Podcast Transcript: Mosen At Large 128, pre-WWDC wishes, headset reviews and more
Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen and this is Mosen At Large the show that’s got the blind community talking. Today a project I have been working on that’s very special to me. Our last chance to dream before Apple makes its announcements at WWDC. A quick review of five microphone headsets and much more.
How are you doing? Good to have you back for another episode of Mosen At Large and it’s nice for me to be doing this for you again as well. We are on the cusp of another WWDC, that’s Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference and we will have a lot more to say about that throughout the course of the show but before we go there, a couple of things. First, I have been getting an increasing number of people getting in touch saying, “Why haven’t you aired my contribution to the show yet?”
I have expanded information on the Mosen At Large website at mosen.org and at the Mosen At Large podcast page that explains how I handle podcast contributions, but I’ll give you a brief summary here in case you don’t want to have a look at that page. First I do try and play most contributions in the order that they are received. I do make some exceptions to that and they are, if I have specifically highlighted a topic for the week and I’ve said I’m keen for whatever reason to talk about this topic this week, then I will prioritize messages on that particular topic.
If there is a topic that is timely, in other words, there’s some time sensitivity about it I will prioritize that as well and also if somebody’s talking about something where there’s a hot running conversation and we may want to keep the conversation running from week to week, then I may do that as well but as a rule, I try and go through and play contributions in the order that they are received.
Sometimes we get a bit of a backlog and I don’t want to discourage people from contributing, so please don’t think that, “Oh, somebody else will say something.” Because if everybody thinks, “Oh, someone else will say something.” The contributions will dry up and that would make me very sad because I enjoy your contributions. Just be mindful of the fact that sometimes there may be a delay of a few weeks between when you submit your contribution and when it gets read or played.
There are times when we don’t play all contributions. Sometimes someone has said something that’s already been said and it’s an absolute duplicate of something else, so it would be redundant to air it. At other times if something’s overly confrontational or not really in the spirit that we’re trying to foster here, then I’ll use my editorial judgment and not play it. Sometimes audio quality comes into play as well and if somebody has written a contribution that is not written in complete proper sentences that is so riddled with spelling errors that it makes it difficult for me to read because I only have a very limited amount of time to put this podcast together, if it’s just too difficult for me to read it then I will just skip it, to be frank.
Now obviously, if English is a second language for someone I try and make allowances for that, but if we’re dealing with an English speaker who’s just too lazy to write a proper sentence and put something through a spell checker then, sorry. We do get a lot of contributions and thank you for those. To find out more, you can go to mosen.org and check out the podcast page where I talk more about this.
Today, I can actually tell you about something that is really extraordinary that has been happening in my life for a few months now. It happened by quite a serendipitous route. Let me tell you a bit of a story and it starts actually with the fact that early in December, I was very honored to be given an Impact Award for my services to disabled people in New Zealand at an award gala ceremony and they call that The Attitude Awards.
That was wonderful and it was on the TV. People were watching me getting this award on the TV and the little speech that I gave when I received that award. Then a couple of days later, it must have been, or perhaps even the next day after it was on TV one of the team at my call center of the organization I work for got in touch and said that there was someone who was trying to get hold of me. She said his name is Don Linden and left a phone number.
Well, anybody listening in New Zealand is LIKELY TO know who Don Linden is. For many generations growing up in New Zealand, there was this really cool tradition where many children would listen to what was usually called the children’s session on a Sunday morning. It would come on at 6:00 or 6:30 or seven o’clock on a Sunday morning. The kids would lie in bed and listen to all of these songs and stories and you could write in and they would play you a request.
Even in the ’70s when I started listening to this stuff, there were a lot of old stories that were being played and the same stories kept coming up over and over again, but we loved it because kids do like that familiarity. Kids love repetition. If you’ve ever had children of your own, you know you do something and they will say, “Again, again, again.” Especially when they’re very little. We liked that.
This dates all the way back to a time when New Zealand didn’t have any private radio. We just had a government-run broadcast entity that did all of this stuff, but thanks to radio Hauraki, which I have talked about extensively over the years and done documentaries about, it was an offshore radio station here in New Zealand in the late 1960s inspired by what was going on with offshore radio in Britain.
We got private radio here in New Zealand. In 1977, a competitor to the venerable children’s story session from our government broadcaster started up on a private radio station called Radio Eye. The show was called Small World and it was hosted by Don Linden. Many of us at the school for the blind used to listen to Don Linden. Many kids generally started listening to Don Linden because he still played the same stories we liked, but he had this fun interactive element about it.
You could phone in, there were funny little sketches and it was just more lively and more in keeping with the times. Don Linden himself became a bit of an institution with this program over the generations. It was on various radio stations for quite some time. I was involved with this radio station, Radio Eye, so I would sometimes go into the studio when Don Linden was hosting Small World and I still remember being stuck in hospital recovering from an appendectomy in 1980 and listening to the radio when Don Linden was making a big fuss over this and wishing me a speedy recovery.
It was a wonderful show and in fact, so many people from multiple generations had such fond memories of these stories that in the early part of this century, after Don had really run out of places to take Small World and a lot of program directors had said that it had outlived its day, Don proved all those young whippersnapper program directors wrong by releasing on CDs some of the more popular songs and stories that he could get the rights to putting out.
They went platinum. They were very, very popular and you can still get them. They’re still in the catalog because for New Zealanders this stuff is timeless. Interestingly, a lot of it comes from the US and the UK not too much from New Zealand. Some of these stories have survived in the collective consciousness of New Zealand more so than they have in their countries of origin.
Don Linden has made a huge contribution to children’s radio and he really devoted himself to doing a very high-quality children’s radio show, but it wasn’t just for children. He labeled the Small World show as the kid’s show for the whole family and he would play family-friendly novelty that parents and grandparents might like. Stan Freberg, Allan Sherman, Spike Jones, that kind of thing, not necessarily children’s material but family-friendly material, so he had a wonderful formula going.
I haven’t spoken to Don for quite a long time, so as you can imagine I was thrilled when the call center said that he had reached out and I gave him a call expecting that we would reminisce about the old times for a while and we did just that, but eventually something really amazing happened. He said to me that he’s got obviously this huge collection of material. Stories, songs, little clips, novelty material and he had been thinking about what would become of it.
The last thing I expected was what he said which was, “Jonathan I’d like you to have it.” You could have offered me the crown jewels. It’s that significant for me. The fact that he would entrust all of this precious material to me was just a bolt out of the blue. I thought about this and had a chat to Bruce Toews who looks after Mushroom Escape which is our old-time radio drama-comedy channel which has recently been reinvigorated by the way.
If you haven’t listened for the last week or so it sounds better. It’s slick, it’s smooth. We’ve got new technology giving Mushroom Escape a new lease of life and I said to him, “Since I’m being offered all of this material, why don’t I recreate the Small World show? Have a great family-friendly kids show with all these old stories and songs presented very much in the way that Don Linden used to present it.”
Bruce was very much on board with this idea and so then I went back to Don Linden and said, “What do you think if we use the material this way?” He was all for it. For the last few months, we have been beavering away as he has transferred catalog material, discography, notes and of course, the actual material itself and it’s still coming, but we do now have enough to revive The Small World Show, a real New Zealand institution.
Of course, it’s really exciting for me that because of the marvels of the internet, we’ll be able to take the small world show international and show people in other countries, just what we enjoyed. The first episode will be on the 20th of June on Mushroom Escape and it’ll air on Sundays for an hour, every four hours. It will be at midnight, 4:00, 8:00, midday, 4:00, and 8:00, every Sunday, starting June the 20th.
I don’t mind telling you, I’m nervous [chuckles] about this because this just had such a huge part in my childhood. This is like a treasure, this thing and I feel like it’s been entrusted to me and I don’t want to mess it up. We’ll give this a shot with the first small world show hosted by me on Mushroom Escape, on the 20th of June. Now, before that happens, certainly in the podcast feed and probably on Mushroom FM as well, I will play you an interview I just recorded with Don Linden.
We talked about his life, his really interesting career and a lot about the small world show and what made it such a phenomenal success. It’s funny, you just never know what’s coming next, do you? I would never have thought that I would be inheriting this great New Zealand institution and taking it international on Mushroom Escape. Hope you’ll join me for small world when it begins at midnight Eastern on Sunday, the 20th of June.
Shirley: Hi, Jonathan. This is Shirley. I do not have an Apple Watch and really have had no plans to get one. However, I have heard some pretty substantial rumors and I think one of them is from quite a reliable person that the next iteration of the watch is supposed to have some kind of a continuous glucometer feature in it. I’m really hoping that that’s true. If that’s the case, that could certainly sway me towards getting one of them.
Obviously, it’s not an iPhone app, but I could stretch it to what I would want to see in the next Apple update coming up. That’s what I’m hoping for. You might say, I probably missed it at the beginning when you were talking about it when you’re going to have your update on. Are you going to be doing something live on your program here or will it be a podcast that we have to go and get with you and Heidi and the rest of the group?
Jonathan: Thanks, Shirley. We’ve been tweeting about this for some months now on the Mosen At Large Twitter account. There are some pretty consistent rumors that at some point, there is going to be this glucometer in the Apple Watch. There’s some debate about whether it’s going to make it to the next version of the watch or not. We won’t find that out this time, because this will be a hardware change.
If it’s going to happen, you will hear about it at Apple’s, usually, September event. That’s when they will announce the next iPhone and the next Apple Watch. Regarding the post WWDC keynote summary, it will be live on Clubhouse in the Mushroom FM room there in Clubhouse and you can RSVP to that event. You’ll get a notification when it starts and you’ll be able to join us in Clubhouse there, it will then be available as a podcast, as per usual in the Mosen At Large podcast feed.
Douglas Howard has a suggestion or two for iOS 15. He says, “When I am using the Edge browser on my iPhone, when I click to put links in my favorites, voice over just says button and when you click on other things in the list, it does the very same thing.” Sorry, can’t remember all of them off the top of my head. Another suggestion is, I am a hearing aid user myself, and I have the Phonak hearing aids. Sometimes when the phone is in my pocket, I’ll sound choppy to people on Bluetooth or the Bluetooth will cut out altogether until I take my iPhone out of my pocket.
I have noticed Bluetooth problems since probably about iOS 10 on and off. Thanks, Douglas. Well regarding Microsoft edge, I would encourage you to send some feedback to Microsoft. They do have channels where you can submit feedback to them because this is definitely one of those issues that pertain to a third-party app. Apple’s not going to be able to fix this. This is within Microsoft’s control to address.
Christopher Wright says, “I agree with your entire list. I’d like to add the addition of a voice over tutorial. The Mac has a great tutorial when you first turn it on, so why isn’t a VoiceOver user introduced to VoiceOver on the iPhone in the same way? I’d also like a setting in VO settings that provides access to VoiceOver documentation, as well as highlighting what’s new in each major version of the system. Currently, finding new features and fixes seems to be a scavenger hunt each year. Finally, I’d like bug fixes on every Apple platform, particularly on the Mac. Why Apple can’t or won’t do this is beyond me. I believe Tim Cook should publicly acknowledge the horrible state of VoiceOver on the Mac and pledge to fix the situation immediately.” Christopher concludes, “One can dream, right?”
On Twitter, Peggy Kern writes, “I would like to see Apple fix whatever causes some edit boxes, not to work with my 12 Pro phone which worked perfectly with my XR specifically, the YouTube Live Chatbox. Apple says it’s the developer’s problem, but Google accessibility couldn’t duplicate the issue.” That’s curious, Peggy. Michael Fair agrees with Christopher Wright. He says, “My only major longstanding wish for iOS is that they add a built-in tutorial for teaching VoiceOver basics to blind beginners. Other than that, I just hope they don’t break anything, which currently works this time around.”
This is a very good point for those who are asking for a VoiceOver tutorial in iOS. The talkback one on Android is absolutely fantastic, the way it takes you through the gestures and lets you practice. It’s a really good interactive tutorial. It is surprising given that one exists on the Mac, that there has never been one for VoiceOver. We are going to get back to Apple things in just a moment, but first of all, John says, “Hi, Jonathan, first off a correction, the phone-based Uber support team is only available to Diamond members.”
Yes, that’s correct. I have checked the terms and conditions, John, so thank you for that correction. I shall try and stay diamond then because it is really handy to actually call somebody and talk to a human. John continues, I have noticed, however, that platinum’s get more attention in online support and I have had largely good experiences dealing with them. I actually got them to cancel an Uber Eats order when the driver had been at the restaurant for 40 plus minutes with the restaurant not even bringing the order out, the driver was not penalized.
Anyway, seeing as this weekend is the big fundraiser, I will not be able to tune in for the last show before WWDC. Although I read the transcripts, I have a small list of things I’d like to see Apple fix. Although I have lost confidence in them a lot over the years. Good times come and go with software releases owing to bugs. First, and this might be controversial to some, but please hear me out, I’d like to see VoiceOver adopt the talk-back model.
In other words, make it so that it can be updated apart from the main operating system and have a dedicated team working on it. I think this is more than highly unlikely, but it would be nice. It may have some disadvantages, but it would be a nice feature. I’m just going to pause there and say, I couldn’t agree with you more John, and I have talked about this in the past.
One of the frustrating things is that we get show stopping bugs from VoiceOver, things that really impede our ability to use our devices and to do our jobs if we’re fortunate enough to have a job. It takes an operating system update to hope that that bug will get sorted out. If you could download a VoiceOver update or have it pushed to you separate from the operating system update, it might ease the pain and allow the accessibility team to get fixes out there quickly.
John continues, second, regarding contracted Braille with an uppercase B, input. I have largely not had many issues with Braille input since at least iOS12. However, what I have found is that if I am writing long posts, messages or emails, it gets to a point where it just freezes and won’t type anymore. In other words, if I type something, it doesn’t register. I have to get out of the app, get it out of the app switcher and then relaunch it.
Last night, I tried to make a Facebook post in tribute to a priest who had died and I had to get rid of the draft because of this issue. I have no idea what is the cause, but it has got to be dealt with. Honestly, the only reason why I even still have Apple products is the Braille support. If Google ever made support as good as Apple’s, I would be abandoning Apple in a heartbeat, as I really do miss Android, and I loved my Pixel 2.
Marissa says, greetings, Jonathan. I wanted to comment on my wishes for iOS 15. They are number one, please give VoiceOver a complete overhaul by adding new voices, fixing existing issues that have been prevalent for a long time, better Braille support with a lowercase b, and make VoiceOver a priority for those of us who work in accessibility. Number two, upgrade Siri’s functions, capabilities and sources. She is seriously lacking in terms of her abilities.
That’s interesting that people are still using the female gender pronoun for Siri because of course, you can have male voices as well with Siri. Marissa continues, number three, bring eloquence to the iPhone, I cannot be the only person who has asked Apple for this. Number four, I want the accessibility department to better train their employees on how features such as VoiceOver, Zoom, Invert colors and Braille screen input are supposed to work.
Number five, can Apple please consider those of us with disabilities as a customer just like any other when they create new versions of their operating system. All too often bugs take too long to fix or things get released without working right in the first place, in terms of accessibility. A good example of this was the issue back in iOS 8 with respect to VoiceOver either not announcing who was calling or not being able to answer calls. Yes, that gives me nightmares even now, for those of us who rely on iPhone for our business, not being able to answer calls from customers was just really outrageous.
Randy Shelton: Hi Jonathan. I’m really enjoying the podcast, lots of great discussion and information. I want to say thank you to Steve Bauer for reminding me about the terminal clipboard feature on the QBraille products. I completely forgot about that. I have the BrailleSense Polaris and with the hot mess that Braille is in VoiceOver, I haven’t been using Braille as much, so this is a great workaround.
As far as VoiceOver, the things I would like to see in iOS 15, Braille is definitely at the top of the list. I’m one of these people who prefers to have speech off and use a Braille display most of the time, but I haven’t been doing that as much lately, because it’s just so frustrating trying to write in Braille and have displays drop letters or the cursor lose focus and all the craziness that goes on with Braille.
I really hope that they finally get their act together and fix it. That’s one thing and I agree, I would like to see notifications, just the sound or better yet, and I know this probably would be almost impossible to do but in Windows, I’m not a Windows user anymore, but I remember being able to set jaws to behave a certain way on different websites or different programs.
I wish there was a way you could do that with iOS because right now I have the iPad that I use for Netflix and media, audible books and things like that and I have notifications turned off because I want to be able to enjoy my book or my movie, without hearing notifications all the time. I don’t want to have to put it on Do Not Disturb. I wish there was a way that you could set specific notifications to turn off and only view certain ones when you’re reading or that you could make it app-specific instead of having to turn on Do Not Disturb because sometimes I do like to listen to an audiobook on my phone, especially if I’m going somewhere.
I have a Victor Stream that I normally use as my dedicated reading device, but sometimes I don’t feel like taking the stream and I’d rather put my phone in my pocket and go, but I don’t necessarily want to hear all my notifications either. I don’t want to put it on Do Not Disturb, because I still want to be able to get important phone calls. At least when a phone call comes in, you can decline it, if it’s one you don’t want to take and go back to your book.
The other thing I wanted to comment on is hearing aids. There’s been a lot of good discussion about that and about the different hearing aids, MFi, and different features, Bluetooth.
Someone in a previous episode, you refer to it in the last episode, episode 125, I believe where you were talking about someone who was having trouble with the Phonak aids, the bidirectional hearing aids and I have them, I just got them earlier in May. I love them.
I have 30-day trial and was so impressed that I decided to go ahead and get them. I do really like the way they Bluetooth to multiple devices and the clarity is just amazing to me. Hearing aids really have come so far. I have been wearing them since I was six. You were talking about the new features with the bi-directional hearing aids and I’m going to be really interested to see what I’ll be able to do that I can’t do now. I know that no one has had trouble hearing me. In fact, people have commented on how clear I am, when I’m on a phone call or on FaceTime.
Jonathan: Thank you, Randy. That’s Randy Shelton with that contribution. Just regarding your Do Not Disturb issue, there are some workarounds for you there. If you add contacts who call you regularly and who are important to you to your favorites list in your iPhone, you can set up Do Not Disturb, so that calls from favorites get right through. I have this actually because if my kids or my mother need to call me in the middle of the night when my phone is on Do Not Disturb, I want them to be able to call me and they can do that by using that feature.
You can also go into individual contacts and set them up so that they have Do Not Disturb override. The advantage of that approach over the favorites one is that that also works for text messages. Regarding bi-directional hearing aids, I don’t think you will notice any difference at all because as I understand the way the Phonak aids work, they’ve chosen not to adopt the Made for iPhone hearing aid spec and they’re selling that as an advantage.
They’re going out there saying, “We are made for anything.” It is true, the more viable Android becomes, and as John said earlier in the segment, if Android got their Braille act together, it’s looking more and more tempting. I am a bit locked in, because of my Made for iPhone hearing aids. You can use an external device in my case to make a Bluetooth pairing, but it wouldn’t be nearly as convenient.
However, because the Phonak aids are using standard Bluetooth, you can pair them with all sorts of things that a blind person might be using. In that regard, there is a distinct advantage. It’s good to hear that they’re working so well for you even though others have said they’re having some difficulty. I have no idea whether there might be a software update available that could address some of the issues others have had.
Perhaps it would be good for those who have reported this issue to check in with their audiologist. Now back on to iOS 15 and Thomas is writing in from Germany and he says what comes to my mind is simplifying the Home app. I was able to configure my HomePod mini which I’ve had for two months now and been enjoying very much. Yet the design of the app is quite complicated for my taste.
It could certainly be structured a bit differently and made more easy to use. This would be of great help if someone has set up more home devices. It has been said on last week’s show and rightly so, that Siri needs to be improved. It often happens to me with the HomePod mini that I ask Siri to play a radio station for example, Mushroom FM and Siri just won’t do it.
Instead, it tells me it hasn’t found the station on Apple Music, even if I say, “Play mushroom FM from TuneIn.” At other times it works just fine. I haven’t found out the reason why this is the case. I guess there must be a bug somewhere, as such a thing doesn’t happen on a Google Home device for example. At least there are three work arounds. Either toggling Wi-Fi off and back on restarting the home pod or if that doesn’t help playing the station on my iPhone and transmitting the stream to the home pod by holding the phone close to the pod.
What would also be great, is a possibility to toggle between Braille devices or that the iPhone automatically pairs with a Braille display within reach. I could change Braille displays without returning to accessibility settings again and again, to select the display I want. Thomas has written an addendum to this message to say that he has made some progress by when HomePod gets into its little state, like this specifying the service that you want to play from.
If it can’t find a stream on Apple music, you can say play whatever the station name is on TuneIn and HomePod seems to cope better with that. I suspect that this is all part of the changes that Luis was lamenting a couple of weeks ago on the show where Apple was trying to give you more choice over the music services that you use. Paul Hopewell writes, my request is an Apple Watch gesture to instantly and reliably tell me the haptic time to avoid disturbing others.
I mostly have VoiceOver set off on my Apple Watch SE running the latest watch OS with silent mode set on. I thus press and release the watch crown and then use the two finger tap on the watch face to get the haptic time. This often works, but sometimes does not work. When it does not, I wait a minute or so and try again, and then it usually works. I wonder if the Apple Watch is busy, perhaps measuring my heart rate when the two finger tap does not work.
I suggest that the lack of an instant and reliable way to get haptic time is a lack of equality for a blind person. I believe that a sighted person can always look at the watch face to instantly determine the time, which is an essential function of a watch. Thanks, Paul. I do know what you mean. I don’t mute my VoiceOver, but I do sometimes perform a two-finger single tap to find out the haptic time.
Let me see if it will do it now. Yes, see. I just did it and it didn’t work and you never seem to know when it’s not going to work. What I’ve taken to doing is performing a three-finger single tap. If I do that now, so just hold it up to the mic and go tap, tap, tap. Now I’ve got the correct time. Yet it is giving me the full time. The way it’s supposed to work is that a two-finger single tap gives you the full time, hours and minutes and a three finger single tap is supposed to give you just the minutes, but sometimes it’s like the first tap is being ignored.
If you do a two-finger single tap, you wake up half asleep in the night and you just want to find out what the time is. Sometimes it speaks the time waking your significant other in the process, but then if you do a three-finger single tap and it actually works the way it’s supposed to work, you don’t know what hour you’re in. I think this is a very good wish that you have Paul. I hope it has granted.
I do remember being at a funeral [laughs] and wanting to know how long this thing had been going, and I double tapped the watch face and it was a silent part of the funeral and the watch blasted out. It’s amazing how in certain echoey acoustics, how loud that watch can be. [laughs] You got to be careful with that gesture. It’s not reliable. Staying with the Apple Watch and somebody who also still assigns the female gender pronoun to Siri.
Kathy Blackburn in Austin, Texas says, Siri on my Apple Watch can be irritating. She sometimes echoes my commands at the same time she’s responding to them. For example, if I say, send a text message to Siri repeats the command at the same time, she is saying, “What do you want to say?” Is there a setting somewhere that would fix this? I think what’s happening actually Kathy is that VoiceOver is repeating back what you are saying, and then Siri is giving its prompts, so it does turn into a happy cat fest.
I have Daniel on my watch. I can clearly hear that it’s VoiceOver echoing back because I do have one of the female Siri voices on the watch as well. I do sometimes find Siri quite unreliable on the Apple Watch. I get on the treadmill and I say to it, “Start an indoor walk.” And Siri just sometimes doesn’t do it or takes a very long time to do it, but I suppose that’s typical of Siri at the moment.
We’ve been getting some comments on this over the last couple of weeks, haven’t we? About just how unreliable Siri is. Lance sends us an Aloha from Hawaii and he says, I do have one wish for the upcoming version of iOS. That is the email app. Sometimes when writing and editing the cursor jumps all over the place and the focus is temporarily lost. He says having the live listen thing in stereo would be really cool.
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Tim: Hi. It’s Tim from the Netherlands. If you remember, I participated in a Corona vaccine trial and in my two earlier contributions on that topic to this show, I described how the problem was that I had to write down the name and the date and place the signature for providing informed consent. Well, I can place a signature, but writing down the name and date for me as a nearly blind person is really intensive.
It cost me so much energy, it gives almost physical pain and then they also insist that an independent witness be present. Even if I managed to write down the name and the date, because my handwriting is not perfect, they require an independent witness to certify that I actually provide informed consent. Today, I went for visits in which they would take another blood sample and then they told me, “All right, there is another revision protocol. You have to sign a new version of the informed consent following the same procedure.”
That would’ve been the third time they put me through that very tiring and frankly humiliating process. In my earlier contributions on this topic I explained that extensively and this time I said, “Okay, enough is enough. Either we find some other means to certify that I agree to the protocol change and if we can’t find that, well, I stop participating in the study. Because going through this procedure again, it’s too much.” They completely agreed with me that I shouldn’t have to go through this, but the protocol really required them to put me through that procedure again, so I quit the study today.
That’s a very unfortunate and humiliating experience because I was very motivated to participate and to continue participating and to contribute towards the development of successful Corona vaccines, but in the end, if I have to go through half an hour of almost physical pain just to prove that I really, really, really willingly consent to participate, then there comes a point when I think, “Okay, what’s in it for me?” And it’s not worth it anymore.
That’s really unfortunate because this discriminatory protocol succeeded in excluding me as a blind person from this study. It’s a painful conclusion. Of course, this is not the end of this story because I’m definitely going to file a complaint as I explained in my earlier contributions. It’s really important that blind people can participate in medical studies for which they qualify. The problem that people who are not able to write for whatever reason, are not able to provide informed consent and hence are effectively excluded from medical trials.
I think this problem is rooted in international standards and procedures, which all those medical studies follow. Therefore, of course there will be my individual complaint, but what we really need to do is we need to get things changed. We need to make sure that international guidelines for medical trials are changed to be sure that everybody who can participate is able to provide informed consent. and they have 10 options for providing informed consent which do not require the ability to write with a pen.
That’s no problem. It’s just a matter of getting the international guidelines and protocols changed. It’s a much broader issue because as has been discussed on this show before, some other organizations have a problem with blind persons not being able to write a signature the same way sighted persons can. If you have any ideas on how you can help me with this, how we can make this a bit broader, perhaps we establish the international organization of blind guinea pigs or whatever, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m particularly looking for people who could help me to formulate and disseminate the complaint, who have some experience in those international medical standards et cetera, because I don’t have a lot of experience in debts. Well, any thoughts or input or help are really welcomed. Info@blindmobility.nl is my email address. If you have any thoughts, please contact me there.
Jonathan: Thank you, Tim. It is very frustrating, isn’t it? I’ve signed employment contracts and other quite significant agreements using DocuSign and perhaps, the validity of DocuSign varies from country to country, I’m not sure. Undoubtedly, there are viable ways for blind people to give their consent, particularly if they have digital access. As somebody who has waged a lot of successful advocacy campaigns in my time, I think I would give the following advice.
First, be really clear about where this is coming from. Why are they doing what they’re doing? Don’t just accept that it is necessarily an international regulation. It may well end up being, but I’ve been in advocacy situations where somebody has sworn these are the regulations. I say to them, “Specifically, show me the regulation that says you must do it this way that validates you doing what you’re doing in this discriminatory way.”
A lot of the time, they can’t. Now, if they can, that’s fine. At least then, you know who you are lobbying. Is it an EU thing? Is it an international thing? Once you decide whose thing it is, what is the thing called and who has jurisdiction over it? You really need to be clear first of all, who you’re advocating to. When you’ve got that straight, obviously, you need to be able to articulate the problem that you’ve had and you’ve done that very well and the messages that you have sent to this show.
Then, an essential part of effective advocacy is to go the next step and be clear about what it is that you are seeking. What do you want to change? It might be that all you want is some inquiry into this, but if you’ve got a clear idea of how this could work better in a way that isn’t discriminating, then there’s a call to action right there. When you know who you’re targeting and you know what you’re asking, then it’s important to get allies if you can and if you think that that’s necessary.
There are a number of potential allies here. I know that there is a European Blind Union. There may well be an advocacy organization in the Netherlands. If this is indeed some sort of international regulation or treaty or something dictating this, then it’s possible that the World Blind Union would be an appropriate organization to engage. Of course, you always have the online petition option.
Those are just a few suggestions. If anyone else knows anything more about what is causing these folks to require what they are requiring, what the regulation actually is, then that would be very useful information. While we’re on the subject of the medical profession, here’s a really disheartening email from Tom Kershaw who says, hi, Jonathan. I work out five days a week and use most of the machines of the gym.
Normally, I just need someone to set up the screen to start my workout. Over the last few years when I go for my stress tests, they will not allow me to use the treadmill. Instead, they inject me with a medicine that gives the feeling that my heart is being squeezed. I feel like an orange being juiced. After a short discussion, they could not explain why eyesight is needed to walk on a stationary machine. They said it is just policy. Enjoy your shows, says Tom. Give my best to Bonnie and Heidi.
Thank you, Tom. Is there somewhere else that you can go? It’s like how some kids say to parents, “Why do I have to do this?” The parent lazily says, “Because I said so.” Saying it’s just policy is ridiculous. Clearly, there’s no reason why a fit person like yourself and a capable ambulant person can get on a treadmill and do the stress tests that way. If you can’t go elsewhere or you have a good reason for staying where you are, I would file some complaint. There’s really no need for that.
Jonathan: Hunter has some advice to offer on cryptocurrency. He says, “I thought I would chime in on the Bitcoin wallet application question and recommend Exodus wallet, a cross-platform application that does support Bitcoin and a whole host of other currencies. Its accessibility is fairly decent, though I don’t use it on the regular, I instead prefer to maintain the various currencies individually through their respective command-line interfaces.
You can find out more about Exodus at www.exodus.com. That’s E-X-O-D-U-S.com. Another option would be a centralized exchange such as Coinbase, though I am not sure if Hungary is amongst their supported countries. The downside to this option is that you would have to go through a KYCL/KYL process which can be annoying if you don’t have an easy way to scan your identification documents. You can learn more about coinbase at coinbase.com. That’s C-O-I-N-B-A-S-E.com.
Thank you, Hunter. I appreciate that advice. Lynn White is writing in and he says, hey, Jonathan. You and I are on very opposite opinions regarding politics and faith, but I so consider you as a friend and someone so easy to work with on all levels. I agree with you about not boycotting people and companies that disagree with me on issues that I’m passionate about.
If you and Bernie are ever in my area, it would be our treat to wine and dine you both. It will be a joy to have a good discussion and to laugh a lot. Keep doing what you do, even when I disagree. Thank you so much, Lynn. I appreciate that. It is so saddening to me that discourse has become so poisonous, perhaps in some countries worse than others and that people can’t accept that you can disagree with somebody’s opinion without that necessarily making them a bad evil person.
Loreal is writing in and says, dear Jonathan, I wanted to start off by first saying I’ve been listening to you for years going back to the initial early days of the Freedom Scientific podcast and now, love listening to you live on Mushroom FM through Clubhouse. I’ve been a tech user for the past 35 years, starting when I was just five years. As you can see, I just dated myself and gave away my age.
I’ve owned and run my own business for nearly two decades now and have to say that I’m highly proficient with JAWS, but still, even after 21 years of using the product, I still find new things to learn each and every day about using it to make things more simple for me in my personal and professional lives. I started off in the early to mid-90s with a DOS-based program MegaDots, which although it worked on a Windows PC, was only usable in DOS, not necessarily Windows itself.
It used the original external speech synthesizer, Light Talk it was called. I didn’t actually learn Windows specifically until I was a senior in high school and about to graduate and go off to college. I spent a week the summer following my senior year of high school doing what was supposed to be an intensive training for Windows, but when the instructor saw how quickly I picked up on just the basics, he let me go off on my own and do whatever I wanted that week with the computer and made himself available if I had questions.
He later told me at the end of the training, it was nice to have a student who learned so rapidly and was so eager to learn how to use the tech to enhance life and open so many more doors for me. Back then, when I started out with JAWS version 3.5 and it was the hard shell CD case with the 3.5 inch
floppy disk for activation. Back then, the synthesizers were either Eloquence or DecTalk, and the more preferable one for me was DecTalk back then. Some years later, when DecTalk became no longer available, I switched to Eloquence, and use it to this day in conjunction with the Nuance voices available, in JAWS version 2021. I just wanted to ask your opinion on something.
I know there are numerous opportunities out there for a transcriptionist, which is what I am. However, in the ever changing field of medical transcription, so many companies are switching to virtual desktop-type software, slash platforms. We are no longer downloading an actual program or app to your computer and working that way. What I found some years back to be the most accessible platforms, pre-virtual desktop instances, of course, was the original eScription or EditScript software.
I know for a time, Nuance used it, as did so many other medical transcription companies and their clients. Navigating through the software was simple, and I had even helped a couple of other transcriptionists between 2011 and 2014 with tips and tricks on how best to utilize the software as a blind/low vision transcriptionist. About seven years ago however, things began to change and the platform became less and less user-friendly for blind and low vision users. Specifically, those who used JAWS for Windows software.
More use of the virtual cursor was required and more use of a mouse even became necessary in some instances, depending on the client you were working for at the time. What are your thoughts on using a virtual desktop scenario and an application which may once have had some significant usability with JAWS, but now apparently, does not seem to have much at all?
Do you see these virtual environments becoming more mainstreamed and more and more usable for JAWS users in particular? I wish I could compare it to voiceover on things like the Mac, but I haven’t had enough experience with that in order to make a fair and accurate comparison at the time of this email. Sadly, as a result of this issue of the virtual environments being less user-friendly to JAWS users, than was first hoped, I have stepped away from medical transcription altogether and have returned to legal transcription, which was where I started 22 years ago.
I would like to consider taking on some medical work again, but sadly, the way things are now and the way HIPA works, that is the Health Information Privacy Act, I believe, in the United States, having freedom scientific, working with some of these software developers and live active work is next to impossible. At least that was the experience as I ran into from 2014 through 2019, when I finally had to make the choice to step away from medical and return exclusively to legal transcription.
Thank you for taking a moment to read this email and thank you for everything you’ve done to help further people’s knowledge of, as well as experiences with our ever changing technology for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. It’s wonderful to get to hear you doing your podcasts live now through Clubhouse and other available options.” Thank you, Loreal. That’s a really lovely email and I’m so sorry to hear that a career that you are clearly accomplished in, has been closed to you because of accessibility barriers.
That should not be happening in 2021. There’s a really important principle here. You should be able to do what you’re good at and accessibility barriers shouldn’t be precluding you from doing that work. Other than that, I don’t know anything about the specifics of this technology, about the software that you were talking about, but I would be very interested in further discussion on this.
If there are other transcriptionists who’ve had similar problems, who have had to make similar choices in order to keep working, moving out of the medical field and into other fields, please let us know about that. If there are specific companies that are like the industry standard in this field, it really is important, I think, firstly to engage with them but ultimately, if you’re being precluded from doing something that you are qualified to do because they are not making their environment accessible, take legal action.
You’re entitled to do that and I would encourage you to do that. Maybe, if there are several people who have made these choices because of accessibility barriers, why not get together and find some legal representation and take action? It is so difficult for blind people to find work at the best of times. If you can do this job well and the technology is not permitting you to do it, that should not be allowed to stand. I wish you the very best of luck, and I’m so sorry that you’re having that experience.
While we are talking about virtual desktop technologies, it seems appropriate to read this update from Matt Campbell. You recall that we talked about Cloudflare’s new and accessible offering in this virtual desktop space some weeks back now. Matt says, “Hi, Jonathan. Now that it has been nearly two months since the launch of Cloudflare’s remote browser isolation product, I just tried it again and it’s still completely inaccessible.
I wrote to the product manager two weeks ago to ask if there was any progress and I got no response, so I just wrote to him again. It’s a shock that Cloudflare has neglected accessibility in this product, but they’re doing good work in other areas, including their new capture alternative, which might be worth its own discussion on Mosen at Large, but we can’t ignore the threats that Cloudflare’s remote browser isolation poses to the employability of blind people if it takes off.
Yes, I still need to set up a webpage that concisely describes the problem. Anyway, I just thought you should know. I’m still monitoring the situation and staying in touch with Cloudflare about it.” Thank you Matt. Continue to be tenacious and it is really interesting what they’re doing in the capture space. Cloudflare believes that CAPTCHA is impeding people’s productivity.
They’ve come up with some stunning statistics that make the case that CAPTCHA really is damaging productivity on a daily basis. They are coming up with a hardware solution that they say could substitute for CAPTCHA. Now, if you don’t know what I mean by CAPTCHA, these are the tests that are placed on websites where you have to prove that you are human. Now, if you are signed into a Google account and the entity in question is using Google CAPTCHA, it’s not so bad these days because if they detect a screen reader, there’s simply a checkbox you can check that confirms that you are not a robot but not everybody’s using Google CAPTCHA.
Sometimes, the audio that you have to listen to and then type some phrases from, is really garbled, difficult to hear. If you also have some hearing impairment, it can be really tough to do that. Interestingly, Cloudflare is working on this. As you say Matt, they are doing some good things, but it is deeply disappointing that this remote browser isolation feature still isn’t accessible.
Mike: This is Mike May and I’d like to present five headphones. Four of the five are Bluetooth. Wired is always better when you can, but doesn’t always have the same convenience. A boom mic, in my opinion, is always important because the closer the mic is to your mouth, the better. When you have the earpiece and the microphone six inches away from your mouth, it’s just not going to sound as good as the microphone next to your mouth. A couple of these headphones have booms. The one that I’m talking on right now, you’ll hear compared with the others in the same setting, it is a fairly new AfterShokz headphone that’s called the OpenComm. I’ll describe it because it’s the one that’s most unique and I think most interesting because it now does have a boom mic. That boom mic is about four inches long.
It’s very flexible and it can be twisted up out of the way. The Aeropex aftershocks are the model that if you’ve seen them, you’d understand how this is set up with the headband that goes around behind your head. It’s very flexible, very durable, easy to put into a pocket or to keep in a bag and not have it break as opposed to the early AfterShokz headsets that weren’t necessarily that way. Couple of things that they’ve added that I think are particularly good for a blind person, really for everybody, since you can’t see the headset when it’s on your head for anyone, being able to feel things appropiately is important. The volume up and volume down used to be more flush on the frame of the headset. They now have a little bit of a bump and then on the right ear where you would push in to activate Siri or answer a phone call, that is a pretty good-sized little button that’s easy to feel right now. Then, as I said, the microphone is on the left side. Otherwise, they look just like the Aeropex.
Now, I will switch to a sequence of the five headphones. This is not in a noisy environment. I might try to do that. It’s a little harder to record, but being in a vehicle or on a train when you have just the aftershocks, or just the power beats, or any of the ones without a boom mic, it sounds pretty echowy and hard to follow. Here you go. Testing one, two, three, four on the Power Beats Pro, one on each ear, no boom mic in the 15 by 15 office, comparing with some other headsets. Testing one, two, three on the Power Beats Pro. Testing the Aeropex Aftershokz headphones with a built-in mic, no boom. Testing one, two, three, four in an office space, it’s about 15 by 15, pretty high ceilings, carpeted but fairly live surface. Testing one, two, three, four on the Aftershokz. Testing on the new Aftershokz OpenComm, O-P-E-N-C-O-M-M. The OpenComm looks very much like the Aeropex, but on the left side at the left ear it has a swivel mic that comes down to about three or four inches long and comes within a couple of inches of the side of one’s mouth. Testing one, two, three, four on the OpenComm in the office 15 by 15 or so, very little background sound to worry about to see how the quality is compared to other similar headphones.
Testing the Aftershokz, the OpenComm Aftershokz going down the road at 65, 70 miles an hour on highway 80 headed east. Testing to see how much background sound we get, one, two, three, four, four, three, two, one, end of the test. Testing one, two, three, four on the Bose Frames. This is the newer model, the tempo, and the microphones built into the frames itself. Testing one, two, three, four on the Frames in this 15 by 15 office, pretty live carpet, desk, and a bookshelf, some pictures on the walls. Testing one, two, three, four on the Bose Frames. Testing one, two, three, four, this is on the Audio Technica wired headset plugged directly into my iPhone. It’s got the typical cord mic that’s built in a couple of inches down the cord. You can move the cord close to your mouth like this, one, two, three, four, or you can let it hang down and be a little bit further away.
This would likely be the best headphone when you’re in a noisy car, on a train or on a plane, for dictating to Siri or talking to somebody on the phone because it screens out the background sound and because it’s wired, it’s not using Bluetooth, it’s going to be a lot better fidelity. Testing one, two, three, four.
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Charlie: Hey, Jonathan, hope that you’re good today, you really got me thinking there about a couple of things. First of all, I’m going to talk about this job relationship that I have here at work. Last year, I started here in this job and then what happened as a blind person I couldn’t even get any tools to work with. I had to bring my own in VDA in order to get working and cracking. I make jingles for the station and stuff like that. It’s a community-based station and I know and I get it and I understand, but not having the tools to work with makes it much more problematic. I’m going to do it like that.
Let’s say you were getting $15,000 New Zealand dollars in your first year as you were starting. What happened this year, when we got our contracts renewed, they actually cut my salary to less than a quarter of what I just mentioned now. It’s a big adjustment that I have to make but the problem is they just cut my days and my salary, but they expect me to do the same things. All of it, mix, edit and master all their jingles and everything and then after that, I must do adverts as well, that they put into my profile. Then they said I must do now the story as well. It’s a bit of a lot of work and according to what I’ve heard, all of us under this one manager, we did not sign contracts yet.
For me, it’s a bit of a problem working this way and I don’t want to really address it because I don’t want to rock the boat. I don’t know how to actually go about it. Any advice would be very, very, very much appreciated in this regard. I really don’t know how to really cope with this because I have to use public transport and what they pay me right now is actually just over enough to pay for my transport and on a month-to-month basis. I use quite a lot of money for transport because I have to use about three taxis to and from home. Second, I’m planning on actually saving up for my computer, a desktop computer. I’m going to be building up my desktop computer right now.
I’m going to be saving up for all the things that I need and want so I’m going to be buying myself JAWS and I’m thinking of buying myself Leasey as well, sounds really cool when you’re talking about it. The Muse sounds really cool to have that as well because I’m planning to go ahead and do podcasts of upcoming artists. I want them to actually find a platform where we can play their music and just see if we can get maybe a producer or a record label to listen in and just maybe sign them up. We don’t know but we give them that platform, where they can play their music, that’s the podcast I want to come up with. Then thirdly, I’m not a regular flying person. I don’t fly often but what happens is that in public transports which I use, they would always have this question for especially if they’ve seen me for the first time.
“Why does the people that you stay with let you walk alone or travel alone?” I feel sometimes some people here in South Africa need to be educated, even though we have educated them well enough, but I don’t think most of them are educated well enough.
Jonathan: Thank you for your contribution. Charlie, I don’t know anything about South African employment law. Regarding your first question, a lot of this depends on employment legislation. Here, it would be illegal to change someone’s employment condition unilaterally. You would have to agree to reduced hours and to a different kind of salary. Also, we have a scheme here, which in certain circumstances will mean that if the only way for a disabled person to get to a job is via taxi, then the scheme will pay for those taxis. If you’re in a situation where you’re pretty much not gaining financially from working, that’s a very difficult decision because essentially what you have to decide is, “Do I stay in there to get the experience and hopefully find a better gig or hopefully have some promotion later down the track if I helped to build the success of this radio station or do I choose not to?” Maybe one way around this is to see if there’s some advocacy service that could advocate on your behalf and get to the bottom of what’s happening, if you are having difficulty raising those issues yourself. Sometimes it is difficult to be a self-advocate, especially when it’s something so sensitive as your job and your salary.
Dean: Hey, Jonathan, Dean Martineau here in Florida when you were talking about forgetting a person is blind and you talk about compare your experience with that of Sarah Hillis. There’s a real fundamental difference there between the situations. We want to have people forget we’re blind in the sense that Sarah was talking about, she’s got friends, they’re living that she’s a person. Yes, she does things a little bit differently and they get used to it and it’s not an issue. My case when my now deceased wife walked out of the restaurant and left me there for a minute one time because after all, she knew instinctively I would be walking with her because of course blindness doesn’t matter except when it does. Then I of course didn’t do that. She was very crestfallen and I just laughed because that was funny because it wasn’t an issue being the fact that I’m blind, is a secondary matter. On the other hand, your work colleague who wasn’t going to bother making the accommodations, actually didn’t forget you were blind. He would remember it. He knew it if he thought about it, but he wasn’t interested in making accommodations which blindness does require. It’s a real difference there. I’m definitely in favor of my friends forgetting that I’m blind sometimes, or at least not making it the primary aspect of our lives. Just remembering that it does occasionally rear its head under certain circumstances. Hope that makes sense.
Jonathan: Thank you Dean, it’s good to hear from you, and I appreciate you articulating that. To be honest, no, it doesn’t make sense to me, but I’m just going to have to conclude that I don’t get this. I don’t ever want anybody to forget I’m blind, why would I? It’s something I’m proud of. It’s part of my identity. It’s part of who I am. It’s like, do I want people to forget I’m male? Do I want people to forget I’m a New Zealander? It’s just a part of what makes me, me. I don’t want people to forget I’m blind. I don’t understand why anyone would.
I don’t see a distinction between somebody forgetting I’m blind and not delivering a PowerPoint presentation to me in a form I can use, and somebody forgetting I’m blind and leaving me behind. I don’t see the distinction, but I just have to conclude I’m not getting this, and that’s okay. We can share a variety of views and perspectives here, and that’s what it’s all about, but this one does not resonate with me at all. I mean, at all. It’s not that I can even disagree with it because I don’t understand it.
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Jonathan: Marissa writes in and says, “Greetings Jonathan.” I always laugh when I get an email that sounds like that. “Greetings,” it sounds like somebody landing from another planet and saying “Greetings earthling.” Anyway, she says, “I wanted to comment relating to app developers not knowing about voice-over, or wanting to make their products accessible to us. I have noticed that this is a problem that seems to be ever-increasing. Not just with app developers, but companies as well.
I remember once I had called a company to request assistance with their product, which happened to be a printer. I was using Windows and running Jaws. The representative quickly blamed the assistive technology as the reason for the printer’s proprietary software not functioning as expected. It turns out, big shocker, the company was wrong on it being JAWS that was causing the issue. It seems as though we educate and fight for accessibility till we’re blue in the face, yet we still deal with individuals who don’t understand the concept.
It is similar to what you talked about with AccessiBe , and overlays making it impossible for those who use screen readers or magnification software to access websites. I wonder what more we as consumers can do to have these companies get it. That accessibility is not a choice, but a right that everyone, regardless of their disability should be included when making executive decisions regarding products. To creating decisions which include us.
Which brings me to another question for you. I sometimes void telling representatives that I am legally blind, as I know it will just cause confusion. Most individuals have no concept that visual impairment is a spectrum. Do you personally see anything wrong with a customer saying they are blind. If it will make it easier for the representative to understand blindness when trying to accomplish tasks that would be visual. Even if the customer has a visual impairment.”
Thanks very much Marissa. When I see days like Global Accessibility Awareness day, which happened not so long ago. I am heartened by the fact that there is increasing interest in accessibility, and increasing acceptance of the need for products and services to be accessible. When you look at how so many companies are passionate about accessibility now, that weren’t just a few years ago, we are making progress. But then you can have one or two or three incidents in a very short time, that make you think, “What the heck is going on in the world?” It’s the luck of the draw sometimes.
If you choose to describe yourself as blind when you have some vision, that’s absolutely your right. Of course, this is what the NFB recommends, doesn’t it? Or maybe they’ve softened that stance, but they used to say, if you don’t have sufficient vision to function in an efficient way with your sight, then you may as well describe yourself as blind. I do know what you mean, even as a totally blind person, I sometimes try and avoid telling a tech support person that I’m blind. Because they just haven’t been trained to cope with that.
Normally you get this conversation that says, “Please don’t tell me where to click, because I’m blind and I’m using keyboard commands, and I have a screen reader on my computer.” Then they say, “Can you see it all?” I say, “No,” and then they say, “Is there someone there who can help you?” I say, “No, I don’t require assistance, thank you,” and on it goes. It can be very frustrating, and sometimes we are just having more patient days than others. We’re human, and we just want to get the issue dealt with. Sometimes it might be easier to just describe yourself as blind if you can’t do something in a visual way.
It really is grace that companies like Apple, and Microsoft, and Google, have disability specific support now, and they have people who are trained in the use of screen readers. Who know what being blind actually means, or what being low vision means, and won’t instruct you to do things in a visual way. I know that advocacy can sometimes feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall, but believe me, the wall does move ever so slightly every time, and I feel like we are making progress. It’s just that sometimes the progress may not be as quick as we would like.
Haya writes, “Hi Jonathan, your shows are so thought-provoking that I could write really long emails almost every week, but I don’t want to exhaust you or hog the conversation. I hope this email is short. Here are my thoughts on gratitude. I am willing to thank people and value, or appreciate people and what they do, and I know what it’s like to be underappreciated. However, I am not willing to go the whole hog and be grateful for two reasons. One, it always comes at someone else’s expense, and often from a place of condescension. Two, all too often it’s something that people trot out in order to keep you from airing your grievances even when they’re justified.
Here are some examples. On your episode just after Thanksgiving, you also mentioned gratitude. The very next day, I was listening to another podcast, when a podcaster took walks around the neighborhood, and spoke her thoughts as they came to her. Her first thought was how glad she was that she could walk around and see everything. As for the second scenario, you have mentioned several times, that when you have serious complaints about technology, you have been told to be grateful for what already exists. I think those examples explain exactly why I am almost never grateful. I am not saying that gratitude doesn’t have the advantages people say it has. I’m just mentioning other disadvantages that I have never heard other people even consider.”
I appreciate your email Haya, see, I’m grateful to have received it. I have spent a lot of time as I’ve become more mindful over the last few years, thinking about the intersection of gratitude and advocacy. Is it possible to be grateful for all that we have, while also advocating for a better world? I think it absolutely is. I get frustrated like anyone when I’m impeded in my productivity, or just getting on with my life, by an accessibility bug that a major technology company has the resources to fix if only they chose to allocate those resources. Of course that’s frustrating, but I’m also grateful for the fact that we’ve come such a long way.
When I was a kid, I would often pester my older cited siblings to read the newspaper to me. I can remember not being able to read my own bank statement independently, and the indignity of going into a bank and having the bank teller say, “You’re $250 overdrawn Mr. Mosen.” At the top of their voice, because everybody knows that you have to speak loudly to a blind person. I can remember having to pester people to go into a record or CD store with me, and browse the Bargain Bins. Because it was the only way that I could really find out whether there was any kind of treasure there that I might like to buy for myself.
I can remember being staggered at the beginning of online grocery shopping by how much choice there was, that I didn’t even know about. In terms of things like, the variety of bread you can buy, or the various brands of milk. We have come an incredibly long way. I can also be grateful for the roof over my head. For the fact that I’m in good health, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I suppose you could argue that there’s a smugness about it, but the way I look at it is, sometimes we get overwhelmed by the things that we would like to change in our lives, the things that bother us. I think this is a particular problem for blind people or anybody who is a member of a minority whose capacity is often underestimated, whose impairment is misunderstood. It’s really easy to let all of these things, the discrimination, the problems pile up. There’s nothing wrong at all with advocating for a better world and it’s something that I do a lot, but negative emotions are powerful emotions. I think we do have to cultivate a gratitude practice so that we keep our lives in balance. I think I’m a much more reasonable person who can keep things in perspective because I actively cultivate a gratitude practice and I force myself to write down in my gratitude journal, 10 things every day that I’m grateful for.
I hope people have been able to tell from this podcast that that doesn’t mean that I’ve somehow become lazy, contented, not willing to stand up and advocate for things that I feel passionate about and that I believe in. I’m still doing all of those things. I think I’m doing them though in a more constructive way than I used to because I have that sense of perspective and because I’m cultivating that gratitude practice, but it’s a really thought-provoking email and I appreciate you sending it.
Choir: Mosen at Large Podcast.
Jonathan: Here’s an email from Kylee Maloney who writes, “Hi, Jonathan, I would like you to know how much I appreciate transcripts of your podcasts, even though I’m not deaf-blind. There are two big reasons. First, sad as it seems, I don’t always have time to sit down and listen to a full podcast, which usually lasts more than an hour. The ability to whip through the transcript in mere minutes and keep up with events is most welcome. Secondly, if I have been able to listen in, even to the full show, it’s extremely handy to be able to refer back to parts of it, such as that mini-tutorial on the clipboard. All this serves to help me and others remain fully engaged where we may not otherwise do so. This is just another example of how an accessibility feature can also serve as an enhancement for others, for whom it was not originally intended. Keep up the fantastic work.”
Well, thank you for taking the time to share that Kylee, because I am collecting data on how well the transcripts are being received so I can provide that to the funder in the hope that next year they will continue to fund this and that we’ll be able to continue to offer transcripts, which is something really important to me. Just while we’re on the subject of skimming around the podcast, it is good for me to remind people, from time to time, that we do make extensive use of chapter marks, and hopefully, you’re using a podcast app that supports them even, Apple Podcasts, which I don’t recommend, supports them. Overcast, Downcast, Castro, Pocket Cast, all the good podcast apps support them and this allows you to move through to different sections of the podcast. That’s a great way to quickly move between things that are of interest or that are not of interest.
If someone comes on talking about something that doesn’t interest you, you can just push the chapter button to advance to the next one and off you go. The really cool thing about Castro’s implementation of chapters is that you can bring up the list of chapters even before you start listening to the podcast. Each chapter has a title telling you about what that listener or what I am talking about, and you can de-select the chapters that are of no interest to you, then sit back and listen to the podcast. Then all you get are the sections that are of interest to you. Chapters are another great way to get at the content that you want from this podcast.
Marcus writes in and says, “Dear Jonathan, I recently came across your show and have been listening ever since. I am totally hooked. I wanted to contribute to the show. A few episodes ago, someone emailed asking about learning PHP. I am a visually impaired developer and PHP is the language I use for coding. I have a couple of things to add to what Gordon suggested. One, learn HTML and CSS before you touch PHP. Two, use WAMP, that’s W-A-M-P, on Windows or XAMPP on Mac OS to try your code. It’s all free and you won’t kill any servers testing codes as a newbie. This lives on your device, and you can try whatever you like. Three, I would recommend using Notepad++ for editing code.
It also works with several programming languages. It is fully accessible with the screen reader I use in VDA. Four, another good resource for learning to code is www.freecodecamp.org. Stack Overflow is indeed your friend, whether you are new or old. It has vast amounts of Q&A on the site for different programming languages. About the accessible cryptocurrency app, I use an app called Blue Wallet, and you can find it at bluewallet.io on iOS and it is also available on Android. I think the person who emailed about this said they were using Android. In terms of accessibility, it is accessible but requires screen recognition to be enabled on some sections to fully utilize it. I am not sure how accessible the Android version is. I would assume it has similar UI and design. The only downside with this app is it only supports Bitcoin. I really like this app because this app enables me to purchase Bitcoin independently and I do not have to get sighted assistance to jot down my secret seed phrase, which is highly sensitive and only the wallet owner should have a copy of this for optimum security.
I do know another app called Exodus which supports multiple cryptocurrencies, but I have not really played with it properly. I briefly browsed through the app and elements were labeled and seemed accessible. A big word of caution though. Crypto currencies are very volatile, invest in it at your own risk. As you might have heard on the news, Elon Musk’s single tweet caused the Bitcoin price to depreciate 10% to 15%. Regarding the TP-Link app not being accessible, I also have a Mesh Deco system. It works great for a product, but the accessibility of the app is much to be desired like Pete said. One thing I can recommend is using screen recognition. These are the steps I follow to get it working, but it has to be done in precisely this order for me.
One, make sure screen recognition is off for TP-Link app by going to settings, accessibility, voiceover, voice recognition, screen recognition, apply to apps. Find TP-Link on the list and check it’s toggled off. Two, now launch the TP-Link app. Three, using the voiceover rotor gesture, flick screen recognition to on. Four, now, try using the app and see if it improves your experience. I have noticed if screen recognition is enabled before opening the TP-Link app, it doesn’t behave well. I hope this helps Brian and I was very disappointed to hear what TP-Link said about Pete’s feedback.
I have had greater success with voiceover accessibility fixes with other smaller apps. They seem more understanding than these big corporates. I have one question for you and your listeners. I am having a particular issue with WhatsApp. It has been several months or probably more than a year I can’t get voiceover to echo the text message character by character on the edit field when I’m composing a new message. I did a screen recording and sent it to WhatsApp as a back report, but all I got was, “We will pass your feedback on.” No follow-up from WhatsApp since, and this was in 2020. Is anyone else facing this issue or is it just me? It was working fine pre-iOS 13, but now it’s a pain in the backside.
On Episode 122, you had email about voiceover versus JAWS. Many thanks for the detailed information. I am actually contemplating switching from NVDA to the MacBook with voiceover, but I don’t know if it is worth paying the premium for practically doing what can be performed by NVDA on Windows efficiently and at lower cost. I do not have experience with JAWS, perhaps I should give it a go. Oh, by the way, how is Bonnie getting on with the M1 MacBook Air? The M1 chip sounds really cool for a geek like me and it is really tempting. Regarding TTS preference, I am probably the only person who likes UK English Serina enhanced voice on iOS. It is great and I find other voices too gimmicky and robotic. Thanks for reading my lengthy email. Keep up the good work and your podcast is a treasure trove for a newbie like me.”
Thank you Marcus. Bonnie is doing okay with the M1 MacBook Air, but I think she’s finding that like many of us, we’re tempted by the undoubtedly amazing technology that the M1 MacBook Air represents and then disappointed by the performance of voiceover, which has not received a lot of love in recent years from Apple. Regarding WhatsApp, I can’t reproduce this one myself. If I compose a message in WhatsApp, I am able to move around character by character and review what I have written. That’s a peculiar one that it’s happening for you. Kevin is writing in from Malaysia and says, “Hey, Mosen At Large, listeners hope everyone is well. A very big gratitude to the work of Jonathan. I do not miss your weekly episode and it’s a big contribution to our community. Thank you so much. One,” we’ve got a list. “One, lately I’ve been checking out hypnosis downloads.com and really love the programs and offering.
As there is so much on the site, can you elaborate more on what you purchase, what’s the best audio courses to experience and how do the courses in the site help you. Also do let us know if you’ve subscribed to the growth zone and just a heads up, there’s a 50% Coronavirus offer going on there.” Well, Kevin, I think that this will vary a lot depending on what your requirements are. I would encourage people to browse the extensive catalog, it is great, at hypnosisdownloads.com. Look at areas where you would like to improve or have some growth and purchase the appropriate things for you. Yes, for some time when I was building up the collection, I did subscribe to the growth zone.
I don’t at the moment but I have done and that’s a way of getting good value for money from the service. What people choose to purchase will be a very different thing for each individual. It’s also a very personal thing depending on what they’d like to work on. Two, I am always looking out for more ways to train my brain. “One of the great methods is to learn languages. I am curious on the techniques, tricks and methods used by blind users to learn new languages as hobbies or professions. I am aware of a blind woman who is popular in the language learning community by the name of Chenelle Hancock and she hosts a podcast called Chenelle’s Language Learning Journey Podcast.
Two popular methods of acquiring new languages that I’m aware of are the Pimsleur method and the Michelle Thomas method. I would love to hear more experiences of language learning as it will greatly help me in not only acquiring new languages but understanding the learning process and hurdles around it. Three, I am planning to buy a high-spec laptop that I would like to use for productivity purposes. Besides future audio production learning purposes. I usually have multiple Chrome profiles with hundreds of tabs opened.” I have to stop here and ask why? Why? Why does anybody need hundreds of tabs open at one time? Anyway, I’ll go on. “Further, I love the laptop speakers and the mic to be in the best quality for me to enjoy better sound. Do recommend some good laptops that fall into this line.” Well, assuming that you are after a Windows device, then the Dell XPS 15 has amazing speakers and a very good quality mic and it’s powerful so I would recommend that if you are looking at the Mac, then the M1 Macs are all excellent, good battery life and the MacBook Pro especially has amazing speakers. I think the Dell XPS 15 and the MacBook Pro speakers are comparable. I’m sure that others will be happy to chime in and talk about their laptops, particularly from that perspective that you want. Good quality audio. You clearly want a bit of grunt in it to run your hundreds of Chrome tabs.
I really would love to understand why anybody needs to have hundreds of tabs open at once but you do what you want to do. It’s a free world and of course the microphone quality as well. You want something that’s quite quiet when it’s running.
Jonathan: That familiar and moving music serenades the beginning of another Bonnie bulletin with your host speaker one, AKA Bonnie Mosen.
Bonnie: Hey guys.
Jonathan: Now this transcription thing is teaching us a lot about civil discourse.
Bonnie: How so?
Jonathan: Because when I was reviewing the transcription of the podcast which I like to do. I noticed that in the Bonnie bulletin section there was quite a lot of bits where the transcriber had to write cross talk and you know what that means?
Bonnie: What? I’m interrupting you?
Jonathan: It means, well, that we’re interrupting each other. I’m not blaming you. See? There we go. See? You’re doing it now. See, we have to make sure that we both don’t talk at the same time, that we allow the other to finish. It’s almost like a marriage counseling thing.
Bonnie: Yes and also if you have an ASL interpreter, it’s the same thing.
Jonathan: I’m sure.
Bonnie: Probably with any interpreter and fairness language or overall sign language.
Jonathan: We have to make sure that we don’t talk over one another.
Jonathan: Yes, that’s the discipline, that’s the thing we have to achieve. This is prerecorded because it’s the Belmont–
Bonnie: The Belmont stakes third jewel the triple crown, no triple crown on the line this year.
Jonathan: Yes, has that horse been suspended yet? Medina’s Spirit, because they found out that Medina’ Spirit has failed the drug test?
Bonnie: The positive split. No, but the rest of it will be decided in court. Baffert the trainer has been banned for two years running horses at Churchill. Santa Anita has not made a decision yet. Monmouth parks says they welcome Baffert horses. We just have to see how it plays out in the court system.
Jonathan: iOS 15, it’s going to be unveiled in a very short time. Will you be up at 5:00 AM with Heidi and me?
Bonnie: Well, I will because I have to go to work so I will be up at 5:00 AM.
Jonathan: 5:00 AM is your start time?
Bonnie: That is my start time for getting up naturally. I will be around and aware of what’s going on but probably not be hanging on Tim Cook’s every word.
Jonathan: Do you have any wishes for iOS number 15?
Bonnie: Well, I was telling you that I’m having a problem with Apple Music where it gets used to what you like to listen to so every week on Tuesday morning it produces a favorites list and I can no longer see the tracks in the favorite list. I have to play each one and hit next if I don’t want to hear that song. It was always nice being able to see the songs because some you wanted to listen to and others maybe didn’t want to listen to. It hasn’t been doing that for a while. I don’t know why it’s not doing that. Curious if anyone else is having an issue with it.
Jonathan: You double tap the favorites mix option and then what used to happen is that the playlist would essentially come up and you could flick through and see each item in the playlist?
Jonathan: Now you don’t see the list?
Bonnie: You can’t do that. No.
Bonnie: It’s just the favorites and it’s just the get up. It’s just all the mixes that they create.
Jonathan: Does it also apply to the new music mix?
Bonnie: I think so.
Jonathan: I use that quite a bit. I haven’t in the last few weeks but when I last checked the, what do they call that? New music thing? It was working okay still for me.
Bonnie: I don’t normally look at new music mix but the favorites and the get up mix aren’t working.
Jonathan: Well, you can always switch to Spotify.
Bonnie: I could yes.
Jonathan: That’s interesting. I wonder whether anybody else can report on that problem. I don’t think we mentioned in all of the excitement about the washing machine, which is still going well isn’t it?
Bonnie: It is yes. It’s happy now that it has fabric softener in it.
Jonathan: Yes as are we all when we all get fabric softener in us we’re happier.
Bonnie: It doesn’t grumble about it anymore, it’s content. Yes, it’s working very well.
Jonathan: Yes and you are being more ambitious with the settings now?
Bonnie: Yes, I changed it from cotton, I was washing blue jeans yesterday and I changed it to blue jeans.
Bonnie: There’s all kinds of settings in there.
Jonathan: That’s good, but when we were waxing lyrically about the washing machine, we didn’t mention a really bizarre thing that happened that actually there have been two quite annoying things with Uber Eats lately. I think the regime for Uber Eats has changed in this country that they may have farmed out the delivery part of the process to some contracting company or something, but we treated Heidi and Henry to McDonald’s and we got some ourselves. I got a nice big low carb burger. We placed quite a substantial McDonald’s order and when it arrived, when they said it arrived, we found that only the drinks had arrived.
We’d ordered combos, different things like that and in the end only the drinks turned up and it was a real mission to get refunded for the stuff that we didn’t get.
Bonnie: Yes, because who would order drinks? That’s just random. You must be really desperate for a Coke if you’re going to pay the fee charge to get it from the Uber Eats.
Jonathan: Yes, and I called the driver who delivered it and luckily managed to get hold of him. I said, “Owe, there might be some more stuff there because we ordered all this food and you only gave us drinks.” He said the restaurant only gave me drinks to deliver to you. It took a couple of days to go through the process and luckily because we have the diamond thing, we’re able to call in and get the refund.
Bonnie: I think he ate it.
Jonathan: You can’t say that on the podcast. You might be defaming the driver.
Bonnie: Well, we don’t even know who he was and it does happen. A friend of mine got a chicken and a piece was missing.
Jonathan: Ew, that would be a lot of food to eat though.
Bonnie: Maybe he was hungry and he had friends. [chuckles]
Jonathan: We had a friend over for dinner the other day and we decided we would get some Thai food. We’ve got a really good Thai place near us that delivers on Uber Eats. Your main meal was missing, everybody else’s arrived.
Bonnie: Yes, but I didn’t get mine. That’s happened a couple of times where I haven’t gotten my meal.
Jonathan: I know. It must be some sort of conspiracy.
Bonnie: Must be.
Jonathan: If, yes. [chuckles] I don’t know whether this is a common thing with Uber Eats. It would be fun to hear people’s Uber Eats or general delivery horror stories.
Bonnie: Yes. DoorDash, Suffered some weird ones with DoorDash.
Jonathan: We don’t have that in New Zealand.
Jonathan: Now, you said you were also going to talk about the medical profession. I should say, we’ve had a few comments on the medical profession and how some of them have difficulty providing good quality services to blind people, treating us with some dignity. We got an email from Carrie Francis in the great country of Canada. She’s had several procedures, some of them quite significant. She says she has always had really good luck with the medical assistants she’s received. That they were very nice and accommodating and not patronizing and that she just can’t speak highly enough of all the assistance that she’s received during some quite complex and lengthy, at times, medical surgeries.
It’s always good to share the positive stories, as well. And you’ve got a positive story to share and you’ll do it now.
Bonnie: I do. I am halfway vaccinated against the coronavirus. I got my first jab last Sunday afternoon. The rollout here has not been as seamless as it has been in some parts of the world. There’s been a lot of confusion on who gets what when, there’s these certain categories. Of course, they obviously and understandably started with, first was the border workers and the quarantine facility people, the first first-line responders, which is completely understandable. Then the next category, I believe, was the elderly or the people over 65, is that right?
Jonathan: That’s the group that’s being vaccinated now.
Jonathan: That’s group three. That also includes us.
Bonnie: Yes. It also includes us and it’s kind of hit or miss on who has gotten it. I do know some people who have gotten the vaccine. A coworker of mine, her husband has an immune thing going on so she got vaccinated. Another friend of mine, her husband got vaccinated because some people in his office were getting vaccinated. He said, “I’ll just go ahead and get a vaccine.” I was able to get the vaccine last Sunday because Jonathan had called them and they said they had an availability last Sunday but because he had had the flu shot, he couldn’t get it because you have to wait two weeks. He asked, “Could I get it?”
And because they didn’t have anyone filling it and because once they’ve opened a vaccine vial, they have to use it, so, I was able to get in. Just going back on the misinformation, we have something called Neighborly, which is a community email bulletin board for the whole Northern Suburbs. There’s been a lot of traffic on that about– They’ve been calling the medical center. The medical center has no information. These are all elderly people. They’re saying it probably won’t be till October. At work, I was talking about it and I work for a service provider that provides services to a lot of older people and blind people and no one there knew anything about it.
They said, “Well, no, one’s told us in the organization.” I said, “Well, no, one’s told anybody.” It’s not anyone’s necessarily fault. The information is just not coming down from the government or medical establishment or whoever’s in charge of these things.
Jonathan: They’re waiting for a big shipment of Pfizer vaccines just to ramp it up. Obviously, we are the only major country that doesn’t have any community transmission of COVID-19 at the moment. On that basis, I think the vaccine companies are not prioritizing us. That’s all well and good. There’s no doubt that how we have handled COVID-19 in terms of stamping it out, has been world-leading, but you see what’s going on across the Tasman with the Melbourne lockdown and you realize it is all very tenuous. If we got a little bit of community transmission, we didn’t get lucky in stamping it out, it could be a really terrible situation. We’ve really got to get this vaccination thing sorted.
Bonnie: Yes. I did read earlier today that, the Pfizer, they’re not sure that it’s completely operational. What’s the word I want? For the Indian variant now that we may have to have a booster shot next year.
Jonathan: Effective basically.
Bonnie: Effective against the Indian variant, but my experience because I was a bit nervous because a friend of mine had had there’s a month or so ago and it had been very disorganized. I was like, “Oh boy, this is going to be fun.” I went to a place out in Lower Hutt and I was really very pleasantly surprised. They have it down to an assembly line. You go in, you go over to, and you register. Then they take you somewhere else and someone reads the card to you. Then the nurse gets you and gives you the jab and you just wait for 20 minutes to make sure you don’t have any adverse reaction to the shot and then you leave.
You register for your second jab and then that’s it. I even got there early. It’s funny the times they come up with because mine was at 4:58.
Jonathan: They texted you, didn’t they? They said you will be vaccinated at 4:58 precisely.
Bonnie: Yes. I was vaccinated at 4:30 because I got there early. I said, “I can wait.” There wasn’t a lot of people in there, so they’re like, “Okay, you just come ahead and have it.” I was out of there by 5:10. That was nice. My next one’s at 3:39.
Jonathan: 3:39, that’s remarkable.
Bonnie: Yes. [chuckles]
Jonathan: My medical story, I had a flu shot because the idea was that I wanted to get it done before my rona came up. I got the flu shot as early in the season as I could. I called up the flu shot people at the medical center that we normally use. I said, “I’d like to register for a flu vaccine, please.” They said, “We could actually take you this afternoon if you’d like.” I said, “That’d be great. Yes.” We set a time and then she said, “Oh, but we’re not doing the flu vaccinations at the medical center that you usually come into. We’ve actually got a little pop-up stand set up at the Countdown Supermarket.” Countdown is a big supermarket chain in New Zealand.
I said, “Oh, well, I’m totally blind so that might be a little bit difficult to locate, but I’ll do my best. I presume that I can just ask for directions or whatever.” She said, “Oh, you won’t be able to miss it, it’s well signposted.” I said, “Yes. well, I’m not going to be able to see the signs if I’m totally blind. Am I?” She said, “Oh, oh, when you said you were totally blind, I didn’t realize that you meant you’re actually totally blind.” That was my first thing. Then I get to the flu place and sit down, wait my turn. They give me this card and they said, “You won’t be able to read this. I’ll take it but we can have somebody go through it with you.”
I said, “It’s okay. I’ll scan it on my phone.” They said, “Okay.” I was actually reading the card. I just got out the phone. I think I used Seeing AI, which is right there on page one of my home screen. I took a picture and I was reading the card. It was really clearly legible. No problem at all. I was just reading away and the woman came up and said, “It’s time for your flu injection now.” I said, “Okay, that’s good. I’m just reading the card.” She actually laughed at me. She thought that I was making a joke when I said I was reading the card. Then, she insisted on reading the whole thing and I kept saying, “I’ve actually read it.” and she laughed at me.
Bonnie: Oh, dear.
Jonathan: I kept trying to say, “Look, I’ve got this app on my phone. I’ve read this.” They didn’t want to believe me.
Bonnie: Oh, geez. I did not have any adverse effects from shot one.
Jonathan: You had a sore arm you said.
Bonnie: I had a very sore arm the next day but it was pretty much gone by Tuesday. It just felt like an average shot in the arm that you get.
Jonathan: Right. It’s a shot in the arm for Bonnie Mosen.
Jonathan: Well, thank you for another really gripping Bonnie bulletin and we will look forward to next weeks. Where we will maintain our record of not talking over each other, mostly.
Bonnie: Absolutely. I wonder how they transcribe, like, meet the press and things like that where they make a habit of talking over each other.
Jonathan: Yes .Well, do they?
Bonnie: [chuckles] I think that they would have to.
Jonathan: No, I don’t know.
Bonnie: Yes, because sometimes you hear them say, “The transcript of this program was brought to you by–”
Jonathan: We won’t give the transcribers that kind of headache.
Jonathan: Okay. Goodbye.
Speaker 3: What’s on your mind. Send an email with a recording of your voice or just write it down. firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N @mushroomfm.com, or phone our listener line. The number in the United States is 864-60MOSEN. That’s (864) 606-6736.
Jonathan: Andy C is writing in about the Zoom PodTrak P4 and says, “Hi, Jonathan. I was just listening to the latest Bonnie Bulletin in which you were
using your PodTrak P4 to record a three-way conversation. I understand that each track gets recorded separately and that there is also another track with all channels combined. But, when listening to the podcast, the recording was a stereo mix with you on the right Bonnie on the left, and your guest in the middle. Am I right in thinking that in order to create a stereo mix of this kind, you would’ve had to do some post-production work on the original files, and without much work, you would just be left with a mono mix?
The P4 sounds like a terrific piece of kit for the price, but what I would like to do is record three or four voices, and then place each in a stereo mix. I imagine I will need post-production software to do this. Is that right? I prefer to use my iPhone for everything, but I do have an eight-year-old Mac book air, which I’ve never fully got to grips with because of all the voiceover anomalies. I’m wondering if the software is required, which would be the simplest preferably on my iPhone, but possibly on my Mac that would allow me to achieve a sort of round table-sounding stereo recording. My thanks and respect to you, Jonathan, for all the work you do on behalf of the blind and visually impaired communities.
With best regards, Andy Collins. Thank you, Andy. Yes, you do need to do post-production to get the effects that I was getting with that Bonnie bulletin recorded on the zoom PodTrak P4, but I wouldn’t really dream of putting something out there that didn’t go through some post-production just to make sure that all the levels were truly level, that we’ve got that nice stereo round table mix there. It’s just not in my nature to put something out like that when I have the chance to tweak it and perfect it and trim it. Oh my, I love that stuff.
I use REAPER to do all of that on either my Dell XPS 15, which I can do from anywhere, or in my studio on the powerful PC that we have in here for audio production and things of that nature. You could do it on your phone though. You could use an app like Ferrite or Hokusai. Both of them made by the same developer, both with slightly different use cases. I believe one might be destructive and one might be non-destructive, but they do work extremely well with voiceover. This is another indie app developer who pays a lot of attention to voiceover accessibility. You could try either of those. I must say though, that I have not yet found a user experience that is as efficient as REAPER.
It could just be because I haven’t given it a fair chance. Admittedly, when I switched to working exclusively in REAPER some time ago now, I did take a productivity hit, but I could see that I would gain it back over time if I just started using it exclusively and developed muscle memory around my workflow. I’m not yet convinced about that with anything on the iPhone. I’m not sure there is anything on the iPhone that would allow me to do post-production as efficiently as I can do on my PC with REAPER. And it is important to say, of course, since you have a MacBook Air, that there is a REAPER for the Mac and it works with OSARA, the accessibility overlay that exists for REAPER.
You could try downloading the demo of REAPER. It costs you nothing to give it a try. OSARA is free. You could install it on the MacBook Air and see how you get on. Since you’re obviously a proficient iPhone user who uses your iPhone for everything, give one of these editing apps a try. If there does happen to be anybody listening who is doing serious podcast editing with an app on the iPhone, let’s explore this. Tell me what you’re using, how efficient you find it. I presume you are using keyboard commands to do this, so, you have a Bluetooth keyboard connected to your iPhone.
Or is there one that really works well with gestures that allow you to do minute edits and get everything lined up the way you want. Clinton Lindgren is writing in and says, “Hi, Jonathan, here’s one for you. Yesterday, I experienced a very strange Bluetooth issue. Basically, none of my Bluetooth devices would pair. I first discovered this while attempting to listen to yesterday’s Mosen explosion using my echo flex paired to a Bluetooth transmitter/receiver, which it has always paired to with no problems before. It said it couldn’t find it. I attempted several times and then tried another Bluetooth audio device, which has traditionally always worked as well, and it also said it couldn’t find it.
Then, I tried to pairing these audio devices with my Victor Reader Trek. It could find them, but pairing failed in each and every case. I also noticed that the Trek said it found over 20 Bluetooth devices, some of which had strange names. For example, one of them was the letter S. Well, I tried various pairings whenever I could since I was also working from home yesterday. I couldn’t devote a lot of time to this issue. Anyway, every combination I tried, failed. I finally gave up late last night. This morning, I tried again and everything seems to be working normally as if nothing ever happened. Everything pairs now, just as expected. I’m wondering if you or any of your listeners have ever seen this kind of Bluetooth issue.
If so, if you have any idea what might cause something like this. Anyway, I hope it doesn’t become a regular occurrence.” Thanks, Clinton. I don’t know. I’m wondering whether it might just be one rogue device. Perhaps the battery going flat on that transmitter/receiver device you were talking about and sending spurious signals into the ether that was confusing all Bluetooth devices around it, but that’s just speculation on my part. Hopefully, it does indeed not become a regular occurrence.
Owais Patel is writing in from Edmonton, Canada, and wants to know if a person would like to do a well-made podcast for which they ask people to pay, what are the trigger points that would convince you to pay for each episode if it was produced on a monthly basis? What would you expect in the content, the sound, and, say, even the topics. I’ll go on to Owais’ second question in a minute, but I’ll have a go at the first one first. I have often said to people who I have coached on starting podcasts that if you are going to come into this by saying, “I want to start a podcast. What should I do it on?” Chances are it’s not going to succeed.
The best podcasts that I have seen work are people who come at it from a different angle and say, “I have expertise in a particular area,” or, “I enjoy communicating about a particular subject with people. Maybe a podcast is the best vehicle to do that.” It’s so easy to start a podcast, but it takes a lot of commitment. It takes a lot of hard work and it’s a pretty thankless task because most podcasts, even if they are being produced by sited people for a mainstream market, are lucky to get a few hundred downloads an episode. It is very rare that you get podcasts that go into the millions of downloads.
It’s also really rare if you’re targeting a niche market like this one, the blind community, that you managed to do what we do and get thousands of downloads every week. Next, most podcast content is free. If I’m a podcast listener, I’m going to be asking myself, “What value am I getting for my money? What can you give me that I can’t get for free somewhere else?” If a podcast is well-researched, if it helps me in my professional life or personal life and it’s information that’s just too difficult for me to get anywhere else and maybe I could pay, I don’t know, $5 a month is probably about as much as I would be willing to pay just to get that done, then fine.
Some recent numbers that I have seen indicate that about 21%, only 21% of the podcast audience subscribes to any kind of paid podcast right now. It’s possible that it will be a little more as Apple’s podcast solution rolls out and it becomes more seamless and more elegant. When you consider what you can get, say, for a Netflix subscription, all the movies that you can watch, all the TV shows you can watch, how much is it really reasonable to charge for a single podcast that comes out once a month and gives you say an hour or two at the most of entertainment or information? What is the market going to bear? I don’t think it’s going to be much.
If you only have a few hundred listeners, you convert at the maximum in, say, 20%, which I think it’d be optimistic, to paid subscribers, Apple’s going to take their 30% at least in the first year of all the revenue that you create, you will have podcast hosting costs most likely, there will be software involved. If you expect people to pay, it should be really good quality. There’ll be a lot of editing work. There’ll be investments in equipment.
What I’m saying is most people do not make money out of podcasting, that’s not what motivates them.
There is so much good quality out there already that I think it’s highly unlikely that there will be a lot of people who would be willing to pay for a podcast where somebody has not demonstrated credibility in a field yet. Now, you may be able to by obviously offering demo episodes or adding some value so that the podcast is free, but for some reason, there’s information that people just can’t get any other way than by subscribing to a podcast. Coming to listeners and asking them that says to me that you’re not ready for that. You’ve got to be able to articulate your own value proposition. It’s not like going to listeners and say, “What will you pay me to do?”
You’ve really got to go to your market and say, “Here is what I’m offering you and this is why I think it adds value to your life to the point that you should be willing to part with a few dollars for having access to it.” If you can’t articulate that value proposition, then I don’t think you’re ready to offer a paid podcast. Owais’ second item, “I would like to speak in regards to the impact of technology on the lives of people. While I certainly appreciate the amount of independence and accessibility technology creates in our lives, we must not ignore the role that it plays in damaging your well-being in some ways. I will provide two situations to support my position.
Technology has contributed greatly, in my opinion, to one’s level of laziness. For example, when one asks a virtual assistant to open the door, turn off the lights, et cetera, they are losing their opportunity to add a few more steps to their step count each day. Furthermore, the concept of opening doors using your assistant is weird because it withdraws the psychological pleasure of welcoming a loved one in your home. Secondly, technology poses a negative impact by providing us alternative activities that one claims to be much more entertaining. To illustrate, some people do not speak to one another even when they sit at their dining table because they are chattering with people on social media.
This is terrible, in my opinion, because one is losing their opportunity to emotionally communicate with those who they possibly love the most in their lives. Additionally, when many barriers are removed by the ease of technology, would you agree that we lose the extent to which one cares for the preciousness of certain occasions in life? Consider this situation, some people tend to rely upon social media platforms to come together with those they love. With this ease, I believe that we are losing the extent to which we appreciate the touching of the palms of the hand, the hugs, the ability to sit close to someone we love, and even the joy of sitting together at a dining table to eat with your family.
As a 17-year-old, when I consider these things, I tend to have very mixed feelings about technology.” Thanks, Owais. Well, I wonder whether you’ve been through the same pandemic we’ve all just been through because many of us don’t want palms touching or hugging or anything and haven’t for some time. I think social media has saved the sanity of many of us when it hasn’t been appropriate to get together with people because of the pandemic. I had my birthday party during level four lockdown last year, for instance, and the only way that I was able to get together with my children and friends, people important to me, was via social media. Any tool can be misused and abused.
Sure, if you can go and open the door to welcome somebody, I would think it’s pretty rude if you don’t do that. I’d be excited about seeing somebody that I was looking forward to seeing, and I’d want to open the door and say, “Welcome. How are you? How was your journey?” That’s just politeness. You would receive that person with enthusiasm because you’re waiting to see them.
On the other hand, if I’m at work and I’m expecting a tradesperson to come and do some work at my house, and I can open the door remotely for that person once they confirm that they are there or I can set up a temporary pin so that they can unlock the door themselves and I tell them that pin at the appropriate time, that’s not weird, that’s functional. It means that I can get on with my life and somebody can get into the building and do the work that I’m paying them to do.
Similarly, with the lights. As a totally blind person, I find it really reassuring that I can tell Siri to turn off all the lights or turn on the lights in a certain part of the house and know that they are on without having to wander around and feel for switches because I don’t have light perception. For me, the ability to do that is great. We have an automatic morning heat routine. Now that the mornings are getting colder, every morning at 4:30, the house starts to heat up to a room temperature that’s comfortable for us when we wake at 5:00. I think that’s incredibly convenient. Now, equally, somebody could come to the door, who’s highly undesirable.
Whether you have technology or whether you rely on more traditional ways of doing things, there are pluses and minuses to both approaches. If I go to the door and I don’t know who’s at the door and I throw the door open and it’s somebody standing there with a knife, wouldn’t I have been better to check using my ring video doorbell who’s at the door, find out whether I know them, what they want before I go and have my door open to somebody who wishes me harm? Anything can be used for good or ill. I completely agree with you. If there’s one thing that I find really disrespectful, it’s when people are sitting around the dinner table not paying attention, and instead of playing with their devices.
They should be focusing on the now, living in the moment, having a conversation. It’s an opportunity for everybody at that table to catch up on their day, to share thoughts and concerns, good stories, bad stories about what’s going on. I think there is something very special to humans about that conversation happening around food. Sitting there having a meal, really taking an interest in the people important to you. I completely agree and I totally support the concept, particularly with young families of no devices at the dinner table. This is our time.
You can get back to your TikTok and your Snapchat and whatever it is when the meal is over, but right now, this is our time. It’s about using anything that we have in our lives judiciously and prudently and appropriate to the task.
When Haroon was talking about his horrific Dell update experience, he mentioned in passing that he uses a magnetic pickup. He can pick up electronic sounds from the devices he’s working with and tell whether they’re powered on and whether they may be accessing data. Particularly in an era of solid-state drives, it is a very helpful thing to do. I mentioned that it’s one of the advantages of being a hearing aid wearer because many hearing aids come with this magnetic induction loop built in, and you just need to switch it on.
I often do this, I put my ear to the back of laptops and iPhones and things with my magnetic loop switched on and it lets me hear when something’s loading, it lets me know when something’s powered on, it is incredibly useful. Roger Peterson is writing in about this. He says, “I have a friend who told me that he uses a neck loop backwards for this purpose.” Yes, if you have one of those neck loop devices, that could be another way of doing it as well. If you’re not a hearing aid wearer, then some induction device could be handy. Now, if you do this and you’re not a hearing aid wearer and you have some sort of device that is doing the job for you, it could be such a useful trick for many blind people to use.
Tell us about that device, how it works, what you’re using it for, and where you get it from. I think there could be a lot of interest in this. Once you learn to interpret the code, the language that these devices are making, it’s just so useful. I can immediately tell, for example, if I think an iPhone is taking a long time to do an update, by putting my ear to the back of the iPhone, I know exactly what it’s doing. I know if it’s still loading the update I know if it’s got stuck. Even if it’s powered on and it’s stuck, I know this.
It could be then that maybe voiceover’s not working. In fact, with that famous issue last year where people updated, in some cases, their apple watches before they realized that voiceover was broken in that particular beta release, I was able to tell at that point that the watch had finished updating and that it was powered on and that it was voiceover that wasn’t working. It’s useful stuff. If you have some sort of device that helps you in this way as well, do share the info with us. Talk about alternative techniques. Richard is writing in on Taroon’s horror story as well.
“When installing Windows 10 from the get-go, if you don’t connect to WiFi, you have the option of continuing without creating a Microsoft account.” Thank you, Richard. That is a timely reminder and it is actually what I do whenever setting up a new computer. The reason I do it this way is that I want my username to be the same on all my machines. Because I do quite a lot of deep-diving into the inner workings of Windows, I want that folder name to be consistent. This does allow me to install applications like REAPER onto multiple machines and have them work in exactly the same way.
Actually, if you keep your username the same, it can really help with migrating program settings from one device to another. I always use the same username and folder name for that user on every computer that I create. Then, when I’ve done that without the WiFi being connected, then I connect to WiFi and convert it over to a Microsoft account. Jim O’Sullivan offers similar advice with a few more additions. He says, “Just a quick tip in response to Haroon’s Dell woes, I did a new Windows 10 install last week. To be able to create a user account without a Microsoft account, you have to be disconnected from the internet before you start this part of the setup.
Once you get past this, you can connect to the internet again. I like to have a non-Microsoft account as my administrator. I then set up another user with my Microsoft account. I make this a standard user and use this for most of my activity. I would be grateful if you could send me a club house invitation.” Oh, well, I will get right onto that, Jim, without even reading your phone number that you’ve just sent me here on the podcast. How good is this? Thank you for the advice. This email is from Dan Teveld and he says, “Hi, Jonathan. I am responding to your comments about Jaws scripts on the past few episodes of your podcast.
I have encountered two situations where specialized scripts made the problem worse than it needed to be. My first example of scripts not working relates to games. I use to participate in an internet gaming platform for the blind. You might have heard of the company All in play. They had some games which were scripted for Jaws, though it was not necessary to use Jaws to play the games. The script worked fine until there was a Jaws update which broke them. Then, I got a message about needing to recompile the script. I tried and this was not successful. As a result, I was able to use the games successfully within VDA but didn’t get as much speech feedback as I would have using Jaws.
My second example of scripts being problematic involved mainframe terminal emulation. I used script which were included with Jaws to access my IBM mainframe emulation software. This was a challenge because I needed to use a different emulator than my coworkers because the emulator they were using did not work with Jaws. My employer ended up purchasing compatible emulation software, which worked until a Jaws update broke some functionality with Braille support. The problem was that Jaws didn’t represent indented text on a Braille display. I was not able to determine the layout of text in Braille.
I reported this to Freedom Scientific and they dismissed the issue stating that because the emulation software was old, they didn’t support it. They also claimed that since nobody used mainframe emulation anymore, they couldn’t update the scripts. My employer arranged a conference call with Freedom Scientific and the vendor of my mainframe software. The vendor offered a demo environment for Freedom Scientific to use to identify the problem and Freedom Scientific claimed they couldn’t replicate my issue. I couldn’t get them to understand that because the scripts were part of a Jaws installation, then they should be responsible for resolving any issues.
They exhibited a cavalier attitude and suggested the employer pay them to write new scripts. I think any other company would provide assistance since the issue involved a component of their software. Freedom Scientific did not see things that way. They seemed to think that because a third party had written the scripts, then Freedom Scientific wasn’t responsible. That event resulted in my loss of respect for Freedom Scientific. Since then, my experiences with Freedom Scientific have gone from bad to worse. I have already commented on this podcast with regard to issues I have had with my focus Braille display.” Thanks, Dan. I’m not sure that I necessarily agree with your analysis here.
In the first instance, you started the email by saying that you have two examples of where scripts made the situation worse. I think what you’ve proven is that scripts make a situation better because you felt the loss of them when they were not working for a particular reason. In the case of All in play, I think the issue is that there was a change in the way that certain software talks directly to screen readers and, I do recall that change and other software adapted okay. I don’t think we can expect software to stay in a time warp. It’s like, for example, Internet Explorer is about to be retired from Microsoft stable. Eventually, software does get updated.
If a tool like All in play, which I don’t think is around anymore, wants to keep currents, then they will need to update their support. You had to pay to be on All in play, didn’t you? They charged a subscription. I think given that they were catering to the blind market, it’s not unreasonable that when a screen reader updates itself to provide better support, that they make the changes that are necessary to talk to that updated support. Regarding the third-party script issue, this is a really serious one because your job depends on this. I can understand why you’d be pretty concerned.
I don’t know all the details about the software or anything like that, but I think this is the dilemma that is created if any screen reader company bundles a third-party set of scripts they’re tacitly saying, “We support this product,” aren’t they? When there’s some change that breaks that support, then I think there does need to be considerable transparency about that, particularly when an employer has made a purchase of software specifically because it’s compatible with a screen-reader and then, all of a sudden, it’s not compatible anymore. What this demonstrates is the difference that scripts actually do make and how we feel it when they break.
What’s the answer here? Well, obviously, if it’s possible to make something accessible without scripts. So, you use UI automation or some other technique that is less prone to breakage, then that is ideal, but there will always be an efficiency game to be made from using scripts, particularly in the environments that I’ve been talking about, like call center environment where you want to gain access to certain information. Even in that use case, software updates do occur and so the position on the screen of a particular piece of information that is highly relevant to a blind call center operator may well change with that software revision.
When you go down the scripting route and scripting is essential to get your job done, I think it is important to make sure that there is support for those scripts and that somebody can remote in using tandem to fix them if something breaks. Now, I’m not saying that this necessarily addresses your second issue because I don’t think it does. If there’s some issue that’s affecting indentation with Braille, then that seems to me, definitely to be a screen reader issue, but I don’t know all the details about that to comment further. Thank you for sharing your experiences there. Andy Collins is back and says, “Hey again, Jonathan. I’m starting to get to grips with Amadeus Pro.
I’m wondering if your book on that subject is still relevant in 2021, given how software changes over time. I particularly want to learn how to take four different voice recordings and create one stereo file for them all, positioning the voices from left to right. If your book is still relevant, then does it cover this particular topic? I’ll be using the Zoom PodTrak P4 to make the recordings. The subject of recording brings me to microphones and mic stands. I want to use the P4 not just for speech but also to make some music recordings. To that end, I have bought a matched pair of the RØDE NT5 mics for the latter purpose and a Shure SM57 for speech/vocals.
I’m thinking I might need a second SM57 for face-to-face recordings as my understanding is that dynamic mics are preferable to condenser mics in that scenario. Anyway, I’d be interested to hear your opinions on what I’ve got and what opinions you have in general of the above scenarios. To mic stands, it’s very hard browsing online retailers for this kind of thing, because the description alone is never enough. One needs to have the pictures described, which for me, at this time, isn’t possible. Firstly, do you have any preferences for tabletop mic stands? I don’t want anything too big and clunky, but it must be sturdy enough to hold the SM57, which I think might be quite weighty. I also want to be able to angle the mics towards the guest rather than just having them point upwards. All of this brings me to floor stands. I want to use the RØDE mics to make a stereo recording of my acoustic guitar aiming one at the bridge and the other at the neck. I will need in appearance, something that looks T-shaped when assembled, able to take two mics on the horizontal bar. Any feedback from yourself and the community will be much appreciated.” Thanks, Andy. Regarding the Amadeus book, as far as I know, it is still relevant, but if I hear that it isn’t, I’ll pull it right away because I realize that eventually all of these tutorials do get out of date and I don’t want to be selling out-of-date content.
I really, at the moment, have not verified this. It’s been a long time since I did any audio on the Mac. What I would say to you is I think at this stage you would be better going with REAPER on the Mac if you haven’t gone too far down the track because there is so much good support for REAPER out there in the blind community. There are a lot of REAPER Mac users and PC users, but a lot of the paradigms crossover between any version of REAPER. There’s a very active email group of REAPER, OSARA, which makes REAPER accessible, is being updated all the time. I just think you would be much happier in the long run with all of the camaraderie and support that you would get by using REAPER.
Certainly, people speak very highly of the SM57 for vocal work. If you’ve got a microphone with a very narrow pickup pattern, that’s always good if you’re not in a treated environment. I think you are on the right track with dynamic mics for that sort of work. I have a mic stand here in the studio that’s screwed to the desk and it’s on this boom and it swings around, but I don’t know what its manufacturer is. I got it probably well over 20 years ago. It’s just durable, it does its thing, I can hide the mic out of sight when I’m using my camera and I’m using a lapel microphone in that situation when I’m doing my day job.
Then, if I’m doing hobby things like this podcast or Mushroom FM, then I just swing the mic back in front of me and it’s ready to go. The other microphone stand that we have in the studio for the two Heil PR-40s, which we use is just a floor-based one. I would like to improve that at some time. I don’t have specific model numbers or anything like that. I got what I got years ago and then just stuck with it. Again, The Blind Podmaker group might be a great resource for this. You can subscribe to that by sending a blank email to email@example.com.
People have a wide range of configurations and microphone stands on that group and they may be able to give you some recommendations, but hopefully, the Mosen At Large community will come through for you as well. Assuming you have access to a smartphone, why not use Aira? It’s three, four five minutes a day, and you can have people either remote into your computer when you’ve got something on the screen you want described or just give them the URL and they will open up a browser and describe it for you there. It’s a great way to get descriptions of items. I do this a lot when shopping. Best of luck with your endeavors, it sounds like you’re taking it quite seriously.
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, 864-60MOSEN. That’s (864) 606-6736.
Singers: Mosen At Large podcast.
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