Podcast Transcript: Mosen At Large episode 136, the variable quality of PDFs, can you be proud of one impairment but not another, more great radio memories
Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen, and this is Mosen At Large, the show that’s got the blind community talking. Today, dealing with PDFs. What are they like these days? More on advocacy and disability pride, Windows 11, radio memories, washing machines, and a whole lot more.
As always, it’s great to be back with you for another week of opinion, and comment, and information. Really appreciate everybody’s contributions coming in.
Howard Goldstein is in touch and he says, “Hi, Jonathan. In response to David Kingsbury’s question about accessible financial statements, I have a CITI credit card.” I presume that’s how you pronounce it. I can download my monthly statements as PDFs from their website. These PDFs are very readable with assistive technology. They are perfectly marked up and the tables read correctly. I realize that these are a lot less complicated than tax returns but it does show that it is possible to create well-formatted PDFs automatically.
With regard to Easter eggs, have you discovered the self-destruct button in the carrot weather app? I suppose this isn’t really an Easter egg because it’s pretty obvious but it’s still fun. It’s just above the tab bar on the about screen in the Settings tab. I have not, I guess I have not been into the Advanced tab very often, Howard. That app is so cool. He’s just got a knack of putting just the right amount of snark in there and, of course, you can control the snark level. Carrot weather is such a good app. Thank you for that tip.
Christy Gilson: Well, hello, Jonathan, and Mosen At Large listeners. My name is Christy Gilson. Jonathan, I’ve been a fan of yours for, gosh, a couple of decades and I think you might remember me interviewing you once about Braille and the devices you use in your life for a podcast I did a while ago. Anyway, I had two pieces of feedback for you. One was that the person in the previous podcast who talked about Wells Fargo in their financial statements, let me tell you, a little birdy that I know filed a complaint with them back in, I think it was 2010 about inaccessible loan documents.
The loan statement they send you every month and they paid out on that to the tune of $10,000 for an individual. I guess that’s cheaper than making the forms accessible. There you go for a little information on that one. The other topic I wanted to address, Jonathan, was from a couple of months ago, I guess, but folks talking about using wheelchairs in the airport and so on. Just a different perspective to offer. I used to resent people offering me the wheelchair and now, I gladly take it for a couple of reasons.
Two which are, one, they’ve been much better trained to push that around and not run that into things and they have on how to guide me and coupled with the language barrier that is often there, it’s much simpler and I have a safer ride. I like that. Secondly, if I get frustrated that someone else is saying I should use a wheelchair, am I not looking down on people who use wheelchairs? Why should it be shameful for me to use a chair temporarily to get around? I don’t think it should because if it is shameful for me to use that temporarily, am I not saying that people in chairs should be pitied? Something to think about.
Jonathan: It’s good to hear from you, Christy. I hope you’re still doing podcasting somewhere because you’ve got the voice. You’ve got the voice for the podcasting. I hope you are and I do remember that discussion that we had. Thanks for the Wells Fargo info. Regarding the wheelchair thing, I won’t belabor this point too much because I’ve got the mic and I guess I’ve expressed my view but I would just say that for me, it’s not a matter of looking down on someone who uses a wheelchair. For me, the point is that I am a customer and I should expect that my needs will be accommodated.
I guess I would reverse the situation and say what would happen if a person with another impairment, not vision impairment but another impairment needed assistance for whatever reason? Could be a cognitive impairment, any number of reasons why they might need assistance to the gate and somebody came along and said, “I will only assist you to your gate if we put a blindfold on you and you take my elbow because that’s policy, that’s procedure, that’s what we are trained to do. Unless you accept these accommodations, which you don’t want or require, then you’re not going to get assistance.”
What do you think would happen? People would think it was outrageous that they were being blindfolded and being told to do sighted guide. Is that looking down on me as a blind person? I don’t think so. It’s just an expression of frustration at the lack of respect and customer focus of the service they’re being offered. Jennifer Dean has a good perspective to share on this PDF issue. She says, “Part of my job is to make PDFs accessible. I also teach screen readers such as JAWS. I can tell you that I have yet to come across a PDF that was created by software automatically and was also accessible.
Even when PDFs are made from Word documents and have headings and so on, the PDF file itself nearly always has issues that must be fixed by hand. The issue of auto-generated PDF files being accessible from the start is an interesting question I’ve often pondered. It seems that it should be possible to write this type of code that said, “If they could make tables convert accessibly, I would be shocked and really happy.” My best suggestion for everyone is to call the companies they get these files from. They might be willing to have your files fixed for you. If nothing else, you will be logging your issue and if enough people do this, hopefully, the fix will come.
“I love your show as assistive technology is my life. It is great to hear from your listeners from all over as well. Thank you so much, Jennifer.” It seems like we’ve gotten Brian Gaff started on this subject. He says, “Oh, don’t get me started on these. Well, it’s too late. There seems to be no acceptance by those making these that there is a wrong way to do it. The variations of the worst ones I get are pictures of text, i.e, not OCR read, just a photo. Usually a poor one. Columns running together as if it’s been generated from a print stream, i.e, no reading or the changes in the file, apparent black of any spaces when the file is read.
All the words are against each other, goodness knows how they manage this. PDF forms where the fields arrive at not flagged accessibly or the actual tick boxes and edit areas do not work correctly, mixed content containing pictures of words and text or maps or graphs with no explanation of what they actually are. Protected files so you cannot cut and paste or save the content as text. Saving as text produces gobbledygook, opening in the Webby text reader for PDF results in junk or nothing at all.
It seems to me that Adobe and other creators of PDF need to get their act together and make sure that the user side of the equation, i.e. the creator is asked questions about accessibility. A guy at the BBC attempted to explain how these files should be made and how to achieve the right effect for blind people, but it was so complex. I do understand why it’s a black art nobody actually cares to learn.
Thanks, Brian. I have probably three PDF reading options tools that I use regularly. Most of the time, I still use Adobe reader, which I find does the best job with most of the PDF material that I get. Of course, JAWS does OCR on those naughty PDF files that are images, and JAWS simply pops up and says, “This looks like an image, do you want to OCR?” It’s all very transparent and it just happens. A lot of the time the results that renders are okay, that’s no excuse though and people should not be generating PDF files in this way.
I also do occasionally read PDF files in a chromium-based browser. I have three of those on my system, Chrome, Brave, and Edge. Sometimes they will do a good job where Adobe Acrobat reader for whatever reason does not. Then I also have this app called QRead from accessible apps, and that’s really quick actually loading a PDF file and sometimes it produces the best results of all. It shouldn’t be necessary to have all these tools around. I’m absolutely not making excuses for PDF in this regard.
I’m also pleased to report that my financial institution, I bank with the ASB in New Zealand, does a good job of producing accessible financial data in PDF. I just looked at a statement from them and everything’s done in a very nice accessible table. I was able to navigate that table with the JAWS table reading commands using Adobe reader and all rendered really well. That’s an automated process and it is possible obviously because they are doing it.
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Jonathan: Some thoughts on Windows 11. Barry Jennings says, “Hi, Jonathan, I listened to your Windows 11 panel discussion on Friday, very interesting, and your regular podcast on Saturday. I’m sure that in the end, Windows 11 will be a fine operating system, but the messaging that came from the Thursday Microsoft presentation, not so much. The minimum hardware requirements are confusing for the geeks among us, let alone, ordinary users.
First, we heard that to install the operating system, a PC had to have a TPM chip with version 2.0 firmware. Then we heard no, there is a hard floor and a soft floor, whatever that means, the operating system just might install if you have TPM 1.2. In order to have TPM 2.0, your PC must have an Intel or AMD processor from 2017 or newer. As was mentioned, TPM is used for secure boot and encrypting files by BitLocker.
When talking to the average user, if you would have mentioned TPM or secure boot or BitLocker, you would probably draw a blank stare. All the average user cares about is will this thing install or not. Another hardware requirement that is not as widely mentioned is the minimum requirements for cameras on laptops. As many people know the camera’s on older laptops are terrible by today’s standards. I read this morning that the camera requirements don’t kick in until 2023. Does this mean then that you will be able to install the operating system, but an update will fail in 2023? We don’t know.
For Windows 10, one of the things Microsoft likes to talk about is the adoption rate. Years ago, I was a developer in an IT department for a large corporation. In the corporate world, PCs have long lives. In my experience, the last person in the door usually gets the oldest machine in the inventory. The network I was connected to had thousands of workstations upgrading was expensive and time-consuming mostly because there are normally a lot of in-house applications that need to be tested in the new environment. If you were to look at the average corporation today, I think you would not be likely to find many PCs from 2017 or newer.
Of course with the pandemic, most corporate users have been working from home for the last year anyway. I fear that often in the corporate world, management might just throw up their hands and purchase extended support for Windows 10. That, of course, will affect the Windows 11 adoption rate. What about third world countries, where there are a lot of older machines and poor broadband? Can you say adoption rate? What about computers in public settings like internet, cafes, and libraries? If you have to have a Microsoft account to use Windows 11 and you were using one of these public machines, is your Microsoft account at risk?
There are a lot of machines out there that were built by gamers or hobbyists, or just regular users who like that kind of machine. I’ve heard that some motherboards don’t have a TPM socket even if they are quite new. Did you notice that as soon as the Microsoft presentation was finished, the price of TPM chips shot up? I’ve heard that some places are charging, quadruple the regular price for these chips.
Again, we’re talking about Windows 11 adoption rate. I haven’t run the PC health check tool on either of my computers yet. I’m pretty confident that my desktop computer will be fine because it has an 8th Generation i7 Processor. I have an old laptop. I keep for backup that has an older i7 with TPM 1.2 so I might get fine with it if I don’t get bitten by the minimum camera requirements or some other requirement I don’t know about. I did find it interesting that Office in the cloud will be accessible.
That’s good news. Your comments about the lack of information regarding Windows 11 accessibility, however, are well-taken. Microsoft PR has not been great at the best of times, but this, yes indeed, it’s a shocker, isn’t it? An absolute shocker. Thank you so much for that great email, Barry. I believe from my reading of various publications that in 2023, that camera requirement will kick in for OEMs, Original Equipment Manufacturers.
I don’t think that it’s to do with systems suddenly not working. If they’ve got a camera that doesn’t meet those specs. I think they’re saying that OEMs won’t be able to license Windows after that time unless they meet those camera’s specs. That is my understanding, but yes, it is potentially ambiguous. I suspect that these requirements are going to have to be relaxed during the insider process there’s too much of a backlash.
Regarding the need for a Microsoft account Beta News, which is a really good site for looking at all these sorts of things, is reporting that the Windows 11 pro installations will work without a Microsoft account, but Windows 11 home will not. If you care about this, then you’ll want to upgrade to the pro version of Windows 11, not the home. It’s also worth noting that after a full week and maybe a few hours after the announcement of Windows 11, finally, Microsoft saw fit to publish in announcement, talking about the accessibility features in Windows 11.
To be honest, there’s not a lot of stuff that most end-users will want to be able to get their teeth into. I’m very surprised by the lack of new features in Narrator, I thought they would make a real play to be more people’s primary screen readers, but it doesn’t seem like there are a lot of UI things, user interface, things to tell us about in Narrator, at least at the moment. I suppose there is still some time to go before Windows 11 is released, but you would think that new feature set would have to be on the drawing board. They’re not talking about it at the moment.
The fact that they keep trumpeting as some sort of major thing, the fact that they have renamed the ease of access settings to accessibility settings tells you how thin on the ground new accessibility features are in Windows. Just changing the name of a group of features is hardly something worthy of the amount of space they are giving it. There are some good things though lurking around under the hood, and, of course, we don’t yet know how Android app Accessibility is going to work. They acknowledge that more information is coming on that. You can read this post if you’re interested.
I tweeted a link on the Mosen At Large Twitter account. I’m sure if you search on Windows 11 Accessibility, that post will come up. Rebecca Skipper is writing in on this and says, “Well, though I am apprehensive about the release of Windows 11, at least I know I have one computer that is not compatible, which happens to be my work computer, so I can experience Windows 11 on another system.”
I understand your initial frustrations about Microsoft’s silence on Accessibility, but others are filling the void. Based on this, I think screen reader users will be okay. Regarding Microsoft’s blog post that they’ve released on Accessibility, Rebecca says, “The details are vague, but it is clear to me that Accessibility is still being considered, though like Apple Microsoft depends on beta testers.” Frankly, she says, “I do not think people with disabilities are the primary audience at initial release dates, and the articles provided from Microsoft should have been released a lot sooner. Windows 10 will be here for a while so most of us can safely watch Windows 11 development from a distance if we are not ready.
While I’m puzzled at why it took so long for Microsoft to release anything about Accessibility, our anxiety over this will not matter in the long term. What matters is the degree to which Microsoft and third parties screen reader manufacturers work together to provide a good experience on release date. What matters is all the feedback from Windows 11 screen reader and Braille users, we should be grateful that Windows 10 is sticking around for a while. This is a refreshing change when compared to Apple. Once a new iOS version is released, you really can’t downgrade if you update. The previous iOS version is almost forgotten.
Though, occasionally security fixes are offered. I hope people in the blindness community are not as nervous now, given what has been released. Sometimes software releases, unlike the news cycle, are incomplete and better after waiting a little while to see how things pan out. Thanks, Rebecca. I don’t know what you’re seeing, I didn’t really see any nervousness or anxiety about Windows 11. That’s born of the fact that there is a lot baked into Windows these days, such as UI automation, various other tools. For me, there was never any doubt that we would be able to use Windows 11, probably on day one. For me, it’s a matter of respect.
If Windows 11 was ready to announce on a given day, then it should also have been ready to announce for disabled people on the same day. Our money is as good as anyone else’s, our needs are as important as anyone else’s. There are, by some estimates around 24%, 25% of people in the world who are disabled, so it’s a significant amount of the population, and to ignore us for a week, save for a brief Twitter thread, in response to some of the concerns being expressed is really poor form on Microsoft’s part. What gives me some comfort, I suppose, is that this has been a messaging debacle from Microsoft.
It’s classic Microsoft of old, its behavior that I thought was long behind Microsoft where the messaging is confusing. They say one thing one day, they say another thing another day, they release a Windows testing tool to see if your system’s capable, then they release an update, then they remove the whole thing completely. The thing is a shemozzle, and it’s a shame. It probably will be forgotten in time. What I find interesting about Microsoft is they do seem to go through a boom and bust cycle when it comes to operating systems. We’ve seen Microsoft OSs that have been absolute duds, Windows Vista, Windows 8, I don’t think Windows Millennium did very well.
Then, they correct themselves and you have an operating system that just lasts and last like Windows 7 or Windows XP. You have to wonder whether Windows 11 is going to be the new Vista. Certainly in the haphazard, really disrespectful way they’ve handled the messaging around this. It looks like it could be on track for that, but maybe they will redeem themselves. I should say that over the week, I did make the necessary changes with a bit of sighted help to the BIOS on the PC that I am broadcasting and recording from now, and it is reporting with the original version of the Windows 11 checker that the system is ready for Windows 11.
This stuff is too important to me, though, for me to dive in with Windows 11 on either of my primary computers. “Hi, Jonathan.” Anil from India, it’s good to hear from you. Anil, I hope you’re doing okay. He says, “I upgraded to Windows 11 inside a build on my PC. It’s mostly usable with a few bugs relatively stable given that it is in the development channel. First, let me start with things which are not working with JAWS and Narrator. I am unable to change any options from the new system tray, new file explorer menus are non-functional. The Start Menu search feature is not working with JAWS, but it is working with Narrator.
There is only one new major feature which has been added to Narrator, and that is Braille display support. I am still not a Braille display user, so I am unable to test it. In general, it is a different experience using Windows 11. They redesigned the settings app, the Start Menu, File Explorer, the taskbar, and the system tray, it all feels different. I have excluded little bugs such as JAWS not saying Control Panel after opening and reading the taskbar buttons as checkboxes. Also, I did not explore or explain every change in Windows 11 just provided some points, which I felt were important.”
Thanks, Anil. I’m interested in your Braille comment because Narrator has had Braille support for quite some time now. Have they revamped the Braille support? Is it different in some way? There certainly was no mention of that in the Windows 11 blog post that Jeff Petty put out there. Absolutely, at this stage, given that it’s a very early build, we should be totally relaxed about these sorts of bugs, it’s beta for a reason, it’s developer beta for an even greater reason. This is going to be a very early rough and ready build of Windows 11. No one should expect perfection at this early stage. If they want to dive in, then they should expect very significant bugs in some cases.
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Scott: “Hey, Jonathan, and everyone, Scott Davert here. For the first time ever, after this sentence, I will not be talking about Braille displays in this post. What I wanted to talk about, though, were radio memories. I have a few that I’d like to share, I’ll try to stay brief here. The first one, a little bit of backstory to that one, I used to listen to talk radio to fall asleep. There was a local talk station that you could hear, I didn’t know it at the time, but that you could hear in a lot of the United States, but it was in Detroit, it was 760 AM, that’s where I grew up. Now, I have to turn on the Golf Channel, which golf is really not my thing. I find it really boring, but that won’t even put me to sleep anymore.
What do I go to next? I don’t know. Anyway, so I used to listen to those talk shows. I was about eight years old at the time, so 1989, 1990, I decided to listen to some music on FM before I went to sleep with my earbuds in. I quit listening to music, and I put the dial on my Walkman to about where 760 AM is. I flipped the switch to go to AM, and I started hearing what I later found out was the shadow. I’d never heard a radio drama before. The signal faded in and out a little bit, but I was able to follow it with no problem. Being the age I was, I was absolutely fascinated with the shadow. They took a commercial break. When they took a commercial break, I started hearing commercials for the Chicago area.
Chicago, for those who don’t know, is probably, I would guess 600 or 650 kilometers from Detroit, so it’s a long walk. That was my introduction to radio dramas, and it was also my introduction to DXing because I had never heard a station on a radio that I owned outside of my local area. The second radio memory I have is much shorter as is the third one. It was much later, it was November 2002, I don’t remember the exact date. It was the morning of Election Day for the midterms here in the US.
I decided to listen to a station in Ohio to see what kind of perspective they had. At the time, there were still local radio programs. I know that’s probably hard to believe for people that didn’t listen to radio back then. Anyway, I tuned in to what I thought was the station in Ohio and they started talking about election returns. I thought, “Well, that’s interesting. They must be doing a Rebroadcast or something,” but then they started talking about politics that were relevant to 2002, which confused me even further until they identified themselves.
Turns out it was Newstalk K57 from Guam that I was hearing. That was on a shortwave radio, but there was no external antenna and I was sitting in my dorm room up on the fourth floor. That was fascinating. It quickly faded out but for about 15 minutes, I was able to hold the signal, and finally, and I debated which one to share with the ham radio, the one I was going to share was making contact with the International Space Station, which is cool. I like this one better because it was more spontaneous. I was talking with a station in Israel, I think it was on 40 meters and the two of us were talking and then all of a sudden, a station from Perth, I believe it was jumped in. It was Australia anyway.
The three of us were talking for a little while, which is pretty rare that you’re going to have conditions like that where you’re all three of you are hearing one another. As I was getting ready to sign off, I started his hearing the end of my transmission repeated back to me and I thought at the time that somebody was messing around, but I got done with that conversation and quickly moved to a random frequency and threw my call out there again and I had an L thrown back at me. Not once but twice. The reason, the signal was going all the way around the world in two different paths and coming back to me. I really thought that I had done this radio thing, especially the ham radio side to talk to people and not myself but that’s what happened. What will my next contribution be? Who knows? The shadow knows.
Jonathan: I got to get a bit of reverb in there on you, Scott. Thank you very much, great memories there. Roy Nash says, “I never miss your podcast, and I frequently listened to Mushroom FM. A listener triggered one of my fondest radio memories when she mentioned big John and Sparky.” This show began on an independent station in 1947 and soon was picked up by the ABC Radio Network. There was a daily 30-minute show and a two-hour show on Saturday entitled No School Today.
The Daily Show was a continuing show centering around an imaginary city. All the voices were done by one person, Big John. Sparky was a boy whose voice was produced by recording Big John and playing it at a faster speed. On The Daily Show, Sparky spoke in a chipmunk voice but at a normal rate of speed. On the Saturday program, he spoke much faster. I would conclude from that, that The Daily Show was pre-recorded and recording techniques were employed to control rate of speed.
The Saturday show was a live broadcast. At the time, I didn’t notice any discrepancy. The show aired on ABC from 1949 until 1958. The spiky character was likely a syndicated character. Several records were recorded about that time featuring a boy named Sparky who spoke in a chipmunk voice. Sparky’s magic piano and Sparky and the talking train are two that I would be happy to share with anyone who is interested.
All right, now it’s all clicking into place. I did wonder if there was a relationship there. Sparky and the Talking Train, Sparky and the Magic Piano, and Sparky and the Magic Baton were three very popular stories on Small World which, of course, we have brought back. I have those Sparky stories as part of the Don Linden collection and on the Small World show of the 4th of July over on Mushroom Escape, we are actually going to be playing Sparky and the Talking Train. When Kathy Blackburn talked about Sparky, I wondered if it was the same one. Now, I’ll have to go and see if I can find some of these old Sparky shows on YouTube. Thank you very much, Roy, for connecting the dots for me.
Here’s Jeff Green writing and on the subject and he says, “Hi, Jonathan, I really like the show. Keep up the good work.” Thank you very much, Jeff. I wanted to pass on some of my radio memories. When I started freshman year in high school, our school was overcrowded and we went to school four days a week but had to do something worthwhile on the fifth day. I got a job at WCOD at Hyannis Cape Cod as an intern.
My main responsibility was to take the tape of the news and weather and add commercials before and after creating a new tape. I really enjoyed the studio time using the mixes, et cetera. Well, it was Columbus Day, and the radio station was on automated backup. I went in and found I was the only person there that day. My job that holiday was to monitor our output and change the giant reel to reel tapes when they ran out.
To my surprise, I plugged in the headphones and brought our power signal on the mixer, only to hear swish, swish, swish. When I went out front to check the tape, I found the automated system was shredding it all over the floor. I went into the record room and pulled a box of albums and started playing whole record sides because I was a little afraid of talking on the air at that time. Pretty soon, the station execs showed up to find out what was going on.
Apparently, I was playing albums from the naughty no-no list and sending out bad language over the air. Oops. My other favorite part of working at WCOD was covering concerts at Cape Cod Coliseum. I’ll never forget the time, Ted Nugent was playing and I had to run microphone cables under the stage to the broadcast room. From there, I had to monitor levels and make sure our signal sounded good.
Ted Nugent kept cranking up his output level and panning out VU meters. This raised hell without output distorting it badly. Those were great times. Thank you, Jeff. Those are great memories and you have brought back so many bad memories of old automation systems long before they were as reliable as they are now where they just sit in a corner on a PC somewhere. We used to have in one radio station I worked for, a six-disc pioneer CD changer system.
I actually had one of these pioneer machines myself at home and you could put six discs into a cartridge and you’d put the cartridge in the CD player and the idea was that you could put it on shuffle. After a song, the CDs would go clunk, bang, rattle, clank. Eventually, you’d get another song. It was a way of having a whole lot of disks on shuffle. If in a radio station environment, you subscribed to music libraries, you could actually have an automated system that was really basic and cheap but that played music with horrible gaps, I have to say, overnight, and I worked on a radio station at one time that had very limited budget, and they decided to do this.
Now I did the breakfast show on the station. They call it Morning Drive, I think, in the United States, but I was asked to fill in, I think one Saturday or Sunday night or something they were often short-staffed. I went in and I did this shift and then I had to put the automation system on. I remember putting the automation system on and walking out of the studio and it was playing The Cascades Rhythm of the Falling Rain. I’m sure you know the song, listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain. This was the original version. I got into my taxi because that’s how I used to get home from the station and it was about a 20 to 30-minute ride actually. It was a fairly long ride.
I got home and I thought, oh, well, why not listen to the music on the automation system while I’m having my microwave dinner? I switched the radio on and what should I hear but The Cascades Rhythm of the Rain playing again. I thought that’s not unusual because the thing was completely random. It’s not unheard of that you might get the same song playing twice in rapid succession. I let it play and then there was a gap and then what should come on right after The Cascades Rhythm of the Rain, but the Cascades doing Rhythm of the Rain.
By this stage, I was starting to get a sinking feeling about this and sure enough, somehow I had put this CD player on so that it was only playing one track on repeat rather than the entire sequence of six discs on shuffle. By this stage, it was gone 1:00 AM but I dutifully got in another taxi, went all the way back to the station, unlocked the building. Made sure the thing really was on shuffle. This time, I let it play two or three songs and went home again, finally, getting to sleep well after 2:00 AM. So that is a highly dodgy system.
I was actually burned later in my radio career with the same technology. I worked on another radio station much better-funded, actually, and it was a joy to work for. For those listening in New Zealand, I’m talking about Today FM, that’s where you would lean into the mic and you’d say playing more unforgettable music. I used to do this request show on a Sunday night and it was actually quite popular and they too use these pioneer six-disc cartridge machines. What you had to play on that station unless you were allowed to do a request show was all logged. They’d have the track name that you had to play and the artist in your program log and then they would have a reference number like G17. I happen to remember that G17 was Feel Like Makin’ Love by Roberta Flack and that meant that you would get cartridge G. They were all numbered from A through whatever and it was disc one, track seven. Well, some absolute nit.
I don’t know whether they did it deliberately, or whether they had some sort of spillage with the cartridges, but all of the discs had been put back in the wrong order. I was dialing up G17 for Feel Like Makin’ Love and it played Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run which was not in format. This was an easy listening station and I’m saying, “Today 92 FM is Roberta Flack,” and suddenly [sings] and Bruce Springsteen. Oh my God. I faded it out and said, “Well, my apologies there. We’ll just get the right track on.” I very carefully made sure that cartridge G was in there. It had a Braille label with the letter G.
I pressed disc one and then track seven and said, “Now here is Roberta Flack,” and who should come back on but bloody Bruce Springsteen. I knew something was seriously wrong with the cartridges, which was very difficult. In the end, the little hotline goes off and it was the managing director of the company saying, “Is everything okay in there?” Because, of course, it had to happen to the blind guy. Didn’t it? Anybody could have typed in that coordinate, that reference number, and got the wrong track, but it happened to the blind guy so they immediately think it’s something to do with me. Anyway, that was a fun night. It was little wonder that so many of us called our automation systems in those days, FRED, which stood for Flaming Ridiculous Electronic Device.
Abby Taylor: Hello, this is Abby Taylor, in Sheridan, Wyoming. First of all, let me share with you an interesting radio memory. In the 1970s when I was in high school, our local AM country music station here in Sheridan, K-W-Y-O, ran a Mello Yello jingle contest. Mello Yello was a soft drink. It came in a yellow can and the drink itself was yellow in color and it tasted like Mountain Dew.
Many times during the day, the station ran this contest, or they played the jingle. The first person to call in and repeat the jingle correctly won a six-pack of Mello Yello. Well, I was one of those first people to call in and win a six-pack and I still remember the jingle. It went like this, “Mello Yello, Mello Yello, the world’s fastest soft drink. Tag along it, you’re going to love it. The world’s fastest soft drink. Oh, yes.”
The other thing I would like to talk about is this subject of singing, washers and dryers. A few years ago when I visited my brother and his wife in Florida, it was necessary for them to buy a new washer and dryer because one of their machines had broken down. One day we drove to a Lowe’s in Jupiter and after some searching, we finally found a machine that they liked, both a washer and a dryer. We arranged for them to deliver it and install the machines the next day.
These machines had a touch screen and all the other bells and whistles including a smartphone app. Fortunately, my brother and sister were sighted so it wasn’t a problem for them. Fortunately for me, I had packed enough clothes that I would not need to do laundry while I was there. Once the machines were installed, one of the fascinating things I discovered about them is when they were both done with this cycle, when they were finished and you could take the clothes out, they would both play the same tune. This tune was Schubert’s Trout Quintet, the fourth movement.
Having graduated from college with a BA in music, I knew this. My brother, on the other hand with a PhD in physics, was completely flabbergasted when I told him that was what the machines were playing. He and his wife are going to be coming here for a visit in the middle of July. They will have been traveling most of the month, so no doubt they may need to do laundry while they’re here. My machines are Amana and they have your old-fashioned dials, no touchscreen, no app, no bells, no whistles, just basic washer dryer. It may be necessary for me to sing. [sings]
Host: Can I join in, Abby?
Jonathan: [sings] I like that movement of the Trout Quintet a lot, actually. I always thought when I did that at school, that it really swings that thing and they had a real beat about it. Thank you very much, Abby. Isn’t it good to know that you were educated enough to know that that was the Trout Quintet that those devices were singing? As for Mello Yello, I don’t think we got Mello Yello until the 1980s and they had an ad for it that went a bit like this.
Look out mouth watch out hips
I’m bringing the world’s fastest soft drink to my lips
Mello Yello makes you feel so good
So fast from your head down to your toes
Mello Yello makes you feel so good so fast
You just can’t drink it slow
Look out mouth
Watch out thurst
This Mello Yello is as good as the first
Mello Yello makes you feel so good so fast.
Jonathan: Oh my goodness, the carbs, the sugar.
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Jonathan: Sean Clark is writing in for the first time. Welcome to you, Sean. He says, “Hello, Mr. Mosen. I am new to being visually impaired as of late 2019 and your podcast has been very wonderful in helping me learn the technologies to adapt to this newest disability. I remember hearing you mention how you would like to watch a video with your family where you could use described audio but your children didn’t. My wife tonight put on a movie for us on the Disney+ streaming service where it was synced together with my phone playing described audio to my headset and their TV using a fire stick having a regular video. Personally, I think they missed out on a few things.
I have yet to try to figure out how she did it, but I am certain you could do it in swift order. Please, if you or any listeners would like to recommend any previous episodes of Mosen At Large for me to catch up on while the children are at school, I am very interested in learning more ways to use my iPhone as an assistive device and possibly as a social outreach tool. Being a stay-at-home father did not offer many chances to socialize before my visual impairment. Best regards, Sean Clark, disabled domestic dad, father of two, in Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada.”
Thank you very much, Sean. It’s good to hear from you and congratulations on how you’re seeking to adapt to your changing circumstances. I’m sure you have been through quite a journey. Well done and all the very best for the future. I am intrigued that your wife got this working. Where you heard the audio description on your phone and she did not, I will have to look into this. I have done a quick search and what I wonder if she’s doing is using the party feature, which is where up to seven people can watch a Disney+ stream at the same time.
It’s possible that if you sync up using the party feature and you have audio description turned on on your iPhone, but she doesn’t have audio description turned on on the TV, then that might be what’s doing it. That’s a genius idea and I will have a play with it some more. We subscribe to Disney+ but, man, there are so many of these services now. We’ve got Netflix, we’ve got Apple TV+, Disney+, Amazon Prime, and there’s so much audio-described material out there. We’ve come a long way in a short time.
I haven’t really played with Disney+ very much. I will investigate this further and if anybody else can shed any light on what’s going on there in how we make this happen, then please, share your secret with us. I guess the best thing I would suggest in terms of previous episode, Sean, is that if you subscribe to the podcast in an app on your iPhone, like Castro, which is my favorite podcast app, and of course, there’s the apple podcast app that’s built-in, overcast is popular, too, as downcast. If you subscribe to it, you should then be able to just flick through the episodes and listen to the descriptions and see whether any of them are of interest to you.
Regarding socializing, there are a lot of blindness-related email lists that you may enjoy being on. Like any email list, anywhere where people get together, some of them are well behaved and informative and the culture is good. Others, unfortunately, have people who go rogue and take the list off the rails. It is important that the list be well moderated, you can go to toptechtidbits.com where they have a directory of email lists that may be helpful to you.
They also have on that site, a directory of blindness-related podcasts so you may be able to find some other material from people who are doing some great work in the space that you will find interesting. Of course, there’s Twitter and Facebook. Twitter is my social network of choice. I got off Facebook a few years ago, because of its atrocious behavior, I had to get back on for a job I was doing. I’ve sort of let myself stay there, but I don’t use it very much at all.
Twitter, on the other hand, I am on a lot and I’m actively participating in that and there is an active blind community on Twitter and you can use the official Twitter app. My personal favorite is one called Twitterrific, which has some great accessibility features in there. There are a few hints and I wish you all the best on your journey. Marissa has sent in this little article which is called Braille. What is it? Why is Braille so important anyway?
First and foremost, Braille allows you to be able to read and write. Braille gives your eyes a break if they become tired easily. Plus, you can read in the dark. Reading and writing are fundamental skills that contribute to a successful and independent adult life. Braille is not something mysterious, nor is it a secret language, you can’t possibly expect to gain the concept in one day. Braille is a system composed of dots that allow you to write the alphabet words, complete sentences, numbers, punctuation, and contractions.
I will profess as someone who has been legally blind since birth, who has read large print all her life, I was not taught Braille in school. I am by no means blaming anyone as that was a long time ago nor is it appropriate to do so in this situation. Instead, educating those who might be in similar situations, or have always wanted to learn more about Braille. I feel that it is something that should be taught to children regardless of their visual impairment.
If a child were to lose their vision later on in life, then they have another way to read, write, and gain information about their surroundings. In addition, Braille allows you to become more proficient at spelling. By using Braille, you can also learn how text is formatted, including where and how to place titles, subtitles, chapter headings, and other organizational features. I wanted to learn it as an adult. For me, Braille is another tool to have when assistive technology fails.
If the computer breaks or the cost of said assistive technology becomes unaffordable, at least I have some knowledge of Braille to fall back on or if I cannot find a material in large print, large print is not always readily available, which can be frustrating in and of itself. I remember that large printed material was often heavy to carry. I know that Braille books may have many volumes versus regular print.
Moreover, it is not always convenient to listen to speech synthesizers. When attempting to write down important information, Braille can be useful in a variety of situations from labeling commonly used items to finding your floor when in an elevator, jotting down a note or phone number, or if you’re upward, reading a recipe. Am I a fast reader? Certainly not, as I am used to reading with my eyes. Will I be as proficient as someone who has been blind from birth? Nope, but that will come in due time. I am pleased that I know grade one letters, numbers, and punctuation.
I know a bit of grade two contracted Braille. I will continue to do my best with improving my abilities when it comes to learning and practicing Braille. I want to conclude this post by saying if it were not for Louis Braille, the gentleman who invented it, we would not have Braille today. Thank you very much, Marissa, and it really saddens me when I hear people who should have been given access to Braille as children, and were not and I do feel that sometimes these decisions are still being made because resources are so scarce. We’ve benefited so much in so many ways from mainstreaming, but one of the areas that we haven’t really come to terms with is the mainstreaming of blind children takes a lot of resourcing to do it right because you are generally as a blind child, in front of a mainstream teacher who in blindness terms is illiterate.
How many other groups in society would tolerate being in front of a classroom teacher who was illiterate? Literacy skills are fundamental to teaching and yet so often, our blind kids are faced with exactly this issue and we get teachers who do a great job and are often just run off their feet going from school to school to school. Because mainstreaming blind children is a lot more complex than, say, making one-off physical modifications to a building and really requires significant intensive, expensive, ongoing resourcing.
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Jonathan: Here’s another email from Andrew Walker, who writes, “Hello, Jonathan. I just wanted to add a little to your response to Greg’s message regarding blind pride. While I accept that people will have many different views and these may not align with my own, I consider calling into question the honesty of another person because we don’t agree with them unpalatable. I am a fervent adherent to the podcast and consider that one of the main strengths of it is that many views can be expressed including those that contradict your own position.
I can confirm that I went blind in adulthood as you mentioned. I was 40 years old and had a lifetime of seeing experience. Nonetheless, it was not until I went blind that I came to the shocking realization of just how disempowering sight loss or however you wish to describe it can be. What struck me was the degree to which sighted people tried to prevent me from doing things or wanted to do them for me, simply because I didn’t do them in a sighted sort of way.
I remember in those early days having a lift from a friend and on arriving at the destination, reaching out to find the door handle, experience told me the likely positions of a door handle but seeing that I had reached for the wrong option first, my friend slapped my hand out of the way so that she could open the door. In my view, such things happen with blind people much of the time.
As I have stated previously, sighted people, as a generality, are not receptive to people doing things in any other than a sighted way. This was the biggest hurdle I faced in becoming blind. I didn’t have huge feelings of loss as many people give account. I didn’t spend days, weeks, or months lamenting my fate or losing sleep, because I couldn’t see the faces of my children.
I’m not diminishing the experiences of those who have encountered such anguish. I did feel that I was being pressured, sometimes wittingly, sometimes innocently, into a mode of dependence on sighted people simply because I couldn’t do things in a sighted way anymore. Now, this was such a wake-up since I had worked in care and education all my working life, working with people with disabilities of various kinds. I realized that in spite of working in that field for many years, I have no idea about the lived experience of people with disabilities and the wave so many are held in a state of dependence and are constantly being undermined by being told explicitly or implicitly that they are not doing something in the right way.
I call this sight centrism because in the main, sighted people are so caught up in their own sightedness, that they are unable to see that there are other ways of doing things equally valid, but not the way of the perceived wisdom of the sighted populace. Greg may or may not be right in asserting that sight is the most developed sense. I could make an argument for saying that hearing and the development of language is up there.
As for Greg’s assertion that sight isn’t about data, I’m afraid the evidence is to the contrary. As I’ve said before, with evidence from such sources as the invisible gorilla, the matter of selective attention is important in visual perception. I can agree that it is not just about data but I don’t recall anyone suggesting that it was. It may sound like I’m sightist in some way but I’m not at all.
I can certainly understand why some find it hard to find the social model of disability a valid way of interpreting the world. After all, it took me so much time, and only after experiencing blindness myself before appreciating what it means.
In fairness to Greg, the concept of the social model can seem a bit screwy but it is nonetheless a valid position. Here in the UK, it underpins social policy, albeit with a range of problems associated with it. There are so few blind people, or at least that’s the way it seems to me who are fully engaged in society. So many seem to be lonely, isolated, and economically disadvantaged. I can only assume that they don’t live that way by choice.
I keep saying that the sighted person of today is the blind person in waiting. Unfortunately, just because someone goes blind, they do not necessarily cease to be sight-centric. That blindness is experienced as a terrible loss and even the blind person expects that they should do things in a sighted way, and feels inadequate because they cannot. Incidentally, although I have been blind now for over 20 years, I still imagine the world visually. I have to have a face to associate with a person.
Some people who I’ve known for about 20 years, I’m not sure whether I have a memory of them from when I could see, or whether I’ve invented a face for them since I went blind. I don’t know if this is a common thing. I’m not judging those who live in a state of dependence, as long as it is a choice and not the default position of disempowerment, born out of living in a sighted world without sight. I also don’t intend to offend those who might find my views on blindness strange.
I know that going blind has been a fantastic journey for me. Not without problems, of course, but pretty good. I also know that there are those who find this view apparent and are possibly angry at the way I portray blindness. I certainly don’t intend to trivialize the nature of the challenges those people experience. I do believe, however, that the social model of disability is a progressive one and one which provides a vehicle for overcoming the problems generated by society in changing attitudes, as well as the built environment. Unfortunately, however, I think that it will be at least another 50 years before it replaces the medical deficit model and maybe it never will. Well, thank you, Andrew. I like to hope we’re making a bit more progress than it taking 50 years in New Zealand, but we have the fortune of being a smaller country. You’ve brought up an interesting issue for me and that is the mindset how we handle adversity generally. Let’s not trivialize the fact that if you have a sense, that provides you with a lot of information, and suddenly you don’t have it anymore, that’s a massive adjustment.
How you adjust to it has a lot to do with the way that you view the world and the way that you might view crises. To give you an example of this, I once met somebody many years ago now, who was a nun. She had devoted her life to her faith, and she was in her 90s. She went to sleep one night, fully sighted, and woke up the next morning, fully blind. She was able to read the newspaper the day before, and there was some medical issue that resulted in her losing her sight overnight.
For the first time in her life, she started questioning her faith, started wondering, is there really a God when something like this could happen to her so late in her life and deprive her of all of these things that were dear to her things like knitting and reading the newspaper and books and of course, her Bible. Even though we were able to tell her well, you can relearn those things and there are versions of the Bible available in audio and all of that sort of thing, for her, it was just, the last straw. It was just one setback, too many.
Then you meet other people who take such a setback completely differently and see it as a challenge and it’s a pain in the butt, but it’s going to be okay. In my view, we shouldn’t judge people for that. We need to meet people where they are. We can counsel, we can provide good quality examples of how you can lead a fulfilling life as a blind person but we have to accept that people respond to adversity in different ways. I think that’s what your email is conveying.
When this whole subject came up and I did my little editorial piece here on the show about why I personally am proud to be blind, I never said for a moment that everybody should feel the same way as me and that if you are not proud to be blind, somehow there’s something wrong with you or you haven’t adjusted to blindness properly, or something like that. It’s just genuinely the way I feel. I was heartened to read an article in USA Today, recently, where the purpose of it really was to decry the use of the term “special needs.”
The people in this article in USA Today were talking about owning the term “disabled”. They’re proud of it. They did have a bit of a discussion about person first, versus identity-first language. I personally will never use person-first language. I think it’s convoluted. It sends all the wrong signals. There was some discussion. What really struck me about this article was the disability pride that was coming through. It really gladdens my heart, to see this Disability Pride Movement growing in momentum. We’re owning it. We’re proud of it. We are demanding as citizens that society fix the disabling barriers that hold us back.
It’s like you say, and you clearly have got a really good handle on the social model of disability. Just because we don’t do things in a sighted way all the time, it doesn’t make them lesser options; it makes them alternative options that are equally valid. I really appreciate getting your email. Thank you for writing it. Now, here is an interesting one from someone who wants to remain anonymous. “Hi, Jonathan, I have been listening to your informative podcast for a long time.” Well, thank you.
“I was especially interested in your thoughts on pride and blindness, the skills you have developed, your intellectual curiosity, and the people you have met. How do you feel about your hearing impairment? Are you proud of it too, in the same way? As a person with low vision, I often feel stuck in the middle with not low enough eyesight to have learned non-visual skills, such as Braille with an uppercase B from childhood, and now having to learn as an adult, and being treated very differently by members of the public or my family, who think I can see much more than I actually can.”
Thank you for your email. That is a fair question and it’s a really good question. In fact, my first wife, Amanda, who was on the podcast recently talking about the concept of blind culture, asked me this very thing. She was applauding and saying, “This is fantastic.” The post has apparently gone quite viral in Amanda’s circles as well about the blind pride. She said, “Do you feel the same way about your hearing impairment?” The short answer is no, I don’t.
I think that’s why I completely relate to people who either have very gradually deteriorating vision or to people who have gone blind later in life, just not feeling the same way as me or even understanding why I feel the way that I do. I totally get that. My hearing loss has been quite gradual and so it feels insidious. Like the person who wrote this email, except in a hearing-impaired context, I sometimes feel like I don’t have limited enough hearing to call myself deaf-blind, although interestingly, the deaf-blind community in New Zealand has been really embracing of me. I get that because I guess they think, “Well, here’s somebody who’s out there doing things and we can call this person deaf-blind.” It’s not that I’m ashamed of calling myself deaf-blind.
I guess I don’t want to feel like an interloper. When I mentioned this to someone and said, “Am I being a fraud if I call myself deaf-blind because then people will say, “You can hear, how can you do a podcast if you’re deaf-blind? They have said, “There’s a definition of deaf-blind and it definitely encompasses you.” I don’t mind being described as deaf-blind.
If my hearing aids broke right now, I would be stuck. I couldn’t attend any meetings. I couldn’t do my job. I might be able to attend online meetings if I had headphones on and crank them up enough and use some of my audio magic to equalize things in a certain way so that when I cranked up the volume enough, I wasn’t getting feedback, all those sorts of things, I might be able to manage that, but I certainly couldn’t go out without them. I couldn’t cross a street. I’d have difficulty carrying on a conversation with somebody right next to me, so my hearing impairment is quite significant. Thanks to my audio knowledge, and persistence, and really good audiologists I’ve mitigated it reasonably well, but I still have difficulty in crowds.
For a long time, I would not disclose, and I regret it now if you have heard the Glenn Gordon interviews that he did with me, which are available in a podcast called In The Arena, the Jonathan Mosen Story. It’s available free on mosen.org, and it’s also available as a podcast, if you search for In The Arena, you’ll find it. I think I made the point there that a lot of people used to think if they met me at a blindness conference or something like that, that I was really aloof. It wasn’t that I was aloof; it’s that often I would meet people in a noisy exhibit hall, and I really couldn’t hear them. I couldn’t hear what they were saying and, so you try and muddle through the conversation.
These days, I do a number of things. I do have a device that I take with me now for those crowded environments. If I know somebody is trying to have a really good conversation with me, I’ll hand a little microphone to them, and then we’re rocking because it’s just better, but it took me a while. It took me a journey to feel comfortable enough to disclose all of that, which now that I look back on it was counterproductive to take that long to do that because when somebody knows that you have an impairment, they’re usually willing to accommodate it. If you muddle through, they don’t know.
My blindness has been a constant, and I’ve embraced it and I’ve celebrated it. I think there is a blind culture and I feel like I’m a part of it and I revel in that. I love that. The hearing impairment because of its insidious deterioration has been harder and I even was at a point in my life at one point where I thought, “I don’t think I could live if I had to have a cochlear implant.”
Hearing from all these wonderful listeners, over the last few weeks, talking to Jim Snowbarger about his journey, he is back on the radio now, doing Snowwhite FM. All the other people who talked about this has personally given me so much encouragement and hope that if I ever got to that point, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. It would be a massive adjustment for someone like me, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world and life would go on and I’d still have Bonnie and I’d still have my kids and I’d be okay, but I didn’t always feel that way.
I like to hope that if we have people listening who have deteriorating vision; they may gain an understanding of the idea that life with blindness is okay. They might not get the blind pride thing. They might think it’s over the top, I accept that some people will, but they will know that life with blindness is okay. Every time I read an email on this show, with my Braille display, I’m mindful that that’s a pretty cool advertisement for Braille. I couldn’t do the podcast in the way that I do it without Braille so with alternative techniques, life can go on.
Now, in the case of the hearing impairment thing, I guess I feel I’m more of a learner as well as possibly a purveyor of useful information because my audio background has helped me and I try and pass that information on. I’m just so lucky that I have that knowledge, and I’ve got an audiologist who puts up with me because I’m probably the worst, and the best audiology patient. The worst because I’m really persistent and insistent, but the best because at least I can articulate my needs really well in audiological terms, and that’s really lucky for me.
I am also taught by people who are further down this journey than I am. Since I went low carb, my hearing impairment has stuck where it is, so it hasn’t deteriorated any further for quite some years, but it all could change tomorrow and I’m mindful of that. I don’t know whether I might one day just wake up and get to the point where it would not be possible for me to do this podcast anymore without some significant retraining and reworking. It could happen. I could just not turn up next week, because I can’t hear anymore. It’s all uncertain.
In terms of the pride thing, I think I’m proud of what I achieved despite it, as opposed to proud to be it. I’m proud to be blind, but I’m grateful for my hearing impairment. The reason why I’m grateful for it is that it gives me some empathy with people who are not proud to be blind, who are proud of what they achieve, despite their blindness, but who don’t feel this inherent sense of belonging to a culture of a shared history because I don’t feel that about my hearing impairment.
I express gratitude for the empathy that it has given me and the ability to have new technical challenges to overcome and new gadgets to try, but no, I can’t say I’m proud of my hearing impairment. That is my honest answer to the question, and it’s a really good question. When you anonymous contributor, talk about the struggle you have with your family about how much they think you can see and that kind of thing, “I get it,” because you’re living in that sighted world in the halfway house. I completely get where you are with it.
Jonathan: Aditya Garg is writing in and says, “Hi, Jonathan, in one of the recent Mosen At Large podcasts, one listener was looking for resources to learn Windows 10, and JAWS that’s right that was Maribel, who was asking about this. I am sharing two resources below. One, Getting Started with Windows 10 by Chris Grabowski and Kim Loftis, this is a neat little book available within NBP. I believe this has to do more with understanding and navigating Windows 10 and less with JAWS, but the interested listener may want to check the table of contents.
Two, An Immersion into Windows 10 with JAWS for Windows, by CathyAnne Murtha. Again, I will request anyone interested in getting these resources to go through the table of contents, as both of these resources are paid, and one wants to be sure they are getting exactly what they are looking for. Of course, Cathy Anne Murtha runs the access Technology Institute; you can find that at blindtraining.com, so thank you for both of those resources.
David Vander Molen writes, “Greetings to you, Jonathan, and to your listeners. Yesterday, an incident happened to me that occurs fairly often when I deal with medical personnel. I was at my dentist’s office. We had a discussion about treatment options for two of my teeth. We came to an agreement as to what I would like to have done. The dentist guided me to the waiting room where my wife was. He then proceeds to tell my wife about the discussion we just had and what treatment option I chose is if I were a small child, and he was talking to my mother.”
“Remember, this was in a waiting room where there are often others who could have heard that conversation. In this instance, no one was there, but I didn’t know that at the time. Very similar incidents have happened at my family doctor’s office and at hospitals. How should we handle this? Should I interrupt and say something? Should Agnes, my wife, say something? I don’t want to be rude. These people are generally quite nice to me, and I’m happy with their work, would really appreciate your suggestions. Thanks so much.”
Thank you for raising this issue, David. It is something that I’m sure many of us can relate to. When I was married to somebody sighted. It did happen to me quite a bit. My sighted wife was pretty onto this, and she would just say to them, “Look, you don’t need to tell me his private medical details. He is a grown man. He can cope with all this himself, but thanks.” And we’d move on.
I think there are a couple of approaches you can take. It reminds me actually not so much of a medical story, but it’s an interesting one, where I used to pick up my daughter, my oldest daughter Heidi from kindergarten. In New Zealand, kindergarten is where kids go before the age of five, from about the age of two until they’re five. I used to walk there with my guide dog and pick her up and we would walk home, and it was a really pleasant walk.
One day, the kindergarten teacher made some sort of comment to Heidi, like, “You are doing a really great job looking after your daddy like this.” It was quite undermining and humiliating. I knew though that if I raised it at the time if I reacted immediately, it would make Heidi feel really uncomfortable. She was just a little girl and she didn’t have to deal with all of this, so we walked home. Then, I sought a one-on-one meeting with the teacher, and I explained that I’m the caregiver in this relationship. My blindness doesn’t change that fact. If she sought to undermine my parental role in that way ever again, I would remove Heidi from the kindergarten and I would make a formal complaint, and it never happened again.
It was all very nicely done, no aggression in it, but just stating very clearly the consequences of undermining my parental authority that way.
In this instance, where you know that people mean well, what I would do is just either have a chat if you can. Give them a phone call and discuss it, and say, “Look, I don’t want to make a big deal of this. I know you mean well, but you’ve really undermined my privacy here, and you’ve got a misconception about me as a blind person.” Just have a genuine chat, and what will probably happen is that the dentist will say, “I’m so sorry. I never thought of it from that perspective. Thank you for pointing it out to me.” Then, you’ll probably be able to move on and the dentist will have appreciated the discussion.
Perhaps you will have done someone a favor who might not have been able to raise it in such a constructive way, and who felt humiliated and undermined because your medical details are sacrosanct. It’s so undermining to have that discussion in a waiting room and really, they have no right to talk to someone else about your medical information unless you’ve given them power-of-attorney and various other caveats like that. That’s how I would personally handle it. I’m sure others have comments on this, and similar experiences to share.
Jonathan: That amazingly soothing music, ushers in another crosstalk free, we hope, Bonnie bulletin. Here is Bonnie Mosen.
Bonnie Mosen: Hi guys.
Jonathan: How are you?
Bonnie: Good. How are you doing?
Jonathan: Oh mate, I am super-well. It’s been a week of adventure, of resolution, of weirdness.
Bonnie: [chuckles] Yes.
Jonathan: Happy 4th, by the way.
Bonnie: Oh yes, it is the 4th here, so happy pre-4th of July to those in the US, and expat-Americans like me around the world. I’ve been seeing on Facebook, where the fireworks have already begun in a lot of neighborhoods, which I really wish they wouldn’t set off just random fireworks. They do that here too on Guy Fawkes Day. For Guy Fawkes Day a lot– but before of times in Matariki, which is the Māori New Year, and probably the Chinese New Year as well. Really, if you’re going to do fireworks, go to the professionals. Go to the local ball field, go stand along the river. Don’t scare all the dogs and people in your neighborhood.
Jonathan: You’re very bossy today.
Bonnie: I know. Well, first of all, they’re dangerous, so you need to leave them in the hands of the professionals. Second, it scares all the animals.
Jonathan: I often feel this way about mixers, like the big one that I’m in front of now.
Jonathan: They are very dangerous, and they should probably be left in the hands of professionals, but they let me have one anyway. Eventually, what will happen is that the whole Guy Fawkes tradition will just die a death in this country. We inherited this from Britain. For those who aren’t familiar, this is all about the Gunpowder Plot. It happened in 1603, or somewhere around there.
Jonathan: A long time ago where Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the parliament, you know, “Parliament you are exploded.”
Bonnie: Yes, terrorism goes back a long way.
Jonathan: Well, I don’t know whether we celebrate that he didn’t succeed or we celebrate because he tried.
Bonnie: I’m not sure. He ended up a horrible death, though.
Jonathan: Yes, he was hanged, drawn, and quartered. Nasty. Anyway, so on the 5th of November, we have these occasions, and the fireworks that you can get on sale now are just a tiny shadow of their former selves. When I was a kid, the local Lions Club used to come to the school for the blind, and they would have these amazing fireworks exhibitions by a big bonfire.
That’s the other really weird thing too, when they have it in the UK, the bonfire works because it’s getting a bit chilly, and it’s a November evening, but the bonfires don’t really work here because it’s warming up. It’s heading into summer. Very strange. I suspect that if we do have fireworks, they will be professionally run, and they will be part of Matariki, which is the Māori New Year, as you say. It’s now going to be an official public holiday.
Bonnie: On June 24th,
Jonathan: Because Jacinda gave it to us. It is going to vary every year.
Bonnie: That’s not what I was told the other day at work.
Jonathan: Whoever told you that is incorrect. They’ve just published a calendar for the next 30 years of Matariki, and the holiday will fall on a different day each year based on the closest Friday to when Matariki happens.
Bonnie: Oh, okay.
Jonathan: Yes, so you might like to pass it on to your work. Particularly if they’re in HR or they’ll give you the wrong day off.
Bonnie: No, not HR.
Jonathan: Shall we talk about the Great Washing Machine Saga? Which I know people are on absolute tenter hooks to hear about every single week. I’m sure they are.
Bonnie: Well, the app is working again, mysteriously. Henry and Heidi came over to work on something else, and reset the router, is that what happened?
Jonathan: See, the art is in the telling of the story, isn’t it? The art is in the telling of the story. You make it sound so boring, so let me have a go. What happened was, we have been having a series of quite interesting issues with various appliances. It’s getting wintertime here. Well, it is. We’re right in the thick of wintertime. The temperatures are getting quite cold in the mornings. Suddenly, our Wi-Fi system here, which is really reliable because it’s based on UniFi equipment, which is some of the best internet gear you can buy. It’s been dodgy, and suddenly, after years of successful service, the heat pump here in the studio has stopped responding to the automation system, and it does it periodically.
We have a routine setup. At 4:30 AM every morning, it heats the house because we get up at 5:00 AM. By the time five o’clock comes along, it’s starting to get toasty, and warm, and it’s all very effective. Suddenly, the studio heat pump stopped responding to all of this Wi-Fi malarkey. In the end, while Sara Hillis was doing Come By The Hills, Mushroom FM’s Premier Celtic Music Show, I reset the router. I switched it off and back on again because no one’s going to be inconvenienced by this, and the heat pump came back to life. This was very good, but then it stopped again.
I said to Heidi and Henry, perhaps they might like to come over and have a geeky bonding time with us because the process for reconfiguring the Mitsubishi heat pump in the studio with the Wi-Fi system is not accessible. They came over here, and I said to them at the time, Samsung have just called us finally, and they said, “We are going to send a technician to you, and they’re going to look at your washing machine to find out what the matter with it is,” but they said, “Woe betide ye.” They didn’t exactly say that, but that was the message. “Woe betide ye if it turns out to be your fault because if it is, we are going to charge you for the call out,” so I thought, “Oh.”
Then, it occurred to me, if we put in the router that we used to use before we went to Ubiquiti, would it suddenly work? It wouldn’t be that difficult to do because the Wi-Fi key is the same. I said to them, “Maybe we should try this just to rule out anything at our end,” before they threatened to charge us, so we were thinking about doing this. It took quite a long time for Heidi and Henry, who have working eyeballs, to get the heat pump talking. Then, I said, “All right, let’s just have a look at the troubleshooting steps Samsung have provided.” Heidi ran the Smart Things App, and when she ran it she gave this squeal of delight, and she said, “Dad, it’s working.”
For some reason, the washing machine has just sprung back to life. Now, we don’t know whether Samsung might have done something remotely because they do have the credentials. They were looking at it remotely, but it’s also possible that the two things are related, and my theory– “This is the theory that is mine,” do you know that Monty Python? One about–
Jonathan: Oh, good. My theory is the heat pump and the washing machine were assigned the same IP address internally by the router. That is my theory, and by, essentially, brute-forcing the heat pump back to life, it freed the IP address for the washer. That’s the only thing that I can think of that might have fixed this issue, but for whatever reason, and I’m knocking on the wood– That was when? Wednesday? It was the day of the board meeting. When was the board meeting?
Bonnie: Tuesday. Was it Tuesday?
Jonathan: The board meeting was Wednesday.
Bonnie: Oh, it was on Wednesday.
Jonathan: Yes, the board meeting was Wednesday. It was Wednesday, and it hasn’t broken since, nor has the heat pump, so we’re very upbeat about this. I was able to contact Samsung and say, “Guess what guys, we don’t need your call out anymore.”
Bonnie: No, which is good.
Jonathan: You’re gloriously basking in the washing machine.
Bonnie: Again, the washing machine was working.
Jonathan: You keep saying that every single–
Bonnie: Well, it sounds like it was never– It actually was dead, but it wasn’t. It just wouldn’t work through the app.
Jonathan: Yes, just in case you missed that the last four times Bonnie made this point.
Bonnie: We could have a new listener.
Jonathan: What? No, they’re all getting sick of us. That’s really good. It’s been a really resolving kind of week because I have also had a problem. It’s been really mysterious. I haven’t talked about it because really, I didn’t know what to say about it. I installed iOS 15. Now the public beta of this is out, by the way. It’s a remarkably stable operating system, given how early in the cycle we are. One of the things that happened to me though, is that I could not run the Find My app. I said to spotty nephew, Anthony, who’s also running it, and a couple of other people, “Are you able to run your Find My app?” They said, “Yes.” I thought that’s odd. I waited for beta 2 to come out and still I could not run the Find My app. I thought, “I really have to look into this.”
I went through the rather arduous process of restoring to a good backup of iOS 14.6. I always, obviously take encrypted backups before installing a beta, because you should do those things.
I was able to bring my phone back to the state that it was in before the iOS 15 upgrade, but you know what? I still couldn’t run the Find My app. Then I did a bit of internet research and I found that on occasion, this does happen to people. Nobody seems to know what the fix is, but occasionally, you just try to run the Find My app and it says, “Find My is unavailable.”
Now I obviously did all the usual things. I reset network settings, I signed out of iCloud, and back in again. I did all those things. I did the hard reset thing. I’m not a nit when it comes to this stuff. Nothing was fixing it; it was clearly an Apple thing. That was a bit annoying. Not only because I couldn’t spy on everybody, [chuckles] like where the kids are and where Bonnie is, everything like that, but I couldn’t use my AirTags as well, which was a real concern. What happened if I left something somewhere and I didn’t know where it was?
Then on Friday night, at about 11:30 I was playing with the phone. Now just every so often I was running the Find My app to see what would happen and it just worked, and I couldn’t believe it. Everybody was there. My AirTags were there. It was just magically there and it’s been working ever since. The problem was obviously at Apple’s end, they have seen fit to reinstate my Find My and I appreciate it, guys. Thank you. I had a potentially fatal injury.
Bonnie: Yes, so you’re going to tell us about that.
Jonathan: See, that means another long waffle for me. Yes, but it is an interesting story. I came upstairs after another hard day on Tuesday. Bonnie was home and Eclipse was home, and that was all very nice. Eclipse is often very exuberant. That’s Bonnie seeing-eye dog. She’s often very exuberant, when she comes back. We have this really cool game. What I tend to do is I back into this room, which is just around the corner from the stairs that we’re using as a gym.
I back into it and then Eclipse runs past and I leap out and pretend to catch her, but I never actually do. That’s what she likes. She thinks she’s escaped me. Then she runs past in the other direction again. I leap out again and pretend to catch her. She thinks that’s wonderful that I’m trying to catch her but never do, so she keeps running around. She loves the game. I was getting ready to play this game because I could tell that that’s what she wanted. I was having a chat to Bonnie about her work day. She was having a little whinge and I was having a little whinge about things going on. Then I thought I’ll play with Eclipse. I backed into what I thought was the gym room, but actually, I backed myself down the flight of stairs, which I started hurtling down at great speed. What’s interesting about that, when you have an incident like this, is that your brain really goes into slow-mo.
I remember really clearly and it must’ve been like just a very fraction of a second. All these thoughts going through my head like, “If I don’t take some sort of remedial corrective action, I could break my back. I could have brain damage.” There are a number of exciting things that could be my immediate future. Then I thought, oh, so I had better try and solve it.
I reached out to the balustrade, which is a slatty thing on one side of the stairs. I just managed to hook into it but only with my little finger. What that meant was that my whole weight of me hurtling down the stairs was all on that little finger. I tell you what; it was so painful that I even said, “Holy soup.” I apologize for my bad language, but wow. That was just really bad. I couldn’t get to a doctor because the winter weather had set in. We were under all sorts of flood warnings.
Bonnie: We were still in level two, I think.
Jonathan: We were in level two of the Rona at that point. It wasn’t possible for me to get to the afterhours clinic easily.
Bonnie: Plus who knows what time they closed.
Jonathan: Yes, suck it up is what I had to do. It was really painful and eventually, after the board meeting, you see. I was sitting there and during the pain, during the board meeting, and finally managed to get in there. Oh, my goodness, it was just absolutely hideous. Apparently, it’s not broken. It might be sprained, but it probably isn’t that either. I’m in the system now. Those things are terrible.
Bonnie: Yes, it does hurt.
Jonathan: You have those little sinking feelings where you think if you go to the doctor and you explain this, are they going to question your blindness competence, even though it can happen to anyone. Sighted people don’t have eyes in the back of their head either. If they’re stupid enough to perambulate backwards, it could have happened to them as well.
Bonnie: Well, yes. People fall all the time in the yard, the garden, whatever. I’ve fallen down those stairs before headfirst, or at least tripped down them not actually fallen.
Jonathan: Halfway down the stairs, the stairs.
Bonnie: Yes. Then, of course, poor Mark.
Jonathan: Yes, Mark he fell down the stairs when he was here. Yes, we need one of those baby gates or something.
Bonnie: Yes, then I don’t know what Eclipse would think.
Jonathan: Yes, she likes being able to hurtle down the stairs to visit me down here in the studio. She likes that. I also did get Bryan Hartgen’s scripts for Microsoft Teams. I highly recommend them. I spend an inordinate amount of time in Microsoft Teams. It’s a great platform actually. It’s idiosyncratic, but it’s accessible. It’s a great way to collaborate with people and Bryan has done an outstanding job with the scripts for Microsoft Teams. If you use teams, I highly recommend them. I even got his tutorial on Microsoft Teams, because there’re always things that when you go into the depth of producing a good quality tutorial, you learn a lot as the producer. I knew there’d be some little nuggets that Bryan would have picked up. It was worthwhile as well.
Bonnie: Great hearing people’s radio memories.
Jonathan: Isn’t it interesting that it turns out that the Sparky kid is the same Sparky that’s in the stories? The talking train and the magic piano. I wondered if there was a connection there.
Bonnie: Yes, and then people talking about disability pride. I don’t really think of it as I’m proud I’m blind. It’s not something that I’ve ever really thought about. It’s just what I am. I’m not ashamed of it, but I don’t really think about it being proud. I’m just what I am. It would be interesting to see if it’s different for people who are born blind, as opposed to losing sight later like me. I’ve never really thought about it. It’s interesting to think about other disabilities and how people perceive those.
It was interesting hearing Christy earlier talk about the wheelchair. About how she felt it was safer for her to travel in the wheelchair. She felt that refusing it might be
are entitled to their opinions and what works best for them, and that’s fine. I don’t take wheelchairs because I’m usually with my dog. The dog is not going to run along beside it. I do know people have had to have their dog sit in their lap because they– It was one of those things where language was a barrier. They had to get to their plane; they didn’t have time to argue with the person.
I think there really needs to be more of a concerted effort to really train people that not all disability accessibility is the same. I think the whole thing with the disabled rooms in hotels. I was having a conversation with a co-worker who’s deaf, she hates being put in a disability room. She like, “That is not my–”
Jonathan: I do too, and it’s not because I’m looking down on people who need them. It’s just I actually like a really nice big tub. If I find a hotel room-
Bonnie: Yes, that was her. She’s says, “I don’t need a disab– It’s my hearing. I want a bathtub.” They claimed that that was the only room left, but she said that wasn’t true because half the hotel was empty. They had this humongous, enormous shower. When I check in I’m like, “No, I do not want the disabled room. Do not put me there.”
Jonathan: Yes. It’s reassuring to know that it happens to deaf people as well as blind people, because, “Oh, you’re blind. You must need the disability room.” I don’t want it, I want my nice– Give me one of those big spa bath things with a bubble machine that makes me very happy of the bubble machine. Of course, it’s convention season coming up in the United States.
Jonathan: Virtual again. NFB goes first, don’t they? Is the ACB the week after or something?
Bonnie: Yes, NFB is next week. I need to look at both. I haven’t registered because the time difference can be interesting. I need to look to– I know I’m going to the journalism group. I think that’s six. That’ll be an early morning for me.
Jonathan: Kind of cool to be able to tune in. I think a lot of blind people who don’t have the wherewithal, or maybe the confidence to travel really enjoy feeling connected in this way.
Bonnie: Or the money because it is expensive.
Jonathan: Yes. That’s what I mean by wherewithal.
Bonnie: The wherewithal.
Jonathan: I wonder what will happen, presumably next year, when things can go back to a physical location, whether there will be some sort of hybrid?
Bonnie: It could be. It’s highly possible. I know next year ACB’s in Omaha and NFB’s in New Orleans I believe.
Jonathan: There are good steaks in Nebraska, aren’t there?
Jonathan: Oh, boy, you should go.
Bonnie: I think I would. No offense to NFB or ACB but I think I’d rather go to Omaha than New Orleans in July.
Jonathan: I went to the New Orleans convention in 1997, that the NFB had it was magical.
Bonnie: Was that in New Orleans?
Bonnie: Gosh, it’s so hot.
Jonathan: It was just so cool. You’d go around that bourbon street area. You’d go around the French Quarter and you’d hear these bands playing and they were so talented I will never forget the– It was like a mom and dad and kids playing and they were so good, playing this jazz. They took a little break and there was a crowd of people just listening to these guys. The dad said this here is the tip jar, and over there is the ATM machine.
Bonnie: That’s cute.
Jonathan: It was a great convention, and of course, that’s where Kenneth Jernigan did his speech about the day after civil rights, which turned out to be his last banquet speech. Well, I’m glad we got some Bonnie in the Bonnie Bulletin, because I was feeling bad about it. There are some Americans who celebrate the 4th of July here. They have a function. Don’t they have something at the American Embassy?
Bonnie: Yes. I think it’s by invitation only.
Jonathan: What? We need to get one for you.
Bonnie: I think so because I know people that go which I’m not quite sure, Kiwis, and I’m not quite– They may do other things. I think some of the bars and stuff do.
Jonathan: Yes, they do for sure. Did President Biden announced an ambassador to New Zealand yet. I’m not sure if he has.
Jonathan: You’re here anyway. You’re a very diplomatic person.
Bonnie: That’d be cool. You don’t have to have any experience to be an ambassador. Some people it’s like, okay. I’m not sure what they– Some are obviously longtime diplomatic corps employees, but then others are just people who have been very kind to whoever’s been in office and given them some mullah and some-
Jonathan: Cushy postings.
Bonnie: Exactly. I would hope for the really high conflict areas they would, but England especially is one that get a lot of Cushi postings to the court of St. James.
Jonathan: Well, now as a Tennesseean who you know well might say it’s time for you to go. Al Gore said that. He eventually said it was time for him to go after the 2000 results. Have a lovely week. You can hear Bonnie on the Studio 70 show on Mushroom FM every weekday at 11:00 AM and PM Eastern Time. You can check the Mushroom FM schedule to find out when that is in your time zone. Thanks.
Bonnie: Thank you.
Jonathan: 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 864-60-MOSEN that’s 864-606-6736.
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