Podcast Transcript: Mosen At Large episode 121, blind pride, blind people at the airport, plenty of tech questions and opinions
Jonathan: I’m Jonathan Mosen and this is Mosen At Large, the show that’s got the blind community talking. On the show today blind Pride strongly resonates with some, not so much with others, meet and assist services at airports and, whether to take or not to take the wheelchair. There’s plenty of technology in the mix.
I have received an overwhelming response to my comments about blind Pride. I was asked to publish the text of what I said in a blog post so I have done that and it’s been amazing to see how much it has been shared around the place.
We also have some comments for the podcast. Here is Andrew Walker to start us off. He says, “Hello, Jonathan, having just listened to your most recent podcast, I feel moved to comment on the remarks made by one of your contributors who seems to have difficulty in understanding, being proud of being blind because of what he considered to be problems blind people had with getting around communicating and having eyes which are “dead”.
“The communication issue, I think, is false for the reasons outlined in my email, which you kindly read out in the same podcast and the language used in having “dead eyes” to me is problematic on a number of levels. Nonetheless, my main issue with the comments is that they appear to come from a deficit model of blindness, focusing on things which blind people are deemed to have difficulty with when compared to people with sight.
“Yes, blind people have mobility issues in navigating a world which is designed around the needs of sighted people. It neglects to note, however that sighted people also need adaptations to get about and which are integrated into the built environment. At the simplest level, lighting is provided and buildings without which sighted people would have great difficulty not to mention the number of signs telling them the locations of places and facilities.
“If the world was designed for blind people, the world would be very different. The few sighted people would have to carry torches with them as aides to mobility if they could not adapt to the blind way of navigating. Of course, I am saying these things to be provocative, but I do think that this does help to make the point that disability is socially constructed.
“All it takes is a power cut to show how disabled sighted people can be. Relying on a deficit model of blindness ignores many of the strengths which can emerge from having sight problems. I worked with people with challenging behavior and from time to time could be very violent and out of control. I was the man they called for when things were getting tricky, when punches were thrown, knives were used to threaten and people were in danger of injury.
“Of the 700 people in the organization I worked for, they sent for the man who would be deemed to have the greatest disability, who could not see to defend himself it seems, yet I invariably was successful in diffusing such situations. I would argue not in spite of being blind, but because of it. Yes, I have many attributes of which blindness is only part of my being. I do think it gave me a significant advantage in dealing with such situations.
“Other staff would remark on just how people displaying violence or threatening behavior would stop as soon as I appeared on the scene. I am retired now but even I look back now and think this remarkable, but at the time I just saw it as a part of everyday life. I’m not sure whether my abilities in this were for the reasons I would like exactly, but real they were.
“I think I had respect from the people I worked with as a person who, to them succeeded against the odds. Many of them use the discomforting term “inspirational” to describe me. I was probably also not seen to be a physical threat, I suspect. Not a lot to brag about if you beat up a blind man, for even most of the hardest cases.
“The point I am trying to make is that all individuals, sighted or blind, have many attributes, making a richness of diversity in the world. We are all dependent on one another and use our attributes to help others. As a blind counselor, I would be chosen sometimes because it was thought I would not be judgmental as to appearances.
“Similarly, some women would choose me as a man because they thought another woman would judge them. I am sure that some people would choose a female counselor for other reasons.
Let us also not forget that we may give joy to sighted people who help us. The stranger we meet may well walk away with a rosy glow inside feeling good about themselves.
“How many times have you been offered help as a blind person and heard the disappointment in their voice when you tell them you can cope on your own. These days, I always say, “It was very kind of you to offer,” to soften the blow.
“In addition to me at least, pride is a feeling. Most of the time, I am sure that people go about just getting on with their lives, with the feeling of pride drifting in and out. Overall, I would say that I am not only proud to be blind, but thankful that I am. Blindness has given me many opportunities and I have many skills as a consequence.
“I have, for instance, a substantial, although not remarkable knowledge of IT, which probably came from having to configure my own computers to work with synthetic speech back in the days when memory on machines was a scarce resource. I have friends now who still turn to me if they have problems with technology.
“Why am I moved to comment on this because of your contributor’s comment? Well, I live a full and active and enjoyable life having gone totally blind at about the age of 40. Blindness is a very feared disability by sighted people. The problem with this is, as I see it, every sighted person today is the potential blind person of tomorrow.
“The fear of blindness and attitudes of people towards it make a tendency towards low expectancy and dependence, which holds blind people in a cycle of reliance on others and a feeling of hopelessness. When I went totally blind, I noticed just how many times a sighted person would tell me that I was doing something wrong when I was doing stuff in a blind sort of way.
“No, the door handle is on the other side of the door when just reaching out to locate it. “No, you are going the wrong way,” when going across an area by a route, which is easier for a blind person to use. People jumping in to help, because it takes that extra second to do something as a blind person.
“Sighted people live in a sighted world and do things in a sighted sort of way, and can not conceive of doing something in a way different from themselves. This can lead to a cycle of disempowerment and may leave a newly blind person with a feeling of helplessness and to be more dependent.
“In all my years of work in education, I only ever came into contact with two other totally blind people working in the education market, discounting people working in special education. When I hear blindness described solely in terms of deficits, compared to sighted people, I am filled with woe.
“When I went blind, I was told that I would never work again and that I would need other people to look after me, essentially. Luck being with me and being bloody-minded, I ignored this and now I look back on it, had a remarkable employment experience once I had battered down the barriers and found ways of doing things differently from other people.
“Mostly I just got on with stuff in a way which I am confident will resonate with many of your listeners. There are however many people I know of who are afraid to go out of their homes alone, who are almost totally dependent on others for things they could do for themselves and I know of at least one person who committed suicide because they could not face a future of blindness.
“This is why I am so concerned about the way blindness is seen. Don’t get me wrong. There are lots of difficulties blind people face and for a newly blind person, there is stuff to learn that may take years to overcome. If one learns Braille,”– and he’s actually put in brackets with a capital B– had to get that in there somehow– “it can be a long haul to be proficient. Proud of being blind as I imagine the people from the United States saying, I sure am.”
Thank you, Andrew, that is a wonderful post. It has actually inspired me to dig out a speech that I had delivered at a conference in the United States in 2016. I was invited to speak to quite a large group of rehab personnel in the US, in New Jersey. I won’t read the whole speech, you’ll be pleased to hear, but I would like to read this section because it dovetails nicely with what you were saying. I completely agree with you about the concept of disability.
It helps a great deal when we don’t talk about people with disabilities, which is something that in some countries they still do and it jars with me now because we’ve moved on, I know Britain has moved on, Britain is also talking about disabled people most of the time, but in some countries like Australia and the United States, you’re still hearing language like people with disabilities or people who are blind.
I think that the concept of being a disabled person, meaning you are disabled by society’s choices is really important, and it does feed in through the Blind Pride and Disability Pride movement. Here is a short bit of the speech I delivered in 2016. I don’t have a recording of it, so I will read from the text. Let’s begin.
“There are a lot of proverbs, aphorisms, cliches that are so ingrained in our culture that few people seem to question them. My favorite is this little piece of absurdity. “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” This one was triumphantly proclaimed to me by a supposedly learned lawyer, who was on a nationwide TV show with me back in New Zealand to justify why no blind person should ever be allowed to serve on any jury.
“The origins of this phrase are unclear. Some attribute it to Erasmus of Rotterdam, a 16th century Dutch Renaissance humanist, but there are variations of it in numerous languages. Another variation translated from the French is, “When a blind man bears the standard, pity those who follow.”
“These antiquated little pieces of ablest nonsense put forward the view that disability in and of itself makes you inferior, and further, the more disabled you are, the more inferior you are. I sometimes find myself wondering, what would the kingdom of the blind actually look like?
“If everyone were blind, other than a single one-eyed person, or even a minority of one-eyed people, we’d have a very different world. Please accompany me for just a little while to the kingdom of the blind.
“Welcome. Vehicles provide a lot of auditory and tactile information here, so a blind person can drive them. We are the majority in this kingdom after all. Normal drivers, they being blind, are concerned about their safety because one-eyed people are being distracted from all the auditory and tactile feedback the vehicles are offering.
“On radio– there is no TV, and the kingdom of the blind, of course, debate is raging about whether it’s safe for one-eyed people to be given driver’s licenses. An organization has recently been formed, the National Federation of the One-eyed, who champion the rights of this minority.
“Over a century ago, a new form of writing using symbols was developed by a clever one-eyed inventor. He says it’s more efficient for one-eyed people to use this new form of writing called print, a limited supply of print books are available and recently, an agreement was reached to transcribe standard Braille books into print without first having to seek the permission of the copyright holder.
“In recent years, computer and smartphone manufacturers in the kingdom of the blind have, as a matter of human rights, added a new accessibility feature to their devices, known as a screen. Sure, all the computers talk and come standard with full-page Braille displays, but the National Federation of the One-eyed have been getting in the courts where blind justice is practiced faithfully for the rights of this minority to be accommodated and this thing called a screen is seen to be essential assistive technology.
“Since the cost of production has to be spread across a very small user base of one-eyed people, screens are hideously expensive. There’s a very long way to go before screens are affordable to everyone and work equally well across platforms but a start has been made and the one-eyed just need to be patient and grateful for what they have.
“I could go on, but let me try and sum up on this point. In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king? Seriously? Poppycock. It is society, and its majority that disables us with attitudes and decisions, not the impairment itself.”
That concludes that extract from the speech that I delivered in 2016. More email from Rebecca de’George who says, “I wanted to say how much your discussion of your pride about being blind resonated with me. It ought to be an article or speech that new sighted parents of blind infants or children could hear or read. The parts about following on the heels of determined creative, persistent blind leaders is particularly inspiring. I felt even prouder listening to it.
“Dignity is like a light we have to choose to carry inside ourselves. No one can deprive us of that dignity unless we allow them to do so. When people treat us in patronizing or condescending ways, I think it is a reflection of their own fear about how they think they would conduct or not be able to conduct their own life if they were to become blind.
“As for traveling in airports, and the use of wheelchairs in a huge airport, I think it is easier for the person assisting, if I choose to allow the use of a wheelchair. Even though I want to cringe when I first get into it, I tell them I can walk, but I know this will make your own work easier, so I’ll allow it for this long walk.
“I can’t control what every sighted person thinks when they see me doing this, or living my life in whatever circumstance they observe me. I have a right to do whatever works for me, and I am not responsible for every person’s thoughts or what they take away from an individual instance. Making generalizations is an unfortunate human tendency.
“All I can do is be conscious of my own responses to people, and try to be compassionate, realistic, and respectful, and perhaps throw in a bit of humor when it seems appropriate. Every time I meet someone, I see it as an opportunity to build a bridge between us.
“Hope you will chuckle when I confess that when I heard the Blind Pride title of the episode, I thought the topic would be blind people in the LGBT community. Thank you for your wonderful podcasts.”
And that’s signed by Becky. Thank you, Becky. That’s really interesting your observation about the LGBT reference. I think that disabled people generally can learn a lot from minorities who have overcome all sorts of barriers. The LGBTQ community is one that comes to mind.
Let’s not forget that it wasn’t that long ago in most countries that being gay or lesbian was illegal, was a criminal offence. You look at the way that they have gone out there and said, “We are proud of our sexuality.” They’ve completely turned it on its head so that when people think of pride, they often do automatically associated now because of parades and other events with the LGBTQ community.
That is a fantastic achievement when you think of all of the barriers, and the reticence towards gay marriage, and how it’s the law of the land for many countries, and they’ve made all this progress. How did they do that? We need to take a leaf out of their book, and also racial minorities that have made progress, they didn’t make that progress by just taking whatever crumbs were given to them.
That is actually why I still disagree with you about the airport thing, about taking the wheelchair. We don’t need the accommodation if we don’t have any other physical impairment. I really do get concerned about the signal that it sends, but thank you so much for sharing your view. I appreciate that and also for your positive comments about the Blind Pride piece.
If you listened to Mosen At Large live last week, or you got it very early the moment the podcast came out, then there was an error in my Blind Pride piece, which thanks to a very kind email from Matt Campbell, I corrected. My memory of history was a bit faulty when I suggested that David Holiday was blind. In fact, he is not, his wife Karen is, so I did correct that and republish the podcast and fix that because I hope that that Blind Pride piece will stand the test of time and I didn’t want it lurking about there with a factual error in it.
Thank you very much, Matt, for being on the alert, and letting me know so quickly that I’d made a mistake there. Really appreciate that. Gary Crowe says, “Hi, Jonathan, I appreciated your explanation of why you were proud of being blind. What had on its surface seemed like a silly notion to me transformed into a thoughtful explanation of what I think is an insightful understanding of our valued position in the scheme of things.
“If I understand your perspective, and I very well may not, you are not saying that you are proud of not being able to see,” then he says not three times in one sentence, “is likely excessive. Nonetheless, you were saying that you are proud to be associated with a long tradition of blind people who have contributed to making things better for blind people, in particular, others with physical limitations more broadly and everyone more generally.
“You are proud to take your place in line with other blind folks who have made and continued to make a better world for all of us. Being a participating and contributing member of the blind community of doers is and should be a source of pride for all of us who can’t see.
“Even if I have managed to miss your central point, I appreciate your focusing my attention on the work others have done to improve the success, options, and opportunities for me and others who can’t see. Being blind is just part of who I am, and thanks to you and to many others, being me is not nearly as limiting as it would otherwise be. Can’t see does not equate to can’t do and thanks to you and others before you, that simple truth is there for all of us to know and value. Thank you.”
Well, thank you for your email, Gary. Appreciate that. “Hi, Jonathan,” writes Robert Kingit. “I’d like to briefly talk about why I’m proud to be Blind with an upper case B. Notice,” he says, “that I use the word Blind with a capital B, indeed, I do. Much like when I use the word Braille. I do have a question, why don’t you use the word blind with a capital B?
“Is this a personal choice? I’m proud to be Blind because of everything you’ve illustrated in your blog post. I’m very proud to be Blind because as you’ve said, we have a very rich culture. I’m proud of how much we have grown as a society towards Blind acceptance, but there’s still an abundance of social hurdles to tackle.
“I adopt the social model of disability, not the medical model as I believe that Blind pride can help society see blindness as part of a person.”
Thank you for writing in, Robert. To answer your question, I spell Braille with an uppercase B, out of respect for Louis Braille, who invented the code and sacrificed so much. I know that deaf people refer to themselves with a capital D and it’s not that I object to using a capital B to describe myself as blind.
I guess before I’d seen this email from you, I’ve never seen it done before, and I’m not sure what it signifies. What does spelling blind with a capital B do that spelling it with a lowercase B does not do? It’s not that I’m disagreeing with you. It’s just that I genuinely am unaware of what point is being made by capitalizing it. I would be interested in understanding this and exploring it more.
Outro: For all things, Mosen At Large, check out the website where you can listen to episodes online, subscribe using your favorite podcast app and contact the show. Just point your browser to podcast.mosen.org, that’s podcast., M-O-S-E-N.org.
Abby: Hi, everybody. This is Abby Taylor in Sheridan, Wyoming. I would like to comment on a couple of things related to airports. First of all, I have been offered the use of a wheelchair. At first, I refused it, saying I could just walk and take a person’s arm. Most of the time, that has worked.
However, I learned the hard way that you can get faster service and not have as much of a chance of missing your flight when you’re in a wheelchair. A couple of times I have missed flights because I was not in a wheelchair. The first time I was going through security in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with my brother, whom I’d been visiting while preparing to return home to Sheridan, Wyoming.
We were delayed in security because there was a problem with my ID, and the person helping me and I sprinted out of security when we were done, sprinted to the gate, but just missed it. The doors were closing. They weren’t letting anyone else on the plane. At that time, I was told that had I been using a wheelchair, I would have gotten through faster and that wouldn’t have happened.
The second time I missed a connecting flight in Denver because I was using, instead of a wheelchair, a golf cart with a driver who apparently didn’t speak English. He was picking up other passengers and dropping them off along the way from one gate to the next and I could not get through to him the fact that I needed to be at my gate yesterday. Needless to say, when we finally got to my gate, I had again, missed the flight.
From that point on, I decided that I would use a wheelchair if it meant that I would get through security faster and that I wouldn’t miss connecting flights. I’m not bothered by being in a wheelchair. Many people aren’t even thinking about me or anyone else in airports. They’re more concerned with themselves and how they will get to their destination and won’t give a thought to somebody in a wheelchair, unless, of course, that person is requesting assistance.
Now, there was one time when I was flying from Atlanta, Georgia, and it was a connecting flight. It was one of those long flights where I’d flown from Sheridan to Denver, to Atlanta, and then finally to Fort Lauderdale.
Well, flying from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale, I ended up sitting next to a lady who had some difficulty walking. When we got off the plane in Fort Lauderdale and there was only one wheelchair available, I said, “There’s a lady on that plane who needs that chair more than I do. If somebody could please walk with me to the baggage claim area, where my brother is waiting for me, that would be helpful,” and someone did.
If I am aware of somebody else needing a wheelchair more than I do, I will gladly give it up and walk or if they want me to wait for another wheelchair, that’s fine too. Luckily, in that case, you know, since I told them somebody was waiting for me, the guy just walked with me from the gate to the baggage claim area, so that all worked.
Now, the other thing actually doesn’t have to do with airports, it has to do with phones on airplanes, using phones on airplanes. During the September 11th terrorist attack, I heard that people on those planes, when they learned they were going to be going down, they were calling loved ones to say goodbye.
Hopefully, this sort of tragedy will never happen again but if I were in such a situation, I would want to call my brother or my late husband, if he were still alive, just to hear a comforting voice and to tell them, “It looks like I’m going to be leaving this world and I love you,” and so on and so forth. I think that it is really sweet. Those people who are opposed to having cell phones on airplanes should think about that.
Making a call with a cell phone on airplanes is no different from making a call on a cell phone in any other public location. Now, because others are uncomfortable around people using their phones in public, I try not to do that unless I absolutely have to. Or if I’m in an area that’s public, but there’s nobody around to be disturbed and I need to make a call, I will make a call. Of course, when I’m calling for transportation, wherever I am, I will make that call anyway. That’s an important call.
Jonathan: Thanks very much, Abby. Good to hear from you again. Yes. I think in a terrible horrific situation, like the 11th of September, all rules would go out the window and I guess they must have been low enough to be making contact with cell sites at that point where they were able to make those calls.
Yes, it is important that with rights come responsibilities and people do need to observe a bit of cell phone etiquette, no matter where in public they are. Yes. People who yell [raises voice] at the top of their voice when they’re anywhere, it’s not just a plane, potentially, it’s anywhere. You could be sitting in a restaurant and somebody is taking a call and they’re yelling at the top of their voice. I don’t know what it is.
I actually do think I know what it is. Most cell phones don’t have side tone. If you use a landline and you put your ear to their earpiece when you talk, you can hear yourself coming back, and that influences how loudly you speak. There isn’t often side tone on a cell phone. I once had a phone that did have it, but it was a long time ago and maybe that would help to get people quieter.
I do make an effort to speak in a normal speaking voice and even a bit quieter. Get close to the mic and talk quietly so as not to disturb anybody. We would be far better teaching a bit of cell phone etiquette and how to speak into them properly than banning cell phones in certain places like airplanes. This is no different from the way the music industry tried to ban MP3. You’re not going to put the genie back in the bottle. Technology inexorably marches on. You can’t stop it. You have to make sure people use it wisely.
Micah: Good morning again, Micah Pyykhala from Naples, Florida visiting– I’m obviously a Bostonian, talking about your second topic about people who are blind being offered wheelchairs in airports.
I think it’s helpful when people start out, if you give us some baseline parameters about your travel experiences, for example how often do you fly? I probably fly about 30 times every year. Then what regions are– I mostly fly in the US though I have taken a few international trips.
Then if you have a war story, it’s helpful to know if it’s recent or from 20 years ago. Because I hear people tell stories and a lot of them are from a really long time ago. Then I think it’s helpful to tell if you’re having a problem is it constant or intermittent? Is this every time you fly or every other time? Does it happen at some places and not others?
I can think of many occasions where I’ve been offered a wheelchair or asked if I needed a wheelchair or if I needed or wanted one. We need to flesh out too whether people think that’s offensive in and of itself just being asked. There’s a general aviation airport here in Naples, no commercial flights, just open the balcony door so you could catch the sound of a jet taking off.
To fly in here, you have to go into Fort Myers or RSW, which is about a 45-minute drive. In fact, when I got off the plane in Naples, I think somebody asked me if I needed a wheelchair. I think they had had them for some people that had requested it, but I said no, and they didn’t say anything else.
Now I would say one unique thing that I do is I typically don’t request assistance. I guess that’s helpful to know too. Because I could see this is more of a problem if you’re requesting the assistance because the airlines, like the rest of society I think, do put all disabilities together. If I’m not requesting assistance, I make sure that they don’t add a special service request or an SSR as it’s called in the industry to my reservation.
If you’re blind, a lot of times, even if you don’t request assistance, they’ll clandestinely add that when you board the plane. Sometimes I’ll specifically mention that I don’t want that added or I will also– I used to do this once I got on the plane, but I’ve refined the technique where now I’ll check on my mobile phone and it varies airline to airline, but you can basically look at your mobile–
Typically the mobile app, there might be a few outlying cases where you have to look at the desktop website, but you can see if the gate agent has added this SSR or special service request. If I’m walking down the jetway, I know how to check it for each of the airlines. If they’ve added it, I’ll just turn around. This works a lot better. Like I said, I used to wait until I got on the plane and was sitting down, but I’ll check. I’ll just turn around and go back up to the agent and tell them I don’t want this added into my record and they’ll 99% of the time just delete it.
I think that’s a trap people fall into, they don’t really pay attention to the behind-the-scenes ways the airlines work and they’re not checking whether this SSR has been added. I would say I probably have less problems with this because I pretty religiously make sure that they don’t add it, but there have been a few times where I have used the special assistance and I’ve never gotten any pushback about not taking a wheelchair, so again, it might just be luck and it might be that I haven’t used the assistance that much, but like I said, overall, I can think of a number of occasions where people have asked me if I wanted or needed a wheelchair, but I can’t think of one time where I’ve gotten even minimal pushback to say well, this is how you should do it.
Again, I’ve heard that people have had that issue, but I’m not sure how prevalent it is now or recently, or if it was 20 years ago, or if you’re going to get another comment of somebody that flew last week that had a problem like this.
Again, folks, you have your friendly CROs, your complaint resolution officials. If that happened, you should ask to talk to the CRO, which I don’t think a lot of people do. I think a lot of people are out of their element in the airport and they freeze up or they’re nervous about traveling– and this is blind and sighted people.
I think there are tools to deal with this, but the people may not use them. Even people who otherwise are pretty resourceful, don’t use the tools that are available. That’s my guess, just from the stories that I’ve heard.
Jonathan: Thank you for your contribution, Micah. I have a number of comments as a result of it. The first thing I would say is that I think most blind people, including in the United States, ask for meet and assist. I know there are some blind people who don’t, but I don’t think I’m in any way on shaky ground when I say that I’m confident, most blind people do ask for meet and assist. Particularly, if they’re in an airport that they’re not familiar with.
If you are going to the same airport regularly enough, you’re doing the same route regularly enough, perhaps for work, then you will learn those airports. If you are not doing that, then I think most blind people ask for meet and assist.
Now, there’s some debate to be had of course, about whether that is the best approach. There is an argument that says that the discovery method is better than meet and assist. I believe somebody from the NFB said to me a few years ago that actually they’d done some timing on this and that a blind person who didn’t ask for meet and assist but used the discovery method to get to their gate actually tended to get there quicker than those who relied on meet and assist.
I think that does require a higher degree of blindness confidence that not everybody has. I don’t think that we should be required to just keep the peace because we are customers. We pay for our airfare the same way that everybody else does. We’re entitled as customers to receive the service that we want and that we ask for, that we require.
As for whether this is still happening? Well, this has come up because Dawn, who is in Sydney, an airport I have had problems with on several occasions I have to say had this happen very recently and that’s why she contacted the podcast. Certainly, in some parts of the world, it is still very much a real thing.
As somebody who was traveling a lot in many countries, I can say that most of the time, if I declined the wheelchair politely, if I offer the backpack on the wheelchair, as I said last week, that normally makes the problem go away. It’s probably about 1% to 2% of the times where I’ve been told I have to take the wheelchair. That’s the rules, that’s the policy.
It is then that I make it clear that actually, I know what the policy is, and yes, the CRO a good people to know. That’s the term I was trying to think of last week that I couldn’t think of. The CROs are really important people to know, but let me give you an an example of an accommodation that neither Bonnie nor I wanted, but they tried to force on us and how frustrating it was.
A while ago, Bonnie and I went on holiday and it was supposed to be a nice pleasant holiday. When we got to the destination that we were traveling to– and this was within New Zealand, we were kept waiting on the plane for a long time. Bonnie was with her guide dog. We would have been able to find the terminal. We were basically being detained against our will on the plane when other passengers had gone and we would have been quite capable of exiting, and they were making a big fuss about our attempts to leave.
When we tried to get to the bottom of what this was all about, they said that the reason why we had to wait was that there were steps going down to the Tarmac because there wasn’t an air bridge, what I think Americans call a jetway. You had to go down the stairs and then walk to the terminal, which again was no problem whatsoever. But they had arbitrarily decided that they needed to wait until they got a special lift thing. They were going to put Bonnie and me in this chair lift, lower us down to the ground, and then presumably wheel us to the airport terminal.
We only found out about this when everybody else had cleared out of the aircraft and we started moving towards the front of the plane. We were ready to disembark and head towards the terminal and they stopped us and then told us all of this. Not once did they say, “What extra assistance might you require if any? Because there are stairs, they’re steep. We’re heading down to the Tarmac, is there anything we need to do?”
They made a bunch of assumptions so that’s what I’m objecting to. The assumptions that they are making about what all blind people require without involving us as the customer in any of those arrangements.
Scott: Hello, Jonathan, and everyone else. This is Scott Davert on Long Island, New York. That’s how the locals pronounce it apparently, but I guess I’m not really a local, I just moved back here.
Anyway, thank you very much for doing the transcripts. I really appreciate that. There are times when my ears are so bad that there’s no way I can follow a podcast but there’s a lot of great information that you’re presenting on a regular basis, both you Jonathan as well as the listeners. I’m very happy that I no longer have to make a choice whether I can follow the podcast or not.
Because though I’m waiting a few days, I have the transcript and that was how I accessed the last several shows and it’s been very wonderful. Thank you for that. Thank you for going through all the effort to get it done. I know you say that’s how it should be, and I do agree with you but I still want to express my appreciation for you going above and beyond in getting that done. A lot of podcasters for various reasons do not, so thank you for that.
Second thing is concerning air travel. Here in the US, we have the Air Carrier Access Act, which essentially deals with civil rights as in people with disabilities. One of the things that it says is that the airlines are permitted to forbid someone from flying if they’re not able to communicate safety instructions to that individual. It’s at the captain’s discretion.
Legally, they can throw you off the plane. They can contact you ahead of time if you disclose that you’re deaf-blind and say, “Oh no, you need,”– what do you call it? “a safety assistant,” I believe is the word they use. You have to have one to fly with you and by the way, you also have to buy their ticket.
Now, in Canada, it’s my understanding that they have similar caveats. However, that’s my understanding anyway that the airlines are required to then provide that communication assistant for the duration of the trip, either by someone with the airlines or paying for the other person’s ticket. Unfortunately, as many things here in the United States, it’s all about the money, so no break for the deaf-blind people here.
I have not had this happen to me personally but I have been reading a lot more stories on Facebook, couple on Twitter where this has been happening more and more, particularly on American Airlines. One particular situation, I think it was last week it happened, it may have been two weeks ago now, time flies. The individual in question set up his reservation. I guess he was going to go visit friends in another part of the country and was contacted by their I think it’s called Special Services or Disability Services, I don’t remember the exact name right now.
He was told, because he disclosed the fact that he was totally deaf-blind, that he would need a safety assistant to accompany him on his trip. He replied and he said, “Well, I’ve been traveling for years. On several times on my own, I’ve never really had this be a requirement, and nor should it be because I’m able to communicate just fine with the staff.” They said, “No, you’ll have to bring a safety assistant.” That’s happening, more and more now.
Finally, to my situation, I’ve never been forbidden from flying but I had a close call. I’m trying to remember. I think I might have been flying from San Francisco to Charlotte or something like that. Anyway, I was on the plane, and the flight attendant came back after we had already boarded and said, “The Captain’s concerned that when we’re in the air, you may not be able to follow safety instructions. We don’t know if you’re able to fly or not.”
I said to the flight attendant, I said, “Well, are you communicating with me right now?” She said, “Yes.” I said, “I’m not going to cause a scene. I’m not going to disrupt people. These people need to get where they need to go too. However, I would appreciate it if you would guide me to the front of the plane so that I may talk with the captain for a minute or send him back here.” I said, “I don’t require a lot of time. Just I’d like to have a little discussion with him maybe a minute.”
She went and got the captain and he came back and I just told him, I said, “Look, I’m communicating with you right now.” I pulled up on my phone the safety instructions because you can do that through the Wi-Fi now. They give you access to aircraft information, the safety information, and in-flight movies and whatever. I started reading it to him and I said, “I’ve been flying American Airlines for years. I’ve flown not only around the country but also quite a bit internationally and it’s never been an issue.”
I said, “If you really want me to get off this plane, I’m not going to fight you, but know that I will never fly your airline again. Oh, and by the way, I have close to 100,000 air miles.” I pulled out my boarding pass and showed him whatever their elite status was. I was doing tons of traveling. I was working for T-Mobile accessibility at the time.
He said, “Okay, well obviously you’re able to do what you need to do. By the way, the technology you have there looks really nice. I apologize for not understanding the situation and I appreciate you telling me these things.” That was the end of it.
Now to get around that, what I started doing, I don’t tell them ahead of time. I’m like, “Well okay, you want to give me a hard time, then I guess you can have one too.” When I make a reservation, I’ll say that I’m blind, but I don’t disclose the fact that I also have a hearing impairment. It only was an issue that one time and it became a non-issue. I was able to defuse the situation and it was not easy, believe me. The way I presented, it was as though I knew exactly what to do and I was calm. Probably on the outside, I was because I knew I had to be but inside I was absolutely–
Well, to put it bluntly, I felt violated in some way. I’m an adult, I’m a grown adult. Obviously, I made it to the plane and obviously I’ve traveled, and obviously, I’m able to communicate with you– as are totally deaf-blind people, by the way, they have ways of doing it through their Bluetooth keyboards and Braille displays paired to their phone and all different methodologies depending on the situation so it was I felt I was not only singled out, but I was also having to prove myself to this guy. If I hadn’t had to get somewhere that day on business, I’m sure I would’ve probably taken a different approach, but my hope in handling it that way is simply to open the eyes of flight attendants and pilots and stuff, and to educate them, and that’s really where the issue lies and it always will. Lack of public education about how to handle people with disabilities.
What’s the solution? We can sit here and say, “Well, we mandate they take sensitivity training and all that as they should,” but in reality, I don’t know that that will ever happen. Anyway, that’s my story, and what I did about it.
Jonathan: Well done Scott. That kind of advocacy requires a lot of poise, but it works really well. When you can retain your dignity and keep your cool it is amazing what you can achieve. Congratulations on that and I am so, so thrilled to hear that you are benefiting from the transcripts, it really makes it worthwhile.
Thank you for letting me know, and to those who are also using the transcripts, we certainly appreciate you spreading the word around the deaf blind community that these transcripts exist. We welcome that input into our Mosan at Large community.
Alison Fallon says, “Hello, Jonathan, I enjoy your podcast very much, even if I don’t always agree with you.” Well, that’s okay. Thank you, Alison.
“On blind pride, I’m not proud of being blind, but I’m not ashamed of it either. I’ve read Braille, with an uppercase B, from the age of six, and I don’t know what I’d do without it. On meet and assist, I’ve had no problems with it, and I’ve never been sequestered in a room with other disabled people.
Those who have assisted me have been helpful and pleasant. I have no problems using a wheelchair because with the chaos of an airport and limited time, I think it’s the most efficient way to get from one gate to another.”
Andy Resbcher writes, “Hi, Jonathan. For about 10 years, I traveled a lot professionally. Where I live, all of the available flights are funneled through Boston’s Logan airport. One of the meet and assist people was this really marvelous woman from Latvia. She would walk as fast and far as I needed to go while pleasantly conversing with me.
“If one of the other agents began walking with me, she would move in and say, “He goes with me.” [Latvian accent] Once, she was aware that I had some time to kill between flights and said, “I want you to meet husband.” He also worked at the airport. We had an enjoyable lunch together.
“As for wheelchairs, I was nearly always able to deflect those who would try to make me conform to their idea of what I actually needed. There was one occasion when I could not convince the functionaries to see things my way. I probably would have made more of it, but was on a really tight schedule, I just couldn’t risk missing my connecting flight.
“I did feel quite sorry for the poor guy who was pushing the chair. It seems that he was not in great physical shape and was huffing and puffing by the time he reached our destination. He probably wished he could have just guided me there. I gave him a generous tip. It wasn’t his fault that some idiot bureaucrat subjected him to a near heart attack on the job.”
Thanks, Andy. I have had some excellent meet and assist experiences. One of the best experiences I’ve had was at Frankfurt airport and they seem to hire students there to do the meet and assist. When I would go through Frankfurt airport in Germany, I would talk to some really interesting people, people studying all kinds of things and they were fluent in English, they were interested, they asked me exactly what assistance I required and provided it.
It was really great and they seemed genuinely interested in what I was doing as well so it was a good conversation, it was an excellent customer service experience. If you do fly enough to get into the frequent flyer lounges, that can really help as well. When I was able to do that on any flights where that applied, you would get excellent service that way.
I want to come back to your comment about the tip, because this is something that I found the most difficult to adjust to when I visited the United States, or even when I lived there for a while, because in New Zealand, we don’t tip. We don’t tip to the extent that we have these big signs at the airport telling tourists don’t do it. “Don’t tip. We don’t encourage it here.”
When Uber introduced tipping in their app, they got a really hard time from people who said, “This tipping thing, it’s a foreign custom, we do not want it here.” We don’t have a tipping culture. But I knew that the US did, and I know that a lot of people don’t get very much at all in their pay packet and they live off the tips so I was very clear that when I ate at restaurants and that sort of thing, I should leave a tip.
But then somebody told me you should not tip for an accommodation. That’s what they told me, I think even before I visited the US for the first time. For quite a long time, I did not tip any meet and assist people, because an American told me not to, that you shouldn’t tip for an accommodation.
Then I happened to mention this somewhere to someone, and they were horrified and said, “No, you have to tip.” Then I started handing out notes and some people would take them and some people would say, “Oh, no, no, it’s fine.” I wonder whether people have a view on that. Do you tip your meet and assist person?
Kathy Blackburn says, “Another place where we are “offered” wheelchairs, whether we need them or not, is medical facilities. Some years ago, I went to the hospital to be with my sister while my brother-in-law was having surgery. The volunteer at the reception desk refused to let me take his elbow to get where I needed to go, he wanted to take me there in a wheelchair.
“Fortunately, a supervisor, or at least someone with sense came along and assisted me to the place where I needed to meet my sister. Last month, when I accompanied Audley to the hospital for a procedure, the aide accompanying me wanted me to use the wheelchair. I said, “I’m perfectly capable of walking.” She just laughed. English may not be her first language, I needed to get to my destination so I just rode in the chair, our situation was already stressful enough.”
Thank you, Kathy. Those situations are stressful. We hear these comments come up on the show quite a bit where people make passing references to the medical profession and how much training, how much disability confidence needs to happen in that sphere.
Kylee Maloney writes, “Hi Jonathan, after reading your wonderfully eloquent statement on blind pride and taking in some of the listener contributions, I have begun to muse on our responsibility towards our fellow blind person, what it does and does not include. It’s not aimed at any individual, but it is a plea to all.
When I was much younger, part of my drive to appear acceptable, at least on the surface was the responsibility both stated and unstated that I felt towards my fellow blind person to enhance public attitude by trying to be as successful as possible. This even extended to carrying a briefcase to work, most impractical with a guide dog, because it completely took up my spare hand.
When I encountered or even heard of blind people I felt were less capable, I was embarrassed, sometimes even angry for what I perceived was their letting the side down. I still encounter it in others when they mock people for being perhaps less skilled in tasks such as ONM, or computing. Perhaps there’s a bit of that in the shame I’ve been perceiving in people’s horror about being forced into a wheelchair
My horror on their behalf isn’t about the wheelchair, but about being forced in public to do something against their will. That kind of treatment is never acceptable. What saddens rather than horrifies though, is the shame people seem to feel about being associated with a wheelchair and what it might symbolize, not only for them, but for all blind people.
As far as I know, there is no shame in using a wheelchair, at least not for anyone I know, though I do know that some who can still stand or walk are sometimes shamed by able-bodied people when they find they have need of their wheelchairs, just like people who are legally blind, those who use wheelchairs have a whole range of mobility.
For a blind person, a wheelchair can sometimes be impractical, such as the time when upon leaving the hospital after visiting my mother, I was offered a wheelchair and my mother quipped, “Is that for the dog?” By the same token, it can have its uses, such as the time I had trouble finding my Uber in Auckland airport and neither I, nor my assistant could get where we needed to go quickly enough. She suggested the chair and I accepted, simply so I could make an appointment on time.
Then there was the time I became seriously ill while on holiday in Europe and had to travel the airports in a wheelchair because I simply didn’t have the breath to walk those vast spaces. Getting through customs was far quicker and easier. My sister was far less stressed and I could try to sleep, my only relief from the discomfort of not being able to breathe well.
At no time in either case was I thinking that I was an embarrassment to my fellow blind person. There was a need to be met and I didn’t have to justify it to anyone. I may not be as skilled in all the blindness areas, like O&M. Like others in my family, I am directionally challenged. I may not be able to live independently or hold down full-time work, even though intellectually or financially I would really like to. I may need a bit more support in some areas and I may even choose to take the proffered wheelchair in an airport when I see the need, but I refuse to be ashamed of any of it because I am me and you are you.
The fact that we are all blind is only one of many facets of who we are as individuals. Don’t expect me to be like you just because we happen to share an impairment. My genes, culture, environment, responses and choices will be different from yours because we are all unique. However, do expect me to keep learning and growing as I can to do my best to help and advocate for my fellow blind person when I can and never be ashamed of being me, even though I may not be what you expected or hoped for. After all, I’m not responsible for your behavior, only my own.
Finally, expect me to always stand up for our rights as a collective for while we are all individuals, we share common experiences of discrimination and misunderstanding, which we must do our best to combat, not by placing unrealistic expectations on one another, but by helping, supporting and advocating when we can. After all, we are all in this together.
Thank you, Kylee, for that eloquent email. I suspect there will be a lot of people cheering and I am cheering along with them. It does sadden me that people like to judge other blind people, say, for their aptitude or lack thereof with computers or whatever it may be. That’s why when Dawn raised this issue of the wheelchairs at the airport last week, I made the point that the single most important question a blind person can be asked in an environment like an airport is, how can I help, so that there’s no assumption about what a blind person needs.
For me, the danger exists in the assumption that every blind person needs a wheelchair because everyone knows that a blind person can’t climb stairs or whatever it may be. That’s what I get upset about. I have no objection at all. It isn’t actually my right to object to somebody who feels that they need that accommodation or wish to take that accommodation, but what I do strongly object to and will stand up against is the idea that all blind people must be treated the same way and be given an accommodation they may not require, because certainly in the United States, under the ADA, that is against the law.
The NFB at the eleventh hour when the ADA was being drafted back in 1990 stood up for this right, that you do have the right to refuse an accommodation if you feel you don’t require that accommodation. I think this is a very important point. I will never take a wheelchair unless, like you, I’m ill or have some other physical impairment at the time that prevents me from walking. I will personally not do it. If other people want to take the accommodation, that’s the choice that they can make.
I think one of the things that you highlight that is quite tiresome sometimes is that people expect every blind person to be an ambassador for every other blind person. It’s a wholly unreasonable expectation. For example, somebody says, “I won’t help another blind person because I asked someone in the street if they needed any assistance to cross the road and they were so rude to me, so I’ll never help another blind person ever again.”
If you transplant that to anything else, like, “I asked a woman if she’d like me to help and she was rude to me, so I’ll never help another woman” or racial minority, people would say, don’t be so sexist, racist, whatever. People are individuals. Yet somehow there is a pressure on blind people to be the representative of all blind people at any given time, and it’s arduous and it’s not reasonable. If people have a need for the chair or they want the chair and they request it or they accept it when they’re offered it, then fair enough, but I think what I hear people objecting to is, as you say, the pressure to do something against your will.
The subject of this email is “Wheelchair? No, thank you,” and it’s from Lina. She says, “Hi, Jonathan. I have been refusing wheelchairs at airports for many years. I find it interesting that the same airport personnel who complain about the shortage of wheelchairs because too many able-bodied people abuse the privilege, because that is easier than following directions, are the same people who want to force able-bodied blind people to use the service.
Here are some of the things I do. First, I sweetly say, “No, thank you. I’m sure somebody else needs it.” If that fails, I ask them something like, “Do you want me to think you are the best escort I ever had?” They usually do, so we start walking. If that fails, I ask if they think good health is important, who does not? I explain how walking benefits me. I remain very soft-spoken and calm, but the longer I have to carry on the “no, thank you” conversation, the more ridiculous my suggestions get.
Next comes, “Are you tired? I could give you a ride in this wheelchair. I know you walked with it a long way and I must be heavy. Besides, I’m not going to have time to go to the gym when I get where I’m going, so it would really be a great help if you would let me push you through this airport. You just tell me when to go slower and when to turn left and right.” I only had one person take me up on that and it was so much fun. I wish we’d have had video. If I continue to get nowhere, I grasp the wheelchair and start walking with it. Sometimes the other person has put their hand on mine and we walk together and sometimes the person says, “Let me leave it here and we’ll walk.”
If all of that fails, I walk over to a desk and file a formal complaint. I have several reasons for refusing wheelchairs. They are disorienting to me. I benefit from walking. Flying is stressful and any exercise I can get is beneficial, but the most important reason I refuse is that I will not support prejudice or discrimination. Blind people are like sighted people. Some need wheelchairs, some do not. It is a small protest, but it is mine and I feel good for not having ridden in a wheelchair in any airport. I appreciate your editorial very much and I have shared it with a number of other people. All of them sighted. The reactions have been interesting.”
Thanks, Lina, and yes, like you, I am very proud never to have ridden in a wheelchair in an airport. I won’t do it because I don’t need to do it. Just like a sighted person, as you say, who is able-bodied doesn’t need a wheelchair either.
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Guest: Hey, Jonathan. Mark in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, saying hello. Wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your podcasts every week. It’s very informative. The chapter skipping for me comes in very handy. That way I can go to the topics of interest as I choose and listen to those. I wanted to comment on Clubhouse. I’ve been in since February 16th and I have noticed a change. Subtle, but it’s there, and the quality of content is going down somewhat.
Not to the extent of Vorail or Gabble , but it’s getting harder and harder to find rooms of interest. When you do, they’re magic. You make connections sometimes, sometimes it’s just an extreme topic of interest that catches your fancy. Those are always good, and out of that come other potentially good opportunities when Clubhouse, perhaps, so it’s still there. The worth is still there, but it’s just getting harder and harder to find amongst all the garbage that’s on there. That’s unfortunate.
With the opening up of the Android group, I don’t know what direction Clubhouse will take and none of us know. I do like the new enhanced feature. They finally got it right to be able to double tap with two fingers and find out who the active speaker is in the room. That’s been long time coming. Mind you, they broke other features in the hallway in doing that, I don’t know if one had to do anything to do with the other but that was unfortunate but that happens a lot with apps when some things are fixed other things get broken. Hopefully, they’ll get it right in time and balance it out.
Jonathan: For those who aren’t aware, you can now perform the magic tap, the two-finger double tap and hear the name of the person who is speaking but I have found that this doesn’t always work for me. Sometimes it actually starts and stops my music which is really interesting because it’s playing Clubhouse and music at the same time which I guess can be nice sometimes but it’s not what they intend. Interestingly, even since Mark sent that message in, Clubhouse has come out with another update. This does fix the voiceover issues in the hallway so wonderful to see them acting so promptly. It wasn’t even broken for a week. There’re certain other companies that could learn from that behavior, a, Apple.
Clubhouse has introduced this cool new feature that allows you to RSVP to an event. For example, if you choose to listen to the show live on Clubhouse, you can now RSVP to the event when it’s created in the Mushroom FM Club so do follow that Mushroom FM Club and you’ll find that usually a couple of days before the show is due to go live, I will create the event and give a bit of a teaser about what you can expect on the show this week. You can now RSVP to that event.
That does a couple of things. First, it is increasing the likelihood that your followers will see the event and I certainly appreciate that but most important, it sends you a notification when I start the event. It makes the bulletin function of Clubhouse much more interesting and useful.
Jana Schroeder is in touch and says, “My project Blind Coders Blazing Trails is a semi finalist in this year’s Holman prize competition. My goal is to create a centralized online repository of information useful to blind computer coding professionals and students. I have created a survey to help me gauge the interests and needs of blind and sighted people who might benefit from and/or contribute to this project. People who don’t have or want computer programing experience can still contribute to the project if you have business, education, social media or fundraising skills.
Responses received by May 13th will be incorporated into my Holman prize proposal but the survey will remain open after that date to continue to expand the network. To complete the survey go to tinyurl.com/blindcoderssurvey.” Blind Coders survey is all one word. That url again tinyurl.com/blindcoderssurvey.
Reporting on my adventures with the Sonos Roam I have been a bit more adventurous with it this week and I took it in the shower because I Googled on this. I am one of those fundamentally chicken people who never wears their Apple watch in the shower but I did read that the Sonos Roam, as long as you don’t splash water directly on it continuously for a long time, does make a good shower speaker.
I was interested in this because when I take my hearing aids out it’s hard for me to hear the usual small shower speakers. What I found was that when I took the Sonos Roam in the shower, it’s still hard for me to hear speech with no hearing aids in but it is possible for me to crank it up and enjoy music which is really quite nice.
I’ve been rocking the Sonos Roam in the shower and I have an email on this subject from Victor Tsaran, not specifically about the shower but the Sonos Roam and he says, “Hey, Jonathan, thanks for a wonderful demo with the Sonos Roam speaker. It was on my to-do list to research its features in more depth. You saved me a lot of time so thanks.
One thing I always wonder whenever I hear of a new Bluetooth speaker or headphones is the latency when a screen reader is in use. AirPods have the best latency based on my observation. My questions, one, what Bluetooth protocol does the Sonos Roam use? I guess I can look this up so you can omit this :).” I believe it’s Bluetooth 5.0 is the answer there. “Two, would you be able/willing to demo just how responsive Roam is when using a screen reader via Bluetooth? Thanks as always for your wonderful show.”
I would be happy to do this, Victor, and I was all set to do it. Your email was the first reason that I have had to pair my iPhone with the Sonos Roam because I’ve been using it at home as a portable Sonos speaker and it’s working very well in that regard. What I have found is a bit of a shocker and I need to be in touch with Sonos about this. What I found is that when you pair the Sonos Roam with the iPhone, at least for me, VoiceOver is not coming over the Sonos Roam at all. When you do the pairing, what you get is silence. It’s interesting because the VoiceOver sounds play over the speaker but VoiceOver does not.
If you have a braille display connected, you can use the rotor to go to audio destination and set VoiceOver to default audio route. In that case, you will get music coming over the Sonos Roam and VoiceOver coming over the built-in speaker of your iPhone but if you don’t have a braille display, you can’t do that. This is a pretty significant issue and a show stopper and I wonder if anyone else is experiencing this.
I should add that I have tried unpairing and repairing, turning VoiceOver off and back on again. None of this is making a difference. This is with the iOS 14.6 beta which I have on my iPhone but I’d be surprised if that is making a difference. I’ll contact Sonos and see what they say. I’ll also experiment with other voices just in case that’s playing a part but I would be surprised if that’s going to make any difference.
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Jonathan: Got a QBraille from hims? Dan Teveld has and he has some comments. He says, “I’ve had my QBraille for about a week and can’t resist making some initial observations. I like the device, but I do have some concerns. My biggest complaint is the issue where I press the pairing plus the mode keys simultaneously when the display is in hybrid mode and I want to change the grade of braille with an upper case B which will be translated by the display.
The message indicating the currently selected type of braille disappears rapidly from the display. I adjusted the message display time but that didn’t resolve the issue. You would think HIMS would have tested this issue more thoroughly to make sure all messages are consistently displayed. If there’s a better way to determine the active grade of braille, I don’t know about it.
I ran into an issue where cursor routing wasn’t working well when editing email or Microsoft Word documents. The latest JAWS update seems to have fixed this problem. I don’t think it is a result of something HIMS did. I have seem this issue when using my Focus Display. It may be something caused by the operating system or JAWS in general. I haven’t done a thorough test of NVDA so I don’t know if this is a problem there.
For the most part, all keys work consistently. I have experienced the issue where pressing ALT+TAB only cycles between two applications. I would think that since my QBraille is new, I wouldn’t experience this issue. I think there are workarounds but shouldn’t have to use them. I also find back translation from the device can seem a bit sluggish but this is to be expected.
The user is asking more from the display than what would typically happen. I haven’t tried hybrid mode in iOS yet so I would be interested in seeing how well that works. I sometimes experience dot six not being entered when I have turned on Grade 2 Braille. I was able to fix this issue by cycling between grades of braille. I wouldn’t say I regret this device instead of the Mantis. Every display will have its strengths and weaknesses. The fact that I was able to write most of this email in Grade 2 Braille is a plus. I still have to use a QWERTY keyboard when I get stuck. I would love to test out the Mantis, but I don’t have enough money for two displays. I would really love to test the NBDA addon braille extender, which allows a user to switch between multiple braille displays, but I don’t think my focus would work well enough to give me any benefit. Right now, my focus is gathering dust and I don’t miss using it. For one thing, I really like the keyboards HIMS uses better than the focus.
Some people like Jonathan Mosen object to the location of the space bar on the QBraille, but it’s a matter of personal preference. I’m still getting used to developing muscle memory so I can operate a computer or phone strictly from the display, but this is taking time. This is to be expected when learning a new product. The experience could be improved if HIMS had a better user manual, it would be really nice to have documentation about how to use the display with a screen reader and not just setting it up. I suspect there are commands and functions I don’t know about because they’re not adequately documented in the manual.”
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Dan, while we’re on the subject of HIMS devices, here’s Rick Roderick who writes, “Hi, Jonathan. I am a former president of the Kentucky Association of the deaf blind. I am hard of hearing. I use speech, but I am glad to have the option of the transcripts. Here is a question that has been bothering me for a long time. I have a HIMS U2, and I have really enjoyed it since I got it in 2015. However, many of its functions are becoming obsolete. This is particularly true of the web browser and the unit no longer works with bard.
I am debating whether to go with a full fledged note taker or something like the brailliant X 40. I like the idea of the full features of the note taker, and I’m willing to pay the price for them. However, the operating systems become obsolete after a few years. I know that most of them run on Android. HIMS is running a later version and I would probably choose that device for that reason if that is the way I go. My question is this, why don’t these devices have the ability to upgrade their operating systems, Windows and iOS seem to have no problem doing this.” Thanks, Rick. It has been a real problem with Android devices.
People complain about this in Android land a lot where they get a relatively new device and within two to three years, updates aren’t coming out anymore and this is something that Apple does really well. Sometimes people get a bit obsessed with the purchase price of an iPhone. Actually, I think it is a myth that I phones are expensive. It may be that the latest and greatest flagship iPhone is expensive, but you could also make that claim about some of the flagship Android devices like the Samsung Galaxy range. You can also go into a store and buy iPhones at a range of price points if you don’t want the latest and greatest.
I would argue that when you purchase an iOS device, if you’re purchasing it relatively new, you are going to have that device potentially last you much longer because of how long Apple supports them with the latest software updates. It may be false economy to buy an Android device in the long-term and the accessibility experience is still superior on iOS. What’s not to like? There are initiatives like project treble, which are trying to address this and Google is making some inroads into this, but it is a real problem.
Now, this is amplified hugely by the cost of these proprietary note takers because they have to spread the manufacturing cost over a smaller number of units and the fact that browser display technology is still really expensive. These devices are not cheap, and that is why I would tend to go for a product that does the basics if you do need note taking functions. Handover the heavy lifting to your laptop or your smartphone, that way you can upgrade that laptop and smartphone for much less than it would cost you to upgrade the entire note taker.
For me, the Mantis is absolutely the sweet spot. I am enjoying using a QWERTY keyboard for my input so much on a braille device that I don’t think I would ever go back to braille input again. I would really feel like I had taken a retrograde step if I did that now. It’s just so good to type on, particularly given the idiosyncrasies of the braille input in iOS. The Mantis does have some pretty good basic note taker functions and I do use them from time to time.
I find I can just get the Mantis out at a meeting, take some notes, and because it can work as a braille display and a storage device at the same time, it’s no problem to copy those back into something like Dropbox, where all my devices can access the material later. It’s good. If you’d like that sort of thing, but prefer braille input, then APH has the Chameleon and Humanware as you rightly say, has the new brailliant range, which is based on similar software.
I wouldn’t blame the assistive technology companies for the problems upgrading Android devices. It is a systemic issue. It still plagues Android, but it isn’t as bad as it was. I think it is a reasonable question to ask any of the manufacturers who are doing these blindness note-takers what steps are in place to ensure that throughout the lifetime of the product, there will be Android upgrades because it is increasingly becoming possible, and given the cost, the manufacturers need to do all that they can to ensure that these devices stay current for as long as possible.
Of course, technology moves on. Six years is not a bad run, but you would want it to last at least that when you’re paying what you’re paying for a full fledged note taker.
Gordon: Hi there, Gordon Luke here. I’ve left my studio for once and moved into my comfy living room because today I thought I would tell you a wee bit about a new service being offered by Sky here in the UK. It’s a system whereby it’s going to allow us to access our TV’s almost in equal footage with our sighted colleagues. This, you may say has been long overdue and I would agree but I think we need to congratulate Sky on getting there. There’s no point in going over old ground and resource, take advantage of what’s here now and see what it’s got to offer.
There are many ways we have now of accessing our TV through Apple TV or Amazon Alexa sticks or any of those good things all giving good voice guidance. This is the first time I think that one of our major satellite players has launched itself into the market with a reasonably accessible media for getting ourselves access to a TV. It’s not perfect but it’s an awful lot better than it was.
I thought today I would show you what we’ve had, what you could do, and know what’s possible and let you see the functionality that is available. I’ve got my Sky remote control and I’m going to switch on my telly and see what’s on. I’ve pressed my On button, hopefully, we’ll get some noise in a minute. [background TV] I believe this is BBC One because that’s where I left it so I’m hoping that’s what BBC one is. As you can tell I’ve absolutely no idea what program is on. I’ve pressed the up button. I think that’s BBC Two. STV. Channel 4. You get the idea, it works. There’s an alternative way of changing channel if you’ve got Sky Q. This is Sky Plus. You can hold down up button on the remote control and talk to it. BBC Scotland. Let’s try a bit of Gaelic. BBC Alba.
That’s our traditional Gaelic channel here. [unintelligible 00:02:27] Sky One. [background TV] ITV 4. [beep] [background TV] That little beep means the program’s got audio description, which is quite handy. I can play you some of the programs I’ve recorded. If I try something like, “Play Master and Commander,” I think this has got a parental rating so I’m going to have to type in my unlocking code. It didn’t tell me that though. [background TV] That sounds like a booty programme doesn’t it? You can hear the audio description kicking in. I can jump forward and backward and tailor this programme by saying things like forward 5 minutes. Rewind 30 seconds. [background TV]
There we go, that works pretty well. It’s quite an easy way of jumping back and forth during the programme. Let’s cut right off for a moment. Let’s switch off the SkyBox actually just say, “Stop.” There we go and switch off the box. That basically gets you a very basic access to your programs and hopefully enough to get you just about surviving, though not ideal. However, if you’ve got an iPhone, you can do some clever things with your Sky Box, as I open up my phone here.
VoiceOver: Sterling. 10 degrees celsius. Messages.
Gordon: Open Sky Go.
VoiceOver: Sky Go. Sky Go setting, buttons.
Gordon: Let’s go to the top of the application.
VoiceOver: Settings, button.
Gordon: There’s a button at the top corner. That button’s always there.
VoiceOver: Home heading image search button.
Gordon: This is the home search.
VoiceOver: Speech and programs– [crosstalk]
Gordon: This home button has some feature programme we can look at.
VoiceOver: Today’s topics. Item one of 12. Intergalactic. Sky One. Item two of 12. Bridesmaids’ Secrets and Lies. More [unintelligible 00:04:41] button. Item three of 12. A Black Lady Sketch Show. Sky Comedy. Item four of 12. The Secret Lives of Slim People. Channel four, button. [crosstalk]
Gordon: Now if you go down to the bottom of this application. I have four fingers. There’s four tabs at the bottom. That’s the home, there’s a TV Guide, Browse, you can browse the various channels and video genres and downloads which is your downloads if you’ve got a particular type of Sky Q subscription. Let’s go to the TV Guide though.
VoiceOver: Sky Go.
Gordon: Let’s go back up to the top to that settings button.
VoiceOver: Settings. Button. TV Guide heading search button.
Gordon: We got the TV Guide. Go back to that search button again. Let’s see what we’ve got. There’s a couple of tabs here at the top, you can either choose to watch the programme on your iPhone, or you can-
VoiceOver: Record to Sky Box tab two of two.
Gordon: You can record to your skybox as the man just said. The voltage set to watch on your phone once– Let me look at that.
VoiceOver: Selected. All channel 103 STV button.
Gordon: Let’s see what’s on STV at the moment.
VoiceOver: Play new Tipping Point.
Gordon: That’s Tipping Point so I can play that immediately.
VoiceOver: Setting button.
Gordon: Or I can choose to record. Let’s go back to that tab.
VoiceOver: Selected all channels 103. Record to Sky Box tab two of two. Selected record to Sky Box tab two of two.
Gordon: That’s all the channels because you can’t actually play the BBC One and two and the BBC channels on your thing you have to use BBC Iplayer. That’s a UK joke so we’ll come on to that. That’s another point. Now it allows me to record to my Sky Box so BBC one should be available.
VoiceOver: Record 101. BBC One Start. Button.
Gordon: Let me see what’s on BBC One Sport. I’ve tapped that.
VoiceOver: [crosstalk] Selected today. Button, record Money For Nothing. Money for nothing. Record The Repair Shop. Button. The Repair Shop. 4:30 PM. Button.
Gordon: I’ve seen that programme. I’ve heard people tell me it’s very good.
VoiceOver: Close programme. Record The Repair Shop. Series for M19
Gordon: Let’s see what it says it’s about.
VoiceOver: Today, 4:30 PM 45 minutes. The team restore a quirky train set made by a celebrated cartoonist, a nautical ditty box, and a doll that’s a precious memento of a much-loved father. Also in HD.
Gordon: Let’s first quite not record that. Lets go back.
VoiceOver: Today, series for The Repair Shop. Record The Repair Shop. Series for M19 BBC One. Stop close button. Record once on Sky Box.
Gordon: I’ll try and record that, one episode. That’s it, done.
VoiceOver: Closed programme details. BBC One start.
Gordon: That basically runs up what you can do in your phone, which is reasonable. I,t means you can then watch the programme later on your Sky Box. Okay, so let me put my phone off. Let me tell you about the new thing that has come to Sky recently. Hey, let’s switch the box back on again. [background TV] First try turning on this new feature. Enable voice guidance. Now switch ourselves to BBC One. BBC One Scotland.
Voice commander: BBC One Scot HD 101. Money For Nothing.
Gordon: Then there was one. Lets change channels we’ve got one.
Voice commander: BBC Two HD 102. Snooker World Championship.
Gordon: Now to STV.
Voice commander: STV HD. 103 New Tipping Point. New The Chase. STV News at 6. ITV Evening News. Emmerdale. Coronation Street. The People’s History Show starts at 8 PM. Duration 30 minutes. Video format HD. Subtitles. The People’s History Show travels around the country to give you amazing stories from Scotland’s past. S3P14.
Gordon: Let’s put a channel where I’ve got nothing so we can have a wee look at the menus and option here. I’ll try [unintelligible 00:09:33] Sky Sports One. [crosstalk] Let me go into the main menu, press the menu button.
Voice commander: Main menu. Home. One of 14.
Gordon: I’ve got 14 choices of menu here.
Voice commander: TV Guide, recordings, catch up TV, on-demand, Sky Cinema, Sky store, sports, kids, music, apps, settings, help, my account.
Gordon: These are bottom, so we go back up to home which is way way up.
Voice commander: TV Guide, home, one of 14.
Gordon: A bit of a wait on it.
Voice commander: Today’s top picks. The Intergalactic. Sky original drama set in outer space following a fearless young pilot who finds her life changed forever when she’s accused of a treasonous crime plus behind-the-scenes extras. 229.
Gordon: That’s when we saw on the Sky Go app on my phone.
Voice commander: Promising Young Woman. A woman decides to– Bridesmaids’ Secrets and Lies. Australian drama.
Gordon: That’s the same thing so let’s go back to the home. Thanks for doing that.
Voice commander: Intergalactic, Sky TV BAFTA nominees 2021. Today’s topic. Main menu, home. One of 14 TV guide.
Gordon: That’s TV guide so once I get to.
Voice commander: 014. TV Guide full channels. BBC One Scot HD, Money for Nothing. Started at 3:45 PM duration– BBC Two HD STV.
Gordon: When I got this ITV full which is a bit down [unintelligible 00:11:33]
Voice commander: BBC Scotland HD– ITV3 100– ITV4, 120 The Professionals.
Gordon: A James Bond film, I’m afraid.
Voice commander: Started at 3:50 minder. Monster Carp, Monster Carp, Moonraker.
Gordon: There we go.
Voice commander: Starts at 8 PM duration, one hour. Subtitles, audio description, action starring Roger Moore and Louis Chilies 1979. James Bond blasts off to investigate when a spaceship is hijacked and comes face-to-face with metal tooth jaws.
Gordon: Press enter on that one.
Voice commander: Moonraker record series, one of three. ITV4 120.
Gordon: That’s it recorded I think. Hopefully, I showed you some of the functions that are available. You can do most things but there are one or two things that you cannot use. For example, you cannot control any of the additional ones like Netflix. If you got Netflix subscription tied into your Skybox, Netflix isn’t working yet but it’s early days but it’s an awful lot better than it was. It means you now know what you’ve got in your box. For example, if I go back to that main menu and go back to the recordings when I press that home button again.
Voice commander: Main menu. Home TV Guide, Recordings.
Gordon: Let’s have a look in there see what we’ve got.
Voice commander: Three or four recordings. Most recent. One of seven. Most recent. Money for Nothing, Master and Commander.
Gordon: There’s the Master and Commander.
Voice commander: Duration two hours and 48 minutes. Age rating 12. Subtitles, audio descriptions. The Far Side of the World 2003.
Gordon: Press select it should create.
Voice commander: -Napoleonic maritime epic. Master and Commander continue. Please enter your PIN, one of four.
Gordon: You see this time it tells me to enter a pin for this before I had to know that was what had come up on the screen.
Voice commander: 304, 404.
Gordon: There you go. I have to say it’s a much better experience than what we had before.
Gordon: Stop. Okay, as I said to you, it’s not perfect but it is a big step forward, I think Sky should be congratulated on that. I hope this quick tour has given you some indication of what you can now do with your Sky Q box. It’s only Sky Q it’s not the Sky Plus boxes which have this functionality but I have to say it’s quite difficult not to get a Sky Q subscription these days they are very much pushing it as part of their deals and the prices are pretty much the same.
One downside which some of you maybe find quite annoying. It’s a tad annoying is when you switch on that voice commander the Dolby 5.1 surround sound disappears. You’re down back to stereo channels but at least you know where you are and you can always switch the voice command off just by holding down that talking button and saying turn off of voice commander and that does the trick. Okay, hopefully, that tells you a bit more about what it’s all about. Any questions, please give me a shout, thank you.
Marissa writes in and says, “Hi, Jonathan, I wanted to pick your brain about something.” Ah, well, there’s not much of it left, but you’re welcomed to what there is left, Marissa. She says, “I am an iPhone user by choice. I use VoiceOver pretty much all the time. I also use Windows computers with JAWS. My questions are as follows, one, how does JAWS compare with voiceover on a Mac book?”
I’ll answer these as they go, I think. They are very different in the sense that the paradigms are quite different. Mac works on a concept of interacting with items on the screen. Usually, you would use Windows navigation or special modes like a virtual mode to navigate with JAWS. You can use the JAWS cursor or the touch cursor to navigate around the screen, but not many people do and those who do don’t do it very often. With voiceover, you’re exploring the screen with a series of commands. It’s like being in JAWS cursor mode a lot and you’re getting what I would call a helicopter view of the screen on the Mac.
When you want to interrogate or dig deeper into a particular control, you interact with it and then that controlled expands, and you can engage with that particular content. It’s a very different way of working. In more recent versions of voiceover on the Mac, you can turn interaction off and just expand the entire screen. That does make the screen much busier, but some people prefer it because you can search for what you’re looking for on the screen and use it more like you would use an iPhone, which I think will be why they have given you the option to drop the whole interaction model.
Question two from Marissa. “Do you feel that they are both equal in terms of their primary functions as screen readers?” No, I don’t. That’s one of the reasons why I dropped the Mac in 2016, because for tasks that I was using at the time, a lot of word processing, the web using braille support and really getting stuff done with braille, JAWS wins hands down. I talk about this in my article called, Saying Goodbye to the Mac. Much of that is still relevant and you can find it at mosen.org/saying goodbye to the Mac, so I won’t revisit a lot of those issues here.
I know for example, a number of professional blind writers who love using the Mac overall, but when they need to get really professional stuff done and properly check what they’ve written and making sure that the formatting is right and that kind of thing, they either run Windows and JAWS in a virtual machine or Bootcamp the Mac. That said, this really comes down to what you use your computer for and what your expectations are in terms of your abilities to really engage with materials.
For me, really good quality word processing is important and the experience that you get with JAWS and these days, even with Narrator, actually, although perhaps with less robust braille support is really good, much better in my view for word processing than Mac is. It depends on what you’re after. If you’re just doing some basic note-taking, that might not matter as much.
If you’re an audio professional, it gets a lot closer because there’re some wonderful things happening in audio on the Mac, there always has been, their audio subsystems are better behaved. You can do things like aggregate devices just built-in. You’ve got tools like audio Hijack Pro and loopback from Rogue Amoeba. You got Reaper working and various other tools so it gets closer there. I think for word processing and spreadsheet management and of course, PDF support, there’s a chasm between where the Mac is, and where JAWS and Windows are.
“Three, do you see any drawbacks in either screen reader?” Well, the drawback of VoiceOver is in my view, it’s not as functional. A big one that I haven’t talked about yet is scripting. Now you can do a bit of Apple scripting. That is true with VoiceOver. I have yet to see and I’m not saying it hasn’t been done, but I’ve personally yet to see somebody customizing VoiceOver in a work environment to the degree that you can with JAWS. This is really important because we know that unemployment is such a problem in our community. We cannot be let down by choosing a tool that’s not up to the task.
This is one of the things that I think people do need to consider when they’re thinking about what technology should I choose. Is my end game that I am going to be looking for employment? If so, you should be not only choosing Windows in my view, but you should be choosing JAWS and I say this for two reasons.
First, the majority of the world’s computers, the vast majority run Windows. Although we are in an increasing era of bring your own device, it’s highly likely that you’re going to be going into an environment where Windows is the dominant operating system unless you’re in a niche industry like design or audio production. It’s going to vary depending on what your industry is that you want to be in.
The second thing is if you’re looking for a job say in a call center, a good JAWS scripter can come along, and hopefully, if the application is exposing what’s required, a JAWS scripter can set up an environment for you where you can press hotkeys to get specific information either on a braille display or spoken to you, like maybe the name of the caller. Whether you can tell from caller ID that there’re an existing customer, perhaps reading a notes field in the record of the customer relationship management system that you’re using.
All of these things matter and all of these things are very doable in JAWS. To the best of my knowledge, I have not seen that degree of customization done in a Mac environment even though you can do a bit of Apple scripting. If you have those ambitions to seek work, you are far better investing your money and your time in becoming proficient with JAWS, which is going to increase your likelihood of being proficient on the job so that when that opportunity comes, you’re not scrambling struggling to learn a completely new assistive technology because you chose an assistive technology that was never going to cut it in your workplace.
The drawback of JAWS is of course that it’s not free. Let’s also not forget that with the M1 Max, it is a pretty nice experience. They wake up from sleep so incredibly quickly and they’re reliable, you also have the ability to run an increasing number of iOS apps on the M1 Max, I think it really depends on what you’re after. Also, I think it does depend a bit on what you’re used to.
If you’ve never seen the efficiency of JAWS, if you’ve never really got into the weeds and become really proficient with Microsoft Word and all those quick commands to interrogate information about fonts. If you’ve never used text analyzer to find inconsistencies in your document so that you know that you’ve accidentally forgotten to turn bolding or italicizing off or something and you don’t submit something that looks embarrassingly hideous. Those things matter when you’re presenting documents on a professional level, but if you’ve never had that or that’s not important to you, then it may not matter, you see. It really is, I think important.
I get a bit frustrated with people who say that one solution is the best for everybody, it absolutely isn’t. Although, it is challenging for assistive technology professionals and trainers because there’s so much choice and it’s difficult to keep up, it can be a full-time job in itself, keeping up, I do think that an obligation exists to sit down with someone, really understand what their particular needs are and decide in any given situation what solution suits them specifically.
I would never say, don’t buy a Mac, not at all because it’s a very viable solution, people are using it, people are getting things done with it every day. It really depends on what’s important to you and how you prefer to work. On another note, she says, “Have you ever used Android? I know that Android differs a lot from VoiceOver. I also know that Android has come a long way from what I have heard inaccessibility.”
I have owned various Android devices but I don’t own one at the moment and I probably will dabble an Android. I’ve got a very big project on at the moment which is coming to Mosen At Large very shortly. That is a series that will go really deep into Chrome OS which I think is this hidden treasure in accessibility. Not many people in the blind community are talking about Chrome OS and I’m not really sure why. These days, it’s quite impressive but it suffers from the same thing that Android is still suffering from and that is Google just does not get Braille.
I think for speech users particularly with Android 11, it’s getting really close now. You can argue about little user interface, niches and preferences, I also think the actions rotor is a really cool paradigm. There are a number of things like that, but if you’re on a budget, there are so many good Android devices at attractive price points and if you’re a speech-only user, Android is looking pretty good right now finally and it has taken Google a long time to get there. I think with Android 11, they really have something viable there for speech-only users.
Braille though, still a long way to go and I would also say that it’s the same of Chrome OS. You might have opened up a bit of discussion there, Marissa. As always, we welcome everyone else’s thoughts, VoiceOver versus JAWS. If you’ve used both, what do you perceive to be the pros and cons of either of those? Drop me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org with an audio attachment or write it down. The listener line number in the United States is 864-60, Mosen 864-606-6736. I would be very interested in people’s views on this comparison.
Theme Song: Jonathan Mosen, Mosen At Large podcast.
David: Hi Jonathan, I hope things are going well for you. I just listened to your Mosen At Large, Meditation session, I have been using calm, but I have lost track of it, but I will get to it, I promise. I found Zero again after I went to my doctor and he said I have to lose weight and I went and got a body scan done, a special machine that tells me ranges and stuff. Then got the fasting using Zero. My question is I have the free trial at the moment and I’ve sent this to zero, an email to Zero, asking them about. This goes for all developers on iOS and Android.
The question I want to put to you and the community is, should developers have an option for users to purchase out-app if necessary? On Spotify and Netflix only have out app purchases so you can only go to the website and purchase. If they are allowed to have out-app option, so if people could have a choice to purchase an app or out-app. Once someone signs up for an account for that service, should that person say, right, you’re a new customer? Welcome back, da, da, da, we’re going to give you a special offer of 10%, 20%, maybe 30% discount da, da, da but you have to purchase it out-app. You can’t do it in-app.
I’ve seen some in-app purchases were convenient. It’s good that developers are putting discounts into in-app purchases. They don’t really make sense because Apple will take their 30% cut anyway. If someone offers a 30% discount in their trial, then for me, I don’t think it’s a discount at all because Apple takes their 30% that they’re taking off which doesn’t really make sense. Here in New Zealand, the GST laws have been updated to require that all Apple developers must adhere to GST. Same goes in the UK with VAT.
Practically developers are losing up to 50, 60% on taxes alone. That’s why some devs put their prices up 50 to 60% to cover those costs. I’ve seen a couple of big developers of apps get in trouble because they refused to put an in-app function into the app because they wanted people to purchase out-app. I think people should have a choice whether they want to purchase in or out. If it’s their decision they want to purchase in-app, do it just to get started but if we find you’re a veteran user and perhaps you want to save money, purchasing out-app is the way to go because you will save 30% on that Apple and Google cut that they take.
They’re going to be mad with me, but I’m going to say it anyway. I was often wondering how much developers are losing because of the in-app purchases function. Apps like IFTTT and Uber let you put your debit or credit card information directly into the app. Why can’t other people do that?
It just seems unfair that Uber is getting away with it by letting people put their debit card into the app yet other apps are being rejected by Apple because now you can’t use your own system. You will have to use in-app purchases. That’s what Spotify and Epic have gone to court over the in versus out app controversy and how much they are losing in subscriptions.
Jonathan: Thanks, David. There is no doubt that there is going to be a lot of attention paid to this very issue in coming months because regulators, legislators are concerned about the degree of influence that some of these big tech companies have. Other companies are speaking out now.
They are brave enough to speak out. They are pointing out the dangers and the hypocrisy of the fact that you have effectively a defacto regulator in the form of Apple and Google who are running these marketplaces, but who are also offering products to the same market at more favorable conditions because they control the marketplace but make different rules for themselves.
There are all sorts of implications well beyond the App Store as I said recently, the fact that nobody else can run a screen reader on the iOS platform is I think a really serious issue that blind people should be thinking a lot more about particularly if Apple keeps dropping the ball and endangering our ability to do our jobs. This is serious stuff we are talking about. Perhaps there needs to be some action on the part of the blind community that says, “This stuff needs to be open to a series of APIs so that alternative screen reader providers can provide another option or more than one option on platforms like iOS.”
Now, to be fair, Android does offer this and you don’t see too many alternatives there. Perhaps the argument is that while sometimes the free solutions do break and have serious bugs, they do tend to get fixed in time and there’s just not the market for somebody to invest a significant amount of money in developing a product that would compete with a very mature free solutions, who knows?
Getting back to your in-app purchase question, it’s quite complicated in some ways, because first, it would require the developer to have alternative infrastructure like a log-in system. The beauty of the in-app purchase system is that it is actually quite easy for a third-party developer to implement.
While Apple will take a cut, whether it’s 15% or 30%, and there appears to be a bit of a variation creeping in there now, the nice thing is that Apple does take care of the processing, it makes it really simple to just set it up and smaller app developers really benefit from that. If you then though take the time to provide an alternative infrastructure so you as a user can log in on a website, then the question is what does the business do with that extra revenue?
They might set up price points that’s the same on the websites and on the app store. They may try and incentivize you to go to the website through some discount, because even if they give you 10% off the purchase price of a subscription, then they’re still gaining on the deal, aren’t they? Because they’re keeping more of the revenue, but then they might decide most people don’t really understand the nuances of the way that this process works so they’ll keep the whole 30%.
I guess that’s a business decision that they make but I think that consumers who are reading the news or are becoming more aware of these things are going to know a lot more about how the process works and they may well say, well, if I go to your websites and you get a benefit from me going to your website because you have a lot more of my information, you’ve established more of a personal relationship with me and you can market to me, then I deserve a discount for that because I know that you as the business are actually getting more revenue through that relationship as well.
I think consumers will become a lot more savvy over time because we’re only at the beginning of this process. There is going to be legislation, regulation and increasing number of court cases. The heat really is going to go on these large tech companies. It may result in them being broken up or it could result in alternative marketplaces being established but I don’t think that we will see the status quo say in five years time. Micheall Pantelidas writes, “Hi, Jonathan, hope you are well.” Dude, I am so well, if I were any more well, I would be positively dangerous. I hope you are too.
He says, “Can you suggest somewhere online where I can learn how to use Twitter on iPhone? I have tried the Twitter app, but on main feed, I get all these messages from people I don’t even know or follow. Thanks in advance for any help.” That could well clear up when you start following people but it could also be that you’re getting promoted tweets and things that the native Twitter app does deliver.
You can, I think, turn some of those things off and you can make sure that you’re viewing the most recent tweets in chronological order but to be honest, I have two Twitter apps on my phone that I use primarily. I use the Twitter for iPhone app, the one that Twitter officially releases only for functions that Twitteriffic doesn’t provide. Twitterrific is my main Twitter app. It’s wonderful, it allows me to read my tweets in proper chronological order because to me, reading Twitter is like watching life unfolding. If you read it in reverse chronological order, that is the newest tweets first, and then work your way backwards, twitter is much less compelling. It makes a lot less sense.
I have not found a reliable way in the Twitter for iPhone app to go back to my place, the last tweet that I read and then work my way up in chronological order. With Twitterrific, you can do it reliably 100% of the time, not just on your main Twitter timeline, but also on your Twitter lists. Now, because of constraints in the Twitter API, there are some things that Twitterrific can’t do now.
They include push notifications and I do use the official Twitter app to get pushes of mentions and direct messages. Also, of course, fleets, which I don’t care about and Twitter spaces, which I care about very much. In short, I only use the Twitter app for those things Twitterrific can’t deliver because of Twitter’s own constraints on third party apps.
I would highly recommend Twitterrific from the icon factory. I would recommend supporting them by making a purchase. They have shown a consistent commitment to accessibility. It is by far in a way in my view, the best way to engage with Twitter on any platform, couldn’t recommend it highly enough. I hope that helps. I don’t know, by the way, of any online resource, I wrote a book a long time ago called Tweeting Blind. It’s hopelessly out of date now of course it’s been withdrawn, but I don’t know of any current resources on Twitter from a blindness perspective. Twitter does also have a lot of help documentation on its website.
Are you hungry for another email from Peter? Well, here it is. “Hi, Jonathan. Let me kindly submit this week’s application of ask Mr. Mosen :).” I’m going to let you down on this one Peter, I’m afraid. “Do you or any of your listeners know of a cryptocurrency wallet that is simple and accessible for blind users? Preferably running on PC, if not installable on Android”, but you’ve got like an ancient version of Android, haven’t you?
“If there is a portal that is accessible, that also could be a solution. I would like to take my chances with Bitcoin or another of that kind of currency. I’m an absolute beginner. I took a look on the web, but it all seems a bit complicated. I’m ready to learn the trade, but I want to make my journey the easiest possible by choosing the optimal method for a blind adventurer. Thanks for the constantly high-quality content you provide week by week.
I think in a way you became an institution [laughs] in the international blind community, a rich source of information, an entertainer, a virtual meeting point, an organizer, an articulate advocate working on our behalf. I consider as one of my luckiest days, the one on which I heard from Glenn Gordon, that you started Mosen At Large, my best wishes from Budapest.”
Thank you, Peter. I hope your Echo devices are working out well and that’s really, really generous of you. I was laughing because I’m thinking there are some people who would probably want me in an institution. Anyway. I don’t know anything about this. Cryptocurrency doesn’t really float my boat. I think we discussed this and I did a quick check of my show notes. I see that we did talk about this a little bit, way back in episode 36 of the podcast, but I don’t know whether any specific applications were recommended or anything, but you might want to dredge out episode 36 and see what was talked about there.
If anyone has any thoughts on working accessibly with cryptocurrency, maybe you want to prepare a bit of a tutorial for us to explain it from the beginning, because many people have heard of Bitcoin and other things, but have never investigated it, don’t know what the benefits are. Start at the very beginning, a very good place to start as Julie Andrews would say and tell us about it. I’d be really interested in that end. It sounds like Peter would as well. If your own research comes up with the answer, Peter, do get back in touch and let us know what you discovered and how it’s working out for you.
Recording: To contribute to Mosen At Large. You can email Jonathan that’s J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N@mushroomfm.com by writing something down or attaching an audio file or you can call our listener line. It’s a US number (864) 606-6736.
Theme Song: Mosen At Large podcast.
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