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Welcome to 284.. 2

Apple’s WWDC Will be Huge This Year. 2

Jonathan Mosen’s Keynote Address to the International Council on English Braille.. 4

A Frustrating Legal Experience.. 21

Slow But Steady Progress With Sonos. 22

Choosing a Laptop.. 25

Working With SharePoint 28

A Positive Apple Accessibility Experience, and a Question About Recording Phone Calls Using the Zoom H Series Recorders. 29

Anyone Done Anything With FairPhone?.. 30

iTunes, and Chapters in Apple Podcasts. 32

Voting in Oregon Has Become Less Accessible.. 33

A Review of the Activator From HelpTech.. 34

Facebook Accessibility, and NLS eReaders. 37

Play-by-play When Attending Live Sports. 38

Closing and contact info.. 40




Welcome to 284


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


On the show this week: to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the invention of Braille, a history of the code, and where we go from here, what do you do when a lawyer thinks that because you’re blind, you can’t read?, and Sonos makes progress while understating the impact of the ball it dropped.

Thanks for joining me for the podcast this week!

And welcome to you if you’re in the British Virgin Islands, because this is episode 284, and area code 284 belongs to the British Virgin Islands. Apparently, there was a bit of a split in area codes back in 1997 that created area code 284, so marvellous stuff.

Apple’s WWDC Will be Huge This Year

While we are talking about episodes and episode numbers, I do want to let you know that there’s so much excitement this year about Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. iOS 18 is going to be a blockbuster release.

Plenty of cool AI stuff. Finally, we’re going to get a Siri that sounds like it’s catching up to its competitors (and who knows? It may well exceed its competitors.), we know from Global Accessibility Awareness Day that there are going to be more voices in VoiceOver, using Braille screen input is going to be easier because you don’t have to pop out of it all the time when you want to do other things. It is going to be the biggest release of iOS that Apple has ever done, and we’re all over this thing.

So we will publish episode 285 at the usual time. If you are a Living Blindfully plus subscriber, that means that you’ll get it a couple of days before WWDC. And then, right after the WWDC keynote concludes on the 10th of June, (That’s taking place, by the way, at the usual time of 10 AM Pacific time. That’s 1 PM Eastern at this time of year. It equates to 5 AM New Zealand time the day after. And if you’re in Britain, it is at 6 PM on the 10th.), once that keynote wraps up, we’re getting into the studio to record episode 286.

[laughs] Kind of funny that we’re going to be recording episode 286. If you’ve been around computers long enough, you’ll know the significance of 286. They were the old processors way back when. And yet, we’re going to be talking about AI and iOS 18, and some pretty exciting stuff. You know, sometimes, Apple’s WWDC keynotes are a little bit same old, same old. Not this one. This is going to be a big one. I can tell you that. Very much looking forward to seeing what Apple has to show us.

But of course, it also means that with so much new stuff happening in iOS 18, we are going to have to really kick the tires and make sure we give as much feedback to Apple as we possibly can, as early in the cycle as we possibly can. So that by the time iOS 18 is ready for release, it’s as polished as it can be. Let’s hope so, fingers crossed.

We will have Heidi Taylor (probably the most popular Living Blindfully personality there is, I have to say. People love it when Heidi comes on the show.), and she’ll be giving us all sorts of visual descriptions. What she does is she watches the keynote, and as soon as there’s some blurb that she knows that our audience will be interested in, she takes a little screenshot. And then, she goes through all that data afterwards. So you’ll get that amazing description that Heidi is able to provide, and some analysis as well. These days, (you may not know this), Heidi is an accessibility consultant. Cool, eh?

We’ll also have Dr. Judy Dixon, whose voice we will hear in just a moment, by the way. She’ll still be in New Zealand, and she’ll be giving her comments on WWDC.

And of course, Mike Feir, who has written the iOS Personal Power book and is often heard commentating on iOS things, he’s joining us from Canada to talk about the keynote as well. So a star-studded lineup, I tell you.

If you’re a Living Blindfully plus subscriber, then you’ll get that right away after we’ve finished recording. Obviously, there’s a 72-hour delay for people who are not plus subscribers.

You can subscribe and cancel at any time for as little as just 1 New Zealand dollar a month, which at the moment is like about, you know, 48 US cents or something. [laughs] So it’s a pretty minimal outlay, but it all does help. And you can also pay a lot more if you feel it’s worth a lot more and you’re in a position to help. We really do appreciate your support of Living Blindfully, and continuing to make the podcast viable.

If you do choose to subscribe (and thank you in advance to those who have and those who are considering it), then you’ll get your own private RSS feed, and you can plug that into pretty much anything. You can plug it into your Victor Reader Stream. We have instructions about that. You can plug it into most podcast apps. And then, you’ll get the episodes the moment they drop, which is 72 hours before they are made available to the public, just to show our appreciation for your support of the podcast and making sure that we can keep it going.

If you would like to find out about more and support Living Blindfully, you can go to, and all the details are right there on the page. That’s You can use all major credit cards and the processing is safe, secure, easy, and handled by our podcast host Pinecast, who in turn use Stripe which is a world-recognized provider of this sort of thing, so it’s all done very safe and secure.

So that’s all coming up in episodes 286, the WWDC keynote. Of course, you are very welcome to share your thoughts once you hear what Apple has in store, and we will include those thoughts in subsequent episodes.

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Jonathan Mosen’s Keynote Address to the International Council on English Braille

On the 26th of May, it was my absolute pleasure to spend a little time at the General Assembly of the International Council on English Braille. We spoke with ICEB President Judy Dixon about this a couple of episodes ago. And in subsequent episodes, we are going to speak with some people who are doing some fascinating things with Braille around the world to keep it vibrant, to keep it evolving.

So ICEB President, Judy Dixon, phoned me back in January and said, “Jonathan, the conference is in Auckland. We’d like you to open it with a keynote address.”

It was a real honor and a surprise to get this. And I got to say, I worked for months on this address that I want to play you now.

You can read it if you prefer as well. Obviously, it’ll be in the Living Blindfully transcript. It’s also available with the audio and the text at

If you’ve listened to even a few episodes of this show, you’ll know how much Braille the Man and Braille the Code mean to me. So to be asked to put this keynote address together was one of the great privileges of my life.

Here’s Judy Dixon to introduce the speech. And then, you’ll hear it in its entirety.

Judy: I’m now going to introduce our keynote speaker. I don’t have a long introduction because I forgot to ask him for one. [laughs], but I have personally known Jonathan Mosen for a very very long time.

I’m a regular listener to his extremely popular podcast – Living Blindfully. It is kind of an interesting thing to think about. Living Blind Fully? Living Blindfully? I ponder this from time to time, and it’s a wonderful thing.

Jonathan has absolutely fascinating features. I love his interviews because he always asks the questions that on my mind, most people don’t have the nerve to ask. And he gets to the heart of it, whatever it is.

He’s wonderfully opinionated, and I say that in the best sense of the word. Because being a fellow opinionated person, I appreciate people who have opinions and express them. We want to hear them. How else can we have discussions and so forth, unless we know what someone’s opinion is and they’re willing to express it? So I enjoy that about Jonathan very much.

He often speaks about Braille on his podcast, and I know that he is a lover and supporter of Braille and a life-long user of Braille.

So I asked him. I’m delighted he agreed to be our keynote speaker. This is a real honor for this conference to have someone of Jonathan’s reputation and stature here with us. He has letters after his name, and so do many of the other people here from New Zealand. I think they’re royalty, or some such and MNZM, maybe he can tell us what that means. At some point, I want someone to tell me about all these letters, but that’s for another day. Jonathan?


Jonathan: Thank you, Judy, for the generous introduction.

Madam president, delegates and guests.

In 1952, after 100 years of lying at rest in his beloved village of Coupvray, Louis Braille’s body was relocated to the Pantheon, in recognition of what the late Cyril White, a gifted and internationally respected blind New Zealander, called Louis Braille’s “priceless gift to the blind”. Hundreds of blind people accompanied  him, canes tapping through the streets of Paris, to say thank you from the blind of the world.

Louis Braille lived a humble life, and his death from the tuberculosis that had plagued him for more than half his life was not widely acknowledged. There was no newspaper coverage, no recognition that the world had just lost a genius. Yet just a century later, a blip in history, Louis was on his way to the Pantheon in a fitting testimony to the magnitude of his legacy.

Helen Keller was there that day, to deliver an address in fluent French. In that address, she said,

“On behalf of the blind people of the world, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for having generously recognised the pride and efforts of all those who refuse to succumb to their limitations. In our way, we, the blind, are as indebted to Louis Braille as mankind is to Gutenberg. It is true that the dot system is very different from ordinary print, but these raised letters are, under our fingers, precious seeds from which has grown our intellectual harvest.

Without the Braille dot system, how incomplete and chaotic our education would be! The dismal doors of frustration would shut us out from the untold treasures of literature, philosophy and science.

But, like a magic wand, the six dots of Louis Braille have resulted in schools where embossed books, like vessels, can transport us to ports of education, libraries and all the means of expression that assure our independence.”

And now, here we are in Auckland, gathered together on the bicentenary of the Braille code’s invention, with Braille more vibrant and relevant than ever.

Revering Braille the man and Braille the code as I do, I would have been honoured to have received your invitation to deliver a keynote address at an ICEB General Assembly at any time. But to receive it in this particular year is both an honour I will cherish, and an immense responsibility. When we reach such an important milestone, it is right that we take time to celebrate, time to reflect, and time to look to the future.

I wish by way of this address to capture the precarious course of history that has led us to this point, and to offer some thoughts on how we can continue to invest our inheritance of literacy, the master key to all the doors of opportunity.

But first, I acknowledge with considerable respect the vital work of ICEB and the Braille authorities around the world. I mean it with affection when I say that one has to be a bit of a nerd to get excited about much of the work that ICEB does. But it is vital work, and given the nerdy nature of it, it is a testimony to the way many of us feel about the Braille code that proposals you make and decisions you take can often evoke strong emotions. You have ensured that the code remains relevant in a constantly changing world. Thank you for making a difference. You have done Louis Braille proud.

I haven’t yet had the privilege of serving on a Braille authority, but I have managed the development of several refreshable Braille products, similar to the one I am reading from today. That in itself is a responsibility, to know that the decisions you make about the design of the hardware and the software that drives it, directly affect those who are using Braille in all walks of life. After all, it only takes one defective Braille cell, with one defective Braille dot, to turn your house from having a roof with a significant peak, to a roof with a significant leak.


See, this may be the only speech I will ever give where I can make that joke and have it understood by most of the audience, so I’ll make the most of it. [laughs]

Not only has the Braille code given me so much opportunity, Louis Braille’s story, when I read it as a child, gave me my first taste of the blind pride I now feel so deeply. Having read how it came to be, that I was reading dots under my fingers, it was life-changing to learn that it was someone who was blind like me who’d solved the most significant problem blind people faced. One blind person utterly transformed the destiny of the blind of the world. Louis Braille made me realize that we as blind people can and indeed must take charge of our destiny.

Blind people are a minority, and most of us, through much of history, have been marginalised, oppressed, considered unworthy and incompetent. I say most of us, because as Leona Godin so thoroughly and entertainingly chronicles in her personal and cultural history of blindness, “There Plant Eyes”, societies have had difficulty deciding what to make of us. A common theme that persists to this day is that sight is acquainted with knowledge, while blindness is associated with ignorance, wilful or otherwise. It is telling, but not at all surprising, that many biographies of Louis Braille have light and dark in their titles. Historically, blindness has also been acquainted with sin.

It hasn’t been all bad, though. Many ancients revered blind people as having special powers as seers, poets and prophets, although they were seldom the heroes of their own stories.

There are also blind people throughout history who made memorable contributions outside the realms of prophecy and poetry. Even before the invention of the Braille code, there have been blind monarchs, generals, politicians, global travellers, lawyers, mathematicians, scientists, scholars, theologians, musicians, businesspeople, even astronomers.

So if blind people were making these significant contributions long before the Braille code, do we give Braille the man, and Braille the code, more credit than is due? My answer to that is an emphatic absolutely not. Throughout history, there have always been individuals from oppressed or disadvantaged minorities who have succeeded thanks to dogged determination, privilege, luck, or a combination of all those things. Some of us have a natural ability to create or pursue opportunity. Like all human beings, some of us are better at taking risks or seizing the moment than others. Some of us are more intellectually inclined than others.

The legacy bequeathed to us by Louis Braille is that his code not only makes writing and reading accessible, his code is the key to equality of opportunity. It hasn’t made all those preconceptions about blindness evaporate. But when we can write something down and read it back, when we know how to spell, when we can discern the way a document is laid out, when we can create priceless memories that will last a lifetime by reading bedtime stories to our children or grandchildren, we have equipped ourselves with a skill that significantly narrows the chasm of opportunity.

The idea that the average blind person should receive an education was radical and new at the time of Louis Braille’s birth in 1809. In 1771, at the age of just 26 and while walking the streets of Paris, Valentin Haüy happened to see ten blind men, who were being both cheered and jeered, wearing dunce caps, a cone-shaped hat that is used as a symbol of stupidity or ignorance. They also wore asses ears. They were pretending to play broken musical instruments. The atmosphere was one of humiliation and belittlement, lasted a month, and was known as “the café of the blind”. As legend has it, witnessing this demeaning spectacle inspired Haüy to set up the first school for blind people. He promised himself, “I will put in their hands volumes printed by themselves. They will trace the true characters and will read their own writing, and they will be enabled to give harmonious concerts.”

Ultimately, having been further inspired by a talented blind woman who was privately educated, he established the Institute for Blind Youth, the first school for blind children, in Paris in 1785. With the school’s creation came the introduction of a key element of blind culture for children and young people that was to last around two centuries. Young children would travel long distances and be deprived of regular family life for much of the year, in order to receive an education.

Taking that journey from his village of Coupvray in 1819 was a ten-year-old boy named Louis Braille. Louis had become blind at the age of three when, just trying to be like his dad who was a harness maker, he lost control of a sharp tool he’d picked up, lost his sight in one eye, and then lost sight in the second due to infection.

He was a bright child with a supportive, encouraging family. They taught him the print alphabet as a child using raised letters. Louis had actually been mainstreamed at his local school for a while, until a place was secured for him at the Institute for Blind Youth, where all knew he would flourish.

Since the school’s founding, blind children had been reading raised print letters. The books were incredibly bulky. A few excelled at their reading, most did not, and all were slow. The full power of literacy was not available using this system in that they couldn’t write something down and read it back.

Once the students left the institute, there were no raised print books in the community, which meant blind adults were unable to use the skills they had acquired.

There had to be a better way, and a thinker, inventor, and former military man, Charles Barbier, was thinking about the problem.

Given the commitment of this audience to Braille, I feel sure everyone will know the legend of Charles Barbier, who invented a system of night writing for the military, which the military rejected, so he thought it might help people who couldn’t see. Legend has it that he showed it to the Institute for the blind, Louis checked out the system and this precocious 15 year old told him what was the matter with it.

The trouble is, we now have compelling evidence that that’s not what happened. That evidence is summarised in a fascinating article by Philippa Campsie, published in 2021 in the Disability Studies Quarterly, called “Charles Barbier: A hidden story”.  The narrative about Barbier having invented the code for the military was mere speculation on the part of the author Pierre Henri, in his book published in French whose title, translated into English is “The Life and Work of Louis Braille”. Henri did not have access to Barbier’s papers, so he made an educated guess as to how Barbier’s code ended up under Louis Braille’s fingers. In the book, he states, “As a former captain of artillery, Barbier had perhaps once felt how useful it could be for officers in the field to be able to write messages in the dark and later read them with their fingers”. It’s a plausible theory in the absence of firm evidence.

But over time, the theory has been considered established fact. With Barbier’s papers now readily available, we can debunk the theory altogether. We know that the blind were in fact the primary audience for his tactile code, one of several codes he was working on in an effort to simplify the process of reading and writing to make it more accessible to those for whom conventional Latin characters proved difficult to learn, including the poor and working class.

While it is true that a phonetic version of Barbier’s raised dot writing code existed, it is not true that it is the only one that existed. The phonetic one was Barbier’s preferred method.

But having been taught to read print at the Institute, students there preferred the system that used the written alphabet. The 12-dot alphabet system, while suboptimal because of the size of the cell, was easy to learn, and students who knew the print alphabet picked it up quickly.

Writing the code was straightforward, because Barbier developed the tools for writing it and distributed them freely.

The idea that there was some sort of fractious relationship between Barbier and Braille is also false, based on primary documents. Letters now make it clear that Barbier had not heard of Louis Braille or his system of writing until 1833, four years after the publication of the first draft of the Braille code. When they did get to know one another, the correspondence was cordial, and it was clear that there was considerable mutual respect.

Now, in telling you this, you might ask if I’m not undermining the revered place Louis Braille has in blindness history and culture. Far from it. Think of it this way. Without Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and others, the Beatles couldn’t have created the most significant popular music of the 20th century. The fact that “Heartbreak Hotel” came first doesn’t detract from the stunning brilliance of “A Day in the Life.” We in no way lessen the credit due to Louis Braille by giving Barbier his.

The facts about the respective roles of Barbier and Braille are an example of a pattern repeated many times in blindness history. Barbier’s heart was clearly in the right place. He was what today we would describe as “a sighted ally”. He believed in the dignity that comes with being able to read and write, and he actively sought to find a way to give that to blind people. But it took a blind person to refine the concept and make it truly viable.

Louis Braille was a gifted organist, and as an adult, briefly considered leaving his job as a teacher at the Institute for Blind Youth to become a parish organist. Little wonder then that he turned his considerable ability to using his system to make it possible for blind people to read and write music. His elegant six dot cell contained enough capacity for musical notation. The code accommodates any instrument, and was so superior to existing methods, that music was the first official use to which the Braille code was put at the Institute.

While the Braille code is what Louis is most known for, he, in fact, was the first to make a discovery that impacted the lives of almost everyone on the planet. He invented a concept he called decapoint. Decapoint was a system of 100 dots on a 10 by 10 grid. You could write it right to left with a stylus, then flip the page over and read what you’d written.

But Louis didn’t stop there. He enlisted the help of a friend to design a machine called the raphigraphe, or needle writer. Blind people were able to write in print and verify what they’d written. Sighted people could use the method as well, affording privacy to the blind student who could read letters from home without the need to ask a sighted person to read them out loud.

The global significance of this is that decapoint was the first time that print letters were represented as dots on a page. A blind man had given the world the concept that would later be used in dot matrix printers, cameras, computer screens, and other technology.

Now, that technology has evolved, of course. Today, we’re talking many millions of dots. Nevertheless, the concept is the same.

We are fortunate that in the formative years of the Braille code, the Institute for Blind Youth was headed by François Pignier, who encouraged Braille’s investigations and was a strong supporter. During his tenure, he published two editions of Braille’s alphabet system, and under his watch, the first ever book in the Braille code was produced in 1837.

But Pignier was forced out of the role in 1840 by his ambitious and increasingly frustrated deputy, Pierre Dufau.

I almost want to cue the dramatic music for that.


Despite the overwhelming evidence of the efficacy of the Braille code, Dufau did not want it in his school. In his view, blind students should be taught to read print like everyone else, despite the clear shortcomings of embossed print as a tactile reading system and the many benefits of Braille.

This was convenient for sighted teachers, who weren’t required to learn anything different, but it was very much to the detriment of the students. I can only imagine the sense of anger, hurt, and injustice the students felt at this time.

Blind students at the Institute for blind youth had had a tantalising taste of full literacy, then the Braille code was banned, any Braille books that existed were burned, and those caught using the Braille code were punished. This was an atrocious form of abuse.

But the kids were never going back. The code went underground. In fact, as any parent will tell you, and as we ourselves remember from our own youth, the one sure way to make something more attractive to a teenager is to ban it.


It had become their secret code, a bond that drew young blind people together, a part of the emerging blind culture.

While we are right to correct those who call Braille a language, (it is not), this story is similar to the experiences minorities have endured over centuries, when they have been punished for using their preferred form of communication.

Eventually, the evidence was too overwhelming for Dufau to ignore. And when the new building for the Institute was opened in 1844, the students conducted a compelling demonstration of the code for the public. I am so pleased that Louis Braille got just the tiniest inkling of the extent to which he would change the world.

So, blind people the world over started using Braille right away, and we all thrived, right?


Mate, [laughs] there is a reason why so much time is allocated to this item on the agenda.

The Institute for Blind Youth was the first school in the world to adopt the Braille code, with some other European countries following closely behind.

In 1876, through the influence of the British and Foreign Blind Association, later the National Institute for the Blind, Louis Braille’s alphabet became the reading code for the blind of Great Britain. It also included around 200 contractions and abbreviations. They were revised in the early part of the 20th century, and we got the concepts of what for many years were known as grade one and grade two Braille.

There are many examples of a divergence of systems that have created inconvenience for people, but nonetheless, have not been unified. Cars still drive on different sides of the road, there are different measuring systems and temperature scales, different voltage levels for appliances, and difference sockets to plug things into the power, different Kilohertz spacing on the AM band, different TV systems, and different frequency bands for cell phones, just to name a few.

And were it not for the determination of blind people, tactile codes may have been added to that list. Indeed, that’s exactly how it was for a while, when America fought what in very dramatic fashion it calls its “war of the dots”. I could give a separate address devoted to the war of the dots. It’s a story of inventors, advocates, passion, vested interest, frustration, and political intrigue.

But let me give you the executive summary. Samuel Howe developed Boston Line Type in 1853 and remained opposed to Braille all his life. He believed that blind people having a separate code that did not resemble print was disadvantageous.

In 1860, the Braille code was adopted at the Missouri School for the Blind, and it became the first American school to adopt the code.

William Wait, who was the Principal of the New York Institute for the Education of the Blind, was aware of the overwhelming evidence that many blind children struggled to read raised print. Many adults couldn’t read it at all.

He first tried to convince schools in Boston and Philadelphia to accept Braille, which he had seen delivering good results in Missouri. They refused, so Wait developed his own system, new York point, which people have described as like a Braille cell on its side. Its advocates said that its biggest advantage was that it took up less space than Braille, so books were less bulky.

Later, it was found that the variable width of a New York Point cell made it more difficult to mechanise, and punctuation was so difficult that capitalisation was seldom used.

By 1871, New York Point had gained acceptance among an association of teachers of the blind who were mostly sighted.

By 1890, mirroring the experience of French blind students half a century earlier, some blind children in some US schools outside Missouri recognised the simplicity, speed, and elegance of Braille, and started using it for personal purposes. But it was frowned upon officially.

By the beginning of the 20th century, Boston Line Type was losing favour in the US, and schools were either using New York Point or Braille.

But just to add some more confusion, Joel Smith developed a code called American Braille.

You can appreciate that by this time, blind people were becoming frustrated by this increasingly bitter argument. In 1905, Charles Holmes, a blind man who was President of the Alumni Association of Perkins Institution for the Blind, articulated the mounting frustration of many blind people when he wrote in part, “In order to avail himself of the full range of literature (which at best is woefully limited) the blind reader must learn, and keep well up in, all these codes…. How long would our seeing friends stand for such a state of affairs in ink type? Imagine for a moment the ridiculous situation that would arise, if the daily papers published in Boston had an entirely different system of characters from those used by New York publishers, and that a Philadelphia man could not read either without special training, because his own city had adopted a third, as unlike the others as the Chinese characters are unlike the Roman…. What we need, and must have, and will have if we but make up our minds to it, and stand by each other, is an international, universal code of embossed type for all English-speaking countries.”

By 1909, a young woman named Helen Keller pleaded for the adoption of Braille universally. She had been required to learn four codes just to get all the material she needed. Not everyone had such skill or patience.

In an attempt to reach a peace treaty to end the “war of the dots” once and for all, a Uniform Type Committee was founded in the United States. Eventually, it was determined that the way to choose the best code was to gather some quality data from blind people to determine which one of these competing systems actually allowed blind people to read the fastest.

At the 11th hour, something new and unexpected was introduced to this series of tests, British Braille. The evidence was clear. Readers of the British Braille system read more efficiently than those reading any of the American versions.

Yet still, America came up with a system based on Braille they called Standard Dots, which they wanted to be the uniform system of writing for blind people in the English-speaking world.

The Brits were having none of it.


They were happy with what they had. Why wouldn’t they be? The evidence was clear. With typical English wit, they derided Standard dots as “standard rot”.


The British system based on Braille’s alphabet was already being used by then in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, India, and even by America’s Canadian neighbors.

In 1917, America decided to adopt Braille in a manner that would be readable by other English speakers, but with some of its own rules. This was called grade one and a half. What this meant was that those outside the US could read US Braille books, but found the absence of some familiar contractions slowed them down. But Americans getting books from other English-speaking countries had difficulty, because they weren’t being taught all the contractions.

Finally, in 1932, what became known as the Treaty of London was signed, which established a uniform English literary Braille system.

The genius of Braille’s legacy, and those who have safeguarded and advanced it, is that Braille has remained largely unaltered from its original design, while being able to keep pace with mechanisation, mass-production, computerisation, and wider use of formatting.

People are still using the slate and stylus or the pocket frame – the original  method of Braille writing where you use a stylus to poke dots through the slate onto a page in mirror image.

I come from the Perkins Brailler generation, and was never taught to use a slate and stylus at school. But those who were, or who picked it up themselves from an early age, have the closest thing to a pen and paper that a blind person can have, and the speeds that can be achieved are impressive.

There have been many mechanical Braille writing devices over the years, with early attempts proving cumbersome and troublesome.

Viable mechanisation came to Braille in 1892 when Frank Hall, who was Superintendent of the Illinois Institution for the Education of the Blind, invented the Hall Braille Writer. It had the basic functions that would become typical of such products, including a six key keyboard and a moving carriage like a typewriter.

There were numerous others. But the big breakthrough occurred in 1951, when David Abraham, a teacher at the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston Massachusetts, first showed his Perkins Brailler, which had been under development for many years. It would have been released considerably earlier, but all manufacturing materials and production were dedicated to the second world war.

It was built like a tank, [laughter] so could withstand the rigours of school life, and required a relatively light touch. It was quieter than earlier devices. Still, get a bunch of kids in a classroom hammering away on them, and they could create quite the racket. [laughter] It has been a remarkably enduring, successful product.

At the school for the blind I attended as a child, when you were presented with your very own Perkins Brailler, it was a major life event, a rite of passage. It’s a testimony to the precise and premium manufacture of these devices that that Perkins I was presented with as a young child saw me all the way through high school, university, and as an adult in the computer era. I’d still used it from time to time to label things. And actually, I think my ex-wife, who was a teacher of blind children and is in the room, has it now. [laughter] There you go.

As a kid with non-24 sleep/wake disorder (before we called it that), the Perkins was at just the right height to rest my head on it and have a quick noddy if the teacher wasn’t paying me too much attention. [laughter]

The mass-production of Braille material was given a significant boost in 1957, when the thermoform machine was developed. It was useful not just for textbooks and music, but also for tactile graphics. From a single master, it was possible to create multiple copies of a book, cost-effectively and efficiently. The Braille was durable, able to withstand the passing of books from student to student over the years.

The mainstreaming of blind children created additional pressures for champions of Braille, and resourcing challenges for public policy-makers. The idea that blind children should be educated in the least restrictive environment, a concept now enshrined more widely in international instruments such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities, is laudable and important.

Much has been achieved because of concentrated pockets of excellence in blindness education. Schools for the blind offered opportunities for mentoring and for what today, we would call networking. In earlier times they have been catalysts in several countries for the formation of the organised blind movement, which in turn has created more societal change.

However, for many, the costs have outweighed the benefits. Those costs have included separation from family which caused life-long fractures in the family dynamic, and in some cases, abuse.

Mentoring and networking opportunities for blind kids are essential, and must continue to be delivered in ways that reflect today’s schooling practices.

Policy-makers have been slow to appreciate and acknowledge that having disabled kids attend their local school is resource-intensive.

The means of achieving equitable education will require varying degrees of ongoing resourcing, depending on the impairment type. For some, making one-off modifications to the built environment may be sufficient. For blind children, however, it is important to recognise that if a classroom teacher does not know Braille, that classroom teacher is, in blindness terms, illiterate. With blind children now found in many more schools, there is increased pressure on accessible format resources and teachers who know Braille.

The struggle for advocates of Braille has been tough. It still is. We must ensure that Braille is not limited only to the blindest children, or those that are perceived to be the most capable. Everyone has the right to read.

We must also proudly proclaim that Braille is not a last resort, or something to be ashamed of. It is an attitude that can be summed up in the sentence, “this child can read print, but this child has to read Braille”.

As is the case in every aspect of life, computers changed everything for Braille. Their impact was first felt on the production of Braille through Braille translation software as early as the 1960s. But in 1976, the first edition of Duxbury was installed for a paying customer when it arrived at the CNIB.

Soon, the era of microcomputing was upon us. And it wasn’t long before a myth, perhaps a hope among some, took hold. It was suggested that now that computers could talk, we don’t need expensive, bulky old Braille anymore. There was no shortage of so-called experts who said Braille had outlived its usefulness, and would simply die out. Never a falser word was spoken.

By the early 1980s, there was plenty of innovation taking place on the Apple II platform. The first computer I used was an Apple iiE which included Raised Dot Computing’s Braille Edit software. The programming genius behind it was David Holladay, who died earlier this year. Connected to that Apple IIe was a Cranmer Modified Perkins, a relatively low-cost Braille embosser, and one of several embosser products that were becoming available at that time.

While it was becoming easier to produce Braille and get it on paper, a quiet revolution had begun in the form of refreshable Braille displays. I was fortunate to have access to a VersaBraille from Telesensory Systems Incorporated, and was delighted to see one again when I visited the Louis Braille Museum in Coupvray. The VersaBraille was an early example of computers not replacing Braille, but making it more vibrant than ever. On a C60 cassette, you could store hundreds of pages of Braille. And even though the device was heavy, you could still carry many volumes of Braille with you.

In a touchable glimpse of the future, we connected all these devices together.

Because I showed a bit of aptitude with this technology and quickly got to the point where I could troubleshoot for the teachers, I was allowed to push the boundaries and use a VersaBraille for some of my classes, and even some of my exams. This changed my life because before that, I would have to first Braille my work, and then type it out on an Olympus typewriter so my teacher could read it. I was always in a hurry, understandably, I think. After all, I was effectively being required to complete my work twice, which I objected to. So, I would type quickly. I would frequently transpose letters in my haste. But not being able to read back my own work, I had no idea when I had done it. I was marked down for making errors I couldn’t see, and therefore couldn’t fix.

The combination of the VersaBraille, the Apple IIe, and a good old dot matrix printer, a modified version of Louis Braille’s concept over a century earlier, changed all that. I could write in Braille, read it back, correct my work, and then send it to a printer. Astounding!

A less costly option that achieved this objective was the Braille’n’Print, which was introduced by the Australian company Quantum Technologies in the mid-1980s. By removing the bottom from a Perkins Brailler and inserting this device under it, a blind student could Braille their work on a Perkins, and have that work sent to a printer, thus halving the work we had to do.

Over the years, refreshable Braille displays have evolved, and although still expensive, they have reduced in price significantly in real terms. One of the achievements I’m proudest of in my time holding senior roles at assistive technology companies is overseeing two separate 40% reductions in the cost of refreshable Braille display products.

Braille devices were widely adopted in the blind community that offered note taking, book reading, appointment management and other functions long before such devices had become commonplace in the mainstream. Blind people in some parts of the world were accessing online book repositories long before Kindle, Apple Books, and other mainstream options.

The Internet and the digitisation of documents have, of course, radically altered everyone’s lives, but there have been particular benefits for Braille readers. As a child, I would pester my 3 older sighted sisters and my parents to read the newspaper to me. So life changed for me on the day I first logged on to the CompuServe Information service in 1988 and used the Executive News Service. It was expensive for anyone, but particularly for a penniless student. Yet for the first time, I was reading a newspaper at the same time as everyone else. I dreamed of a day when I didn’t have to ration my access to this treasure-trove of knowledge.

As part of my daily meditation practice, I keep a gratitude journal. I frequently express gratitude for the fact that I can now read in Braille almost any newspaper in the world at the same time everyone else is reading it. I am glad to have lived in an era where I can remember what it was like before that was possible. I will never take it for granted.

Today, most offices are largely paperless. A blind person with a Braille display can write beautifully formatted documents and verify them before sending them to sighted co-workers. We can instantly read documents sent to us. It opens up employment opportunities that were previously difficult for us to do without sighted assistance.

We must now work hard to change the biggest barrier that holds us back – misconceptions about blindness and our capability. We can now bank, shop and transact other business with dignity and complete independence, accessibility permitting, of course.

And we can self-transcribe. First came stand-alone reading machines including the original Kurzweil Reading machine, then we had desktop scanners and cameras with dedicated OCR software. Now, I commonly take a picture of a menu at a restaurant with my smartphone’s camera and read the menu on my Braille display.

Many people around the world have access to BookShare, and possibly accessible format repositories unique to their own country. Additionally, blind people can now purchase a book from a mainstream eBook provider on release day, and read that new best-seller in Braille at the same time as everyone else.

We have come a long way, and there has never been a better time in history to be blind. But all this assumes that people have access to the technology and the training to make the most of it. That is not the case far too often.

Hopefully, we will see a combination of new technology that makes refreshable Braille devices more cost-effective to produce, and recognition by Governments around the world that the right to read is a human right. Increasingly, the best way to guarantee that right for blind people is to give every person who wants one a Braille display. This is already happening in several countries, and there are programmes those of us who are not so fortunate can advocate for in our respective governments.

Sighted people can now produce material of a quality and type variation that would have only been possible by professional printing companies a few short decades ago. Print has evolved to make greater use of typefaces and fonts. So Braille has had to continue to evolve as well, if it is to be a faithful representation that gives blind people an appreciation of what today’s documents are formatted and look like.

One of the most significant modifications to the Braille code was the introduction of two more dots to the cell. This increased the number of possible combinations from 63 with a 6-dot cell to 255 with an 8-dot cell.

8-dot cells had been used in some other limited contexts since the mid-19th century, but they are now commonplace on refreshable Braille displays and embossers. Time will tell whether 8-dot displays remain the norm, or whether we’ll see more 6-dot devices to save cost.

One of the strengths of an eight-dot cell, the fact that it could give you a one-to-one representation of the computer screen, no longer applies in an era of proportional fonts, graphical user interfaces, and multiple character sets. Although the extra cells for displaying formatting information are still useful, and innovative attempts have been made to make the most of the extra 2 dots for more efficient interaction with stem subjects.

Even though there is now no question among the informed about the primacy of Braille as the literacy tool for the blind, robust, highly technical, AKA nerdy, and passionate discussions continue about its evolution, and I suspect always will. In 1992, formal work began on the Unified English Braille project, in response to two giants in the field, Abraham Nemeth and Tim Cranmer, expressing concern over what they called the “proliferation of Braille codes” with different symbols for common characters. ICEB officially adopted the project in 1993, and I remember attending a fascinating conference about the topic here in Auckland.

Later, I produced a documentary for ACB Radio covering the controversies as the debate dragged on, particularly regarding the efficiency questions around the representation of mathematics.

UEB has ensured that Braille is a code fit for the 21st century.

Most Braille is now produced with the assistance of computer software, whether it be software powering refreshable Braille displays, or translation software preparing a file to be sent to an embosser.

It was imperative that ambiguities that could be confusing to machines be eliminated. It was absolutely necessary that we had symbols representing formatting that was seldom used before, but is now commonplace, such as bullet points. A blind person needs to know they’re there. Rather than the single all-purpose symbol that meant italics and a range of other means of emphasis, we can now depict precisely what emphasis is intended.

There are numerous benefits, they are significant, and many of you in this room played a role in making it happen. We will all, in our own ways, continue to invest wisely the inheritance bequeathed to us by Louis Braille and subsequent generations of Braille champions.

Multi-line refreshable Braille technology will open new doors, hopefully making it easier for blind people to consume rich multimedia content and pursue careers in maths and science.

The eBraille format will ensure there is a universally agreed upon, flexible, portable means of storing that information. Well, let’s hope so. Universality has always been hard-won with Braille.

All this reminds us that the next chapter of the history of this precious code is ours to write. With the decisions delegates take at this General Assembly this week, you are making history, a history that will be summarised by someone else on the 300th anniversary of the code, long after we are gone.

I look forward to seeing what technological marvels lie ahead that will further ensure that every blind person can dare to dream, work hard to achieve that dream, and maximise their potential.

But the technical side is just one important part of that equation. The other part of it can be captured in a single word – belief. Blind people ourselves must continue to boldly assert our worth. We must believe that it is our right, as it is the right of every citizen, to be given the opportunity to learn how to write something down, and read back what we’ve written. Braille is the only equivalent to print that a blind person has. And until society at large agrees to give up reading, blind people must not be fobbed off with the erroneous idea that machines doing the reading for us is good enough.

If we internalise that fundamental belief in our worth, we must then be strident in our articulation of that belief to those who may be disinclined to resource our right to read properly, be it by not training and hiring sufficient teachers, or by failing to fund the tools that allow us to engage optimally in the information age. Not only is reading a human right, funding literacy makes economic sense. Why wouldn’t any sensible government invest in part of its population’s ability to contribute to society at many levels?

Like a number of you in this room, I have spent time at Louis Braille’s birth place in Coupvray, which is now a museum. I examined the exhibits with fascination, handling an instrument similar to the one that caused Louis’s accident. I reflected on just how random, how precarious history is, how the course of people’s lives can rest on a split-second decision, or a path not taken. What would my life be like if Louis Braille hadn’t had his unfortunate accident? How would the world be different if Pierre Dufau, and not François Pignier, had been running the school during the formative stages of Louis’s work on his code?

I sat in the garden outside Louis’s house, just meditating, almost overwhelmed by the moment and the knowledge of where I was. I thought about how different my life would be without those precious dots under my fingertips as a broadcaster, a CEO, and most importantly, a dad and a granddad. It seemed so woefully inadequate but I bowed my head, and out loud in that garden, I said, “merci, Monsieur Braille”.

Braille is the name we give to this code that has unlocked the door to literacy for us. It is named after its inventor.

I am proud that after consultation with our community here in New Zealand, our Braille Authority has now ruled that Braille, when referring to the code, should always be written with a capital B, just like the Morse Code, Celsius, and other important scales, codes and systems are. I hope in my lifetime to see the lower casing of the code’s name eliminated in all ICEB countries. Louis Braille gave us so much. It is the very least we can do to honor him.

Coupvray, France is a long way from Auckland, New Zealand. It may be a long way from where you live as well. But Euclid Herie beautifully pointed out that a memorial to Louis Braille is never far away. He said, “And so I say to you now, that if you would seek a memorial to Louis Braille, look about you. Whenever a blind person reads, two hands sliding gracefully across the page of Braille text, there is the living memorial to Louis Braille.”

I began this address with the day Louis Braille’s body was relocated to the pantheon in recognition of his greatness. But that’s not quite the full story.

Coupvray was proud of this humble genius who altered the course of history for a once uneducated minority. They were reluctant to give him up, so a compromise was reached.

In Coupvray, you will still find Louis Braille’s hands. The hands which, as a child, inflicted the accident that changed history, the hands that experimented and labored as he perfected his code, the hands that played the organ and read Braille music, the hands that probably wiped away tears of frustration when his code was banned, and the hands that, perhaps, despite his modesty, were raised a little in celebration as he lived to see his code start to gain the respect it now enjoys.

200 years after the creation of this priceless gift, my hands have reached the end of these remarks that celebrate his legacy, and challenge us to use it, cherish it, evolve it, promote it.

I wish you well with your deliberations this week. Thank you for the honor of opening your General Assembly, and merci, Monsieur Braille.


Judy: Thank you very much, Jonathan, for that absolutely fabulous address. If you weren’t such a great Braille reader, that would have taken hours.


And I mean, all of those wonderful words about Braille and the nerdiness and geekiness of those of us who play around with it were read in Braille, and what a great tribute to what we’re doing here.

Jonathan: So that’s my keynote to the International Council on English Braille. Thanks to them for the invitation.

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A Frustrating Legal Experience

I want to come back to an issue that I first raised back in the old Blindside days. We’ve got a much much larger listener base now, and I think it is worth covering again anyway because I think it’s quite important.

As you will know if you’ve been listening to the podcast recently, my mother died in April. I am an executor to her will, so there has been a lot of paperwork and processing to do. And as a part of that, I was sent some documentation the other day – a statutory declaration and a couple of other things that I needed to sign in the presence of a Justice of the Peace.

I sat down to read the material so I was fully informed about precisely what I was signing before heading off to see the Justice of the Peace with my passport and my pen to sign these things in his presence.

They sent it to me in a PDF file that was an image. You kind of get that. But it wasn’t an issue for me to read the PDF file using JAWS and its OCR feature that’s built into the product.

So I had a full understanding of what i was agreeing to, what this document actually said.

And then, I got to the bottom of the document, and there was a little section different from your regular statutory declaration. It was for the Justice of the Peace to sign, and it said a couple of things.

The first is that because this person is blind, he has made his mark. So there was an expectation that because of my blindness, I didn’t need to sign this, just make an X or some sort of mark on the page. And then, there was a section for the Justice of the Peace to sign that said because this person is blind, I have read this and I’ve ensured that he understands what he’s signing.

So I contacted the lawyer who had sent this to me, and I said I will not sign this under any circumstances. This is 2024. And while it may be the case that there are some blind people who can’t read these documents and do require that they be read to them, and that’s vitally important, it is not appropriate to assume that every blind person is in that position.

Now, he might not ever have known that I was a blind person. I haven’t met this person. The only reason why he knew is that I chose to disclose my blindness by email because I would rather that he sent me material electronically and that I printed it out than having to sit there and scan each page with my phone. I can do that, but I would rather not if I can just get a PDF of all the documents. So it was I who disclosed the blindness. And he then took it upon himself to add this bit to the statutory declaration.

People often just don’t think. I mean, he might have paused and thought, Okay, this person can clearly read electronic material, or we wouldn’t be having this email exchange.

But I said to him, I’m not signing what you’ve sent me because as far as I’m concerned, it would be a false statutory declaration. I will not, when I go to visit the Justice of the Peace, have him (it is a him, my particular Justice of the Peace that I visit) read it to me because I will have read it myself. And I’m not signing a document that perpetuates the myth that blind people can’t read and understand these things for themselves.

So we were at a bit of a stalemate, and he did eventually send me a standard statutory declaration.

I went to see the Justice of the Peace, and I explained this and said how it was just completely inaccurate to suggest that I couldn’t read this material for myself.

And he asked the perfectly reasonable question, you know. “I don’t know how your technology works. Can you satisfy me that you have, in fact, read this? How do you do it?”

And I explained how I did it.

And then, I further explained, this is precisely what the document says that I’m about to put my signature to.

And he said okay, fair enough.

So that’s understandable. I completely don’t mind demonstrating that as a blind person, I have read this document. But I will not sign a document that implies that I’ve not read a document that I have.

And when I’ve discussed this with some people, the reaction has been interesting. Some people have said why make a fuss about this? Just sign the thing, you know. Let’s keep it moving.

But I believe it is important that when professionals patronize us and make erroneous assumptions, it is important that we stand up and say no, I’m not prepared to sign a document that falsely portrays me as unable to read the document I have in fact read.

I think that’s important, and I wonder how many others have had experiences with the legal profession like this, and how you’ve handled it. If you want to comment,, or give me a call. The number in the United States is 864-60-Mosen, 864-606-6736.

Slow But Steady Progress With Sonos

I did want to circle back, as they say, and comment on Sonos. There has been some progress in this regard.

On the 21st of May, Sonos did release quite a substantial update to their app, and accessibility has improved a lot.

Is it as good as the previous release? No, it is not. Sonos say they’re continuing to work on the app, that there’ll be more accessibility fixes coming. So while it would have been highly preferable to have a fully accessible app from day 1, at least they are mending their ways now.

I understand there is quite a collection of blind beta testers working on this, and I hope that we’ll continue to get all core functionality back because we haven’t quite yet. There are still some pretty rough and ready parts of the app, but far fewer than there used to be.

And then, I hope we can actually make some improvements. I’d love to see Sonos make judicious use of the Actions Rotor so that we can actually improve the user experience from what we had. I think you could do some really sensible stuff with the Actions Rotor, actually, when you’re on a room name or something like that. So let’s see where that goes and how receptive Sonos is to further improvements.

Another area where I think improvement is dramatically needed is that everything’s on one big screen now. So in the past, you had a tab bar at the bottom of the app where you could navigate to different sections. And I think for many screen reader users, that has its advantages. One big screen is quite cumbersome when there are no clear delineations. So what I’d like to see is each section of that big screen navigable by heading. That would really help.

Now, I was speaking with Peter White earlier this week as this podcast comes out. Peter White is the host of BBC Radio 4’s In Touch programme. He’s been doing that for a very long time. He is blind himself. And I think it’s pretty cool that every week, the public broadcaster in Britain, the BBC, spends some time talking about blindness issues. I was there to talk about the impact of what had happened at Sonos for blind people.

And after I said my bit, the BBC got an interview with Nick Millington. He’s chief innovation officer at Sonos. I won’t play the whole thing because that wouldn’t be fair use.

I encourage you to download the In Touch podcast, subscribe to it, listen to it every week. It’s a good listen.

But I did want to play this little bit from Nick because I was starting to feel a little bit more favorably predisposed towards Sonos. You know, they are making an effort and we should commend them for that.

But then, he comes out and says this:

Nick: We released a new version of the app, as he explained, on May 7th. And we realized in the days leading up to that, we had, on iOS, an error which essentially prevented screen readers, the technology that’s used by blind customers, to access areas of the app from directly accessing the UI controls by putting their finger over them, which made it rather cumbersome to use. And so I accept that made it difficult to use the app.

We have responded to that with the highest possible speed, and released a new version that corrected that basic interaction issue.

However, we continue to be working day and night on improving the screen reader support further, and hope to see more progress in the coming weeks.

Jonathan: Nick Millington from Sonos speaking with Peter White on BBC Radio 4 answering Peter’s question, what went wrong.

Now, what Nick focused on there was one aspect of what went wrong. He seems to think that the major issue was the explore by touch issue – the fact that if you touch the screen and you moved your finger around that screen, it was like the screen was blank. And we mentioned this here on the podcast.

But to focus on that issue when asked the question what went wrong, demonstrates how ignorant Sonos actually is about the way that blind people use screen readers. Because obviously, it’s annoying not being able to explore by touch. It is inconvenient, especially if you’re an expert user of the app.

But if focus is jumping all over the place, if there are many unlabeled buttons, if it’s unclear whether the status of those buttons are on or off, that’s a far more serious issue. At least, an equally serious issue. That initial release was next to useless.

And if what he is saying is that the only thing they regret is that they released with Explore by Touch broken, then they really are digging a deeper hole. Because if they ever thought that it was acceptable to release the rewrite of the app with so many unlabeled buttons and so many focus issues, and they only regret the Explore by Touch thing being broken, then Sonos needs help. They need help understanding the way that we use these products, and I hope they’re able to get it now that they’ve assembled this team of 30 or 40 blind beta testers that they have now. I hope that dialogue is fruitful.

But the other thing about this whole debacle with the app, which has upset many many sighted people as well, is this is a case study in how not to do PR. When you’re in a hole, sometimes, the best thing to do is to just stop digging, guys, and just say you’re sorry. Rather than pick on that one issue, explore by touch, which for many people was not the primary concern, they should have simply said we did not put the time into accessibility that we should have. We didn’t take it seriously enough. We’re sorry. People were right to be upset. We’ve learned our lesson.

And I guess, that’s what happens when you’ve breached people’s trust and you get somebody out there who’s a software developer, and doesn’t have a clue about how to properly say you’re sorry and do PR right.

But I did want to report back that there’s definite progress being made. Slow, but steady progress.


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Choosing a Laptop

Stefanie Magura says:

“I am listening to episode 256, and I would like to add a comment to your discussion of screen reader layouts.

I use the desktop layout for my screen readers, even though I have always owned laptops, because it’s what I’m comfortable with using, even though this can create problems with certain commands if someone is trying to press a function key and the command at the same time.

Maybe with JAWS, I should switch to laptop mode. But I haven’t found the need to do so with Narrator and NVDA because the ability to designate the caps lock key as an additional modifier has been a lifesaver in that regard. It frustrates me that Freedom Scientific doesn’t seem to have added this capability. Having it would allow me to modify commands in a way that I want.

For what it’s worth, the laptops I have always used have come with a number pad. This was when I used ones provided to me by agencies for the blind, something which could happen again, and when I bought my own in 2019.

I note this to say that number pads seem to be pretty standard in some Windows laptops in my experience, and the fact that this had one wasn’t necessarily a deciding factor in purchasing it. The one which I bought and am writing on now has one, and it was a laptop my sister recommended because there was a good deal for it at the time because it was Black Friday. I ended up spending $500 on what should have been a $1,300 laptop.

I will also note that while this laptop has a 15-inch display, it’s the thinnest and lightest one I have ever used. This allows me to pack it in my suitcase when going on trips. I know that the lack of certain hardware features such as CD drive are probably what made this possible, but I was able to find and purchase one for those times I want or need to access something on a CD.

The only things I would do differently are getting more hard drive space and more RAM, which were options I could have configured when making my purchase.

But in my defense, this was the first computer I ever purchased. I didn’t know anything about making those kinds of decisions, so I just went with what was on offer.

I did go back and compare specifications though, and found that the ones I have got were enough to run something like JAWS. So overall, I’m okay with them.

Having free OneDrive access through my Microsoft 365 subscription has been extremely helpful as well.

My computer is from HP, and I have been told that these last for a long time, so I guess I’ll be buying from them again when the time comes.”

Thanks very much for your email, Stefanie.

I’ll come back to JAWS in just a minute.

I think it’s fair to say that most laptops now don’t have a number pad, particularly in those areas where blind people tend to focus.

If you’re a totally blind person and you’re not reliant on the screen in any way, it’s just extra space. So many of us don’t go for 15-inch displays because we can’t take advantage of the 15-inch display. If you have low vision, it’s a different proposition entirely, and there may be very valid reasons why you might choose to go for a laptop with a nice large screen. But for many of us, portability and power is the mix we’re going for. So we may be looking for 11, 12, 13-inch screens.

I think my ThinkPad actually has a 14-inch display, but it is a very small form factor. It’s very light, and it doesn’t have a number pad. I’m reflecting, actually, that I don’t think I have ever owned a laptop with a number pad because it just takes up extra space with keys I don’t need, since I can do everything in laptop layout. And for me, as somebody who travels a lot, I want to put my laptop in my backpack so that when I’m traveling on planes, that kind of thing, I can get the laptop out and get some work done.

So I don’t want the number pad. And that’s one of the reasons why I use laptop layout with JAWS, even on my desktop. I find it’s just efficient to keep my hands on the home row.

And if you’ve been using the JAWS desktop layout for a long time, sure, there are a few things that you have to relearn. But the user interface is really intuitive. It’s logical, and it’ll take no time at all, I think. I mean, most of the commands are the same, except that you use the caps lock key instead of insert. And those that are different actually make a lot of sense. So it’s a personal preference thing.

But you do seem to be right. I think if you are in desktop mode, It looks like there is no way to say all right, I’m using desktop mode, but I want Caps Lock as my JAWS key, which is curious. I’ve never really looked into that before because I’ve always used laptop layout.

In terms of optical drives, I think it’d be really rare to find a computer with built-in optical drives now. Perhaps if you went with Framework, they might let you add one. And of course, that adds bulk, and that kind of thing. Because these days, almost every piece of software that you get, you download from the internet – Microsoft 365, (any number of things you install from the internet), and they keep it up to date that way.

I think I do have an external optical drive that I purchased years ago. I could plug that into the USB port of my ThinkPad if I needed to, but I can’t recall the last time I’ve had to.

I did add an optical drive when Henry, the wonder son-in-law and I built the desktop that’s here in the studio because I do sometimes convert DVDs and other media to digital format that I want to store somewhere local, so I find having an optical drive built into the desktop is useful.

You made a passing reference to function keys, and I may not have understood that reference correctly. But just in case, because this will be useful to some others as well, there are people who don’t seem to know that even though function keys these days tend to perform functions relating to the system by default, and you have to hold down the FN key to get the original Windows function keys which screen readers use, you can change this in the BIOS.

Sometimes, you can do it without having to go into the BIOS. depending on the system you have, there may be a key combination that you can press that essentially turns FN lock off. And then, you’ve got your standard Windows function keys on your top row there without having to hold down a modifier to get them, which is certainly much easier. It’s less contortionist when you are a screen reader user.

So it’ll be possible. It might require sighted assistance to go into the bios and find the right setting to enable that, but it will be doable.

If you shop for an HP product next time, check out the HP Spectre range. They are beautiful. They don’t have a number pad, but wow, they’re light, and they’re pretty powerful, and they’re a great product. So HP Spectre is pretty nice.

While we’re on the subject of Windows laptops, let’s go to India and hear from Anil. And he says:

“I would say the laptops from Asus are good, and I find them to be fairly priced. We have 2 in our family. One is from the Vivobook series,” (that’s V-I-V-O book series), “the other is from the Zenbook series.

I’m particularly impressed with the sound quality, which is beyond my expectations.

However, they are 2021 models, and there might be changes in the present offerings.

Do also check the reviews on, which provides reliable reviews. But sometimes, they are slow to review, and may not give a review to every model.”

Robert Munroe says:

“In episode 280, Rich Yamamoto asked for recommendations for a budget Windows laptop.

I needed to buy one myself in February, and I decided on an Asus ZenBook 14 OLED. I use it for office work, so it could be just the thing for everyday class work.

It came with Windows 11 installed. At that time, it cost $779 US at Walmart. The model number is UM3402YA-WS74T.

It has an 8-core AMD Ryzen processor running at 2 GHz. For memory, it has 16 GB of RAM, and a 512 GB solid-state drive. The keyboard is full-sized with half-sized function keys, but no numeric keypad. The 14-inch OLED screen is also a touchscreen. There are 2 USB-C ports, 1 USB-A, an HDMI port, and a headphone jack.

The power button has a fingerprint sensor in it for security.

The speakers are good quality. Narrator, JAWS, and NVDA all sound loud and clear. They all work just fine with the caps lock key as the modifier.

The ZenBook weighs 2.97 pounds, and should fit in any school bag or backpack.

I had no trouble deleting the programs that came installed that I don’t want or need. Indeed, in 3 months of work, I have had no technical issues with it.

Good luck with School, Rich, and let us all know which computer you eventually pick.

Working With SharePoint

“Great show as always.”, starts Robin.

Well thank you, Robin.

He says:

“I, too, work with Microsoft 365 and SharePoint for work, but never actually have to go into the SharePoint webpages, as I access all my files and folders via OneDrive and File Explorer, as you talked about on the show. So I’ve never been able to get files to open in their native app, despite having that option selected in the various apps.

So what I do is open the document, (usually a link that someone sent me in an email) and let it open up in the browser. Then, I instantly close the browser again and go to the relevant desktop app like Word, say. Then in the backstage view that comes up by default when you open an office app, you can tab to a section called recently opened files, and it’s right there at the top of the list.”

Thanks very much, Robin!

I don’t like that backstage view. [laughs] Every time I install microsoft office somewhere, I immediately disable that backstage view thing. Because you can press Alt F to go into files, and then arrow down a couple of times, and you get to open, and the recently opened list is there as well. It’s probably just because I’ve used Office for so long without that backstage view, I find it an encumbrance and an annoyance. But different strokes, and that kind of thing.

It would bug me if this feature to open things in their native app wasn’t working, but it’s concerning to know that it may be fiddly, so thank you very much for the tip.

A Positive Apple Accessibility Experience, and a Question About Recording Phone Calls Using the Zoom H Series Recorders

One of the things i love to do is to send an email to somebody’s supervisor to tell them what an awesome job they have done at something, whether it be a hotel that I stayed at, or some sort of assistance I got, or someone who took the time to sell me the right product.

And when I ask the individual who’s helped that I want to praise, “What’s the name of your supervisor?”, they get very nervous because most people only ask that when they want to complain. And that’s sad because I think it’s important to strike a balance.

And I really feel good about it, too. If I say to a supervisor, “If you’ve got some sort of recognition program in your company or some way of rewarding good service, this person needs to have it. They were amazing. And here’s why.” And I love that.

So it’s good to get this email from Barbara McLeod. She says:

“I want to share a positive experience regarding Apple Accessibility.

I use an iPad Pro and a magic keyboard that connects to the iPad via the smart connector. When I use this keyboard, I can press and hold the Command key and get context-sensitive help regarding the shortcut keys.

For example, while in the Messages app, pressing and holding the Command key shows that the command to create a new message is Command N.

This worked well until iOS 17. The keyboard commands displayed on the screen, but they were no longer available to VoiceOver users.

I contacted Apple Accessibility and explained the situation. I sent a screen recording to them.

I am happy to report that Apple fixed this issue in the next update since I reported the issue.

I enjoyed your reviews regarding the Zoom recorders. I am thinking about purchasing one, but I am still trying to decide which one.

I want to know if it is possible to record phone calls using connectors with these recorders. I am particularly interested in recording calls using my iPhone 15 Pro Max. I realize I can put the iPhone on speaker and record the call. I want to record without background noise.

I enjoy your podcast, and I look forward to each episode.”

Well, it’s lovely to hear from you, Barbara. And thank you also for your condolences, which I truly do appreciate.

I’m glad that you took the time to throw some praise Apple’s way. It’s important that we give recognition where it’s due, so good on you for doing that.

Yes, what you want to do is absolutely possible. Even the H4 Essential would do this.

What you could do is have a cable running from one of the combo jacks to a 3.5 millimeter plug, and then you’d need to get an adapter that has a 3.5 millimeter female connector at one end. and then usually, there’s just the teensiest of cables, and there’s a USB-C at the other end. since you have an iPhone 15 Pro Max, run that cable from one of the inputs of your H4 Essential, and you’ll either have the other input free for a microphone if you want to do that, or you can just use the built-in microphone of the H4 Essential if that’s good enough for your requirements. What that means is that you will have one track with your phone call on it, and the other track with you on it. And you can take that into any multi-track editor and mix it down later, or just leave it on the recorder in case you need to refer back to it.

When you record this way, you will listen through your Zoom recorder, so you’ll need earbuds or headphones of some kind that plug into the 3.5 millimeter jack of the Zoom recorder, because you’ll hear yourself and you’ll hear the iPhone coming through that Zoom recorder, since you’ve got something plugged into what is effectively a headphone jack on your iPhone. This is the way to hear the iPhone while you’re recording.

I think this is a really good idea, actually. I’m running more and more into call center operators who make commitments that they don’t keep. When they do keep them, I do make sure that I write to the supervisor and praise them as well. But unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

You get that little announcement often when you call a business and it says your call may be recorded for quality assurance. And I don’t see anything wrong whatsoever in recording it, too. If they’re recording it, then I want to record it as well. And that has really got me out of a jam.

I have been billed in the past for things that have been cancelled. And when I’ve called up, I’ve said, you know you guys agreed to cancel this and not charge me anything. And they will fall back on the old, we have no record of that in our system. And I have been able to email them the little snippet of a conversation that I have had with a call center, and get refunds and get the thing that they originally promised that they conveniently didn’t take a recording of. I think sometimes, people do make commitments just to get you off the phone.

So that may be the use case you have in mind, or you may have some other use case in mind.

But anyway, that’s how you do it. It’s actually quite straightforward, and you can pick up this cable that goes from the combo jack to a 3.5 plug from anywhere that sells audio cables, and I’m sure that you could pick up a USB-C adapter pretty readily as well.

Anyone Done Anything With FairPhone?

Here’s a question from Christopher Wright.

“I recently became aware of FairPhone, which appears to be the Framework of smartphones.

Speaking of Framework, I’m waiting for the next AMD refresh before jumping in, but that’s for another topic.

Has anyone used phones from this company? I read they’re using stock Android. So is the experience similar to the Pixel?

I think they can be purchased in the United States via Amazon, and this very well might be my next phone. It looks like they’re guaranteeing at least 8 years of full software support, which is even better than the new pixel 7-year policy. Of course, we can’t forget about the modular design. Please provide some applause for removable batteries.”

Oh, alright then.

[applause sound effect]

“Maybe the replacement to my Pixel 7 will be a FairPhone in 2027 or 2028, assuming they’re still around.

FairPhone is now selling Bluetooth earbuds with a replaceable battery. Applause, please.”

No, you’ve got your 1 lot of applause this time, Christopher. [laughs]

“I wonder if they’ll expand to offer more quality headphones in the future with replaceable batteries.

In case you can’t tell, I’m a very strong advocate for modularity, as I think it’s a shame we have to throw away so many perfectly good products just because a single component fails.”

Thanks, Christopher!

It’ll be interesting to see if anybody’s had any experience with this device.

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And maybe, if you’re using AI for casual use, that’s okay. But if it’s something really serious, then you may want to get some easy human verification.

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iTunes, and Chapters in Apple Podcasts

Hello to Ian Harrison, who is in the UK. He says:

“I have just tuned into your podcast,”

Well, welcome to you, Ian!

“and wanted to add to the iTunes issue raised by the lady in your latest episode.”

So that’s Carolyn Peet who raised this. It’s now a few episodes ago.

“I chose a long time ago”, says Ian, “to subscribe to Apple Music, adding in all my previous purchases.

I now have many playlists. And every now and again, I will be notified that a particular song is no longer available. When this happens, I go back and search for the song until I find one that is supported in the UK. I am wondering if this is Apple’s way of encouraging those who only upload or purchase music to move to the subscription model.

On another note, since I just started listening to your content, I have a need more than ever to work out how to navigate chapters in the Apple Podcast player so that I can efficiently go through your back catalogue. I have tried the instructions from Apple, but can’t seem to get the hang of it.”

Thanks, Ian!

I am not a fan of Apple Podcasts. Although I have to temper it a bit because the transcription feature in Apple Podcasts is pretty jolly fantastic, but I think that’s its only redeeming feature.

Unfortunately, there are certain subscriptions that are only available in Apple Podcasts. So sometimes, people are dragged kicking and screaming into using that app, at least for some content, while using something much better for other purposes.

Overcast is probably the best of the bunch in terms of accessibility at the moment. That is a great app.

And PocketCasts is not too bad. There are one or two issues I have with it.

Downcast is also pretty good.

The problem we have with Apple Podcasts is that some releases ago now, the chapters button became inaccessible. I seem to recall somebody saying here on Living Blindfully that if you enable screen recognition, you may be able to find the chapters feature on Apple Podcasts. But I don’t use the app very often myself, so I don’t have any personal experience of this.

It is such a shame. I mean, it used to be there. It used to be accessible.

And then, a release came out some time ago. The buttons are inaccessible, and Apple doesn’t seem to have been in any hurry to fix it, unfortunately.

Voting in Oregon Has Become Less Accessible

Caller: Hi, Jonathan! This is Dave Carlson from Oregon.

You spoke about voting several episodes ago, and I wanted to share with you an experience I’m having here in Oregon.

We have vote by mail here. And for those with visual impairments, you can go online and fill out a ballot in paper form, print it out, and insert it into the envelope without requiring anyone to draw lines or fill in bubbles.

In the past, this has worked fine. This year, they threw a wrench into the process.

The state of Oregon has put in a CAPTCHA at the beginning. Usually, CAPTCHAs are not a problem, such as those where you would, say, type the words you hear, even though the audio is in bad shape.

However, this CAPTCHA is definitely inaccessible. They present an image with six alphanumeric characters and ask you to type those characters.

They also give you an audio of the characters. The audio faithfully recites letters and numbers that are there. However, what they fail to realize is that the characters are upper and lower case, and the audio does not say anything about upper and lower case. So there’s no way to know which is upper and which is lower.

So I thought I’d share this marvelous news with you and any other listeners in Oregon who might want to write an email to the Secretary of State, which I have done, to complain about the fact that now, I cannot vote, which I think in this country is guaranteed in our Constitution. In any case, I thought I’d share this marvelous news with you and your fellow listeners.

Thanks for everything you do with the podcast. I enjoy listening, and always glad to be a contributing participant.

Jonathan: Well, thank you for your contribution, Dave! I really appreciate that.

How frustrating is this! Surely, this has got to be another example of someone trying to do the right thing, but not actually involving real-world blind people with the testing, right? Because if any blind person had been involved in setting this up, they would have immediately caught that particular snafu.

I do have some sympathy regarding the need for a CAPTCHA of some kind, or just making sure that it is secure. Maybe 2-factor authentication could have been another way of achieving the same level of security.

But to roll this out in such a way that a blind person cannot possibly complete the CAPTCHA independently, even if they can hear the garbled audio because they don’t know what case the characters are, that’s pretty troubling, isn’t it? I hope you can get that sorted out.

I was also reading an article which I actually posted to the Living Blindfully Mastodon account from California where apparently, they’re having some trouble with accessible voting as well. It is such a shame that here we are, in 2024, and people are just struggling to exercise these fundamental human rights, the fundamental right of any democracy to choose the people who govern you.

If you’re having any experiences in the United States or elsewhere, let us know.

It’s a big year for elections this year. They’ve got one in Britain as well. Canada’s could happen any time, [laughs] although I think they’ll hang on as long as they can. There’s a lot of democracy going on., if you want to tell us about any of this. 864-60-Mosen, if you want to get on the phone like Dave did. 864-606-6736.

A Review of the Activator From HelpTech

Imke is in touch with something that interests me greatly.

You may remember that last year, when we were doing some interviews at the National Federation of the Blinds Convention, I spoke with Sigi and Damian from HelpTech and their distributor in the United States about the Activator.

I must confess, there’s a part of me that has coveted an Activator ever since, and I’ve thought about it.

And then, the iPhone 15 came out with USB-C, and I thought I’ll wait and see what happens there with this Activator product, and whether they integrate with USB-C as well. And it’s just something I haven’t gotten around to. Because HelpTech Braille displays are not the cheapest on the market, and they don’t ever claim to be.

They do claim to be very good quality though, and very functional. The cells are beautiful, and I love that feature where when your finger reaches the end of a Braille line, it automatically senses that your finger’s at the end of the line and just scrolls to the next one. Lovely.

So Imke has had his hands on one of these devices, and has written a review. I appreciate you sending it in, Imke, and I will read it now.


In early March 2024, I had the opportunity to test the recently released Activator from HelpTech for 1 week. The demo unit was sent to me by Dream Vision Group, a distributor of HelpTech devices in the United States.


The Activator contains a 40-cell Braille display with cursor routing keys, with a set of 3 round navigation keys at the left and right ends of the Braille line. The Braille cells are concave, which is characteristic of HelpTech’s Braille displays, but the curvature is slightly reduced compared to the cells on other devices such as the Actilino and ActiveBraille.

Behind the braille display is a foldable keyboard that allows for the use of either a Perkin-style 8-dot Braille keyboard, or a QWERTY keyboard. The Activator comes with a smart dock that can hold an iPhone, and allows for a direct USB connection between the Activator and iPhone via the smart dock. In combination with the HelpTech Plus app, this connection provides for enhanced functionality of the Activator.

For additional details on the Activator, see the HelpTech website at www.HelpTech.EU/Braille-displays-activator.

Physical Characteristics.

While I appreciate the concept of closely coupling a braille device and iPhone, many aspects of the Activator-iPhone combination are less practical than using the iPhone with the Actilino via a Bluetooth connection.

First, in my view, the Activator is too heavy and large for a device that is to be used with a much smaller iPhone. The combination of the activator and smart dock is too wide for my lap. The lap is where I primarily use a Braille display with an iPhone.

Second, using the smart dock requires me to take the phone out of its case because the supplied cable cannot be inserted into the lightning port with the case on. When the phone is in the dock, it cannot quickly be taken away when one needs to take it away for some reason.

Third, the Activator has some sharp edges which are less pleasant to the touch than the nicely rounded edges of the Actilino and ActiveBraille.

Keyboard and navigation keys.

The ergonomics of the Braille keyboard and navigation keys seem inferior to the arrangement of the keys in Actilino and ActiveBraille. I found the keys on the Braille keyboard to be extremely flat, and their surface material was difficult to distinguish from that of the surrounding housing, thereby slowing the transition from Braille display to keyboard. Similarly, the surface material of the navigation keys is difficult to distinguish from the housing surrounding them.

Further, the fold-out option is very convenient for those wishing to use a standard QWERTY keyboard, but results in the Braille keys being elevated above the Braille line, making the overall arrangement less ergonomic for users of the Braille keyboard and display.

Braille cells.

The Braille characters on the Braille display seem too small and more difficult to read. The concavity of each Braille cell ends immediately below dots 7 and 8, giving less support to the reading fingers than on the Actilino and ActiveBraille.

Software and manual.

The Activator allows for the use of 6-dot contracted Braille and 8-dot computer Braille. However, the onboard menus do not include an option to turn on or off contracted Braille. This is possible only with a keyboard command.

At the time of testing, the manual applied to version 1.0 of the Activator firmware, which was out of date compared to firmware 1.4, which was installed on the device I was testing. The manual incorrectly instructed to Bluetooth pair the Activator with the iPhone before using the dock, and to then turn off Bluetooth on the iPhone. This caused the connection via the dock not to function properly. It was not until I contacted technical support at Dream Vision Group that I learned that I needed to remove the Bluetooth connection between the Activator and iPhone again in order for the connection via the dock to work.


Overall, the Activator is a handy device for anyone wishing to use a QWERTY keyboard together with HelpTech’s unique concave Braille cells. However, the fold-out keyboard reduces the efficiency and ergonomics for the Braille keyboard user compared to a device with only a Braille keyboard.

The integration with the iPhone has the potential of providing more Braille display-friendly access to popular iOS apps. However, in my opinion, the current implementation of this access will be more practical with a smaller Braille device. And for Braille keyboard users, the Activator is less ergonomic than HelpTech’s ActiveBraille and Actilino devices.”

Thanks for your perspective, Imke.

And if you’ve used an Activator from HelpTech, please let us know what your impressions are because you know, I’m going to the NFB convention this year, and I could be in the market for something, you know. I could be in the market. is the email address. You can also give me a call on the listener line, 864-60-Mosen, 864-606-6736.


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Facebook Accessibility, and NLS eReaders

Caller: Hey, Jonathan! This is Jim East from Florida.

Just finished listening to 281. Great job.

I’m sorry to hear about the Sonos issues. I know you said they were coming, and they did end up happening.

I don’t use Sonos. Most of the speakers that we use here are Bluetooth because we don’t have reliable Wi-Fi.

I think I may have told you we decided to do the RV lifestyle for a while. So we bought an RV, and I live in a nice MotorHome, which is comfortable.

Anyway, a couple of things I want to talk about quickly.

I noticed Facebook, (Meta, I still think of it as Facebook), you know, they worked really hard to be fairly accessible, at least my experience is that they have. But I noticed with their new AI, you know, when you try to search for things, whether I’m going to listen to an online stream of a video or post, or find somebody, the AI comes up. But underneath the AI, there’s at least 3 or 4 buttons that just say button, button, button. And to me, talk about a step backward.

So I don’t know what can be done with that, but I figured I would share that concern with everyone.

The other thing is I was able to read print up until, like, high school. And so I learned grade one Braille, and then I concentrated more on academics and became an honor student, and subsequently went to college and earned a Masters degree. So in some ways, I think that was a good choice. I know a lot of people think you need to have good Braille skills at the beginning, and you do. But there’s a lot of other complications which I’m not going to go into that led to my family and I making that decisions at our individual education plan, or IEP meetings.

So now in the States, I don’t know if you have them in New Zealand, but our National Library Service for the Blind, otherwise known here as Talking Book has finally, and I do say finally, come out with electronic Braille readers or eReaders, and they decided to go with Humanware and also with a company called Zoomax.

But not everybody’s is the same. In Florida, we are, for whatever reason, went with Zoomax.

Well, my eReader that I received, apparently, the battery is terrible and there’s a problem with the display. So I’m going to be sending it back.

But I’ve been on Clubhouse and some other apps and talked to other people around the country, and in Florida, and it feels like we’ve really been short-shrifted this, and nobody can really give me a good reason why.

I know, especially for the deaf-blind community, this is a game-changer. You know, it’s huge. I mean, yes, they’ve been able to get books, but I mean, carrying around volumes and volumes of Braille books is crazy. It’s just a lot, cumbersome.

But having the eReader also makes it possible. You can use it to work with the iPhone, which is, to me, a game-changer because I’ve been looking for a reliable keyboard to interact with my iPhone. And I’ve tried a couple that I’ve got from Amazon, and just not found anything that I was comfortable with.

But I’m disappointed in the Zoomax product.

I spoke with the NLS representative, and she was very polite. They called me within 24 hours of me reporting the issue to my reader advisor. And some of the things she told me were well, those batteries aren’t that great because they’ve been sitting around for a while.

Well, I want to know why they’ve been sitting around for a while.

It’s a beautiful-looking product. It’s got lots of buttons. I mean, for screen navigation and all that, I mean, it does a lot. To me, it looks, on the surface, comparable to what the old BrailleNotes look like, the MPowers and all that stuff.

But inside, just doesn’t seem like it’s going to be that workable yet. I haven’t totally written it off yet, but I’m hoping when I get the new one that it’ll be more reliable.

There’s problems with pairing it Bluetooth-wise. There’s problems with the battery. There’s problems with the Braille cells.

I talked to one person whose name I won’t mention, and they think that it was finally just put out because people have been yelling about it so much, they figured they’d try to shut people up. Hey, we gave you something.

But I’m sorry. If it’s not accessible to all of us, then it shouldn’t be acceptable to any of us.

Play-by-play When Attending Live Sports

Voice message: Hi, Jonathan and everybody else listening to Living Blindfully! This is Nick Giannak.

Sports are a major passion for me, so I would like to respond to a few comments made in Living Blindfully episode 281 with a little bit of information.

First of all, somebody made a comment about ProWire. That appears to be a small business company that basically operates in the state of Florida. I have never experienced their tech.

They had a little bit of play with the NHL. Apparently, you could use the NHL app in the places where it was.

But I get the distinct impression from some people that it might have had some technical issues, and I definitely know that they’re not the most experienced company in this game. That belongs to Listen Technologies.

Mark mentioned going to a Mets game and the Listen Everywhere app not necessarily working. That’s unfortunate.

But I also found it encouraging to hear that the Mets, who I’m a big fan of, commented to Mark himself. So I have some hope that the Listen Everywhere app will work at Citi Field on Citi Field’s Wi-Fi network when I attend a Mets game this year, which I intend to do largely in order to try the Listen Everywhere app.

Now, why am I so keen to try this besides the basic accessibility? Well, that leads me to Robin Williams, who attempted to attend a New York Islander game.

One of the things I have discovered over this ownership of the Islanders, another team of whom I am a big fan, is that the accessibility department might as well not exist, other than as their well-known and documented support for the Guide Dog Foundation, which is local to the Islanders. But other than that, the accessibility department might as well not exist.

What I can, however, tell you is that the guest services desks at the building knew what to do. This, by the way, goes back to 3 brothers, Bobby, Kevin, and Michael Grogan, who are vision impaired themselves and locals. And they are extremely familiar with how to get stuff done in the sports space from an access perspective. It’s the Grogan’s work that got Listen Everywhere into Citi Field, and it’s the Grogan’s work, amongst others, that got Listen Technologies analog receivers into UBS Arena for the Islanders.

There are 2 different systems, one for the lower level and one for the upper level. What you have to do is to go to guest services, not accessibility but guest services. And the 2 guest services areas are on section 106 for the lower level, and section 212 for the upper 2 levels of ubs arena.

They’ll ask you to hand over something to hold as collateral, as They only have 30 of these Listen Everywhere devices, so they’re going to make you give up either a credit card or an ID as collateral while you’re in the building.

You’ll get the devices. They’ll be a little bit like audio description things in the theater. If you arrive early, and you get them, and they’re turned on, you won’t hear anything. But later on, they will come to life and they will work throughout the entirety of the game.

They’re analog, which means there’s no radio delay, or very little.

I can tell you that I’ve actually had slightly different results at the 2 games where I heard this.

The one from the downstairs was pure analog. As in I actually heard the puck whack the boards before it reached me. The audio did. That’s how analog this was. The one at 212 appears to have actually been taken from a slightly different feed that has maybe 500 milliseconds or so of delay on it.

But both are good. Both are very high-quality, and both do work, and both got me excited to see what the wi-fi version of this is about.

As for the whole thing with the radio thing, that’s not some cynical ploy. It has a lot to do with the metals used to construct the building, the insulation, just the way the buildings are built in modern construction techniques is radio repellent, unfortunately.

I hope that this helps somebody.

It’s a major passion of mine, as I said before, and I honestly hope that it’s something that gets even better as we go forward.

Take it easy, guys.

Jonathan: Indeed, and I don’t care if I ever get back.

Closing and contact info

Well actually, that’s not strictly true. I would like to be back for the next episode of Living Blindfully to hear more of your contributions and talk about the issues that matter to us.

Thank you very much for listening, and for your support.

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


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