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Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen. This is Mosen At Large, the show that’s got the blind community talking. This week, Windows 11 has started rolling out via official channels, but is there much of value for blind people? Siri is 10 years old, we reminisce and reflect. And a new book shares lived experience from disabled parents.
Speaker 1: (singing)
Jonathan Mosen: Thank you for being here for another episode of Mosen At Large and if this is your first, a special welcome to you. I do appreciate you being here, since there are so many podcasts out there to listen to. In fact, I could ask my little buddy here about how many there are, how many podcasts are there in the world.
Siri: Okay. I’ve found this on the web for how many podcasts are there in the world. Check it out.
Jonathan Mosen: So it won’t just give me a straight answer to a straight question and it probably doesn’t know even how many webinars there are in the world, but I can tell you that there is one webinar in the world that I know about coming up in the foreseeable future. This is a webinar that I’m a part of hosted by Robin Christopherson, MBE. An MBE is the same thing that they gave to The Beatles. Robin’s going to be talking with me about my advocacy work, some thoughts on disability employment, a little bit about the importance of assistive technology and mentoring. We’ll cover a range of things, and this is happening on the 12th of October. So it’s quite soon, at [1:00] PM, British Summer Time. I’m going to put a link to the registration for the webinar in the show notes if you would like to register. But if you don’t read the show notes, then you can just head over to www.abilitynet.org.uk as I record this it’s right there on the front page. Dr. Hook sang a song about this, (singing). So www.abilitynet.org.uk, if you would like to register for this webinar and hear from Robin and me.
That is the new Windows 11 startup sound, and Microsoft is making quite a big deal about new sounds in Windows 11. You will recall that when Microsoft made this announcement we had Terry Bray and Matt Campbell join me to discuss the Windows 11 announcement. I thought we would bring them back now that windows 11 is out and trickling down to customers to get their impressions of Windows 11. I have to say to begin with, I did not participate in the insider build testing of Windows 11. I do not have Windows 11 and I’m in no particular hurry to get it. What I said to Bonnie was “Bonnie, why don’t you put Windows 11 on your laptop and tell me what it’s like?” She said, I’m not doing that. I’m waiting for you to do it.” I said, “I was brought up properly, I was always told that ladies should go first. So you need to put Windows 11 on your laptop.” And she said, “well, I was brought up properly and I was always told that the man did the dangerous things.” We’re at a stalemate, Matt and Terry good to have you back. Is this underwhelming or not? Matt Campbell? You go first.
Matt Campbell: I would say yes, it is underwhelming.
Jonathan Mosen: Terry?
Terry: I totally agree
Jonathan Mosen: Over hyped, underwhelming. Is it even really worthy of going up to the number 11? I just find this extraordinary.
Terry: I would say from a performance point of view, at least on my machine, definitely noticeable.
Jonathan Mosen: In a good way?
Terry: Very much so it’s much faster, Jonathan, much faster, loads quicker, even the updates when they apply them are actually different. A lot of them have been happening so that even JAWS can read them. They’re not doing it before JAWS is plugged in. So I think only twice has it had to do it where I had to turn narrator on to find out what was going on.
Jonathan Mosen: Matt, what do you think in terms of whether this is really worthy of going up to a whole new version when Windows 10 was supposed to be the last version of Windows they’ve gone to 11? Did it warrant that?
Matt Campbell: No, I don’t think so. They’ve changed the appearance, but honestly I think that’s just change for changes sake. As far as changes to underlying functionality, I would say it’s really no different than any Windows 10 feature update. Now the biggest change that affects us is the new start menu. It’s different, I wouldn’t say it’s better or worse. The one thing you need to watch out for is that as usual when you open the start menu, it puts your focus in the search box to get to the start menu proper you need to tab out of the search box. If you try pressing up or down arrow, like you might have done in the past, you will get put into a list that just has your user account sub-menu and the power sub-menu, but not your actual applications. You’ll need to tab to get to the good stuff.
Terry: Some things like File Explorer though, have been completely overhauled. It’s not at the moment necessarily in a good way. Even if you go to the support blogs, they’ll tell you that there are problems. But the funny thing is, if there are changes going on, Jonathan, you don’t really notice them as a screen reader user. I won’t say it’s perfect, so don’t get me wrong. But it hasn’t been an overall disaster.
Jonathan Mosen: No, it’s a massive visual makeover. When you look at the blog post that Microsoft has put out about accessibility changes, you really know that there’s not a lot to get excited about when they tout as a feature the fact that they’ve renamed ‘ease of access’ to accessibility settings.
Matt Campbell: It’s about time.
Jonathan Mosen: Then they tout as a feature new sounds, to the best of my knowledge there is absolutely nothing new in Narrator. Is that correct?
Terry: I haven’t seen anything, but I don’t use it so I wouldn’t necessarily notice.
Jonathan Mosen: Microsoft has not said a word about anything new in Narrator. When you consider the trajectory that they were on with this, where everybody’s said “eventually it’s going to eat the lunch of third party screen readers.” When you go from a major version number to another major version number 10 to 11, and you do zilch to the operating systems built in screen reader. That really says it all I think.
Matt Campbell: And in fact, if you look at the what’s new section in the narrator home window that comes up, if you haven’t turned it off yet, the what’s new section has not been updated since the Windows 10 May 2020 update.
Jonathan Mosen: What’s the Windows Explorer experience like? I know that there has been mainstream publicity about significant memory leaks in the current build and of course, that’s the price you pay for jumping on the bandwagon early. But also I have heard that there’s quite a bit of sluggishness with screen readers.
Terry: Not so much with the last build Jonathan. So the one that just came out this week, it’s quite a bit faster. But there’s no doubt we see messages from people who had a lot of trouble.
Jonathan Mosen: When you get a major update, say of iOS or for that matter, even MacOS, there’s usually one or two features where I kind of think I really would like this. This is going to be quite a cool feature to use, I look at Windows 11 and I think what is in there that will make my life, my productivity any better? Possibly the dictation and the improvements that they’ve made there that can be handy from time to time. There’s a uniquely New Zealand context here, which is that they have a new Aotearoa keyboard, which is great for those who have to write the Maori language as we do in New Zealand. There’s one or two really minor teams built in I suppose, but you’re really scratching… It seems to me a lot of this is a visual aesthetics thing.
Matt Campbell: Teams is built in and this new built in teams app is based on the Chromium based Microsoft Edge engine, as opposed to teams running its own separate copy of the Chromium engine. So it probably is lighter on resource consumption, but other than that, it’s still the same clunky, in my opinion, team’s desktop application.
Terry: That still doesn’t have all the features that you would want probably. I haven’t opened it in a week, so who knows what’s been updated in that time, but one of the things that was missing that you would think would be there would be the ability to connect to a phone line as you can with the commercial version. I used that as my main desktop phone for over a year. You appear not to be able to do that. They just added audio settings recently so it is clearly an evolving product.
Matt Campbell: I wonder if that’s due to a difference between the new teams desktop app built into Windows 11 and the old desktop app, or more a difference between the consumer version of teams and for lack of a better phrase, the corporate version.
Terry: It’s beginning to look more and more like the corporate version. I’ve heard that they’re going to be rewriting that, so maybe they’re using the consumers as the trial space before they tackle pulling the Chromium using Edge instead of using a separate engine. Maybe they’re going to use the consumers as the test platform rather than the corporate users who actually put bread on their table.
Jonathan Mosen: One thing that I think screen reader users really need to be aware of is the decrease in configurability of the system tray in the sense that you can’t now check the option to show all icons in the system tray so you’re going to have to go in and do this on an app by app basis.
Terry: Yeah. But it’s pretty simple.
Jonathan Mosen: But I mean, why? So that basically means that every time you install a new app you are going to have to go in and tell that app that you want it to be in the system tray.
Terry: Well, that’s true. But by the same token, just to be contrary, checking them all means that you get a lot of icons in the system tray you would never use.
Jonathan Mosen: We had the option in Windows 10 and they’ve taken it away. Again, I ask why? Why would they take functionality away that people have depended on and become used to, what purpose does that actually serve? I mean, it’s off by default anyway. So if I want it on, why are they taking away the ability to have it on?
Terry: Obviously I can’t answer that. Matt probably doesn’t even know from when he was there either, but we do have to keep in mind, although it hurts to do that, that this still is a work in progress.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. See, this is the first change that I make to any new installation of Windows is to turn that feature on so that all icons display in the system tray, and now you can’t. You’ve got to go in there and do it app by app, you have to have the app running to do it too, right? Is that correct? You’ve got to have the app actually running, so that it shows up in that list.
Matt Campbell: That makes sense because there’s no system wide registry of applications that have system tray icons, an application just creates a system tray icon at runtime or it doesn’t.
Jonathan Mosen: Is there anything that you would think, gosh, if I went back to Windows 10 tomorrow, I would really miss this?
Matt Campbell: No.
Matt Campbell: The one thing that might have done it for me, even this is doubtful is the ability to run Android apps, even that is still forthcoming.
Jonathan Mosen: If people want to get Windows 11 now, I know it’s showing up for some people in the update feature and you can also go ahead and run the Windows 11 setup assistant I think it’s called and install it. Those pretty intensive system requirements will apply, but you can bypass those as well if you’re really keen.
Matt Campbell: You can even download an ISO image directly from Microsoft if you want. About those system requirements, I have so far only tested Windows 11 in a virtual machine on my laptop which has a 6th generation core i7 quad core processor with 16 gigs of ram. It does meet the requirements with regard to the trusted platform module being available, but to run Windows 11 in a virtual machine I had to go through some advanced configuration steps in VMware workstation to add a virtual TPM and turn on secure boot. I am not ready to take the leap and try installing Windows 11 directly on the machine because as we’ve been discussing, there’s really no reason to upgrade other than in my case that I have to test it for some of my work. But also I’ve read that there’s some ambiguity on whether after you install on a machine that doesn’t meet all of the requirements, you’ll be able to get ongoing updates.
Jonathan Mosen: Microsoft is not guaranteeing that are they?
Matt Campbell: Right.
Terry: I actually am running the full Windows 11 and did it through the update and it’s running on my regular machine. I think if your system meets the requirements and you are willing to take maybe a slight risk. There’s a risk in everything. You could get the next version of Windows or the next build of Windows 10 and have problems. It’s just iOS or any other platform. You can’t say that there’s no risk. I would say for the average person who likes to play a little on the danger side and they do meet the system requirements, which have been changed and updated, I don’t know that there’s that much risk unless they’ve already torn their system apart to the point where it’s practically going to have to be rebuilt anyway.
Jonathan Mosen: I guess if we were trying to sum this up, I guess what I’m hearing is there’s probably no major reason not to upgrade. There’s also probably no major reason to upgrade.
Matt Campbell: Exactly.
Terry: There’s no major reason to upgrade. (laughing)
Jonathan Mosen: The other thing that people need to be aware of too, is that with Windows 11 Microsoft is going to a yearly cadence rather than a six monthly cadence. So that means that when you look at narrator for instance, we are unlikely to get anything new from narrator, which has been stagnant for a while now until this time in 2022.
Terry: I don’t know whether that means that all features will not be updated. I don’t know what they consider this initial release, do they consider it the full product or do they consider it a public test?
Jonathan Mosen: It also depends on whether they will unbundle narrator in some way from the operating system build so that you could receive narrator updates as part of Windows update, because I’m sure they will continue to make changes to the apps that are in Windows. Some of them apparently haven’t received the visual overhaul at this point, so it’ll be a boundary thing. What’s a bug fix, what’s an enhancement that they’ll push out through the update process versus anything that they think is worthy of a full update, which won’t be until October 2022.
Terry: I’ll tell you, because Matt probably can’t, but I’ll tell you that the reason that they went back to the year, and this is a guess on my part, but it’s a pretty educated one has to do with the horrific cost of businesses of keeping in line with quarterly updates like that.
Jonathan Mosen: Thank you to our Intrepid and bold Windows 11 explorers, Matt Campbell and Terry brave for their thoughts on Microsoft’s latest operating system.
Bruce Toews writes in from Canada to email@example.com on this subject. He says, “I upgraded to Windows 11 about a week after the first Windows 11 insider build came out. When I discovered that as a Windows insider in the dev channel, I could update even though my computer didn’t pass the compatibility test. I then updated my mushroom escape computer by accident on Tuesday night, a long story. If you want to know how mushroom escape sounds on Windows 11 says Bruce go to www.mushroomfm.com/escape for all your radio comedy and drama, fun shameless plug .”
Bruce continues, “I will say that I find Microsoft’s rather stringent requirements for running Windows 11 to be disappointing. I think a lot of people will be surprised when they discover that a relatively recently purchased computer is not compatible. I’ve heard a lot of grumbling in this regard and I believe that grumbling has merit. Anyway, the first thing I noticed about Windows 11 was that nothing was hugely different from an accessibility standpoint, JAWS 2021 worked well with it. Someone said that Windows 11 is more of a continuation of Windows 10 with more stringent system requirements than an actual new operating system. I think this is a valid point. The system tray was the first thing I noticed as being different apart from the new sounds. Unlike in previous versions of Windows, there is at least as of yet, no way to have all apps show up in the system tray. There’s a process to add apps to the system tray, it’s not too complicated and a one off process for each relevant app. I am also noticing some issues with File Explorer, which tends to lag. It used to be extremely bad, but in an insider build from a couple of weeks ago, it got considerably better, though, it’s still not perfect. When you use multi letter navigation to take you to a particular folder or file the results are mixed and somewhat unpredictable. I haven’t had any program compatibility issues yet, everything has worked well out of the box. While my work probably won’t upgrade to Windows 11 until the release of Windows 30 or so, I do a lot of work on my home computer running Windows 11, both JAWS and NVDA and their latest incarnations are working well with Windows 11. I have no plans on going back. Though, I know I’ll have to if I ever need to reformat either my home or my escape, www.mushroomfm.com/escape computers, the long and the short of it is if you are worried about upgrading, there’s little to be concerned about. There are no bugs of the debilitating variety. The File Explorer issue is annoying, yes, but I’m hoping it will be resolved soon and I can live with it in the meantime, it exists with JAWS, NVDA and narrator.”
Speaker 1: (Singing)
Peter: Hi Jonathan, it’s Peter from Robin Hood County, hoping you and your family are well and of course the rest of the listeners, thank you for the item about good maps and Aira. Very, very interesting. I’ve always been fascinated by indoor navigation and now to the email about Siri and Apple’s decision to not allow Siri to send emails. Normally I record my emails or dictate, but there are a couple of workarounds. What I tend to do is I send an email via this method, a voice email for the most part, or I will dictate using the dictate button on the keyboard. To minimize the typing I put all my important email people in the favorites part of my phone. When I go into phone, it’ll go straight into favorites and I will say, tap your name for instance and your name will appear in the address bar. That saves me typeing that in. All I’ve got to do is type in the subject line and attach the PNG file and that’s job done. Although I’m rather disappointed with apple because they always seem to do one bad thing after a few good things. For the most part, I don’t mind, I’ll use a work around but if it gets too bad, I’ll dump Apple and buy an Android. I can use both. I’m happy with both. I enjoyed your adventures in Android also.
Jonathan Mosen: Thank you very much, Peter. Good to hear from you and here is an email that says, “Hello, Jonathan, my name is Jessica. I’d first like to comment on the things that the CEOs of good maps and Aira are doing, it sounds like they’re doing incredible work. I can’t wait to try both products with their respective enhancements when those enhancements become available.” Well, good maps outdoors is now in the store, Jessica. So hopefully you’ve availed yourself of that and you’re putting it through its paces.
Second, she says, “I would like to comment on some things regarding iOS 15, I currently have an iPhone 12 Pro Max 256GB. I’ve noticed that my phone gets extremely hot when on FaceTime video and audio calls, furthermore, I’ve also noticed extremely annoyingly that when I hang up a call using the magic tap, voiceover briefly stops speaking. There are a couple of ways around this. You can either wait it out since it’s only a few seconds or turn voiceover off and back on with a triple click of the side button. Muting and unmuting speech does not fix it, this issue also presents itself even if the other person hangs up on the call before me.” I’ve not seen this one, Jessica and I do use FaceTime a fair bit, but I have seen it get hot in various circumstances. I’ve thought in recent times, since I’ve been running iOS 15, that my phone, which is an iPhone 12 Pro Max does get a bit hotter in my pocket than it used to. She says “I’m running the beta of iOS 15.1 and I’ve also noticed significant battery drain. For example, one day earlier this week my phone went from a 100% to 40% in about five hours. I typically charge the phone at night and then have to charge again at midday.”
Jessica, the first thing I would do in this situation is just check under your battery settings whether there’s any app that seems to be exhibiting significant battery drain, because I had this problem during the beta cycle. When I went in there under battery settings, you can see the power consumption from each app. I found that for whatever reason, Google maps was using a whopping amount of battery life. It was using about 40% of my entire battery life. So I uninstalled Google maps and the problem went away and then I braved it again and reinstalled. Everything’s been fine since, so it could be a rogue app or two if you see that battery consumption is excessive for any given app where uninstalling that app and installing it again, may do the trick.
Jessica continues, “My battery capacity is at 91% and I’ve had the phone for almost a year. My phone also frequently locks when I’m in the middle of typing things. This issue typically presents itself if I set the phone down even just for a second or two, I could be using the onscreen keyboard or Braille with a capital B screen input. According to someone I know who I communicate with via Twitter this is not normal. Do you or any of your other listeners know why these issues would be happening? What would you do if you were experiencing these?” Well, I think the first thing I would do Jessica is certainly with the battery life, I would try the suggestion I’ve given you. If the problem persists, see your healthcare professional. No, that’s a different thing, if the problem persists, then I would call Apple support and see if they’ve got any suggestions for you. Although, they tend to not be terribly helpful when you’re running a beta I find and I guess justifiably so.
So I guess what I would do then is try a reset of all your settings, go into settings and don’t wipe the whole phone yet, but just try a reset of your settings and set everything up from scratch again with your settings to see if that helps. And the nuclear option is of course, to reset the whole thing and restore from a backup. I would personally do that from an encrypted iTunes backup. So I’d back up the phone to iTunes if you’re using a PC or just to the operating system if you’re using MacOS and then restore from that encrypted local backup. Jessica continues, “I can also confirm that Siri can no longer check voicemail or recent calls. I believe that issues that these are serious oversights from a company like Apple, who claims to be extremely committed to accessibility. The person who said that iOS 15 is a great update is absolutely correct. I understand that every operating system is going to have some bugs, but the one with my voiceover stopping speaking briefly and the things that have been eliminated from Siri are serious show stoppers. I’m a huge fan of the podcast, although I don’t get to listen to it often. Thank you so much for your incredible work. Keep it up.”
Well, thank you, Jessica. It’s lovely to hear from you. On that subject of Siri, this is definitely news we can use and it will be welcome news. This email comes from Marisa who says “Greetings Jonathan, I would like to forward the reply I received from the product manager for Siri in relation to the Mac rumors article that you read, regarding Siri not being able to perform certain tasks with iOS 15 and 14, please feel free to share it with your listeners.”
I will do that gladly Marisa. This comes from Jamie Derra, who is at Apple and Jamie says, “Hi Marisa. My name is Jamie Derra and I lead product marketing for Siri. I am so sorry for the inconvenience this has caused you. We are working to reinstate the Siri email and phone actions, which were temporarily removed as part of updates to run more features on device to improve Siri performance, reliability and privacy. Email actions including asking Siri to write, send and check unread email will be made available again in the coming weeks. Reenabling call history and voicemail functionality will take a bit more time and will be made available in an upcoming iOS software update. Again, I apologize for the inconvenience this caused you. Let me know if you have any further questions.” Wow, what a brilliant email to get from somebody who has a little bit of knowledge there at Apple. So it looks like this is known about and it is going to be fixed and that’s really reassuring.
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Jonathan Mosen: We’ve been talking about Siri on the show today, we often talk about Siri because as blind people it’s a feature that many of us make extensive use of, or at least we try to, we’ve just passed a pretty significant milestone where Siri is concerned. The 10th anniversary of its announcement and the 13th of October will be the anniversary of the iPhone 4S’s release back in 2011. That was the first iPhone that had Siri. Do you remember the apple keynote from 2011 when it was announced? It’s interesting to just listen back to that keynote and hear what was promised for Siri and what really has changed in those 10 years.
Speaker 4: Left one thing out, and this is really cool. It’s a feature all about our voice because for decade technologists have teased us with this dream that you’re going to be able to talk to technology and it’ll do things for us. Haven’t we seen this before over and over, but it never comes true. We have very limited capability. You just learn a syntax, call a name, dial a number, play a song. It is such a letdown. What we really want to do is just talk to our device, ask a simple question. What’s the weather going to be like today and get a response. In fact, we don’t want to be told how to talk to it. We want to talk to it any way we’d like, someone else might ask will it rain in Cupertino or is the weather going to get worse today? Or do I need an umbrella today? In your device, in this case your phone will figure out what you mean and help you get what you want done. That’s a feature of the iPhone 4S we call Siri. Siri is your intelligent assistant that helps you get things done just by asking. So really the best way to understand how amazing the Siri technologies in the iPhone 4S is with a demo. But I’ll start by saying this demo of course is of beta software and probably one of the craziest things you could ever do is a voice recognition demo on stage in front of an audience. But you’re going to like this so much that we’re going to try it.
what I’d like to do is invite Scott Forstall back up to give us a demo of Siri.
Scott Forstall: I’m really excited to show you Siri. You can get to Siri at any time, just by holding down the home button for a couple seconds, and then Siri’s listening to you. So let’s go ahead and ask Siri about the weather. What is the weather like today?
Siri: Here’s the forecast for today.
Scott Forstall: It is that easy.
Not only did it understand the words I said, it understands the meaning and then goes and gives me this weather forecast. But the exact words I say, aren’t important. It’s the meaning behind the words. So I could ask this in a completely different way. Something like, what is the hourly forecast?
Siri: Here’s the weather for today.
Scott Forstall: Again, different words, Siri figures out the meaning. In fact, you can even ask more conceptual questions. Things like, do I need a raincoat today?
Siri: Yeah, sure. It looks like rain today.
Scott Forstall: And you saw as you came in, it was raining. So it understands the concept of raincoat and umbrella and other things. And it knows how that relates to weather and answers the question. So if you integrate it in with weather, we’ve integrated it with all sorts of things, an iOS. So let me go and ask it a question using the clock. Something like what time is it in Paris?
Siri: The time in Paris, France is [8:16] PM.
Scott Forstall: So again, it recognized the words, understood the meaning and then comes back with this live clock ticking down the seconds, showing what time it is in Paris. But you can ask other questions like, let’s say you need to set an alarm clock. Just ask Siri, wake me up tomorrow at [6:00] AM.
Siri: Okay. I set it for [6:00] AM.
Scott Forstall: It’s that easy.
Again, we’ve integrated with lots of things. We’ve integrated with the stocks. So you can ask it about the stock market. Something like, how is the NASDAQ doing today?
Siri: NASDAQ composite is down right now at 2,321.70.
Scott Forstall: And again, you can ask this from the lock screen, anywhere. Just press the button and question ask. Again, you can ask about, the NASDAQ, the Dow, or any specific stock as well. We’ve also partnered with Yelp. And so you can ask questions about businesses or restaurants. Something like, find me a great Greek restaurant in Palo Alto.
Siri: I found 14 Greek restaurants. Five of them are in Palo Alto. I’ve sorted them by rating.
Scott Forstall: I’ve been in the AI field for a long time and this still blows me away. The fact that it understands the words, the concepts, and even how now ranks it by Yelp’s ordering. We’ve also integrated it in with maps. So you can just ask Siri for directions. Let’s say I want to go to Hoover Tower on the Stanford campus. All I say is, give me directions to Hoover Tower.
Siri: Here are directions to Hoover Tower.
Scott Forstall: So again, it recognized what I meant. It found Hoover Tower, takes me right to maps, shows me the directions. You can even ask for things like, what’s the traffic around here. Now, sometimes your phone is locked in your pocket and you’re in a hands-free environment. So you might have a Bluetooth headset on and you receive a text message or an iMessage. And you hear it come in, but it’s in your pocket and you don’t want to take it out of your pocket. So with Siri, you can just ask Siri to read it to you. So you can just press on that button on the Bluetooth headset, I’ll simulate it by pressing the home button here, but this can all be done hands-free and just ask Siri, read my message.
Siri: New message from Phil Schiller. When can we have lunch?
Scott Forstall: So it reads it hands-free to me.
Siri: You can reply or read it again.
Scott Forstall: So before I reply, I think I want to have lunch on Friday. Hands-free now I can just ask Siri about my calendar. I can ask it, do I have any meetings Friday at noon?
Siri: You don’t have anything on your calendar for this Friday at [12:00] PM.
Scott Forstall: Fantastic. So let me go ahead and reply to Phil now that I can make it. Reply, I can do Friday.
Siri: Here’s your reply to Phil Schiller. Ready to send it?
Scott Forstall: I can respond with my voice or I can just tap on the button. So I’ll go ahead and respond.
Siri: Okay, I’ll send your message.
Scott Forstall: Now you noticed, I said reply. I didn’t say reply to Phil Schiller. Siri is following along the conversation, just like a human does and knows when I said reply, I meant Phil. Now let me go ahead again, all hands-free and schedule that lunch just by talking to my phone. Schedule lunch on Friday at noon with Phil Schiller.
Siri: Okay. I set up your meeting with Phil Schiller for this Friday. Are you ready for me to schedule it?
Scott Forstall: Go and confirm that.
Siri: Okay. I scheduled your meeting with Phil Schiller for this Friday.
Scott Forstall: Okay. This is blown away. I had it read me my message, I checked my calendar, I dictated my response and scheduled it all-hands-free just by talking to my iPhone just by talking to Siri. But there’s more. I told you about the Reminders app earlier. Reminders is integrated perfectly with Siri. So you can create a reminder just like this, remind me to call my wife when I leave work.
Siri: Here’s your reminder for when you leave work, shall I create it?
Scott Forstall: Sure, let’s confirm that.
Siri: Okay. I’ll remind you.
Scott Forstall: So again, in an earlier conversation, it asked me who my wife was and now it knows. And so I just say, remind me about my wife. It’s now set up a geo-fence around work, in this case, apple for me. When I leave apple, it’ll put up an alert reminding me to call my wife. It’s amazing. We’ve also integrated in with web searches. You can search things like Wikipedia just by talking to it. So let’s say you’re learning about the space program and you want to look up Neil Armstrong, just take out your phone and ask Siri, search Wikipedia for Neil Armstrong.
Siri: Searching for Neil Armstrong.
Scott Forstall: So again, it’s that fast to look something up. It takes me right to Safari, right to the article in Wikipedia. Now we’ve also partnered with WolframAlpha and they have all sorts of information you can ask questions about. In fact, they have an entire dictionary built-in. So now to define a word it’s as easy as asking Siri to define it. Like this, define mitosis.
Siri: Let me think about that. I found this for you.
Scott Forstall: It’s, mitosis, cell division in which the nucleus divides into nuclei containing the same number of chromosomes. Again, it is that easy now to look anything up in a dictionary. You just ask your personal assistant Siri. Now let’s say you’re off in Europe and you see something, it costs 45 euros. And you’re wondering, well, how many dollars is that? We’ll just ask Siri, how many dollars is 45 euros?
Siri: Let me check on that. This might answer your question.
Scott Forstall: So what Siri does is it goes, it looks out, figures out the current exchange rates and tells me that 45 euros is $59.59 right now. It even gives me a history of the exchange rates. And you know, for extra measure, translates it into a number of other currencies as well. Now, one of my favorite things is, sometimes your kids will ask how many days is it until my birthday or how many days is it until Christmas? It’s not an easy thing to calculate, but now you just ask your phone. Like this, how many days are there until Christmas?
Siri: Let me check on that. I found this for you.
Scott Forstall: 82 days until Christmas. Get shopping. So it’s just that easy. You can ask so many questions of Siri. And you can’t ask everything and it’s not perfect, but there’s so much, you can ask it that we decided to build a guide right into the user interface. So it’s quick and easy for you to see what kind of questions you can ask. So when you hold down the button, the Siri UI comes up. There’s an I button, an information button on the right hand side, tap on that to bring up the guide. Let me go ahead and show you that. So press and hold, tapping the I button. Now here’s all the sorts of things you can do with Siri. You can voice dial. So call someone just by saying their name. You can control your music. You can control playing an artist or an album, but now you can also play any song you want, including any song you might have on iTunes in the cloud, download it and start playing it for you.
Or even a genre, you can say, please, play some rap music for me, play some classical music and it’ll automatically start playing that for you. You can use it for messages, send and receive text messages, iMessages you can manage your calendar now with your voice. Schedule meetings, check on meetings, move meetings around, cancel meetings all just with your voice. It’s integrated in with reminders as you saw, and with maps. You can ask for traffic and directions. Email, you can compose and dictate emails right to Siri. You can ask questions about the weather and about stocks.
With a clock there’s a lot of things you can do. In addition to things like the alarm clock. You can set timers. So let’s say you stick something in the oven and you’re going to bake it and need to take it out in 30 minutes. Just take your phone and ask Siri to set a timer for 30 minutes and you’re done. You can look up things for contacts, you can create notes, you can search the web, you can search Wikipedia and all the other questions you can ask of WolframAlpha. It is absolutely blow away. Now you might ask, well, who is Siri? Let’s just ask, who are you?
Siri: I am a humble personal assistant.
Scott Forstall: And that is Siri. Siri’s your humble, intelligent, personal assistant that goes everywhere with you and can do things for you just by you asking.
Speaker 4: Thanks, Scott. And that is the coolest feature of the new iPhone 4S. In addition to controlling it with your voice and getting things back and information, as Scott showed you, it goes further. Siri also does dictation. So now anywhere you see a keyboard on an application, you’ll see a microphone in the iPhone 4S, you can tap on it, get a simple user interface for now, starting to talk to Siri, when you’re done with your passage and tap done, sends it up to our server and in a blink of an eye, it comes back with your text. It’s that simple and that deeply integrated into the system. So Siri, you can speak with your natural language. It’s conversational. It understands context of the things you’re talking about as you’re following along.
It’s personal in that it’s amazing right out of the box, but it actually even gets better as you use it and learns your voice. As you’ve seen, it’s built in with many of our applications. It adds dictation anywhere there’s a keyboard and there’s software in the iPhone 4S and there’s software in our data center, making this all happen. And this works across WiFi, as well as 3G. When we launch the iPhone 4S, it will be built in with support for English, French, and German. And as we’ve said, it will be Beta at the start and you’ve seen how great it is already. By Beta we mean, we’ll add more languages over time and more services over time as well.
Jonathan Mosen: If you are of a certain age, you will remember just how revolutionary that announcement was because those of us who’ve been using smartphones for a while, will remember the days of Symbian and the days of Windows Mobile. Yeah, remember Windows Mobile? And Windows Mobile actually had the jump on Symbian in this regard because they had the voice commands feature. And you could do a few basic things, but Siri was on a whole new level. And when you go back and you read some of the reviews of the iPhone 4S and Siri, people were extremely optimistic about the technology and I remember getting an iPhone 4S, lining up for it, bringing it home, recording a demo of Siri, which I probably posted on Audioboo or something like that back in 2011. And there was a lot of excitement about it. And Siri has evolved.
You will hear there that initially Siri was using the Samantha voice, voiced by Susan Bennett. So people still call Susan Bennett, the original voice of Siri, even though they were just really taking the Vocalizer Samantha voice and using it for Siri, we did eventually get the ability to summon Siri with a command. So you don’t have to push the button. You can keep the phone in a pocket or halfway across the room and summon Siri. In 2021, a significant development was a lot of processing going on the device, which has sped Siri up significantly. And there have been some additions over the years. Siri shortcuts significantly expanded the capability of Apple’s personal assistant. And yet when you talk to people about virtual assistants, Siri usually ranks third among the big three now. You’ve got Amazon that came out of nowhere and developed their popular personal assistant.
I have to say that is my personal favorite. I find that I get more sensible answers from it than even Google. And of course, Google came along, took advantage of all their search engine technology, the way of processing passing words and they’ve done an amazing job as well. Apple seems to have languished in this space after being the one that initiated this race in the first place 10 years ago. I think what I enjoy about using Amazon’s product is that you ask a question and you quite often get a straight answer. With Siri, it is still way too common to hear, I found this on the web, take a look. Sometimes the language you have to use to Siri is quite precise despite that presentation, where they were saying that they had conquered this. But I think if we look back at 2011 and where we thought this technology would be in 2021, it hasn’t met our expectations, has it? No matter what personal assistant you’re using.
When I look back at 2011 and what I thought this might be like in 10 years time, I thought that we would have gotten to the point where you could say to your personal assistant, find me the cheapest flights between Auckland and Wellington on the 18th of October in the morning and book it for me. The only personal assistant that has got even a wee bit close to that experience is the Amazon one where you can do shopping with it. And I do this. If I want to order some more melatonin from Amazon, I simply say, reorder my melatonin, if I’m shopping for a new product, I can say, shop for whatever it is and go through the list and make a purchase. And it’s effortless, it’s genius. And of course, Amazon created their personal assistant, really because of this. They want you to buy from them shopping as their core business.
But we have not gotten to the point yet, where you can do that with a wide range of products. And I think it illustrates the complexity of human language. Siri to me is still not doing really basic things that I would expect it to be able to do. If I want it to close all my apps, why won’t it just do it? If I’m reading an email with Siri, when that eventually comes back, and I want to delete the email, why won’t it just do it? So there’s a combination of things. I think there are all sorts of restrictions on device that I don’t believe have to be there even now. And then nobody seems to really have cracked the complexity of making these things useful beyond basic device control and looking up basic information. As I say, the closest in my view is Amazon.
So apple seems to be lagging behind in both areas. So what do you think? How often are you using Siri 10 years on, has it met your expectations? 864-60-MOSEN is my number in the United States. If you want to give me a call 864-606-6736. email@example.com is my email. Somebody who has used that email is Luis Peña. He is in Colombia and he says, hi Jonathan, I am very disappointed with the performance of Siri. I only use Siri to play radio stations, and this feature worked beautifully in iOS 13 until iOS 14.4. But lately it is a pain to ask Siri to play a station. She frequently either says that the station is not available or ends up playing a song whose name is somewhat similar to the name of the station. Furthermore, Siri keeps asking which app she should use to play the station. And even though you tell her so, she doesn’t seem to remember the app that she used before.
So I have to tell her again, I wish I could save the default app to play stations. This horrible change was introduced in iOS 14.5. Siri also has gotten worse to execute shortcuts created by third party apps. For example, it was possible to create shortcuts using my Tuna Radio and my Tuna Radio Pro, since iOS 14.5, this is no longer possible. A similar problem happens when I ask Siri to play a song, she keeps asking, what app should she use? This is irritating. And I haven’t been able to get used to it. I have been using the Soup Drinker, that’s Amazon thing and Google to play stations and their performance is outstanding. Actually I have seriously considered getting an Android phone. In fact, yesterday I went to test the Samsung handsets, but the A series phones that I tested don’t support multi-touch gestures and I am not planning to get an expensive Samsung device at this time. I figured that the learning curve is too stiff for me.
But Siri also has gotten worse in the apple watch. For example, I have a shortcut to call my wife, every time I ask Siri to execute the shortcut she asks for permission to do so. And she doesn’t remember that I granted the permission before. Again, I am very disappointed at Siri lately. I hope Apple takes these problems seriously and gives her a radical overhaul, but I am afraid that Siri is no longer a priority for iOS developers. I think that the blind community should lead an initiative to put pressure on Apple to improve Siri performance. Thank you, Luis, I guess I have just become used to adding the app that I want to use with Siri. So I will say play Mushroom FM on Apple music or play Mushroom FM on Tune In Radio and it does it.
And I actually really do feel grateful for this because I use Castro as my podcast app. I do not like at all the Apple official podcast app, it’s gotten worse if anything, in recent times. So I don’t want to play podcasts in that app. And it’s great to be able to just say, play the Mosen At Large Podcast on Castro and have it do it. So for me, this is a huge step forward for Siri rather than a disadvantage. And I suppose this is one of the challenges of software, isn’t it? That one person’s greater innovation is another person’s pain in the bleep.
Speaker 5: Mosen At Large Podcast.
Jonathan Mosen: Being a parent is the most wonderful, difficult, rewarding, frustrating, meaningful, mysterious job I’ve ever done, but somehow job isn’t the right word. It’s a calling and a privilege. There’ve been some days when I think, wow, I really rock at doing this dad thing. And other days when I think, I must be the most useless parent on the planet. But that emotional roller coaster has nothing to do with the fact that I’m blind. All parents feel this way at different stages on their parenting journey. Yeah, there’s no doubt that being a disabled parent introduces some unique attributes, probably the most significant of which is dealing with other people’s often judgmental and inaccurate attitudes towards disabled people. Recently, I was contacted by Dave Matheis who has compiled and edited a book in Louisville, Kentucky for the Advocado Press and the Center for Accessible Living.
It’s called, A celebration of family, stories of parents with disabilities. The book contains the stories of 30 families in which one or both parents have disabilities. The book covers a wide range of impairments including physical, mental, sensory, and intellectual. It’s a frank and highly readable book and it’s available now on Amazon. To discuss the book I’m joined by Dave Matheis, Jason Jones, who wrote the introduction and whose story also appears in the book and Kimberly Parsley also, whose story features in the book. Welcome to all of you, Dave, can I start with you? How did you come to compile and edit this book?
Dave Matheis: I work at a Center for Independent Living in Kentucky part-time and there were several parents or colleagues of mine, and we were talking about their experiences one day. And to me, they were just very interesting stories of how their parents had came about. So we wanted to do something from the center on the whole issue of parenting with disabilities. We planned a one-day conference and that fell apart on us. And then we organized a series of panels of parents with disabilities to speak at other events. Jason was a moderator for those events and they went pretty well. And I just kept getting more stories because I just knew a lot of parents with disabilities. And I thought maybe this would be a good subject for a book.
So we went forward with it at the center and at The Advocado Press. I began doing zoom interviews with parents and I would run the interview through a transcribing software and come out with a transcript. And then I modified the transcript into a cohesive narrative. This is the way we started with parents. Eventually I gave parents the options of either doing a zoom interview or just submitting the story directly to me. We ended up with two thirds of the 30 stories were done with zoom interviews and the parents involved were allowed to change the story that I developed in any way they wanted to. And several of them made significant changes and significant additions.
Jonathan Mosen: How did you choose who was profiled in the book? Because I presume you had more parents that you knew about than there was room to profile.
Dave Matheis: Yeah. And as matter of fact, after I was done, I kept thinking of other parents I should have included. I wanted to get a good cross section of disability. As you mentioned earlier, we pretty much covered most of the disabilities we could think of. Most of the people I knew as colleagues or friends so I went to them first. We did have an issue. Most of the stories, about 25 of them, I think are from Kentucky. And so are people with a Kentucky connection. And we did have a problem with a couple of disabilities. I was having trouble finding successful parents in Kentucky with autism or intellectual disabilities who were willing to talk to me. So through some connections I had with some organizations, we were able to get stories out of state for those individuals. There’s a story from Ohio, there’s a story from Washington State, a story with a person with a mental health disability from Arizona.
So, I don’t want to say it was just the first 30 people I could come up with, but that’s close to the way it was. I was making sure all the disabilities were included and I thought 30 would be enough. It comes out to about 200 pages, I thought that was probably a pretty good length. One other one I should mention is that Jason Jones got the local Paralyzed Veterans of America to say they would support the book and promote it. And when he told me, I said, Jason, we don’t have a veteran in the book. So we were able to locate a veteran in Kentucky with a disability. It wasn’t a service-related disability, although it did happen while he was in the service. It was the last story added so it’s the 30th, last chapter in the book and it came out to be one of the better stories, I think. So it was just kind of a search we did.
Jonathan Mosen: You mentioned people being hesitant to talk to you. Was there some hesitancy? Were there some people who just didn’t want to tell their stories for one reason or another?
Dave Matheis: I think the problem, especially with autism or intellectual disabilities, I’m not sure we had enough positive stories in the state with those disabilities. And there was a reluctance with that group to, I think, bring attention to themselves with the fear that somehow maybe they would lose their child, I’m not sure, but there did seem to be a reluctance from people in those disability categories. The two people I ended up getting were very open to talking and they’ve had successful parenting experiences.
Jonathan Mosen: Were you conscious of trying to convey any particular overarching message or theme in the book?
Dave Matheis: Yeah, there were a couple of things, I think. First of all, and Jason was pretty involved with this from the beginning and he can maybe add to this if he wants, but I think we wanted it to be almost a manual for individuals with disabilities who might have thought about being a parent or who wanted to be a parent. I think that was one of our intentions was to almost make it a manual for people to see other people’s experiences and how they managed to be successful parents. I think the other thing we wanted was, as you mentioned earlier, there is continuing bias, which Jason points out pretty well in the introduction to some people with severe significant disabilities becoming parents.
And we kind of wanted to counter that bias and even legal discrimination that still exists in the United States. There’s still a law on the Kentucky Statutes that Jason knows better than I do about people with certain disabilities who can have their child taken away just on the basis of the disability and nothing else. And this is kind of a book, where written kind of coincides with an effort we’re making in advocacy in the state to get that kind of legal language removed.
Jonathan Mosen: Let’s come back and have a chat to Jason about those issues. Can I just check in with you Kimberly though, because before we started recording, you mentioned to me that you were looking for a book like this when you became pregnant and so you were glad to participate in a resource like this.
Kimberly Parsley…: I was. I had a lot of concerns about parenting. I think everyone does, but mine were very specific to being blind. I just had no idea, how was I going to take the baby’s temperature. I’ve fixated on that one thing, like a thermometer. I did not have at the time, this would have been 13 years ago now, I didn’t see anything about a talking thermometer and I just knew my baby was going to get a high fever and die because I couldn’t read a thermometer and I would have really liked to see other parents, their stories about how they’ve overcome things like that. Because I’m sure we all have those fears and the fear of a disabled person that somehow your child will get taken away from you is very, very real. I don’t know, a single disabled parent now who I’ve talked to since I had my kids who didn’t feel that at some time.
Jonathan Mosen: Does that mean that the blindness system failed you to some degree? Because you know, even what 12, 15 years ago we were online, blind people were connected, there’s all sorts of advice available. And yet it sounds like you just didn’t have access to any of that support.
Kimberly Parsley: I don’t think the system necessarily failed me except in so far as, ableism is real, it’s systemic. And in so far as it’s in everything. I live in a area without public transportation and that is a problem.
So I don’t necessarily think there were any systems that failed me, but certainly systems can improve and they need to improve.
Jonathan Mosen: I’d like to explore your story a bit more soon, but I want to bring Jason Jones into the conversation because Jason, of course your section is the first thing that people read. If they’re reading this book, sequentially and boy, when I read this, did it wake me up? Because you just launched straight into it with comments about the hideous concept of eugenics. So you really pull no punches in your introduction about the discrimination, the plight that many parents face.
Jason Jones: Yeah. And my story’s in there too. I’m a high level quadriplegic and my story’s somewhere down in the book as well. So I experienced a lot of this stuff, which gave me, I do a lot of training on disability history and that kind of stuff. And when I really started diving into it over the last five or 10 years, it was really scary to start understanding that we did a lot of things in the United States that people, if they knew would go, oh my God, that could not happen here. The idea of eugenics is basically what fueled the Nazi rise in Germany and the idea of a perfect race and that we need to get rid of everything that doesn’t look like us and talk like us and act like the way we want people to act.
And I was really more than anything, just mad about it, I guess. And you can do a couple things with anger. You can turn it into something positive or you can just rant and rave and complain all the time. So, I really wanted to understand, so I could convey that message to people that I do training and stuff with to say, listen, this happened. And it was very pervasive in our country and it continues today, much smaller, less egregious sort of ways, but it still exists. We had four sterilization in this country until the seventies. And although it wasn’t practiced as widely as it was in the twenties, you know, the seventies to me, which is when I was born, it seems like it’s not that long ago now. Obviously it was, I mean I’m close to 50 now, but it
doesn’t seem like a crazy amount of time when you think of how old our country is and how old the world is really, and things were still going on like that. And then you get up into cases within the last decade or less to where people are still losing their children based solely on disability. Not whether or not they can take care of the child, not whether or not they can take care of a child with some sort of accommodation, but just simply because someone deems them to be unfit. And unfit is a very relative term. I would argue that there are plenty of parents out there who have no disability whatsoever and are nowhere close to being fit to have children. And therefore probably shouldn’t have children. So it’s really a relative term. And I would be the first to say, if there’s a person with a disability out there and their child is being neglected in some way, then someone should look at that.
Having a disability shouldn’t exclude you from the process either, but it should definitely, or from, from a process that could be negative. But it definitely shouldn’t exclude you just simply because you have a disability. It’s sad. That’s one of the stories I tell in there it’s of a blind parent who loses her child because the child won’t breastfeed and she loses her child for 57 days, the first 57 days of her life. Now I don’t know about you. You’re a parent, I’m a parent. Those first 57 days are pretty darn important, right? I mean, that’s serious bonding time. And just because a nurse said this isn’t working because your mother’s blind. Children have trouble breastfeeding all the time. And if someone doesn’t have a disability, does that make them unfit to, to take on their child? No, it’s just another hurdle that you have to get through. And so the fact that these things still happen, we have eight states that determinate your rights just for no other reason than having a physical disability.
Jonathan Mosen: I think there are three things that your introduction really clearly identifies. One is that there is ongoing discussion. It’s a very sensitive subject actually about whether disabled parents should knowingly bring other disabled children into the world. If there’s even a chance that that might happen. Is it somehow immoral to do that? And for me as a blind person, I believe that blindness is an impairment that can be remediated with the right societal action. And yet there are blind people who strongly object to the idea.
When I have said to people, look, I’m actually quite excited as a blind dad, about the chance of having blind grandchildren. And they somehow think I’m being terribly offensive for that. So there’s the start of life questions. Then of course, it’s a lottery, isn’t it? Because you see medical professionals who can’t look at someone with a disability in any other way than through a medical lens. If you get the wrong medical professional at the wrong time, there is that danger that your child at that formative stage that you talk about might be taken away from you. And the third area, which is also explored in the book, is a custody battle. When the relationship doesn’t work out and the other parent is not disabled. Suddenly you find that disability is used as a weapon in a custody battle in a system that’s fundamentally rigged against disabled people.
Jason Jones: I think the world still looks at disability through a medical model lens and that if we have a disability, we need to fix that. the first thing we need to do is we need to fix that. Whereas what you said about being blind, it’s not something that you necessarily need to fix. What needs to be fixed is more the social model of disability, which says, if we can filter out the impediments in society, then there’s no disability. If I’ve got away to get in my, my chair every day to access the world, to have transportation, to be able to do and work and take care of my children and provide for my family, do all those things. If there’s ramps on every door, if there are ways of communicating through computer or whatever those are, if we can use all of those things, then disability doesn’t matter to the overall quality of life right now.
And there are some ways of course it’s going to, but as far as just accessing the world, it doesn’t matter. But we think, and I think this is an idea that I’ve dedicated my life to over the past 30 years is that need to quit worrying about fixing everybody, right? I mean, it’s the same thing that we see in politics. And we see in everything, if we even see in sports in the United States where we just can’t imagine that somebody else could root for the team that we hate, we got to stop trying to fix everything. Disability through the medical model is fixing and we don’t need to do that. What we need to do is we need to figure out therapies and we need to figure out interventions. And we need to figure out things that just allow a bridging of the gap if nothing else. And it’s really scary if you think two parents, both good parents, both love the child equally, but one has a disability, one doesn’t and they automatically are excluded from that relationship just because they have a disability? It’s horrible.
Jonathan Mosen: In New Zealand, we have very much embraced the social model of disability, which is why we, and why I am using the term disabled people. Because we feel that using the term, people with disabilities is actually blaming the individual, whereas it’s societies that has created the disabilities. So it’s a very interesting difference. And the UK to some degree has embraced that model as well. And I think the social model of disability is quite empowering. You mentioned and your intro states, in the United States that have specific legislation on the books pertaining to disabled parents. Can you talk us through that?
Jason Jones: Yeah. I think the license looked is about 35 states where there are statutes that include disability just alone as ground for termination of parental rights. In I think Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Dave, help me. If I’m forgetting Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, DC, New Mexico, New Mexico is the other that allowed physical disability as the only reason for terminating parental rights. And, and that’s even without any evidence of abuse or neglect or any of the things that would normally give a government, a reason to remove a child from a situation that’s significantly scary.
Kentucky’s one of the 35. And the odd thing is, and I talk about this a little bit in the book is that we allow, because the ADA says you can’t discriminate against somebody with a disability in the adoption process. So if you have a disability ,and you want to adopt, that cannot be considered, or it’s not supposed to be, obviously you probably is in case, even though it’s not supposed to be, but you can’t consider disability for excluding someone from entering the adoption process. So we have a term called talking out of both sides of your mouth. I’m not sure if that’s an [crosstalk [01:10:53]
Okay. All right. So is that not what is happening here? We’re saying if you have your own child, okay, we can take them away because you have disability, but you can adopt the heck out of one if you want to. It boggles my mind that we would have laws that completely butt heads with each other like that. But that, of course, that’s not the only laws we have that do that but from our perspective, it’s scary to think that 35 is a large majority.
And so we’re pecking away at these South Carolina did a really good job a couple years ago to get some legislation passed, to kind of eliminate that. And again, I want to say it over and over. If the child is being abused, if the child is being neglected, then the process should be the same. Whether somebody has a disability or not, disability should not be the reason why kids are removed from their families.
Jonathan Mosen: And you never know when this sort of thing’s going to come up. One of the most difficult experiences that I’ve had as a parent was when I took my kids to McDonald’s and we were just sitting there minding our own business. And I was out on my own, and I have four children. And we were sitting there and they were having a good time eating their big Macs and this random individual just sidled up to me and started verbally attacking me over the fact that I had no business being a parent.
And how would I possibly think it was appropriate to expose these children to the risks of having a blind father. And this was just sitting there minding our own business. And for me, it wasn’t so much the experience from my point of view, but then having to have the teachable moment of talking to the children who were very upset about what this was all about, because for them having a blind dad was normal. In fact, I remember reading my oldest daughter, the one of those MercerMayer, little critter books. And I used to read them a story from Braille every night. I loved the bedtime story thing. So I was reading this book to my oldest daughter. And at the end of it, it talks about the little critter saying I can’t go to sleep without a story. And there’s a picture of the dad reading little critter a story. And my daughter looks at this picture and she says, “How come that daddy’s not reading Braille?” Cause as far as she was concerned, all dads read Braille and all mums read print.
Dave Matheis: Jonathan, there’s a very similar story in the book where a father regularly read to his daughter. And then for some reason, the mother who has sight read the story to her one night and she said she didn’t like it. Because her mom read with the lights on.
Jonathan Mosen: So I know that many people on this show will be familiar with Rick Roderick and he’s in this book and it’s a really good story. It sounds like that’s what I’m talking about. Yeah. They have a lovely family. Kimberly, you have had to deal firsthand with some of these issues that we are talking about. First of all, you thought that parenting was not going to be a part of your future. would you mind telling me a little bit about your situation and why you had initially come to that conclusion and what changed your mind?
Kimberly Parsley: Well, I just thought it wasn’t a thing. I didn’t know how someone could be a parent and have a life and a disability. My husband and I were married 11 years before we decided for whatever reason, I don’t even know now. We just decided that maybe we were ready after 11 years to have a child and I have a genetic disorder. So there were questions there that we had to ask ourselves. There is a procedure called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, where they harvest in my case would be the egg and would only fertilize the eggs that did not have my particular genetic mutation. It’s a dominant gene. So there would be a 50% chance and we could have done that, but we decided not to do that. It wasn’t for us.
And one of the things, and I talk about it in the book is I asked my mother, would you still have had a child if you’d known what you were going to go through with me? And she said, yes, without hesitation. So I made this decision, I guess you would say to roll the dice. And that was the right decision to me. But that doesn’t mean that I say everyone should that same position. I mean, everyone is their own person and has their own situation. Every disease is different. But that was the decision that was right for me, was to have the baby naturally. And one of my children has the gene and one does not.
Jonathan Mosen: Have you had flack for that? I mean, have people criticized you for the fact that you have brought a child with that genetic disorder into the world?
Kimberly Parsley: We live in the American south, so criticize outright is not so much a thing. People do a lot. They more give you the side eye or they, oh, well bless you, that kind of thing. So it’s a very, very discreet and elegant way of insult that we do down here. And yes I have experienced that.
Jonathan Mosen: But you have no regrets I take it?
Kimberly Parsley: No, not at all. Not at all. I see my children and I would not want them any other way. I hate that my daughter has to go through this. We just found out, she’s looking at two more eye surgeries the coming weeks. I hate that. I hate it so bad. It breaks my heart and we have been up front with her. We have talked to her about what’s going on and she hugs me and tells me, “Mommy, it’s not your fault.” And I think it’s, I must wear the guilt on my face. I must. I don’t think anyone should feel guilty about this kind of thing, but I do. So I think she must sense it. So she hugs me and says, “Mommy, it’s not your fault.”
Jonathan Mosen: Because the alternative is that she would never have lived at all.
Kimberly Parsley: That’s that’s my thinking. And she is so joyful, a tiny little red-headed 10 year old. She just brings so much joy, just so much joy into my life, into the lives of people around her. And we bring kids into the world. To me, that is our greatest expression of hope. We don’t expect perfection. Even from the healthiest kids, we don’t expect them to be a certain way. I think we should have kids based on bringing more hope into the world, because, I mean, there’s a lot of reasons not to have kids, but disability just should not be one of them. Because people in the disability community have had to be extremely resilient. And that is certainly a trait we could pass on.
Jonathan Mosen: And we could all do with a lot more children in the world who are loved and cared for. Can I talk to both you and Jason about the concept of disabled parents, having children that care for their parents, you made a comment in your chapter, Kimberly, about how you don’t use the apps on your smartphone, as much as you used to. Now that you have kids who are old enough to read things to you and that you were looking forward to your son driving, because then you’d have a set of wheels at your disposal. And I must confess that kind of rang a little bit of an alarm bell for me because don’t we have to confront the perception all the time that disabled people bring kids into the world so that they have somebody who can care for them.
Kimberly Parsley: I think disabled people probably do have to confront that, but this idea that you should be independent from the moment you start walking and until you’re buried, that is relatively new. I mean we always, throughout human history have had to have a sense of community of taking care of each other. This whole idea of everyone being independent is fundamentally flawed, whether you’re disabled or not. And I mean, yes, I ask my kids for help. I also help my parents. Just because I’m the disabled one. If my mother needs something, I expect her to ask me to help if it’s something I can help with and we take care of each other. I think that’s called a healthy world.
Jonathan Mosen: Right. So the whole “It takes a village” kind of model.
Kimberly Parsley: For me. Yeah, absolutely.
Jonathan Mosen: Any thoughts on this, Jason, from your perspective about this perception that people have that somehow we have our children take care of us.
Jason Jones: I never thought of that. I’ve never really confronted that. I’ve never seen that discrimination in [inaudible [01:19:30] and it certainly was not my intent whatsoever. I think you grow up and you get married or you decide to have children, whatever. And it’s just the way things fall into place. Should we take a step back and go, is this the right thing to do? I mean, I think a couple people that in the book, even sort of had to meet that head on and say we’re not going to have children for whatever reason, but, but for me when I got hurt, my parents never gave me the option of thinking that my life was gonna to be different. Right. It’s like, okay, you’re in a wheelchair now.
So what? And I said, okay, you’re out of high school, go to college, have a family, get a job. Do all those kinds of things that you were going to do. So I never really had that thought that, oh, the good thing here would be when my kids grow up, that they can take care of me. And I have a good position where I can have some help from outside sources and stuff too. But one thing I will admit 100% is traveling is so much better now than it ever was. My kids are 13 and 10 and they’re so much help there as they get more mature and we can give them more responsibility. My son got me out of my chair a couple weeks ago. He’s done it twice now. I didn’t ask him to, he just wanted to try and did wonderful. I would not put anything on my kids,
first of all, that, that they didn’t ask for as far as my disability goes. But I do remember when they came home from school the first time and said, somebody at school asked me about your disability. And then when someone else asked them from an exterior standpoint, they were forced to think about themselves. And they probably never had before. You know, this is just, dad happens to use a wheelchair to get around. But then when you have a fellow classmate in kindergarten, say what’s wrong with your dad? And I am a firm believer in showing up, I think that’s one of the issues in the disability community completely is that we tend sometimes to hold back because we don’t know what to expect or we’re afraid things won’t be accessible or whatever the myriad of reasons that keep us from participating are.
I think it’s really important to show up. So if my son has a golf tournament and they’re planning golf tournaments and they know I’m going to be there, then maybe they’ll think about accessibility and those kinds of things. And also just so society goes, oh yeah, that’s Jason, he’s got two kids, whatever, because we need to get to whatever. Where we don’t have to worry about stigma and things like what did you have a kid just because wanting more help or just because your wife gets to take care of you and then you’ll expect your kids to, I mean, that’s all we’ve got to get to.
Jonathan Mosen: Dave. I’m wondering whether you think there are advantages in having a disabled parent having read all the material that you’ve had. Do you think that it can potentially bring a more tolerant child at the end of the process because they’re more embracing of diversity? I remember the chapter that you wrote on Rick, where it really made this point that his daughter said, look, I’ve been exposed to so many people, different kinds of impairments. I’m just living it. I’m just used to it.
Dave Matheis: Yes. And Several parents in the book make that point that they think they’re children by having a parent with a disability. I think Jason even made the point too, in his story that they ended up with kids who, who were more understanding and more accepting of diversity and differences. That point is made in several of the stories. It’s one of the reoccurring things also to add a little bit of what was being talked about.
When we did the Zoom interviews, we had about eight questions we asked every parent and the ones who wrote their own story, I sent them the questions in case they wanted to use that as a guide. Jason and I developed those questions. And one of the questions was “What kind of accommodations or adaptations did you have to use to become an effective parent?” And more often than not the first thing the parent said at that question is, “Well, I think my kid adapted more to me than I had to adapt to the kid.” And to me that just demonstrated how resilient children are, how accepting they can be. And it was just a remarkable, reoccurring theme too. That what parents would say when I asked that question. And you’ve probably had that experience with your own kids, I would think.
Jonathan Mosen: Yes, it’s remarkable. I remember when my oldest son was about two or three, he had finally understood the fact that I was blind and wasn’t able to see at all. So when he got really excited about a program that was on TV, he would take my hand and put it on the screen because he would think, oh, that’s how I could watch the TV.
Dave Matheis: Well it’s funny too. Kimberly talks on her story about the adaptations her children had to make to her feeding them.
Jonathan Mosen: Can you tell me about that?
Kimberly Parsley: It was a messy, messy business. A messy business. I think we did things like we put a trashcan under the high chair and I had to have one hand on the child’s face. So I knew where the mouth was. And then another hand doing the feeding action and my son, he’s very chill even as a baby he was fine with this, but my daughter just immediately. I may have fed her one time and then she was like, I need that spoon. So she just took the spoon and she handled the feeding from then on. She just fed herself. She just fed herself. So they do adapt because it’s kind of the water they swim in. This was not news of them. I mean, I fretted had over telling my son that I was blind and that I couldn’t see. And he did not care because nothing changed the knowledge didn’t change him at all. This was just how it was.
Jonathan Mosen: What about other parents though, when they get to the point that it’s time to have people over. I’m wondering if you’ve had any experience with parents, just feeling a bit reticent about sending their children over.
Kimberly Parsley: That is a very good question. I don’t think so. I really don’t think so. I tried to be very active at school. So I was always around my kid’s school being involved like Jason said, showing up and it is extremely awkward when you’re disabled because you do never know whether things are going to be accessible. You never know what’s expected. And when your main intro into this place is a six year-old, you’re not going to get a lot of accurate information and it’s not going to be real helpful. So it is very awkward. But I had been to so many things. Christmas plays and things that I think most of the parents knew me from there. So they were okay with it. It probably didn’t hurt that my husband also was a teacher at the school, so maybe they figured he would be here all the time and it wouldn’t be a problem.
Jonathan Mosen: Who’s the primary audience for this Dave, because it seems to me this could be a very useful book for disabled parents to read, but also presumably you’re trying to get the message out about changing those perceptions aren’t you?
Dave Matheis: Well,
I was hoping, I don’t know if it will come to fruition that universities might be able to use this book in education classes or social work classes or occupational therapy classes. I know one of the parents is being interviewed by university professor next week at Western Kentucky University for his social work classes about the book. So I was hoping that would be a big audience for it. It hasn’t happened yet, but we’re trying. So I think it could be a valuable teaching tool.
Jonathan Mosen: Dave, can I just ask you about the availability of this in accessible formats? I know that the book is available through Amazon. Does that all so include Amazon Kindle for those who have those accessibility requirements?
Dave Matheis: Yes. There is a Kindle version available through Amazon. We’ve had that from the start. I’ve run into the issue that a lot of people who are blind are otherwise print disabled aren’t comfortable with Kindle. We’re trying to get it recorded by the Kentucky talking books library. They have it on their list to record and we’re looking for other ways of making it accessible, but it is available through Kindle.
Jonathan Mosen: There is also a service called Book Share and I’m not sure if you’re [crosstalk [01:28:06] .
Dave Matheis: I think actually it was Marisa Rodrick who told me about that. And she also told me she knew 13 people who wanted the book that don’t use Kindle and I’ve contacted them. They sent me an email back saying they would get in touch with me, but that’s been two months ago. So I’ve contacted them twice. I guess I’m going to have to do it again.
Jonathan Mosen: I know that the blind community, which is really who listen to this podcast would be delighted if it made it up on Book Share, you would have a very large number of readers. I’m sure. So hopefully that can happen in the meantime for those who do have access to Kindle and are comfortable using it, the book is called “A Celebration of Family: Stories of Parents With Disabilities.” It’s a great read. I actually sat down and read this thing in one sitting because it was just a wide range of emotions. As a disabled parent, I kind of got the aha moment. Some of it was quite moving. Some of it made me angry. It’s a really interesting set of perspectives. And I want to thank the three of you for giving us some time today and sharing your perspectives. I hope that people have a chance to read this book. It’s well worth a read. So thank you all.
Dave Matheis: Thank you. And I wish Jonathan, I wish we had contacted you while we were writing the book.
Speaker 6: What’s on your mind. Send an email with a recording of your voice or just write it down. Jonathan@mushroom, fm.com. That’s J-O-H-N-A-T-H-A-N @mushroom fm.com or phone our listener line. The number in the United States is 86460 Mosen. That’s 86 46066736
Jonathan Mosen: Kelby Carlson is commenting. That’s a nice bit of alliteration of sorts anyway, but Kelby’s spelled with a K. Anyway, I’ll move on and just read the jolly old email, which pertains to things talked about in the 14th of August show, published on the 15th of August if you’re in New Zealand where we are. The first is memories of summer camp. There are three that I remember, especially vividly.
The first, which I went to for nine years in a row was a camp specifically encouraging blind people to play various sports. Since I grew up in an athletic family, this concept wasn’t new to me at all, but it was great fun working really hard for a week and playing some of the accessible sports that I didn’t get to play elsewhere. I don’t think the camp is still around, but I have many fond memories of it. It’s interesting that you mentioned the Seven Day Adventists because they also had a camp for blind children and adults in my state that I went to twice, that was a more traditional camp with activities like horse riding, hiking, and other similar activities. My memories of that camp include falling off a dock to a very swampy part of a lake.
That’s me doing the sound effects. We haven’t got the budget for the big things, having to eat vegetarian for a week, which I did not enjoy, especially the meat substitutes and one of the cabin mates who went on to be a friend reading books out loud to me and the other cabin mates during the night, I will pause there and say, yes, I remember the Seventh Day Adventist, New Vision camps and the food. And they had this really awful pumpkin soup. And if you’ve listened to this show, even remotely you’ll know that I hate soup and this thing was pumpkin soup and they called it sunshine soup. Perhaps this is what started my soup trauma that awful sunshine soup! Kelby continues. The last camp that’s on my mind was a camp focused on science that was put on by the National Federation of The Blind.
I don’t remember all of the activities we did, but I vividly remember getting to dissect a baby shark, which was really cool. That camp was my first introduction to the NFB. And unfortunately, it left an negative impression for some time. The big reason for this is that they imposed their particular philosophy about mobility and adaptation on us young children without any warning. So when I got off the airplane, only the second time I had flown, I was expected to get through the airport without sighted guide something I had never done before. When I arrived, they forced me to replace my folding Ambutech cane with a long white cane, which I wasn’t used to at all. On the one hand I enjoyed that camp a lot. On the other hand, this kind of rigidity has been the hallmark of the NFB in my experience. I have tremendous respect for many blind travelers who can get many more places than I can seemingly without help. And, many of them are in the NFB. However, when I have tried to either have detailed conversations with the NFB folks about traveling, I have generally been rebuffed, and given non-specific information, basically, things about structured discovery, which I have already read about, or told to just attend one of their training centers, which given my job, is not practical at all.
This is a real shame as I would like to get better at certain skills that NFB believes in, but I’ve had no success getting anything beyond generic suggestions when it comes to mobility and life skills from them. Slight rant aside, I have a lot of respect for the NFB philosophy in general, and many of the writings of Kenneth Jernigan, and do try to implement their philosophy as best as I reasonably can.
Finally, with regards to the calendar, I have been experimenting more with setting up reminders and appointments with Siri recently, and have had a lot of success. It’s an order of magnitude faster than doing it manually. As for Outlook, I do use an Outlook calendar at work, which syncs appointments with me and my team to everyone’s calendars.
I am not very good at navigating it though. As for example, when I tab through appointments frequently, JAWS only states the time of the appointments, but not the day. I’d have to try and find more resources that cover JAWS with Outlook’s calendar. I’d be interested to know how accessible Google Calendar is on the PC, and the iPhone if anyone knows. Thanks, Kelby, I would definitely check out Leasey from Hartgen Consultancy at hartgen.org. That’s H-A-R-T-G-E-N.org, because they have substantially improved on the Outlook Calendar support for JAWS that comes bundled with JAWS.
And, I think you’ll find it just feels and behaves much better with Leasey installed. This email starts off, “Hi Jonathan, this is Michelle Stevens here. I have been meaning to write to you for simply ages. I did not want to ruin my goal of being procrastinator of the year. Growing up in the ’60s at blind school in Melbourne, Australia, my experience was a huge struggle, even with partial sight. Reading was very difficult, and not an enjoyable process for me. During these times, Braille was denied even for those with very limited vision.”
“As well, I had mild to moderate hearing loss, and had to use hearing aids that felt like they stuck out like Frankenstein’s bolts. I hated them with a capital H. Chronic ear infections was something I had to grow up with. As mentioned prior, I found reading near to impossible. Low-vision aids were expensive for my family to pay for.”
“I remember bringing home a bill from the school, and my mum breaking down in tears, wondering where we were going to find the money to pay for yet another low-vision aid. Mobility with a long cane was not taught to children who had some sight.”
“Now, I am reading Braille with an upper case B, and love it with all upper case. Well, this is going off the points why I wanted to write to you. I had serious ear infections, and developed in my early 30s, a condition known as cholesteatoma. It was so extensive that all my insides of my right ear had to be removed, and lost any little hearing I had there. My left ear was going down quickly, but I still had some vision to successfully work a beautiful guide dog.”
“My vision loss was caused by being born very premature. I praise God that I still have a little bit of vision. After many operations on my ears, I became profoundly deaf. Yes, with a capital D. I identify as deaf blind, or one word, rather than deaf-blind. Why? I feel deaf blindness brings up a whole new array of challenges for us. My communication is Tactile Auslan sign language. I also have balance issues. Do other deaf blind or totals with sign significant hearing loss have the same problem? even with the cochlear implant, I find orientation impossible to move about safely, because I have no idea where the sounds come from.”
“On my right ear, I use a very powerful BAHA, which stands for bone-anchored hearing aid with a headband. I argue that deaf-blind culture is another mix to the culture question. We as deaf blind cannot mix in the deaf community because their world is very visual. Neither can we mix in the blind community because we can find it difficult to communicate.”
“This is true for friends who have Usher’s. Auslan is their first language. English is my first language, but I use Auslan most of the time to communicate and to receive information. I’ve been to university studying deaf studies and sign linguistics. I now have significant balance issues following an accident where I fell down a whole flight of escalators, where I broke my leg. And now, I have weakness on my left leg, which was due to a communication breakdown between the volunteer and myself. As well, I lost the remaining vision I had and found it really difficult to continue working a Guide Dog.”
“One of the saddest days in my life was to admit that I no longer had the ability to work a guide dog safely because I’d become very disorientated and confused with my balance issues. It was my decision to retire my dog, Logan.”
“If I did not have the National Disability Insurance scheme in Australia, I would be in some kind of supported accommodation or a nursing home. I have communication guides known as com guides that come in for hours a day to make sure I am independent as possible. Because I cannot go out safely on my own, I value my independence. I’m living in Traralgon, Victoria, at a retirement village, and love my unit along with my collection of laptops, and Braille display, and other technology that greatly help my independence.”
“I do love JAWS, iPhone 11 with iOS 14.7, and could not manage without my Braille displays. I work eight hours a week for Deaf blind Victoria, which is an advocacy group for and of people who are deaf blind. Our group is made up of people who identify with deafblindness, or who have a combined significant vision and hearing loss.”
“Yes, I am proud to say I am deaf blind. Because of my balance issues, I must use a wheelchair to get around safely, because I have had quite a few falls during my journey. If I walk with a walking frame, it is difficult to orientate myself, or keep a straight line. How do other people in a similar situation cope? I find it easier to orient myself at home in a wheelchair because I have less chance falling down or becoming dizzy.”
“Yes, I argue that deafblindness is a third culture, and I am proud of my adopted language of Auslan and the deaf blind community, which I identify with and proud to be a part of. I remember you had something on your show, the new Apple TV remote was this Siri remote. I used the Apple fourth-generation to read captions linked with voiceover, and my focus Braille 45th Gen to follow the TV. Because the Braille moves at such a fast pace, I find it useful to pick up with my fingers that I cannot hear with my cochlear or BAHA.”
“Thank you for taking the time to read this email. Sorry, if I have been rabbiting on a bit. Thank you for everything you do for the blind and low-vision community and the deaf blind community. I find it difficult to follow your show. I have to listen several times to try to understand what is being said. I cannot understand the varied accents that you have, but nevermind it is just me.”
Well, thank you so much for writing in Michelle. So many things coming out of that email. The first thing is that I did write back to Michelle the moment I got this email to tell her that we do podcast transcripts for the show. So, if it’s easy for you Michelle and others to use the transcripts, we try to get those out as close to publication of the audio as possible.
Sometimes it takes a little bit longer. Sometimes we get very close to simultaneous release, which would be great. So, that may be an easier way for you to consume the content, and it’s been great to see so many deaf blind people engaging with this podcast as a result of the transcripts. It is a timely reminder for me to remind people about the transcripts from time to time. We do publish when we post the latest transcript on our Twitter feed. You can follow Mosen At Large on Twitter. You can also follow Mosen At Large on Facebook. We publish the transcript link there as well, the moment it comes out. And, we have our media list, so you can send a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s media-subscribe@ M-O-S-E-N.org. And, I do send an email as soon as the transcript is published on there.
That’s where you can also find a little email that goes out before the episode is published, to talk about what we are going to talk about in part this week, so that you can get your contribution in ahead of time, nifty. I certainly accept totally that there is such a thing as a deaf blind culture. It sounds like you have an incredibly positive attitude to your situation that you’ve achieved a lot. And, to hear that you are proud to be a part of that deaf blind culture is an absolutely wonderful thing to read. I’m really glad that the NDIS in Australia is working out well for you, and that you’ve got the support that you need, and you obviously love your technology.
Yes, this is the new Siri remote for the Apple TV. It comes when you buy a new Apple TV from Apple, but you can also buy it separately, and that will work with the apple TV four and 4k as well. I find it a big improvement over the older, lighter, thinner, Siri remote with a little touch surface. So, you may like it as well.
I am certainly interested in hearing from others who might be participating in this show, thanks to the transcripts who are deaf blind. I know we had a discussion sometime ago when the snowman got his cochlear implant. We had some great feedback from deaf blind people who are cochlear implant wearers, and it would be great to hear if any have further comments on coping strategies, and some of the things that you have pointed out.
Jonathan Mosen: Leilou Harrison Talbert writes in and says, “Hi, Jonathan, and the rest of the Mosen at large listeners, I have several points to bring up, so I will try to keep this email as concise as possible.”
“First off, I loved your interview with Leona Godin. To me, it felt more like a conversation rather than an interview, and it was clear to see how passionate you both are about the subject. I love that there planned eyes exists and I’m learning a lot of my history as a blind person. I sometimes struggle with the academic style of writing, however, the interview helped me to understand some of the context. I’ve proudly identified as blind for several years now, and I’ve been talking about blind culture since before I knew what the word culture meant. It is also very refreshing to me to see sighted people who understand how blind culture works. I enjoyed your episode with Amanda, and I’ve sent it to a couple of sighties who wanted to understand a bit more about blind culture. A listener suggested that you should have a round table of sighted partners to discuss blind culture.”
“Personally, I’d be interested to hear more sighted people’s perspectives. I have a sighted partner. It was fascinating to me to see how they had to adapt, and what they observed about dating and interacting with a blind person. Re your point about haptic feedback prolonging battery life. I’ve gone the other way, and have turned off my voiceover sounds apart from speech, of course. I have an SE 2020, and it seems to have the same battery life as my iPhone eight. As New Zealand entered COVID lockdown on Tuesday, I’ve been thinking about contact tracing. I’m curious to know how listeners have found the contact tracing experience. In New Zealand, we have a primary QR code based scanning app, and like others, I found it very difficult to independently locate posters with the QR codes on them, especially, if businesses have put them behind glass. You can input diary entries, which are doable, but easily forgotten if you’re trying to get yourself and point A to point B.”
“Obviously, this is no excuse for complacency, but for me, the fact that the main way to check in with the app is somewhat inaccessible makes me less inclined to use the app. I’m very glad to hear the vaccine booking system as accessible, and Jonathan, I hope you didn’t have any effects from the first vaccine. I had some side effects from the second vaccine, but they were manageable.”
Thank you so much for your email. Yeah, the first vaccine went okay for me. When I woke up the next morning, I thought to myself, “Aye who’s punched me on the arm? Who’s given me a great big thump on the arm.” Because I felt like it was bruised, but that was really the only thing that I felt. I have heard from a few people who got knocked about a bit by the second one, but perhaps it’s because since I mostly eat really healthily, I didn’t really feel much.
It was a wee bit tiring, I suppose, but other than that, I just soldiered on and kept going. We went to a six weekly cadence for a while. Initially, the idea was you would have three weeks between doses, and then they decided that you got slightly more antibodies if you changed it to a six week interval. So, I did, I dutifully changed my booking for another three weeks out, even though I was booked in on the three week cadence, and got my second vaccine. I think it must be a couple of weeks ago now, and that was fine. Now, because we’ve had a Delta Variant outbreak here that we have not been able to contain…. And, it looks like New Zealand has effectively abandoned its elimination strategy that served us so well for the early part of the pandemic. They’ve gone back to a three weekly cadence again, because the most important thing is to get as many people vaccinated as possible. I hope that you’ll continue to keep listening, and that we’ll hear from you again soon.
recording: On Twitter, follow Mosen At Large, for information about the podcast, the latest tech news, and links to things we talk about on the podcast. That’s mosenatlarge, all one word. On Twitter.
David Edick: Today, I’d like to talk to you about two interesting products. They are the podcaster and mixer face. Why am I doing two products at once? The main reason is they are very similar. So, the PortCaster is the newest unit. It is designed for mobile Podcasters, and it is a two in two out audio interface for your PC, Mac, or mobile phone. I’m going to go with the overview of the PortCaster. When you hold it like a deck of cards, they consider the front facing you. That’s where the magic happens. On the top, you have two XLR inputs from left to right. It is channel one and channel two, and then you have a eight inch audio jack. It is a TRRS Jack for a mobile phone. Next, you have recessed switches. They are recessed, and you will need a stylist or paper clip or something to operate them.
The first one is the high pass filter, then limiter channel one, limiter for channel two, and the input selector. Left is mic two, right is mobile phone. Then, you have six knobs. First knob is the channel one gain, then channel two gain. Then, you have your mono stereo blend. This is so that you can mix audio to a mono for services when you’re live streaming that only pick up one channel. Then, you have the USB flash input blend knob. The lower left knob is your auxiliary 3/4, so you can bring in a stereo source, extra music or whatnot, then your monitor or headphone out. On the bottom, or as I like to say, the front of the unit, when I lay it down on a table, you have your recording interface. You have the rewind, the fast forward, play, stop, and record button. Slightly below that on the right is your SD card slot.
The next row, you have USBC for audio interface, auxiliary in eight inch, auxiliary out eight inch, monitor or headphone out. Then, you have the USBC 4 power. Below that, you have three switches. You have your 48 volt Phantom power. These are also recessed. You have your stereo mono for monitoring, then you have your low high for your auxiliary output. This is so you can use it with a camera or other device, and match it to the volume you need. On the back, what they call the back of the unit, you do have a camera adapter socket that you can use for the tripod. It is built rather solid, and I believe it will hold up well over time.
Let’s talk about the mixer face. Like the PortCaster, it is a two in two out class compliant device, and it has similar inputs and controls that you would find on any audio interface. Again, this is a great device for streaming on a mobile phone, using it for a interface on your phone for whatever you might use it for, a computer, Mac, windows, it doesn’t matter. So, it is significantly different. The PortCaster is designed for voice. The mixer face is designed for music. While both can overlap, there are some differences. On the top of the mixer face, you have output one, which is an eight inch TRS balanced output. Then, you have an XLR quarter inch combo jack for channel one. The same XLR, quarter inch for channel two, and the same eighth inch stereo balanced TRS output.
The front of the unit, or as I call it the top of the unit when I have it sitting on a table has four switches. They are IZ for channel one, [IPA [01:53:35] filter for channel one. IZ for channel two IPA filter for channel two. Below those switches, you have six knobs. The first two, channel one gain, and channel two gain. Then, you have two blend knobs for channel one USB and channel two USB. And, that’ll blend between the line input source, and what’s coming from the USB device. On the bottom left, you have the auxiliary 3/4 input level, and the bottom right, you have the monitor headphone volume control. On the bottom of the unit you have the recorder interface, you have rewind fast forward, stop, play, and record. Slightly below that, you have the SD card slot.
The next level is a micro USB for audio. Then, you have auxiliary in, auxiliary out, and headphone out, and a micro USB for power. On the bottom row, you have three recessed switches. The first is 48 volt Phantom power, then you have mono stereo for your monitor, and you have the volume level for your auxiliary out. Very similar to the PortCaster. And, on the back of the unit, you have the mount for the camera tripod, if you choose to use it.
What I like about these units is that they are small enough to fit in your hand or a pocket, very rugged, built sturdy, and will handle a lot of wear and tear. Each microphone input uses a Jasmine Preamp giving you 65 DB of gain. I don’t have a sure SM 7 B, but it does power those very well. Where do I see these used? If you are finding yourself with limited space, this Mixerface will come in handy. It takes a little bit more space than a deck of cards and has all of the important inputs and outputs that you would need on a standard two in, two out interface. You have the balanced outputs, the auxiliary out the monitor out as well as going to the USB interface. That’s quite a bit. It’s also great for streaming live and capturing a backup recording.
The PortCaster is also good for having a mobile on the go system as well, that can take phone calls, record them for your podcast, and shares very similar features with the mixer face. They’re both retailing on CEntrance’s website for about $500. Most people I know have gotten them for around $400 from third party sellers or other promotions. I also have these microphones that I acquired with the units that allow you to effectively plug them into either PortCaster or mixer face, and gives you the ability to have a handheld recorder right there in the palm of your hands. Comparing the PortCaster to the Zoom P4, which I’ve had for about a year. The PortCaster is a lot more portable, a lot more rugged, sturdy, and can do the basics of the Zoom P 4. It has much better sounding mic microphone preamps, less noise, and it records in 24 bit audio.
It does record stereo, whereas the zoom P four does 16 bit stereo, but the Zoom P 4 does do true multi-track recording. In other words, get the recording done. If you don’t like the master mix that it gives you, and you can go in and adjust things on each channel, and remix down your final results. If you’re doing a basic phone call, PortCaster can do the same thing. If you mix in the auxiliary 3/4, well, that gets recorded into your stereo recording. The PortCaster does not have, or the mixer face, does not have 70 DB of gain. It’s only the 65, but that’s not enough to make a make or break the deal from what I’ve noticed. The PortCaster, and or mixer face do not have any menus, touchscreen other than that. While the mixer face has been around for a couple of years, the PortCaster was just released this last spring. I received mine late July.
Jonathan Mosen: Thanks to David Edick for that excellent review of those two devices. And, it really is attractive that you’ve got these devices that don’t have any menus to memorize or navigate in any way. In true audio geeky fashion, David has connected to microphones to these devices so that people can hear them, and how much noise there is that kind of thing. It doesn’t go well on this podcast because we do apply a little bit of noise reduction. So, what I’m going to do is upload the full review, which includes those microphone demonstrations to the blind pod maker podcast feed. So, if you’re interested in hearing more about these devices, then you can subscribe to the Blind Podmaker podcast, wherever you get your podcast. And, I’m sure they will also be discussed on The Blind Podmaker email group.
If you would like to subscribe to that group where blind people will talk about making podcasts, whether you’re a podcasting expert or you’ve always wanted to start one. You can send a blank email to email@example.com and The Blind Podmaker is all joined together. So that’s firstname.lastname@example.org. I love to hear from you. So, if you have any comments you want to contribute to the show, drop me an email written down or with an audio attachment to Jonathan J-O-n-A-T-H-A-N@mushroomfm.com. If you’d rather call in, use the listener line number in the United States, 864-606-6736.