zealand on, which is our major carrier, and it’s a very good airline overall. I travel with them regularly, you know. I’ve got the miles, and I’m also a member of their frequent flyer club because of how often I use them.

But occasionally, when I traveled with Bonnie who is a guide dog handler, I would get officious people who would insist that it was some sort of regulation that I was not allowed to use the window seat, that the dog had to be in the window seat. Now, I’m a frequent flyer. I like my window seat. I actually pay extra, where necessary, to make sure I get my window seat. That is my preference. And as a paying customer, my preference should be honored. I know of no other airline that insists on a guide dog being in a particular seat.

And the more I pointed this out and said no I am sitting in the seat that I paid for, the more often it kept happening. Because obviously, it was being sent upstairs, and upstairs was saying you need to enforce this “regulation”.

So I went to the transport agency that regulates airlines in this country, and I said where’s the regulation? And they said there is none. It’s just Air New Zealand’s policy. Qantas run an airline here called Jetstar, and they don’t have this policy.

So I went to the Human Rights Commission. I can’t talk too much about that process, unfortunately. But it was interesting to me that they could not tell me on what basis they were at odds with all the other airlines that I’ve ever flown on, insisting that if you are traveling with a guide dog, the guide dog has to be in the window seat.

It’s discriminatory, and it limits my rights as a passenger whose money is as good as anybody else’s. And there’s no plausible safety reason for it. There’s nothing they could point to, and I kept saying to them well, why are our guide dogs somehow different from every other guide dogs in the world where this regulation is not applied? [laughs] And they couldn’t tell me that.

But what you often see is that the airlines are at best, highly authoritarian (and somehow, customer service goes out the window when it comes to disabled people in general), and at worst, they’re just downright bullying.

So I’d like to hear your airline stories, and I’d like to hear the good as well as the bad.

And to that end, I will say that I fly Air New Zealand a lot. I would hate to tally up the hundreds of thousands of miles I have flown with Air New Zealand. And most of the experiences I’ve had with them are absolutely fantastic. It’s just that every so often, it all goes really badly pear-shaped, and you never know when it’s going to be so you tend to be a little bit on edge.

This is the email that David Lepofsky sent to me.

“Canada’s House of Commons is holding public hearings now on Canadian Airlines recurring mistreatment of passengers with disabilities. I testified at those hearings in Ottawa.

Blindness-related issues were a key focus for me, although we address all disabilities, of course.”

So David, having had a listen, I appreciate you sending this in. I’m sure that our listeners will enjoy hearing this as well.

And as you’ll hear from the testimony, Canada is interested in finding out about best practice. So sure, send in your airline war stories, if you will. But also, send in what’s working.

I know that in the United States, for example, if things go really bad, you can request a CRO – a complaints resolution officer. And there’s a number you can call for TSA. So there are various safeguards in place.

Do they work for you? And in other countries too, how is it for you? Let us know about the good and the bad.

And here is what I think you’ll find a very interesting 40 minutes or so of testimony from the House of Commons in Canada.

Mr. Chair: Colleagues, for the second panel, we have appearing before us, from Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, Professor David Lepofsky, who is the chair. Mr. Chair, I want to thank you for being here.

From the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, we have Ms. Heather Walkus, who is the national chair. She is joining us by video conference.

We will begin with opening remarks. I’ll turn the floor over to you, Mr. Lepofsky. The floor is yours.

Mr. David Lepofsky: Thank you.

I want to thank the excellent team of law students from the law school at Western, who’ve provided tremendous support for what I’m going to say. Anything that’s wrong is my fault. Anything that’s right is their fault.

[laughter from the audience]

Enough is enough. As a blind person, I dread entering Canadian airspace. I never know whether the service I’m going to get—for basic accommodation needs that are well-known and easy to provide—will be reliable or pathetic.

We heard from Air Canada today that they’re doing a good job, that they’ve put in place measures that are needed to fix this, that the problems are few or infrequent, and that all they really need is more education or training for their staff.

Every single one of those statements is wrong, and the fact that Air Canada’s leadership said this is proof that we need far more systemic solutions.

Let me offer you some.

  1. The US has the Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights, so why don’t we?

It is absurd that, on a flight to Atlanta three weeks ago, my email from Air Canada told me about the American bill of rights, but nothing about the services available to me as a blind passenger in Canada, even though I’m on record and file as a blind passenger.

We need a new regulatory agency to oversee accessibility of air travel. The Canadian Transportation Agency has had this mandate not for years, but for decades. They have failed, and they are failing, and it’s because they’re too close to the airlines. Keep leaving it with them, and you’re going to keep getting the same results.

How surprising is it that so few of us file so few complaints with their process?

If you read the accessible air travel regulations they passed in 2019, they are more loopholes than rules. The fact of the matter is that they read like they were written by the airlines.

How about another basic solution that’s easier than changing the regulatory agency? How about requiring airlines to automatically tell us, passengers with disabilities, what services they offer, so that we’re not having to go running around their websites, one airline at a time, hoping we can find it, hoping it’s up to date? That’s assuming we have a computer and can afford it, and have adaptive tech and can use it.

How about mandatorily requiring something like the US bill of rights for passengers with disabilities?

How about telling us, in every notification, whom to call for support, whom to call for curbside assistance?

This is not rocket science, but they don’t do it.

How about having one-stop support? How about having a fast action, fast-service disability hotline at each airline? You phone it, and you don’t wait on hold for an hour, and you don’t have to listen to miserably nerve-racking music; you just get someone who can route you through to the solution. It could be the way to request services and to file complaints. How about requiring the airlines on our flights and the airports in their announcements to regularly announce the availability of that hotline? If more people knew how to complain, the CEO of Air Canada wouldn’t be coming here telling you how few complaints they get.

How about requiring the regulator to deploy secret shoppers so we have independent monitoring of how their services are?

You heard from the CEO of Air Canada that they now announce preboarding for passengers with disabilities. Not on the Air Canada flight I was on last night to come here.

How about having an assured front desk check-in at a large airport, like at terminal 1 in Toronto, where you don’t have to try to brave a phalanx of stanchions and check-in machines, and other confusing signage and so on, so you can check in right inside the door?

Air Canada didn’t have it. Let’s just say somebody got an interesting idea. And eventually, they did have it, but then they killed it.

I asked them to restore it. They didn’t. I then heard that they did, but only for some flights and not others. If you can’t figure it out, imagine how I feel.

How about requiring that one person will guide you through the whole airport, rather than being passed from one person to the next (sometimes, as many as 3 or 4) like you’re a baton in a relay race?

We heard about the need for training. Can I tell you? I’m just giving you my experience. Lots of people with disabilities can tell you the same – how many of their ground assistance persons assigned to guide me I have had to teach how to guide a blind person?

Did I mention this is not rocket science? These aren’t bad people. They’re in a bad system that needs to be fixed.

Let me wrap up by telling you, there are a lot more things we can require.

How about standards for new aircraft design?

I was on a plane just 2 weeks ago. Do you know that call button to let the flight attendant know you need help? It’s always been a physical button. But more and more, it’s a touch screen that blind people can’t operate. Did they just invent blind people? This is ridiculous.

Now, I don’t want to make it sound like it’s all Air Canada. Measures need to be across the board. Air Canada is not the leader that we want airlines to follow. We need them all to become leaders, and to change their practices.

Mr. Chair: Thank you very much. Thank you, Professor Lepofsky

We’ll begin our line of questioning today with Mr. Strahl. Mr. Strahl, you have 6 minutes, please.

Mr. Strahl: Thank you very much.

Mr. Lepofsky, I found your comments about being handed off 3 or 4 times in an airport like “a baton”, I think you said, to be interesting.

We’ve been talking about making sure that people are treated with respect and dignity, and are provided a good service from the time they get out of their vehicle, or whatever transport they’ve used to get to the airport, until they’re seated in the aircraft.

Your comments were focused largely on Air Canada. I assume that’s the one you’ve had the most experience with. Has it been any different when you’ve travelled with any other domestic Canadian airlines?

And when you travel, for instance, you referenced the United States. I see in some prepared remarks here that you also travel to Israel, etc.

Where have you had the best experience, and with which airline, in terms of not being passed from person to person through the airport?

Mr. Lepofsky: Thank you.

  1. I’ve talked a lot about Air Canada, but it’s not limited to Air Canada in terms of my experience in Canada.
  2. My better experiences are anywhere outside this country. I’m sorry to say that, and I’m embarrassed as a Canadian to say it, but it proves that others can get it right. Why the heck can’t we?

When I talked about being passed like a baton, for the longest time, for decades, in terminal 1 in Toronto, you came through with one person taking you from the airplane, all the way through customs, to getting your bags, and getting you out the door and into a cab.

Now, because some geniuses put their heads together and thought this was a better thing, for the last 10, 15, 20 meters, maybe 50, you have to be passed to an airport authority person, literally for the last few metres. And you spend more time having the 2 ground officials taking your boarding pass and scanning, as you’re leaving one and being passed to the other one, than it takes to get out the darned door. Try that after a 13-hour flight, when you just want to get home and go to bed.

When you come in at Toronto, again, at Pearson terminal 1, and I’m just going to give this as an illustration. We haven’t audited right across the airport. We can’t. We’re volunteers. But it’s important for you to understand this.

You come to the counter, and then they tell you to sit and wait, sometimes upwards of an hour, but the seats aren’t right next to where the staff are. So you’re sitting there for an hour. You can’t ask somebody hey, where’s the bathroom?

A couple of flights ago, I actually thought they had forgotten me. There was no one to ask, so I just stood up. I heard someone that sounded like they’re from the airport. How’s this for dignity? Standing up and bellowing, “Excuse me. Do you work for the airlines?” Why should we have to do that?

Similarly, on the way out, again, depending on this baton passing, you could be escorted from the aircraft to a seating area before you go through customs, and then told to wait, someone will come and get you. You ask, “How long?”, they don’t know, and they leave. There is no staff there to ask.

I’ve sat there hearing somebody in another seat next to me saying, “I need help. I need to go to the bathroom.” This is an adult, in public, in an airport. Welcome to Canada.

This is not the way we should be treated.

Mr. Strahl: In all of these experiences, obviously, when you’ve booked your ticket, you have informed the airline that you require extra assistance, and they’re still unprepared to deliver a seamless service?

Mr. Lepofsky: It’s totally inconsistent.

The people are nice. Don’t get me wrong. The people are nice. They’re not surly. They don’t need sensitivity. Excuse me. They need sufficient staff and a system that works, from the aircraft all the way out the door. Some do it. It varies from day to day, and from flight to flight.

And yes. In my file, before I do a booking, it’s automatically set out that I have a vision disability, that I need ground assistance. And usually, when I book the reservation and I get the electronic ticket, it says it right there.

But it doesn’t tell you who to call for help.

One last thing. Just getting from the front curb into the airport, why should this be so complicated? Why can’t there be a 1-stop phone number to call? Instead, you got to figure it out. Different airlines do it differently. And if you’ve got the wrong number, there’s nowhere to call to get the right number.

Anyway, none of this is tough.

And by the way, I want to focus on this just for a minute, sir, if I may. Senior executives of airlines need to be held personally accountable. Not just that they can hire a Kerianne Wilson, who’s a really good person and really dedicated, and then tell people like me, “Go talk to her.” That’s what he told you when he was pressed about it. With me it was, “Well, it’s me or her. It would be good to talk to her.” They need to not be shielded by people. They need to talk to us directly. And I’d be happy to, if he would be agreeable to me.

Mr. Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Strahl. And thank you, Mr. Lepofsky.

Next we have Mr. Rogers. Mr. Rogers, the floor is yours. You have 6 minutes, sir.

Mr. Rogers: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Welcome to our guests today.

Ms. Walkus, and then Mr. Lepofsky, maybe you can make some comments, after the fact, to the questionnaire here.

We’ve heard from WestJet and Air Canada, from airlines, from airport personnel, from CATSA, who’ve all claimed they have some sort of assistance program in place. Yet, we’ve seen and heard the stories of mistreatment and neglect, some of which you’ve alluded to today, in your travels.


Female English translator: Mr. Barsalou Duval, you have 6 minutes.

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you to our witnesses for being here today.

Earlier on, in the testimony from Air Canada, we were told that only 0.15% of cases where there are complaints from people who have mobility aids, or persons with disabilities.

You seem to travel a fair bit yourselves. Ms. Walkus, is it true that it’s only 0.15% of the times that you travel that you have problems occur? How frequently did these things actually occur?

Ms. Walkus: For me, 95% of the time. In fact, I can’t remember one trip that there wasn’t a major issue for me, either almost missing my flight, or being parked somewhere, it’s almost every time. And again, as David said, we are spending an inordinate amount of time training their staff.

Female English translator: Mr. Lepofsky?

Mr. Lepofsky: I will tell you that every person with a disability I talk to about this, and I get lots of feedback in my leadership role with my coalition, has had problems. I’m not meaning all the time. I don’t even know if it’s most of the time. But whenever we get on a plane, we never know what we’re in for, and we have to be ready for the worst.

But let’s take that statistic, and let’s tear it apart. Most of us, I think, I certainly can say for myself, I have not filed complaints about 99.9% of the incidents. I wouldn’t have time to eat, sleep, or do anything else if that’s all I did.

  1. I dare say, most people don’t know how or where to file complaints, even if they want to. That should be announced in the airports, that should be announced on every flight, that should be included on every ticket.
  2. Lots of people travel on our airlines, but end up outside Canada. And when they get back to their home countries, if they’ve had a bad experience, you think they’re calling up to find out which regulatory agency deals with the problems they faced and how to file a complaint, and they’re going to get involved in some long legal process? I don’t think so.

So when Air Canada comes up with those numbers, or any other airline, forgive me, but they’re, in effect, trivializing what we’re facing. Now, in fairness, the CEO of Air Canada said he knows it’s under-reported, and he knows there are more, so I want to be fair to that. But to be able to say you’re doing a good job and these are the numbers is to be shockingly out of touch with our experience.

And either there’s just a huge coincidence that the only people who happen to talk to me about this who have disabilities have had these problems, or it’s a bigger problem. And I leave it to you to decide which it is.

Female English translator: Thank you. That answers my question very well.

Which leads me somewhere else. Mr. Lipovsky, let’s continue with you. In your opening statement, you referred to the CTA, and you seem to be dissatisfied. Could you tell us a little bit about the ways in which perhaps you have had to have dealings with the CTA?

You said that you don’t fill out a complaint every time. What is the issue with the CTA, the Canadian Transportation Agency, as to the ways in which these complaints are dealt with?

Mr. Lipovsky: The first problem is there’s no rapid solution. I mean if you file a complaint, better be ready for a very very long process. And to be honest, life’s too short, okay? We just can’t live that way and have a life.

The second problem is, they are too close to the airlines industry. It’s a classic example of the recurring problem of regulatory capture. It’s not unique to the CTA. It’s not unique to regulators in Canada. But it’s obvious.

For example, if you read their regulations they passed in 2019, in our brief, we have a link to our critique of those regulations when they were under consideration. And they really read like they’re written by the airlines. They’re just way too, you know, you’ve got to do this, except. You’re required to do X, except. And then, there’s all these loopholes that are bigger than the rights.

And so, the final point, even if you were to disagree, and I’m not saying you do, but even if we assume for the moment you disagreed with everything I just said, the bottom line is this. They are mandated to regulate airlines’ accessibility. They’ve had that mandate for decades. That didn’t come with the Accessible Canada Act. They’ve had it for decades. These problems have existed for decades. In significant ways, they’ve not gotten better. And in some ways, they’ve gotten worse. So the regulator has failed to achieve the result that we are entitled to.

Mr. Chair: Thank you very much.

Mr. Lipovsky: And if you keep going back to them, I suspect you’re going to get the same result.

Mr. Chair: Thank you, Mr. Lepofsky.

Next, we have Mr. Bachrach. The floor is yours. You have 6 minutes, please.

Mr. Bachrach: Thank you, Mr. Chair. And I want to, again, thank you, Professor Lepofsky, for being here and for stating so clearly and adamantly what the problem is and the urgency of making progress on this.

I’m trying to decide where to start and how to add to this conversation with some questions. But it seems like from listening to you, the 2 themes that have really come up are around consistency and accountability.

And I share your frustration because this committee hears from many corporations who come here and tell us about their good works from very well-meaning people. And it feels, after many meetings like that, that it’s too great of an expectation to expect these companies to proactively and voluntarily address these systemic issues.

Where does the buck stop when it comes to accountability?

Mr. Lipovsky: 1. With the regulator that’s not holding them accountable.

  1. With the CEOs.
  2. And we’re not partisan when I say this, but with the rep ministers and the government that have the authority to do it, a summit is a photo op.

Excuse me, but look, they may discuss things, they may come up with good stuff, but they don’t need to wait 2 months for a summit to deal with the 19 issues that are in our brief. And the 19 recommendations are not like something that we somehow magically innovated they couldn’t have thought of, like having people know what rights they have, and where to get service at the airline. I mean, my theme again, it’s not rocket science. So what we need is concrete action.

The other thing is, you know, with respect to the airlines and the CTA having consultative committees. And that’s great, where they bring some people with disabilities, they ask. But these are recurring problems. I’m not saying anything that people with disabilities, and I believe airlines, haven’t known about for years and decades.

So it’s not that they need to hear more from us. They need to actually do something about it.

And it would be wrong for this committee to sort of recommend (and I’m not saying you’re going to), but to think the solution is tell each airline to set up a disability advisory committee, so that we have to volunteer our services to these for-profit companies to keep telling them, one after the other, the exact same thing.

The solution is to legislate the requirements, effectively enforce them. And that’s what we’ve listed in our brief.

Mr. Bachrach: So effective legislation, effectively enforced, and the buck stops with the minister who’s responsible for the regulator and for setting the parameters within which the airlines operate?

Mr. Lipovsky: And the CEOs.

Mr. Bachrach: And the CEOs.

Mr. Lipovsky: Absolutely. And I’m not trying to be personal to the CEO of any airline. It happens that one was here today. And I am sure they’re all well-intentioned. But in the disability world, everybody’s well-intentioned towards us, but we keep facing the barriers.

So the solution is saying, if the CEO of each airline said to their airlines, “No more passing people like a baton. No more seating people where they have to call out to strangers if they need to go to the bathroom.” Let’s tell everybody what single number they got to call for help, and it will actually get answered in, oh, I don’t know, 5 minutes, not an hour. If they all did that, and if they said there are consequences down the line if it doesn’t happen, it could happen.

Mr. Bachrach: Mr. Lepofsky, why do you think the minister has been so reluctant to, or seems to be so reluctant, to take that decisive action that you’ve just described?

Mr. Lipovsky: I’ve never spoken to the minister. We’ve had no contact with him, and I can’t comment on it.

My only reason for focusing on it is because of the news release yesterday about a summit. And I don’t want to make like whatever they do is wrong, and all that stuff. We’re not like that.

It’s just we need action, not photo ops. If they do a photo op and do action, we’ll say yay. Okay, don’t get me wrong.

Mr. Bachrach: So in your view, the government knows what needs to be done. They’ve had lots of time to do it. And in response to this litany of horrifying stories involving people with disabilities trying to travel, And we heard testimony from the chief accessibility officer, and she very much echoed what you’ve said, which is that every single person that she knows that has a disability and travels has had problems. Given the severity of that situation, you think that the government has all the information that it needs to act. Is that what I’m hearing?

Mr. Lipovsky: As does the Canadian Transportation Agency, as does every airline.

And they have models from elsewhere in the world they could turn to, because not everybody does it as badly as we do.

And that’s why I dread entering Canadian airspace. Others do it better. I’m not saying they’re all 100% either, but they’re more reliable than here.

Mr. Bachrach: What are the international leaders when it comes to the type of regulation and enforcement you’re talking about?

Mr. Lipovsky: I can’t give you sort of specific regulatory codes and specifics. I’m not prepared for that today, and I apologize.

But I could just tell you I don’t recall a trip anywhere, of the handful of countries or more that I’ve been to, where I have to worry like I have to worry when I come here.

Mr. Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Lepofsky, and thank you, Mr. Bachrach.

Next, we have Mr. Muys. Mr. Muys, the floor is yours for 5 minutes, please.

Mr. Muys: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to both witnesses for very passionate advocacy and some practical solutions, which I know are being captured by the analysts as we look to the report on this.

I just want to pick up on the thread from my colleague, Mr. Bachrach.

You said, Mr. Lepofsky, right off the top that in the United States, there’s an Air Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights, and that’s obviously something that we should look to because we don’t want Canada to be an airspace that you dread.

And I know that the question was asked about other jurisdictions, as to maybe others that are leaders on this, and you weren’t prepared for that today. But I don’t know if it would be something that you’d be able to table with the committee afterwards.

Mr. Lepofsky: If we could find something, we’d be happy to provide it.

Mr. Muys: Sure. I mean, because obviously, we should look to what are far better examples than you’re experiencing in Canada.

Mr. Lepofsky: But frankly, I mean, the CTA is paid to try to know this stuff, and the federal government should have people who can come before you and give you this. You shouldn’t need lay volunteers.

I’m not faulting you for asking. Don’t get me wrong.

Mr. Muys: No, I appreciate that.

Again, inconsistency is in part because people don’t tell us where to go if you want to get curbside assistance, or have 1-stop shopping. They don’t have that hotline to call when you’re at the airport. I mean, try to get someone at the airport to go to a higher level to solve a problem that the front desk person can’t solve because they don’t have authority. You can’t find anyone. You need that 1-stop shopping phone number with somebody with authority to fix it. you need these to be announced regularly.

I think that if airline staff and airport staff heard those announcements, “If you have a disability-related complaint, call this number.”, it’ll wake people up a little more to say hey, you know, we should do better.

And I want to emphasize, I’m going to gamble that a lot of the frustration I’m describing would be echoed by flight attendants and ground staff because when I’ve talked to them about it, they’ve echoed that they’ve seen the same problems we have, and that they, as individuals, find it enormously frustrating.

Mr. Chair: Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. Lepofsky, and thank you, Mr. Muys.

Next, we have Mr. Iacono. Mr. Iacono, the floor is yours for 5 minutes, please.

Female English translator: I’d like to start by thanking the witnesses for being here this morning. I want to thank you for your very touching testimony. And actually, it’s quite disturbing to hear the experiences you’ve had traveling. It’s hard to believe that in 2024, we haven’t managed to better serve individuals who have accessibility needs.

Professor, you have a wide range of experience. We’ve clearly understood, you know, and I’m very disappointed to hear about your bad experiences. And on behalf of the government, I apologize.

I would like to ask you. How can we address this issue best? Many many things need to be done, but what would be one thing that could be done to bring about change? You mentioned a 1-stop shop. Is that the ideal solution? That’s my first question.

My second question, you said you had 19 recommendations. Did you design them based on all of your travel experience all over the world, outside of Canada as well? Could you tell us a little bit more about that?

Mr. Lepofsky: Thank you. I’ll tell you that we designed those based on our research, based on feedback that we’ve been getting from people. As a community coalition, we get feedback on barriers all the time. We get called by the media about stories and asked to comment on them, and so on. So it’s kind of an aggregation of that, and just traveling, and looking around, and trying to figure out what works.

And of course, my own personal experience is provided. I gave you illustrations from my life, not because I’m the only game in town or in any way important, but because they will make them come alive for you in a way that I think especially is compelling.

But as well, we’ve just tried to apply common sense, like offering the idea of if it’s really hard to get from the front door at Pearson Terminal 1 to get all the way through this phalanx of obstacles and a long distance to find where the check-in desk is, and there’s so many, the idea of why don’t you just have an entrance right inside the door, something which Air Canada did, then undid, then redid, but limited to as to who can use it.

That was just one example at a big airport like that. You might not need it in Ottawa because it’s a shorter distance to the counter. But at a bigger airport, that would be an illustration of something that’s good.

There isn’t one solution alone. But what I will tell you about the 19 in our brief, the one that I realize would require the most dramatic move is removing the accessibility mandate from the CTA, and creating a new agency to deal with it. I realize that’s a bigger fish to fry.

But the other things in there are all, I would propose, quite easy to do. And it’s not just one of them.

Mr. Iacono: Professor, just before my time is up, Mr. Chair, is it possible for you to share with us those 19 recommendations?

Mr. Lepofsky: Yeah, they’re in the brief that we filed with you.

Mr. Iacono: Okay. And in it, you have the examples where you’ve picked them up, those 19 recommendations?

Mr. Lepofsky: We just invented them.

Mr. Iacono: No, no. I’m sure you didn’t invent them.

Mr. Lepofsky: No, but we explained them.

Mr. Iacono: But from which, like, is there a reference to where this is being done today so we have a better picture of where to go to see how it’s being done, those practices?

Mr. Lepofsky: No, there isn’t. We could look to see whether we could do that. If we can, we will.

Mr. Iacono: Thank you.

Mr. Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Iacono. Thank you, Mr. Lepofsky.

Next, we have Mr. Barsalou Duval.

Mr. Barsalou Duval, you have the floor for 2 and a half minutes.

Female English translator: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I’ll continue on my original train of thought. Let’s keep going with Mr. Lepofsky.

In your opening statement, you said that it would take legislation that would include rights for people with limited mobility, similar to what exists in the United States. Here, of course, you have airline passengers’ rights that is in the form of regulations, and it’s been the case since 2019. What’s the difference between what exists in the US and what exists here from a legal standpoint? And how could we manage to get what they have If it’s any better? How could we change or amend what we’ve got here?

Mr. Lepofsky: We actually quote it, I believe, in our brief. Theirs just a short list of categorical clear rights.

Now, if we were writing one for Canada, if you, this committee, or the government decided we’re going to draft one, we might add to it, vary it. We don’t need to just carbon copy it. we should take into account some of the problems that this committee has seen, but the idea of having that bill of rights, having it be enforceable, having a hotline and having it mandatorily notified to all passengers when they book a ticket with the airline, and so on would help move things forward. It’s not hard. It shouldn’t be full of the feast of loopholes in the CTA’s 2019 regulations. That’s what I’d suggest.

Female English translator: From what I gather in what you submitted, you have a list of rights that people have, example, as opposed to a whole host of loopholes and complicated packages, the simple rights that are easy to interpret, or that would lead to better results, according to you. So major principles, basically.

Mr. Lepofsky: Well, you know, it doesn’t even have to be principles. I mean, the airline shall tell people, passengers with disabilities, what services are available and what number to reach them at. That’s not a principle. It’s just a clear direction. So it doesn’t have to be kind of lofty, aspirational. It can be concrete entitlement.

Mr. Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Lepofsky, Mr. Mr. Barsalou Duval.

And finally for today, we have Mr. Bachrach.Mr. Bachrach, the floor is yours. You have 2 and a half minutes, please.

Mr. Bachrach: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Lepofsky, you started by recognizing the law students at Western who’ve contributed to this work. And I wanted to take a quick moment to recognize my staff, especially Margaret Crewe, for her work. I understand that you were in touch with her in preparation for today’s meeting.

It seems like one of the aspects we’re talking about is trying to define the scope and the scale of the problem that we face. And while we could take actions like the ones that you’ve recommended, in the absence of precise and accurate data, it strikes me that it would be useful to be able to track progress over time. And to do that, we need better information about how the problem is doing. Is that a fair assumption? And if it is, what would you recommend in terms of data collection and reporting so that we can have a good sense of whether progress is being made on this issue?

Mr. Lepofsky: Yes, it’s a good idea.

We don’t need to wait for data to know these are problems. We don’t need to wait to see how many times they’ve failed to announce pre-boarding like they did on my flight last night to know that we needed measure to ensure they announced pre-boarding.

However, there are these measures.

  1. Secret shoppers, not by the airline, but by an independent regulator, who are auditing on-site what’s going on.
  2. Requiring that the airlines file with the regulator all the complaints they receive. They could be, of course, anonymized.
  3. Requiring the airlines and airports, as I said earlier, to publicly announce a simple, easy-to-access phone number to register complaints, and an email address, and a mailing address. Because we’ll hear from more people if in realtime, we tell them how to, that you can, and where to do it. And then if all of that is provided to the airlines, not just some statistics, but what the complaints are.

In fairness to the airlines,just because someone complains, that doesn’t mean those are the facts. But you could at least look at them to see what kind of recurring patterns you see, so that if you get all of those complaints, even if you assume that half of them are inaccurate but you still see a huge trend, that tells you where you need to take regulatory action.

Mr. Bachrach: Thank you.

Mr. Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Bachrach. And thank you, Ms. Walkus and Mr. Lepofsky, for being here, for sharing your expertise and your testimony with us. I’d like to thank you on behalf of this committee for your steadfast advocacy and service to Canadians with disabilities.

Jonathan: That was most interesting, and I look forward to people’s comments on their airline experiences, and also on that testimony in particular, if you would like.

If you’re listening in Canada, how is it going for you? Is your experience similar to that which David Lepofsky has recounted?, if you would like to contribute to the discussion. Or give us a call on the listener line, 864-60-Mosen, that’s the US number, 864-606-6736.


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Translation App

Mike May is responding to David Andrews’ question about translation apps, and he says:

“I use an app called SayHi.”

[song] I said hi, she said yeah, I guess I am.

Oh, that is such a good line. Thank you, Dean Friedman.

Mike says:

“It is 2-way. There are a lot of languages to choose from.

I find the interface quite accessible.

Results can be either text, or spoken.

I have enjoyed using it in an uber, where the driver clearly does not speak English. They are blown away when I exit the vehicle and say thanks for the ride in Russian, Urdu, or whatever.”

What a nice thing to do, Mike.

He says:

“It takes getting used to VoiceOver talking along with the app announcement.

There are also a number of hardware devices designed for 2-way communication.”

Thanks as always, Mike. Most informative.

Closing and Contact Info

And indeed, we’ve had a veritable plethora of informative emails, so that means the time has flown by. But it’s time to wrap up this episode. 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.


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

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