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Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen. This is Mosen At Large, the show that’s got the blind community talking. Today, Paul Gibson, the Commissioner of New Zealand’s Royal Commission into Abuse in Care, tells me about the Commission’s work, how blind New Zealanders can participate and why it’s important. Blindisms, tech news, and more.

Voiceover: Mosen At Large Podcast.

Jonathan: It’s a pleasure to have you back for episode 146 of the podcast. Regular listeners to it will know that we do support chapter marks in the podcast. If you are new to the podcast, let me explain that. It means that on many smartphone podcast apps, all the good ones, in fact, you are able to skip between sections of the podcast very much like you would in a DAISY book.

If by chance, there is one particular subject that doesn’t interest you, you can easily skip to the next one. Unfortunately, devices like Victor Reader stream don’t support chapter markers yet. Fellow human ware, it’d be a wonderful thing if you could support chapter markers on the stream because we do get a lot of blind people listening on the stream. I know they would appreciate the ability to skip around podcasts like they do in a DAISY book.

My favorite podcast app for iOS is Castro by a long way. Every so often something happens with Castro as will be the case with any app. I try something else and I am reminded every time I do that, why I like Castro so much. You can hear about Castro extensively in episode 18. All the way back in episode 18 of the podcast. There have been many accessibility improvements and feature changes since that episode was recorded.

One of the really cool things about Castro in the context of podcast chapters is that you can bring up a list of them and you hear the title of each chapter, and you can de-select the sections that you are not interested in. Rather than sitting there and thinking, “Oh, I’m getting bored with this section, I’m going to skip it,” you can actually look at the titles of the chapters ahead of time, deselect those topics that are of no interest to you, and then settle back and Castro will just seamlessly skip those parts of the podcast that you’re not interested in. It’s a wonderful app and I can’t recommend it enough.

We’ve got some pretty heavy topics to talk about today but important topics, including abuse at schools for the blind. I do want to signal that for some people who have experienced that this may be a difficult episode. It may be a triggering episode, but if you are in New Zealand, hopefully, you will take some solace from the facts that your voice can be heard on these issues, when really there has been not many ways to have your voice heard on these topics for a long time. At least in this country. We have a global audience and so I know that this may stimulate some wider discussion as well. That’s coming up a bit later.

First, we are heading towards the end of beta, or if you’re in America, beta season at the moment because new versions of iOS, macOS, tvOS, watchOS, and indeed Windows are imminent. Microsoft has announced that Windows 11 is going to be released on the 5th of October. Now, when Microsoft talks about a release that’s not the same as Apple talking about a release. When Apple gives you a release date, you know that you’ll get it on that day, you can download it.

There used to be a time when servers at Apple would get a bit slammed and it might take some time and it was slow. Those days are largely behind us. Downloads of new Apple builds are pretty good now. Microsoft on the other hand, staggers their releases because there’s such a wider range of hardware that they don’t have any control of. They’re a bit more conservative. They look at data and decide when they are going to release windows 11 to certain people or certain devices.

Now, there is an updated PC health check that you can get from Microsoft that will tell you about compatibility for Windows 11 as that 5th of October release date draws near. I actually think that iOS 15 is in reasonably good shape right now. One big bug that continues that has been there since iOS 14, is with the Braille screen input. Interestingly, it occurs for me in all apps, other than the mail app. In the mail app, it’s working fine.

That bug is that when you have keyboard echoes set to character and words, Braille screen input now echoes the space character when you flick right. It may sound trivial, but waiting for your voice to say space, every time really slows you down. I do wish that Apple would fix that, but they have steadily fixed a number of issues relating to new features. It looks to me now like the focus mode, which I really enjoy using is in good shape from the perspective of voiceover users.

How’s it going for you? Are you testing Windows 11? Are you testing some of these new Apple things? Are you optimistic about how your new software is looking if you are doing any testing? We also have new hardware coming from Apple soon, a new Apple watch, a new iPhone. Some very interesting rumors starting to come now about the iPhone, suggesting that there may be some satellite compatibility with the new iPhone.

Mark Gurman from Bloomberg, who’s a pretty reliable source is pegging it back a little bit and saying, “Well, that satellite functionality is only going to be for emergency calls and texts. We’ll see how that goes. There’s nothing so far in the new iPhone leaks that compel me to buy one. I know people will say, “Yes, yes, you’ve said that before.” We’ll just see what we get in the big Apple announcement, which is imminent, I would say. When they do that, we will have a special edition of Mosen At Large recapping those new announcements from a blindness perspective.

I want to go back to a topic that we covered extensively in episode 143 of the podcast relating to CSAM, that’s Child Sexual Abuse Material and the way that Apple was seeking to clamp down on it. Apple has made an announcement today, actually, as I put this podcast together.

They say this, “Last month we announced plans for features intended to help protect children from predators who use communication tools to recruit and exploit them and limit the spread of child sexual abuse material. Based on feedback from customers, advocacy groups, researchers, and others. We have decided to take additional time over the coming months to collect input and make improvements before releasing these critical, important child safety features.”

That’s from Apple, no word yet on what they intend to do to fix any issues that privacy advocates have identified and no word on when they intend coming back with more information on any updates to these tools. What we do know from that announcement from Apple is that these features are not going to be in the initial launch of IOS 15.

Disabled people are the beneficiaries of compassion and commitment for many dedicated professionals and helpers. Sadly, where there are potentially vulnerable people, there is also the potential for abuse. Presently, a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care is sitting and is keen to hear from blind people and for that matter, anyone in the disability community who may wish to share their experiences. The Commissioner is Paul Gibson and he joins me now. Paul, thanks for being on the show today.

Paul Gibson: Thank you, Jonathan, for inviting me.

Jonathan: You’re blind yourself and using assistive technology. That’s been a bit of a journey for you.

Paul: It has. I’m blind with some useful peripheral vision. I began using useful adaptive technology after a period when I wasn’t doing much reading or accessing any material at all. Later in my journey because of my connection with other blind people I did learn Braille and that has been useful for me in my career.

Jonathan: I’ve known you for a long time since we were both much younger and trying to make the world a better place. Hopefully, we’re still trying to do that. [chuckles] You’ve taken an active role in your community, going all the way back to student politics. What drives that? What drives your desire to be involved and make a difference in that way?

Paul: A range of things. What I’ve observed over my own life about the barriers I’ve faced and the barriers I’ve seen other people face, other disabled people, came more to a head when I tried to access tertiary education for the second time round. There were too many barriers there for me to succeed until there were more supports in place. There was more, I suppose, acknowledgement from myself that I had a disability and there were issues to address.

At the same time, I think I was observing what happened to a range of other people in care related settings. When I was five like many partially blind people at the time, there was the offer of Homai on the table and my parents were keen to send me to a local school. I’ve heard stories from people that went to places like that, but a range of other disabilities settings, Kimberly, some other special schools. These were places that were supposed to care for people, but they didn’t always.

Jonathan: Yet there is a cultural aspect of being in those places too, isn’t there? I often wondered when we were younger and I would see people like you, who particularly at that time were in the half way, blind, halfway, low vision space. Perhaps, it’s really difficult I think for people in their position to know precisely where they fit. That school for the blind culture can create quite a bit of a clique that is hard to transcend. Do you think that’s the case? That sometimes it’s hard for people who were in the position that you were in to fit in?

Paul: I think, yes, it’s true. Also, it can be very welcoming at times and very educational. We carry our own, I suppose, personal baggage, personal ideas, of what we have disability or blindness as solely a deficit and don’t always see the strengths, the opportunities it creates. I think that the connection with a broader range of people have experienced a broader range of a life of experience of it, educations can give you a different perspective on yourself and your journey.

Jonathan. You have done so many interesting roles in your career. You have been President of DPA, our Pan-Disability Organization, you’ve worked as a Consultant in the sector, and among other things, you were the Disability Rights Commissioner for a while. If you compare us in New Zealand, with Australia, and Britain, and the United States, Canada, those countries with which we like to compare ourselves often, how do you think we stack up in terms of being an inclusive society where disabled people can thrive and achieve?

Paul: I think we generate way more than other countries on a per population basis. People who are genuine global leaders and innovators and can articulate their journey, what is disability rights, what works for us, more than most and then that’s really something to be celebrated. But also, we can be, as a nation, good at developing strategies but not actually implementing. We do leave people behind more often, I think than other countries who have the same degree of thinking around strategy.

We do not recognize always the impact of the disabling world that we live in and how New Zealand as a nation can make a change, make a difference in people’s lives. That’s part of the story of abuse in care. So much has gone on out of sight, out of mind for the disability community. Here, I’m talking about not just the extreme abuse, which often we see in the media that has come out of the inquiry, but the range of neglect that impacts on disabled people’s lives.

That does mean that many of us haven’t had the same opportunity to have a good life that others have. The inquiry wants to unearth those at the serious end of abuse, but also how various harms impact on peoples’ lives. Whether it’s leaving home at age five to go to a residential school, whether it’s the denial of what it takes for you to learn and to read the books, theBraille, the access to alternative technologies. These things are important in terms of what we might consider being neglect.

But the most important voices to bring those forward are the people affected themselves, the survivors of abuse and neglect, the people that have been through the various care systems, by which I include education disability support services, mental health services, and how people were treated in faith-based institutions, churches, as well as part of our inquiry. We want to hear and learn more about neglect and abuse so that it can’t happen again in the future, so that the next generation of disabled people can have better lives.

Jonathan. Your comment on the fact that we are overachievers on a global scale is interesting. I think, in New Zealand culture, we tend to, unless we are dealing with sports people, not to celebrate our achievers. It’s that culture in New Zealand of the Tall Poppy Syndrome. I could talk philosophy like that for a while but let’s talk about the Commission. The Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care is sitting. Now, you’re its commissioner. What’s the significance of the term Royal Commission?

Paul: It’s a form of inquiry which is reserved for the most significant of issues that need to be resolved that has come to the attention of the government. There are a range of ways the government can deal with issues and this is probably the highest form and intended to be the most independent. But there has been a role by government in the harm that has happened to people in care and there’s is a need for an independent look at it.

There are constraints around that independence, but there’s mana in the Royal Commission. The recommendations which we make do carry some weight. So while, like many people there’s a reasonable cynicism that we tell our story many times, but not enough happens as a result of it, I think there is more opportunity that what gets shared to this inquiry, to this Royal Commission , will have some impact.

Jonathan. Why was the Commission established? What was the groundswell of people that led to that?

Paul: I think over the years various people who have gone through state care, both social welfare care, foster homes, residential facilities, people in mental health facilities, Lake Alice, Porerua Hospital, a range of others. People in psychopedic institutions, Kimberly, Templeton, places like that, these stories were often buried, but many of them were coming to the fore. They were seeking redress rehabilitation, some kind of restoration for what had happened to them.

But also, the emerging picture that it had not all finished, so much happened out of sight, out of mind in the past may still be happening, perhaps not the same extent, but we were still hearing instances of it. And it was happening to individuals, but there was also a picture of systemic failure behind it, something which is not just the fault of individual perpetrators, but there are problems in the system, failures in the system, perhaps not the right people making the right decision with the right lived experience at the right time.

And there is a recognition of the scale of the problem. Myself as Disability Rights Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission, identified abuse in care as the biggest humans right issues that we were facing in New Zealand, especially, for disabled people who have more of a necessary association with care and care systems, both residential and in the community.

Jonathan. Can we explore the institutions that you had to receive services from or in some way been associated with in order for the Commission to have jurisdiction?

Paul: First, there’s a contact center and I think, Johnathan, you’ll make known the contact number and the email address for people who wish to use it at the end.

Jonathan. Yes.

Paul: If you went to any school in New Zealand, particularly, as a blind person, whether it was Homai, whether you were there as a day student or residential, if you use any mental health services and you found those to be abusive or neglectful, any disability support services whether they’re blindness-related or otherwise, they’re all within the scope. It could be sexual abuse, physical abuse, but it can be neglect whether it’s educational neglect that your educational needs weren’t met.

Spiritual or cultural neglect, your needs as a Māori were not met within a particular service. Whether, for example, you needed access to a shower, you needed support or some building modifications to get that, and you’re put on a waiting lists and your hygiene needs were neglected, these are all part of the inquiry with which somebody could come forward.

We’ve got a limited time frame and there’s an opportunity to speak one-on-one with commissioners, with counseling and support available, and people facilitating. We do that for as many people as can and want to do that, but we are prioritizing disable people in general. And especially if your abuse was of an intimate nature, we try and make it work for you, with a more confidential session.

Maybe there is something else which works for blind people or the blind community as a whole that might meet with experts with groups of people to understand how did neglect in education occur, how we make progress on these issues. We’re open to suggestions. We can’t commit to do exactly everything, but we do want hear in a way which meets the needs of various communities, what they experienced and what are the solutions.

Jonathan. There will be people, obviously, with different opinions about this, but I suppose there will be some listeners who are saying, “Look, how do you differentiate between legitimate abuse that should be recognized, acknowledged,” and shall we say, the grievance industry?” It could be argued that if somebody didn’t have their recreational needs met, that is incredibly unfortunate, but does that actually constitutive abuse?

Paul: We need to hear, I think from the person themselves. Did it result in harm. What was the harm? I think that is the main metric if you like, but we’re open to hearing otherwise, recognizing that the perception about grievances, I think it can be overstated. Historically, people who had harm occur to them or abuse, were not believed to the extent that when we look back and reflect now and we see a broader range of evidence, that people who should have been believed weren’t. People who experienced harm didn’t have that harm recognized.

Also we haven’t tried to undo as much as possible whatever the harm was, provide counseling, rehabilitation, whatever was appropriate in the circumstances. Give an apology, both to an individual who experienced some harm, but also what other systemic problems or systemic abuse. When should an institution itself recognize that it has been systemically abusive and give an apology collectively to a group of people who have experienced abuse or neglect in its care.

Jonathan: There will be some people and I count myself in this situation and by way of background, many listening to this will be aware that a couple of years ago there was a nine part audio series produced on my life story. I talked about some of the abuse that I experienced at Homai, the school for the blind and I’ve also talked to the media about that in other contexts.

There will be some people who feel like they have personally come to terms with what happened to them, either through their own independent counseling process or perhaps doing things like writing a letter to your younger self, various strategies like that. Is there value in those people coming forward do you think if they are now at a place where they feel some peace? Is it still important for their stories to be on the record?

Paul: First, can I acknowledge your courage, Jonathan, in coming forward and sharing that publicly and acknowledging all survivors who do that. It does take courage to come forward in a confidential situation. It takes courage to come forward publicly. The value I think from the feedback we get from most people who come forward it has been cathartic in itself that it has made a difference to share and to be part of a process which makes a difference for people in the future.

I know as part of your story of coming forward, there was more instances of what appear on the surface to be abuse and neglect in education for blind people at the time in the early 2000s still. And I think the reason why people who even feel that this is something they have put behind, they have dealt with, there’s nothing further, the contribution which you could make to helping prevent further abuse and neglect in the future is something to be really valued.

I think we can be a bit naïve to think everything was in the past. We’re in a much better space now, but we do see all of the time instances of abuse and neglect in a range of care settings and we do hope people with some expertise in what has happened to them, what lessons they’ve learned can help build that picture of what needs to happen in the future.

Jonathan: I did not appreciate that Homai was a valid place for this inquiry until quite recently and, when I decided to come forward and be a part of the process, what was interesting for me was that the team there, who are very sensitive and we can talk a bit about this process, but they called me something that I have never been called before, and that was a survivor.

I guess it was an interesting experience for me to be called that because it validated in a way what I had been through in a very different way. That was quite empowering to know that I did get through that and I did actually survive it and came out okay in the end. Just the use of that term by somebody acknowledging the inappropriate conduct was really helpful.

Paul: That’s great to hear and it’s hard to get language right. We don’t want to trigger or re-traumatize anybody in any way. We want to enable, empower, enhance people’s mana as they come forward and recognizing that some people may not like the exact words we use. Most people do not want to be seen as a victim, most people want to be seen as a survivor, even if it’s not a word that they use themselves.

Jonathan: Some of the coverage of the hearings has been really harrowing that’s made it into the media. I mean, I just listen to that coverage and cry sometimes, it’s very, very tough and so some people may think about things that happened to them and think, “Gosh, this just doesn’t reach the threshold that the Commission should be worried about.” What do you say to those people?

Paul: What will always make the media is the more sensational, but we need to change. For us, there’s not that degree of threshold. If you were harmed or experienced harm, we want you to come forward and it will make a difference, perhaps that degree of extreme abuse which you heard from the past media is not happening now. If you bring forward a story of neglect, you’re very likely to be influencing change for people younger than yourself who are experiencing something similar in today’s system. We really value particularly stories which will make a difference for people in the future.

Blind people will always need education. We will always need mental health care, support, other forms of disability support and we always need to be learning from our lived experience. Nothing about us without us, and here’s another opportunity to come forward and assert the wisdom which you might not appreciate as wisdom, you have gained through your lifetime of what’s worked for you and what hasn’t. What’s harmed you and how you’ve moved forward from it, recover from it, or what it would take for you to move forward and recover in the future.

Jonathan: There are certain kinds of abuse that will always be and have always been completely unacceptable. Then I think there’s a category of abuse that, while it’s not acceptable now, may have been considered standard practice then. I’m thinking of things like the use of corporal punishment or certain forms of verbal and even psychological abuse. Some might argue that it’s not fair or appropriate to judge events from many years ago by today’s standards, how do we strike that balance?

Paul: That’s not an easy question. We struggle with that internally within the Commission as well. There are human rights standards that give us guidance on that. Generally, corporal punishment, we wouldn’t be taking too much of a look at, but there is many circumstances which went beyond what was reasonable in the day that was still described as corporal punishment.

We have a convention of the rights of disabled people from 2007 and 2008, which gives some clear guidance about what’s right and what’s not. It’s based on earlier conventions on human rights. There is some ability to analyze what, in the past, was abusive or neglectful then and we could make a finding of fault with someone on.

Also, it gives us a sense of, “Even if that was not abusive or neglectful, what can and should we be doing today in similar circumstances? What is the wisdom of today? What are the standards of today that we can apply to make sure that people who were in circumstances in the past which were too readily accepted that isn’t occurring today?”

Jonathan: Some of the abuse you’ll hear about was allegedly committed by people who may have died by now and they are not going to have a chance to offer their perspective on events. How does natural justice work here? Because there will be family members who potentially, no matter how careful you are, will work out that this is their mother, or father, or grandparent or whatever that’s being talked about and that could be triggering for them as well?

Paul: We have natural justice processes for individuals who might be named or institutions, groups of people, government, faith-based institutions. If we were going to publish anything, a finding of fault, we put it to them first, which means it’s less likely that somebody, an alleged perpetrator, I’ll say who was deceased is named, unless there is some overwhelming evidence that something happened.

That has happened in the past. That has happened in previous hearings, but in general we try and be as rigorous as we can about making sure that people can put their side of the story back to us, but also accepting that sometimes there is an overwhelming amount of evidence as to what has happened.

Jonathan: Once you’ve gathered all of this evidence then, what do you hope will be the outcome of this process?

Paul: We have a series of investigations and we’re writing a series of reports. For example, there was a Lake Alice hearing a while ago and there’ll be a report perhaps the start of next year, a report on redress at the end of this year. There was a Pacifica hearing August. We’re looking towards a disability hearing probably in the middle of next year and a report further down the track from there, looking at all the abuse and neglect that disabled people have experienced across a range of settings, but also specifically in disability and mental health related settings.

There’ll be a report, but also throughout a range of reports into other settings, such as social welfare care, foster care, what were disabled people’s experiences in those, blind people’s experience in those. It will be peppered across a range of reports and there’ll be a specific disability report. There’ll be a final report at the end where things are summarized. We might go into more depth about the general systemic overview recommendations, and that final report will be in June 2023.

We’ve got less than two years, which may seem quite a long time, but it is a massive task. The number of people estimated to have been abused or neglected in our timeframe, 1950 to 2000, and we’re looking beyond that, we have the ability to look beyond there is around the three-quarters of a million mark. That’s that continuum of extreme abuse to other forms of neglect and a range of different settings and faith-based institutions, churches.

There’s a wide group of people, but we want to strongly make sure we have a good representative group from disabled people and within that blind people and a range of different settings experiences education settings, mainstream or residential Homai, and blind people’s experience in mental health services. Blind people’s experience of blindness specific services. Were they neglectful? Were you ever harmed by being, for example, on a waiting list too long and it effected your ability to get out into the community? We need to hear a diverse range of stories to put forward the right recommendations for change at the right time.

Jonathan: There may be people who are at a governance level of longstanding charities, for example, or institutions of some kind who genuinely regret what has happened in the past, but as good governors may be concerned about culpability if they make too much of an admission, do you think that there’s a chance that this process will end in some sort of reparations process, and that organizations dependent on charitable donations to serve existing clients or customers may be required to fork out for those reparations, potentially creating a vicious cycle where they can’t serve the people that require their services today because they’ve got to deal with these past issues?

Paul: I suppose our first priority, we want to make sure that people who have been abused in care get the right redress rehabilitation, which might include a financial component. How that comes about we want to hear from, primarily survivors themselves, disabled people, blind people who have been through these institutions, but we want to be practical in how we make this work.

Where does the ultimate responsibility for who pays come from? To what extent is it the government? What extent is it the institution who might be largely funded by the government or a mix of government and charity funding? If we look to what has happened in Australia, where its first had a big inquiry in terms of sexual abuse, they are asking institutions, service providers to front up with an appropriate payment in proportion to the abuse and the number of people that went on that happened there.

That’s on a voluntary basis at the moment. There’s talk about whether that is enough. We don’t want it to penalize people who have been in care and what they seek to redress recovery rehabilitate, but also we want to understand whatever recommendations, what we might make now impact on people who seek services, seek support in the future.

We want to make sure that those services are safe and supportive and are not negatively impacted in the way which you say there’s a potential for if care providers who are there by necessity are out-of-pocket and the potential for that to impact on people in care currently. I use the word care in the broader sense because that’s part of our organization title, but I include a wide range of services and the community, which disabled people, blind people need experience.

Jonathan: If somebody can not access certain, say assistive or remedial technologies. For example, I’m sitting here thinking about the fact that at the moment, it’s only possible for a disabled person who requires hearing aids to get a renewal of that technology every six years, by which time technology has evolved a lot and it’s possible that they may be missing out on a significant amount of quality of life that would be possible if funding had been better. Cochlear implants, of course, are constantly in the news as being grossly underfunded. Does that fall within the jurisdiction of the Commission or not because that’s government policy?

Paul: Yes, it does. We want to hear those stories and we recognize that we’ve got some expertise within the inquiry, but we want to understand in a nuanced way how an absence of a certain service may or may not cause harm. To what extent then would that be something we’d want to make a finding on, write something in a report on. We need to hear those stories, those experiences, and we need to understand, I suppose the broader context of the harm that has resulted from that.

Jonathan: Let’s talk a bit more about how one makes an approach to the Commission and the various options that exist. We touched on this briefly, but I’d like to explore it. Because I think there’ll be people who are really of two minds about whether to do this, quite nervous. Could we talk about the ways in which people can choose to give evidence and how their confidentiality is protected and also their mental health is safeguarded throughout the process?

Paul: Yes. The first step for most people s when they ring up or email the contact center, and there’ll be a few questions asked about some demographic information. Where were you, minimal details about the nature of abuse, but some, a few want to. It will all be treated as confidential and you’ll be offered a range of options, the private session, which is with a commissioner and with a facilitator supported by wellbeing professionals before and after the session and for a period of time after.

Some people might just want to provide a statement in writing. We’re happy to receive that as well. We’ve got a form which can guide people through it. I’m assuming it’s accessible. I hope all our processes are. If they’re not, please let us know. Some people might want to talk, just give a witness statement. We are hearing from staff of care facilities, of people who worked in support services as well.

We need to hear from their perspective what happens. They’re less likely to have an individual private session. Some people may wish to be part of a public hearing. Now, we select a small group of people who are broadly representative of a range of experiences. Now what you might hear in the media are the stories, people telling their stories in what is a public session. It’s a public hearing. Most people don’t do that.

I wouldn’t either for people to come forward to expect that they’re going to have to say what happened to them in public like that, but also not assume that just if you want to, that will happen. It’s only a small number of people. Most we hear their story in private and we might come back to you and we will learn from it. We will put it through an organization, a big machine to learn from it and look at common experience. We might come back to you and say, “We want to use this quote. It’s very representative of something that happened.”

It’s confidential to the extent you want it to be. Even if you were to ask to speak at a public hearing, you can still do that anonymously behind the screen with voice change or anything like that. There’s a range of ways which we can hear from people and so that your story can be told and learn from, but your confidentiality and your wellbeing is paramount. We do want to make sure that you’re well supported throughout the process and afterwards. It can be very traumatic to tell your story, potentially retraumatizing, but we do everything possible to avoid that.

Jonathan: One thing that was very interesting to me was that the Commission has mentioned as I’ve gone through this process and I’m not done with it yet, but that it would be possible for family members to be present. If for example, you were giving evidence to the Commission’s legal counsel and you wanted to be able to tell your story once and really have your family who are important to you understand what happened to you and that they can be there so they can hear it and you can tell that story. I think that is also an incredible contribution that this commission is making.

Paul: Yes, you can have what support people you want with you for it and family members as well. We’ve had some families who’ve collectively wanted to tell their stories if there’s been more than one family member in care, they’ve done that. Also we’ve had individuals tell their story in the presence of the family, and they’ve invited the family to say how that experience has impacted on them as well. The decisions that they might have been coerced into making which they later regret, something like that.

We want to understand what’s going to work for the survivor, the person themselves, and for them, the role that their family can play. Also, in particular, we invite families to come forward where they may have a deceased family member who went through some kind of care and they’re aware of that there was abuse and neglect in the care setting that happened to their family member. Again, this can be hard and traumatic for the family, but we invite it and want to learn from it, and again, we will do our best to support the family before and after.

Jonathan. There is some period of sealing of one’s individual evidence. Is that correct where it’s not available to any entity other than the Commission?

Paul: All evidence we’re obliged to store for 100 years. I think still on that basis, individual names won’t be made available generally. The information, what you share at a private session or otherwise will be available to you if you want it via recording, via a transcript immediately after. I’m assuming but I’m not sure that if you might want it in the future, it will be available again.

Jonathan. Is there anything that I haven’t covered that you would like people to know about this process or the work that the Commission is doing?

Paul: We’ve had a very small number of blind people come forward to date. I think we need more to understand the picture of what has happened to blind people in care, and I mean broadly in education, and disability support services, and mental health services, and faith-based institutions, and social welfare. I’m aware anecdotally of more stories, more incidences that have come forward. I’m aware of the concerns that the blind community as a whole has raised historically, which themselves would fit into the scope of the inquiry.

But there hasn’t been many people come forward yet to share their own experience and what’s happened to them. I think we need the most powerful tool and the social change toolkit as the stories of people who have lived it and breathed it and can express it, but also who have a sense of what needs to change for the future. What is the role of blind people’s voice and decisions which affect their lives in the future? This is an opportunity to do it, first through the inquiry, but then for the inquiry to express that as a future call to action, call to change.

Jonathan. You did make the point right at the beginning that disabled people have said that, “We’ve told our story so many times.” Is there a danger of raising unduly people’s expectations of the outcome of this process if they pour their hearts out to this Royal Commission and nothing really comes of it? That’s going to be causing them to feel pretty despondent, isn’t it?

Paul: Yes. I think the risk of it with any process, I think there’s risk with this, but I’m also aware that change on a significant scale and nature takes time. The impact of inquiries over the years has taken a long time to make changes in society, and they’re often not felt by individuals in their lives. In saying that, one of the most recent inquiries, the mosque inquiry, I think the government accepted every recommendation from that.

Are we seeing the changes from that yet, maybe not, I don’t know. I think there is and there will be change as a result of this inquiry and there will be, especially if disabled people, blind people share their stories and share their expectations for change, and be confident and articulate as well as realistic about it.

Jonathan. Well, I want to thank you for making yourself available, but more than that, I just want to thank you for your contribution to our community. It’s an extraordinary one and you’ve really given us a lot. Thank you for all of that and we look forward to following the process. I will provide in the show notes, and after this interview your contact information. The easiest way is to go to the website and go from there. I wish you luck with the remainder of the process and really appreciate you coming on the podcast.

Paul: Thank you so much, Jonathan, for inviting me. Thanks for your courage and your generosity.

Jonathan. I could have done that interview without disclosing that I’m telling my story to the Commission, but I made a personal decision to disclose that because I want to share with you how safe and kind I have found the process to be so far. When I first heard that the school for the blind I attended and other institutions, which I believe have subjected me to forms of abuse were, in fact, in the scope of the Commission, my first reaction was to be reticent about being involved because I thought I would have to tell my story in front of a public hearing. As Commissioner Gibson made clear in that interview, you are not required to do that, nor are many people asked to do that. You can contact the Commission and discuss the best way for you to share your experiences. Right throughout, they’ll check in on what effect it’s having on you, offering counseling, if that’s necessary or appropriate, ensuring you have the support that you need.

Sometimes I look back at my younger self as if the experiences that I endured had happened to somebody else. I think how I would react if one of my own children or a child that I knew had experienced what I experienced. That makes me realize that despite some people saying that, “Stuff happens, and just get over it and get on with it,” none of this is my fault.

If you’re listening to this and something happens to you, none of this is yours either. I had the right to expect compassion and appropriate care and I wasn’t given it. It wasn’t my fault and I have nothing to be ashamed of. I think of the gregarious child I was before I was abused and the way it changed my nature and my attitudes towards authority and I know that my abuser stole some of my childhood from me.

I want that understood and I want to do all I can to ensure that it never happens to anyone else. If you are in New Zealand and you want to share your experiences of abuse mindful that the Commission is taking a very broad definition of that word abuse, then based on everything I have experienced so far, I can promise you a respectful and sensitive hearing. You can phone the Commission on 0800-222-727. That’s 0800-222-727. The contact center is open weekdays from [8:00] AM to [7:00] PM.

This kind of thing can be very hard to talk about, so if you’d like to make your first contact by email, you can do that by emailing Abuse In Care is all joined together and it’s You can also write to the Commission and details of all of this are on their website, and you can go to

In my experience, having a cursory look at that website, it is fully accessible.

Since learning about the work of the Commission and the scope of its jurisdiction, I have reached out individually to blind people I know who actually suffered horrendous abuse at the school for the blind in New Zealand, and have mentioned that this option exists. We can’t compel anybody to testify and if you know of people who were abused, I would just urge some sensitivity around this.

It can be cathartic to tell your story, but no one can compel anybody to tell their story. If you do know somebody who may not be listening to this podcast, who may have something of value to add, or who can be helped by having someone hear their story, let them know about the Commission’s valuable work and if they have access to this podcast, perhaps you can encourage them to take a listen.

Voiceover: What’s on your mind. Send an email with a recording of your voice or just write it down. That’s or phone our listener line. The number in the United States is 86460-Mosen. That’s 864-606-6736.

Mish: Hi, Jonathan. It’s Mich Verieye, emailing from Ontario, Canada. Your topic of abuse at blind schools brought up some interesting memories for myself. I was abused at the blind school. It was physical abuse, not by staff, but by students. I was whipped with belts on my back and I also had shoes thrown at me by other students when I was sleeping. I was also called names like Fatman and things like that because of my weight. I definitely experienced that.

I went to a blind school from 1997 until 2003. Also, your issue of the blind school is not preparing people for their full potential. I definitely agree with that. I’m 38 and I graduated when I was 20 in 2003, but I never got anything for it. I didn’t get a diploma or anything like that. I was putting credit and non-credit courses, meaning that I was put in some courses where I would get a credit, others I wouldn’t get anything. I ended up getting 17 credits when I needed 32 to graduate. I don’t even have anything to even show that I even went to high school.

Also on the topic of blindisms, I don’t rock, but I do poke my eye, especially if I’m stressed or something like that. I just wanted to let you know about my experiences as a blind person and as someone who is not working at the moment and is unemployed, and as someone who went to a blind school back in the late ’90s, early 2000s.

Hopefully, the Commission will find some information and hopefully, New Zealanders will be able to use that information to their advantage. A few years ago, I was part of a lawsuit in regards to the blind school. I ended up getting a fairly substantial settlement, which was nice, but it didn’t really change the fact that I was still abused and things like that.

Jonathan: Thank you for sharing that. It’s a difficult thing to talk about this stuff. I appreciate that. I do recall reading about the lawsuit some years ago, that took place pertaining to that school for the blind. I did find it interesting because of my own history to watch that one play out. I suppose that that is one of the reasons why, when I was Chair of the Blindness Agency here, I could not get any traction when it came to getting that organization to apologize for some of the abuse that people suffered because they were very worried about financial liability.

I have to say, I don’t do regrets very much, but that is the greatest regret of my professional life. I feel like it’s a major failing on my part that I was not able to progress this. I think what people want is acknowledgment. I’m sure that in situations where a settlement is appropriate, that’s helpful too, but I think a lot of people just want to be heard. They wanted acknowledged that things happened that shouldn’t have happened. Of course, attitudes have changed to bullying over time. Haven’t they?

I remember when going to school quite a bit earlier than you did Mish, that if you were bullied, the teachers would often say, “Oh, just ignore them and they’ll go away,” or, “If they fight you, fight back.” We lived in very different times. That is a complex thing as well that standards have changed. Tolerance of that have changed. Understanding has improved in terms of the impact on people’s mental health and the tolerance that we should not accord to that behavior. Thank you for sharing your story.

Sally: Hi, Jonathan. It’s Sally here. I’d like to update you on my progress with the COVID-19 app. For those who don’t know me, my name’s Sally. I am a full member of Blind Low Vision New Zealand and have a very small field of vision, as well as having fairly poor visual acuity. I am also a Registered Nurse and my background in nursing is an Emergency Nursing and as an Infection Control Nurse Specialist.

Currently, I’m working as a senior lecturer at AUT at nursing, but all of my research is actually in health informatics and I’m quite active in the health informatics community. What I would like to talk about today is the COVID app and some of the problems that were brought up in your last podcast. I’ve actually figured out exactly what is wrong with voiceover and the new location entry screen.

What it is, is that the heading on the manual entry screen asks you to enter a location that you’ve been in. If you’re not using the app with voiceover, you can start typing the location and it’ll pop up previous locations and give you the option to push a button that says stay at home. If you’re using voiceover, it’s actually grouped the heading in that text field together and therefore voiceover only recognizes the heading. It doesn’t know there’s a text field there at all. If you double click it, you can’t type in it.

This causes a bit of a problem because none of us can actually use the new features that are included around locations in the COVID-19 app in New Zealand. What I’ve done is actually contact some people at the Ministry of Health that I know who’ve put me on to the project lead for developing the COVID tracer app. I have a meeting with her tomorrow. In that meeting, I’m going to bring up several things.

There are two main problems that I see, and that is the QR code itself, the placement, the size, and the non-uniform way that businesses use this. The second problem is with the app itself in voice-over and some issues around screen layout for using large print. The Ministry seemed most interested in the QR code and placement and size. They’re planning to actually make the QR code smaller, or they’re looking at research that says QR codes that are smaller will be scanned easily.

I actually beg to differ on that and say that for someone with low vision, finding them in the first place is actually going to be quite hard, if you actually shrink the size of them. Furthermore, some of the services actually have shrunk them already and some of them are bigger. It’s kind of a little bit of a mishmash.

What I’m suggesting is that we write a protocol for businesses on how to place, what size they need to be, and infection control policies around the QR code signs. Because the developers hadn’t realized that we were using tactile markers to actually line up the phone with the QR code in some instances. This actually causes an infection control risk.

One of the ways that people are getting around this at the moment is to laminate the signs and put tactile markers on them. The lamination causes glare, which makes them scan less easily, but it does allow the tactile markers. The infection control problem around this is that we need to be able to clean them and the businesses need to know the risks.

I also have some suggestions about how they can improve the app and things like using voice guidance to actually line up the QR code, which none of them seem to be aware of as existing. Also for using augmented reality with the potential of actually locking the plane that the QR code is sitting on so the phone would recognize the QR code, recognize the plane it’s on and lock that. By only moving the phone in one direction, we can scan and not have to worry about the tilt and other directions at the same time. It mean that we had less trouble lining that up so to speak.

Jonathan: Lovely to hear from you, Sally. Thanks for that informative contribution. I agree with you that some standard that businesses might agree on for the positioning of the QR codes would be very helpful. There are a number of other initiatives I understand that might be under consideration, including NFC tags. I would be interested to know whether if they take the heading away from that edit field, whether that indeed does clear up the problems. It does seem that it could. I wish you all the best with that as well.

In the meantime, we do have the Rippl app and I had forgotten that I had this app, and it’s actually a very nice accessible app. It also takes the New Zealand governments QR codes. If somebody wants to keep a diary manually, the Rippl app remains accessible. It is spelled R-I-P-P-L and you can certainly get it in the iOS app store.

There is more on the subject of ablest language coming in this week. One of our favorite topics, it seems. I should report before we get to listener contributions a really good experience over the week. One of my favorite podcasts is the 10% happier podcast. Not only do I like the podcast and the content in there, but I really like the app as well. It’s accessible and there’s plenty of good meditation and sleep content in there. A bit pricey, they have an annual subscription model, but if you want to check it out, do check out 10% happier, very good.

Anyway, in this podcast episode, they had a guy and he talked on several occasions about things like blind trust and blind cynicism. Trusting blindly and being cynical about people blindly. In other words, without thinking, once again, equating the word blind with not thinking about things, being ignorant about things. I sent them a brief thread on Twitter to say how much I loved their content and just pointing out the harmful nature of that kind of ableist language equating the word blind with ignorance, they said, “You’re absolutely right. Thank you for drawing it to our attention.”

They also made a similar comment when I pointed out that they weren’t adding text descriptions to their images on Twitter and they fixed that too. Isn’t it refreshing when somebody just gets it and is actually willing to listen to a member of a minority who’s being inadvertently denigrated and I think we are unlikely to hear ableist language on that podcast again. It is worth sometimes pointing these things out because change comes slowly, but it comes one interaction at a time sometimes.

Here is Iona starting off the discussion, she says, “Hi, Jonathan. First of all, thanks for the fascinating and thought-provoking content you put out each week. It’s very inspiring, I wonder if you have a personal preference about receiving audio contributions or written ones. I personally love hearing you read them so expressively using Braille with an uppercase B and the way this allows you to insert your comments and reactions to the text you are reading, I guess a good mix and variety of both is nice.”

Well thank you for asking Iona. My preference is always to get the audio contributions because I get sick of hearing me. [laughs] And it’s nice to hear the voices of listeners. I think sometimes when you get an email, you have to infer what you think the emotion might be in that email, so when you hear somebody’s voice expressing an opinion or telling a story, it just livens it up, having a variety of voices, doesn’t it? But we’ll take the contributions in any form they come. I’m just grateful to get them, really.

“Now to my contribution,” says Iona. “I agree with you that the most significant obstacle that disabled persons encounter are society’s disabling prejudices and limiting attitudes. The most harmful effect in my view is that they risk affecting our own perceptions of our limitations and self-image. Just because I’m myself, part of the blind community it does not, unfortunately, shield me from catching myself exhibiting at times some of the very same biases we are all trying to shift.

“My second point is about ableist language in different cultures. I wanted to bring up an interesting cultural quirk. I was born in Romania where the word blind has such crass, negative connotations that if anyone called a person with reduced sight blind, it would be regarded as very insensitive or uneducated and inappropriate, I would call myself there a ‘non-sighted person.’ In fact, all organizations and schools for the blind are using this term. So it feels quite natural.

“Whenever the Romanian word for blind is used negatively, it somehow pertains less to me as a non-sighted person. I do agree that this does not really solve the negative biases about blind people, but it is a rather interesting way to somewhat mitigate this. Yet, when I speak English or German or French, I comfortably identify as blind because of the full acceptance this word has in these cultures. To conclude, no matter what language we use, addressing ableist language, while important, is just one of the avenues of change that we have to try to bring about.

“Seeing disabled people in public roles and in the media and cultural life, et cetera will have, in my mind, a far more significant impact.” I certainly agree with that Iona, but it’s hard to get them there to have that significant impact if the unconscious bias caused by ableist language prevents them from having that opportunity because employers or those people who make political party selections or whatever the case may be have this enforced negative image of blindness. It’s kind of a Catch 22 situation, isn’t it? That’s a very interesting perception that you offer.

I’m not sure that English is immune from this, actually because you hear terms like visually impaired, visually challenged. People think that the word blind is very negative, but the reason why they think that is because of its misuse because it’s been hijacked by sighted people to mean ignorant, incapable, et cetera and my response to that is, “Hang on, we were here first.” Let’s reclaim the word, but there are cultural differences we should be aware of.

I know that there are laws. In fact, I believe Pakistan has a law, I hope I’m not incorrect about this that says you can’t use the term “disabled.” You have to say “differently-abled” over there. It looks like all the thoughtful discussion we’ve had on Mosen At Large has achieved a convert because Roy Nash is in touch and he says, “Jonathan, you are right and I was wrong. We must all lend our voices in the crusade to challenge the use of ableist language whenever we encounter it. One place where ableist language exists is in the church. Equating blindness and ignorance occurs repeatedly in church services, and the metaphor appears many times in the Bible.

“I am neither disparaging nor promoting religion. I am simply pointing out a problem which exists in the church of which blind people need to be aware and which they need to make persons in the church aware and to suggest means by which ableist language can be eradicated. We encounter ableist language and literature, in the media and in dealings with people in the world. For so long my attitude was, ‘What’s the use? You can’t make people change.’ At long last I have had enough. I enthusiastically join the cause.”

Well, thank you, Roy. One of the biggest problems we have in achieving change is that people think the problem, the magnitude of the problem is too great that what’s the point in starting. I guess I just haven’t quite got to that defeatist point in my life yet. I do believe we are capable of achieving great change if we work on it, one person at a time, one issue at a time, and we do so politely, but firmly. I know from past interactions that you and I have had through this podcast that we are at different ends of the religious spectrum as it were.

I’m an atheist and I know that you are not and that you are a regular churchgoer. It’s interesting to get that perspective. I did interview someone some years ago who was actively working on this question about ableism in the church and seeking to ensure that disabled people weren’t perceived to be not okay as we are, that we were people who needed to be healed and prayed for and not accepted. It’s good that those who are in the fold as it were, and for whom their religion is important, are seeking to make that change as well.


Robin: Hey guys, Robin here from Warwick in England. Thank you so much, Jonathan, for all the massive amounts of work you put in each week. Really, really appreciate it. There was a recent item about calendars and the best way to sync them between Windows and other devices, discussions about Fantastical et cetera. I’m certainly not putting my setup forward as ideal, but it certainly works for me. And this might be the situation for other people as well. On Windows, I use Outlook, and I actually only log into my Exchange account for work.

My PC is solely for my work email. I’m not 100% sure whether Outlook even today has a combined inbox, but if it does then brilliant. Obviously the mail app on iOS has a combined inbox and as we know in iOS, you can sign in with a whole raft of different accounts, exchange, Microsoft account. They are, I think, different these days. iCloud, obviously, Gmail, et cetera, you could have any number of any of those and you’d have a combined inbox, so the mail app is what I use on iOS to review my email.

But with regards to calendar, if you tick those options within iOS, then you will have a combined calendar on your I device as well. Now, if you go into The A Lady app– [whispers] the soup drinker, on your iPhone, for example, then you can sign in with all of those calendars as well. You can with email too, and you can ask her to read email and reply, et cetera, but with the calendar, this is what I do every single day. I must get asked, I don’t know, three or four times a day, “Can I do this particular meeting? What’s my availability on a given day, et cetera,” and it’s really useful to be able to just say, “A Lady, what are my appointments tomorrow, next Friday, Alexa, what are my appointments on the 28th of September, for example?”

Alexa: On Tuesday, the 28th of September, there are five events.

Robin: Yikes.

Alexa: Here are the first four events. At [8:00] AM–

Robin: That will give you all of that information. You can also, and this is really, really helpful, ask when you are free. Let’s ask when I’m free tomorrow, for example. Alexa, what’s my availability tomorrow?

Alexa: You’re free until [10:30] AM and from [11:30] AM to [2:00] PM tomorrow.

Robin: Great. There you go, so you can also ask that, because if you’ve got five appointments on a day, then you have to do some mental gymnastics to remember the gaps. If somebody is asking you can they book in a meeting tomorrow, or whenever.

Now, you can also search for your next event, which is really, really useful. So you can say, Alexa, when is my next giving blood appointment?

Alexa: Here’s what I found related to that. Giving blood at the Sikh Center, need a mask tomorrow at [17:15].

Robin: By The way, that’s the Sikh Center, not the Psych Center. That’s really, really useful. When is my next doctor’s appointment? When is my next vet appointment? Whatever it might be. Let’s create an appointment for tonight. Alexa, create an appointment called, “Testing at [10:00] PM tonight.”

Alexa: That’s Testing today at [10:00] PM, right?

Robin: Yes.

Alexa: Okay, I’ve added that.

Robin: So let’s see if it’s in. Alexa, what are my appointments tonight?

Alexa: Here are the next four events. Today at [10:00] PM, there’s Testing, tomorrow at [10:30] AM.

Robin: Okay, let’s stop there. It’s in there and in the app, you can say what your default calendar is that you want new events that you’ve used the A Lady to add, to be dropped into. I say Exchange, so that will be in my Outlook as well now. I can edit the contents of that in Outlook. I can’t do that using the Echo, but I just find it much easier to add events here.

I would then go into Outlook. I would do Cntrl2 to nip into that calendar and I would go to that appointment and then I would quickly add the location and body and stuff like that if I needed to, but often it’s just to remind me of something, to block out some time or something like that.

Now you can move calendar appointments as well. Alexa, move my [10:00] PM appointment to [9:30].

Alexa: Okay, Robin, I’ll move your Testing today from [10:00] PM to [9:30] PM, right?

Robin: Yes.

Alexa: Okay, I’ve updated the event.

Robin: And you can also delete. Alexa, delete my [9:30] PM appointment.

Alexa: Delete testing at [9:30] PM, right?

Robin: Yes.

Alexa: Okay, done.

Robin: There you go, guys. I have covered much of this on recent Dot to Dot podcasts and Sean and I have a good chat about these features and many more on the Echo Show Podcast every week as well. Brilliant. Thanks, Jonathan. Keep up the good work and everybody else, stay well.

Jonathan: Oh, well, everybody else has to stay well. I just have to keep up the good work. I guess I can try and keep up the good work and get sick. [laughs] Thank you very much, Robin. That was very informative and thanks for bringing the Soup Drinker into the equation as well, because I do use that. It works particularly well.

If you do use an Exchange server and Robin does, I do as well for most of my appointments, we do have an iCloud family sharing calendar, but other than that, I use the Exchange servers calendar for all of my appointments and those that are personal, I just mark as private so that they don’t get seen by other people who have access to my calendar, but it does mean that everything’s in the one place.

If you don’t have access to an Exchange server, then you may still need to install the iCloud plugin that I talked about last week if you want your appointments to be in sync in Outlook. The one caveat I would say is that as organizations are trying to be more secure, you may need to talk to your system administrator about giving the Soup Drinker access to your Microsoft Exchange server calendar and email.

I know that when I set this up, I had to talk to the IT team because by default, what happens is that those requests to use some of these third-party apps go into a request list, a bit of a bucket, and the system administrator has to approve them. Got to be some perks of being the chief executive, right?

I just contacted our IT guy and said, “This is me, this is legit. I’ve got some accessibility requirements that really make having the Soup Drinker access to our Exchange calendar, useful,” and so that will set up and I have to say it is really good.

I find giving commands to the Soup Drinker much more reliable on average than using Siri. Just seems to be more accurate. The Availability command is just super handy and that’s something I have not been able to get Siri to do. If you haven’t set up calendar integration with your Soup Drinker and whatever calendar you choose to use, I highly recommend it and thanks very much for adding that to the mix Robin, because it was a bit remiss of me not to have talked about that last week.

While we are on the subject of calendars, though, I should add that I have re-installed Fantastical. All the discussion about that app made me think I wonder how it is these days. I repurchased my subscription, re-installed the app and added all my accounts again and I’m very pleased to say that the issue that caused me to uninstall it last time has gone.

I mentioned when I brought Fantastical, how that when I had it running, it would immediately move calendar invitations out of my Outlook inbox and into the calendar itself and sometimes notifications of appointments in Fantastical were a bit unreliable. so it wasn’t good when you have as many appointments coming into your calendar on a regular basis as I do, but that’s all sorted now. It’s going really well for me.

It is great to have my reminders and appointments all in the one app. The natural language thing is phenomenal. The accessibility of seeing availability of other potential attendees when you’re using an Exchange server is also really good, so I’m rocking Fantastical again, I’m glad that this came up, thanks for raising it Kelby because it’s good to have Fantastical back and working well. I really recommend this app and perhaps at some point I will give some demo of the app, but give it a shot.

This message comes from Ledon, who says, “I am requesting your help with a problem, which is very harmful to Clubhouse voiceover users. I need your help because I think that they will ignore anything I might say while they will listen to you. Please, may I describe the problem that I am having?

“Each morning, the first thing I do when going to Clubhouse is to open my bulletin room. In there, I find that they have suggestions for rooms that will be open later today, which I might be interested in. I find the ones that interest me and double click on them and click on the Attending button.

Then those rooms that I have chosen show up at the very first of my hallway so I may open them at the appropriate time.

“Next in my hallway, I find the blind clubs and other clubs that I am following, but I like to sometimes swipe past these rooms and continue down my hallway to find other rooms that I might be interested in, but soon I find an Upcoming Events section blocking my hallway. Now I don’t need this because I have already selected upcoming events that I want to see when I visited my bulletin room.

“There is no way that I can go past this hallway back without swiping it room by room and there is no way for me to know when I am through the list without stopping to listen to the title of each room to see if it is scheduled for later, or if the room is now open.

I shouldn’t be able to skip this hallway block just as sighted people do and continue on down my hallway. In addition, they are placing another hallway block in my hallway called, “People you might be interested in.” Of course, there is no way for me to just skip past this roadblock as sighted people do and continue down my hallway. This causes me to have to swipe dozens of times to get past those hallway and blocks.

This is very unfair to voiceover users. I thank you for your help to get something done about these hallway blocks.”

Thank you, Ledon and you’ve really articulated the problem well. There is, of course, one option you have and that is when you want to swipe through the new rooms, try swiping from the bottom and go left. That could be one way of doing it, but I agree with you. The way that this could be handled is to make each of these sections a heading level and then you can use your rotor, or if you’ve assigned a gesture to navigate by heading to swipe past the things you don’t want with a single swipe and get on to the next section.

If you are writing to Clubhouse– and they do seem pretty responsive, although they’re probably absolutely swamped at the moment now that they’re no longer in Beta, you could just suggest to them could you please make each major section a heading level so that you could easily navigate between them. It wouldn’t take too much to do that. Of course we are now talking about this on Mosen At Large, so if sufficient blind people lobby Clubhouse about this and think it’s a good idea, then it’s more likely to go up the queue.

If you agree with Ledon that it would serve your interests to be able to navigate these different sections of the Clubhouse hallway by heading level, why not suggest it to Clubhouse and they may well implement the change.

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Jonathan: Kelby Carlson is back in touch and says, “Hi Jonathan, I appreciated your comment of the end of the most recent podcast about not using a bad day or stress as an excuse to start up another bad habit. I have had trouble with eye poking as a form of stimming it since I was a very small child–” I presume that is short for stimulating, “and have had to work really hard not to do it at the best of times.

“On days where I’m stressed out or have a lot to think about, it’s very easy to do more of it, which only leads to a spiral where it keeps increasing. Do you or anyone who listens have suggestions to prevent stimming? Especially when stressed.

“I know in general that replacing the habit with something else is a good idea but I’ve never found a workable replacement.”

Thanks Kelby. One of the reasons why I really enjoy this podcast is that blind people rock, dude. I don’t mean to make light of it. I know that there are blind people who do things like rocking, spinning, in which case there could be a lot of really good blind politicians and eye-poking seems to be the big one. I used to do it. In fact, someone once told me I look like the statue of The Thinker when I was doing it and then I had to go and find out what the statue of The Thinker looked like.

I don’t know how I broke the habit. There are probably all sorts of learned blindness professionals who have hints and tips on how you can break these what they call blindisms. I think I’ve heard them called that. There’s a little bit of me that wonders whether society’s just a bit more accepting of these things now. I mean you’re not hurting anybody, are you? Certainly if you do your eye poking in the privacy of your own home and it helps you think, who really cares?

If it worries you because you are concerned about the way you look to other sighted people, then I guess I totally get that but I don’t know how you break them. I can’t remember what I did to stop.

If anyone has any thoughts on this, if you have successfully conquered some of these blindisms what did you do to get over them? Really good topic and I hope we’ll get some constructive ideas.

Actually thinking about it, it may just have been a simple as sighted people at the school for the blind or whatever saying, “Jonathan stop it, you look like a nit.” Maybe that’s all it took.

“Jonathan,” says Robert Monroe, “I don’t have any blindisms as such, I was taught to keep my head up, turn towards the person I’m talking with or listening to but I didn’t pick up any of the other rocking or poking behaviors.

“However I am quite prone to fidgeting. My feet will tap or twist, I will change my sitting or standing position. My fingers will tap or explore the underside of a table or chair arm. Because of this, I was screened for ADHD. That result came up negative. I expect my fidgeting comes from the same place that the stereotypical blindisms comes from. Where sighted people might look around, some blind people use their bodies’ movement as a way to stimulate their brains. Of course sighted people fidget too.

“I wonder if a lack of vision really is the cause of the behavior or whether a lack of vision amplifies a tendency that a person would have regardless of their ability to see.”

Thank you Robert. Here’s an interesting angle from Kevin, who says, “Dear Jonathan, love all your content, keep up your great work. I am a curious blind person since birth and I do it all. You name it. Rocking, eye poking, head shaking, body spinning, [whee] both fast and slow. [laughs] Hand and leg shaking and other several unknown movements.

“Even more, I am totally proud on all of them. As I’ve mentioned several times here, blindness adaptations to an environment is a product of long-time stretch of evolutionary marvel. Unstimulated visual cortex is a dull journey for an infant that’s supposed to continuously engage and learn from their early environment.

“Blindisms stem from that boring brain ruination and I do think it should be celebrated in a biodiversity world. People who hate blindisms or thinking of the ways of removing them totally need to be more motivated by displaying to them various animal cultures in animal kingdom. We are a creature of biodiversity and let’s not alienate ourselves from that thrilling reality that we belong to.”

Thank you very much Kevin. As you can appreciate, I do have some sympathy and I’ve already expressed some sympathy with that but doesn’t there have to be a happy medium? I mean if I’m going in my job as chief executive of an organization and I go into the boardroom and I spin around in my chair [whee] and I’m rocking and rolling, maybe some board members think I do spin, I don’t know [laughs] but don’t you have to realize that it could be quite off putting for people? Don’t we have to coexist to some degree if we’re going to be out there in the world?

I certainly get your point. I’m not totally rejecting it but there’s got to be a balance, hasn’t there? What a wonderful global audience we have, because we’re going from Malaysia, where we got that contribution, to India for this contribution. Isn’t that cool. This is the first contribution I think that I’ve received from India since the New Zealand cricket team became the Test Cricket World Champions.

I won’t gloat but you will appreciate after all the World Cup problems we had in 2019 how we were robbed of our rightful title there. We were pretty pleased to win that one. I will say in the spirit of good sportsmanship, congratulations to India for being a worthy and tough opponent.

“Hello Jonathan,” writes Anil. “Coming to my blindisms, both rocking and eye poking are still part of my life. I rock during excitement such as watching an intense sports.” Whoa, did you rock during the test match championship final Anil? [laughs] I don’t know if I rocked but I was jumping up and down, I can tell you that.

Anyway. He continues, “poke my eye when I feel boring or perform a task that do not require complete involvement such as watching an interview. Now on to the subject of speech synthesizers speaking abbreviations. The Siri voice speaks R R as Rajasthan Royals, which is a team in the Indian premier league,” that’s cricket, “There must be an option to turn off speaking abbreviations. They are going crazy.”

Yes, I can see that would be annoying. Thank you so much Anil and what can I say? Except rock on dude, rock on.

Here’s a question we get from time to time and this time it is asked by Marissa, who says, “Hi Jonathan, I have a question and I hope you don’t find this offensive. Given that you have no useable vision, how do you go about learning to use the camera for applications that require it to identify items or make use of a camera for OCR, for money identification et cetera?”

Oh my gosh, no, I don’t find that offensive at all, Marissa. I think it’s something that a lot of us have struggled with over the years because it wasn’t that long ago that cameras were just something that blind people didn’t really worry about very much.

The first time I really got interested in this was when I got my Nokia N82 with a KNFB Reader. Then I really had to start thinking about the relationship of the camera to objects. Judy Dixon has done a very good book. She’s done a couple of them and I forget what the new one’s called.

The first one was called Get the Picture but now she’s updated it and it’s called something new. You should be able to find it on the National Braille Press website, that is very good. Also, if you have someone to practice with, that can be very handy. If you have a sighted friend or a family member or maybe a Be My Eyes volunteer, if you can find somebody who is tolerant enough, certainly an AIRA agent if you pay for AIRA, you could just ask them to explain to you what the camera is seeing as you move around and you’ll get a feel for what the camera is doing. The other thing too, is that when you open the camera app, voiceover is now giving you a lot of good feedback about what the camera sees. That can be helpful. But I think also it’s just a case of practice.

Get Seeing AI going, or Envision, or Supersense, or any of those apps that have the automatic mode where it’ll just speak what’s in the camera view and you’ll get an idea.

Basically really simplifying it, the larger the object, the further away you have to be with the camera so that it can get in the full view of the camera. But if you use one of these apps, like Seeing AI, you can try taking pictures, identifying money, all those sorts of things and practice will eventually start to make it click into place.

For reading documentation, there are these stands that you can use. I had one called a Foppy DO.

I don’t think you can get them anymore, but I hope I’m wrong because it was quite cool. It was just this cardboard thing that unfolded and had a little metal stand. The angle was just right, so that if you put a document under it and your iPhone in the right place on this thing, you got really good pictures, and then you could just flip the pages and work the magic.

There are all sorts of techniques that you can use. If anyone has some thoughts for Marissa, the community did a great job with some answers for her about staying in step with the cane. Now we’re talking about using a smartphone’s camera. How did you get good at it, assuming that you are? What tips can you offer for Marissa? Was trial and error all it took for you? Did you find some magical formula, or book, or tutorial, or something that really made it stick for you? Because when we do master the camera as blind people, it gives us access to so much good quality information. is my email address, write something down or attach an audio clip so we can hear this of my voice. You can call the listener line as well. 864-60Mosen, in the United States 864-606-6736.


Over to Australia we go and we hear from Rocco who says, “Hi, Jonathan, I believe you mentioned on a recent podcast that you had a Synology network storage device. I’m interested in any information on this because I am looking for a place to store all my family photos, videos, and documents. My kids are currently into filming lots of their own movies, and this is taking up a lot of space. I ideally want a device with approximately four terabytes.

I have done some initial research on Synology, but it doesn’t seem to be a device you can buy from a normal consumer electronics store. It appears to be sold here in Australia at specialty computer shops. I’m very interested in how easy this is to set up yourself as I am completely blind and how accessible the various iPhone apps are. Many thanks for your time and everything you do.”

Good to hear from you Rocco. Hope everything’s going okay with you. My Synology device appears now to not be getting the latest version of the software updates. They’re up to Disk Station Manager 7. They call it DSM for short. Yes, this thing does have its own operating system, which you can manage in a browser. If you are a pointy head command prompt person, you can also get into it with Shell access, if you like doing things that way.

I seem to recall, you may be quite high-level with your computer skills, so you may be keen to do that. I don’t know what’s happening with DSM 7. The Synology I have at the moment does the job for me so it’s not a priority for me to replace it, but I will eventually, I’m sure. You can read my story of getting the Synology on the Mosen At Large blog at If you type into Google, something like Synology and then a space and Sight:, two articles should come up.

The first article I wrote talked about how it was a great network-attached storage device, but that it had lousy accessibility. It wasn’t possible when I got this—in I think it was 2013 or 2014, at the recommendation of Gordon Luke, I have to say, it wasn’t easy to set it up using the graphical user interface. I got Sighted Assistance. These days, you could use something like AIRA if you got stuck. But as a result of that blog post, I did have some really good dialogue with the Synology people and it’s now much more accessible.

Now, I’m not sure I would describe it as intuitive. It has a lot of windows that pop up, and it’s a Web 2.0 application. Whether if you were buying a brand new Synology device now, you as a blind person could set it up from scratch, I don’t know. It’d be interesting to find out if people have tried, who’ve had a Synology in more recent times.

Once it’s set up, though, you should be able to do all the admin functions you would expect from a high-end device like this, including creating users and creating groups. Because what you can do is once you’ve created groups, you can assign users to those groups. It’s unlikely, for example, that you would want to give your kids admin access. You would want to restrict their privileges, but you would want admin access. That’s easily done with groups. Also you can limit the folders that different users see, which may be appropriate, say, if you want files that only you want to see, every user has their own private home directory as well. It’s pretty flexible.

You can also map the Synology drive as a drive or even multiple drive letters so that it’s accessible on File Explorer in Windows. The iOS apps are very accessible and there are music apps and browsing apps and things of that nature. They really are excellent from an accessibility point of view. With a high-end device like this, what you typically do is you buy the device and then you buy drives separately. Although some computer stores may well sell you a bundle.

You can get Synology devices that have any number of bays. In other words, you can insert any number of drives into your Synology depending on what device you choose to buy. My configuration is that I have a two-bay Synology device and it’s set up in a RAID configuration. I have two, 4-terabyte drives in that device, they are Western digital Red drives. They are designed specifically for network-attached storage applications. They are always designed to be on. They are, as I say, in the RAID configuration so if one drive dies, you haven’t lost anything because the data on each drive is identical.

Now, if I wanted to live on the edge, I could turn it into one big 8-terabyte drive. What I also do is because Synology has a series of apps that you can run, including web servers and mail servers, I think even an Icecast server may be part of it, you can set up apps to back up to other external places. As well as my RAID configuration, giving me redundancy, I also have some of my material backing up to a Dropbox account and some of my material backing up to a OneDrive account. You can also use professional backup services automatically as well.

There’s a lot of tinkering that you can do with this thing. You might enjoy having a play with the device. It’s not the most intuitive thing, to be honest, but if you can get at the command line and you’re happy doing that, that may be the way forward. Or if you just want to persist, you may well get the hang of the user interface that they now have because it’s certainly a lot better than it used to be.


Yes. That moving music introduces another Bonnie Bulletin with your cohost, Bonnie Mosen.

Bonnie Mosen: Hi guys?

Jonathan: Welcome to you.

Bonnie: Hi.

Jonathan: It’s been a very interesting and difficult week in some respects, particularly for Auckland, where they’ve had torrential flooding as well as being under level four conditions.

Bonnie: Another terrorist attack.

Jonathan: With another terrorist attack in a supermarket. It’s been very difficult there. We wish our Auckland friends, all the very best.

Bonnie: Yes.

Jonathan: Here we’re under level three. We’ve been under level three since Wednesday, but we seem to have broken the Uber Eats addiction.

Bonnie: We have, I think that you save a lot of money if you don’t do Uber Eats.

Jonathan: Yes.

Bonnie: I think that we should just go to one time a week, one day a week, like the weekend to me is the best time to do takeaway. I think, which we were going to do last night, but then we couldn’t decide what we really wanted. [laughs]

Jonathan: It’s interesting. Nothing’s really attractive anymore.

Bonnie: No.

Jonathan: After we’ve been eating all this home-cooked fare that you had produced.

Bonnie: I think tonight might be the night because I just really want a night off. It’s either going to be tonight or muscle fuel.

Jonathan: Well, maybe I should work up some culinary masterpiece. I think audio production is a little bit like cooking.

Bonnie: Oh, definitely. Because you add a little this and a little of that–

Jonathan: Try things.

Bonnie: Try things. Sometimes it comes out great. Sometimes it comes out–

Jonathan: Also, today on the day of publication of this podcast in New Zealand. It’s Father’s Day.

Bonnie: It is. Happy Father’s Day.

Jonathan: Well thank you. Father’s Day under lockdown. We’re not having family over. We normally have all the kids and put a meal together and that’s certainly not happening in these conditions.

Bonnie: No.

Jonathan: A moral of our lockdown from level four is that these detoxes do actually seem to work. You hear about people doing, say, a social media detox for a couple of weeks and then they find that when they’ve done that it changes their whole attitude towards it all. You could try a Uber Eats detox, maybe take the app off your phone for a while. Pretend it’s saying Uber Eats is coming soon like it was for us–

Bonnie: For us.

Jonathan: Then when it does come back, you don’t really mind.

Bonnie: Also, I think we’ve had more time. Because I think when people get caught in the takeaway trap is when they just don’t– now because I’m working from home, like everyone else, I have more time to take the food out in the morning, thaw it out, think about it. When a lot of times when you’re working all day, you get home at five o’clock, you’re exhausted and you just want something simple.

Jonathan: Yes. We’re both very busy people and we can afford it. It’s not like we’re breaking the bank doing it.

Bonnie: It goes down the toilet literally in the end.

Jonathan: Literally.

Bonnie: Because it’s like, I was talking to my boss, one of my bosses yesterday, we were talking about it, she goes, “Have you gotten Uber Eats?” because she’s in Auckland so she can’t, “Have you gotten Uber Eats yet?”

I said, “Well no, it’s kind of funny because we’ve sort of broken the Uber Eats addiction,” and we were talking about it and I said, “It’s just money thrown away.” She goes, “Yes, then you can just shop online.” I said, “Yes, you can get stuff that you’ll use over and over again because you can’t reuse the food.” Which is true. It’s like, okay, we really don’t need that hamburger or curry maybe once a week. Oh, what else can I buy with this money?

Jonathan: The good thing is that when we do use Uber Eats, we do eat very healthily in a low-carb context. If we get a burger, for example, we’ll get it without the bun, or at least I will.

Bonnie: Yes. I can’t go there. Not with fast food burgers. This is too gross, but yes, I think that when you do it all the time, it’s not fun anymore. It’s not a treat. I remember when I lived in Boston, I would only get takeaway once a week. Friday night was pizza night or Chinese night or whatever it was. That was special because I took my lunch a lot, but there was also some little tiny hole-in-the-wall places around the office where you could get stuff really cheap. There was a place called Caesar’s and it was a pizza place and they had salads and it was just so cheap and it was good.

Jonathan: When I was a kid, we used to walk up the road and we’d get 20 cents worth of chips at the fish and chip shop to feed a family of five kids and two adults. That would be enough. It’s a long time ago now, but that’s right. You do have those traditions, but I agree with you about the little hole-in-the-wall places.

When Amanda and I were much younger and courting– courting, it’s a quaint term, we used to go to this pizza place and it wasn’t a franchise. It was just a couple of Italian people who’d come to New Zealand and they made the most amazing pizza and they knew us as well. They knew what we liked.

Bonnie: Yes. Caesars, you could go in there. You could get one slice, but it was huge and a Coke or whatever drink. It was like $5 and that was enough. Then they had really good salads too.

Jonathan: We have been in touch with our ancestors this week.

Bonnie: We have been in touch with our ancestors. We have been just talking to them and learning about them. We did the

Jonathan: For those who aren’t familiar, what you do is you send these guys a sample of your DNA and then they analyze it and they tell you about where you’ve come from. I must say, I’m not that interested in this bit. The reason why I got it done with ancestry DNA was that I was told that they produced the most comprehensive DNA analysis so that you can then download your DNA as a data file and then upload it to other third-party tools.

I’ve been uploading mine to do various health checks. A lot of these sites are not accessible. I had to use AIRA to assist me to get the report done that I got done from a thing called Vitagene.

Bonnie: You should have them on the podcast.

Jonathan: I guess, but they’re not accessible so I don’t want to give them too much attention. It was a really difficult process to get done and I had to use AIRA’s help, but I uploaded my Ancestry DNA data and they did all sorts of analysis that told me things about how susceptible I am to various things, whether I’m lactose intolerant, which I’m not so roll on cheese. It told me what I already knew, that I was caffeine sensitive.

It indicated that a low-fat diet wasn’t going to help me much. Of course, I’ve worked that out and that’s why I’m doing so well on keto. In part, it was more validating than anything else. Although it did tell me that I had a moderate chance of being gluten sensitive.

Bonnie: Intolerant.

Jonathan: Yes. That was good, but you’re really into the ancestry bit.

Bonnie: I am. I think a lot of it is growing up in the South, especially it’s about who your kinfolk are.

Jonathan: Yeah, mercy. [in southern accent]

Bonnie: Yes. Also, because I’ve been around horses all my life, a lot of– I’m just very interested in bloodlines and it, because like you’re talking about with the Vitagene, there are a lot of things you can learn from your ancestors, different health conditions. That’s very important.

I was very interested in learning my ethnicities and things, which a lot of it, I already knew. There was English and Germanic and Hungarian and those guys, but I was surprised by the Libyan.

That was a bit of a surprise. And the Bantu. 10% North African Libyan and 2% Congolese Western Bantu. It was interesting. I’m proud of it. It wasn’t a lot, I don’t know what 10% is?

Jonathan: You’re not proud to be blind, but you’re proud to–

Bonnie: Am proud to be Libyan. Yes. It is interesting. It’s really kind of fascinating–

Jonathan: The process is quite accessible.

Bonnie: Yes. I have actually heard from some of my ancestors, actually some, I guess.

Jonathan: The one part of the process that is not so accessible is the actual DNA sample because there’s a line in the tube, you have to produce enough saliva. I think if we hadn’t had sighted assistants to do that, we may not have sent enough of a sample-

Bonnie: No.

Jonathan: -away.

Bonnie: That was hard. You don’t realize how much it’s hard to spit that much in a tube. It was gross. You had to not eat for an hour, then you had to create all this saliva to spit in this tube. It was really disgusting.

Jonathan: The really cool thing is that I now have the raw DNA data dump in a very secure location behind all sorts of authentication, and it means that I can now upload it to third party services. It does seem like people, if they have a choice, these services prefer ancestry DNA over 23 and Me for some reason-

Bonnie: Oh, that’s interesting.

Jonathan: -that there’s something more that they do with the data file that gives people more info to work with. That’s actually why I went down this route, because I read about this process in Mark Hyman’s latest book, which is called The Pegan Diet. It’s an interesting read.

He talked about uploading your DNA to one of these services. I thought, “Okay, well, I’ll do this.” Then when I looked, they were recommending, “Look, if you’re going to give us a choice, please give us ancestry DNA data, because it’s more comprehensive.” That’s why I got it done.

Bonnie: I think they’ve been around the longest, haven’t they?

Jonathan: I don’t know.

Bonnie: We’ve already been hearing about them for years. It was interesting when I got a couple of messages yesterday from someone that thinks we’re related through her father, who died last month at 95, because a lot of older people are really into the gene–

Jonathan: Oh, I know people get really fascinated with it. I suppose there are so many interesting stories to unearth, aren’t there? So I get that. I get why people [crosstalk].

Bonnie: That’s what I like, the stories. I want to know, and sometimes you find stuff that you’re probably better off not knowing that there was some scandal, scoundrels, but it is interesting-

Jonathan: The bounders and cads.

Bonnie: The bounders and cads yes, but I like the stories. My mom would always look at it and like, “I just want to know when they were born and when they died.” Like “Mom, don’t you want to know the story? What did they do? Why did they decide to come to the US?” Or why did they-

Jonathan: Where do I hear their podcasts?

Bonnie: Yes, where do I hear their podcasts? What were they doing in Libya? I just want to know them as people because they were people, but some of them really get elaborate with their family trees.

You can look at close relatives and then it goes branches on from fourth to sixth cousin, and on and on. I don’t know what a sixth cousin is. It’s really funny how Southerners particularly and maybe other parts of the country too, I think people on the East Coast do too, but they’re really into who you’re related, who’s your people?

Jonathan: That’s right. Yes. It’s interesting. I’m glad to have this data. If anybody has found a really accessible source of uploading your DNA dump and getting good analysis on a range of things other than genealogy, which seems to be well covered, I’d be interested in that because the ones I’ve found so far were not terribly accessible.

There was one that came highly recommended, but they would not take data from anyone outside the United States, and I’m thinking, “This is ridiculous.”

Bonnie: That’s interesting [laughs]. I mean, the US is a melting pot with everybody from the world, so interesting.

Jonathan: Now, the most important thing last, of course, the ABBA Singles, it’s hard to imagine any other group that is capable of reforming, doing the same as ABBA have done. ABBA’s just out there, it’s not quite as good but getting pretty up there with say, a Beatles reunion, which is not possible.

Having ABBA in the original form, all four members still surviving, reuniting like this is wonderful. It’s been very emotional for me in a world that seems to have gone to hell in a handbasket, it just seems just wonderful and perfect and a good news story. They sound great.

Bonnie: They don’t sound any different, everyone’s been saying that. They look a bit different.

Jonathan: Yes. The prospect was always going to be that it was going to be a huge mistake or a roaring success, and it’s not often that you go onto social media or newspapers and stuff and read the comments and you find that there’s an overwhelmingly positive reaction to something.

While it’s not unanimous, there’s an overwhelming sense of, wow, they’ve really done it. They’ve come back and they sound like ABBA, they’ve stayed true to their style. They’re in good shape vocally, and clearly there’s a little bit more depth from both of the women because they’re a little older now.

Bonnie: The girls.

Jonathan: The girls, as Benni and Bjorn– [laughs] what are they? 70-something? And they’re still girls, but, oh my gosh, they sound fantastic. The songs are beautifully written, oh my word. I’m so happy about it. I’m happy. I’m happy. Are you happy?

Bonnie: Yes. It’s cool. They’re really good. We listened to quite a bit of ABBA music last night. That was good.

Jonathan: We got out the old ABBA stuff and play the new ABBA stuff again and again and again and again. I think they’re onto a winner here. I just wish that they would take this tour on the road because I can’t see us getting to London anytime soon.

Bonnie: Be nice to get to London.

Jonathan: Well, it would. There’s a lot of Rona in the UK, and I’m sorry, but I don’t think they’ve handled that pandemic well at all. I don’t think they should be open in the way that they’re open, and I’m certainly not going there.

Bonnie: Maybe in a couple of years.

Jonathan: Yes. Hopefully it’ll still be there. The Beatles Love show is still going and they’ve just opened that up again. That was a wonderful experience. I’d like to go back there again too.

Bonnie: It’s a long trip to get to London from here.

Jonathan: It is a very, very long trip, about 24 hours of flying.

Bonnie: Yes. I would say some people– because I guess they go into LA, which is interesting, I would see people when I would get on the plane in LA, “Oh, yes we just did the London route.” Apparently they’re not allowed to leave the transit lounge if they switch over.

Jonathan: That’s right. Because you’re not coming into the United States.

Bonnie: No, you’re just hanging out. They say it’s pretty horrible.

Jonathan: LA X is just a hideous airport.

Bonnie: Yes. Unfortunately we’re not going to get that Air New Zealand-New York route anytime soon.

Jonathan: Which is your favorite of the two new ABBA songs?

Bonnie: Don’t Shut Me Down.

Jonathan: Why dat?

Bonnie: I don’t know. I like it better than the other one. I Still Have Faith, that one’s a nice song, but I like the other one better. It’s more energetic, I think. There’s a lot of fury and sadness behind it. I like it better.

I Still Have Faith in You would be good for like an anniversary or birthday party or someone you love, but the other one I just thought there’s more story behind that.

Jonathan: Don’t Shut Me Down is quite a complex song because it starts off you think, “Oh, it’s another slow schmaltzy ABBA song,” and then it just bursts into a Dancing Queen-type beat, including the little piano flourish. I think they are trying to do a little bit of a rip of Dancing Queen to some degree with some of the little motifs that are going on.

Bonnie: I can picture it better because a lot of times when I’m listening to a song, it’s playing out in my head like a movie and-

Jonathan: There is a story in this one, isn’t there? She’s on the bench-

Bonnie: I can see her sitting on that bench in the park and probably [crosstalk]-

Jonathan: Looking up at the apartment, waiting for the light to come on to know he’s home, and basically going up there where she used to live and saying, “Please give me another chance.” There’s an element of desperation. It’s a very complex-

Bonnie: Then I see his new wife or his new girlfriend coming out of the bedroom.

Jonathan: [laughs]

Bonnie: Who is this person? You know. “Carl, who is this woman, who is this girl?” [chuckles]

Jonathan: It’s so good to have them back. I cannot tell you how much good it’s done me to just have them back. It’s quite amazing. I’ve been blathering on about this on my various media for three and-

Bonnie: Three years.

Jonathan: -a half years. I remember how excited I was back in April of 2018 when they said, “These two songs that we have now,” were coming out and they said, “Oh, you’ll have them by the end of the year.” Then it got put back and back. I guess the payoff is we now get a whole album of them. That’s exciting.

Bonnie: We learned that Frida or Anni Frida is a princess.

Jonathan: I knew that.

Bonnie: I don’t think I knew that she was princess.

Jonathan: There are some great ABBA bio books out there.

Bonnie: She’s a dowager princess.

Jonathan: That’s right. I don’t think I knew that he had died.

Bonnie: She’s a dowager countess.

Jonathan: She is actually Princess Anni-Frid.

Bonnie: Anni-Frid, yes.

Jonathan: That’s pretty impressive.

Bonnie: Her Serene Highness.

Jonathan: Right. Thank you for another really great Bonnie Bulletin. I feel moved now to wrap this podcast up and play the ABBA songs again on repeat.

Bonnie: [laughs]


Jonathan: I’d love to hear from you. If you have any comments you want to contribute to the show, drop me an email written down or with an audio attachment to If you’d rather call and use the listener line number in the United States, 864-606-6736.


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