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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 New Zealand’s Parliament tells our public broadcaster to lift its disability game. What can we draw from the different approaches to COVID-19 taken by ACB and the NFB, and part two of the Blindshell 2 review?
Jonathan: As always, it’s a pleasure to have you listening to the podcast. There are so many out there, so thank you very much for listening to this one. Hope you’re well. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, you’re probably basking in the summer weather. Meanwhile, it has been really cold with a windchill factor and all those things going on. I have been doing quite a bit of travel in the last week or so. Boy, I have felt the very chilly weather.
Anyway, I have something that makes me feel warm inside to tell you. We’ve talked on the show about ableist language and the harmful stereotypes that it perpetrates. People use phrases like “Being blind to what’s going on,” when they mean ignorant, unaware or uncaring. The term “Falling on deaf ears ” is used a lot to mean something is being ignored. We can go on and on with ableist phrases. We know about these. We’ve talked about these. There are many other examples.
As I covered on this show at the time, last year I complained to Radio New Zealand, which is our public broadcaster here, about one particular use of ableist language referring to blindness. I could’ve chosen any one of many of them. RNZ declined to uphold my complaint, and I described their response as dismissive and patronizing. I then took the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority. That’s the body in New Zealand that has responsibility for enforcing regulated broadcasting standards.
Their response represented progress because they didn’t defend the use of ableist language. When I lodged a similar complaint in the past, the authority at the time were adamant that words like blind had two meanings and everybody knows that the word blind has two meanings. On this occasion, the authority acknowledged the ableist language and the offense that it caused but felt that they weren’t in a position to be a trendsetter on the matter.
It was a response that would have made RNZ sit up, take notice and realize that they had better get the ableism under control. As I’ve mentioned on the show also, I’ve had some great dialogue with other media entities who are now actively clamping down on ableist language. Now, any party to a Broadcasting Standards Authority complaint can appeal the finding to the High Court of New Zealand.
That’s an expensive process, but I was prepared to do it. I was getting ready to do it. Then I learned that our parliament was reviewing Radio New Zealand’s charter. That’s the governing document of RNZ that sets Parliament’s expectations of the broadcaster. Submitting to a parliamentary process is free so I decided to take advantage of the serendipitous timing and do that. I covered my submission to the committee at the time that I made it.
I also took the opportunity to acquaint the committee with another ongoing tussle I’ve been having with RNZ regarding image descriptions on Twitter. Since the committee references my submission, I will read you what I sent them about that, and it reads as follows. “Over time and understandably, Radio New Zealand has sought to keep up with changing consumption trends, including people’s preference for consuming video and imagery on social media.
“Sadly, there have been periods during the last five years when Radio New Zealand’s accessibility track record with social media has been appalling. It has taken me considerable time and effort to extract a commitment to social media accessibility from Radio New Zealand that is only patchy at best. Twitter offers a suite of accessibility features, one of which provides a lengthy text field into which someone uploading an image can describe what is in the photo.
“This text sometimes called ‘Alt,’ short for alternative text, is then spoken automatically by a screen reading software used by blind people. If someone does not take the time to provide such a textual description, blind people using Twitter are unlikely to know what the photo contains. There are several external services that now provide for machine-generated descriptions of images, but these are usually generic in nature and may take some time to generate, slowing down the social media experience for a blind person who’s already listening to the posts.
“For example, an artificially generated description may say, ‘Appears to be a blind man with brown hair carrying a white cane.’ Whereas alt text written by a human might say, ‘Jonathan Mosen holding a white cane with Te Papa in the background.’ The failure to add alt text to a social media post is more exclusionary in some situations than others. If the post itself contains sufficient context, then the lack of alt text may be a matter of curiosity or slight annoyance.
“However, if we accept that the term accessibility in the charter applies to digital content, in 2018 and 2019, Radio New Zealand did not live up to its charter obligations. Discriminating against blind people on multiple occasions, by repeatedly shutting us out completely from some of its Twitter posts. Examples include Morning Report on several occasions tweeted listener feedback as an inaccessible image. Meaning that blind people following the account had no idea what listeners were contributing.
“This despite the fact that Radio New Zealand received the content as accessible text. They turned it into something inaccessible by rendering it as an image. The original text could simply have been pasted into the alt text field. Morning Report also tweeted an image translating the Te Reo Māori spoken by Guyon Espiner. It is deeply disappointing and profoundly ironic that by doing so, Radio New Zealand demonstrated inconsistency in its commitment to diversity.
“They educated people about Te Reo, which is commendable, but in an inaccessible way, which is anything but. Journalists would tweet photos associated with news stories without any description of the text, meaning that blind people often didn’t understand the full context. There has been a little improvement since then, and I endeavor occasionally to tweet my thanks to Radio New Zealand when they do the right thing and make their content accessible.
“What progress there is to report came after a personal advocacy effort on my part, that I believe was far more frustrating and time-consuming than it needed to be. If disabled people were a part of Radio New Zealand, it would not have been necessary. I began by tweeting polite advice such as the following tweet I sent to Morning Report, ‘You may not realize, but when you attach images of contents like this, it’s inaccessible to blind people using screen reading software. Not at all a good practice for our public broadcaster, which should be inclusive.’
“No one at Radio New Zealand even acknowledged my comment, and nothing changed. In fact, on that occasion, a kind member of the public who was concerned about the way Radio New Zealand was excluding me, typed out a description of the inaccessible content for me. It also prompted a productive dialogue with someone from MediaWorks,”
A wee narrator’s note for those who don’t know, that as a commercial competitor of RNZ, “who wanted to learn more about accessibility while Radio New Zealand remained silent. On the 9th of June 2018, I wrote to Radio New Zealand’s chief executive, Paul Thompson. I was aware that there had been significant staff turnover in the organization at that time, so I appreciated that new staff may not be aware of Radio New Zealand’s formerly proud track record of accessibility.
“In that email to Mr. Thompson, I wrote in part. ‘I’m hoping that having raised this issue with you directly, you’ll be able to assure me that excluding people in this way isn’t the kind of RNZ you want. I’d suggest a clear policy stating a commitment to accessibility in online content, making specific reference to the use of images. It’s not difficult to do, but it makes the difference between some people being able to consume information and not.
“By the end of June 2018, I had not received a reply from Mr. Thompson. However, after several attempts to contact Morning Report via Twitter, I finally received a reply from the Morning Report Twitter account in which they encouraged me to email them. I also included the person who I read had recently been promoted to head of digital. The email exchange with the person managing the Morning Report Twitter account was troubling and reflected poor training and supervision.
“No one had told him that the Twitter accessibility feature for describing images even existed. He gave a commitment to use it as much as he could. This demonstrated to me that a commitment to accessibility is not in Radio New Zealand’s DNA. Anyone producing any social media via a crown entity should be trained that accessibility is essential and non-negotiable. The government has guidelines on digital accessibility. As our public broadcaster, merely endeavoring to make content accessible isn’t sufficient.
“Not having trained someone working with social media about how to produce accessible content is unacceptable. Finally, feeling that no one at Radio New Zealand was taking their charter commitment to accessibility seriously. I went public with a blog post. The public responds to that blog post was unanimously positive. Only then, after the post was drawn to Mr. Thompson’s attention, did I receive a reply from him to my email. I sent the original email regarding very serious accessibility failures on the 9th of June 2018 and Mr. Thompson’s reply was written on the 13th of October 2018. Over four months later.
“He apologized for the delay, said my email had been overlooked accidentally and offered to call me to discuss the issue. I now regret not having accepted his offer. However, by that stage, Radio New Zealand’s staff were making good use of Alt text, so I considered the matter resolved. My optimism was premature. In 2019, I began noticing a serious regression in the progress Radio New Zealand had made. I don’t know for certain, but I think it is likely that new staff had arrived and once again, there were no policies requiring a commitment to accessibility.
“The final straw for me was my becoming aware that the Twitter account for the Radio New Zealand show the panel was tweeting out its questions of the day as inaccessible images. I was particularly concerned to be told that the question for the 7th of May 2019 involved a pedestrian issue, something about which many blind people have an opinion, but which I could not read. The effect of this practice is to say, blind people’s views are not welcome here. Yet again, I tweeted another Radio New Zealand account, this time for the panel, pointing out that as a blind person I was being excluded.
“I received no reply to that tweet, and the same practice was repeated. At this stage, I complained to the Minister of Broadcasting, the Honorable Kris Faafoi. In that email, I asked that he formally place on public record and to the Chief Executive of RNZ his concerned that blind people are being excluded from RNZ content unnecessarily, requests the creation of an accessibility statement, which is available publicly and which all employees are expected to adhere to.
“Let the chief executive know that he, the minister, will expect an update to be provided as an agreed date on what RNZ has done to fix the systemic problem once and for all. Urge the chief executive to make digital accessibility a KPI for affected staff in their performance reviews. Unfortunately, I no longer have a copy of the minister’s reply, but my recollection is that it was broadly sympathetic while not making any specific commitment. I am also not aware of any public statement from him setting expectations around the accessibility of digital content from Crown-owned broadcasters, something which I think would have been valuable.
“I have noticed that there has been improvement, but not a complete resolution since 2019. However, I am unaware of any public accessibility policy from Radio New Zealand that pertains to social or digital media. The only publicly available accessibility policy is extremely old and refers to Internet Explorer, a browser that has not been in common usage for many years and which is in fact about to be deprecated by Microsoft. In considering accessibility issues, I draw the committee’s attention to Article 9 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
“In part, this states, ‘To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life. States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access on an equal basis with others to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas.’
“The article goes on to make specific reference to the internet. As our public broadcaster, I believe Radio New Zealand should be particularly mindful of this and be required through its charter to demonstrate best practice.” That’s the end of that part of my submission. Now, this past week, the committee has issued its findings after quite a long time, and it is a significant win. It shows that when you know something to be right, you’ve got to stay tenacious, you keep at it and you will get attitudinal change over time.
Let me read you the relevant extracts from the committee’s report just published. It reads, “We heard strong argument from submitters that the charter should expressly account for the needs of people with disabilities and disability issues. There are currently no provisions in the charter about disability issues. Submitter’s views. Advocates for the disability community told us about their challenges. These submitters stated that roughly 24% of Kiwis live with a disability, making it New Zealand’s largest minority group.
“Despite this, people with disabilities are underrepresented in RNZ Leadership and presenting roles. We also heard that RNZ content can have varying levels of accessibility. For example, many online services add captions to describe pictures on their website that can be read by a text-to-speech assist tool for people with vision impairments. Submitters told us that RNZ has started adding these to some of its web pages, but captions are applied inconsistently.
“In a broader sense, they suggested that RNZ content from one platform should be available in other formats to ensure that everyone can access the quality news RNZ produces. Radio News and podcasts should be transcribed, and written news be provided in a disability-friendly way. They also told us that RNZ should avoid ableist language. Presenters using phrases such as ‘Falling on deaf ears’ and ‘Turning a blind eye’ can be stigmatizing and harmful to disabled people and encourage biases.
“When looking at other jurisdictions, neither the ABC nor BBC, Australian and United Kingdom public broadcasters, have specific reference to disability issues in their charters. However, both have ambitious diversity and inclusion plans, which include specific and measurable commitments to the disabled community. RNZ’s response. RNZ acknowledged the points raised by the disability sector and told us that the submissions had ‘Resonated with it.’ RNZ agreed that it has worked to do in this area and wants to ensure that its services are inclusive to all communities.
“It told us that it has style and language guides that deter ableist language. It has also diversified a lot of its content and offers podcasts and written texts alongside its traditional radio offerings. This has gone some way to ensuring better accessibility. In RNZ’s opinion, accessibility issues could be addressed as an operational matter and explicit reference in the charter may not be required. Our view. We think that the charter should include an express reference to disability issues. We note RNZ’s view that this can be addressed as an operational matter.
“We are encouraged by its undertaking to promote a better outcome and accessibility for the disability sector. However, we think that including disability issues in the charter would provide greater visibility and accountability for this community and lead to more effective outcomes. Recommendation. We recommend that the government, A, introduced legislation to amend the RNZ charter to require RNZ to consider the needs of disability issues. B, seek advice from the office for disability issues about how to best consult on the specific language used in this provision.”
That is what the committee has said. Now, it is disappointing that the recommendation suggests consulting with the Office for Disability Issues. which is a government entity rather than disabled people ourselves, but it is very significant welcome progress. I was intrigued by the comment that RNZ supposedly has a language and style guide which discourages ableist language. If they have one, no one’s reading it that I can tell you. I have written to the Chief Executive of RNZ yet again, asking for a copy.
Now, while this does sound like wonderful progress, there is a bit of a fly in the ointment. In reality, we are almost certain not to see the passage of the legislation that the committee has recommended because work is now underway to merge RNZ with TVNZ to form a new public broadcasting entity. It’ll be important that any charter written for this new entity contain the disability provisions that they have recommended. I will be engaging with the process to try and get that outcome.
Meanwhile, I have told RNZ’s chief executive that there is no need to wait for legislation. If the submission really has resonated with RNZ, as they claim, they can start today, ensuring everyone involved in on air content, be it presenting or production, have training on ableist language and the harm that it causes. Having conducted that training, make egregious use of ableist language, a disciplinary matter. They could also start today to put a team together led by a disabled person to produce a program on disability issues for RNZ. They should also increase starting today, the number of disabled people featuring on political panels and other general panel discussions, reflecting the fact that disabled people are a part of the community too. It is good news. It’s progress. It’s nice to savour the victories.
Kelly Pierce writes, “Jonathan, recent commenters on your program have pointed out the similarities between the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind.” Yes. Significant philosophical differences exist. This is why people cannot be an NFB voting member if they are a member of the ACB. The organizational differences are evident in the two groups approaches to COVID at their summer conventions this year. ACB mandates everyone receive a COVID vaccination to attend unless they receive a medical or religious exemption as required by the constitution of the United States. When granted a religious exemption, attendees must submit a PCR test taken 72 hours before arrival at the convention. Rapid antigen tests are unacceptable, and laboratories processing PCR test results can take five or six days to deliver them. Tests cannot be taken at the convention hotel. By contrast, the NFB strongly promotes the freedom of blind people, including their health freedom.
No one is required to undergo unwanted medical procedures or treatments such as vaccinations that conflict with their religious beliefs. Everyone is tested and the NFB administer tests at the convention site. If folks have not taken one, rapid antigen tests are accepted as well. The NFB welcomes everyone regardless of their COVID vaccination status. The group has chosen the path of inclusion, freedom, and personal liberty.” Oh, brother. Right. Well, thank you for that, Kelly, and where do I begin with this? By saying that I am speaking to you from a country, which at the time of recording, has 83% of the population having received all available doses of the COVID vaccine. 96.3%, of time of recording, have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. I suspect that in part, my feelings on this reflects the culture of the country I’m coming from, and that in some respects, there are some similarities with the gun argument. Where most of us here just can’t understand Americans’ obsession with guns.
The first thing I would say is that proponents of freedom would presumably agree that an organization has the right to determine its own policies. If ACB wants to have only vaxxed people attend their convention, then that is their freedom as an organization to impose that, and it’s the freedom of those who disagree not to attend. If I were going to a convention where thousands of blind people would be in attendance, although it might be a slightly lower number this year, because of COVID and because it’s a hybrid convention, and I was aware that there was going to be a number of unvaccinated people at that convention, I simply would not go to it. Now it is true that if you’re vaccinated you may still spread COVID, but it’s also true that you are far less likely to spread as much of it if you’re vaccinated. Let’s not forget that you’re going to have a lot of blind people in close proximity.
Sometimes it’s hard for people to avoid bumping into one another. There’ll also be touching a lot of surfaces to help them identify landmarks. It’s a potential super spreader event. The vaccination thing to me is a no-brainer. The freedom reference reminds me of the discussions that I used to have in the early 1990s in New Zealand, when I was working full-time in commercial radio as a non-smoker. There was a lot of smoke in radio back then. Particularly, I have to say, in the newsroom. Smoke-free legislation was being debated and the zealot smokers were just incredible. They were saying, “I’m having my personal liberties infringed. I’m having my freedom impeded. I should be able to smoke if I want to.” I and a number of other people said, “Yes, but what about those of us who have to breathe in the secondhand smoke and increase our likelihood of getting cancer, because of your filthy habit?” Go and smoke outside if you have to.
What about the freedom for the rest of us to breathe safe air? Freedom is a complex business. To me, the paramount freedom is for people to be in as safe and environment in a public space as possible. As far as I’m concerned, based on that, you don’t get vaxxed, you don’t attend. Simple as that. Go on the computer, do a hybrid convention and leave the attendance to those of us who are responsible enough and care enough about others to get the jab. If people have fallen down the rabbit holes of misinformation and all the kind of nonsense that’s going on on social media, well more fool them, but don’t let it impede the safety of others who are following the science and just trying to do the right thing and consider other people a bit and get vaccinated.
Now, I appreciate that there are some people out there who are just anarchists, who are completely anti any kind of law who are way beyond the libertarian side of the spectrum, who think that any kind of compulsion is wrong. Society is full of things that you are required to do so that society can function. You’re not allowed to go around murdering people or if you drive exceeding the speed limit or setting fire to your favorite public building, if you have a propensity to pyromania. You can’t even cry ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater. There are a lot of things that you can’t do so that society can function effectively. Now clearly forcing vaccinations into people’s arms, well that’s a bit of a stretch, right? that’s not going to happen. You’re not going to forcibly hold somebody and jab them with a needle, but there should be consequences for not having the vaccine.
You should be able to access essential services like supermarkets and things of that nature, but if you choose not to have the vaccine, one of those consequences should be significantly reduced access to public places while the pandemic is on. I know people are fed up with it and they want to wish it away, but you look at the number of cases that continue, and the pandemic is still on. Religious exemptions, well they are dangerous. We’ve seen this with people who think it’s okay not to bake wedding cakes for a gay couple. Boy, are there so many slippery slope arguments with this one. Do we say that if somebody believes that somebody is blind, because of karma, because of something that previous generations in their family did, even though it is clearly a genetic condition or something like that, but their religion says that this is why some people are disabled. Therefore, they’re cursed. Therefore, we won’t serve disabled people.
Is it okay if I firmly believe this as part of my religion to go ahead and not provide services to disabled people? Over the years, I have heard numerous examples of parents who have declined to authorize medical treatment for their children, because they believe God will take care of it or in the case of say Jehovah’s Witnesses, because they don’t believe in blood transfusion. That is being an accessory to murder. If a medical intervention would save someone’s life and you claim that, “Oh, my religion can’t possibly allow this.” Surely the child’s right to life, which is actually interestingly enough something that religion is pretty big on, the right to life, supersedes everything else. Again, for a society to function properly, there have to be laws that apply to everybody equally. The moment people think that there’s a strata that some people have to obey the law, but other people don’t, that’s where society starts to break down. Of course, you see this with people who evade taxes, let alone much more serious existential questions.
Where do you stop? Religious exemptions are outrageous. It is social disharmony. It is tyranny masquerading as freedom. If you have got evidence that taking the vaccine will cause you harm medically, then obviously that’s a completely different matter. If you can demonstrate that. If a qualified medical professional can provide evidence, then obviously there’s got to be a way around that. That’s the only exemption that in my view is valid. It is a real shame when people’s dogged political beliefs or hysteria or misinformation or religion are being used as excuses to compromise other people’s health. That is fundamentally selfish. The one thing I would say though, is that I agree with you about the PCR tests. Rapid antigen tests are well accepted in most places. PCR tests can take a while, as you say. They are quite invasive too, and rapid antigen tests are easily conducted. I’m not really sure why that wouldn’t be sufficient.
Interlude: What’s on your mind? Send an email with a recording of your voice or just write it down, email@example.com. That’s J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N@mushroomfm.com or phone our listener line. The number in the United States is 86460-MOSEN. That’s 864-606-6736.
Lachlan Thomas: Hello, Jonathan and listeners of the Mosen at Large podcast. This is Lachlan Thomas from Melbourne, Australia. Jonathan, I’ve just listened to the latest episode of the Mosen At Large podcast. Well, actually I haven’t listened to the whole thing, but I’ve listened to the first section where you talked about Eloquence on the iPhone. I’m very happy to hear that Eloquence is coming to the iPhone and I hope it’ll make its way into macOS as well for Macintosh users.
Though I’m not a long-term JAWS for Windows user, I am familiar with the Eloquence voices, because I use them on my VoiceNote mPower when I had one, and also on my VoiceNote Apex. Plus I also use the demo version of Talks in the Nokia N-gage and in the N95. Of course, that came with Eloquence. When the new version of iOS comes out, I probably will switch to Eloquence full-time, I’m thinking.
I currently use the Karen Vocalizer Australian voice, which I do like, but I think it’d be great to have Eloquence. You said in your podcast that Eloquence is genuinely very accurate and generally most of the time if it mispronounces something, it’s because of a typo. Well, my younger brother’s name is Liam, L-I-A-M. Eloquence does not pronounce that correctly. It never has. It always pronounces it “Liam,” and actually so do some of the Vocalizer Compact voices.
Most of them also pronounce it “Liam.” Certainly, Karen did. I can remember when my brother was about three or four, I was using Window-Eyes on the family’s PC because I didn’t actually have a PC of my own. I was still living with my family at the time. I was only 19. I had the demo of Window-Eyes on the family PC, and when I discovered that it pronounce my brother’s name as “Liam,” I would tease him by walking up to him and saying, “Hello, Liam.”
I should also point out that Eloquence does not pronounce my name correctly, either. It pronounces “Lachlan.” Many text-to-speech voices mispronounce my name. A lot of the newer ones like Karen get it right, but a lot of the really old speech synthesizers from the ’80s and ’90s don’t pronounce my name correctly at all. When I would say, “Hello, Liam” to my brother, he would turn around and say, “Hello, Lachlan.” This went on along for years and years.
I also noticed, as you were demonstrating some of the other voices, that some of the classic Macintosh voices are now starting to make their way into iOS. I’m talking about voices like Agnes, and Bruce, and Jr., and Vicki, and Ralph, those voices, and they’re novelty voices too. Those voices have all been on the Macintosh since the ’90s. I can remember when my mother got her first MacBook in 2006. I would mess about with those voices and listen to them and play with them and things.
As a former Mac user, I did use those voices sometimes, because I’ve owned a few Macs of my own. I’m now a Windows user, but that’s neither here nor there. I’m very familiar with those voices. It does seem that Apple have changed the names of some of those voices. I heard you demonstrate a voice called Jester. I believe it something like, “Please stop tickling me.” That voice on the Mac is actually called Hysterical. There was also a voice you demonstrated called Superstar. On the Mac, that’s in the US female section of voices and it’s called Princess.
You demonstrated one called Wobble, I think. That used to be called Deranged. Which makes me wonder if Apple are going to change the names of those voices on the Macintosh as well. The other thing I should point out is that the demonstration phrases those voices read out, and also some of the other voices like Agnes, and Bruce, et cetera. Those little demonstration phrases they speak are from the Mac.
When Agnes says things like, “I sure like being inside this fancy computer,” or whatever it was. That’s from the Mac. It would be nice to think that one day, potentially even something like the Keynote Gold voice will be on the iPhone. Although I highly doubt that’s going to happen, because I don’t even know who owns the rights to that voice anymore, assuming anyone even does. Of course, that voice was most well-known on the products like the BrailleNote and Voice Note. Keynote Gold was always very accurate. I always liked that voice.
Good to hear from you, Lachlan. I can tell you that when I typed the name Liam into my notepad with JAWS, it does say Liam correctly. Inspired by this outcome, I was encouraged to grab my handy dandy iPhone running iOS 16 Developer Beta 2, and I opened an app and I type Liam into that with Eloquence running and it spoke it there correctly, as well. It sounds like newer versions of Eloquence are over their Liam problem.
Lachlan, not so much. It still mispronounces Lachlan. Sorry about that Lachlan. While I am talking about my handy dandy iPhone running iOS 16 Developer Beta 2, I’m very pleased to be able to tell people that Eloquence is sped way up. When you go to 100% now, it is way fast. In fact, when you install the new beta, you notice that your Eloquence is immediately sped way up. If, for example, a demonstration speed, where I was using Eloquence last time was about 60% or 65%, you’d have to go way slower now.
I think it is roughly comparable to the speed range you get with JAWS now in iOS 16 Developer Beta 2. Now we do expect that Developer Beta 3 will be the magic public beta 1, and that we should get that in a couple of weeks from now in early July for those brave enough to try the public beta. I agree with you, I loved the Keynote Gold speech when I was product manager and developing the BrailleNote mPower.
A lot of users said, “We want Eloquence. We really want Eloquence.” I organized for Humanware to license Eloquence and get that done, and people were pretty excited to see Eloquence in the BrailleNote mPower. I think that the Keynote Gold speech was really snappy, really responsive, and as you say, accurate. I think it is fair to say that it was more of an acquired taste than Eloquence. Yes, Eloquence is in macOS as well as iOS in the forthcoming release, in macOS 13 Ventura.
We haven’t talked much about macOS 13 Ventura since it was announced, and we’re going to rectify that now as we go to South Africa and hear from Brandt. He says, “Hi, Jonathan. I know everyone is making a lot of excited noises about the nice things happening to iOS 16 including Eloquence.” Yes, but don’t forget macOS Ventura. “I am currently writing this for my little Macbook Air running macOS Ventura Developer Beta 1, listening to the dulcet tones of Eloquence as I’m typing this.
“As someone functioning with hearing loss, you know that most of us have a synthesizer that works best. Mine happens to be Eloquence.” You know what, Brandt, I think that is actually the case for a lot of hearing-impaired people, at least those that I encounter. He says, “I used to use DECtalk way back when, but you know where I’m going with this. Anyway, thanks for the podcast, and all the rather interesting things you cover.”
Well, it’s my pleasure, Brandt. Thank you very much for writing in. Jonathan Cone is talking about a very interesting subject, which I’d like to learn more about actually, and that is expanded support for speech pronunciation in Apple’s new operating systems. He says, “The support for SSML in speech attributes in macOS 13 sounds very interesting. This should mean more control of voiceover when the phone default dictionary’s not setting things appropriately. There’s a URL to the developer site, which has more information on this.”
Thanks, Jonathan. I look forward to discovering more about that. This email comes from Kelly Muggridge with a capital K. She says, “Hi, Jonathan. Following your latest podcast regarding Braille,” with a capital B. “I feel that using capital letters in Braille is extremely important. Louis Braille has been the most important inventor all my life. Without him, reading and writing simply wouldn’t exist.
“I use Braille for all sorts of things. I don’t have a Braille display, as a Braille display is so expensive, but still have the humble Perkins Brailler. I know the Perkins Brailler is old-fashioned, but it is what I can afford. Braille puts us at an advantage. For instance, a fully sighted person can’t read without a light and also in a power cut, but with Braille, we don’t need that. Before I go, can I suggest we have a podcast dedicated to Louis Braille, as I feel that all of us in the blind community have a lot to share. If Louis Braille was alive today, I wonder what he would think knowing there is Braille technology. I think he would be extremely chuffed. Keep up the podcast and thank you for bringing us together. We are one big happy family.” Thank you, Kelly. I suppose that even the best of families have arguments from time to time or hopefully respectful disagreements, where we can explore our differences in a spirit of curiosity and mutual respect and very true words about Louis Braille. Keep rocking that Perkins Brailer.
It is still a great piece of technology. Even though when I was at a school for the blind and in a class full of 7 or 8 or 9 students that were all thundering away on them, it could get pretty noisy. Here’s Richard Turner who says, “Hi, Jonathan. I wanted to make sure the history of Braille,” with another case B, “is given accurately. While Louis Braille was a genius, he did not exactly invent the Braille code. He modified another code. Here is a snippet from a good history of Braille,” with a lowercase B. I’m not going to read that snippet, because it’s outdated information as we now understand it. Let me deal with that bit first. The page that Richard sites contain the classic, but now discredited narrative that a man named Charles Barbier invented a system called Night Writing so soldiers could communicate safely during the night.
This is something that we’ve all grown up with. We’ve just considered that it must be true because we’ve read it so many times. In fact, new research shows that that is not what happened at all. This research was conducted by a woman named Philippa Campsie. She is an independent scholar and adjunct professor, in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto in Canada.
Actually, it’d be fun to reach out to her and see if she would come on the podcast to talk about her research. She published it in an article called, Charles Barbier: A Hidden Story. Judy Dixon, I think has written a couple of articles on this. It makes some really important revisions based on prime resources. This narrative that people keep coming out with about Night Writing being written for the military, was not from a primary source.
It seems to have had its origins in a book that was published in the 1850s, but Philippa Campsie went back to primary sources. What she found was that this Night Writing system or the tactile system was designed originally for people who were illiterate for reasons such as blindness and other print impairments. It’s been said all these years that Charles Barbier met Louis Braille when Braille was a teenager.
Again, Campsie’s gone back to these primary sources and found that that didn’t happen. What did happen though, was that Barbier contacted the school for the blind’s director and said he’d invented the system which he thought would be useful for blind people. They tested it out. They introduced it, and it actually was moderately successful. This is a 12.cell. The problem was that while it was a big improvement over standard print that was raised so it was tactile, the cell was too big for the human finger to read. It was actually a reasonably complex system as well.
Louis Braille was at school when they tried the Charles Barbier system, but there is no evidence that Charles Barbier ever visited the school at that time, nor is there any evidence that Charles Barbier and Louis Braille met at that time. They did have all sorts of implements to make it work slates and stylus-type devices so that students could give this system a good workout.
There’s absolutely no doubt, whether some of the elements of the story are incorrect or not, that Louis Braille did use and know of Charles Barbier’s tactile system, Philippa Campsie has discovered letters. These are letters that Charles Barbier wrote himself where he says he didn’t know who Louis Braille was in 1833. That was a full four years after Louis Braille published his tactile writing system. Nonetheless, the question remains, does that mean then that Louis Braille didn’t exactly invent anything.
He just modified someone else’s work. I don’t subscribe to that characterization. Blind people have been reading with their fingers for some time through raised print. Obviously, Charles Barbier deserves some credit for the idea that what you could do is create a completely alternative tactile system. The system did not have to be based on raised print. It could be something that was finger optimal.
In that sense, he has a very important place in the history of the literacy of blind people, but it was still Louis Braille who came up with a system that was truly viable. A system that is beautiful in its mathematical logic and has largely stood the test of time all these years. Are we reading with Barbier’s code now? No, we’re obviously not because it was not fit for purpose.
Any invention is incremental. For example, who would you call the father of the radio? Does radio begin when any signal was sent across the ether or does radio begin when we think of broadcasting as such? What you think will obviously determine how you answer that question. For me, the father of literacy for blind people does Louis Braille, because he invented the first truly viable tactile method for blind people to read.
Richard says, “I did not hear all your discussions, but I don’t recall it being mentioned that Louis Braille also developed musical Braille code and was an organist. Now speaking about Eloquence, which voice sounds good to a person is quite individual, and there is a solid scientific reason for that. Audio processing is done in the brain. Through my work, I worked with an audiologist whose specialty was helping people with audio processing issues.
“She did a training for the staff for it, and it was fascinating. The bottom line is that everyone’s brain processes sound differently. Even without the extra issue of a hearing impairment, sounds will be interpreted differently. To me, Eloquence is painful to listen to, but with Tom enhanced, I can listen to at extremely high rates of speech with no problem. On my iPhone with Voice Dream reader, the Ivona Amy voice is my preferred voice for reading.
“I get irritated when I hear people saying how X voice is the best and so on. It is only best if it fits with your particular hearing and audio processing. I’m glad Apple is adding Eloquence for those who love it and find it easier to listen to. It simply won’t be installed on my phone.” Oh, yes, it will. Richard, because it’s built into the operating system. Whether you like it or not Eloquence is going to be living on your phone unless, of course, you don’t upgrade to iOS 16, which is your prerogative. Thank you very much for the information. That is right. Speech is so subjective, isn’t it?
Andy Rebcher: Hello, Jonathan. This is Andy Rebcher. In honor of David and Joanna’s impending parenthood and your grandpa-ness, I thought maybe I would share a story with you. My 3-year-old granddaughter lives with us with her parents and my wife and I. She likes to come up here and play in the studio every now and then, hang around, play the organ, play the piano, sing, make noise. One day we were just playing around up here, and she was banging on the organ. I thought, “Okay, I’m going to just take this mic and hold it in front of her face like a reporter and put a random question to her and see how she reacts.” This was the result
“We’re interviewing, Vivian, the famous organ player. Vivian, can you tell us how it feels to play for these millions of people? How does it feel?”
Vivian: It feels so good.
Andy: There you go. It’s the blind man’s equivalent of standing there in the supermarket and pulling out your wallet or your phone and saying, “Look at my granddaughter. Isn’t she cute?” I just thought I’d share that with you. Hope you have many great experiences of your own.
Jonathan: Thank you, Andy, recording your kids and playing it all back when they’re older is so much fun. As the kid’s 21st has come and gone, I’ve got one more 21st to go through. I have had so much fun putting together these audio montages with excerpts of recordings that I’ve made with them over the years. I put them together in chronological order.
We hear them evolving. It’s absolutely amazing. They’re significant others of the moment, they love it too. Thanks to Andy, who also says that Mushroom FM, in his opinion, is one of the best-sounding streams he’s ever heard. Well, I like to play with it, Andy. I’ve had lots of experience playing with the stream in trying to get the quality right. Yes, I really think it is sounding absolutely golden right now.
Oh, and your granddaughter sounds absolutely adorable. [chuckles] That is great. This message is from Carolyn Peat and says, “Hi, Jonathan. Not sure if you heard that we lost a very talented member of the blind community with regard to technology. Neil Rush, who was 26 years of age, sadly took his life on the 18th of May of this year. He was vision impaired and the only son of Maggie and Trevor Rush, he worked for Paul Spain at Gorilla Technologies. When he was at high school, he was a major contributor to the ATIG email list. You could count on the fact that in reading his messages, he would give clear instructions and advice on how to solve any computer problems. I want to thank Neil for his contribution, and I am sad he has left us so soon. I send my love and sympathy to his parents and family. ”
Thanks, Carolyn. I didn’t know Neil, but obviously, I know Maggie and Trevor and wish them all the very best at such a very difficult time. Let’s get back to the question that Christopher Wright asked about getting the URLs of radio station streams so that you could put them into players like VLC and of course, Winamp, which is still my favorite after all these years.” Flor Lynch is writing in. He says, “Hi, Jonathan. There is a site for streaming radio stations in the UK and in Ireland, radiofeeds.co.uk.
“It contains the streams with their available formats for PC, various smartphones, tablets, et cetera, as well as their stream’s various bit rates. Radio Feed UK also allows you to record the output of the streams from their website with the radio feeds recorder. I found it to be a very good resource. It is updated constantly and listeners can submit their own bug reports for dead or non-working links.” Thank you, Flor. It sounds like a really cool resource, and the URL if you want to go and check it out is radiofeeds.co.uk. That’s radiofeeds.co.uk.
John McLaughlin has sent me an email and he says, “Hello, Jonathan, I was thinking about the password problem with Braille,” with an uppercase B, “on iOS. I just typed my password for one password using a Focus 40 and got it to unlock. What I did was type the password and then press spacebar with dots four and five, which is the translate Braille immediately command in the Braille commands section. Then I pressed Enter and was logged in. Give that a try and see if it works for other password prompts.
“I know it is not a great solution since it is an extra step, but also it works. So, baby steps,” says John. “Have a good week.” Thank you, John. That’s a very good point. I should have thought of that. I hope that that clears up the password issue for Alco who was reporting the issue. Let’s talk more about the much-lamented and missed apparently iPod Touch. Sabahattan is writing in and says, “Hello, Jonathan and listeners. First time contributor to the podcast here from a leafy district in London, England where a weather as always agreeably inclement.”
I hope it holds up for us when we visit in September for ABBA Voyage and all the touristy things we’re going to be doing. He says, “It was really great to hear all the real and potential love for the iPod Touch last week on the podcast. In my opinion, iPod Touch was a tragically underappreciated product. I must have the powers of Cassandra, because I bought a new iPhone SE 3rd generation as a replacement for the current generation iPod Touch, just as the latter was sadly discontinued.
“It was a struggle to keep going with the older device, which is less powerful than the iPhone 7, but I was ultimately torn between a life-improving new purchase and continuing with the iPod in the hopes of a new upgrade to that product family. I do feel guilty for buying a new iPhone just for use as a secondary device. I’m really lucky to have been able to afford something many of us would die for. Sadly, I was also right about the death of iPod and I could not be more happy with my new iPhone.
“It’s more than adequate to the task of replacing the iPod and gives me all the nice new conveniences of the latest chippery like screen recognition and voice recognition. Give me back online Siri any day though. The new offline Siri is just not as good in my experience. The 256 gigabytes of storage now equals that of the previous iPod. It used to top out at 128 gigabytes.
“I do use an air tag however, and sadly there’s no U1 in here. No using this phone to track down my wonderful feline companion, “Tab.” It’s a shame Apple could not see a future for iPod. In my opinion, a phone without a phone is just what’s needed for doing all the important stuff you need to do on iOS around the house on Wi-Fi while the real phone is on charge. It was fabulously light and included a headphone jack to boot.
“Guess the demand just wasn’t working. Apple couldn’t see any future for it. Ultimately, you can now set up any iPhone to be an iPod out of the box with no SIM card required. If you’re thinking of going down the same path I have, just be aware that the continuity feature that lets you place a phone call via your iPhone does not work as it did on iPod. You can take phone calls ringing on another iPhone via FaceTime audio, but you can’t place them through the other iPhone and you must have a SIM card inserted to use the phone app to place calls on that phone without provoking an instant call failed error.
“This is a shame, but it’s not a deal breaker for me. I’ve reported it to Apple in the hope it gets fixed eventually. Fortunately, iMessage is not similarly afflicted. You can choose to send text messages from your other iPhone’s number and that works just fine. Love the podcast, especially now I’ve stopped trying to listen to it in Lire and conceded the necessity of actually subscribing to it in Apple Podcasts in order to enjoy it. Thank you and keep it up.”
Well, thank you for your message. Gosh, I never thought of trying Lire to listen to a podcast. If you’re really into podcasts, do check out something better. Castro is such a better podcast app than the native Apple Podcasts app. At least you’re in a podcast app now so you’ll be able to take advantage of features like chapters and all those good things. Good to have you contributing.
Interlude: Be the first to know what’s coming in the next episode of Mosen At Large. Opt in to the Mosen media list and receive a brief email on what’s coming so you can get your contribution in ahead of a show. You can stop receiving emails anytime. To join, send a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s media-subscribe@M-O-S-E-N.org. Stay in the know with Mosen at Large.
Jonathan: Here’s an email from Jean Warner and it says, “Hi, Jonathan. I used to listen to you all the time when you were doing the Freedom Scientific FSCass.” Well, I’m glad you found me again. That’s nice. “I just recently discovered your Mosen At Large podcast, and I’m currently working my way through the episodes. I’m not listening to all of them.” Well, I’m glad to hear it, because that would take an awful long time now that we’re up to 180 odd episodes.
“I am picking and choosing the ones I want to hear based on the titles.” Well, if you can go a little bit deeper, it’s sometimes worth checking the show notes, because we can’t put all the things we cover in each episode in the title, but the show notes are very deep and full of info. “I have to agree that using my phone as both a phone and a media player is appealing because it cuts down on how much I’d have to carry.
“I don’t though, primarily because I find that iTunes for Windows isn’t accessible nightmare and Apple doesn’t give a,” insert lots of random characters here, “because it doesn’t run on a Mac. If there was an accessible alternative to iTunes for Windows, then I might consider it.” Well, I’m pleased to say there is Jean. You can use Waltr for your media management needs. It’s spelled W-A-L-T-R, and that works on Mac and Windows.
It’s not intuitively accessible, but it’s usable. When you install Waltr, what you can do is just copy and paste from File Explorer into Waltr, and it magically causes the media that you have pasted to appear in the appropriate app. For example, if you copy and paste music, it’ll appear in the music app, and if you copy and paste video files, it’ll appear in the appropriate app there as well. It’s pretty easy to use. It does cost money to buy, but then again, it’s a lot cheaper than a Victor Reader Stream.
Speaking of which, Jean says, “I use my phone as a communication and information device, and the Victor Reader Stream as my media player. I also made the same mistake you made and bought one of those WeWALK canes. I’ve never used it outdoors because I first practiced with it in a large room and discovered as you did that it was tiringly heavy, uncomfortable to hold on to.
“Overall I decided that while it might have been a good idea, the implementation leaves a lot to be desired. It has been in its box since about three weeks after it arrived. I might try to sell it to recoup some of the money I spent on it, but I’m not sure I could saddle someone else with this piece of junk. I have to say that the review of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show was disappointing.
“I simply couldn’t understand why they kept talking about products that were inaccessible to the visually impaired on a podcast for the visually impaired. It seems to defeat the whole purpose of having them on the podcast in the first place. At least some of the products they mentioned were accessible, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.” Well. in Mike and Gina’s defense, we got them on to talk about some of the products that we can use, but also some that we would like to use, but can’t because there was a need for more education. We did try to be really transparent about when a product wasn’t accessible so that people knew, but it just goes to show how much work there is to do. I think in that sense, that’s what we were trying to illustrate. Jean concludes, “I have so far, been enjoying the Mosen At Large Podcast. Keep up the great work.” Well, thank you. I am glad that you found us Jean and I hope that you’ll keep listening and commenting. Here is an email from Eden and it says, “Hi, Jonathan. I hope this finds you well. Congratulations on the upcoming birth of a grandchild.”
Thank you, Eden. I’m just so super excited about this. “Anyway, as for why I’m writing,” continues Eden, “it’s because I’m so furious about the ignorance some people still persist in having regarding abilities of blind people. To give a backstory, I’ve decided to start court reporting school. I’d ideally like to do CART captioning or even just quick transcriptions or depositions. I have a good aptitude for learning languages, keyboard, and computer software as long as it’s accessible. One thing you must do as a court reporter student is get a steno machine. Most are bulky and have screens. There is a light one called the Light Speed by Stenovations, which would not need a tripod as the others do, but will sit comfortably in your lap.
I wanted to buy a used one so I called the manufacturer. After talking about himself for two hours and how smart he was, he finally told me he’d sell me just one, but then he changed his mind. I pressed and pressed him about it. Today he announced to me, a blind person could not become a court reporter because it’s too hard to memorize all the outlines. Basically, you press more than one key to mean a syllable phrase or word. To me, this is quite similar to Braille with an upper case B, at least the concept. In one week, I’ve already learned the alphabet, some phrases, and how to create words. I know at least one blind court reporter and others who have graduated school.”
Me too. I interviewed one on the FS cast, actually, Eden. “Why does this ignorance still persist? This man even told me he’s the smartest person in the field of court reporting. What arrogance is that? Stenovations from what I can tell, make products people really like, but their manufacturer is a jerk. There are other machines, but they are like Braille displays with only a few companies in the arena. I can buy one of these used from someone else, but am now very torn. I’m scared I will have to go to them for tech support but at the same time, it would be the best steno machine for my particular use case. How do you handle someone like this?
I’ve never been refused the sale of a product because of my visual impairment. I know blind people who buy cars for others and the salesperson will sure sell to them. It should be none of his business. You are the king of advocacy. Please, please. What would you do? Certainly, I won’t buy directly from him, but I’m not sure I can boycott the actual product much as I would like to. I’m just more than flawed. Signing off because I have no more words that would be fit for your podcast. Take care as the fight towards ridding our society as such ignorance about people who are not like themselves. I also enjoy the podcast.”
Thank you very much, Eden. Well, snarky answer first, what you do is you take this guy to court, and by the time the judicial system works its magic, by the time you get to court, you be the court reporter who’s documenting the whole thing. [laughs] I’m really sorry this is happening. It is very frustrating. It does remind me of a story, which I have told from time to time, about how, when I was a young guy in my teens, somebody told me about this course that was available in radio broadcasting and it was advertised in the paper and somebody drew my attention to it.
I sent off this tape and they called me and they said, “We want you to do this course. What a brilliant tape.” I said, “Okay, that’s great.” They told me the price and then I said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I just can’t afford that. I’m a pennyless student. I just can’t afford what you’re asking.” They said, “Okay. Well, thanks.” Then they called me back about half an hour or an hour later and they said, “Listen, we’ve had a good think and we actually think that it would benefit our course for you to graduate from it because clearly, you are going to go places in radio. We want to be able to tell people in the future that Jonathan Mosen graduated from our course. What we’ll do, we’ll meet you halfway. We’ll give you the course half price.”
I said, “Yes, okay, you’ve got a deal. What I’ll do, I’ll come in the day before or a couple of hours before. I’ll put a few Braille labels on things like the carts and various things like that.” You could tell the chill suddenly that was coming down the phone line. He said, “What are you talking about?” I said, “Well, I’m blind. I just need to Braille-label a few things and then I’ll be good to go.” He said, “Agh, it’s a waste of time. There’s no point in you doing the course because a blind person could never work in radio.”
I ended up not doing that course. A few years later on a radio station I worked for, I became that guy’s boss. Now is that karma, or is that karma? I think there are a number of ways that you can handle this. By the way, I think you’re way too kind saying that I’m the king of advocacy. I just do my best to get by, like everybody else does but what I would think in a situation like this is, have I exhausted all my constructive options yet?
Could you, frustrating though it is that you have to be in this position, have a teachable moment for this individual. Could you go back and say, “Actually it’s not really your business to worry about how I can use this and whether I can use it. That’s not a precondition of sale for any good or service. We have a contract. I want to buy it. If you are willing to sell it, that’s really all that matters, and Mr. God’s gift to stenography, you’re certainly on very shaky legal ground if you decline to sell someone something because of their disability.”
You could try and reason with them in a calm, polite way, once you’ve had time to reflect. “Whether I can use it is not your business. Please, just sell it to me. Legally, you have to, if I’m willing to buy it.” Because I tell you what Eden, I back you. What I would do is learn that machine. Do your magic, become skilled at this craft and send the guy a video afterwards. “You said that a blind person couldn’t do this. Here’s the proof that a blind person can. I want to show you this video of me rocking your machine.”
Because while you can boycott it, while you can cancel them, while you can try and use another machine, if this is the one that you need, then you’re shooting yourself in the foot, aren’t you? You’re also missing out on a potentially teachable moment, even though sometimes it is frustrating and we shouldn’t have to do this, but we are a low-incidence population. We’re a minority and sometimes these things happen. It’s not necessarily fair, but sometimes life isn’t. Sometimes we are just not in the head space to be patient with people.
I understand that, but maybe with a bit of reflection, you might see an opportunity unless you’ve already burned the bridges to the extent that he wouldn’t be keen to hear from you again. What you might also want to do is see if you can contact other blind people who are successfully using these machines. As you say, other blind people are doing this work so if you can already give this guy incontrovertible proof that it’s being done, he really is on very shaky ground if he tries to hold you up any further. There are a couple of things to think about and I look forward to others’ comments on this
Interlude: Mosen At Large Podcast.
Chris Gray: Hi there, Jonathan and listeners of Mosen At Large. Chris Gray back with you again today to give you part two of the tour of the Blindshell Classic 2. Before I continue talking about the software and features of the phone though, I forgot to mention one thing about the physical hardware on the phone. On the back, of course, is the camera, but below the camera is a concave round button. This is an emergency button. You can set it to call 911 or call a friend, whatever you want to do as an emergency measure if something is happening when you’re on the phone. I did want to mention that it’s an important feature.
Now we’ll move ahead. You’ll remember that in Part 1, we reviewed basic functionality of the phone, making calls, sending text messages, working with your contact list. We went through a fairly abbreviated version of the settings, showed them all, but didn’t go into a lot of detail on many of them. Today, we’re going to talk about some of the other buttons on the phone, like the button A at the top left. I’m going to go through the application’s features of the phone, which are pretty amazing and pretty interesting.
Maybe we ought to start there. I thought about doing the button first because it’s fun and all that, but let’s get right down to the heart of the matter and talk about applications on the Blindshell 2. Here we go. As an orientation point, remember we did phone, text messages, and contacts. Now we go to-
BlindShell: Applications, 4 of 7.
Chris: The fourth of the main menu. I’ll press Enter, and go in there.
BlindShell: Internet browser, 1 of 10.
Chris: Internet browser is where we start. I’ve used it, some of the things are pretty good. I can check boxes, I can enter text, et cetera. I can enter text with the buttons on the phone or verbally speaking when holding down the rightmost button on the right edge of the phone. It’s pretty good. I can’t say a lot about it, because I haven’t used it tons. You can invoke it from text messages and other areas to read links and checkout forms and stuff like that and that works pretty good.
BlindShell: Tools, 2 of 10.
Chris: Tools, well okay. We’re going to dive in now. The Internet browser has no– Well, it does have menu items, but nothing that you wouldn’t expect in a browser. I guess I’ll show you.
BlindShell: Internet browser, 1 of 10.
Chris: Let’s look at the browser menu.
BlindShell: Insert URL search, 1 of 6.
Chris: That’s pretty obvious. You can set where to search from, I do with Google, so that’s one.
BlindShell: Bookmarks, 2 of 6.
Chris: Put bookmarks in, go to your bookmarks.
BlindShell: History, 3 of 6.
Chris: Your web viewing history, of course.
BlindShell: Settings, 4 of 6.
BlindShell: Downloaded files, 5 of 6. Help, 6 of 6.
Chris: There is a brief tour of the browser.
BlindShell: Internet browser, 1 of 10. Tools, 2 of 10.
Chris: Now, we go to tools.
BlindShell: Alarm, 1 of 10.
Chris: The alarm is your standard alarm clock. Oh, I wish it had a snooze, but it doesn’t. [chuckles] Maybe one of these days it will. You just set the time for the alarm, the recurrence, in other words, days you want it to ring and save.
BlindShell: Calculator, 2 of 10.
Chris: Calculator is for calculations. I’ve not found anything but the plus sign. They’ve got to be there somewhere, I just haven’t found them yet, but you do have the calculator function.
BlindShell: Calendar, 3 of 10.
Chris: Calendar for appointments, et cetera.
BlindShell: Add new event, 1 of 6. Agenda, 2 of 6. Browse calendar, 3 of 6. Find, 4 of 6. Name days, 5 of 6. Settings, 6 of 6.
Chris: There you go, there’s your calendar in brief.
BlindShell: Flashlight, 4 of 10.
Chris: Flashlight, just an on and off thing, but flashlights on phones are used by quite a few people. Anybody with low vision I’m sure will find that extremely useful.
BlindShell: Minute timer, 5 of 10.
Chris: Minute timer, that you set a number of minutes and then turn it on and it counts down the minutes.
BlindShell: Notes, 6 of 10.
Chris: Notes, if you want to take a note.
BlindShell: Add note, 1 of 2. Notes list, 2 of 2.
Chris: You can enter them-
BlindShell: Notes, 6 of 10.
Chris: -either with the keyboard or with the talk button.
BlindShell: Stopwatch, 7 of 10.
Chris: There’s your stopwatch, so we’re good there.
BlindShell: Zero seconds, stopped.
Chris: No menu item, no settings, but there you go.
BlindShell: Unit Converter, 8 of 10.
Chris: Unit Converter, that’s fun.
BlindShell: Angle, 1 of 13. Area, 2 of 13. Fuel consumption, 3 of 13. Digital memory, 4 of 13. Energy, 5 of 13. Length, 6 of 13. Mass, 7 of 13. Power, 8 of 13. Pressure, 9 of 13. Speed, 10 of 13. Time, 11 of 13. Temperature, 12 of 13. Volume, 13 of 13.
Chris: Okay, so lots of nice conversion items and that’s pretty good. Voice recorder, now here’s a very cool feature in many ways. Here’s what you have in this selection.
BlindShell: Start recording, 1 of 2. Records list, 2 of 2.
Chris: At least, you can start a new recording, or you can list your old recordings. We’ll look at my list, I got a big list here.
Chris: Hear this one, it was done on an Amtrak car, and it’s a guide describing the Moffat tunnel.
BlindShell: Play, 1 of 5.
Recorded Voice: We’re 10 minutes away from the Moffat tunnel, that is a 6.2-mile walk [unintelligible [01:14:55]. As we go through the tunnel, would you mind to keep the [unintelligible [01:14:59] closed, because our locomotives have a little bit of diesel exhaust and there’s also some residual coal dust from some of the coal trains that go through that tunnel? We’d like to keep all that out on the outside of the train not the inside.
BlindShell: April 15th, 2022, [12:23] PM. 2 of 7.
Chris: There was some interference there, what you heard, someone giving me something, because I was in the lounge car where they do all the announcements and all that, but a pretty clear recording. We also heard some automatic level function kick in to somewhat decrease the sound, more about that in a moment, but that was a pretty good recording. A couple of weeks later I was in Manhattan and went to a jazz Cafe named Café Carlyle, and here’s what a little recording from it sounds like.
BlindShell: Play, 1 of 5.
BlindShell: Playback paused.
Chris: Here, it was definitely a trio, you can hear the bass and the drums and all that. You could also hear the automatic level kicking in a little bit as we went through because it just did that because of the sound that was going on. Compare that to a visit I made to a cafe here in San Francisco several days later with a fairly loud rock band. Here we don’t have any automatic level kicking in or anything, but check this out.
BlindShell: Playback finished.
Chris: A lot of distortion, a lot of things that just weren’t that great. There is a feature I showed you last time about recording when you’re on a phone call. I made a phone call, I was booking a trip. Here’s what a recorded call sounds like.
BlindShell: Play, 1 to 5.
Recorded Voice 1: Just asking one more thing if you want.
Recorded Voice 2: You said the booking number is what again, 75471895, is that right?
Recorded Voice 1: 75471895.
Recorded Voice 2: Very good.
Recorded Voice 1: This is the booking number, now I’m sending you the second booking number for ma’am. Just wait two minutes, I’ll just send it to you. Please hold on for two minutes, yes?
Recorded Voice 2: Okay.
BlindShell: Recorded call, April 13th, 2022, [7:14] PM. 8 of 10.
Chris: A lot of popping, a lot of artifacts, things that I would have preferred not to hear. Frankly, the volume, for me is extremely loud, the volume for him isn’t too good. Sad to say there is no way to change the volume of the calls or to change anything else about the recordings and I think that’s a shame. I hope that Blindshell will do some work on that because it very definitely needs it. The function is there, it’s good as far as it goes, it’s not without flaws, but it is nice and very handy in many circumstances. There you have the voice recorder. I wish you could change the settings and so forth, I wish that you could change the volume [chuckles] in particular. Let’s just hope they put that in. Now to the last item in tools we have–
BlindShell: Weather, 10 of 10.
Chris: Weather, 10 of 10, nice number of items. How about the weather? Let me press enter.
BlindShell: [silence] Current weather in San Francisco, temperature 68°F, few clouds, 1 of 6.
Chris: If I go down, here’s tomorrow’s weather.
BlindShell: Tomorrow, temperature 50°F, scattered clouds, 2 of 6.
Chris: It’s going to get cooler. Anyway, there’s also a search function where you can put in other cities and states and countries, which is nice. I won’t go into that now because it’s just going to take long, and we’ve got an awful lot of ground to cover here even so. There you are, there is the Tools menu. Now we go to a new menu under the applications menu.
BlindShell: Communication, 3 of 10.
Chris: Three items here.
BlindShell: Email, 1 of 3.
Chris: Emails, great. It’s easy to set up, it actually works unlike a lot of phone emails I’ve had to deal with, when you set them up, they take forever. I get very good and reliable email from here, and you don’t need to even be on WiFi to get your email, so that’s very nice. The one thing is though, when I try and forward an email. The forwarding does not work. In fact, I also cannot forward text messages to other people. Something’s going on there and I’m not sure what, but it is very unfortunate and I wish it weren’t the case.
BlindShell: Facebook Messenger, 2 of 3.
Chris: Facebook messenger. I have logged on, it does seem to work. It seems like more of a Facebook Lite than a real Facebook, but Facebook is here. Here, and in many other cases, it is true that you’re limited by the phone not having applications like an Android phone or an iPhone, but it has a lot of applications of its own, one of which is Facebook and-
BlindShell: Whatsapp, 3 of 3.
Chris: -it also has WhatsApp. I have to admit, I barely understand WhatsApp. I have a login. I have set it up here. It seems to work well. I forgot to mention earlier that you can go to a message on your recorder and you can send the recorded message via email or via WhatsApp. That’s a nice feature and those are three excellent communications features. We’ll get to a point where I can show you even some more, but that’s what I have right now under the communications item, under the applications item. Going down one more.
BlindShell: Media, 4 of 10.
Chris: Media, again is very cool. Let me come in here.
BlindShell: Camera, 1 of 10.
Chris: You’ve got a camera for taking pictures, and this is just still photos. You point at something and take a photo and you have it.
BlindShell: Document reader, 2 of 10.
Chris: Document reader.
BlindShell: List documents, 1 of 2. Settings, 2 of 2. Document reader, 2 of 10.
Chris: I don’t have any documents in here. I don’t tend to use documents on my phone although I may in the near future, but I don’t right now.
BlindShell: FM radio, 3 of 10.
Chris: FM radio. You have to have a pair of wired headphones plugged in as the antenna, but it’s pretty good. It’s pretty good. I do use it sometimes just for the fun of it. The wire can be a nuisance because I use Bluetooth headphones for the most part, and so it’s a problem. You can carry a cable or something and have that work.
BlindShell: Images, 4 of 10.
Chris: Images, you can look at PDF images and things like that is my understanding of it. I have not used it.
BlindShell: Internet Radio, 5 of 10.
Chris: Internet Radio, pretty robust internet radio. Where you would expect stations from all over the world and lots of stations in various countries. That’s great. If I want to hear the radio in Ecuador, I can navigate to Ecuador, go to the radio station all over the country.
BlindShell: Music Player, 6 of 10.
Chris: Music Player is an MP3 player, basically.
BlindShell: Podcast Player, 7 of 10.
Chris: Podcast Player. Now, here again, it is true that the phone is not a full-functioning phone like an Android or an iPhone. You don’t need to worry about not having something like Podcast Addict, because you have the podcast feature in this phone. Going in here by pressing enter.
BlindShell: Recent episodes, 1 of 5.
Chris: Your recent episodes of anything that you’re subscribed to is there.
BlindShell: Subscribed podcasts, 2 of 5.
Chris: The ones I have subscribed to.
BlindShell: History, 3 of 5.
Chris: History is what you’ve listened to. The only annoying thing about this area is that if you delete something from history, it doesn’t go away, it just stays right there. There have been some updates to the podcast software, but that issue has not yet been resolved.
BlindShell: Add podcasts, 4 of 5.
Chris: Here we can add a podcast.
BlindShell: Downloads, 5 of 5.
Chris: There are downloads that you can just download all your new podcasts.
BlindShell: Subscribed podcast, 2 of 5.
Chris: Subscribed podcasts, a few of them anyway.
BlindShell: The Dore Show, 1 of 12,
Chris: The Dore Show, that’s a lawyer, a very old, but very famous constitutional lawyer who does a show three times a week that I love to listen to.
BlindShell: In The Arena, the Jonathan Mosen Story, 2 of 12,
Chris: What do you know? I found In The Arena, the Jonathan Mosen Story, I’ve listened to part of it. I’d never got around to it before, but I’ll tell you that’s a great show. Jonathan, thank you for that, and thank you, Glen Gordon, for working it out with him. It’s really excellent. I recommend it.
BlindShell: Mosen At Large, 3 of 12.
Chris: Mosen At Large. We’ve got that, and so it’s a handy way to hear the episodes of the show. We could go along to all the things on my list which I won’t do, but you do have that ability. Despite its minor flaws. I love the podcast player. I’m a real podcast person, so it’s good to have that here and I can update it whenever I want to and hear the most recent podcasts. NPR, BBC, New York Times, stuff like that.
BlindShell: Video Camera, 8 of 10.
Chris: The Video Camera is a moving picture type of application. You can turn it on and video something which is ongoing. That’s a new feature, just got added a few weeks ago, and points to the fact that the Blindshell people are working on new software all the time.
BlindShell: Video Player, 9 of 10.
Chris: Plays your videos.
BlindShell: Youtube, 10 of 10
Chris: YouTube is a way of getting in and playing YouTube broadcasts. Very fun.
BlindShell: Media, 4 of 10.
Chris: There you have the media area now.
BlindShell: Books, 5 of 10
Chris: Books. You can read various kinds of books.
BlindShell: Games, 6 of 10
Chris: Games. There’s some fun games in here. We’ll talk more about the game software in just a second, but just to give you an idea.
BlindShell: Dice Roller, 1 of 2.
Chris: Dice Roller. Hey, let’s roll the dice man.
BlindShell: Roll a dice. 1 of 2. One.
Chris: Okay, nice sound, but that’s all it does is roll the dice. I’m not sure how useful it really is.
BlindShell: Vision Aids, 7 of 10.
Chris: Vision Aids. We all love to have those, right?
BlindShell: Beepers. 1 of 5.
Chris: Beepers. Now here you can purchase a beeper from your Blindshell phone distributor and attach the beeper to something and then make it beep when you want to find something. Now, if you want to try and find your Blindshell 2 phone, maybe not, but you know your keys, your coat, et cetera, et cetera, whatever you really want to find.
BlindShell: GPS 37-76637N 122 -42515W, 4 of 4.
Chris: There you have your location.
BlindShell: Share position, 3 of 4, precision 10 meters, 2 of 4. USCA 1828 15th street, San Francisco, California, 94143, 1 of 4.
Chris: I’m not really sure what this is. I haven’t investigated it. It certainly is not where I live. Maybe it’s just making a localization error. I’m sure about that.
BlindShell: Magnifying Glass, 4 of 5.
Chris: Not very useful to me as a totally blind person, but you know what a magnifying glass is.
BlindShell: NFC object tagging, 5 of 5.
Chris: NFC object tagging. This is a feature where you can purchase NFC tags and put them on things and it will read that tag. It’s a little bit like a PenFriend Lite, I’ll put it that way, but you can label things and have the barcode read the NFC barcode, so it’s a nice feature.
BlindShell: Health and Fit. 8 of 10.
Chris: Health and Fitness. Now we all want that, right?
BlindShell: Step Counter. 1 of 1.
Chris: There’s only one item here that I know of offhand. It’s Step Counter and it counts your steps.
BlindShell: Today, 1 of 5. The last seven days, 2 of 5. History, 3 of 5. Statistics, 4 of 5. Settings, 5 of 5.
Chris: I’ll look in Settings right quick because you’ll be interested in this.
BlindShell: Profile, 1 of 4. Notifications, 2 of 4. Profile height, 5 feet, 7 inches, 1 of 6. Weight, 169.8 pounds. Gender male, 3 of 6. Year of birth, 1953, 4 of 6. Step length, 2 feet, 4 inches. Daily goal steps, 5,000, 6 of 6.
Chris: That’s probably more than I should ever tell you about myself, but how else could I demonstrate it since I already set it up? Now you probably know more than you ever wanted to know about Chris Gray.
BlindShell: Profile, 1 of 4. Notifications, 2 of 4. Enabled selected, 1 of 2.
Chris: I do have notifications enabled. I’m not exactly sure what all of them are, but it will tell you steps and things like that.
BlindShell: Notifications unit system, 3 of 4.
Chris: Unit system can be either metric or-
BlindShell: Imperial selected, 2 of 2.
Chris: -imperial, which is what I’ve selected.
BlindShell: Unit system, 3 of 4. Calories, 4 of 4.
Chris: Calories, how many calories you’ve burned? There’s your step counter.
BlindShell: Shopping, 9 of 10.
BlindShell: Amazon shopping, 1 of 1.
Chris: Amazon is not bad. It works pretty well. It’s like other things, what I would consider an Amazon Lite, but it’s there and it’s good.
BlindShell: App catalog, 10 of 10.
Chris: I’m going to spend a little more time in the app catalog because I think it’s important to understand the wealth of applications that you have with the Blindshell 2. It’s one of the things that really makes this phone shine and deserves to be demonstrated to you here on this podcast,
BlindShell: Browse catalog, 1 of 4.
Chris: We’ll do that. We’ll browse the catalog.
BlindShell: Recommended packages, 1 of 4. Search, 2 of 4. Recently added 3 of 4. All packages, 4 of 4.
Chris: I’m going to go into all packages by pressing enter.
BlindShell: All categories, 1 of 12.
Chris: All categories, we’ll do that.
BlindShell: Amazon shopping installed, 1 of 47. Audible, 2 of 47.
Chris: I think we all know what audible is. It’s a book reading program. You can sign up and get audible books and I’m sure I’m going to do that soon.
BlindShell: Be My Eyes, 3 of 47.
Chris: Be My Eyes. I don’t know if Be My Eyes is worldwide in terms of knowledge. In case it’s not, it’s like Aira, but it’s a free service and you can invoke it and ask people to look at things for you and tell you what they are, et cetera, et cetera.
BlindShell: Blindshell podcast Player installed 4 of 47.
Chris: We’ve looked at that already.
BlindShell: Blindshell Productivity Tools installed, 5 of 47. Blindshell Telegram Client, 6 of 47.
Chris: I Don’t have the Telegram client installed. I mean to someday, but I don’t use Telegram so I just haven’t done it, but I know Telegram is popular and it’s on Voxmate and a lot of other places so certainly worth looking into at some point.
BlindShell: Blindshell Vision Aids installed, 7 of 47.
Chris: That’s the vision aids we looked at just a moment ago.
BlindShell: Book Reader installed, 8 of 47.
Chris: We saw that.
BlindShell: Calendar installed, 9 of 47.
Chris: [inaudible [01:32:19] seen that already.
BlindShell: Camera and image viewer installed, 10 of– COVID pass EU, 11 of 47.
Chris: What is that?
BlindShell: This app allows you to store and manage European COVID certificates.
Chris: In Europe? That’s pretty good.
BlindShell: Czech and Slovak public transport, 12 of 47.
Chris: If you live in the Czech Republic or Slovakia, that’ll be nice.
BlindShell: Dice Roller installed, 13 of– Document reader installed. Email Client installed, 15 of 47. FM radio installed. Facebook messenger, Google Lookout, 18 of 47. Google Lookout uses phone camera to assist with everyday tasks. The functions include text recognition, object recognition, food label recognition, and banknote recognition. Guitar tuner, 19 of 47. Guitar tuner allows you to tune your guitar and other musical instruments. Hangman, 20 of 47. The Hangman game trains your vocabulary.
Guess The Word, internet browser installed, 20– Internet radio installed. KDD, 23 of 47. Search and download textbooks and check language from the KDD library. LibriVox, search and download public domain audiobooks from the LibriVox library, books in various languages available. Localizer Editor, 25 of 47. French App for the Visually Impaired, [unintelligible [01:33:28], 26 of 47. With the [unintelligible [01:33:32] app, you can borrow eBooks, audiobooks, and podcasts from the library.
Mao Mao is a simple but fun card game. Try to be the virtual opponent, 1 of 3. Memory game installed. Have some fun with your Blindshell phone. Memory game challenges, your memory as well as hearing 1 of 4. Metronome, simple and easy-to-use metronome will help you to keep tempo while playing your favorite musical instrument. Music player installed. Listen to your favorite MP3 music wherever you are. QR object tagging. QR code object tagging allows you to mark everyday objects using barcode tags purchase from Blindshell sellers. The tags are recognized using the camera of the phone.
Chris: I asked my seller about this QR code versus NFC codes and they don’t know what the difference is or quite what the story is. They think maybe this is something under development by Blindshell, but we just don’t know the answer.
BlindShell: SBB mobile, 32 of 47. SBB mobile is the most popular public transport app in Switzerland. KN, 33 of 47, search and download audiobooks in Slovak language from the SKN library. Shazam song recognition, 34 of 47. Shazam is an excellent application that helps you find out the title of every song at the moment you’re hearing it.
Chris: Shazam is fun. I’ve used it on Android. It’s a cool app. I haven’t actually used it here because there’s so much to experience here, but that’s what it is.
BlindShell: Simon game, 35 of 47. Adaptation of the classical Simon game that will challenge your hearing and memory.
Chris: I’ll bet, most listeners owned at least Simon 1, maybe Simon 2. Here you can have a new Simon on the Blindshell 2.
BlindShell: Skype Lite, 36 of 47.
Chris: Skype Lite.
BlindShell: Stay in touch with your friends on Skype.
Chris: I don’t really use Skype anymore so I don’t know if I’ll ever install this or not because Skype has become so problematic and the audio is so poor that it just doesn’t seem worth it.
BlindShell: Step Counter installed, 37 of 47.
Chris: Step counter. We talked about.
BlindShell: VA connect, 38 of 47. The VA connect app allows members to read publications that are available through iAccess, Vision Australia’s online library service.
Chris: There you go, especially for Australian residents, you might enjoy that.
BlindShell: Video camera and video player installed, 39 of 47.
Chris: We’ve talked about that.
BlindShell: Foxy web, 40 of 47. Foxy web is an innovative solution allowing visually impaired people to access the internet easily and independently. Weather forecast installed, 41 of 47.
Chris: We’ve talked about that.
BlindShell: WhatsApp installed, 42 of 47.
Chris: We’ve talked about that.
BlindShell: [unintelligible [01:35:47]. Can you safely get through a Cape maze in complete darkness? In this game, you have to use your imagination, short-term memory, and logical thinking to avoid pits and kill the mythical creature called [unintelligible [01:35:55].
Chris: I’m afraid to try that one. I could get into trouble.
BlindShell: YouTube player installed, 44 of 47.
Chris: Okay, you pretty much know what that is.
BlindShell: DCV Langson, 45 of 47. Search and download audiobooks in German language from the DCV Langson library. Toybox, Toybox enables you to access audio descriptions and other accessibility features in supported cinema theaters. AOL, 47 to 47. Search and download audiobooks in French language from the AOL library.
Chris: I hope that wasn’t too lengthy or boring or whatever, but I thought it would be great to show you the real richness of possibilities you have with this phone. The remainder of the items, we have to go back to the main menu. We’ve gotten through the applications and all the selections there. Then we’ve done the settings. We’ve looked at the manual. When we talk about the manual, we’d look at it.
Then you have the turn off the phone menu item, which I don’t think I need to show you here, but wait, there’s more, not a lot more, but there is still a little bit more in the description of the phone. You may remember, I talked to you about these 2 buttons on the top of the phone just below the screen, button A and button B on the left and the right. I never have figured out what button B does, but button A does a few things that you will want to know about. I’m going to press button A.
BlindShell: Two new notifications, 1 of 6.
Chris: Here I can open my notifications screen and see what notifications I have. Let’s try one.
BlindShell: Message from +18663520207, [6:32] PM, 1 of 3.
Chris: Don’t care about that, some spam call, I guess.
Chris: Sadly enough, that’s the only notification I had. If you have a notification which is a text message or whatever, you can reply to it, you can delete it, and all that sort of thing. Next, we go to-
BlindShell: [8:11] PM, Saturday, May 21st, 2022, 2 of 6.
Chris: -the time. If you want to know the time, you can just press the button A and go down once and you’ll hear the time. Very, very useful. Now here’s a real gem. If you go into where it tells you the time, you’re going to hear something which you might not expect. I sure didn’t expect, but there’s a whole new menu of options. Here they are.
BlindShell: Add new event, 1 of 6. Agenda, 2 of 6. Browse calendar, 3 of 6. Find, 4 of 6. Name days, 5 of 6. Settings, 6 of 6.
Chris: I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about each of these settings, partly because I don’t understand a lot of them. Settings, for example, allows you to add holidays that it knows about. Whether they’re by country, I’m not sure, I haven’t tested it that much. What agenda means, I don’t know. It’s fascinating to think what it could mean, but I just wanted to point this feature out. Basically, it’s a kind of calendar app, but hidden away here, and thought you’d want to know about it.
BlindShell: Wi-Fi state, connected to qtpremium.com, signal strength, [crosstalk] 99%, 3 of 6.
Chris: I love that 99%. That’s cool stuff, but there’s your Wi-Fi connection. That’s the name of my Wi-Fi here at the house.
BlindShell: Bluetooth enabled, no connected devices, 4 of 6.
Chris: If I had a headphone connected or something, it would identify what was connected.
BlindShell: Signal strength, 50% 4G. Carrier mobile, mobile data enabled. Data usage, 228.86 megabytes, 5 of 6.
Chris: Where I’m sitting right now, I have that 50%. Other parts of the house, I might have 75% and it tells me how much data I’ve used for the month. And finally–
BlindShell: Battery state, 54%, 6 of 6.
Chris: 54%, I’ve had the phone on since about noon yesterday. I ran it overnight, did about 45 minutes of email on it, and did this demonstration. The battery life of this phone is pretty darn good, and I’m very happy with that feature. It could run probably another day and I wouldn’t yet be totally disconnected from the phone. There, Jonathan, my friends on this podcast Mosen At Large, you have a pretty thorough, if not exhaustive, demonstration of the Blindshell 2.
In many ways it’s commendable. It’s not without problems and some of them are quite serious and need to be addressed, but I hope they will be and I hope that I’ve done a fair job of describing the problems, but not only that the great aspects of this phone because there are some, and hopefully this has been helpful to you and hope you’ve enjoyed it. Chris Gray signing off. I’ve enjoyed doing this hope you enjoyed hearing it and let’s talk another time.
Jonathan: Thank you for taking the time and trouble to do that, Chris. I know there was a lot of interest in part one and a few people have emailed me saying, “Where is part two?” So there we go. Thank you for putting part two together. You did raise the question in that review of QR codes versus NFC tags and I’m happy to provide a brief explanation of the differences.
QR codes are scanned with your phone’s camera, so you often have to go into a particular app, whether it be the camera app, if it supports QR codes, or a specific QR code scanning app, you’ve gotta make sure that lighting is correct and you’ve also gotta make sure that your QR code is in the view of the camera. When our COVID restrictions were stricter, we had COVID tracing technology in New Zealand that was QR code-based, and it was required that when you went to a location, you had to scan in using the special COVID trace app and it was QR code-based.
Now, this could cause some trouble for blind people because you had to know where the QR code was in the middle of a pandemic when things can get on surfaces and things, you really don’t want to be touching surfaces, trying to feel the QR code actually and it sometimes wasn’t always easy to feel either. It wasn’t the most optimal technology and you had to make sure that you were in view of the camera, so those are QR codes.
If you are setting up WhatsApp on your computer, which is something we’ll be talking about on Mosen At Large soon, by the way, this is an example of where sometimes QR codes appear on the screen of your computer and you need sometimes to scan a QR code that’s on your computer screen with your phone’s camera to cause an action to happen. QR codes can cause all sorts of actions to happen. They can display web pages. They can perform other actions that are unique to a specific app.
Another example of this is that some time ago I got on a cellular carrier that used Esyms and their Esyms were transferred to you by scanning a QR code and an email message that they send to you, so those are QR codes. They’re directional, they can be a bit of an accessibility challenge sometimes for blind people. On the other hand, NFC tags are much easier. There’s an NFC reader on your phone. You tap the NFC tag on the NFC reader of your phone and whatever has to happen happens.
Apple Pay, for example, or Android Pay is NFC-based payment technology. I use WayAround quite a lot to know when my clothes match, I have WayAround tags on everything. We have WayAround tags on other things, and that is NFC-based as well. If you were to pick which is the more accessible technology, NFC is a lot easier because as long as you know where the reader is on your phone, you can just tap on the reader and the NFC tag does its thing.
Interlude: For all things Mosen At large, check out the website where you can listen to episodes online, subscribe using your favorite podcast app, and contact the show. Just point your browser to podcast.mosen.org, that’s podcast.M-O-S-E.N.org.
Jonathan: The prolific Joe Norton, he is back and he says, “Hi Jonathan, congratulations on becoming a grandfather.” Thank you, Joe. He says, “Like all the ones before you, you’ll have stories to tell about your grandchildren, we’ll look forward to hearing how it goes with your first one. I have a music question for you, but first I’d like to tell you about an experience with RNZ National. I was listening to RNZ National a few weeks ago and noticed they were reading short fiction pieces in the overnight hours. I reached out to the folks doing the overnight program, expressing my appreciation, and got the nicest email from Vicki McKay. She said she had heard of Mushroom FM and would give it a listen.”
Well, we would welcome Vicki on Mushroom FM of course she’s great. She’s been around a long time, has Vicki McKay, and she’s got a great on-air personality, really pleasant and Joe did actually include for me the email that Vicki sent him, and it’s very chatty and pleasant, so good on you, Vicki for taking the time to do that.
Joe continues, “You know, since you are actually running a radio station, maybe you can give me your perspective on this, and maybe some other listeners might have their own views. I remember reading the book, Little Girl Blue about the life of Karen Carpenter, and as I grew older and maybe mellowed out, I definitely began appreciating both her superb vocals, but also her brother Richard’s fantastic arrangements. They truly did make a great team.” They did Joe, I’ve always been a Carpenter’s fan and in some circles, it’s trendy to knock or mock the Carpenter’s just like it is Barry Manilow. I’m a huge Barry Manilow fan as well.
Joe continues. “However, I got curious about Karen’s solo album simply called Karen Carpenter, as I’m sure you are aware. Karen went off to New York to work with Phil Ramon, getting a chance to branch out while Richard was in rehab. I obtained the album and I feel there was some darn good tracks on it that I think would’ve done well on the charts. It’s funny, but I have never heard anyone actually play any of those songs on any radio station that I am aware of. I know the album was released in 1996 and wasn’t really promoted very much at all, but is there some unspoken rule on not playing songs from the album. They were recorded in 1980 and it seems like they would sound good right along with other songs from the period.”
Incidentally, he says, “My favorite tracks from the album are If I Had You and If We Try, especially, I like the horns in If We Try in the bridge section. Any thoughts?” Concludes Joe. Yes, Joe, I’ve always got thoughts. It is an interesting one for us because Mushroom FM plays music that was recorded between 1950 and 1989, but what do you do when you’ve got an album that was recorded then, but not actually released, made available to the world until 1996.
We actually have this little dilemma with a track off the ABBA Voyage album, which is called Just a Notion, which was originally recorded in the ’70s and it’s been spruced up a little bit in ABBA Voyage, but it was recorded. The vocals were recorded in the ’70s, so do we play that or not? Sometimes these things are a bit arbitrary. I would be inclined to play tracks from that Karen Carpenter album simply because it’s Karen Carpenter and you can never have too much Carpenters.
I think as far as arrangements are concerned, the Carpenters totally nailed it. Thank you for the prompt. I think it is a really interesting album. I’ve read that little girl blue as well. We talked about it a lot on the Mosen Explosion and some listeners recommended that I read it and I did. One of the things that stood out for me from that book was that they said that Karen Carpenter considered recording a version of Off the Wall, which of course became the title track to a Michael Jackson album.
Now whenever I hear Michael Jackson sing Off the Wall, I think, “Wow, a Karen Carpenter version of that would really have worked. I can definitely hear in my head, Karen Carpenter singing Off the Wall.” I’ll go through the album and we’ll add some Karen Carpenter tracks to the Mushroom FM playlist.
Tabbo is writing in from Botswana and says, “Adding to your answer to the question asked on Microsoft 365 training. Let me say, I just switched off a home license to now a business standard license and oh man, I love it so much.” With the training, in addition to Microsoft having a lot of resources in place, their support is great.
He can actually request for a one-on-one chat with an expert from Microsoft for a period of 60 minutes and they can also support him through the phone, but I must say though that I don’t know if this is supported in the personal and home licenses if he has one of those, but if he is on any of the business plans, yes, he can go for this support and I would recommend that he also go directly to the accessibility training page on Microsoft website and there he will find material designed just for us. “Okay. Questions,” says Thabo.
“I have Netflix installed on my Windows PC and my account signed in, but whenever I open the app using JAWS, it usually closes or exits before I can even play anything on it. The only way I can play content is when a sighted person has come to my house and I’ve asked them to just use the mouse and play something for me. I checked the accessibility article on Netflix on the web and the article I found did not help. It just said Netflix works with screen readers. Then they are put in the table together with operating systems without the How-to Guides. I had thought I would get key commands, but no. Can anybody using it on Windows help? I don’t even know a simple task moving from home to downloads and vice versa.”
Well, Thabo I think, from what I can gather, a lot of people are just using the Netflix website with their Windows PCs. I don’t ever watch these things on my PC. I just always use my phone for all of those things so I don’t know personally. I would think most people will be using the Netflix website. However, if there are people using the Windows App, then hopefully they’ll come forward and give us some hints and tips.
“On Windows 11 using JAWS 2020, I usually have my JAWS talking like it has hiccups, or should I say [inaudible [01:51:10] a speech cut-off. Sorry, I had the hiccups for a second there. This happens within computer speakers that have built-in. It’s not Bluetooth related, where I’d go to settings center and turn off speech cut-out. I do get JAWS talking like it is not sure of what it wants to say. For instance, it will say space close.” Thanks, [unintelligible [01:51:33], it looks like you have got some stuttering speech there and there may be various things you can do.
The speech cut-off feature may help, but I take it you have left that turned on because although the JAWS description of the feature describes Bluetooth devices, it actually works more widely than that. I have seen it improve situations on laptops that hibernate their audio very quickly to save energy. If that avoid speech cut-off feature is turned on, you may want potentially to change your screen out delay.
That’s another setting that you’ll find in your JAWS default settings file. You might want to see if you can update your drivers. You don’t mention the manufacturer of your computer, and what audio device you have. Some people have fixed these problems by installing generic Microsoft drivers and using them as opposed to a manufacturer’s specific set of drivers. You could potentially try and install the Silenzio utility to see if that cleans that up.
If the avoid speech cut-off as in cleaning it up, then I suspect Silenzio won’t either. There are some things, and maybe some others can comment on techniques for dealing with stuttering speech. Go west young man. No, no, not that way.
“Hello, Jonathan,” says Dave Carlson. “Enjoy your podcast. Am I the only one who has seen this behavior? When using Apple Maps acting as navigator, it gives directions as I expect. However, if I swiped a compass and check the direction of travel, there is a problem I’m encountering. North and south work just fine. However, east and west are completely reversed. Same issue if direction is actually northeast, it will indicate northwest. The compass direction in degrees is also reversed in the same manner. If I open my compass app, it reads just fine. I must presume that the phone itself is not the problem. I am running the latest version of iOS on my iPhone 12 Pro. Is anyone else out there noticing this?”
Thanks, Dave. I’ve got to conclude it had something to do with the way you’re holding the phone with orientation and maybe maps is expecting a different orientation from the one you are giving it. I must say I don’t use cardinal directions. I’m not qualified to comment on this. Let’s open it up and see if anybody can come up with a magic solution or whether you have discovered a bug.
Devin Prater is writing in and says, “Hello, I’ve been reading Braille with an uppercase B basically all my 28 years of life. I’ve seen a fall into what I’ll call plain Braille with a lowercase b. How’s that for hedging your bets? Lately, just about all screen readers only show plain text to Braille displays and it’s not always been that way. In the days when no takers ran Windows CE like the BrailleNote Apex when you read a book or document headings was centered, paragraphs were indented, and bold and italics were represented fine but now screen readers just show headings as h1 or h2.
There’s no telling when paragraphs begin or end and there is no italics and bold. I dearly miss this rich Braille way of reading. It really made reading enjoyable. Screen readers should really be offering the best Braille experience as possible. I thought JAWS may offer these kinds of features but surprisingly, it doesn’t. Its Braille support doesn’t seem to be much better than in NVDAs. Along with even having Braille support, I hope that screen reader makers, including Apple, Microsoft, and especially Google, do better about using Braille to its fullest potential.
If some don’t like the space that could take up on the display, they should have the option to turn it off. Having options is good, not bad at all.” Thanks, Devan. I beg to differ to some degree. I’m proofing in Braille a lot of the time and I can tell when things are bolded and when they are italicized. I also prefer the heading levels being displayed, because it’s important that when I’m creating documents, the hierarchy is correct.
If I were to read a Braille line and it simply centered, that doesn’t tell me when I’m composing a structured document. Am I making an h1 heading and h2 heading, et cetera? There’s also the question of the available Braille real estate when you have a single-line Braille display. I know that the Braille support in JAWS has been worked on by a lot of Braille users. JAWS is a very blindness-driven screen reader. In Europe, there are a lot of people who use Braille exclusively. They turn speech off, and they only use Braille.
BrailleIn is also another fantastic initiative. I think JAWS Braille is in exceptionally good shape right now. I think what you will find is that there will be some changes when we see multi-line Braille displays coming because then you’ve got a lot more Braille real estate to play with. It is going to be easier to represent a standard Braille page on a refreshable Braille display because I think what you’ve really got to be concerned with when you have such a small amount of Braille real estate is just reading as efficiently as you possibly can. If you’re constantly scrolling away, because there’s just a little bit of text in the middle of a Braille line, that’s not very efficient.
Jonathan: I’d love to hear from you. If you have any comments you want to contribute to the show, drop me an email written down or with an audio attachment to Jonathan, J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N@mushroomfm.com. If you’d rather call in use the listener number in the United States 864-606-6736.
Interlude: Mosen At Large Podcast.
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