Transcripts of Living Blindfully are made possible by Pneuma Solutions, a global leader in accessible cloud technologies. On the web at http://PneumaSolutions.com.
Voiceover: From Wellington, New Zealand, to the world, it’s the Living Blindfully podcast living your best life with blindness or low vision. Here is your host, Jonathan Mosen.
Hello! This week: my address to the National Federation of the Blind’s convention, mainstream tech companies are discriminating against us. Here’s how I suggest we make it stop., updates from Be My Eyes, And Bonnie and I do an audio travel log of our NFB convention visit.
Welcome to episode 239! Really appreciate you being with me today.
It is nice to be home. It was amazing to be there. And by there, I mean the National Federation of the Blind convention in Houston, Texas. It was just so cool to run into people in elevators, to do breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all sorts of other meetings and meet with people who enjoy the podcast, and learn a lot relating to some of the things in my day job. It was just an action-packed week.
And a little bit later, we will hear the little travel log that Bonnie and I put together from time to time; perhaps not as consistently as I originally would have liked, but time just runs out on you. There was so much to do. We got so little sleep, but we’ll do the travel log thing today.
I also captured quite a few interviews from the NFB convention, and we will be playing those in subsequent weeks.
Although next week, I should give you a heads up, as they say a lot in America, that we’re not going to be doing an NFB-related interview. We’re going to be talking about a book that has been on my radar for quite some time, and it’s going to be published on the 18th of July. It’s called The Country of the Blind by Andrew Leland, who is a listener to this podcast. It is an enthralling read.
It essentially chronicles Andrew’s journey into blindness. He has retinitis pigmentosa, and is determined to do what it takes to continue to lead a rich, full life. In other words, to be living blindfully. I cannot recommend this read highly enough.
It’s going to be available in all the normal repositories, I believe, from the 18th of July. So you’ll be able to get the audiobook version if you like, which Andrew reads himself. It’ll be available in other places as well. So it’s called The Country of the Blind. It’s published by Penguin. It’s by Andrew Leland, L-E-L-A-N-D.
If you read it, I will be most interested to hear what you think of it, particularly if you are low vision yourself. If you’ve gone through a similar journey, does what Andrew is saying in the book resonate with you? Do you feel differently? Would you approach your own journey differently from the way that Andrew did?
Not only is it a good book. It’s also an interesting interview. And that’ll be coming up in episode 240 of Living Blindfully.
And we will get back to plenty of interesting interviews from the NFB convention.
I should say before I get too far further into the episode that Area Code 239 does exist in the United States, and it belongs to southwestern Florida. Bits of it, anyway.
And Florida is the state where it’s all going to be happening in US blindness land next year, because NFB is going to be meeting in Orlando, Florida, not too far from Disney World, of course. And ACB is going to be meeting in Jacksonville in Florida.
So welcome, if you are listening from Area Code 239.
Now, country code 239 belongs to São Tomé and Príncipe, and I do apologize if I’m mangling the pronunciation of that. I must confess to have not having heard of this part of the world before. I may be forgiven because there’s only about 230,000 people who live there. Won’t it be amazing if one of those 230,000 people even is listening to Living Blindfully?
So if you are, a warm welcome to you. And if I’ve mispronounced the name, I’m sure that you can gently castigate me and show me the correct way to pronounce it.
It’s important to me that Living Blindfully is fully accessible, and that’s why every episode is transcribed.
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My principal reason for attending the National Federation of the Blind’s convention in Texas this year was that I was invited to address the convention. That’s not something that happens every day, so I was honored and delighted to accept that invitation.
And I really wanted it to count. I wanted to amplify a conversation that we have had on this podcast over some years now. And I think it’s fair to say that there’s been mounting frustration about the lack of action in this area. So I took the opportunity to talk about some critical issues, and also about the nature of advocacy.
But rather than praise the talk, I’m just going to play the talk. This is from the National Federation of the Blind’s general session on the 6th of July, 2023.
You can also find the text of this and the audio, if you would like to refer others to it, at mosen.org/NFB23. That’s M-O-S-E-N.org/NFB23.
Just a note about this audio. The audio is coming direct from the mixer. And I think there’s probably only one or maybe two microphones open here. So although it sounds like there weren’t many people in the room, believe me, there were. It was an electric atmosphere up there. And the audio that you’re hearing doesn’t quite capture the volume of the crowd that is out there. Nevertheless, I hope you find it interesting.
NFB president Mark Riccobono makes the introduction.
Mark Riccobono: This gentleman has been blind since birth, and he has a long track record of active engagement and leadership in the blind community, but also engaging audiences over the air, whether it be the radio waves or the Internet. His bio credits his start on radio before he hit age 5.
But that’s not the only aspect of him. He says this in his bio: “I’ve been pointing out injustice since I was a kid, which didn’t always make me popular with the teachers.” [laughter]
His advocacy work has only grown over the years. He was the youngest person ever to be elected to be president of the blind people’s movement in his country. That’s the Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand. [applause]
One major effort there he led was to get the primary agency serving the blind in that country to be more responsive to blind people and blind leaders. Maybe we can get him to teach some of the agencies in this country. [applause and laughter]
You may know his work from one of the access technology companies, or maybe from one of his helpful tutorials. I know when the pandemic hit, we promoted his Zoom tutorial, which thank you for making that available to blind people.
Or maybe you know him from one of his Internet radio programs now under the flag of MushroomFM, home of the fun guys. Or you probably may know him from his highly successful podcast to the blind community, now branded Living Blindfully.
He brings his authentic experience as a blind person to what he does. And we’ve been honored to work with him on a number of things, including last year’s global concert the We Are With You concert for blind Ukrainians, which was a very successful effort. [applause] He was very central to making that a reality.
And I’m pleased that he’s agreed to come to this stage to share his perspectives. Here’s Jonathan Mosen. [applause]
Thank you Mr President for the introduction and for the invitation to speak today, and good morning to my friends in the Federation. [applause]
I am delighted to be at another NFB convention. When I attend one, I always feel replenished, ready to make more positive change and prouder than ever to be blind. [applause]
Among the many things Ive done in my life, I have a background in radio, as the president said. After all these years of hosting shows about blindness current events, technology, providing entertainment to our community, and raising money for an important cause or two, I still believe in the power of the Internet to do good, to be a vehicle for bringing us together, to have a place thats uniquely ours where were not trying to explain blindness to sighted people; were exclusively and unashamedly talking about the things that matter to us.
My current podcast, Living Blindfully, brings blind people together from, at last count, 113 countries. [applause] Living Blindfully discusses a wide range of topics including policy, philosophy, employment, parenting and more. We also talk a lot about technology, because it can assist with equal participation in society. Its technology Id like to focus on today.
I do so mindful of the enormous responsibility this organisation bears. The companies that develop the major operating systems and much of the hardware we use are based here in the United States. So blind people everywhere are counting on you to be articulate, focussed and resolute, advocating in a way that honours your proud traditions. Any success you have in bringing about more accessible technology has a direct positive benefit to many millions of blind people beyond your borders.
In an age where technology plays a critical role in all aspects of society, the Federation has been relentless in its advocacy for accessible technology as part of its pursuit of security, equality, and opportunity. To assess the effectiveness of that advocacy, we only need to reflect on how much more information we have access to in 2023 versus, say, 1983. Computerisation in general, and the Internet in particular, mean it is easier for everyone to work, shop, bank, travel, communicate, be informed, and entertained. The increasing digitisation of society was inevitable because of technological change. But the social change required for the blind to be included was not. Accessibility didnt magically appear out of the goodness of peoples hearts. It happened because people in this room, alongside many pioneers in advocacy and technology who are no longer with us, and who we remember with appreciation and respect, put in the effort and made it happen. [applause]
Achieving the degree of accessibility we enjoy today required the use of a range of advocacy tools, including building strong relationships, being thought leaders, and, when it was absolutely necessary, legislative and legal action. It was true then, and it is still true today, that even some blind people decry the advocacy necessary to win those battles using terms like militant, radical, whining, and entitled.
Now, in January, I became a grandfather for the first time. [applause] Yeah, thank you for that. My little granddaughter, Florence, is absolutely adorable. One of the many cool things about being a granddad is that Im reading kids books again. (Just wait until Christmas when I hit the toy stores!) [laughter] So the story of the little red hen has been on my mind lately. Now, for those who dont know it, (spoiler alert), the short version is that the little red hen tried to get help to plant the seeds, harvest the wheat, and bake the bread, but the other farm animals couldnt be bothered. Oh but when the bread was ready, they happily volunteered to eat it. Isnt it ironic that those who malign us as militant, who denigrate the doers, who ridicule us as radical, who attack the advocates, who berate the bakers of the bread, are publishing that criticism using the very tools that wouldnt have been accessible were it not for the advocates theyre criticising. [applause] To those critics, I say the proof of the baked bread is in the eating, and you can eat it even if you didnt bake it. To my friends in the Federation, you are the ones who make a difference, so wear the badge with honour, and take pride in being little NFB hens. [laughter]
We have baked a lot of bread, but the work is far from done. If the bread does not continue to be baked, we will starve.
And I wish today to suggest some of the bread we must bake next. The provision of assistive technology by mainstream companies has created new advocacy challenges just as important as the battles we have won. I dont begrudge for a moment the accolades these companies receive for their accessibility initiatives. I applaud the fact that we can now walk up to most computers and smartphones and have immediate access to them. We have life-changing tools, some of them blindness-specific, in the palm of our hand for a fraction of what they used to cost. [applause] That is staggering progress. But theres a little secret that tends not to be covered in the media. While impressive innovation continues at pace, the quality and reliability of some of the tools we use remains a serious concern, as resolutions at several NFB conventions have recorded. Now, Ive worked in the technology industry, and I know that software cannot be bug free. But today, we are enduring show-stopping bugs unique to the blind that significantly degrade our ability to use some of these devices. In my own advocacy efforts, I have found it useful to apply a concept of equivalency. In other words, what would be an equivalent bug for the sighted, and would it be such a show-stopping bug that the sighted would demand a speedy resolution? Ill give you a few examples. I am not going to call out any company by name, but if these examples are affecting you, youll know the companies I’m talking about. [laughter]
If your screen reader suddenly and regularly stops speaking, Yeah? That would be the same as a sighted persons screen flickering and then completely blanking out at random intervals. Do you think the sighted would patiently wait for months until their screen worked properly again?
The media would be all over this and would be calling it screengate.
If youre typing on your smartphone using Braille Screen Input and youre regularly experiencing unexpected behaviour that slows you down or results in you typing gibberish, then that would be the equivalent of the virtual keyboard being next to useless for a sighted person, causing them to understandably protest loudly about them not being able to do their job, communicate, input data, and close the deal.
If you are blind and wear hearing aids, and your screen reader is quiet to the point of being unusable when on a phone call, this would be the same as a sighted person having their screen so dim every time they make a call that they cant see it well enough to use it.
If you, in good faith, install the beta of an operating system only to find that your screen reader doesnt work at all, that would be equivalent to a sighted person installing a beta, understanding that there may be defects, but finding with horror that their screen was blank, making their device completely useless. And imagine what would happen to the reputation of that company if it was later revealed that the team responsible released that software knowing full well that this is what it would do.
If you scrimp and save to buy a popular Braille display, only to find you cant connect your smartphone to it via Bluetooth because a protocol about which there was an industry-wide consensus, and that the company promised to support, hasnt been implemented, this is the equivalent of a sighted person buying one of the leading printers on the market today, only to find that the operating system developer hasnt kept their promise to support it.
I could fill the remainder of my time with examples. If bugs like these were happening to sighted people, it would be headline news. Stock prices would plummet. Senior leaders would be filled with their email boxes overflowing, and eventually fired for the accountability.
The eaters who are not the bakers will say that we must be realistic and we must be patient. We shouldnt expect prompt resolution to blindness-specific show-stopping issues. They say assistive technology isnt the core business of these mainstream companies so things are bound to be a bit rough around the edges. We must be grateful, and thankful, or they might take it all away. We are a tiny fraction of their customers, so we must wait our turn. Well the bakers know, because they baked it, that there is no legislation that covers consumer rights, civil rights, accessibility, or government procurement that says its OK for companies to provide an inferior product to blind people. [applause] But Ive found plenty of law that gives this sort of behaviour a name. They call it discrimination. The National Federation of the Blind has always been clear. Discrimination will not stand. [applause]
A poorer standard of product for the blind is not merely a legal issue, it is a moral one. It is also a financial one. These large, successful companies undoubtedly have the means to resource accessibility properly. But when they prepare their annual budgets, they are allocating resources in a way that short changes you and me.
Now, Id like to address these manufacturers directly. You have made a remarkable difference to our lives. Working with us, you have helped to ensure that there has never been a better time in history to be blind. Thank you for all you have done and all you continue to do. But we are not charity cases. [applause] Were you not doing what you are doing, you would lose the business of many entities who would no longer be permitted to buy your products. So the relationship is a reciprocal one.
Our money is as good as anyone elses. [applause] We express our thanks like any other customer, by helping to return a profit to your shareholders when we buy what youre selling. When we do this, we create a contract that you will provide us with a product that is fit for purpose. We then integrate your technology into our lives and we come to rely on it. These products should not have such egregious accessibility defects that a blind person requires two degrees in order to operate them. [applause] One in computer science so we can work around all the bugs, and the other in zen meditation. [laughter]
For those of us fortunate enough to have found work, our jobs were usually hard-won. We got them knowing full well the fundamental truth upon which the National Federation of the Blind was founded, that the problem of blindness is not the lack of eyesight, the problem is what people think blindness means. [applause] Now, if we, competent blind people on the job, cannot do our jobs as well as were capable of because of serious defects in your products you decline to fix in a timely manner, you are perpetuating myths about blindness by making us appear foolish in front of our employers. [applause] You are jeopardising the security of our livelihoods. If there is bias in your defect assessment processes causing our mission critical bugs to languish because they only affect a small number of people, you are preventing our equality by implying through your inaction that we are second class customers. [applause] If your products are not dependable, you tantalise us with the promise of opportunity, but it is a promise that is not fully kept. This must stop. [applause]
I want to propose the following four-point plan to ensure these products become as dependable for us as they are for everyone else.
First, in consultation with the organised blind movement, all mainstream technology companies offering assistive technology should agree on, and publish, a framework that seeks to define a line where an accessibility bug is so critical that it requires extraordinary remedial action beyond the normal software release cycle. [applause] As a working title, lets call this the defect equity framework, or DEF for short.
Second, with the DEF in place, mainstream technology companies should collaborate with the organised blind movement to resolve the under-resourcing that is contributing to this situation. This must include hiring more blind people. [applause] We use it, we are the best people to test it and fix it.
I want to take a moment to express my profound admiration and gratitude for all the blind people working in any capacity on the technology we use every day. They cant ever completely switch off, because when its time to stop thinking about work for the day, they are still blind. Sometimes, they will be fighting battles on the inside we can never know about. It can be tough work, but its vital work. So lets be kind to our own who are doing this work. [applause] We need them there, and we need many more of us there.
Third, each company should establish a public database for accessibility defects, so the blind can check what bugs have already been submitted and what priority they have been accorded. We must have input into that prioritisation because right now, too many of us feel despondent and frustrated about volunteering our time and considerable expertise to these companies, filing detailed bug report after detailed bug report, only to be ignored and fobbed off with a canned response and no progress updates. [applause]
And fourth, every Global Accessibility Awareness Day, mainstream technology companies must do more than just publish marketing hype about new initiatives. [applause] They must provide a transparent, independently audited report that demonstrates progress as measured against the defect equity framework. [applause]
Second class status is something we stopped accepting long ago. [applause] This proposal is a constructive, specific, better way. Let the blind and the technology industry work together and get this done. [applause] But if they will not work with us, we should not continue to accept the status quo. As Dr Jernigan repeatedly put it, we know how to join together on the barricades. [applause]
Inadequate quality control is not the only advocacy challenge we face. Sometimes, a mainstream company can kill our productivity with kindness. Its often said that activity should not be confused with achievement. I would also submit that accessibility should not be confused with useability. [applause] If were not consulted, well-intentioned sighted people may cause an app or operating system to be so verbose, and frankly, so patronising, that it slows us down and adds no value whatsoever. [applause] Blind people must be involved in all aspects of the user experience.
And finally, as weve always done, we must be vigilant about talented people who, out of a genuine desire to make a difference, use their talent to create something they assume blind people need. As Dr Tembroek so brilliantly put it all those years ago, my road to hell is paved with your good intentions. [laughter and applause] This behaviour is a high tech form of colonisation. It is also the high tech equivalent of that person on the street who genuinely wants to be helpful, but without permission, or knowledge of our destination, grabs us and assumes that we need help and that they know where we are going. [applause] Knowing the needs of your market you seek to serve is business 101.
The ideas Ive shared with you today are just a mere snapshot of the important discussions that weve had on Living Blindfully. I hope that you will be a part of this vibrant, stimulating global conversation, as well as continuing to do the work so many of us around the world rely on you to do at the chapter, affiliate, national and international levels through the National Federation of the Blind. [applause] Let us all continue to bake the bread of progress, never forgetting for a moment that we are worthy, together, living blindfully. Thank you so much.
So that’s my address to the NFB Convention for 2023, Together Living Blindfully. And if you are listening to the podcast as a result of that address, perhaps you discovered it, you wanted to check it out, a very warm welcome to you. It was a real pleasure to be a part of that convention.
There are, by the way, examples of doing this right. On the long journey home, I was catching up with a bunch of podcasts, one of which was the June FSCast from Freedom Scientific. Glenn Gordon does a fantastic job of that, and I always enjoy catching up with what Glenn is doing on there. And if you haven’t heard that podcast, I highly recommend listening to it for an example of what works in this area of mainstream companies addressing serious, debilitating bugs that affect us in a timely manner.
If you’re a JAWS user of certain versions of JAWS, anyway, you may have seen this one in its glorious action where Chromium-based browsers were having some issues in certain situations, and Glenn goes into the details. What is instructive about this little commentary, though, is the way that the industry got together and fixed it very rapidly. It was understood that this was quite a serious issue. It was affecting our productivity, our ability to access information, to get things done in our workplace, and all of the players involved rolled out a fix very promptly.
I find that interesting that this all stemmed from something that Microsoft had done in Windows 11, but take a listen because it is an example of where this is possible with a magnitude. The consequences of something like this are recognized and acted upon quickly.
So it’s doable. Let’s ensure that other companies treat us with the respect that we are due as well. It won’t happen unless we make it happen.
Caller: Hey, Jonathan. It’s Dennis Long.
I heard your address today at the NFB convention. I was not there in person, but I did listen to it after, when you published it.
I completely agree with you about the whole tech industry. Google, in particular, discriminates against keyboard users.
For example, they’ve added spell check, but you cannot, First of all, it’s not efficient. There’s no reason it couldn’t be implemented like it is on iOS. But in Google, you have to go to Actions to find the replacement.
However, moreover, for those that need to use a keyboard because they can’t do the touchscreen gestures, you cannot spell check with a keyboard. Also, there is not a comprehensive list of keyboard commands like there is in iOS.
It’s really ridiculous. They could care. They choose not to. And I base that off of inaction. When you constantly submit feedback and nothing gets improved, that tells me through inaction, they don’t care.
So I cannot recommend Android to anybody that needs to use a keyboard. If you need to use a keyboard and you want the best accessibility because it has things like Eloquence, go to iOS.
Google could have done the same thing Apple did. Google could have licensed Eloquence for Android. Google chose not to. Google chooses through its actions not to make things accessible for those that can’t use a touchscreen. It’s Google’s choice.
And it’s time, You know, we all hold Apple to account. It’s time we hold Google to account. If necessary, the NFB needs to get behind it and sue their butts.
But it’s whatever needs to happen. Google needs to be woke up. And if that requires a change of leadership at the top, a change at the accessibility level, whatever it takes to get them to wake up, something needs to happen and we all need to stand united and force this change.
Mike Calvo writes:
Just wanted to drop a line after your truly electrifying talk at the National convention of the NFB today.
Man, you rocked it. Your insights on tech’s role in our lives hit the bullseye, and the equivalency concept was brilliant. I can’t tell you how much this will continue to shape my perspective and will continue influencing our work at Pneuma Solutions.
Your metaphor about baking bread really resonated with me. It painted such a clear image of our shared journey, its ups and downs, and most importantly, its triumphs. It also reminded me why we’re so passionate about what we do here at Pneuma creating accessible cloud technologies.
Your speech stoked the fires of my commitment to live without barriers and champion accessibility even more fervently. I’m ready to shout it from the rooftops, ensuring the conversation about accessibility isn’t just continued, but amplified.
On a personal note, your dedication to this cause has always been a beacon for me. I’ve known you for over 20 years, and your resilience never fails to inspire.
Your speech was another testament to the strength of our community and the strides we can make with unyielding advocacy.
Thank you, my friend, for being such a strong voice in this journey. We at Pneuma Solutions, and I, personally, are grateful for your leadership and are proud to support Living Blindfully.
Congrats on a fantastic speech, and here’s to more victories in our pursuit of a more inclusive world.”
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Time to bring you up to date with Apple Podcast ConnectGate.
You will remember back in episode 236, I introduced you to this problem that I was having, which is that I was unable to change the date for the original publication date of an episode, or for when an episode is to be made public. And you would have heard the back and forth, (much of it frustrating), that I had with Apple up until that time.
I did have a little bit of correspondence with Apple Accessibility so they could confirm or clarify the issues that I was experiencing, and on what device. And while I was at the NFB convention, I got the following email from Apple. It reads:
Thank you for taking the time to carefully construct your feedback and bring this to our attention. Please be assured your voice has been heard.
We want to do better and ensure our tools are accessible for all. I have notified engineering of the issue with the date picker.
While I do not have specifics on when the change will be implemented, I have refunded the podcaster’s program.
And I responded thus from the convention.
“Hi, name redacted,
I appreciate very much the empathy and understanding conveyed in this response. Thank you. Thanks also for processing the refund.
I hope very much this issue will be addressed soon and I am able to monetize my contents like everyone else.”
So a great message from Apple. Some empathy shown at last, and I responded in kind.
But then, things went downhill again. I got another message towards the end of my stay at the NFB convention. It’s extraordinary, and it goes like this. And this one is, by the way, from Apple Accessibility.
We are following up on the unwanted behavior you reported in this thread.
Our teams were unable to reproduce the unwanted behavior using Safari and VoiceOver on Mac OS. Due to this isolation, the root cause must be an issue with a combination of JAWS/NVDA and Microsoft Edge.
We recommend for you to provide this feedback directly to Microsoft for further investigation.
Yes. In other words, “Kicking your can all over the place” [music – excerpt from We Will Rock You by Queen] Well put, Freddie, well put. They’re kicking the can.
We do see this sometimes as blind people, don’t we? It can be very frustrating. You can report a bug to a company, and they’ll say it’s some other company’s fault in the chain of the technology you are using.
And sometimes, this can just delay resolution, it can cause people to give up, it can be very confusing for people who don’t have the tech skills to dissect this further.
Unfortunately for them, they picked the wrong person to try this tactic on. I did a lot of research on this, and here is what I wrote back to Apple Accessibility. I think it speaks for itself.
“Thank you for this reply.
I have spent some considerable time on this issue and report the following findings.
First, regarding the comment that it is possible to access the date picker in Apple Podcast Connect with Safari on Mac OS, I can confirm that it can be made to work.
However, I don’t believe this paints a full picture. When attempting to change the date, either for the original publication of the episode or for when the episode should be available to non-subscribers, VoiceOver on Mac OS detects the field as an edit field. Indeed, the VoiceOver hint says as much. It tells the user that this is an edit field, and to change the value in the field, they should type.
But they cannot. It is not possible to manually edit what is in this field. There is no button visible to VoiceOver that a user should press to open the date picker.
However, by experimenting, I discovered that pressing return while VoiceOver has focus in the field it claims to be an edit field causes the date picker to appear. But unless the user has been told this is what will happen, they may not know it, because the date picker appears some way down the screen and there was no feedback that the date picker has appeared on the screen.
I would not think to press return in an edit field to have a date picker appear which I must then go searching for.
So can it be done? Yes. But this is not the experience Apple should be proud of or consider acceptable. It requires a high level of confidence to experiment and problem-solve.
I’d suggest a more intuitive approach, if the existing date picker is to be kept, would be to have a button beside the field displaying the present date with a clear text label that says open date picker.
Now to return to Windows. I have tested this page with both JAWS and NVDA using the following browsers: Brave browser version 22.214.171.124, Google Chrome version 114.0.5735.199, Microsoft Edge version 114.0.1823.68, and Firefox version 115.0.1. All browsers exhibit identical behavior on the page in question.
It is not surprising that the behavior with Edge, Chrome, and Brave is the same, since they’re all Chromium-based browsers.
However, the fact that the behavior is identical with Firefox is notable, since it’s using a different browser engine.
I tried to press enter from within the edit field containing the date and the page reloaded, suggesting an attempt was being made to submit the form. This, I think, speaks to a difference between precisely what action is performed when enter is pressed in Windows compared to what happens when return is pressed in Mac OS.
In the end, I was able to make the date picker appear in Windows by using mouse emulation keys to place the mouse in the edit field and left click. Again, this is an advanced strategy that sets a much higher bar for blind content creators to be expert technology users compared with their sighted counterparts.
I do not think it is realistic to expect Microsoft or Windows screen reader vendors to change their behavior to compensate for a single poorly designed Apple page when if Apple were following proper practices, the page would be universally accessible.
I visit many sites regularly, where choosing a date does not require an extraordinary level of screen reader proficiency. At the very least, adding a clear button to invoke the date picker really isn’t that difficult. And as Apple likes to tell developers in its own ecosystem, it’s the right thing.
I think Apple has, if nothing else, a moral obligation to walk its own talk here.
Thanks for reading.”
That’s the end of my email.
And I would add, I am really curious to know if they got a blind person to test this. Because you would have to be a super geeky person to think to press return in a field that’s claiming to be an edit field, and then to have something happen in a completely different part of the screen, and to think that that’s okay.
I can’t help wondering whether it was a sighted person that tested this, saw the date picker appear on the screen, found it with VoiceOver because they knew to look for it, and decided that it was okay.
The saga continues.
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Amy’s writing in, and says:
Hope you are doing well.”
I am super well, Amy. Hope you are, too.
She says: “I have been listening to your podcast for a while, and love it!
I was wondering if you, or any of your listeners might be able to offer me some advice.
I’m really passionate about accessibility, and want to try and to pursue a career in this field. I am interested in finding out what it is like working in it as a screen reader user.
Currently, I test websites for screen reader accessibility for a few organizations. I do this just from a user’s perspective, so I don’t need to test from a technical point of view.
I am drawn to the role of accessibility auditor. This could be as it’s most similar to what I do now.
I’m taking online courses with Deque University to help me learn as much as I can about this area. I have noticed that quite a lot of emphasis is on coding in this course, and this could be because some of the courses are aimed at web designers.
Is coding something I should be trying to learn? I have tried to learn it, but just find it really difficult to get my head around.
I would really like to chat with any screen reader users working in accessibility. I’m really keen to try and learn as much about working in this area as I can, and would really value hearing people’s experiences.
Any help is very much appreciated.”
It’s great to get your email, Amy.
Congratulations on wanting to pursue this career, and for the work that you’re doing now because end user testing is so important. Nothing substitutes for actually getting a real-world end user in there and seeing what a website or app is like to use.
I hope that we will hear from people who have some thoughts for you about pursuing a career in this area.
One place you may like to go is the International Association of Accessibility Professionals. Their website is www.AccessibilityAssociation.org, all joined together. www.AccessibilityAssociation.org. There are quite a few resources up there, including certification options. And if you get in touch with them, maybe they have some people they can put in touch with you who are geographically close to you, or who are maybe seeking to do what you are also wanting to do. So check them out.
But also, it would be good to hear from people who are working in this field of, I guess, remediation is what we’re talking about here looking at a website and providing some informed commentary and suggestions about how accessibility can be optimized.
So I hope people will help you out with this, Amy. It could be a very interesting discussion.
Barry’s writing in and says:
You wanted to know if there was a good accessibility primer out there. I might have part of what you’re looking for.
The link I’m including here will take you to a post written by Marco Zehe back in 2015. It’s aimed at web developers. And while it was written back in 2015, I think it holds up very well today.
A lot of people listening to your podcast will know Marco is a smart and thoughtful guy. This post will have been written while he was still working at Mozilla.
Hope it helps.”
Thank you, Barry. I’ll put a link to this in the show notes. But for those who don’t read the show notes, I will do my best to dictate this URL. It’s www.marcozehe.de/the-web-accessibility-basics. That’s M-A-R-C-O-Z-E-H-E dot D-E/the-web-accessibility-basics. And there is a dash between all of those words after the slash. So M-A-R-C-O-Z-E-H-E dot D-E/the-web-accessibility-basics with dashes between all those words.
Rod Carne is contributing on the question of Bose versus Sonos.
My multi-room system is a Bluesound, manufactured by the hi-fi company NAD. When I set out on the multi-room journey, Bluesound was a better quality product than Sonos. Whether that is true today, I really am not sure.
However, although Bluesound does have the facility to use Google Assistant, the Sonos app is by far and away easiest to use and has the ability to stream from a far wider range of radio stations, plus linking to Apple Music.
However, as our house is filled most of the day with one of the various high quality streams available from Radio Paradise, nothing too much else bothers us.
If I was choosing a system today, I would go for Sonos.”
We got to talk more about cooking resources. And this time, you’ll be delighted to know I’m going to spare you my rendition of Hey, Good Looking. [laughs]
Jeanie Willis starts us off. She says:
In response to the person who wrote in last week who was learning to cook.
I love to cook, and we have a blind groups.io list here in New Zealand for cooking. It’s called Out of Sight Cooks. Currently, it is just a bunch of Kiwis and a couple of Aussies, but I’m sure we could make room for a few from further afield if there isn’t a similar group in the US.
We have shared all sorts of tips and tricks and getting jobs done in the kitchen. We share recipes and lots of suggestions of foods we like in the heat and eat category, too, so not all of us are really cooking.
This is where it might come a bit unstuck for those outside New Zealand, as some of that discussion and some of the recipe measurements are a bit different here to the US. But I’m sure I could do some translating as needed.
I’ve seen a lot of books in the ABC library that will be available from NLS also about cooking with low or no vision. I have one sitting here called In Charge of the Mess, but haven’t actually read it yet. But the title sounds like it is on the right track.
I’d also suggest finding a local, well-trusted cookbook author who does everyday food with good descriptions and getting that made accessible as needed. Here, We Swear by Alison Holst and Sophie Gray, and I’m a Jamie Oliver fan.
I have been thinking that if I have the time, I’d love to gather up the recipes shared by our group and make them available as a Braille book.
I’ve also recently built a new house and purpose-designed my kitchen with accessibility in mind. Lots of storage, so I’m never caught out without something I need when I can’t get easily to the shops.
Lots of ways to order all that storage and lots of solutions for labeling have also been hot topics on our list, along with what appliances are accessible.
So my advice would be find a group to share ideas, tips, and recipes with. And if there isn’t another one in the world like us, come join us.”
And if you would like to do exactly that, what you do is send a blank email to OutOfSightCooks, which is all joined together, no dashes or fancy schmancy punctuation, just OutOfSightCooksfirstname.lastname@example.org. That’s the plus sign, of course. OutOfSightCooksemail@example.com.
Meanwhile, Wesley Martin is writing in on this and says:
I’m commenting on the request for recommendations for cookbooks.
While I don’t have any cookbooks in mind, I know that Hadley Vision Resources has many workshops about kitchen and cooking. Their website is at hadley.edu.”
And that is indeed a treasure trove of interesting stuff. So check out hadley.edu for learning all kinds of things.
We’re saying hi to Amanda Hall, who says:
I started listening to your podcast, I think, when we were in lockdown in 2020, and like it a lot.
One of my favorite demos you’ve done is the one of the Be My Eyes virtual volunteer. When you demonstrated it, I could hardly believe the descriptions it was coming up with when you ask it questions, and the amount of detail it gave. I was so excited by it that I signed up for the waiting list for the beta right after I’d listened to it, and will be so excited when I can use it. I can see myself using it a lot to describe photos on Facebook, since I have a lot of sighted people on my Facebook who post a lot of photos.
Since you did that demo, I have also heard other demos and have noticed that the response time on it seems to have got even faster when the people doing the demos were asking it questions. In the meantime, I still don’t have access to the virtual volunteer.”
I’ll just pause the reading for a moment there to say yes, it has become much faster.
And they’ve renamed it. At the National Federation of the Blinds Convention, Mike Buckley, who’s the chief executive of Be My Eyes, got up actually just before I did and talked about Be My Eyes.
There are a couple of interesting things to note, specifically regarding virtual volunteer. It’s now called Be My AI. This is a result of feedback from beta testers who said they weren’t comfortable with the term virtual volunteer. So Be My AI it is.
And it does keep getting more accurate, more descriptive, faster.
While I was at the NFB convention, of course you have that perennial question: Which is the body lotion, which is the shampoo, which is the conditioner? There were 3 bottles that they had in a row at the Hilton, and they’re fixed to the wall. You know, they’re kind of inserted into this contraption.
The first time I jumped in the shower there, I was in a hurry and just used the trial and error method and got my hair washed, that sort of thing. But eventually, I did step back enough to take a picture with all 3 bottles in the view of the picture. And the response it gave was quite remarkable. In fact, I’m going to read that response to you.
This is what the artist formerly known as virtual volunteer said. [laughs] I’m quoting directly from the text now.
“In this picture, there are 3 bottles in a metal holder attached to a wall with light colored tiles with a marbled pattern. The bottles are cylindrical and appear to be made of plastic with metal caps. They are labeled Crabtree & Evelyn. From left to right, the first bottle is labeled Verbena & Lavender Bath Gel, the second bottle is labeled Verbena & Lavender Conditioner, and the third bottle is labeled Verbena & Lavender Shampoo. Each bottle contains 360 milliliters, 12.1 fluid ounces. The holder is attached to the wall and has a metal bar across the top to keep the bottles in place. There is a light source above the holder that is illuminating the bottles and the wall.”
Absolutely stunning stuff just by taking a picture. Not having to ask anybody, not having to wait, just taking that picture and getting that sort of result. That is a phenomenal outcome.
I fully understand the frustration that is building about how long it is taking for virtual, I’m sorry, what is it called? Be My AI to roll out. But there are some edge use cases relating to ethical questions that need to be further resolved. There are also some issues relating to capacity when the whole blind community gets access to this thing. And they continue to refine the user interface, but they are hoping to release it to a wider group later in the year. Mike Buckley also said this at the NFB convention, so I don’t think the wait will be much longer. And I think people will be very impressed when they get this in their hands.
And just while we’re on the subject of Be My Eyes, the other significant announcements that Mike made in that presentation is that they’re going to be introducing a feature that’s quite similar to the Envision Family Circle feature.
There are times where you may not want a stranger to answer a question that you have, or to look in your messy kitchen. [laughs] I think that was one example that Mike gave.
So in those situations, you’ll be able to put together a circle of close friends and family that you can call. So you can narrow your field, as it were, to people that you know and trust.
When you make the call, it’s very similar to what happens when you make a regular Be My Eyes call. All the people in that circle will get the call and have the opportunity to answer it. Whoever picks up first is the one that you talk to.
This is great for those of us who occasionally, hopefully not too much, (I try not to do it too much) ask sighted family members if they can assist with a visual task. If you can add them all to this group, then whoever’s most available at any given time is able to do that. This is a great new feature that Be My Eyes is offering.
“A while back, I heard on Mastodon about a couple of websites which give detailed image descriptions, just like the virtual volunteer does. And you can ask follow-up questions on them, too. From yours and other demos, I think the virtual volunteer is the best one. But these sites do work pretty well. I’ve had some good image descriptions from them, and it’s answered follow-up questions well. They do sometimes say things which aren’t accurate and see things that aren’t actually there. But on the whole, they’re pretty good. Anyway, one of them is called MiniGPT4.”
Amanda has provided a link which is quite long, so I won’t try to read the link. But you could Google for MiniGPT4, and I will try to remember to include the link in the show notes.
“The other one is called LLAVA, which I think it says stands for something like Large Language and Visual Assistant.”
I’ll also try and remember to put a link to that one in the show notes.
“With both of them,” she continues, “there’s a button where you can just browse for a file in the normal way, and then find the photo on your computer. They work on the iPhone, too. And on there, as well as browsing for a photo, you can even just take one.
I also liked your demo of ChatGPT and enjoy using it to look up things. I have the app now, and also another one called Perplexity, which does GPT4 for free.”
I really like, (This is me talking now.), [laughs] I really like Perplexity a lot. I’ve found of all of these things, it gives the most accurate answers. So do grab Perplexity, if you don’t have it already. We’ve talked a lot about this on Mastodon, if you’re there. It is just such a cool app for your iPhone, and it really gives quite remarkable results.
Amanda goes on.
“I like using it on Bing, too. And I really like Bard from Google, too. I often use these methods for looking things up now rather than Googling it, if I just want the information and I’m not bothered about clicking onto loads of websites.
When I first started listening to your podcast, you did a demo of the Brailliant BI20X, and I thought it sounded ideal for me. I wanted a Braille display which had some basic standalone features like note-taking and being able to copy files onto the display from the computer, but wasn’t bothered about a full Braille note-taker. If I want to read things like emails and things on the internet in Braille, I’m happy to just connect the display to my computer or iPhone.
So after listening to the demo, I decided to buy one, and I’m so glad I did because it’s one of the best things I’ve ever bought. As well as doing the usual stuff like using the display with my iPhone and computer, I put my words for choir rehearsals on it.
I really like the case it came with too, and you can put it around your neck. When we’re learning the songs at choir, our choir leader gets us to stand up to sing bits of them. So I can just stick the brilliant Brailliant around my neck, have it hanging down, and easily read the Braille.”
And Braille, in every instance in this email, is spelt with an uppercase B. Warms the heart, doesn’t it?
Amanda says, “It’s actually more comfortable than reading a file of hard-copy Braille words standing up. I’ve had the Brailliant since March 2021, and use it every day.”
Lovely to hear from you, Amanda. Thank you for all of your thoughts, and of course, for listening to Living Blindfully.
Advertisement: Transcripts of Living Blindfully are brought to you by Pneuma Solutions, a global leader in accessible cloud technologies. On the web at PneumaSolutions.com. Thats P-N-E-U-M-A solutions dot com.
Jonathan: This is the first official use of the Zoom M2 MicTrak, and we’re recording at the beginning of our journey in the Koru Lounge, which is the frequent flyer lounge of Air New Zealand. And we’re at the Auckland International Airport. We’ve been travelling for a while.
Bonnie: Yes we have, started at 11 this morning.
Jonathan: Yeah, and it’s about 6 o’clock.
Bonnie: 6 o’clock, so we’ve got another half hour before we head over to the gate to Houston.
Jonathan: It’s a long way from here. It’s about a 20-minute walk.
Jonathan: How’s it been for you so far?
Bonnie: Pretty good, except my watch told me I needed to do more cardio. [laughs]
Jonathan: Maybe you do.
Bonnie: I do. That was very rude of it to tell me that.
Jonathan: The truth hurts.
Bonnie: Yeah. It said you’re a fat slob. You need to work out more.
Jonathan: I’ve never had my watch say that to me. But then, I do get on the treadmill and stuff.
Bonnie: Yeah, and I’ve had it tell me that my exercise goal hadn’t been achieved, but I never had it be so in your face.
Jonathan: There you go.
Bonnie: And I’m walking from the domestic terminal to the international terminal, and it says, “I see you’re doing a workout.”
Bonnie: And it says, “Your cardio fitness is low.”
Jonathan: This is one of the interesting things about the Auckland terminal that they don’t have any kind of proper internal,
Jonathan: Yeah. Like a lot of these airports, you get a train or whatever, or there’s a bus that takes you between the terminals, or you can walk.
Bonnie: Yeah, and we actually outwalked the bus.
Jonathan: Yeah, that was nice. It was a bit windy though, a bit windy.
Jonathan: I’ve done a lot of travel in my time. I used to have the gold elite status, just because of how much travel I did for IT companies I worked for. And I’ve never had this happen to me before.
I was sitting on the Wellington to Auckland flight, just kind of drowsing a bit, actually. I keep my cane under my feet so that if there’s some sort of emergency, I can just get the cane and go. Because even though so many flight attendants say just wait there, if there’s an emergency,
Bonnie: No, I’m not waiting.
Jonathan: I mean, no one’s going to do that. I say to them, “Do you think blind people take longer to burn than everybody else?”
Jonathan: So I always have my cane on standby.
And all of a sudden, just as we were getting ready to land, my cane disappears without any kind of announcement, or anything. It just left. And one of the flight attendants had just taken it upon themselves to take it from me, and I was really freaking out. I mean, that’s just not acceptable.
Bonnie: Yeah, yeah.
Jonathan: But once I got the cane back, I waited until the flight had emptied a bit and had a talk to the chief flight attendant and said, “You know, you can’t do that. It’s like you’re putting a blind person’s life in danger if there’s an emergency.” So that was a bizarre business.
Bonnie: Yeah, yeah. I think the only thing I can think of is we were in the bulkhead. And the only reason I think my cane wasn’t taken is because I put it in the seat pocket.
Jonathan: Did you have it in the seat pocket? But there is no seat pocket.
Bonnie: Yeah, there is, in front of you.
Jonathan: Right, okay. Well, I guess, that’s one place you could put it, I guess.
Bonnie: Yeah, because that’s why they take your backpack and stuff away in bulkhead.
Jonathan: Oh, yeah. I understand why they put the backpack up.
Bonnie: Yeah, and they think the cane is a projectile.
Jonathan: And even before we’ve visited the exhibit hall, we are overweight with our baggage because we’re taking quite a bit.
Jonathan: They were very good, and they didn’t charge us, probably because you know, we’ve got the frequent flyer thing, so that was kind of them.
Bonnie: But they probably won’t be on the return flight.
Jonathan: They may not be. So if we get stuff from the exhibit hall, we may need another bag and another air tag, or something like that.
Jonathan: So that was interesting.
Bonnie: At least, there’s an Apple store, I’m sure, in Houston.
Jonathan: Yeah, we can probably get them delivered from Amazon, or any number of things like that.
Bonnie: Probably Instacart.
Jonathan: They’ve really been looking after us here in the frequent flyer lounge.
Bonnie: Yeah, it’s been really nice.
Jonathan: We’re sitting here with a 3-course meal, actually.
Bonnie: Yeah, pretty much, waiting to get dessert. Starting to get real busy.
Jonathan: Yeah. I don’t normally eat dessert, but what you gonna do? What you gonna do?
Bonnie: Yeah. We had cheese.
Jonathan: Yeah. So we are going to be boarding the plane shortly. Looking forward to getting there and meeting everybody.
What are you most looking forward to?
Bonnie: Probably the exhibit hall. I really enjoy the, I mean, I really enjoy the exhibit hall
Bonnie: and seeing people.
Jonathan: Yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and things.
Bonnie: Yeah, seeing old friends.
Jonathan: Resolutions for me, and the business of the convention.
Bonnie: Yeah, I think tomorrow, I mean, Saturday’s a pretty full day, I think.
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah.
Bonnie: Got a lot of the employment stuff I’m really interested in learning about, and I’m gonna go to the rehab professionals conference, rehab professional meeting on Monday.
Jonathan: There’s certainly no shortage of interesting things to go to.
Bonnie: No. A lot of the tech showcase, the tech thing on Sunday night. So there’s also that.
Jonathan: I think that’s Saturday night, actually.
Bonnie: Saturday night, that’s right, because Saturday’s really busy.
Jonathan: That’s one of the things that I really like, because it’s kind of like the exhibit hall comes to you. And if you go to that technology showcase at the beginning, you hear about things that you might wanna then follow up at the exhibit hall, so it’s quite a good strategy.
Jonathan: Alright. well, we’ll put this away, and get ready to eat our dessert, which I shouldn’t eat. [laughs] But this is the first of many recordings from the convention.
Jonathan: Better check if it worked.
Jonathan: Our little NFB Journal continues now.
Having left you at the International Terminal in Auckland, we’re now in Texas, in Houston. Welcome, Bonnie!
Bonnie: Good morning! Or evening, whatever it is.
Jonathan: Yes, it’s evening on the Friday. This has been a long Friday, hasn’t it?
Bonnie: A very long Friday. [laughs] It lasted 48 hours.
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. [laughs] So we had a good flight.
Bonnie: We did. We did have a really good flight. We were in premium economy, so it was very nice. We had a bigger seat, blanket, you could stretch out a bit. So it was very nice.
Jonathan: I hasten to add that the only reason why we did that is because when we booked the travel, there was some weird special on where actually booking premium economy was cheaper than booking economy. So that was a very fortuitous moment.
Bonnie: Very fortuitous moment.
Jonathan: Yeah. And you get to really recline the seats in both directions.
Bonnie: Yeah, it was really good.
Jonathan: So it’s not a full bed or anything, but it’s quite pleasant. You stole my pillow.
Bonnie: Well, because you said you didn’t like the travel pillow. So I was trying to make a nest, and I took the pillow.
Bonnie: But you discovered where you could rest your head, which I didn’t know about.
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah.
Bonnie: I was just curled up in the seat.
Jonathan: The seats kind of have these little ears on them that can pull out.
Bonnie: Yeah, I didn’t know that.
Jonathan: Well, there you go, you see.
Bonnie: I was out cold.
Jonathan: Even the economy seats have those.
Bonnie: Oh, do they?
Bonnie: I didn’t know that.
Jonathan: [laughs] Yeah. We had great service on the plane.
Jonathan: I had salmon for my meal.
Bonnie: I had beef.
Jonathan: Yeah. And then for breakfast, we had like a scrambled eggs thing.
Bonnie: Scrambled eggs, and bacon, and yogurt, and a fruit cup, and a muffin, or a croissant, actually.
Jonathan: Yeah. We did have Wi-Fi of sorts, but it was pretty patchy, actually.
Bonnie: Yeah, it was really bad.
Jonathan: Yeah, pretty patchy. They used to charge for it. Now, they don’t, because they know they really can’t, on good conscience, charge for it.
Bonnie: Yeah. But it was a good flight. There was some turbulence, which I don’t like.
Jonathan: I love that turbulence.
Bonnie: But yeah, it was a good flight.
Jonathan: Yeah, left late.
Bonnie: Yeah, because there was something with, They were having problems with one of the cargo. with some of the cargo wanting to load. And I’m like, do I even want to know what that means? What are they putting in down there? Elephants or something? [laughs]
Jonathan: Well, when we left, we were concerned that we were carrying a bit too much baggage. And as it turned out, we were. So we did offload some stuff. I took one suit out, and different things like that.
Jonathan: And it turned out we were still 3 kilos over.
But when I was looking at the consequences of this, what actually would happen if we had too much baggage, they said if you have between 23, which is the max, and 32 kilograms, then you can pay excess baggage.
Jonathan: But if you have over 32 kilograms, you have to check it in as cargo.
Bonnie: [laughs] Well, maybe somebody had baggage that was over 32 kilograms.
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah.
Bonnie: Because they were talking about cargo, luggage, and freights. I’m not sure what the heck was on that plane.
Jonathan: Right, right. Cargo luggage is really heavy stuff that people bring.
Bonnie: Yeah. Man, somebody must have bought a, I know a lot of people bring equipment, like diving equipment if they’re going somewhere. Stuff. I don’t know what was being loaded, but it took them forever.
Bonnie: And even when we were sitting on the runway, they were still working it out. So I don’t know what was going on down there.
Jonathan: It took a long time to take off, yeah. So we were about an hour late, I think, finally.
Bonnie: Yeah, but not too bad coming, I mean, we caught up a little bit.
Jonathan: Yes, you often see that.
Bonnie: Because we had a tailwind.
Jonathan: And then we got to Houston, and my goodness! When you step off that plane into this heat that we have, even after 5 PM Central, which it was when we landed, it was 36 degrees Celsius, feels like 41. It was just extraordinary. It just hit you when you got off the plane.
Bonnie: Yeah. It was humid.
Jonathan: And I’ve been talking to some Americans since we’ve been here from other states, and they’ve been saying, “Look, even compared to where we’ve come from, this is just a different kind of heat.”
Bonnie: Yeah, it’s really, they’re on a heat wave, and not particularly good air quality right now.
Jonathan: Right. We had somebody who was supposedly assisting us with our bag, and we had some difficulty getting that located. But thanks to the air tag, I was able to be absolutely certain.
Bonnie: Like yeah, it’s here.
Jonathan: It’s right here, it’s right with us.
Bonnie: It’s on the carousel. It’s right where it should be.
Jonathan: Yeah. Those air tags are so handy for that sort of thing.
Bonnie: They are wonderful.
Jonathan: And then, we had quite a wait, about half an hour’s wait outside in this 36 degree heat.
Bonnie: To get in the cab.
Jonathan: Yeah, just trying to find a cab, ooh!
Bonnie: That was terrible.
Jonathan: I was going to get an Uber, but the guy said Uber was in another terminal. Do you think that’s right?
Bonnie: Who knows? That guy was a bit,
Bonnie: he kept asking me, was I, Every time I’d move, he kept asking me, was I okay? And I just wanted to yell out, no, I’m not okay. I’ve been on a 15-hour flight. I’m tired. I want a bath. I’m hungry. [coughs]
Jonathan: Ooh, see, look what you’ve done to yourself.
Bonnie: I know.
Jonathan: Getting yourself all worked up.
Bonnie: I got choked on the pear this morning.
Jonathan: Yeah. Oh dear, that’s no good.
So we got here though, and you made a really cool observation. And I know that I think about this as well.
When you get to an NFB convention and you go into the lobby of the hotel and you just hear all these blind people tapping around with their canes, it’s a wonderful phenomenon.
Bonnie: It is, it is.
Jonathan: It just makes you feel so good. Like, okay, we’re in charge of this place. [laughs] That’s really good.
So we all checked in, caught up with some friends and have had a really good night.
Bonnie: Had some dinner, had a Dr. Pepper.
Jonathan: Yup. And that’s the end of, well, not even day 1, it’s kind of day 0, isn’t it?
Bonnie: Day 0.
Jonathan: First day is tomorrow, and we’re looking forward to catching up with people, recording some more interviews, and getting the lay of the land.
Bonnie: Yeah, that’ll be fun.
Jonathan: It should be good fun.
Bonnie: Yeah, cool.
Jonathan: Right, we need to get some shut-eye because we have been up for a very long time.
Bonnie: Yeah, we do.
Jonathan: Due to busyness and various other factors, we didn’t do a little sort of audio diary for Saturday at NFB. So this covers the 2 days because it’s the end of Sunday. It’s the 2nd of July and therefore, the end of the second day of the convention.
Bonnie: Second day of the conference.
Jonathan: Yes. How’s it going, Bonnie?
Bonnie: Good. Very busy.
Jonathan: Yes, there’s so much to do and so many people who want to see us.
Bonnie: There’s so much to do, to see us, and I still need to go to the exhibit hall.
Jonathan: Yeah, we haven’t even been there yet.
Bonnie: Well, it’s only the first day. So I guess we can’t. We have to go tomorrow.
Jonathan: Alright then, if you say so.
Bonnie: Oh, I can go by myself.
Jonathan: No, we’ll go, we’ll go. I want to be the monitor of what might happen, you know.
Bonnie: Okay. One might buy things.
Bonnie: Like chocolate covered cherries from the Washington Booth,
Jonathan: Terrible, terrible.
Bonnie: and whatever else they’re selling.
Jonathan: On Saturday, we started off nice and early with the breakfast. And of course, we did record with Jack and Marianne, so that’s good.
And then, we went to the employment committee meeting. What did you get from that? Because there was a lot of interesting discussion.
Bonnie: It was very good. I mean, a lot of it, you go and it kind of affirms what you believe already, [laughs] which is always nice to have backup for your own thoughts.
I hate that on the same page business. It sounds so stupid.
But a lot of it, I mean, the thing that is a thread running through a lot of these is technology, and how important technology is.
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah.
Bonnie: And to be successful, And I liked, There was something that they brought out yesterday that I don’t think we thought about a lot in journalism school. What is your brand? And I think as a blind seeker, you have to have your brand, too.
Jonathan: Your personal brand.
Bonnie: Your personal brand.
Bonnie: Your personal brand, yeah, and with the elevator pitch or whatever. And I thought it was really good. What did you think?
Jonathan: I agree.
Bonnie: I like a lot of the things they’re looking at. I’d like to get involved in the subcommittees and stuff.
Jonathan: Yeah, they’ve decided that the work is so significant that they want to divide the employment committee into subcommittees. They’re going to have webinars on a range of things. So it sounds like they’re really committed.
And also, Dan Fry talked about the career quest program that the NFB is working on. Dan working with the NFB once again in that employment capacity.
And I think you’re right. We know that we face all sorts of barriers in terms of attitudinal barriers. And yet, the technology has changed.
Jonathan: Admittedly, we do have a lot of proprietary things that can get in the way that need scripting more.
Bonnie: Yes, and they did bring that up at one of these.
Jonathan: Yeah, and that’s absolutely valid.
But the thing is, a lot more offices are paperless. Many offices are using Microsoft Office, or 365 as they call it now. And yet, we’re still not breaking through the way you’d think we could and should. So we’ve got to focus on what’s within our control, as well as changing those attitudes.
Bonnie: Yeah, because not everything is in, There’s some things you can’t control.
Bonnie: And that’s annoying.
Jonathan: But there are many people who, you know, don’t punctuate, don’t spell when it’s easy to put things through spell checkers, perhaps haven’t got a grasp on formatting issues, what it actually takes to present a really nice-looking document. And all that adds up. Those are things that are under our control to fix.
Bonnie: Yes. And I think a lot of times, I see people, and granted, there is an unemployment, underemployment problem. But there are also, and I’m probably gonna get pinged for this, but there are a lot of blind people, probably disabled, maybe people in general, maybe it’s not just a blindness thing, who have kind of an attitude, and they’re not gonna get a job because of that attitude. You know, they want to start out at the top. A lot of people, and that’s probably with any job seeker. They want to start out at CEO. Well, they’re not going to at 18, 19.
Jonathan: You wouldn’t want to be anyway.
Jonathan: I must say, I wish I had been a CEO when I was 18 because I knew everything then.
Bonnie: Yeah, but you don’t. You think you know everything when you’re young. And you don’t, you know. And there’s sometimes you have to, I don’t want to work for, you know, Joe Smith because, well, I don’t want to work for Joe Smith. But maybe that’s the only job out there. And that doesn’t mean you have to work for Joe Smith for the next 50. I really feel sorry for people named John Smith, and Joe, and little Susie. But you know, you have to start somewhere.
Bonnie: You have to start somewhere. And it may not be where you want to start, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay there.
Jonathan: Right, right.
Bonnie: And a lot of people are so picky about what they want to do.
Jonathan: What else did we do?
Bonnie: We had the visitors from Orbit.
Jonathan: Yeah, and we’ve done quite a bit of recording with them.
What do you make of the Optima?
Bonnie: I think it’s very interesting. I’d like to play with it before I committed to buying it.
Bonnie: But it’s a very interesting device, you know.
Bonnie: And I was thinking when we had to take out all the stuff from my backpack. It’s like, it would be nice to have an Optima. [laughs]
Jonathan: Yeah, instead of having a display and a laptop.
Bonnie: Mantis and the laptop.
Bonnie: I would have to play with it.
Bonnie: I’d really want to spend some time with it before I committed.
Jonathan: Yep, fair enough. It’s a big investment. Yeah.
We also went to the technology showcase, which is, it’s cool because the Exhibit Hall comes to you, essentially. What things stood out for you from that?
Bonnie: There were a few people I would like to connect with. AccessDesk is one of them, which is the new kind of, They do accessibility audits on websites and places.
I wasn’t 100% sure. I think I’m right with this. I think it’s just blindness-specific.
and there are other agencies who do it across the board, but I think it would be good to have one that’s just blindness-specific because I know of other agencies who, they’re not quite experienced with the blindness aspect of it, and that can be a challenge because they’ve seen, they’ve done things, and then you see that maybe they should have been a little more careful.
It depends on who was actually doing the auditing. And I think you have to have different kinds of people do auditing. Because there are your geeky types. But then, there are people who are not very tech savvy. So you have to have a range of people looking at it from different
Jonathan: So any other tech stuff or anything like that that interested you?
Bonnie: Cyber.org was interesting. They’re training for cyber security.
There was an education one, I can’t remember what they were called, that do educational videos that are audio-described for curriculum.
And of course, the Mississippi Research and Training Center is always really good. They’re not necessarily technology, but they do a lot with employment transition, with their new transition app, which I’ve seen and is very, very good, and would be good to try.
My purpose in being here is to take back information to the agency that I work for as we build our employment and youth transition program. And of course here, you have the gold star of what that means. And just taking some of those things back that we can incorporate into our program. It was good sitting in the employment committee yesterday because I saw that we were doing some of that with the webinars, which we’ve started.
Jonathan: Yeah, so that’s encouraging. It’s validating.
Bonnie: Yeah, it’s validating.
Jonathan: As well as giving you ideas, you’re validated.
Bonnie: It’s giving you an idea and you’re validating that you’re on the right track.
Jonathan: Yeah. Right, right. There were a lot of the technologies we were familiar with, obviously. Freedom, Humanware, and Way Around were there.
They made an interesting comment about cattle in Way around.
Bonnie: [laughs] That was fun. This rancher puts Way tags on his cattle so he can recognize,
Bonnie: And I think that’s a new way of branding. And I had this picture in my head of the Bonanza, and Little Joe riding out and doing a QR code on the cattles. You know what I’m saying? [laughs] I’m like, they don’t have to brand anymore. They just put Way tags on the cattle. [laughs]
Jonathan: And for those who haven’t heard it on Mosen at Large as it was then, Way Around is really quite cool technology. It’s NFC-based, and there are a range of tags you can buy.
Jonathan: And we use it for clothing, predominantly.
Bonnie: Yeah, yeah. And you can put it on public places. You can have Way Around tags.
Bonnie: Do they have any in the hotel?
Jonathan: Not that I’m aware of.
Jonathan: One thing we should say is what they do have in the hotel is the GoodMap indoor technology.
Jonathan: I think they’ve mapped the exhibit hall, which we haven’t been to yet.
Bonnie: Yeah, that would be good.
Jonathan: But they have mapped the ground floor. And it was amazing because yesterday, it was very very crowded. I often find it difficult to navigate in those crowded situations because it’s just a wall of noise for me as a hearing aid wearer, and I think for anybody actually.
Bonnie: It’s a wall of noise for anyone.
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. And I brought out the GoodMaps in the indoor mapping technology and was able to navigate without any fuss at all to the restaurant to get some food, and that’s pretty impressive because this whole indoor mapping technology has been the holy grail for ages.
Bonnie: Yeah. That’s really good because tomorrow, I want to, (You don’t want to hear this while you’re doing your interviews.), I want to hit the gift shop.
Bonnie: And the Starbucks.
Jonathan: And we’re going to have to get another bag.
Bonnie: We’re not going to get that much. If I buy anything, it’s probably going to be earrings.
Jonathan: We’re overweight as it is.
Bonnie: I know. We’re very overweight. [laughs] I mean, the bag.
Jonathan: [laughs] The bag, I mean.
Bonnie: I’m overweight after eating dinner.
But I do want to get a tote bag that I can take to the exhibit hall to put my stuff in. So surely, they should have some little cheapy tote. They probably have them in the exhibit hall for sale.
Jonathan: You better navigate to that with the GoodMaps thing.
Bonnie: Maybe I’ll find a toy for Eclipse. Jonathan: Oh, there you go.
I should say for those interested in the whole technology, as many of our listeners are, I had a fascinating meltdown. People will remember in the last show of last year, I talked about this issue that I encountered with ThinkPads, which apparently is quite common for the 9th generation, which was that one of the USB ports dies and won’t charge anymore.
And it wasn’t quite the same issue that happened to me yesterday afternoon. I powered up the ThinkPad because I thought I fully charged it back in New Zealand, and I’ll be able to just do a quick bit of work.
When I checked the battery status with JAWS key shift and B, it said 63%, which was immediately worrying because I had 100% on it when I left. And then it said plugged in charging and it wasn’t, it was on battery. And I thought, oh, this is a bit ominous.
So I got the charger out and plugged it into the USB, and it then said 61% plugged in, charging. So the battery was going down. I thought, here we go again.
I tried the other USB port. That didn’t help.
I called the Lenovo guy and he said most of the time, this issue is fixed by a hard reset of the device, which doesn’t lose any data. But there’s a tiny tiny little switch that you have to press on the underside of the ThinkPad. And I thought I’d found it, but I hadn’t. What I was looking at was a screw, and that’s why I couldn’t work out why there was no give on this thing.
And Venkatesh came to do his chat for the podcast, and he showed me this tiny tiny little place that I think unless you knew to search for it, you wouldn’t have found it.
I put a little SIM ejector tool in there that you use for taking out SIM cards, micro SIMs, nano SIMs, and held it in for a minute like the technician suggested, and voila! It fixed it. I was very lucky because I didn’t want to have a Lenovo guy coming to the convention and holding us up.
So, phew! Phew! That’s what we say.
Bonnie: That was a lucky, lucky dodge.
Jonathan: Well yes, it was a lucky dodge, yeah.
And what else have we been doing? We went to the Microsoft presentation. What did you get from that?
Bonnie: They talked a lot about their, They had their 4 pillars of whatever they called it, and a lot of it about what’s new in Narrator and the Braille things.
Bonnie: But it was good.
Jonathan: So then, we went to resolutions. I always like going to the resolutions committee because it’s really the business of the convention.
Jonathan: And the committee looks at the resolutions that have been put to us. It casts a vote. Those resolutions that are adopted by the committee then get debated by the entire convention later in the week.
And all 16 of them actually made it through this year. So they’ll all be debated by the convention later in the week.
Yeah, so that’s what we’ve been up to. It’s been very busy.
Bonnie: Very busy.
Jonathan: Yeah yeah yeah.
Now you’ve turned around again. Sorry, I’ll just lower the mic. I have to keep moving the mic to find you.
Bonnie: It’s tickling me because it’s furry.
Bonnie: Yeah. We went to dinner tonight at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, so it was really nice.
Jonathan: We did. It was fun. It was good.
Bonnie: Yeah, it was nice, yeah.
Jonathan: Ruth’s Chris is one of my happy places. It’s what you call stakeholder engagement. [laughs]
Yeah. So we’ve caught up with a lot of people along the way as well.
Bonnie: Still catching up with people.
Jonathan: Yeah, it’s been really really good.
Bonnie: Yeah. It’s hard to catch up with everybody, but hoping to see some folks in the exhibit hall.
I want to pay a visit to The Seeing Eye booth, of course. They don’t have a lot of folks here. They have a few Chelsea and one of the trainers, I think. But it’d be good to catch up with them since the Eclipse. I’m hoping to find a dog to pet. [laughs] I haven’t really petted a dog yet. I’ve had a couple nudge me.
Jonathan: You shouldn’t be petting them.
Bonnie: I know.
Jonathan: I had a dog in the elevator that was wagging its tail at me, but I did not.
Jonathan: We’ve also obtained the assistive listening device. They’re trying a new type of assistive listening device this year. And in my experience at the Resolutions Committee, it’s working really well. It’s a completely clean, lovely zero-latency signal, plenty of gain on it. And it just has a 3.5 headphone jack so they supply it with headphones, but I just plug my hearing aid cable into it. And it has a micro USB port so you can charge it every night, and they provide the cable for you to do that. So it’s all self-contained.
Jonathan: It’s good. And I mean, you could potentially, I suppose, just use your iPhone and call into the Zoom, but there’ll be a little bit of latency if you did that. With this, there’s zero latency.
Bonnie: Yeah. And Eclipse is doing well. We heard from her yesterday. It’s been rainy and cold in Wellington, but she’s enjoying.
Jonathan: Anything but here. [laughs]
Bonnie: [laughs] Yeah. She’s been enjoying her walks. And when there’s sun, she sits in the sun with the other dog. And there’s a basket full of toys that they like to play with. So hopefully, she’ll wanna come home. [laughs]
Jonathan: Yeah, well, I’d say she’s enjoying her little resort.
Bonnie: I think she is. Hopefully, she’ll wanna come home. [laughs]
Jonathan: Hopefully, we will have time to update this tomorrow.
Jonathan: Thanks to the magic of time travel, it’s now Tuesday afternoon.
So we didn’t record anything on Monday evening either because there’s just so much going on at NFB 2023.
Jonathan: How’s it all been going, Bonnie?
Bonnie: Good, good.
Jonathan: In a way, it feels like time’s going slowly, only because we haven’t slept much.
Bonnie: No, we haven’t.
Jonathan: There’s so much going on. So that’s good, in a way.
Bonnie: It is good, but I would like to get about 9 hours of sleep.
Oh, the thing is tickling my face.
Jonathan: Oh, I’m sorry about that.
Jonathan: This is the Zoom M2 with the Zoom Furry Windscreen.
Bonnie: Yes. Scared somebody yesterday.
Jonathan: Yeah, well, I carry it around in my pocket, just in case I find anybody interesting to talk to, you see. It’s so handy. And you get the good-quality 32-bit float recording.
Bonnie: They wanted to know what the furry thing was in your pocket.
Bonnie: You told them it was a ferret-y ferret.
Jonathan: Yes, we have had some really interesting times since we last checked in. It was Sunday night that we checked in.
Jonathan: So we’ve been to the exhibit hall a couple of times. And one of the things that was really cool about that was the GoodMaps app.
It’s not perfect. It’s kind of flaky sometimes. Sometimes it can take a while to acquire the signal. And then, I have seen a couple of times where you’re walking along as instructed. And suddenly, it just says recalculating route.
Bonnie: Well, GPS does that too.
Jonathan: It goes into hyperspace.
But most of the time, it’s great. So Bonnie was able to say the names of specific companies she was interested in seeing and we’d type that into the GoodMaps app, and it would direct us there.
And I’ve had some questions on Mastodon talking about this, about the technology that I’m using. And I’m not strictly sure what it is, but they do have to come in and map it. I mean, it’s not based on GPS or anything, so they have to set up each venue that they’re using this with.
Bonnie: Yeah, because the indoors can change very quickly.
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. But it’s good that they’ve got the position of all the exhibits.
Bonnie: Yeah, it’s really good.
Jonathan: Yeah. And there are specific elevators that you have to use for specific things.
Bonnie: Yeah, west and east wing.
Jonathan: Yeah, east and west. And you can get it to direct you, say, to the west elevator.
So we came out of exhibit. So the reason why we have time to record this at the moment, Actually, we popped in to exhibits between the two general sessions. And we were able to get stuff done quickly because we could go right to the booths that we wanted.
Bonnie: Yeah, and a lot of the exhibitors are gone now. Or some of them.
Jonathan: Yeah, that’s a shame. I mean, it’s only Tuesday.
Bonnie: No, but a lot of them.
It’s like the Seeing Eye told me yesterday. They don’t get a lot of visitors on some of the days when there’s only a couple hours.
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. What happens here is that when general session is on, basically everything else is not on.
Jonathan: It’s an incentive to get to general session. That is the reason people come here, mainly to attend the convention. It’s the business of the organization.
Bonnie: When is the next time you can go to the exhibit hall? Is it tomorrow?
Jonathan: Tonight, 7 till 9.
Bonnie: Okay. And then it’s done?
Jonathan: I think there might be another one at 12 till 2 tomorrow. I may be wrong about that. I have to check the app.
There is the NFB app here, which is an interesting hybrid. You can check the agenda. You can also connect with people you want to be connected with. You can list yourself in the directory, and that’s been quite useful.
I need to check it again, because actually, what happens is you do get announcements pushed to you.
Jonathan: For example, when general session is starting or the board meeting is starting, but you don’t get pushes when somebody’s messaging you. So I do have to check that, just in case.
Bonnie: Is this going to be in Orlando next year?
Jonathan: Yes, yes. That’s been announced at the board meeting yesterday.
Bonnie: And they’re talking about it in general sessions today, too.
Jonathan: Right, okay. Yeah. So 2024 is going to be the year of Orlando.
Bonnie: Back to Orlando.
Jonathan: Go to Disney World.
Bonnie: Exactly. A lot of people do.
Bonnie: Universal Studios, that sort of thing.
We’ve seen some interesting technology since we last checked in that we’ll have a lot more to say about on various interviews on the show.
Bonnie: Yes, a lot of things.
Jonathan: But what did you think of The Monarch, which of course, is being pushed pretty heavily?
Bonnie: I liked it. It’s very interesting. I mean, it’s an expensive little dude.
Jonathan: It is, between 15 and $20,000.
Bonnie: Yeah, but I liked it. It was really cool being able to kind of read it like a Kindle, you know, because it was like 38, how many cells? How many lines?
Jonathan: So you’ve got 32 cells across, and 10 lines.
Bonnie: 10 lines, yeah. Yeah, so that was really cool.
Bonnie: I wanted to see a graphic on it, but we didn’t really have time to see the graphics.
Jonathan: Right. We had the Alice in Wonderland book in EBRF. And William and Greg from APH have been on Living Blindfully before, talking about this new EBRF format.
And it was very effective because when we saw this, for example, they had page 1 of a particular chapter up on the display. So the chapter was all centered, and you could actually really, it was like reading a page of Braille.
Bonnie: Yeah, so it was like, it felt good. It was a nice feeling to it.
And there’s a membrane over it that if you did accidentally happen to spill something on it, you could wipe it up. Because they had spilled Coke on it, intentionally when they were testing it, and were able to wipe it off.
Jonathan: Imagine, for testing purposes, being allowed to spill Coke on a $15,000 device. [laughs]
Bonnie: Yeah, exactly. [laughs[
Jonathan: Yeah, so that was good.
We have also seen the Activator, and that is very interesting. I’m looking forward to playing the Activator piece.
Bonnie: Yeah, that would be good.
Jonathan: That is the new HelpTech product. And basically, to give you a quick synopsis, you have a standard Perkins-style 8-key keyboard with a space bar and things. But then the keyboard flips backwards, a bit like a tablet, like one of those Lenovo Yogas, or some of those things. Then, you get a QWERTY keyboard.
Then, it has the HelpTech cells with that technology that means that when you get to the end of the line, it is actually sensing where you’re reading and it scrolls to the next line by itself. That is a very slick feature.
And there are other things as well that recommend this display to people. And we will cover that when we talk to Damien and to Ziggy himself from HelpTech.
We’ve also been socializing. It was nice to catch up with Mike May.
Bonnie: Yeah, and Mika Pyyhkala and Therese Gorine.
Jonathan: And Therese Gorine.
And we’ve also caught up with magical Matt Campbell from Pneuma Solutions, and chewed the fat, and put the technology world to right again, just like we put it to right with Curtis Strong the other day.
And it was amazing to meet up with Lynette Friesen, who we’ve actually had on this podcast before. I’ve been in touch with Lynette on social media for yonks. So it was like meeting a celebrity for me. So that was exciting. And she’s still doing work with Fable. Although moving away from the Pathways area, which we talked to her about on the podcast, and now doing some things with accessibility testing. So it was great to talk to her.
Because we’ve been in general session and about to go down as we record this little sort of bit of the audio journal for the one that I always look forward to because it’s the presidential report.
Bonnie: Yeah, and they had a really nice tribute to veterans this morning.
Jonathan Yeah, that’s quite typical for the first session, isn’t it, of the convention?
Bonnie: Yeah, that was on the 4th of July. So that was really nice.
We’re going out to dinner again tonight.
Bonnie: Oh, we did see something that I thought was interesting. Most people would think it’s kind of boring a CVS vending machine.
Jonathan: [laughs] You were infatuated with the CVS vending machine.
Bonnie: It was cool.
Jonathan: It was in the Sky Bridge, between the two hotels as we walked over to the Marriott.
Bonnie: Well, Mika had had to get toothpaste out of it, so
Jonathan: And it had a Braille thing, a Braille sign on it that said if you need assistance, call this number.
Bonnie: [laughs] Which we don’t know if they could take over the machine.
Jonathan: Yeah, that’s what Mika wanted to know. He said, “I wonder if I call this number, can they take over the machine remotely?”
Bonnie: [laughs] We should have called it.
Jonathan: [laughs] Yeah, yeah. So how did he get things out of the machine? Was it accessible? Do you know?
Bonnie: I don’t know. He had already done it. So I think Therese may have been with him or someone, I don’t know. who knows?
Jonathan: So yeah, CVS vending machine.
Bonnie: They didn’t have shower caps, which is what we were looking for. And they didn’t have Q-tips either, which is also what we’re looking for. So at some point, we’ll need to go to the gift shop and see if they have some of those.
Jonathan: Yup. The other thing that’s really cool is just the NFC technology in the hotel where you can unlock your room with your room key and do those sorts of cool things. I dig that, I dig that. Yeah.
So we’re having a great time. It’s been so nice. And we kind of run into people, you know, when we’re on the way somewhere.
Bonnie: Oh yeah, we’re walking around.
Jonathan: We’re caught up with Dave Williams, for example. He’s here from the UK, and he’s doing well, his gregarious self. So it was good to catch up with Dave.
And we’ve run into some people from Aira and Freedom.
Jonathan: And yeah, it’s interesting, the number of organizations I’ve worked with that are here exhibiting, that stop and say,
Bonnie: Crystal Vision.
Jonathan: Yes yes yes yes, Crystal Vision. They’re an interesting company because they have been distributors of a range of technology products for a while. And it’s good that they’ve been able to keep their vendorships because so often, you kind of get whatever the vendor thinks, well, whatever the vendor’s entitled to sell, you know?
And you see this with tech training as well where in the old days, you used to get, oh well, this is a JAWS shop, and this is a Window Eyes shop. And sometimes, entire states in the United States were like that.
Jonathan: They sort of went for one screen reader or the other. And it was never really about what particular technology can suit a user’s use case. It wasn’t about that.
So Crystal Vision has always been good like that.
So yeah, alright. Well, we will head down to general session, and maybe update this audio thing. I have been up at quite early hours while Bonnie’s asleep, just tweaking my speech for Thursday.
Jonathan: I wrote it weeks ago, but I keep just making little minor adjustments. It’s kind of like, you know, when you have something that you shouldn’t be scratching, but you are, you know what I mean? [laughs]
Bonnie: Yeah, I’m picking at it.
Jonathan: I should stop tweaking it by now. But I do feel like every time I tweak it, there’s just ever so tiny little improvements.
Jonathan: It is amazing how much there is to do at these conventions. And that means that the next and possibly probably final little chapter in our audio journal is coming to you from the gate for our plane back to Auckland at George Bush (named after George Bush), the first intercontinental airport.
And here’s Bonnie Mosen. Welcome back.
Jonathan: We’ve been pretty busy since Tuesday afternoon.
Bonnie: Yeah, we have.
Jonathan: We went out to a gorgeous restaurant on Tuesday night with Patty and Francisco Chang. yeah, it was so much fun. And Patty’s a legend. I mean, it was like being out with a celebrity because I’ve been reading Patty’s articles in the Braille Monitor and hearing about Patty for a long time, so you know, I mean we’re allowed to go squee, aren’t we? You’re allowed to squee when you meet someone like that. [laughs]
Bonnie: Yeah. like because everywhere we went, hey, Patty.
Jonathan: [laughs] Yeah, so that was a lot of fun, and it was great to spend time with them both.
And Francisco might be listening because apparently, he’s a Living Blindfully fan.
Bonnie: Yeah, he is.
Jonathan: Yeah, so good on you. Yeah, good on you.
and since Tuesday, the general sessions have been on and that, in a way, does simplify things because when you get that early stage of the week, there are so many options because you’ve got all sorts of very interesting divisional meetings, committees, that sort of thing. But when general session’s on, that is what’s on. You know, there’s nothing else on.
What did you enjoy from the general sessions?
Bonnie: Pretty much I liked your speech the best.
Jonathan: Thank you!
Bonnie: And it was good to hear from all the other ones, you know, about the different things that are going on in the Federation. You know, the museum, and the different tech companies, and Uber, I take whatever they say with a grain of salt.
Bonnie: Guide Dogs, I mean, you know.
Jonathan: There was some controversial things, I have to say.
I just love being up there. I know that some people really fear public speaking, and they reckon that public speaking is one of the most feared things. I just love getting up there and doing that. And the crowd was so supportive.
Jonathan: oh well, and it was nothing to be sneezed at, either. so I enjoyed that very much. And I said to Mark Riccobono when I was up there, “What music have you got for me?” And he said, “You have to wait and see.” So I was completely surprised when they played Revolution by The Beatles. What an inspired choice!
Jonathan: I wonder who picked that.
Bonnie: I don’t know.
Jonathan: [laughs] I mean you couldn’t pick a better song to bring me up to. It was just fantastic.
Bonnie: When I was sitting at the stage, I was sitting with Neil Lewis.
Jonathan: And what was that like being on the platform?
Bonnie: it was, I mean, I kept thinking do people see me on YouTube? [laughs]
Bonnie: I felt like kind of when the president’s up there making a speech, some of the journalists are sitting behind them. So that was cool.
We it had Mike Buckley, and Neil Lewis.
Jonathan: Yeah. Mike and Curtis Chong and of course, Shir Ekerling who was up from AccessiBe. Brave of him, one would say, to attend, so good on him for attending.
Jonathan: And it was good. We hung out with Mike for breakfast that morning as well, when we found out about how Be My Eyes was going. They’re doing some very good stuff.
Jonathan: And for those who didn’t hear, Be My Eyes is introducing a new circle that you can add, It sounds quite similar to the one that Envision does, actually, where you can add what they call allies. In this case, you can add friends and family.
Jonathan: And then, you can call them. And I believe it works, whichever one of them picks up first is the one who takes the call. So they all get notified that you want some assistance. And I guess, whoever is freest to provide it can do it. so it’s great that they’re doing that. And really enjoyed it.
We’ve recorded some more interviews since we last checked in which of course, will get played on the podcast. We redid the interview with Lionel Wolberger from UserWay, and that will appear on and pretty much it will dominate a whole episode because it was a long interview, and probably better the second time around.
Jonathan: And we also had a look at Farmer Noah, didn’t we? We caught up with Mark and Melissa Riccobono.
And of course, we had the banquet on Friday night which was great.
Bonnie: Thursday night.
Jonathan: It was a bit of a difficult environment for me to function in, with all that noise.
Bonnie: It was a difficult environment for everybody to function in because we were texting. We were sitting at the Amazon table, and everybody was texting each other.
Jonathan: Oh. Is that what they were doing?
Bonnie: They were doing that, yeah.
Jonathan: Yeah. Well, the other thing is, too, that I had the assistive listening device so I was trying to hear what was going on at the podium, or the head table in that case, and it was really hard for me to participate in the conversation which is a bit of a shame because I mean, there were some very interesting people at the table, but it’s just how it is.
Bonnie: But they were having trouble, too. Yeah. One of them moved over to talk to me so we kept moving around the table.
Jonathan: Right. [laughs] Yeah. But it was a great night, and the presentations were interesting.
Ray Kurzweil always has interesting things to say, doesn’t he?
Bonnie: He does, yeah.
Jonathan: But it’s been so good to catch up with people, to bump into people in elevators, to just say hi, wander around the exhibit hall.
Bonnie: Yeah. I didn’t buy a lot. I just bought 2 cups, 2 tumblers, a tote bag, some earrings, and a little backpack from the state of Georgia. That was all. No, I didn’t buy earrings. I bought 2 bracelets.
Jonathan: Right, okay. We have come home with an Orbit Writer
Jonathan: I really like the Orbit Writer. For me, it just makes sense.
Bonnie: I tried to come home with an Orbit Writer, but I couldn’t.
Jonathan: Yeah, We’ve got one now.
Bonnie: I know, but I don’t have one. [laughs]
Jonathan: Well, I’m sorry. I’ll buy you another one.
What I like about the Orbit writer, personally, as somebody who has brailled with a Perkins all my life, is just that it’s got that Perkins layout.
Bonnie: Yeah, it’s small.
Jonathan: And I find that quite intuitive. yeah, it’s a lovely device. So we’ve got an Orbit Writer.
I don’t think there were any, and you don’t think we missed them, do you? I don’t think there were any NFB banquet mugs. Maybe they’ve stopped doing them now.
Bonnie: They must have, because I think they would have had them on our table, and I think somebody would have said something, I would hope. Because I sort of poked around the table and didn’t see anything.
Jonathan: Oh, so you did go groping for them?
Bonnie: I did, yeah. but I wanted my Houston mug.
Jonathan: Yeah. Maybe it’s a cost-cutting thing.
Jonathan: Because I remember in previous conventions, you’d go home with your mug. And you’d have a cup of coffee in the morning, and you’d remember the convention.
Bonnie: Just think if they’ve been doing this for like since the 40s, how many There might be Someone out there that has a mug from every convention.
Jonathan: yeah. I’ll tell you what was interesting.
Bonnie: Next time I blow through Houston, I’ll just pick up a Houston mug.
Jonathan: [laughs] Yeah. Didn’t bring back a hat. All my colleagues at work expect me to bring back some sort of big tick.
Bonnie: Oh. We’ll tell that story, then. Because they were giving away door prizes which none of us won. But the big door prize last night was this huge cowboy hat with money in it from the Texas affiliate.
Jonathan: It was $2023.
Bonnie: $2023. And I’m thinking we’re gonna win that because we’ll have to get that big hat home.
Bonnie: But we didn’t win it.
Jonathan: But I said to
Bonnie: Several people were called, and don’t you know they’re miserable today? [laugh]
Jonathan: Yeah. [laugh] I said to the people on Mastodon, it is a shame in some ways not to have won a door prize. But then, you kind of think, how would you have carried a door all the way back to New Zealand if you’d have won one?
Bonnie: I did buy a hat. I bought a hat from the parents division.
Bonnie: It’s a little teal, like, baseball cap, and it has a patch on it that says dog mom.
Jonathan: Yeah. Oh, that’s cool.
And speaking of that, we were just in the line for the bar and grill, and we met the president of the parents division, ended up having lunch with her.
Bonnie: Yes, Carla Kern. She’s a doctor.
Jonathan: Yeah, so it was really good to catch up and find out I think that parents division is so critical, that relationship.
Bonnie: They are a force to be reckoned with.
Jonathan: And good for them. It’s so important for adults who are raising blind kids to be connected with competent blind adults who understand blindness and what they’re capable of because unfortunately, it’s way too easy to be exposed to professionals who have all sorts of negative ideology about blindness.
Bonnie: Yes. They have that Parents of Visually Impaired conference in New Zealand every year. It’d be really good to have Carla, even if it was on Zoom, speak to them, or somebody.
Jonathan: It would be good.
Bonnie: She would be good.
Bonnie: She’s really on to it.
Jonathan: Yeah, it would be wonderful.
I made the point that we have sat in various states where you have lived. We were kind of adopted by various states at the general session. and yesterday I said that we were in Tennessee for the last general session where you and Kenneth Jernigan had grown up, but not at the same time.
Bonnie: Yeah, yeah. And they get jealous of each other because Tennessee found out I sat with Massachusetts, and they were miffed. So you know, you have to be like the president going around. You have to visit all the little countries to keep them happy.
Jonathan: It’s nice to be in demand.
Bonnie: It is, yeah. We sat with South Dakota.
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. When I finished my presentation, we got down off the platform. We just sort of landed in South Dakota.
Bonnie: Yeah, quite many folks there.
Jonathan: It was nice.
Bonnie: And we sat with Maine. They were the biggest one in the pack plan. But then someone said there’s like no one in Maine. [laughs]
Jonathan: That was good. It was good.
Bonnie: Pack mule and the pack rat, and the pack of derm.
Jonathan: And we also did not get charged as we checked in here today for excess baggage now, so that’s good.
Bonnie: A lucky day.
Jonathan: So I also tooted a little limerick to Mastodon. I shall tell you it now.
Thank you for not charging me
the exorbitant excess bag fee.
The bags overweight,
which I know isn’t great
but we’re coming home from NFB.
Bonnie: Yeah. And there’s a Tumi store over here. Anyone that knows Tumi, they’re luggage, bags, and stuff. So we were looking for our gate and accidentally wandered into Tumi, and I saw this incredible backpack, which of course I don’t need, but it was nice so I looked at it.
Jonathan: You bought another backpack while you were here, didn’t you?
Bonnie: It’s not really a backpack. It’s what they call a string bag.
Bonnie: It’s a real small nylon thing. You can curl it out. You know, you can smoosh it up, and it just carries a few things like groceries and stuff.
Bonnie: But anyway, my next point about the Tumi backpack, because I looked at it.
And then, there was these tester bottles. I guess Tumi sells fragrances. And so I sprayed it on me, and I think it was a men’s cologne because it’s pretty pretty strong. [laughs] Tumi for men.
Jonathan: Another thing that we had cause to check out, which it would be good if we hadn’t, but it’s interesting in a way because we do not, to the best of our knowledge, have anything like this in New Zealand, is the accessible COVID test.
Jonathan: Because there was a potential that we had been exposed to the Rona. And I took a test to check, and it came back negative.
But NFB was giving away, to anyone who wanted and needed them, these accessible COVID tests.
Jonathan: And the way this works, for those not familiar outside of the US because I think it’s a pretty well-established thing here now, is that you get this little Bluetooth device. It automatically pairs with your phone once you download the appropriate app which luckily, was in the New Zealand store. I was worried that it might not be.
And then, once it’s paired, you pour the stuff into the replicator, you do the swab, and then you pull the stuff from the replicator into the machine, into the Bluetooth machine.
Jonathan: Yeah. I’m sure I’m using the right terminology. Into the thingamabob.
And then, you just put it by the phone, and it counts down with the timer, and then it sends you your results, and you can email the results.
Bonnie: And you were negative.
Jonathan: Yeah, it’s quite cool.
Bonnie: Yeah. And speaking of activators, we ate alligator the other night.
Jonathan: We did, yes. It was deep-fried, or something, which wasn’t exactly keto.
Bonnie: I nibbled at it. I couldn’t eat it.
Bonnie: It sort of tasted like rubbery chicken.
Jonathan: Right. Nothing to write home about, really, but you know, the experience of trying it.
Bonnie: Throwing some alligator.
Jonathan: And because we did not brave getting an instacart order or anything like that, I have to say it has been a week I have not had a single drop of kombucha in Texas.
Bonnie: And we’ve also got cursed by the sparkling water, because they were bringing us sparkling water that had to have a bottle opener.
Bonnie: And they kept not giving us a bottle opener, and then they gave us a corkscrew.
Bonnie: So finally, on the last day, we were able to open one of the bottles.
Jonathan: Yeah, we got a bottle opener on the last day. That’ll teach me. I think I need to put a bottle opener on my key ring.
Bonnie: Yeah. So we’ll have one the next time we come to Texas. [laughs]
Jonathan: We don’t often get bottles that require a bottle opener in New Zealand.
Bonnie: Well even if you do, some of the Karma drinks, that if you get the glass Karma drinks, but you can actually open them because some bottles that have a bottle top, you can open it.
Bonnie: This one, no way.
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. Well, so we weren’t equipped.
But overall though, the service was fantastic.
Bonnie: It was really good. They were really good. I mean, they had a lot to deal with.
Jonathan: Yeah. They were nice people.
Bonnie: And somebody told me that Are you there? Oh, I think it was Carla that was saying that they tell the hotels every year that will use their restaurants that they’ll need extra staff.
Bonnie: And they don’t believe them. [laughs]
Jonathan: We have really enjoyed it very much. And I thank the NFB for inviting us.
Bonnie: Yeah, it was wonderful. We’ll definitely be back.
Jonathan: Yeah we will, we will.
Alright. Well, thank you for taking me through this amazing journey.
Bonnie: Okay. Bye!
Jonathan: Okay. Happy travels to us!
Bonnie: Yeah. We have a bed on this flight, so that’s good.
Jonathan: Yeah. I hope this is all it’s cut out because you’ve been going on about this.
Bonnie: I got it when I came home with Eclipse.
Jonathan: Well, it’s a post script. We are now back in the studio so this sounds more normal. And bonnie wanted to record a little post script to our travel log to summarize the journey home.
Bonnie: Yeah, it’s always good to have that final chapter, that epilogue to the story.
Jonathan: Okay then.
Jonathan: It was pretty good, wasn’t it?
Bonnie: It was good. It’s cold here now because coming from being over 100 degrees fahrenheit to being in the 40s is a bit of a biological shock. [laughs]
Jonathan: Yeah. i’m tired now because all the adrenaline’s just gone. And i have really crashed, now that we’re back.
Jonathan: But also, one thing i noticed i’d sort of forgotten about really is if you turn the cold water tap on in houston, like in the basin, to wash your hands or something like that, you don’t get cold water. It was so hot out there now.
Jonathan: The cold water here is just freezing.
Bonnie: Freezing cold.
And we have eclipse back.
Bonnie: Eclipse came back about [10:30], 11 o’clock this morning.
Jonathan: She’s pleased to be back.
Bonnie: Yeah. She said that when they pulled in the driveway, she was wagging her tail. And she came in, jumped on me, and then ran up the stairs.
Jonathan: Yeah, and she ran out to see me. I was on the phone. She’s pleased to be back.
Bonnie: Got her toy on the way.
Jonathan: I suppose that we should review the Sky Couch, because you talk the Sky Couch up so much, mate.
Bonnie: Yeah. The Sky Couch is great, if it’s just you.
Jonathan: How much do you pay for it? Is it $700, or something?
Jonathan: We paid for that. That was a thing that we decided to pay.
Jonathan: Once the airfare was bought and everything, we went in, and we paid that extra premium to get the Sky Couch, so we could get some sleep.
So what they do is you get the whole row to yourself in economy, and they seem to have some special buttons on the seat and everything. They put the back of the chair down, all 3 chairs in the line, and then there’s quite a nice foot rest.
Bonnie: There are foot rests they put up. [coughs]
Jonathan: Yeah, they go out. So you’ve got quite a bit of room, but not a lot when you’re two people. And after a bit of trial and error, we found that the only thing we could really do is lie on your side between us, to make it comfortable enough to try and get some sleep. i did actually get some sleep on the Sky Couch.
Bonnie: Yeah. I did, too.
Jonathan: But also, it’s very fortunate that we are very short because
Bonnie: Oh, yeah. That’s one of the criticisms. If you’re real tall, it’s not going to work.
Jonathan: If you’re 6 foot flat or whatever, you’re going to be crumpled in half, pretty much, aren’t you?
Jonathan: Because even for me, it was easy to potentially get my feet sticking out into the aisle and annoy people when they’re coming through, or be knocked by them. So yeah. I think if i had to choose, I’d pick premium economy.
Jonathan: I think the seats are better, and the food.
Bonnie: Unless it was just me. Because when it was just me, it was fine.
Jonathan: Okay. Well, i won’t go with you next time. [laughs] you go to NFB by yourself.
Bonnie: Or each of us get our own Sky Couch. But the people in front of us, it was a mother and 2 children. They had a Sky Couch.
Jonathan: Right. Man, i can’t imagine. 2 children and a mum. I suppose you could bundle up, but wow!
Bonnie: Yeah. And i think the father was in a different seat. A lot of families use the Sky Couch.
Jonathan: Yeah. And the school holidays, is it just wrapping up now, I think, or is it another week?
Bonnie: I think they’ve got another week, too. But there are a lot of Americans coming over to New Zealand.
Jonathan: That’s good. I mean, tourism is a big part of our economy, so to see it active again is encouraging.
We also had an amazing run through the Auckland airport.
Bonnie: Yeah, there was no one there. Because we got in at like [4:30] this morning, and that’s before a lot of the international flights come in. They usually get in around seven, I guess.
Bonnie: So we’re really lucky that
Jonathan: Yes, we got in early. Lots of turbulence, which i like. Plenty of turbulence in the Pacific.
And we just rushed through. I mean, we were off the plane quite quickly. And then, we went through the immigration effortlessly enough, and they let me back in, which is always nice. Get you back in, too. [laughs]
Jonathan: And the bag was right there. I mean, I didn’t have time to get the find my app out to make sure that the bag was on the carousel because it was found anyway.
But I was trying to use (because this came up on Mastodon) and I was going to, I made a bit more effort. Sometime in the night on that 14-hour flight, I decided I would try opening some GPS-type tools to see what it could see. Where were we? What were we flying over? And I really couldn’t get a lot. It might just have been when I tried it, but I opened Find My app at one point, and couldn’t really find anything couldn’t find where everybody was back home. So I don’t know whether the location services were blocked on their pretty basic wi-fi they have in Air New Zealand.
They do have a capture on it, by the way. But they do have an audio capture that sort of sounds like the guy that, for those who do audiology in New Zealand anyway or Britain, there’s a guy with a very formal, clear voice that they have on these hearing tests where they make you repeat the words back. It sounded exactly like him. The capture was very clear, but if you are deaf-blind, you need help, you know, deaf-blind to the extent that you can’t use the audio capture. I was able to get on, but it was a bit flaky. I was able to do quite a bit of Mastodon, that kind of stuff.
So i was on the wi-fi, and loaded Find My. When we landed, I got this push notification that said jonathan’s bag, suitcase, has been left behind. Last seen near Pacific Ocean. And I thought, oh man! they’ve jettisoned my bag over the Pacific.
Bonnie: That’s what the turbulence did. But the funny thing was a lot of the, I guess I was coming to Wellington on the Houston flight. And so the flight attendant said that most of the plane that was coming to Wellington was off that houston long haul, and everyone was asleep. [laughs]
Jonathan: Yeah. Well at that point in the journey, you’re just, it’s so easy to just nod right back off again. And that’s exactly what we did.
But great to get home.
We moved through so quickly through these formalities that when we got to the transfer desc where they transfer your bag from the international to the domestic terminal so you don’t have to take it all the way over, I said to Bonnie, “Let’s find out if they can get us on an earlier flight.” And she was skeptical, but yep, sure enough, we were just so early.
Bonnie: We were so early that we did, so that was good.
Jonathan: Yes. We got home an hour earlier than we had intended, which is always nice.
Bonnie: So I hope everybody else that’s coming back from nfb has gotten home safely. I know that some people are still there.
Jonathan: Yeah. It does speak to the randomness of air travel though, and people have been commenting on Mastodon about just how in 2023, you never know what you’re going to get. And i have seen a couple of horror stories about their travel back home.
And we really did not get very good service at Houston Airport itself.
Bonnie: We got the same Meet and Assist we got last week. And he was just, There wasn’t a language barrier. Either someone that doesn’t really like his job, or something.
Jonathan: Yeah, it was very very frustrating.
Bonnie: Very frustrating. And we were trying to go to either the Centurion lounge or the Koru lounge, which is Polaris here. And he said they were about a half hour walk away. So i’m not sure if that was true or not, but we, you know.
Bonnie: We got on the plane.
Jonathan: It’s nice to be back, and I have spent most of my time since being back sleeping soundly.
Bonnie: I’ve been doing laundry.
Jonathan: Oh, good for you. You’ll be in the zone. You’ll be in the zone.
I haven’t had any Kombucha while in Texas, so that was one of the first things i did. It’s good to have the Kombucha back.
So that’s our little travel log.
Jonathan: Yeah. Thanks to everybody for listening. And now, it’s back to the day-to-day.
Bonnie: Yeah. Bye!
We’ve got more interviews from nfb coming up, as I say, in subsequent weeks. But right now, we will wrap. Thank you so much for listening to the show this week!
Remember that when youre out there working your guide dog, youve harnessed success. And with your cane, youre able.
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