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Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen. This is Mosen At Large, the show that’s got the blind community talking. Coming up on the show this week, listener feedback on the Mark Riccobono interview, more on abuse at schools for the blind, and Waymap is a new technology promising to overcome GPS limitations.
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Jonathan: Welcome to Episode 192. Hope you’ve had a good week. It’s been a busy one here, but it’s nice to sit down and spend some time hearing about what you think and sharing a few things as well. Joe Dynowski starts us off as we get some feedback on our interview from the previous episode, Episode 191, with the National Federation of the Blind President, Mark Riccobono.
Joe says, “Great interview with Mark Riccobono. I contribute several hundred dollars a year to the Federation because I very much appreciate the ability to use Newsline, which is extremely important to me, but I am not a member, and I don’t think it is appropriate for Mr. Riccobono to count me as a member or claim that he speaks for me. I know you pressed him on this issue, and I think he tried to have it both ways there. Boy, what double talk on the ability to vote? What’s wrong with one paying member having one vote? Also, I don’t get it, Mark says he doesn’t get paid, but he gets paid by a subsidiary, and that’s how he earns his living.
What a bogus process they have at the Federation for finding new leadership, finding a new president. I have served on the board of two major blind service organizations for a total of 21 years. When a president or chief executive is going to leave, a search committee is formed, inside and outside candidates are reviewed objectively, the departing CEO or president is not involved in the process at all. This is best practice. What kind of board runs that organization that would allow it to happen any other way? The board has a duty to the community it serves, the members who pay their dues, and the contributors, blind or not blind, who care about the cause.
Jonathan, thank you for asking the tough questions, but this organization needs a lot more scrutiny and oversight. A board that is really going to take charge. I have been legally blind all my life, unable to read print or a computer screen, and I do not read Braille. When I was young, I tried to learn Braille, but I found that it was too slow for me to keep up with the work I had in school. The books were very large, and I had no place to keep them, and I found that the two-sided Braille pages were difficult for me to pick up the right sensations.
Then after graduating law school, I tried to learn it again and found the same problems. I am now 65 years old, and maybe things would have been much different for me in learning Braille if I had access to the electronic Braille displays today where the dots are more distinct and the electronic display would have been a much smaller form factor than the large Braille books. I don’t read Braille, but I definitely admire your ability to do it so well. I wish I could do the same, but I can’t. That being said, I take offense when the Federation says that I am illiterate because I don’t read Braille.
Moreover, the lack of Braille reading ability is not what is holding down the blind community from being fully employed. I am not illiterate. I read books by listening. I type on a computer keyboard, composing and reading ideas all the time. My lack of Braille has not stopped me from having a successful Wall Street career at five major investment banks. The four most successful blind people I know do not read Braille either. They don’t read it or didn’t learn it because they say it is too slow, and that they could not have done their work by using it or have done their schoolwork through college and graduate school depending upon Braille.
Again, I wish I could read Braille, but the fact that I do not has not held me back in my career and does not somehow make me a second-class blind citizen. One problem with the Federation is that they believe their way is the only way, and if you don’t follow their way, you are on the outside. I am no less a capable person because I have done things, and do things differently than Mr. Riccobono.” Thank you for your feedback, Joe. The American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, which is the organization that Mark Riccobono officially works for, is definitely affiliated with the NFB.
In fact, if you check the phone number, it is one digit off the NFB’s main phone number, so 410-659-9315 is the number that they give for that. It used to be called the American Brotherhood for the Blind. I have heard of it with that name before. In terms of your comparison with other agencies, I don’t think it’s completely analogous because we are talking about an elected position. Whereas if you are the chief executive of a blindness agency, that’s not going to be elected, the board is going to appoint someone there. In this case, an elected president should be elected and is, in fact, elected at the NFB.
I guess the thing that I was exploring with Mark last week, was how truly democratic, how transparent is that election process? One thing that somebody said to me who was talking with me casually about the conversation I had with Mark Riccobono, was, of course, there is nothing to stop anyone from putting their own name forward, or someone else’s name forward when they get to the bit that says, “Are there any nominations from the floor?” There’s a pause there, anybody could stand up and nominate somebody, but it rarely happens.
I think it may have happened once, actually, during Mark Riccobono’s presidency. I think there may have been another candidate offered from the floor. Regarding your Braille comments, and obviously, Joe, you’ve had a really successful career, and I admire that and commend you for it, I looked up literacy in the dictionary. It says the ability to read and write. I know there’s a lot of sensitivity around this for non-Braille readers who feel really belittled when people talk about Braille being the key to literacy for blind people. I suppose what I struggle with is, if you are having your text-to-speech engine read something to you, are you reading it, or is the computer speaking it to you?
If you listen to an audiobook, someone else is reading it to you rather than you reading it, aren’t they? Isn’t the process of reading, the ability to decode language yourself? Whether that be squiggles of print or dots of Braille, your brain is actually decoding what that means and turning it into language. Again, if you’re using an oral means of doing that, like text-to-speech or an audiobook, are you reading? Would we agree that if you have a bunch of human readers reading a book to you in person, that they’ve got the print in front of them, and they are reading it to you, you are not reading?
If we agree that that’s the case, why are you reading when you’re using text-to-speech or an audiobook? I totally appreciate that it’s very hard to have this conversation without people feeling belittled. It’s not my intention to belittle people because, as you’ve clearly illustrated, you’ve had a very successful life without Braille, but there are other people too, who don’t read for a variety of reasons who’ve also had very successful lives but are we fudging the issue when we don’t fess up to the fact that if something is speaking to you, be it a human or a machine, that’s not reading?
I’m sure others will have thoughts on this that they want to share, and if you want to share your thoughts 864-60MOSEN is my number in the United States. If you want to leave an audio message, 864-606-6736. You can also email with an audio attachment or write the email down to email@example.com. That’s J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N@mushroomfm.com. Someone who’s done exactly that is Dave Carlson who says, “Jonathan, appreciate your podcasts and have been a dedicated listener for at least the past two months.” Thank you, Dave. I hope that you’ll stick with us.
“Congrats on being a grand dude.” Yes, I’m nearly there, sort of. It’s taking a very long time this grand dude thing. Baby is due in January. I think we’re about to find out the gender. That’s exciting, isn’t it? “I am,” says Dave, “A farfar,” that’s spelled F-A-R-F-A-R, which is Swedish for father’s father, and around to be one more than once. While listening to your interview with NFB President, Riccobono, I wanted to express some thoughts and perceptions. First, I am not a supporter of the NFB position with regard guide dogs.
I find it repugnant for any organization of the blind to philosophize a position that using a guide dog is somehow a measure that I am less of a meaningful blind person because I wish to use one for independent travel. I consider that my choice and that any organization that diminishes my decision to not be one to which I would seek membership or representation. Second, my overall impression of President Riccobono’s responses, particularly with respect to the allegations of sexual misconduct, sound like someone who wishes to hide behind the true shake of the issue with platitudes and weasel wording to make as good a shine on the brass as possible.
It’s a sad situation, and regardless of how he claims to have been slow in responding, it’s still a horrendous situation and hopefully will result in a shake-up at the top levels of the organization. Yes, I’m not a fan of NFB. Thirdly, I am not a proficient Braille reader having lost my sight in later years and not motivated to grasp the language to be proficient in reading. To think that, again, along with my guide dog, that I am considered to be less of a meaningful blind person because of my personal choices due to my lifestyle, I feel is high-minded snobbery.
Frankly, I consider the ACB to be a more meaningful organization to supporting my life choices and will continue to treat the NFB as an organization who does not represent me in any way.” Thank you, Dave. I’ll tell you what, the echoes from that October 1995 edition of The Braille Monitor still ring on, don’t they? The other thing, of course, is the rehab centers and attitudes towards guide dog handlers when they come to NFB centers. Back in 2001, I believe it was, I did a lot of work on this, on Blind Line when somebody really took this on.
That they went to an NFB training center and weren’t permitted to use their guide dog during travel training. The argument at the time was this is a cane travel instruction program. You come here for cane travel instruction. I don’t know what the current position is and whether that has changed in 20 years or so. “Hello, Jonathan,” says Steve Merrelli. “Thank you for your work on Mosen At Large. You mentioned seeing discussions on social media about issues with NFB. Where are those discussions? I don’t see them on Twitter and Facebook, but I might be looking at the wrong place.”
Steve, I avoid Facebook as much as I possibly can. I even got off it for quite a long time and then got on it again at the request of Aira when I worked there. Haven’t had the heart to delete it again, but may. I look at Facebook sparingly. What I can tell you is that
, on Twitter, conversations tend to be grouped around hashtags, and you search on those hashtags, but the search results have a short shelf life. If you, for example, searched on the marching together hashtag, which went extremely viral on social media platforms in 2020, you won’t find anything now.
You would have to go and find out the individual posters of that content now. If they’ve kept those posts up, you can drill through their timelines and eventually find them. When you’re searching on hashtags, you’ve got to be quick. For example, if you search on the NFB ’22 hashtag on Twitter, you may find some materials still there because that’s been fairly recent. “Also,” says Steve, “Have you examined the Foundation for Fighting Blindness?”
Yes. I don’t know about examined it, but back in 2016 on the podcast when it was called The Blind Side and you can get The Blind Side still, the archives are up there, in Episode 8, we devoted an entire episode to their appalling How I See It social media campaign, which was just fundamentally damaging, and ableist, and cynical, using sighted people’s fear of blindness to boost the funds of the foundation. It was an appalling campaign, and I spoke out very strongly against it. I believe Chris Danielson from NFB may have joined me to talk about that campaign. The NFB, and I think other organizations rightly spoke out.
I very much empathize with how difficult it is when somebody has become blind later in life. It’s a completely different thing from someone like me who’s been born blind and has always had this as a normal, but when your normal changes significantly, there’s a whole set of things that come into play. Adapting, resilience, support. It’s a very real thing, but we can acknowledge that without capitalizing for fundraising purposes on people’s fear of blindness. For the record, now that I can, I will say that not long after joining Aira, I was absolutely appalled to find that the Foundation Fighting Blindness was represented on, I think it was an advisory board that Aira had set up.
Now, there was some social media backlash about that, and rightly so. I can tell you that internally, I was cheering everybody on. For the Foundation Fighting Blindness to have been on that Aira advisory board was absolutely inappropriate. If Aira wanted to show respect to the blind community that it was serving, that was a massive misstep. I can tell you that I was very clear about that internally, as were a number of other blind people who were deeply embarrassed that they had to shut up and take that.
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Jonathan: We go to Colombia for this email, and Luis Pena is writing in. He says, “Hi, Jonathan. I was very touched with your testimony about the abuse that you suffered at the school for the blind in New Zealand. I was also a victim of psychological abuse at the school for the blind here in Cali, Colombia. The school environment was difficult mainly because I came from a family who had a good economic situation, and the rest of the kids were very poor. That was very hard for me to handle, especially when I was five years old. I had a teacher who didn’t like me at all.
In one occasion, she told my classmates to stop talking to me, that I wasn’t worthy as a person. Some of the kids listened to her. I felt very rejected and very lonely for several years. Furthermore, learning Braille was very difficult for me. For this reason, some of the teachers wanted me to leave the school for the blind. If I couldn’t learn Braille, I didn’t deserve to be there. A few years later when I received a psychological evaluation at the rehabilitation center in Arkansas, they found out that I had a learning disability which made it difficult for me to use Braille.
Fortunately, I did my high school at a sighted school where I was loved by my teachers and classmates. That helped me to recover my self-confidence and my self-esteem. Jonathan, I have had to receive a lot of psychotherapy to overcome the psychological damage that I got at the school for the blind. I still carry with me some of the scars resulting from the abuse that I received there. This is still very painful for me, but I wanted to share my experience with you and your listeners. As a blind community, we have to advocate for a humane treatment of blind children wherever they are.’
Luis, I’m really sorry to hear about what happened to you, and you’ve done okay, haven’t you? You’ve done okay. I know that you are a practicing clinical psychologist, and in a way, you thriving in the way that you have is probably the best retort possible.
Male Speaker: Yes, and I was listening to your podcast of 189 and the first part of 190. There was abuse in blind schools and other parts of the country. I’m not a bit surprised. I was in a school for the blind in Raleigh, North Carolina from 1957 till ’68. We had a mess of it in July. By the time I was five years old, I was having trouble seeing. I finally wound up seeing a doctor at Bowman Gray School of Medicine in Winston. I guess it was in 1953 I think. It might have been ’52, and he said that my right eye had a growth in it. Nobody ever mentioned cancer, I know in my hearing anyway, but what does a four-year-old or five-year-old know about cancer, at least at that time anyway?
He said if it wasn’t taken it down, it would affect my left eye. My right eye was removed at that time. It was either in ’52 or ’53. I did fine with one eye. I was nearsighted, but glasses corrected that, so I had no more problem seeing until July of 1957. I was nine years old, and overnight it went from nearsighted corrected with glasses to zero. There was absolutely no fix for it. I even went to Massachusetts General in Boston, Massachusetts. There was nothing that they could do either. In less than a month, matter of fact, I think it was probably three weeks or so, I was in Raleigh being signed up at the North Carolina School for the Blind, which their name has been changed, but that’s what it was then.
Now, one of the first things the principal told my mother was, “Now, he will come home and tell you all kind of stories about things being done to him, or said to him, et cetera. It is not true.” After going home and complaining for probably three years, which got no results, my mother’s general comment was, “As long as they’re picking on you, they’re leaving everybody else alone.” That was extremely helpful. I had never been away from home in my life until that point. I lived in Greensboro, and I had to stay on campus. I never was a day student. I saw quickly my complaining was useless, and I quit doing it. That didn’t stop what was going on. My mother never believed a word of it. I graduated in 1968.
Sometime around 1972, the bull soup hit the fan. It was in the papers, probably all over the state because the paper she saw it in was the Greensboro paper. “Why didn’t you tell me about all the things that was going on there?” I don’t know who told the press about it or how the investigation got started, but it did, and everything hit the fan. I told her, I said, “I tried to, and you wouldn’t listen to anything I said. I was lying and I wasn’t.” I’m perfectly aware of what happened to you and others. However, by the time I was in high school, the principal was after me, big time, for absolutely no reason.
Of course, he wasn’t the only one. Anyway, I was just a wreck. Finally, the last year I was there, I called a friend of mine that had already graduated and told him what was going on. He said, “Now, if you hear anything outside of ham, you call me, and I’ll put a stop to it. I’m going to take care of it right now.” I heard nothing else from that principal, and I asked him later, I said, “What on earth did you have on him to stop this?” I said, “I can’t tell you that, but when you get out, I may tell you then.” That was a long time ago, and he never did tell me, but apparently, it sure did hold water.
He put a stop to it, but that was not a good time. I needed education. I’m glad I got it, but what you have to go through to get it was not good. My daddy went there from 1924 to ’28 best I can determine. I’m sure they had some of the same problems then that I had from ’57 to ’68. The last thing that I do, I’d say about the school in Raleigh, several months ago, Glen Gordon on the JAWS podcast interviewed a former graduate there that I think graduated in 1953. Afterwards, they became a college professor, and he was a well-known radio announcer as well.
He told Glen Gordon that 90% of the employees at that school should not have been teaching blind kids anything. They should have been in jail. When I was there, he was absolutely correct.
Jonathan: There’s not much I can say, except thank you for sharing that. It perplexes me. I wonder why this experience seems so common. What is it about these schools for the blind and the people that they attracted that made this such a common thing? This next email is from Carol and she says, “Hi, Jonathan. I went to the school for the blind in Oregon for seven tortuous years. There was lots of abuse from teachers and house parents. I had one teacher for three or perhaps four years. She was downright evil. She was always yelling at me.
I don’t know what for. She would yell right in my face, and she had the worst breath of anyone. My parents tried to get me put in another class, but the principal wouldn’t do it. The house parents were even worse. They were always spanking us for talking at night, or else they would make me sit on the cold stairs in the basement. No wonder I was sick so much.” Thank you, Carol. I am sorry that that happened to you. Your story really resonates with me because the particularly abusive teacher that I had both physically and psychologically was my teacher for three years as well.
In the third year, my mother took on the system, and she went there and said, “If you don’t move him to another class next year, then I’m going to contact the Department of Education or do whatever it takes to make sure that he has a better teacher.” Once I got a better teacher, I was thriving. I won’t repeat my story, but I do go into some of it in the interview series that Glen Gordon did with me. It’s called In The Arena, the Jonathan Mosen Story. It’s a nine-parter. If you search for In the Arena, in your podcast app of choice, it will come up, or you could search for Jonathan Mosen and it will come up as well because I think there are a few podcasts called In The Arena.
Mich: Hi, Jonathan, this is Mich calling from Ontario, Canada. I’m calling in regard to the subject of abuse at blind schools. I was listening to your podcast, and you’re absolutely right. It isn’t just a New Zealand thing, it is all across the world. I went to a school for the blind here in Ontario from 1997 until 2003. I was subjected to abuse there, by, not staff members, but former students. I was teased about my weight, and I was whipped with belts and had shoes thrown at me when I was sleeping, and things like that.
A few years back, there was a lawsuit that was put together, and I got involved and got some substantial funds from it, but it doesn’t change the fact that it still happened. I agree with you. What about these institutions does cause those type of people to be in them and stuff? It’s a very uncomfortable subject, but I’m glad that you are raising it on your podcast.
Female Speaker: Hi, Jonathan. I was very impressed that you spoke out and dealt with the abuse you had happen at the school for the blind. I was abused at a Guide Dog School, which Bonnie knows very well. I never said anything because I wasn’t quite 16 when I was there, and I figured nobody would believe me. I hung onto that for years and years until my own daughter went off to college. At that point, I went and had some therapy, and that was really helpful, but it just shattered my life. It was sexual abuse. I think the school knew that this person abused students.
He was eventually, from what I’ve heard, arrested because he left a group of students in New York City, to meet someone. Then they finally did something about it.
Jonathan: Thank you for sharing that. I am so sorry that it happened to you, and for the lifelong impact that it has had. I’m glad that you have got counseling. I like to hope that there is a climate now, which is more encouraging of making these sorts of reports. I know that the thing that was so difficult for me in my situation was the way the system closed up to defend itself, and the fact that I was bundled off to a child psychologist, so the child psychologist could find out why I was making up stories. That was really, really tough, the not being believed.
It was like a different kind of abuse all over again. I understand why people are fearful of that, and why, in the past, they have just left it alone. I’d like to hope that we’re making progress.
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Joe Norton: Good morning, Jonathan. This is Joe Norton here in Dalton, Georgia. I just want to say to the gentleman that was having the trouble with Siri and such, I don’t have a Sonos device, so I can’t say anything about that, but the thing with Siri, yes, I have had that happen to me for quite a while with my iPhone SE, where it would go, I would ask it to do something, it would go, “On it, still working on that. Something went wrong.” I’ve had that for the past, oh, probably maybe a year as much. I’m not exactly sure, and I’ve got, what, 300 megabits down I think, and 25 up somewhere along there.
Maybe more than that. I don’t know exactly what it is, but it shouldn’t be having any problem. It happens either on mobile data, or when I’m using my home internet. I can definitely reproduce that. The thing with Siri lately, not understanding, I think I figured it out. I’ve finally updated to iOS 16. I don’t know if you were having this trouble before you updated to iOS 16, where it was suddenly not hearing you, but you can try this and see if this helps. I noticed that the Siri sound that is being made when you hold the Siri button, that sound file is about a second long.
If I speak anytime during the playback of that sound, it misunderstands me. The old sound was like a [onomatopoeia], and then you could say it pretty fast after that. This one, though, this whole sound file takes almost a second because it’s a buildup in the tones, [onomatopoeia] and then it goes away. That file takes about a second to play. I’m going to test this out further, but it seems to be doing what I want it to do, other than that other problem, as long as I wait for the sound file to finish playing. I’m used to just speaking as soon as I hear the [onomatopoeia] sound, and, of course, the sound file is still playing.
I would have thought that wouldn’t matter, but it seems to. I’m going to test it some more, and if it turns out to be something else, I will get back to you. That seems to be what’s going on here. I thought I’d mention that very quickly before I forget it because I’m getting older, and I’m forgetting things. This is something that a sighted user of Siri might not even catch because I don’t think Siri makes a sound anymore when you hold the button down, and you’re using it without voiceover. The only people to catch this problem are likely people who use voiceover because then Siri does, or rather the iPhone does play that sound before you speak to Siri.
If you don’t wait for that sound file to finish, it doesn’t seem to want to work. At least that’s what I’m experiencing.
Jonathan: Thank you very much, Joe. Two separate messages you might be able to tell, and it sounds like he’s coming in on two separate phones or maybe the quality of the connection was just different. That is not the issue for me I’m afraid, Joe, because, where this is happening for me, is on my iPhone 12 Pro Max, which I have not upgraded to iOS 16 yet because I’m going overseas soon, and frankly because I just need my phone to behave itself in my day job. I have not upgraded my primary phone to iOS 16 yet. I do have it running, but it’s running on an iPhone 11 Pro Max.
I know that new Siri sound that you’re talking about. I have to say I’m not a fan, but I suppose change takes time, doesn’t it? If they want to change the Siri sound, that’s all right. I don’t know whether that’s the cause or not because I’m primarily still using iOS 15 on my iPhone 12 Pro Max. In addition to the things we all know and love, “Working on it, still working on it,” all that kind of stuff, just recently, it started to say things like, “Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that,” which, as I say, reminds me of me. It’s like it’s developed a hearing impairment.
It’s quite bizarre, and it’s new. Ross Winetski says, “Dear Jonathan and Mosenites, I must say I was relieved to hear I am not the only one struggling with Siri until last week’s show, August 29.” Whoa, you must be in a time warp Ross. I think he means July 29. “I thought that I was either totally inept, or I was in a bad science fiction movie. When Siri was first developed, I remember that its duties were limited, but he/she did them very well. In the last few years, Siri’s abilities have gone to soup.” Oh, no. The standard of listener contributions is just going so down with this profanity.
He continues, “I will add that, for some ridiculous reason, I took Siri’s inability to understand me, personally. Man, talk about our ability to give human qualities to a machine. Yes, Siri, a machine. Oops, did I hurt your feelings by calling you a machine? I really believe Apple has now risen to its highest level of incompetence,” writes Ross. “It seems Apple, as a company, is so ready to add new features, they are ignoring features that do not work. By the way, this is not just for blind people. I have spoken to numerous people of all types who complain about Siri’s lack of ability to understand or answer questions appropriately.
I also experience my iPhone 12 suddenly starting to play music or just act unruly. If there was another choice right now, I would switch to another type of phone. However, the iPhone is still the best tool for a blind person I believe. I’ve been creating accommodations for myself by figuring out other ways to avoid using Siri. We are stronger together, and I would hope we all start making our dissatisfaction known to Apple. Perhaps if we all start doing this, they actually may listen and start making some positive changes.”
Mary Ellen Earls writes, “Hi, Jonathan. Like you and Steve, and Brian, my experience with Siri has been the same. I made the discovery, last week, that my Apple Watch Series 4 was on silent mode. I turned that setting off, and Siri seems to be working now. Check to see if your watch is on silent mode, and turn that off, and see if that helps.” I can’t see the connection at all, Mary Ellen.
In any case, my watch is not on silent mode, so, for me, that’s not going to be the lucky thing that fixes it. Here’s Eden going back to Steve Bauer’s message in Episode 190. She says, “Hi, Jonathan. I’ve been enjoying your podcast. I was moved hearing about your testimony on abuse. I was never physically abused, but the one year I was there, and this was kindergarten, one dorm parent would tell me if I didn’t stop crying for my mommy, she’d tell her never to come back. She told me why did I cry? Because my mother got me every weekend and even came during the week to see me.
I really feel that I would not have gotten a good education at a blind school. Academics are most often horrible in the blind schools here. I did wish often for more instruction with the resource teacher. She was incredible at teaching and packing things in, however, if I had not been really very self-motivated, that might not have worked. Okay,” says Eden to this travesty that is notification delay. “One of the jobs I do is read tarot cards via a sort of text message. My job has implemented a new feature where customers could request a response within an hour.
I had worked for this company for three years, but I was suddenly missing messages. Notifications would not come in forever. They refused to believe me. It was nothing I was doing. I got fired. They said, ‘Clearly, this is a blind person problem, and we can’t help you.’ That was after three years of being one of their top earners. Anyway, bugs strike again, I’m on the hunt for a good customer service job that’s remote in the US, especially in Washington State. I’ll do most anything, and I work hard. I do believe that Braille has certainly helped me.”
There is more from Eden in just a minute, but I’ll just stop there and say, this is a serious issue. I’ll give you another example of how it can be really serious. Our board meetings, like many other boards, have a board-only time. This is the organization of which I’m CEO. They have their board only time, and then they text me when they’re ready. I have had at least one occasion that I can recall vividly where I didn’t get the text message telling me they were ready for me until I went to the home screen, and suddenly, there they all were, a whole bunch of notifications coming in.
I was delaying the whole board because of this notification bug. It is a really serious one, this, and it’s been going on now for maybe two or three years. This is not a new bug. The only thing I can do is just to keep doing the home screen gesture, effectively refreshing, unclogging the notifications. It doesn’t happen all the time. I can go for days without it happening, almost to the point that I’m soothed into believing that these days are behind me, and then it suddenly appears again. There’s just no logic to when it’s going to happen. Now, back to Eden’s exciting email.
See? That’s alliteration right there. Eden’s exciting, and excellent, efficacious email. “I also,” she said, “Wanted to comment about my light speed experience. You remember this was the guy who would not sell me his steno machine because he thought a blind person could not be a court reporter. I ended up buying one second hand, and it was the worst machine I’ve ever played with. It was like having to type on the flattest keyboard there was. It felt like typing on a touchscreen, which I hate. I guess the moral is, next time someone is a jerk, I’m going to stay away from the product entirely. I now have two awesome steno machines. The normal kind must sit on a tripod and is sometimes frustrating to sit at for hours, especially long practices.
There is a very cool, but unfortunately not considered professional grade in the US, one that’s called a Treal. That is spelled T-R-E-A-L. It’s so cute,” she says. “It just sits in your lap and is about the size of my Braille sense if that.” Oh, it sounds like my cat. No, I haven’t got a cat actually, so I made that up. “One day, if your listeners would be interested, I’d love to describe the steno machine and how letters, words, and even phrases can be created in one stroke. I’m sure people would be interested in that even. Anyway,” she says, ” I’m off as I know I get rambly.”
Oh, me too, Eden. Me too. “I wish Siri or Apple would fix their problems, but I’m not holding out hope at this point.” Those court reporters do an amazing job, don’t they? I recently, as I have talked about, and as you referred to in your email, testified at a Royal Commission, which is the first time I’ve actually been in any kind of witness box in my life. I was just trying to get my testimony out, and they actually had to tell me to slow down. Slow down because the court reporter was trying to keep up, and the court reporter was clicking away on the little machine.
Yes, they do a great job. It’s one of those professions that’s so important, and many of us just don’t think about it very often.
Mosen at large podcast
Jonathan: Here’s a good Dutch name if ever there was one. It’s David Vandermolden writing in, and he says, “Hi, Jonathan. I’m wondering if anyone in Mosen at Large land knows of Braille, with an uppercase B, textbooks I could use for learning Dutch from English. I’d also like to know how to read and write in contracted Dutch Braille. Are there classes or groups of people who get together on Zoom to work on speaking Dutch?” Now there’s a good question, David. Hopefully, somebody can write in or phone in and give us the scoop there. This email says, “Hi, Jonathan.
This is Pauline from Tawa. Just up the road from Mosen Towers.” You are, indeed. You could have come into the studio to record your question, Pauline. You are that close to us. “Here we go,” she says, “This is the first time I’ve contributed to your podcast. I have been listening for about a year now, I think. Anyway, I wonder if any of our listeners might be able to advise me about e-readers. I should probably start by saying that I have some partial sight, and I read a lot of talking books using a mixture of our local library, Audible, and occasionally, the service provided by Blind and Low Vision New Zealand.
However, I do have enough sight to read print, and sometimes I still like to be able to read ebooks as opposed to listening to them. I used to, and, in fact, still do have a very old iPad 2 that I used with the Kindle app. However, someone the other day told me I didn’t have an iPad. I really had a boat anchor, which is probably right. It’s quite large. I wanted something smaller, and so I was looking at my friend’s Kobo and Kindle. Much to my dismay, I found that both devices only used black and white. As far as reading is concerned, I can easily read white text on a black background, and I can make the text large enough.
However, I found the Kindle menus very small and hard to read. The fact that the book covers were only black and white meant it was harder for me to recognize them. It’s much easier if they’re in color, so I have a few questions. Does anyone else out there use a Kindle to read books visually? If so, how do you navigate the downloading of books, et cetera? Do Kindles have a voiceover feature so that I could do all the downloading of the books with the aid of voice and selecting my book using voice, but then turn it off and read it?” I can answer that one, Pauline.
Yes, the Kindle Fire tablets and other Kindle devices of that ilk, use a feature called VoiceView. It’s a very capable screen reader, and I’m sure that you would have no difficulty using VoiceView to download your books. It can read them optionally, and it also has a whole lot of high-quality voices because Amazon now own Ivona, so it’s a very pleasant reading experience. Pauline’s questions continue. “Is there another e-reader that people out there are using that has some color display?” I stand to be corrected because, obviously, I don’t use these devices visually, Pauline, but I believe the cheapy Kindles may have black and white.
Things like the Kindle Fire tablet are color. I believe. I’m sure somebody will correct me if I have that wrong. Pauline says, “Do I just have to buy a tablet? If so, what sort is best? Do I just go back and use my trustee boat anchor, iPad 2?” I hope your listeners can help. Pauline, if you’re familiar with iPads, why not consider getting the shiny new iPad mini? It’s much smaller than your iPad to boat anchor, but it will have all those iPad functionalities that you’ll already be familiar with. Pauline concludes, “Hey, and before I go, congrats on becoming a granddad.
I know Bonnie knows she’s going to be a grandma but has anyone told Eclipse she is going to be a grandma too?” What I find with kids, Pauline, is that the kids get to a certain age when they’re sitting up in the high chair, and they love surreptitiously dropping food for the dog, and watching the dog springing in to eat them. You got to watch that as a blind person with a guide dog. Pranav is in touch from India and has some comments on Episode 187. “One, to add to all the excellent travel tips Bonnie and you gave, put all cables into a single bag.
In India, I have to remove all electronic equipment when the bags go through the scanner. It is much easier if all those USB cables are in one place. You will have to repack in a hurry so that bag of cables helps. Two, I question the efficacy of metal detectors at schools. We have plenty of metal detectors here at shopping malls and hotels. Yes, we have not had an incident recently, but what is the use of beeping each time you detect some metal on a person? We use metals even for belt buckles, so, what are school authorities going to do? Stop a student every time a metal detector beeps?
This seems like security theater to me. I do not have any answers, but detective controls alone will not stop gun violence. Three, we have a plethora of Braille, with an uppercase B, displays on the market, such as the Orbit Reader, the displays from Humanware, the PAC Mate, et cetera.” Gosh, the PAC Mate is long gone, Pranav. There hasn’t been a PAC Mate around for a long, long time. “Do you know if anyone has compared them? What is the difference between all these displays?” There are a few things. Displays like the Orbit are low cost, and therefore, the refresh rate is a bit slower, and it’s also a bit noisier.
If you listen to someone scrolling with an Orbit, you definitely hear a distinct clicking sound as the pins pop up on the display. They’re using a slightly different manufacturing process, and that’s how they have been able to keep the cost down. I’m not knocking the Orbit because anything that puts Braille in the hands of more people, I am totally down with that, as my children would say. In terms of other differences between, shall we say the regularly priced Braille devices, there are some variations, including the way the Braille feels, which is very much a personal thing.
A lot of devices now have some note-taking capability built in. Some have extensive note-taking capability, like the Brailliant and the Mantis family. Others have just a little bit like the focus line of Braille displays from Freedom Scientific. Then you have some Braille displays that have some truly unique features like the ones from Help Tech, the company that used to be called Handy Tech. They have these interesting concave cells, and they also have the ability to auto-scroll. As your fingers get to the end of one line, it automatically scrolls to the next without you having to press a key.
Pretty cool. Now, how do I know a lot of this? I’ve seen a lot of them at various conferences that I’ve been to, but there is also a book that you can get. It does not have some of the newer Braille displays like the new Brailliant family or the Mantis, but it still has a lot of information, and it happens to still be available from Mosen Consulting. The book is called Braille on Display by Jackie Brown. For a very small investment, you can buy this book and learn about some of the Braille-related features that are available in these products.
Then even if it’s not completely up to date right now because there has been a lot of change in the market in the last year or two, you will understand what to look for, and what features are important to you. Do check out Braille on Display in the Mosen Consulting store.
Mosen at large podcast
Stan Warren Latrell: Greetings, Mosen at Large listeners. This is Stan Warren Latrell, and I do have some comments based on The Bonnie Bulletin. I really appreciated listening to that because, like Bonnie, I had an issue where I had to visit an ear, nose, and throat doctor. My visit was brought about because I had an issue recently where I’ve had a really nagging thing that happened. I think it’d probably have some tinnitus, or however they pronounce it, but I have an issue where I feel a constant swishing in my ears. It was like [onomatopoeia], and it was driving me up the wall. I told my doctor and he referred me to a local ENT specialist.
The people there were fairly good. I have had issues like Jonathan has talked about, where medical people have been extremely, almost condescending and just getting me annoyed, sort of like the experiences you had, but with the ENT organization, it’s been pretty good. I think Bonnie brought out a good point because she and I had similar experiences when we were youngins. I always liked that term, youngins, and I, like her, had constant ear infections. That brings me to a weird thing that people did. My parents were smokers. For some reason, when I was a young child and those ear infections were darn right painful, and so people would blow cigarette smoke into the ear.
That was supposed to relieve the pain from the ear infection. I guess it worked, but it was sort of weird because I never thought of anything like that before, or since until you mentioned it now. I had a situation where I was on a beach, and for some reason, something happened and an eardrum was ruptured, and that was painful. That was not something I want to experience again. Anyway, I went there, and I also had the problem where there is constant ear wax. I tend to get a lot of ear wax that has to be gotten rid of. I understand that there’s a liquid that you could put in the ear and get the ear wax to get rid of that.
That’s because it’s very painful if they touch a certain spot that is very painful for the ear wax to be removed. I’m going to have to try to get my doctor to remember to tell me what that item is so that I don’t have to experience that. The reason for this is it was interesting because I think of so many parallels between what Bonnie has experienced and what I am– They think that I might have a little slight degree of hearing loss, but I did notice that the doctor looked in my ears and saw that there was a little bit of a wax build-up. He did a little getting rid of the ear wax, but I have noticed that the loss I have has tended to happen at higher frequencies.
That has been the experience that I had. The reason I was finally prompted to go to the doctor because I’d been having this issue with, I think it’s tinnitus, is that Mickey Quenzer and I were talking one day, and he talked about his experiences with that, and so it prompted me to really get off my backside and tell my doctor that I may have a hearing issue like that.
Jonathan: This email says, “This is David from Ottawa, Canada. As usual, listening to your weekly podcast early on Sunday morning with my brew of coffee. I took interest in Bonnie’s hospital visit experience. Last week, I made an in-person visit to our family doctor, which is the first visit since COVID, and with him, as we have had to choose a new family doctor. The nurse took my blood pressure and placed me and my guide dog, Impressa, in the examining room. After a few moments, a knock came to the door, and the new doctor walked in, and said, ‘Oh, you have a dog?’
I replied, ‘Are you afraid of dogs? Are you allergic to dogs?’ He replied, ‘No, no. It’s a guide dog, I will make an exception.’ I had a list of questions for him typed out on a small sheet of paper. I passed the sheet to him. Being a man of few words, he answered all my questions, but in the process, he asked me, ‘Why do you have a guide dog?’ I was stunned, so I just said, ‘I am blind.’ There is so much more here I could say, but I will move on to the next question. On another note, I’m wondering if any of our listeners are experiencing this error message, or is it an error message, ZTP transfer, WND?
It has something to do with the Zoom app on my Asus ZenBook Pro Windows 11 and any screen reader. After Zoom has been opened and closed, it seems that this file is a window that I can’t Alt-tab out of. I can’t F4 to close it. However, if I do a windows M to minimize, then I am back in business. Any ideas what this is, and how I can get rid of it?” It’s interesting you say this, David, because I’ve seen this. I never got it before until I had a little bit of a Zoom accident, and things went really bad, and I couldn’t sign into my work Zoom account.
I had to uninstall Zoom and reinstall it. Since then I too have seen this window. I presume it is preventable, but I haven’t yet investigated how you prevent it, so if anybody has got the magic formula, do feel free to share it.
Jane Corona: Hey, Jonathan, this is Jane Corona from Silver Spring, Maryland. As always, I very much enjoy your podcast. I listen to it every week. On the last one, Bonnie was talking about her experiences with doctors and things, and it reminded me of an experience that I had that has caused me to hate ophthalmologists for most of my life. When I was a child, my parents took me to an ophthalmologist for some reason. I’ve been totally blind since birth, so I don’t remember why they did it, but he put my head in this chin thing. I guess there were lights in front of it, I don’t know.
He told me to look to the right, so I took my head out of the chin thing, and I looked to the right, and he said, “No, no put your head back in the chin thing,” so I did. He said, “Look to the left.” I took my head out of the chin thing, and I looked to the left, doing what he told me. “No, no, no.” He said, “No, put your head back in the chin thing.” I did. Then he said, “Look down.” Oh, I don’t know what this game was, so I took my head out of the chin thing, and I looked down. He got mad, and he told my parents he couldn’t treat me because I was uncooperative.
As a totally blind person who’d never seen, I didn’t know that you could move your eyes without moving your head. He should have known that. He got really annoyed at me, and of course, being a small child, I couldn’t defend myself. Now every time I go to an ophthalmologist, I give them the stupid ophthalmologist test. If they understand the stupidity of this awful guy, then if they know that they can’t tell a blind person to move their eyes without moving their head, then they’re okay. I have found one ophthalmologist in my adulthood who gets it.
If I ever need to go to one, I’m happy that I can go to him, but I was so furious for years at this stupid ophthalmologist who didn’t realize that a blind person doesn’t know how to move their eyes or can’t move their eyes voluntarily without moving their head. That’s my stupid ophthalmologist story.
Brant: Hi, Jonathan, and to all your listeners. This is Brant from Johannesburg, South Africa, answering your question, can you use Aira with a number from a VoIP service such as Skype? Yes, you can. I am actually doing so. I’m using Aira with my Skyping number that is set for the United States, which, as you know, is within the Aira service area. I’m certainly not. I’m in Johannesburg, South Africa, as you are very well aware.
Jonathan: Indeed. Thank you, Brant. From South Africa, we go to the Netherlands, and we hear from Mohamed. He says, “Hi, Jonathan, I recently used Aira while traveling and discovered an unexpected and great benefit. To give a little background, I live in the Netherlands where we normally don’t have access to Aira. Access to the service was provided to me by my employer, which is why I was able to use it. In the Netherlands, if you’d like to travel by train, the Dutch railway company named NS provides a service. With our help, you get in and out of the train.
You book assistance at least one hour before departing, and you can meet a trained NS employee, either at the point of sale for tickets or near the lift that goes up or down to the platform. They’ll then assist you to the platform and enter the correct train. On travel, another trained NS employee will help you get off the train if you need assistance doing that or they’ll wait for you on the platform and assist you to the start of the next leg of your journey be that another train, a bus or some other type of transport.
This is a great service, but it’s a little inflexible. I recently needed to go to a place I never went to before. I needed to switch from a train to a bus at a station that was completely unknown to me. I’ve been there twice, but it’s the biggest or one of the biggest train stations in the Netherlands, and it’s not easy to get around if you don’t know what you’re doing. You need mobility training in order to navigate that station well. You need to know the lay of the land.
The problem I ran into last week is that I missed my train, the one I had booked assistance for. I got on the next train instead. Luckily I knew the station this train departed from, so I needed no help getting on the train. When I got on the train, I contacted NS to tell them that I would be late. Not much later, the next train left 10 minutes after the one I booked assistance for.
The woman on the other end of the line got a little flustered. I had a feeling she didn’t know what to do with me. She told me she’d contact her colleagues at the arrival station, she’d called me back in a couple of minutes with more information. I never heard from her again. Normally, I would’ve called the NS and complained about this. This time however, I decided not to and use Aira instead to see how well it would go and if I could fall back on the service if something like this ever happened to me again.
When I called Aira, the agent guided me through the station and helped me to find an alternative bus. I had missed the one I planned to take originally. It took a little long because this was a completely new environment for both me and the agent, but we managed to get where we needed to go in the end.
Now for the added benefit. Because the agent and I were both exploring the station and the agent described a lot of things she saw on the way, the whole endeavor felt like mobility training. I came away with the feeling that I had a pretty good grasp of the station, which is huge just from that one time exploring. I’m wondering if Aira will ever do something with that or if other organizations that provide this kind of training will, at some point, provide training without a trainer being physically present. You can’t do that for all types of training, obviously, but for an advanced cane user or someone who’s relatively comfortable traveling, it could be an easy way to learn a route.
I lived in the United States for a short time during the pandemic and all mobility training was cut short because we couldn’t meet in person anymore. I ended up barely knowing my neighborhood because of that. Well, this was a long story just to explain the little revelation I just had and I’m sure many other people have thought of this, but I had to get it off my mind and now it is. Thanks for making the podcast.
Thank you, Mohammed for sharing that experience. It’s one that I have had on many occasions at airports I’ve never been to before, various other places, not so much lately because I haven’t been doing much traveling as we’ve all been hunkering down, but certainly when I first got Aira and was using it extensively in 2018 and 2019, that experience is just quite liberating.
I had a lot of time to kill in Los Angeles and actually got between terminals with the help of an Aira agent, getting to where I needed to be. I’ve navigated various New Zealand airports that way. Bonnie and I have gone to farmers markets with Aira to choose produce and things like that. It’s got so many great uses. Yes, I think this is being explored by some organizations and entities. Aira Access, which is essentially the free tier of Aira that host organizations pay for, is, I believe, available in some transit systems in the United States now. It is something that’s actively being explored.
I think when Aira comes to the Envision Glasses, which we expect to happen quite soon, if you can afford the Envision Glasses, that’ll be great because I must say I do miss the glasses. I completely think that Aira’s done the right thing by abandoning them. It was a complex thing. Sometimes it was more hassle getting them working than it was worth, but I just don’t know whether I feel as comfortable wearing an iPhone and a harness or something like that. I like the idea of the hands-free experience the glasses. When that comes back, perhaps through the Envision thing, that will be of great interest, I think to both Bonnie and me.
Speaker: On Twitter, follow MosenAtLarge for information about the podcast, the latest tech news and links to things we talk about on the podcast. That’s MosenAtLarge, all one word on Twitter.
Jonathan: GPS has made a big difference to the lives of blind people, but it’s not without its limitations. In built-up areas you can lose signal. It doesn’t help you inside. Indoor navigation has been considered the holy grail of navigation for many years now and it’s not good at taking you to that precise point, like a specific door. There’s a range of indoor navigation solutions seeking to address this issue, but many involve expensive hardware installations.
A new technology being rolled out in Washington DC right now, promises to deal with all of those limitations. The name of it is Waymap. To tell us how the technology came to be and how it works, I’m joined by Waymap CEO, Tom Pey. Tom, it’s great to have you here. Thank you.
Tom Pey: Oh, thank you so much for having me. It’s brilliant to talk to a fellow traveler in the world of vision loss.
Jonathan: Absolutely. Tell me about your journey in that regard because you haven’t always been blind, right?
Tom: No. I started out life as an economist and an accountant, and laterally, I was in international investment banking when I lost my sight. Unfortunately, I didn’t take the news very well and I spent four years really wasting my life and just being a pain in the two people around me until I met a guy called Brian Cooney, and he pretty much told me to get my act together and start helping some of the people who really needed help.
Jonathan: You thought your life was over then. This is not an uncommon reaction that people just can’t imagine a fulfilling life without their sight.
Tom: Well, the problem was that my identity was what I did rather than who I was. Of course that was quite a shallow way to live. When I actually got to the point of accepting my sight loss, I accepted who I was, and the very minute I did that, my life changed for the better. Since then, I’ve been contributing rather than necessarily what it was like in the commercial world, which was achieving and making profit. I was putting stuff back in as well as getting a positive feedback for doing it.
Jonathan: I suppose, though, that once you had got to grips with the idea that life as a blind person was not necessarily all doom and gloom, you could have chosen to continue in that investment banking world, right?
Tom: Yes, but this wonderful man, Brian Cooney, when he told me that I was at disgrace and I was wasting my life living the way I was, he marched me up to a school that the charity was running and he said, “In there are 150 kids who would never get to travel like you did or get to do the jobs that you did or even drink the drinks that you’re drinking. Get your life together and have those.”
It made so much sense to me and it was clarified my life. There was no point in going back into banking. The way to go was actually to say, “There is a way through this and actually, I’m going to discover how to do it alongside you guys who have done it. In the meantime, I’ll campaign,” and it worked looked at really well.
Jonathan: That’s a very positive, affirming way to live, isn’t it? I’m sure that you’ve seen this in work that you’ve done in recent times, I see it in my own life. When you work with people who can go home at the end of the day and look themselves in the mirror, virtual or otherwise, and say, “What difference have I made to people’s lives today?” if you can give an affirming answer to that question, that’s incredibly rewarding.
Tom: It’s a hundred times more useful than making money for clients on investments, I can tell you. You’re absolutely 100% right. Also, it’s a privilege to be given the opportunity to do it.
Jonathan: I can’t help observing it’s a real volatile situation out there in investment banking, anyway. I look at our portfolio at the organization I work for and the volatile results we’re getting every month or so when I pluck up the courage to look, [chuckles] it’s really– I don’t think it’s going to get any better over the next little while with things in Russia and the cost of living crisis and things going on. It’s a really tough market to predict.
Tom: At the moment, absolutely, all the economic indicators are going against good investment, but the thing to do is the trust that the only way is up, and all of these negative things all come to an end. The guys who want to make money find ways of making money, and thankfully that trickles down to our investments.
Jonathan: All things must pass and all that. You got into providing blindness services, correct? This became your mission to help other people.
Tom: Absolutely, I started out. My first job at the sector was to run a factory for blind people. I was the first blind guy to run it and I nearly got fired because I made a profit in the first year. You’re not supposed to make a profit because you lose all your grants, but luckily enough, it was only a very small profit. I learned that I needed to make a loss the next year, and for a guy with my discipline, that was quite difficult, but nonetheless I got on the program.
I moved on to The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and there I really got into campaigning and working on disability access and the rights of people to get around independently and with confidence. I also got the opportunity to do research into not what blind people needed, because I got really fed up with people telling me what I needed, but asking blind people how they were functioning and then looking at the gaps as to where we could start targeting efforts in order to make things better.
What I found out was that with all the training in the world that people got, whether it was full mobility or full rehabilitation service, if we didn’t tackle the underlying loss of confidence, or the loss of confidence that comes from my loss of my freedom to explore the real world around me, if I wasn’t able to overcome that psychological barrier then all the training in the world went nowhere. Actually, it was that core observation that helped me to eventually come along and think about having an organization such as Waymap.
Jonathan: I’m struck by the similarities that exist between your story and that of Ted Henter, who you may have come across in your reading that he was the blind person who created the company Henter-Joyce. He was blinded as a result of a road accident and Henter-Joyce was the company that developed JAWS, which is, of course, now the world’s most popular screen reader. He decided that it was important to use what had happened in his life in a positive way and to create technology that was blindness-driven, by the blind, for the blind essentially.
There are so many examples all the way back to Braille itself in fact, where blind people take control of our own destinies and come up with solutions that work for us. You’ve got Waymap and it seeks to deal with some of those challenges that I was talking about in the introduction. Can you describe this technology. If you were giving me the elevator pitch, and you’ll know all about elevator pitches, what is Waymap?
Tom: Waymap is an app that helps people to navigate safely and confidently. It gives turn-by-turn navigation and instructions. It operates to an accuracy of one meter so it knows where you are in one meter, and it knows the direction which you’re facing and heading to within 10 degrees, so very, very accurate. It is compliant with the world standard on audio-based navigation for blind and vision impaired people which I helped to write through the International Telecommunications Union.
It is one app for everywhere. It will work for people who have sight loss, for people in wheelchairs and for people with intellectually developmental disabilities. It’s also designed to work for everyone and it works indoors and outdoors seamlessly. It is designed as a commercial venture to be profitable because in this commercial world of navigation the untapped market at the moment is reckoned to be somewhere in the region of $46 billion worldwide.
We’re tapping into something that is going to be big, but it’s all being driven by the needs of blind people. What I’ve said to the tech guys is that if we can make this work for blind people, it’ll work for everyone.
Jonathan: The business model is that you charge the providers, is that correct? The people where the maps would be installed.
Tom: Yes, we charge what we call the venue owner. We charge them an annual license fee because the app has to be free to the user, be a disabled user or a non-disabled user.
Jonathan: We’ve all seen examples of brilliant technology that just didn’t take off for really inexplicable reason. You look at the whole VHS versus Betamax debate and that’s really dating me, but they always said that Betamax was a much better form of video cassette than VHS, but VHS was marketed better. Where I’m going with this is, how are you going to ensure that even if you have got this amazing holy grail of navigation that it’s actually adopted and used, you get that critical mass?
Tom: The core technology for this is the algorithm that turns your mobile phone into a precision navigation device. That is something that is ubiquitous. We can give that to anybody. All anybody needs is a map that is in a particular format and has sufficient information in it to be inclusive for all potential users, and that’s a separate topic.
We would say to people who really want to do it, whether they’re a supermarket chain or a store owner, if you’re able to give us a map of your area, then we’ll just give you the tools to be able to do the job. I’m sure there would be value added resellers and all of the things that you get in markets, but one thing that we do know is we can’t do it all ourselves.
Jonathan: You’ve obviously minimized barriers to entry there because with some of these indoor navigation solutions that have been proposed there, little hardware beacons and goodness knows what, that people have to get on the wall, mount, and maintain, change batteries potentially or find a power source. You don’t have those issues, so that makes adoption really simple. You’ve got it rolling out in– is it the Metro in Washington DC? Is that where it’s-
Tom: Yes, it’s rolling out across the whole Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority which is the tri-state area of Washington, which has got Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC. It’s about 120 train stations, about 11,000 bus stops, and God knows how many paratransit units they’ve got.
It’ll bring coordinating all of those, and in addition, we’re doing a piece of work with the Federal City Council in Washington DC where they’re going to use Waymap to promote community engagement where they get young people describing part of the location and pinning it on one of our maps. That would mean that their exhibit will become available to all of the tourists, the 10 million tourists that come to DC every year. We’re also working with the Smithsonian Museum on that. An awful lot of things that are starting to come out of simply going into transportation.
Once we’ve done the WMATA or the Washington area, then we are going to do what we say is take the outdoors indoors, then we start to do all the hospitals, the schools, the museums, the public buildings and so on, so that all of that, the transport is accessible and the indoors become accessible.
Jonathan: At what stage is that right now?
Tom: We’re working hard to complete the first 25 stations and 2,000 bus stops, and we’ll have that done by autumn of this year. By the end of March next year we will have the entire transportation system done and watch this phase to see how many indoor locations we get done at the same time.
Jonathan: I understand that it would be easy to, say, find a particular platform. If you are inside and you’ve got a couple of doors fairly close together, and one is the men’s and one is the women’s, is it easy enough to determine something that granular?
Tom: If they’re a meter apart, yes, is the answer. So long as they’re a meter apart, the answer is yes, we can get you to the door.
Jonathan: Because it’s net-based I take it you wouldn’t be able to determine a particular train that’s pulling up for example?
Tom: Yes, we will, and that’s one of the really good breakthroughs we’re having, is we’re working with the transportation network to get behind the normal information which is called API. The information that they provide about when the next train is coming, what platform is coming on, when is the next bus coming, and so on, or if the escalators are out or if the elevators are out, or whatever.
All of that information is available, but the timeliness of that information sometimes is less than useful if you are, say, a blind traveler. What we’re trying to do is to get into the systems because they know much earlier than the public know about certain things happening, and we’re trying to get behind so that the information can be much more immediate. That’s something that we probably won’t get on the first pass, but we’ll get within the next six or eight months.
Jonathan: Right. There’s a combination of technologies in the one app. You’ve got your technology and then, for example, you’re leveraging APIs that can provide enhancing information?
Tom: Absolutely. The great thing about this is that what we’re providing a solution and it doesn’t have to be made at Waymap. It can be made anywhere. If your charity has a solution and it enhances the lives of blind person and their mobility, why wouldn’t we use it? That’s the thing, is to leverage what we’ve got in the environment and provide the algorithm as the glue that allows it to come together as a much more accurate and vibrant solution on its own. We put it all onto one platform because then you only need one app rather than needing an app to go to the pub or an app to go to the restaurant or an app to go to the store, what have you.
Jonathan: It’s interesting you raise that because I suppose this is one of the dangers with competing technologies out there. It sounds similar, and I don’t know whether you’re able to comment on this or not, to the thing that GoodMaps has been working on in terms of indoor navigation. Is it possible that we could have a whole folder full of competing navigation apps that seek to fill a similar niche?
Tom: I would hope so is the answer because that keeps us on our toes. We use different technologies than GoodMaps. Our technology is what we call hands-free and heads-up, which, from my perspective, was really important having banged my head into a number of post boxes in my day. You can have it in your pocket. You can make phone calls when you are using it or you can wear it on your belt. It depends on how you interact with your mobile phone and how you want to receive your information.
We also have embedded in our system, video location technology, but that is just a kind of a support if everything else fails rather than the way we drive the technology. The technology is driven off your mobile phone.
The other thing is that it was really important to me that if we went into an area that was a black spot, we didn’t lose your position and you didn’t lose the directions as to where you were going. That means that we’ve got to be able to put all of this on your mobile phone and we have to be able to just rely on the mobile phone and the algorithm when you’re out of signal so that even though your cell phone provider loses you, we don’t.
Jonathan: Obviously, partnerships in this space are going to be critical, I would think. You made a reference to supermarket chains and I immediately thought, “Waymap could potentially tell me when I’m in the correct aisle of the supermarket.” If Waymap was, say, integrated with the Envision Glasses, which seemed to be getting a lot of press at the moment or in some way, there was some synergy so that the Envision Glasses were doing what it can do and Waymap’s doing what it can do, that will be really impactful because once I’ve got to the right aisle, I might then be able to actually select from the many specific products that are available there. Do you see those sorts of synergies and partnerships emerging?
Tom: Yes, we’re working with a major worldwide chain of supermarkets at the moment because we can get you into the right aisle and we can get you to the sugar. We might not be able to get you to the right brand of sugar that you want, the low-cal, high-cal, whatever. Again, you can take your phone out and using your camera and plenty of apps like Microsoft have the Seeing AI, you can identify what the product is, or we can work with the supermarket so that a video image, photographic image of the product is in the database so that when you put your camera on, it’ll just say, “That’s the brown sugar.”
Jonathan: How can I, as a consumer, encourage my workplace, the supermarkets I visit, places I go, to adopt this technology? Broadly speaking, how much will it cost them to do it?
Tom: First of all, it’s quite inexpensive. There will be a fee for mapping and that’s based on a quotation. It’s a cost plus but we would be using local people to do it. Basically, we could train up operators in your charity, for instance, on how to map and provide mapping back to us. Then it works out in pound sterling terms, about 50p a square meter. I don’t what that will be in New Zealand currency but it’s not awful lot of money, and that’s per annum as a license fee. That’s an off-the-top-of-the-head thing.
Again, in a very simple place it could be less, in a more complicated place it could be a bit more. It depends on the amount of customer support that needs to be put in to support it. Remember that it is not just for blind people. It will solve the problem for blind people, but it increases the customer experience for everyone.
Jonathan: Can you explain how you believe that to be the case? Obviously, it’s great if you can sell an accessibility tool to a wider audience, isn’t it?
Tom: Oh yes. The thing is that if you’re going to a supermarket, for instance, and let’s say you’re a non-disabled person and you’re just a busy mom, you’ve got the baby sitting in the trolley and you want to get in and out and get home, make the dinner or whatever. You can say, “This is my shopping list,” and the app will be able to order it in terms of the sequence of where it is within the store.
It can plot your journey around. You can just fly around and follow the app. You don’t have to start going up and down aisles and thinking, “Oh, where’s the spaghetti?” If they move stuff around, which they do, then that can be fixed. It allows for an experience. If you go to a strange supermarket, if you go to another town and you want to find stuff, instead of having to walk around for miles of aisles, you can get to where you need to go, get your stuff and get out. That’s what people like.
Jonathan: That’s absolutely true actually. I’ve gone into supermarkets with my kids who are now adults and they’re sighted, and they get the app for the supermarket out. They don’t have a fully interactive thing but there’s a map of that particular store and how things are laid out. If that map could become interactive and you can engage with your shopping list, then there definitely is a mainstream use case for that.
Tom: You take it to a transportation setting, for instance, there are a large number of non-English speaking people that go to DC. It’s about 1.5 million visitors a year who go to DC that do not have great English and certainly they can’t read English. In a certain way, they’re print disabled when they go into the DC Metro. This would now translate it into their own language, so they’re able to find their way around.
The other thing is if you go into a museum, say the National History Museum in the UK has a half a million exhibits out at any one time, you can plan what exhibits you want to go to. We can then get you to those exhibits. We know when you’re facing the exhibit and we can download the API that explains what that is in whatever language you want. If you get bored and say, “Well, actually, I didn’t want to see Tom Pey’s exhibit, it’s boring,” and you turn away, it stops talking to me, and it moves you on to your next exhibit. This is about using location. By helping blind people to solve problems, we’re actually increasing customer experience in many venues.
Jonathan: For all this to work though, it does require a person to physically go to the venue and map the space, right?
Tom: Only because mapping standards to date are not inclusive. There are so many things that are not included in an architect’s drawing that are required to be understood by blind people, that are required to be used by blind people. Where are the permanent obstacles? Where are the places to sit down? Where’s the reception desk? Where’s the help desk? Where’s this? Where’s that? All of those things need to be plotted in, and unfortunately, they’re not required for what we call fire regulation.
Now, I’m working with a standard body to try and change that. What we do is we can take a map and all of that stuff has to be plotted in and geolocated within the map. Once we know that, then it’s fine. What the venue owner gets is they get a map that they can keep updating because we will give them access to the map database. If they move the reception desk from the left hand corner to the bottom-right hand corner, they can just change it on the database and it moves on. They don’t have to go remap the whole thing. That means that for things like fire services or emergency services or whatever else, they’ve got an up-to-date map.
Jonathan: You mentioned that there’s an annual license. What does that entitle the licensee to? What happens if they don’t renew?
Tom: If they don’t renew, then they don’t get access to the [crosstalk]
Jonathan: It just disappears off the system?
Tom: Pretty much. Rather than thinking that they wouldn’t pay, hopefully they would find it so useful, they’ll be offering us more money than we’re asking for. What it entitles you to is the software plus all the upgrades plus whatever customer support that you want.
Jonathan: Just to be clear, there’s a setup fee involved in actually mapping the space initially and then you pay an annual license. Are you disclosing what that annual license is or does it depend on the venue? How does that work?
Tom: The annual license fee, as I said, it works out at around 50p per a meter.
Jonathan: Oh, okay. That’s the license fee. When somebody’s getting set up-
Tom: As far as the setup fee is concerned, that’s not our core business. We would prefer organizations such as yours that understand disability in this wider sense and therefore how to serve, not just the disabled community, but the wider community from the point of view of mapping that people like you, do that as a service to your community, and we can then give our app on top of that.
Jonathan: What sort of user feedback have you received to date?
Tom: Amazing. I just want to tell you, and I’m sure anybody that is in my position would say that, but honestly, this is real because I’m very selfishly interested in how all of this works. 76% of blind people have said that they would use public transport regularly if they had an app like Waymap to help them to get around. Now, that is enormous given that in a study that I did people who lose their sight use, on average, 2.5 routes regularly. We know that blind people are about 30% less likely to use public transport because it’s just not accessible.
It’s quite complicated to have to remember all of the things that we need to do on it, which means that we might be able to get to work at home again, but going around and so on, having the confidence to just go out and meet friends, using public transport, is something that there’s tremendous resistance. 76% said they would do it, and that means that the revenues that could be freed up in public transport systems to put into improving the ridership experience of blind people could be quite enormous.
Jonathan: I’m really happy to advocate for something that I think is going to enhance my life and enhance the lives of blind people. I suppose the dilemma is that not everybody’s going to be able to get to DC or a venue where this is being rolled out to try it for themselves and really get enthused and want this thing badly enough, that they’re going to spend hours advocating to local transport authorities or city councils or whatever it may be. How do you feel you can deal with that dilemma to actually help people get a taste of the user experience so that effectively they become your ambassadors?
Tom: Clearly in DC, everybody is hugely excited. As you can imagine, the entire blindness community in DC is right behind it. We had this chat with the RNIB here in the UK. We do need people that are going to advocate. We do need people. One of the things that we’re thinking doing is putting our app into the RNIB head office so that visitors can use it, but also that their techies can break it for us and tell us what improvements we ought to make in order to make it even better. That’s part of the ongoing learning that we want. We’re thinking, partnering up with enthusiastic organizations in different areas of the world who can go out and advocate because once we know that we’re going to be successful in an area, we need to start putting some infrastructure in to support that effort.
Jonathan: I’ve made a extensive use in recent years of Aira, and obviously they’re using human agents, which is quite an expensive business model. Do you see Waymap as a compliment to something like Aira or is it simply a more efficient alternative to Aira?
Tom: We’ve looked at this. Oddly enough, when we spoke to people like Aira or to Be My Eyes, over 80% of the questions that they’re asked is not about getting around, it’s about, “Is this can of beans?” or, “Am I starting to [unintelligible [01:33:47] to dog food?” or whatever. It’s about solving problems in the home.
Again, we are looking at a situation where no matter how good the technology is, things will go wrong, and in the end, as a blind person, I’m very highly trained in mobility, but it happens to me where I just get so confused, I can’t solve the problem anymore, and then I need human intervention. How do we get that human intervention? We either look at Be My Eyes or we look at Aira as a possibility for doing that.
I think that’s something that we are considering, but there are ways coming forward from people like Google and Apple, via technologies that they’re putting in place that I think are are going to be super cool. They’re not years away, they’re months away, that they’re going to be super cool about helping us to solve problems just that when everything else has failed. We call it off-ramping, when I need to off-ramp what I’m doing, and actually just check out where I am and start again. Watch this space. We’re super excited that we’re going to be able to do that. In the end, again, if you need human intervention, you need a signal and we want this to be able to operate without the signal.
Jonathan: It is an interesting space that Apple’s in where they’re using LiDAR in some of those newer phones. In iOS 16, you can find doors using LiDAR if you’ve got a capable enough phone. Of course, you’ve got to have the Pro model phones to use the LiDAR feature and they have to be quite new. Which brings me to the question, given the socioeconomic status that many blind people experience, what kind of phone will drive Waymap? What tools does the phone need to have to make Waymap work?
Tom: Pretty much needs to be a smartphone, iPhone 7 or above. I guess Apple would soon be stopping, supporting iPhone 7. It doesn’t need to be the smartest phone on the planet. One of the areas that we’re using is this video positioning, we’re just looking at a regular, any old camera- it doesn’t have to be the super Google Pixel 6-type camera. Any old camera that you can wave about, we should be able to position you of it within six months.
Jonathan: People can just download the app and have a play with the user interface, I take it. Is it available worldwide in the app stores in place?
Tom: We haven’t put it on the App Store yet, but we will put it on the App Store in the autumn of this year. Please, once it’s on, download it. One of the things that we probably do is to put it on our website and just play around with it on the website because we can simulate lots of things if we just do it centrally. We can give people an experience of what they would get. We can put them into an alternative reality space, and make believe that you’re in maybe one of the London underground stations or something.
Jonathan: That’s useful. They can really understand how the system works and what they would experience?
Tom: Yes. What that’ll do for us is that, although we love what we’re doing, and we have some of the greatest experts and the best minds in the world, honestly, working on this, we always want to learn. Improvement, improvement, improvement is what’s important. The more we can get people to interact with it and play with it, the more we’re going to become world-beating. This is a community thing.
The other thing we do in Waymap is, if you take a map of some place, it’s pretty much a picture at a point in time. What happens if somebody digs a hole in the road, for instance? Clearly, they’re going to have safety ways around it. What we’re going to be saying to people is, “You may not need all the support that a blind person uses, but if you use Waymap to get around, then we can track how you are navigating. We don’t know who you are, but we know how you’re navigating.”
If you’re going around, people start to go around an obstacle, the artificial intelligence inside the app would say, “Whoops, there must be something there that’s causing people to go.” We would start to put blind people and other disabled people around that obstacle.
Jonathan: We do have listeners in DC. Given that the technology is rolling out now, how would they get a hold of it and use it if it’s not on the App Store yet?
Tom: If they contact the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, Jocelyn hunter, she will make sure that you get onto our list, and we will give you an experience of using the app.
Jonathan: Look, it’s great to explore this with you. I’m looking forward to finding out what happens with Waymap and seeing its future roll-out, so I’m sure we will keep in touch and I appreciate you coming.
Tom: Fantastic. We look forward to coming to New Zealand. It’s a beautiful place and we’d love to Waymap it.
Jonathan: I would love for you to Waymap it. We’ll make it happen.
Robin: Hi, there. Robin in Warwick, in the UK here. Just a quick response to a couple of emails that you had last week. I can’t remember the name of the person who said about the alt+tab mystery. Apologies, but I get exactly the same thing. Alt+tab works fine, 99% of the time, but very occasionally, maybe once every couple of weeks, it gets stuck where, however long you hold the alt key down for and press tab, it just cycles you between two, the one that you’re currently in and the one that you were last in.
You can do insert+F10 to bring up all the running applications and you can get to another one that way, but then alt+tab from that application will just take you to the one that you were on when you did the insert+F10. It will only ever do two. The only way to get out of it is to reboot. I completely agree there. It’s a mystery and I would say it’s to do with Windows, probably, don’t know.
The other thing is, Gary I think it was, was asking about powerful renaming utilities. Obviously there’s a lot you can do in the command line, but I was thwarted by lack of functionality. Didn’t quite do what I wanted to do. I downloaded PowerToys, all one word, from Microsoft. In the many utilities in PowerToys is a free utility, by the way, is one called PowerRename. That also is one word with a capital R in the middle
PowerRename has loads of really easy settings or options that you can do in that utility to rename thousands of files. I have done that and it’s super easy to do. PowerRename much, much more functional than the command line, which is cool. This is Robin signing off. Keep up the brilliant work, love the show.
Jonathan: Jan Brown is writing in with a real tale of woe, and I’m sure this will provoke some comments from others who may have more information about this than I do because I don’t own this particular product, nor am I in the United States. She writes, “Dear Jonathan, this is a sad parting for me. Before I give details, I want to state how much I truly respect and love all that HumanWare has improved my life through assistive technological products. I am a fan of my ancient BrailleNote mPower, which still sits by our living room landline, awaiting the need to write down a message.
I am also a big Victor Reader fan. Shortly after Christmas, I decided to purchase a new Victor Reader (2nd Generation), and contacted our local HumanWare distributor. I was so excited when my Victor showed up and we set it up. Shortly thereafter, I was listening to a book when the unit made a strange noise. It shut down, and when I turned it back on, I got a “System Error 5″ message stating I was not authorized to play protected content. What did this mean? We had gotten the library key for this unit, which is how BARD books are authorized for download.
My husband talked to people and learned there was a workaround by which the unit would enable the key as long as the unit was not turned off. I contacted the distributor and returned the unit. This happened with four Victors. HumanWare told the distributor, they were aware of the problem, but nothing was recalled and HumanWare did not make any public announcement. They asked the distributor to check each new unit they were sent.
I emailed and spoke with my lovely contact at my distributor, asking her to refund the original purchase of the Victor to my card. I thought that four defective units was more than enough to know that any of the Victor Reader (2nd Generation) units had problems with quality control and could not be trusted to actually work. I wonder if you or the great listeners have any thoughts. Is there anything I can do? Or can HumanWare provide some statement so that others do not have to go through what I did and lose their Victors? Thanks so much for all you do and a weekly talk with other blind people from everywhere.”
Jan, that sounds like a terrible experience. I would’ve given up after two I think. For you to have continued with four shows some fortitude. I have reached out to HumanWare seeking comment on this, and if we get any, I’ll certainly bring it here on the podcast. Others may have some experience with this as well. If you do, 86460 MOSEN is how you can get in touch on the phone. That’s 8646066736 in the United States. You can also record an audio attachment or write an email, send it in to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Episode 187, Russ Winetsky was lamenting the difficulties he was having with both the Uber and Lyft app. I think that we identified that one of the issues he was having with Uber relates to the fact that there are multiple user experiences out there at the moment, one of which is not particularly accessible, and it seems to be a lottery. Sometimes you get the good user experience from an accessibility point of view and at other times you don’t.
Now, I don’t use the Lyft app because we don’t have Lyft in New Zealand, but Lena has kindly written some notes up on using Lyft. I will read this because it could be of help to many people. She says, “Using Lyft is much like using Uber. First, you must create an account. This can be done in the phone app or online. You must verify your phone number and enter payment information. Note, when entering credit card information, Lyft only wants two digits for the expiration month and two digits for the year.
Taking your first ride app says, ‘Home Screen’. From left to write, buttons are ‘Menu’, ‘Promo’, if you have a promotion such as Lyft Pink, ‘Where to’, then ‘Places you have been’ or ‘Local places of interest’. As you take rides, the places you have gone will populate this area. You can double-tap on one when you want to go there again, search and in some areas, scooters, public transit, rentals, and my car.
Choose ‘Where to’ if you have a specific address and/or business name. Choose ‘Search’ if you want to look for a business, ‘Where to’, if you want to go pick up your prescription.” You’ll remember that Russ was seeking to do this when he sent in his email. “‘Search’ if you want to find a pharmacy nearby. Select ‘Where to end’ into your destination. The edit field is in the upper left corner. Swipe right for clear search, swipe right again to hear the places listed based on your entry. Choose the one you want.
App says, ‘Mode Selection Screen’. From left to right your right choices are listed. Some choices you may see are ‘Economy’, ‘Category’, ‘Wait and Save’, ‘Lyft Priority Pickups’, ‘Lyft XL. Luxury category: Lux-” that’s spelled L-U-X, “-Lux Black, Lux Black XL, scooters, transit, with options, and schedule. Swiping right shows your payment method, ‘Schedule a ride in advance’ and ‘Select’.
App says, ‘What you chose when you double-tapped’. App says ‘Confirm pickup location screen,’ and it shows you the pickup location, price, ‘Add a note for driver’, ‘Request ride’. If the pickup location is not correct, double-tap on it and type in the correction.
‘Add a note’ gives you 60 characters to write a message for your driver. If your location is right, your note is added. If you did that, now double-tap on ‘Request ride’. The next screen will say things like, ‘Looking for a driver. Ride booked-‘ if you chose ‘Wait and save’, ‘-Driver found’. Lyft gives you the expected number of minutes to driver’s arrival. This changes often and sometimes wildly. Don’t worry. Driver’s name and kind of car, rating, license plate number.
Other buttons on the screen may include ‘Share ride details’, ‘Cancel ride’, ‘Add a stop’. Sometimes you will have information for one driver and that will change. This is normal and happens when another driver is closer. Using the ‘Add a stop’ feature is another tutorial.
I use Lyft a lot because it usually costs a bit less in my area and the app is more user friendly. If you are assigned a deaf driver, Lyft gives you buttons for automated sign language messages. The deaf drivers I have had use Live Transcribe on their phones when they cannot read my lips. This app does a fantastic job of converting my speech to text. I always ask the driver’s name and confirm the destination address. When the driver arrives, call if the driver hasn’t called your name or you can’t tell where the car is. You have the option to text, but that is less reliable. No personal phone numbers are shared with drivers.”
Thank you, Lena. Very good of you to put that together. One thing that Uber has that not many people seem to know about, I have this switched on and it just gives me some additional reassurance, is that you can require a PIN to be exchanged before the ride starts. Whenever I get in an Uber, I have to give the driver a four-digit PIN. It’s randomly generated with every trip and you get a push notification to tell you what the PIN is.
You enter that PIN, they type it in the driver version of the Uber app and they then authenticate, and only then do they get the destination information, and you get a push notification confirming that the driver entered the right PIN. That just gives me assurance that I really am in the Uber because technically if you’re a blind person on your own, anybody could pull up and say that they are the Uber. That’s a really nice feature. You can enable that in the settings of the Uber app.
I know the Uber products differ around the world, but one thing that we’ve got recently that I’ve started to use is a feature called Uber Reserve. This is different from “Schedule a ride in advance”, which has been around for quite a long time, at least in New Zealand. If you choose that “Schedule a ride in advance”, they will try to get a driver to you within a window. If you book a [4:30] PM pickup, they’ll try and get it to you between about [4:30] and [4:40], it turns up, and you have the typical couple of minutes to get in the Uber before charges start.
Uber Reserve is a bit more expensive, but if I’m going to a meeting where I absolutely have to be there on time, and I know exactly when I want to leave. This thing is super. It has not let me down once since I have started to use it. You do pay the premium as I’ve said, but for that premium, what happens is that a driver turns up sometimes quite a bit before your scheduled pickup time and it just waits. It waits without any charges and I think there’s an extra 5 or 10 minutes after the time you said you wanted to leave.
If I’ve got a [1:00] PM meeting and I order for [12:30], normally I find that by [12:15] or [12:20], the driver’s waiting outside. The driver will patiently wait outside for you until you go to the vehicle. This Uber Reserve feature is great if you’ve got an appointment as I, sometimes, do, that is really time-sensitive.
Speaker: 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-Nfirstname.lastname@example.org, or phone our listener line. The number in the United States is 864-60 MOSEN. That’s 8646066736.
Ross Miller: Hello, Jonathan and everyone else. This is Ross Miller from Sydney. I’m just doing a follow-up on a previous podcast you did in the Blind Side series. It was in relation to the iBeacons that had been installed in the CBD of Wellington. I would imagine with changing business names, changing infrastructure, and so on, that much of the data on the iBeacons would need to be updated. Has this happened, or has the iBeacon project been suspended or withdrawn? How do you find the project as a whole? Would you recommend it for other small local council areas? I look forward to your feedback, and as always, best of luck.
Jonathan: Nice to hear from you, Ross. Wow, that’s a blast from the past, the old iBeacons in Wellington. Those haven’t been in Wellington for quite some time. I don’t recall when they were withdrawn but it was some years ago. I think it was possibly even pre-pandemic that they were withdrawn. I think the iBeacons thing was a bit of a pilot to see how they went and they were okay for their time, but I don’t miss them.
What I would really like to see is more cities with Aira Access, because the iBeacons will give you a bit of information about the business that you’re at, about the layout of the business, but actually having that working pair of eyeballs on the other end of a call so that you can navigate your surroundings and find things, I would far prefer that. For me that is more liberating technology. It just seems to have died a death. I haven’t really heard about the iBeacons for a very long time.
Kevin: Hello, Mosen At Large listeners. This is in regards to the last podcast where Bonnie and Jonathan were talking about noise-cancelling headphones and earbuds. Definitely agree that best in class for the longest has been the Bose QuietComfort and still agree in terms of the form factor, to be able to fold them up, them being nice and portable and providing that nice quality in noise-canceling.
I would say there’s one that has better battery life, a newer design and slightly less portable, is the Sony XM5s. They have 30-hour battery life, that quick-charge. You can charge it up within three minutes to get three hours more of listening time, has 360 reality spatial audio where you can have the things like Tidal or Deezer optimized for your specific head and ear and so forth, and really tune and optimize using the preset EQs.
The earbuds that complement the Sony XM5s are the Sony XM4 earbuds. The full name of the headphones are Sony WH-1000XM5. The new ones that just came out, 30 hours battery life with a three-minute quick charge for three hours listening time. Doesn’t fold down but it is still pretty sleek, still pretty portable, the case is very nice. In terms of the earbud ones that complement those, the Sony XM4 earbuds are also officially known as Sony WF-1000XM4. These with noise-canceling on, go up to about eight hours or so. You can just pop them back in the case and they’ll get you through, I think, to close to 24 hours, similar to most of the other ones, the Bose QuietComfort earbuds or the AirPods Pro. Personally, I found it’s just a case of “too big, too small” type of thing or just right. The Bose QuietComfort ones were just too big for my ears. The Airpods Pro probably don’t seem to quite fit as right, but the Sony just seem to hit the sweet spot. We definitely recommend both of those, the Sony XM5 headphones and the Sony XM4 earbuds for both Jonathan and Bonnie for your upcoming trip to Europe. It’s very exciting, and congratulations on being able to do that and getting those great tickets.
Jonathan: Thank you for the review, Kevin. Very good. I did pass it on to Bonnie because she decided she was going to get some noise-cancelling headphones. I think, she did have some in the past but they’ve long become dodgy so she went into the store. I told her about what you said and she did listen to the Sony, and she liked the Bose better. I think she said they’re 45 now. [laughs] I used to have QuietComfort 2s a long time ago. She liked the way that the Bose ones folded up and she also preferred the sound. What really swung it for her though, was the fact that the Bose ones talk and they give you guidance around pairing and that kind of thing.
The noise canceling headset space is not something that I’ve looked at for a while but if others have, let’s do some comparing. We will get Bonnie on for a Bonnie Bulletin sometime soon so she can talk about her explorations of this and why she bought the new QuietComfort ones, which she seems very happy with. In fact, she’s like a kid with a new toy right now. She’s wandering around the house with these things on and I can’t attract her attention. In some ways, it is peaceful. She doesn’t listen to Mosen At Large I’m sure, so she’ll never hear this. [chuckles]
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-Nemail@example.com. If you’d rather call in use the listener line number in the United States, 8646066736.
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