Podcast Transcript: Mosen At Large episode 138, why we’re going podcast-only, what will and wont Apples Accessibility Team help you with, and blindness employment discussion
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Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen, and this is Mosen At Large, the show that has got the blind community talking. On the show today, Mosen At Large is going podcast only. What will the Apple accessibility team help you with? We talk unemployment, meet VIP conduit, and more of your contributions.
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Jonathan: Welcome. It is wonderful to have you back again for another episode of Mosen At Large or if you are listening for the first time, a special welcome to you. Always good to hear from regulars and newbies alike. I tell you it is early here. Early on another Sunday morning as I put this together here in New Zealand. I bounced out of bed when my alarm went off at 4:15 AM as I have on a Sunday or a Monday morning during the New Zealand winter for the last 12 years.
First with the live Mosen Explosion show and latterly with Mosen At Large. I have loved every minute of it, and I am truly humbled and quite surprised actually, given how much choice there is out there that people are kind enough to listen to this. The big difference these days, of course, is that I now have a high-pressure job, which I love, but which consumes a lot of my time during the week, many, many waking hours, and it, of course, creeps into the weekend too because a job like this one it doesn’t stop when the weekend comes along.
I do think it’s good to have hobbies, outlets, when you have a busy job. I think it’s good to have them, whether you have a busy job or not. Maybe if I was sighted, I would be collecting Harley Davidson’s or artwork or something, but for me, my hobbies Mushroom FM, this podcast, The Blind Podmaker community that I started recently, they’re all important to me because, as well as giving me something different to do, that recharges the batteries in itself. I do feel driven to give something back to the blind community. I figure if I can share what little knowledge I might’ve acquired about technology or facilitate some thoughtful discussion, promote blind pride and self-advocacy and help others in our community to create content.
Then it’s honestly a privilege to be able to make that kind of contribution. So far, Mosen At Large has definitely been the pinnacle. Like many of the things that I’ve done in the radio or podcasting field, Mosen At Large grew organically, unexpectedly. It was driven by listener demand. Once I stopped hosting The Blind Side podcast, talk contributions to the Mosen Explosion show increased significantly. Ultimately, it reached the point where I thought that I may as well put these talky bits together and publish them as a podcast, which of course caused even more talky bits to come in, and that is how Mosen At Large was born.
If you listen to episode one of Mosen At Large, and it is still available in the podcast feed, you’ll hear me talking about how I wasn’t necessarily committing to weekly episodes and setting the expectations fairly low. Eventually, Mosen At Large occupied the full three hours of the live show I do on Mushroom FM and I moved the Mosen Explosion to weekdays, which has worked really well.
I put a lot of effort into what I do. The way I think about this is that if you’re doing me the honor of listening, then I feel I should show you the respect and the courtesy that you deserve by producing the best quality show I’m capable of. Producing three hours of content to a standard that I consider deserving of your time, week after week is actually a huge commitment, and then I package it into two versions. One for the show that goes out live on Mushroom FM, and the other for the podcast.
Now, we get an excellent number of listeners by internet radio standards, who tune into the Mushroom FM version, but even then, the number of people who tune in that way is well below 10% of the listeners who get the podcast. I understand that. Because if I were a listener, I would choose the podcast version as well because I can speed it up. I can skip from chapter to chapter so that I can bypass bits that don’t interest me. It just puts me as a listener in much greater control.
Now, speaking as the host, getting up every Sunday morning at 4:15 means that Bonnie and I have to think about what we’re going to do with our Saturday nights to accommodate the show to make sure that I’m not too tired for it. We’ve not contemplated getting away for a weekend for a long time because of my commitment to doing the Mushroom FM show. For quite a few months I’ve realized that if I want to be the best version of me I can be, I do need to recalibrate my work-life balance a bit. That’s why today’s Mosen At Large show is the last that will air on Mushroom FM.
I want to be really clear about what I’m saying about what this means. I am still very much committed to Mosen At Large. Mosen At Large will continue as a podcast full of contributions, assuming you’re still willing to send them in, of course, tech tips, interviews, and all the things that you’ve come to expect. I may not produce three hours every week, which the live show really compels me to do, but most weeks I will publish an episode and I will try to be consistent about when I publish that episode because I know that it’s become a bit of a ritual for some people listening at a particular time and they rely on the podcast being there for that.
Podcast listeners will notice very little difference and that is well over 90% of the people that listen to this show. I’m just giving up this one live slot so I can relax a bit more and get a massive chunk of time back. You will not believe the difference this is going to make. The Mosen Explosion will continue on Mushroom FM during the week. We have a lot of fun there and I hope you’ll join me. 2:00 PM and AM US Eastern time or North American Eastern time, every weekday. You can go to the Mushroom FM schedule page to find out when that is in your time zone. Small World, which gives me and many listeners it seems a lot of pleasure will continue on Mushroom Escape.
My decision should lock absolutely no one out of continuing to listen to Mosen At Large, because if you’re listening live right now on Mushroom FM or Clubhouse or Facebook or YouTube, all of which will no longer carry Mosen At Large, then you have the ability to listen to the podcast. I hope that you will subscribe in your podcast app of choice. It is of course free. If you go to mosen.org, that’s M-O-S-E-N.org and choose the link there for the Mosen At Large podcast, I’ve gone into a lot of detail about all the ways that you can hear the podcast.
There will definitely be times when there are advantages in being live, where there might be a debate going on where a range of listener perspectives would be useful in real-time. Our recaps of technology events from companies such as Microsoft and Apple are another example, and a further example I can think of is when I’m interviewing someone and there may be a lot of interest in listeners being able to ask that person questions.
In those cases, we will go live, and the way I’m thinking about it at the moment is that we’re most likely to do that via Zoom. I say that because Zoom is ubiquitous. Pretty much everybody has it. It’s installed on PCs, on smartphones. It’s got massive take-up; the audio quality is pretty good. People can come in on a wide range of devices and it’s easy as a moderator to administer. If we go that route, then what I would be doing is posting Zoom links on the media list. The reason for that is that Zoom links posted to social media are susceptible to the phenomenon, the atrocity known as Zoom bombing. We don’t want that. We don’t want things to be disrupted. The media list is more of a closed platform.
If you are interested in this show and you are not yet on the media list, I would encourage you to subscribe so that you will get notifications of when we’re going to go live in this way. You can send a blank message to email@example.com to get on there, firstname.lastname@example.org. That email list is announcements only, and it’s very low traffic, usually about three to four messages a week coming there and you can, of course, unsubscribe at any time.
I like to think that with a bit more juice in the tank, the Mosen At Large podcast will be even better, and the great news is you’re going to hear something truly epic in the slot if you listen to Mushroom FM at this time, starting next week. Sara Hillis will be hosting her popular Celtic and Folk music show Come by the Hills in this slot. Sara is a terrific broadcaster, so you’re in great hands.
My sincere thanks to everyone who has listened on Mushroom FM to Mosen At Large. It’s impossible for me to know how many people listen exclusively on Mushroom FM at the moment and never access the podcast, but if that’s you, I do hope that you will follow us to the podcast feed. I have to admit. Much as it is an honor to give back to the blind community, it is with some excitement and relief that I finally get to do this. Delete my Sunday 4:15 AM alarm.
Siri: I deleted your 4:15 AM alarm.
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Jonathan: This is an interesting one from Petra who says, “Hello, Jonathan. I just called Apple accessibility for help, and was told that if the issue doesn’t have to do with an accessibility feature, I should call the main Apple number. I suppose this has always been the case, but was never told before.” She continues, “As far as rumors go, someone told me that they heard Apple was coming out with 11 new phones this fall. If that’s true, that’s extraordinary. I am planning on getting a new iPhone in the fall, because of the features my SE 2020 can’t do. It would be interesting to have that many choices.”
I suppose it depends on how you count them, Petra. There will be various models of the same iPhone depending on the market that they serve. That’s because, 4G and 5G frequencies and even 3G frequencies if you’re still using those, will vary from country to country. Let’s have a look at the current range. You’ve got the iPhone 12 Mini, the iPhone 12, the iPhone 12 Pro, and the iPhone 12 Pro Max. That’s four phones right there. Then you have various versions of that phone. For example, the 5G models, you’ve got the mmWave version that’s available in the United States, and then you have other versions that cases different 5G bands around the place.
I think it is conceivable that there are 11 new phones being launched in about September of this year, but that doesn’t mean that there will be 11 models for you to choose from. All of the credible data that I’ve seen indicates, I don’t know whether they will call it 13 or not, but we will have let’s say an iPhone 13, an iPhone 13 Pro, an iPhone 13 Pro Max, and an iPhone 13 Pro Mini, and then you will have the regional variations. Sure, the total number of phones launched around the world could well total 11.
I am interested in the comment that you got, the castigation. You were castigated by Apple accessibility, Petra, about calling them about something that was not related to accessibility. I’m interested in this. I typically do call the main number. I think I have called Apple accessibility once, and that was relating to an issue with hearing aids when I got my iPhone 11 Pro Max. You’ll remember that there was a really bad experience at the beginning there for hearing aid users. It was so bad that for the first time, I was seriously contemplating sending back a new iPhone. They did, to Apple’s credit, get that one fixed in short order.
I called Apple accessibility about that, but typically, I do tend to use the main number, probably because we don’t actually have a number for Apple accessibility in New Zealand. We do have a number in Australia we can call, and my cell phone plan gives me free calls to Australia. I think I called the accessibility number in that case. If that advice is accurate, and not just one grumpy individual that you got, then that would put Apple at odds, certainly with the way that Microsoft does things.
I give a big shout-out to Microsoft Disability Answer Desk, DAD for short. Thanks, DAD. You call that number and you can ask them about any Microsoft products. It could be an issue you’re having with Microsoft Office, it could be something in Teams, it could be something to do with Windows and your computer during something weird. Whatever it is, as long as you are an assistive technology user, they will talk to you. The good thing is that they have received extensive training in assistive technologies.
When you call the Disability Answer Desk at Microsoft about anything relating to Microsoft, you don’t get this, click here stuff, you tell them you’re a screen reader user, and you’ll need keyboard commands. They know what JAWS is. They don’t say, “Oh, I’m so sorry,” [chuckles] when you tell them that you’re blind. I have had a very good set of experiences with the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk.
If Apple is saying that you can’t call the accessibility number, unless it relates to an accessibility feature, like VoiceOver or made for iPhone hearing aids, or their Zoom magnification product, then that had better mean that when you call that main Apple number, you will get somebody who knows how to use VoiceOver, who isn’t going to get flummoxed, because generally, I know my way around an iPhone. If I call Apple support, it’s something that’s gone pretty badly wrong, but that shouldn’t be the threshold. The threshold should be that any user who has an issue with their phone, or Apple product in general, needs to be able to get support.
For a user who perhaps isn’t conversant with the way that a sighted person uses the iPhone, for example, you had better hope that the person on the other end of the phone can translate what they want you to do into VoiceOver speak. The other question I would have is, who determines or what is it that determines when something is an accessibility issue and when it’s not? If I have an issue using a particular Apple App or service, is it because I’m a VoiceOver user, or is it because something’s gone wrong at the Apple end? As a nontechie user, how would I know? I would ask Apple accessibility on Twitter, but they don’t have a Twitter account.
Daniel Jacob says, “I have gotten lots of help from Apple’s in accessibility team.” [chuckles] I presume that is accessibility team. I think that might be a typo, I’m hoping it is. “I’ve found that over the past year, most especially, Apple’s accessibility team has become more and more closed-minded about answering even just basic technical questions. For instance, all I did last week, was to ask email@example.com, where iTunes stores its backups on Windows computers so that I can have my iPhone and iPad backups available to me when I synced them to my new computer? The answer was to tell me that I have reached the email for Apple accessibility, that I would need to contact technical support.
Also, I have had to contact Apple accessibility for VoiceOver problems and found that I’ve had to get transferred to a senior accessibility advisor, because the person to whom I was speaking was either not trained, or didn’t have much experience with VoiceOver. Even better or worse, depending on your opinion, Apple has a share your screen through ara.apple.com. Unfortunately, as I found out the hard way, I needed someone to control my computer, since many features are simply not accessible to Jaws users, features like, deleting all your iTunes authorizations. This is only available by using the mouse. Unfortunately, at that time, I didn’t know anything about enabling mouse echo. I quickly investigated.
I very much enjoy Microsoft’s accessibility desk and use them quite a bit actually. By taking over my computer, I can pretty much give them directions for them to do what I need, and they just do it.”
Thank you for that, Daniel, you raised some really important points, I think, and I hope we can get some further experiences from people on what they’re seeing with Apple accessibility. It is Apple’s right of course as a business to determine its own policies and when you should contact what outlet, but it does seem to me that if for example, you are a blind person using Jaws, and you’re having issues with accessibility of iTunes, then that clearly is an accessibility issue. iTunes is Apple software after all.
I have to say it’s been a while since I’ve removed authorizations from iTunes. It was accessible then. I was able without any mouse jiggery-pokery to go in and remove all my authorization, so I could start again, but it has been quite some time since I’ve had to do that. It may well have changed for the worse since then. I can understand why Apple might be frustrated with people contacting Apple accessibility who do not have accessibility needs and bucking the system as it were, perhaps thinking that they can jump the queue by using the Apple accessibility number to get answers to questions. That’s not a good thing. It’s the equivalent of people who don’t need it, parking in disability car parks.
If you are a blind person or a person with another accessibility need, you may well need technical help that involves the step-by-step instructions you might get to be VoiceOver centric. Don’t forget Aira in these situations, though, where you may need some assistance with remoting into a Windows PC to get a job done. This isn’t technical support. Aira doesn’t say that it’s going to provide you with that. If you just need a human screen reader and somebody to instruct to click at a certain point, then Aira is brilliant for that. They do offer five minutes free per day.
If you’re organized and you have TeamViewer set up on your computer, you can call the Aira agent, you can say, I’d like a quick TeamViewer session, please. You can give them your login ID and a password, which changes with every session and the agent can log in and it’s amazing what you can get accomplished in five minutes. I use Aira a lot for that. Please share. Good and bad, I have to say. I don’t want this to be a dumping session at all. If you’ve had some great experiences with Apple accessibility and you feel like they’ve gone the extra mile, I would love to hear about that as well.
This is a nice email subject to get. It’s hello from a new fan. It’s from Shanna Sichler and she says, “Hello, Jonathan. I only recently discovered your fantastic podcast, so please forgive me if I resurrect a couple of older discussions. First, thank you, thank you for your stance against the misuse of the word blind. It’s a relief to know that someone else feels as strongly about this as I do.
I’m a linguist by training, which means I spend a great deal of time noticing words and how society chooses to use them. As a result, I have often wondered whether or not I’ve been overly sensitive when I make a point of calling writers out on the issue. However, the more I think about this, the more unacceptable it seems for me to sit back and allow sighted people to use the word blind as a pejorative. Incidentally, the past few content creators I’ve spoken with about this have been very receptive. There is hope for humanity.”
Absolutely, Shanna. We have to stand up against this. If we want to combat the high unemployment, the discrimination, unless we demand respect, we’re not going to get respect and using the word blind in such a way, disrespects us and it’s got to stop.
She continues, “Regarding disability training for doctors,” which someone asked about a few weeks ago. “my husband is a physician practicing at a teaching hospital. I asked him whether or not he received such training either in medical school or during his residency. He informed me that actually nobody receives training like that. Med students learn how to treat disabled people medically but not anything much about disability etiquette, for lack of a more concise term. Learning appropriate ways to treat disabled patients mostly happens through experience. I should point out that we are located in the United States, so things may be different than other parts of the world.
Finally, about Apple technical support.” Yes. That’s why I slotted Shanna’s email in here. “I recently needed to contact them because I accidentally enabled the screen recognition in a couple of apps. One of which included settings. I still don’t quite know how I did that, but there wasn’t any way for me to fix the issue myself. My hope was that an apple specialist could take control of my device and help me disable screen recognition altogether, but apparently, nobody at apple can do that. The agents see our devices and give instructions, but they can’t themselves take over them to make repairs.
The other experience I had with them was worse. I had a hardware issue, which I already knew. I just needed to get someone to make arrangements for me to get my device repaired. Except once the tech I started with realized I use VoiceOver, he insisted I deal with the accessibility team and things got complicated after that. Thus far, while everybody has been super polite, they haven’t been terribly helpful.”
Well, thank you, Shanna. I had a fear that this would happen that if you start having demarcation issues in a company about when a blind person should, and shouldn’t talk to a particular department like the accessibility department, you are going to find people are going to be shunted from pillar to post. That’s a terrible customer experience. I do want to come back and talk about the screen recognition. Screen recognition is a very powerful feature but I have found that when it’s on when it doesn’t need to be on, it can have the exact opposite effect from the one that you want. In other words, that can render an app that is actually fully accessible completely inaccessible.
I first found this out when I was testing iOS 14, which is the first operating system where screen recognition was introduced and I also got a test flight copy of my Parcel app. It’s simply called Parcel and it’s a really good app. I put all my packages in there and it keeps me up to date. It sends me push notifications. It’s a hundred percent accessible and I really liked this app. I was surprised when I got to this new test version of the Parcel app to find that it had become fully inaccessible. I couldn’t do anything with it. I couldn’t add my packages anymore.
With something like this, I tend to let a couple of versions go by in case they fix it, but eventually I contacted the developer and I said, “I can’t use your app anymore. What have you done to it, Ivan?” For Ivan is his name. “What have you done?” He said, “As far as I know, I haven’t done anything.” I eventually worked out that I had accidentally turned screen recognition on in the Parcel app and that had completely broken my user experience. I don’t know whether Apple can tidy this up in some way, but it was a cautionary tale, and since then, I’m very careful about it.
Now, you do have control here in terms of the apps where screen recognition is on and if you have inadvertently turned it on, I hope you don’t mind if you’re a linguist Shanna that I just split an infinitive there anyway. Apparently, that’s not such a sin as some people make it out. If you inadvertently have turned screen recognition on for an app, you can turn it off again and we’re going to show you this.
The first thing we’ll do is take a look at which apps screen recognition is on for at the moment and you can enable it for specific apps this way, if you want to as well. To do this, we’ll ask Siri to open VoiceOver settings. Open VoiceOver settings. That little plunk tells me that VoiceOver settings are now open. I’m using iOS 15 at the moment and it doesn’t speak as much as it used to. What we need to do now is locate this item on the screen.
VoiceOver: VoiceOver recognition button.
Jonathan: Double-tap that.
VoiceOver: Using on-device intelligence your iPhone will automatically improve the accessibility of apps, images and text.
Jonathan: I’ll flick right.
VoiceOver: Image descriptions off button. Your iPhone will speak descriptions of images in apps and on the web screen recognition on button.
Jonathan: If you would rather, you can turn the screen recognition function off altogether. If you find that you are not downloading many inaccessible apps and that it’s more trouble than it’s worth being inadvertently enabled, then here is the master switch and you can go in here and disable it completely. I’ll double-tap.
VoiceOver: Screen recognition on.
Jonathan: This is a bit like the VoiceOver screen. It says VoiceOver on and then when you double-tap, you get into the VoiceOver screen. Now we are in the screen recognition screen and if I double tap this button now, it will disable screen recognition altogether I’ll flick right.
VoiceOver: 681-megabyte used. Your iPhone will automatically improve the accessibility of apps that have no accessibility information such as identifying the state of buttons or toggles and by grouping related items together. In other apps, screen recognition can be accessed through the rotor.
Jonathan: I’ll flick right.
VoiceOver: Apply two apps, three apps button.
Jonathan: If I double tap here, I will get a list of all of the apps that are on my phone. Just to show you that briefly.
VoiceOver: Apply to heading 1 NEWS button.
Jonathan: This is my first app, which is called 1 NEWS it is a news app from a TV outlet here in New Zealand. All of these apps are listed in alphabetical order apple chooses to put numbers at the top and then you’ll go through alphabetically. You can flick through this, and when an app is selected for screen recognition, it will tell you that it is selected and you can de-select it on the screen by double-tapping it. It’s a toggle. If you double-tap it, it’ll toggle it on and off. In this screen you have two options. You’ve got the master switch to just get rid of the feature altogether if you don’t like it and you can turn it off app by app. There is another thing that we can do as well and I’ll go back.
VoiceOver: Apply two apps, three apps button.
Jonathan: And back one more time.
VoiceOver: Screen recognition on button.
Jonathan: And to get back to the main VoiceOver screen back one more time.
VoiceOver: VoiceOver recognition button.
Jonathan: If you want handy-dandy control of when VoiceOvers screen recognition is on and when it’s off, you can add it to VoiceOvers’ rotor. To do that, we need to find this setting here.
VoiceOver: Rotor button.
Jonathan: And double-tap.
VoiceOver: Selected characters. Actions available.
Jonathan: There are any settings on the rotor, but the one we want to look for is this.
VoiceOver: Selected screen recognition. Actions available.
Jonathan: I have screen recognition selected and sometimes I wish I didn’t because every so often the rotor seems to set itself to screen recognition even when I haven’t deliberately chosen to set it there. Sometimes I swipe up and I find that I’ve accidentally turned screen recognition on when I didn’t want it on and that can have unforeseen consequences.
There are times when I think maybe I’ll try taking screen recognition out of the rotor, because usually what happens is, I turn screen recognition on when I’ve downloaded a new app and it’s not behaving as I want. It probably isn’t too much of a big deal on those rare occasions for me to go in and manually enable the screen recognition for that app and give it a try and then disable it rather than risk inadvertently enabling it. We’ll give that a shot, but those are a couple of strategies that will hopefully assist with the handling of screen recognition.
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Jonathan: Here’s an email about a very important topic which we discuss from time to time, and rightly so. Carolyn Peat is emailing in from Auckland. She says, “Hi, Jonathan. Just thought I would pose a question around this. I am looking for work in the administration/customer services area. Most of these jobs advertised through employment agencies, they are paid by the employer to advertise the position and then create a shortlist of people to be interviewed by the employer. Often, you do not know who the employer is and you can be interviewed by the agency before you even reach that final list.
Also, many of their testing processes are not accessible. Hence, often we are not successful because the agency wants to earn their fee as easily as possible. I wonder if it would be different if it was the candidates who paid the agencies to find them work. Would this give us a better shot at gaining employment? I would be interested in thoughts from your listeners.” This is a really interesting question, Carolyn. Thank you so much. I do work with these agencies a lot, as I’m sure you will appreciate, both as a Chief Executive and also in trying to increase disability confidence of these agencies so that they are more aware of the capabilities of disabled people.
I like to think and hope that disability confidence is increasing among this group. I’m very conscious that even just by working with them, and they’re seeing a blind chief executive running an employment organization, that it’s just helping by the fact that someone here is doing that. It is a hard graft. Certainly, if they choose to go down the psychometric testing route, and many do, a lot of those psychometric tests are inaccessible. I applied, unsuccessfully, a few years ago for a CEO gig. I was put through a battery of psychometric tests. The only way that I was able to complete them was to have a scribe who would read me the questions and I would dictate my responses.
I honestly think that it put me at a disadvantage because I think better when I’m at the computer when I’ve got time to read and consider. It wasn’t my preferred method of working. These things get me into trouble, of course, but I did say at the time, “I really think if you want to run an equitable process that you should be asking these questions of everybody. If everybody has to respond verbally, then fair enough. If I’m the only one that has to respond verbally and, in this way, I think I’m being put at a disadvantage.” And they kind of grunted. [chuckles].
There are really problems with these psychometric tests. I see them coming up a lot. I’d be interested to hear people’s experiences with these psychometric testing platforms and other testing. Often for administrative-type tasks, they also put you through sample work. You might be expected to write something or respond to something. Depending on how accessible their systems are, that might really put you at a disadvantage as well, even though once you’re up and running with some initial set-up, you would be a rock star in the position. There’s a lot of work to do in this area.
I think the informational interview is often a good way to go. I know a lot of people practice this where they find a place where they’d like to work and they contact a relevant hiring manager. They say, “Listen, I’m really keen to work here. Even if you don’t have any jobs available at the moment, would you give me 20 minutes of your time just so I can understand the kind of people that you look for?” A lot of people applaud that initiative. You’re going to get some rejections, of course, but it may well be the foot in the door that you need for a role. A really important topic that you bring up, and I look forward to people’s comments on all of this.
Richard Godfrey-Mackay is talking about employment as well and says, “Hi, Jonathan. I was interested to hear the various contributions on the subject and wondered if some might find my experience of interest. I qualified as a solicitor in 1980 and went about the task of finding work. I went for an interview at one organization and was asked back into the interview room three times to field various questions. On my third return, I took a chance and said, ‘It seems likely to me that you like me,’ I had an Oxford Law degree, ‘I may be wrong but I suspect that you can’t imagine how a blind person can be an efficient solicitor.’
I then suggested that if that were the case, I’d be happy to accept an offer of six months employment and leave if the employer wasn’t happy with my performance after that time. At the end of my first week, the head of the law department came to see me and apologized for not having understood that a blind person could work as efficiently as his sighted colleagues. He was happy to confirm my appointment. That was a very big thing to do.
One concern I have is that nowadays, with all the equality legislation enforced, and which is designed to assist disabled people, no employer would dare to admit that he doubted the ability of a disabled person to perform work for fear of falling foul of equality legislation. Everyone who’s been on an interview panel knows that it’s very easy to assign another reason for turning down a potential applicant. The story eventually got much better and I ended up doing the job of the Principal Legal Officer when he retired.”
Thanks, Richard. I share your concern. I’m not saying in any way that the new legislation that we have around the world is a bad thing, but I think we do have to be careful not to drive these discussions underground because it can be counterproductive. One of the things that we work on, and obviously this is my day job being the Chief Executive of an organization that assists disabled people with the challenge of finding employment. We work on what we call positive disclosure. Actually, front footing these issues and trying to put people at their ease.
It is unfortunate that we have to be in this position because some people don’t feel comfortable, don’t feel assertive. We try to assist in those cases. You’re right, it is important to confront these issues. We are a low incidence population, particularly blind people, so we may be the first professional blind person that anybody has ever met who’s on that panel. We do have to find a way to put people at their ease. Having done so, though, we are absolutely entitled to call out and prosecute if necessary, discrimination when and if it occurs.
Berry Jennings is writing in on employment matters. He says, “Hi, Jonathan. I follow a podcast from MIT Technology Review called In Machines We Trust. An interesting episode dropped on June the 20th called Hired by an algorithm. This episode is about half an hour long and I think it might form the basis for an interesting discussion on Mosen At Large. I turned 71 this fall, so a job hunt isn’t likely to be a part of my future. However, if the podcast episode I mentioned above is accurate, then I am concerned that people with disabilities might be getting a raw deal when applying for employment.
Back in the early 70s when I started my career, you would drop off your resume at the HR department of the company you were interested in and you might or might not hear back from the company. At least, though, there was a chance that a human at said company would read your resume and you might get an interview. Maybe, you could score an interview by just knowing someone who worked at the company. Whatever the result, the interaction was between you and the company. Today, HR departments have shrunk with much of the hiring farmed out to third parties.
Today, people applying for jobs will typically send their resumes to places like ZipRecruiter, Indeed, or LinkedIn. These companies use AIs to scan the resumes before they reach a human. This means that you might be rejected by the AI before it reaches a human for who knows what reason. The AIs are proprietary and the vendors won’t, or maybe can’t tell you how they work.
I know there has been a lot of debate in the blind community regarding the disclosure of your visual impairment. Would you be rejected by the AI if you disclose the fact that you are blind? If you didn’t mention your blindness, could the AI find that out anyway, given the casual way data is shared these days? People with disabilities already suffer a bleak situation regarding employment. I fear the practice of using AIs to scan resumes could make the situation much worst.”
Thank you, Berry. One of the things that I do find encouraging in the employment market is that more and more employers are aware that their workforces benefit from being more diverse. We are making progress, I like to hope, in the idea that disability should also be included in the concept of diversity. It is possible, I suppose, that an AI that is programmed to encourage a more diverse workforce may be less prone to throwing you into the no pile when they get your CV, but, of course, as you say, it’s an unknown quantity because we don’t know what the AI is programmed to do.
Human beings really haven’t worked out so well for us though, have they? Because there are biases that are there. I suppose what this says to me though is when you’re putting a CV together and a cover letter for that application, you have to really look carefully at the job description and wherever possible use the same kind of language, use the very terminology that is in that position description.
If you’re going to put together a generic cover letter and a generic CV, chances are higher that it’s going to be chucked into the no pile, but if you really study the position description, a lot of these algorithms, as I understand them anyway, and I’m no expert in the algorithms, but they tend to work on keywords. If you can get those keywords in, it’s more likely to make the thing go, “Ping,” and perhaps get you to the point where a human will take a look. It’s a very interesting subject, and I will check out the podcast.
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Jonathan: Mike Calvo writes, “I am writing today to share a not so positive consumer experience. I would like to encourage blind consumers to advocate and stand up for the rights of disabled consumers and the usability or not of consumer products they purchase. Reviews are so important. Don’t run out and give that inaccessible product a one-star review.
Give the manufacturer the chance to realize that they left out an important part of the world’s consumer market when designing whatever it is you purchased. If they don’t comply or, like in the following story, just don’t care, then let your voice be heard as loud as possible, and on every platform possible. Our money is as good as anyone else’s, and we demand accessibility in consumer products as cost and technology allows.
This past March I purchased a Pit Boss Pro Series II 1150 grill at Lowes. Like others tired of being cooped up for a year of COVID restrictions, I was getting ready for the summer heat and many days spent in the pool, grilling in the Florida sun, in the company of friends and family.
I chose this brand and model because it was said to be a solidly-built product, had great reviews, and best of all a great value for the price. The smart technology features were important to me because most pellet grills have inaccessible digital LCD control panels. I have previously owned a Green Mountain Grills smart pellet grill that did the trick at the time, but for the combination of reasons above, I moved to the Pit Boss. I figured the companion app to the 1150 would be perfect to be able to grill independently using my iPhone and the included VoiceOver screen reader.
When I finally got the grill delivered and began to set it up on my network, I discovered the app was not accessible for blind people using the iPhone. You see, I had no way to know if the app was accessible until I connected it to a grill, something that can’t always be done in a store, especially with a grill. It was impossible for me to independently connect to the grill for the first time with the app. Even simple things like setting and adjusting the grill temperature were impossible for me to do by myself. This basically left me with a useless product, but I had hope.
I called Pit Boss. Surely there was something that could be done as a work-around until the developers could make it fully accessible. As a blind consumer, having dealt with hundreds of consumer electronic companies, over the years, this would not be my first time giving the Accessibility 101 class. While sometimes frustrating when something doesn’t work, I am usually pleasantly surprised at the level of enthusiasm most companies display when they find that there is an entire market of customers out here they never noticed. I have written many reviews throughout the years describing my mostly positive experiences. Because many of us blind folks self-advocate for accessibility, many consumer products have become usable to various types of enthusiasts. Armed with these positive experiences, I figured, “I got this.”
After making my way through a complex menu structure on the Pit Boss phone system, I finally connected with Smart iT app support. I must mention here that Pit Boss farm out the support for the app to the developer t2Fi. Which is spelled t, the number 2 and then Fi. While many of the Pit Boss employees I spoke to on this journey weren’t able to figure out how to fix my problem, I never experienced the level of ignorance from Pit Boss support staff like I am about to share from the t2Fi support and management teams.
The t2Fi representative seemed to have been caught off guard. He didn’t know blind people could cook, let alone use grills. It’s at this point that we start exploring the line between ignorance and stupidity. You see, an ignorant person cannot be fully blamed for not being aware of something. For example, your average t2Fi customer representative may have never considered how a blind person would grill meat. Once explained, they can no longer claim to be ignorant. Right? Oh, no.
If it had only ended there, but we were just getting started. The rep began to wax philosophical about how “I needed to understand that blind people are the minority, so we probably weren’t very high on the priority list when designing this grill. After all, more sighted people buy grills than blind people.” He actually said this. He continued to add insult to injury by saying the future feature list was long but he would make sure that my feature request would get on it, but he was unable to tell me when or if VoiceOver support was coming to the Smoke iT app.
I was done with this guy. I demanded to speak to someone in charge. My call was escalated. I was told I was going to speak to the actual owner of t2Fi, Ken. I was excited. Certainly, Ken, the owner, knew about accessibility. After all the website was full of consumer-level automation software. This couldn’t all be inaccessible could it? But, alas the ignorance, or is it stupidity, continued.
Ken got on the phone and explained that Pit Boss had never asked them to include the feature of VoiceOver or Talkback support into the Smoke iT software to control the grills. I explained that Pit Boss most likely wouldn’t be aware of accessibility features in the operating system or software and web accessibility standards because they build grills and he, Ken, builds software that has to adhere to these standards. It is his responsibility to include these standards in the original design forward, if possible.
I explained to him that there was a possible ADA violation by not making the Smoke iT software accessible to consumers with various disabilities. I explained that t2Fi was responsible to Pit Boss to inform them if a product didn’t meet accessibility standards that incorporated features included by Apple and Google as part of the software development tools meant to accommodate customers with disabilities. If t2Fi didn’t do this, they were opening themselves and Pit Boss up to a possibly huge legal, consumer, and PR backlash. He promised to speak to Pit Boss management about my concerns to see if they would fund my “feature request.” He would get back to me. Three months later, I’m still waiting.
I called Ken back several times and never got a phone call again from any t2Fi employee about this issue.
First, accommodating all customers is not a feature request. Accommodating all customers should be a part of the core product. It’s basic business sense. If for no other reason, then you should want to increase your profit by making your product appealing to as wide a circle of customers as possible. Second, the company lunged headfirst into the land of stupid by pointing out there were more sighted customers than blind. The issue was not high on their priority list. Putting ADA violations aside, the company’s management had been made aware of their oversight and chose not to make it a mutual concern.
I’ve spent decades in the technology industry, mainstream and assistive. I’ve learned consumers too often pass up the opportunity to communicate their complaints with product manufacturers, likely because they did not know how to explain the problem of inaccessible interfaces, but we have made enough strides in technology that it should not be your responsibility to explain to a developer the importance of inclusivity. If you ask an architect to build your house, it’s up to them to figure out the permits.
I reached out to Pit Boss and t2Fi in March. We’re now approaching mid-June, and there has been zero progress on making the Pit Boss usable for a blind customer. Lowe’s was great. They gave me my money back even though the product return period had expired. They did not ask questions about how blind people are able to cook. To them, it was enough to want to do right by me as one of their customers. In order to enjoy the independent grilling experience I want, I would have to end up spending $1,500. This is more than twice the price of the original grill I purchased. Also, the product I ended up with is two-thirds the size of the Pro Series II 1150. In today’s climate of diversity and awareness, this blind tax is a reprehensible travesty.
In the end, I purchased a Traeger, that’s spelled T-R-A-E-G-E-R Ironwood 885 for my needs. Now, the Traeger is an incredible grill and worth every penny, but I, like many consumers, liked the Pit Boss promise of great quality for a great price. I am not going to give a review on the Traeger here, but when I was shopping, it was certainly my second choice based on the price, not the quality. Lowe’s provided an excellent purchasing, and ultimately, return experience. Even though I was purchasing the next grill from a competitor, Lowe’s let me hold on to the Pit Boss over the Memorial Day weekend, while my replacement was on the way. They took my situation and made it their problem. I am forever grateful to my Orlando Lowe’s team for treating me with respect, compassion, and dignity.
How is it that a company with experience across a wide range of home management projects like Lowe’s did not bat an eye, but a company with a much narrower scope cannot wrap its head around a blind person using one of their products to prepare a meal? The manager at Lowe’s said he would report this entire story to the main corporate headquarters. I have high hopes that Lowe’s will do the right thing and demand Pit Boss adhere to accessibility standards for the Pit Boss products Lowe’s sells to its customers with disabilities. Unfortunately, Lowe’s did not have another smart grill that fits my needs so I moved on to the Home Depot. They were amazing as well and had me grilling in an accessible way on a Traeger Ironwood 885 in just a few days, but more about that in a minute.
The line between ignorance and stupidity is not a fine one. We can excuse people for not being aware of all things but stupidity says the person or in this case, a company was properly and patiently educated and made the conscious choice not to care. Between the time Lowe’s agreed to take back the grill and the time they picked it up, I contacted Pit Boss one more time to inform them I was quite disgusted with my user experience, and that I would be reflecting my feelings in a review. In fact, I did post a one-star review, and somehow it never got approved onto the Pit Boss site. I ultimately got a call from Pit Boss quality assurance. I was promised that my issue would be looked into, I informed him that I had to return the grill because I had heard nothing for three months and Lowe’s was nice, but not that nice.
I was given the contact info for the person in quality assurance to contact if I had any other issues with Pit Boss. I waited and after a couple of messages back and forth between Pit Boss quality assurance and me, I was told that voiceover support would be out by July. I told them I would be happy to test if they provided me a grill for testing but I wasn’t going to gamble any more of my money on Pit Boss until I saw a concerted effort to serve the needs of Pit Boss customers with disabilities. If I had heard from this quality assurance person the first or second time I had contacted Pit Boss back in March, they might still have a customer. Instead, they have a black mark that will not be forgotten by our community until it is resolved.
Despite paying more, Traeger has inspired my loyalty because they have listened to the feedback of the blind barbecue community. Is the Traeger perfectly accessible? For the most part, yes, it can certainly use some accessibility love in certain parts of the app, but I am sure that when I call Traeger with a problem with accessibility of its app, I am going to hear a considerate voice that is going to treat me with the respect a paying customer requires and the problem will be addressed. As much as it pains my bank account to pay twice the price, you can’t really put a price on respect, empathy, and inclusion so I got what I paid for. Thank you, Mike, for that account and also for your persistence, we are not going to get the change that we deserve, the change that is our right until we keep fighting the battles in exactly the way that you have.
Your experiences a salutary lesson for anyone in business about what happens when people do the right thing and what happens when people do the wrong thing. Some companies in the story have earned your loyalty because of the way they conducted themselves, others have earned your rightful suspicion. I have an example of this last year, where we updated our Sony Bravia TV because the new version supported HDMI eARC and that was necessary for using with the Sonos Arc. What we found was that you couldn’t have the screen reader running and the eARC support switched on at the same time. It took some time for us to get that information straight and talk to Sony. I was just concerned that it might take some time until we got a software update that resolved the issue.
The store that we bought from let us return that TV and get the new Samsung one that we have and enjoy very much despite the right of return period having long expired. What’s happened? What’s happened is that when we’ve bought a number of appliances since, I have always chosen that chain, which for those listening in New Zealand is Noel Leeming, by the way, over competitors, because of the way that they looked after me on that occasion. They have earned more business from me because they did the right thing.
Speaker: What’s on your mind, send an email with a recording of your voice, or just write it down. email@example.com, that’s J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N@mushroomfm.com. or phone our listener line. The number in the United States is 864-60mosen. That’s 864-606-6736.
Jonathan: One of the things I’ve really enjoyed over the years is being involved in various community projects. The internet has brought us together in many ways as a blind community because I think communities can be defined in various ways. We have geographical communities, sure, that we are a part of. Our neighborhoods, our works, but I think that also the blind community is a distinct group with needs and interests and preferences that unite us, that bring us together. One site that has been doing this for some time now is VIP conduit. This interview actually began because Barry Jennings sent me a really interesting email and I thought, well, rather than just read the email, we’ll get Barry on the show to have a chat about VIP conduit and this specific project that he reached out to me about. Barry, it’s good to have you with us and as we record this, it’s Canada Day. I’ll wish you happy Canada Day on the show.
Barry Jennings: Thank you, Jonathan, thank you for the opportunity.
Jonathan: You’ve been involved in these communities a wee while because your involvement actually dates back to before VIP conduit.
Barry: Yes, it does. I looked after for the people.com for some time, for four years. In 2005, a group of us decided we wanted to form our own community, and we did that. As of today, it’s our 16th anniversary. We’ve been on for 16 years as of today. We officially launched July 1, 2005.
Jonathan: Well, congratulations because a lot of things don’t last that long in internet land. Why is VIP conduit still going? What do you attribute its success to?
Barry: Mutual respect for everybody. Very little drama. If there is anything that happened–You know how neighborhoods are? You talked about geographical neighborhoods. You get someone who has a dog that barks all night or doesn’t take care of their property or whatever. Next thing people are starting to move out. With our site, our community, if there is a problem, we try to nip it in the butt and do it respectfully and the best way we can without creating too much trouble. I think that’s the key, is that keeping everybody happy. There’s very little these days that goes on that causes us any trouble. Probably the number of account suspensions, we can count on one hand.
Jonathan: It seems to me that one of the reasons why you’re still around is also one of the reasons why MushroomFM has survived, and that is that you do have a lot of structure. People think that you can build these things and just let anything go but you’ve got people who know what they’re in charge of. You’ve got a set of guidelines, there has to be that structure there for a community to survive and thrive, right?
Barry: Yes. We’re very lucky that we have people who can fill the roles that they have to fill. To begin with, we had an attorney. I don’t know if I can mention names, who is still a member, he helped our site get going. He did all the documentation stuff, because we actually formed a corporation, set up a board, and set up rules about how the boards would be run and everything. That was important. We even have insurance for the board because our friend told us that this is important for us in case you get sued quite easily in the US, as you know, for any reason. We’re trying to cover off all those bases.
Jonathan: When people go to VIP conduit, what can they do on the site?
Barry: Well, voice chat is our primary thing. We’ve got quite a number of rooms. We use TeamTalk because it’s familiar to the blind community. We used our own client for a while, and actually, three different versions of it that I built. Then we decided, well, this, this program is on all the platforms so let’s go with it. We also have– I wanted it to be more than just a site where people came to chat. For example, in the early days, I built a web forums app that combines, I think, the best features of web forums and mailing lists. We have that and we have a little app that you can create little reminders, you’ve got a doctor’s appointment or something you can get the reminder by email or when you log into the site.
We’ve got several little features. We’ve got a good help desk that I built. Well, reasonably good, I guess and we have a ticketing system that is screen reader-friendly. I think we try our best. Oh, there’s a weather app that for the US and Canada, you can track whether locations, that kind of thing. We try to make it as much as we can. Not just about– oh, and of course, we have a great, big links facility, I should send you the link to that page because it’s with thousands of links to all kinds of places blind organizations, it’s places like if you want to track your genealogy or do all kinds of stuff, it’s that we’ve built it over many years. It’s all categorized, and then we have this cookbook that you mentioned earlier.
We run a cooking event once a month as well. We’ve had other ones in the past and this one, I think, it’s once a month. We’re trying our best to give people things to do other than going into the rooms.
Jonathan: I’ll come back to the cookbook in a minute. A couple of questions, how many members are actively participating? You may not feel happy disclosing there but it would be interesting to know if you are.
Barry: I’m guessing active, depends on what you consider active but maybe there’s 100 or so that come in a lot. There’s probably 300 and something altogether. These sites tend to be– it’s a small market, as you know.
Jonathan: Yes. I wonder whether TeamTalk contributes to that because it is quite a geeky app, especially on Windows and Mac. It’s a bit more streamlined on your iPhone. I guess a lot more people are coming in, but sometimes selecting the right settings, getting the right microphone chosen things like that, it can be quite a high bar, do you think that contributes?
Barry: Possibly. The last app that we had, we call it VIP Communicator. It was home bit homebrew. I built it and it’s based on the TeamTalk SDK, but it was a little friendlier. You didn’t have to worry about as many things, like you say, getting the nicknames right and getting the volume right and getting all that sort of stuff. Usually, it just worked, but the reason why we switched is because we would have had to build an iOS app and Android app, and so on. I agree with you, it is a little geeky although we’ve done some things with it. You don’t have to launch the app, you can just go into the website, click the room link and it’s there. It knows your user ID and password, and so on. We do the best we can but the choices of what you can use are kind of limited.
Jonathan: Since VIP conduit came along, of course, there’s been a real explosion of options. Zoom has been the darling of the pandemic. Also, now, of course, we have these services like Clubhouse and the Greenroom that Spotify has just launched and Twitter Spaces, a number of people getting into this audio space. How do you think that impacts on something like VIP conduit, which is blindness specific or does it just keep on keeping on?
Barry: I don’t think it affects us much. We tend to be an older group and I don’t know that anybody in there is using Clubhouse. They might be. I’m not likely to know what they are. I think some of those apps are going to go away. I’m not sure Clubhouse is going to survive long-term myself, I think that it has some cache because it was invitation only and because we had the pandemic and all sorts of things like that. Now everybody’s creating one, I don’t know if all of them are going to survive, some of them will die out.
Jonathan: When you go to VIP conduit, there are all sorts of groups that you can join in on specific subjects. You’ve got general chat, where people can just pop in and have some company and shoot the breeze, but there are also really specific things that you can attend at specific times.
Barry: We have a schedule, we have everything on the site is pretty much driven by the database. Things like creating rooms, creating accounts, putting out a schedule, it’s all based on our MySQL database. What’s nice is it’s possible to do a lot of that stuff without me even being involved. We have a few people who’ve learned to use some of those features, those admin features, and they do a good job.
Jonathan: That’s a good thing about a database-driven system, isn’t it? That once you’ve set it up, it pretty much runs itself.
Barry: Yes, it does. I do very little, I never have to deal with the schedule, we have someone that does that. I never have to deal with most of the other things when we have one or two people who do the when the new memberships come up late, they approve them, and so on. If somebody needs a room, they don’t usually call me. I’ve been able to free myself from that kind of stuff and just sort of focus on whatever new features I can dream up.
Jonathan: You contacted me to tell me about the cookbook. I like the concept of cooking. I think when you sit down and you eat something that you’ve prepared yourself, it’s kind of like enjoying a good audio production that you’ve worked on for a long time and I’m sure that Bonnie wishes I did as much cooking as I do audio production. Tell me about how this cookbook came to be and what you have in it now.
Barry: We had a few recipes on for the people. Nothing organized, just they were lying around on the site, not really organized in any way. I thought we have a lot of people like to talk about food so why not create a cookbook? I decided, well, I got a database, I can just it won’t take much for me to build something like this where we could have the members contributing recipes and so we did that. Today, we have well over 5,000 recipes. I think the last time I checked it was 5,300 and something, spread over 109 categories. I have to say that’s not my doing that’s the guy that does this.
There’s one or two people that take care of this thing. They do an amazing job and people write to them with their recipes. We also have a whole ton of hints and tips, stuff that people have contributed over the years, how to store food, there’s an interesting thing that I put up the other day called All About Vinegar, I had no idea there were so many uses for vinegar and so many kinds. If people are looking at the recipes, they also might want to go down near the bottom of the categories where it is and just look at those hints and tips because they are there is a lot of good information there. How to how to cook things, how to bake properly, how to temperature, your measurement, tables, and temperature tables and gosh knows a lot of stuff.
Jonathan: Am I correct in saying that you’ve made this available even to non-members, that is actually publicly now?
Barry: Yes, yes, that and the links collection are both available to non-members.
Jonathan: For people who would like to join, is there a membership fee to join VIP conduit?
Barry: You can be a guest and stay a guest forever as long as you log in. I think we clear it out every once in a while. You can stay a member that way but you get fewer privileges. You can’t get into all the rooms and so on. $20 a year if you want to be a supporting member, and you will get a free trial by the way for that, it’s a 30-day free trial when you sign up. It’s actually never gone up since 2005. Another thing that some people might be interested in, you asked about them what membership. We also have NFL– Every year they do the NFL we didn’t do it this year because we weren’t sure if it was going to actually be running, but I put the schedule up every year, and then people can predict who’s going to win and what week. The person who gets the most games– they all win a cash prize. I think it’s a, what is it? $200 for first prize, second, I think it’s 150 and third prize is a 100. We’ll probably do it again this year because we, the pandemic is over and I think we’re pretty safe in saying that there will be a schedule this year. For those who are football fans, well, that’s something. It seemed like an easy thing to do, a very much more difficult for something like baseball or hockey or soccer, the other sports because they have much longer schedules.
Jonathan: Yes. Well, I’d love to see you try with the five-day cricket matches. That’d be pretty amazing.
Barry: Yes, it would be a challenge with– Oh, and something else, Jonathan. It is mobile-friendly. We’ve tried our best. The latest version when, with I-phones and everything it looks quite different because you have limited screen real estate, but I tried my best to make it mobile-friendly. If you’re doing it with an iPhone, you’ll probably like the experience.
Jonathan: Brilliant. Lovely. Very, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate that.
Barry: Okay. Thank you, Jonathan. Wonderful to talk to you.
Jonathan: Barry Jennings, obviously a very talented man who has put a lot of time into vipconduit.com. To visit the site, that is VIP, and then conduit is spelled C-O-N-D-U-I-T.com.
Speaker: Mosen at large Podcast
Jonathan: This email comes from Carol Ashland. She writes, “Hi, Jonathan. I’ve bought two sets of DVDs that have multiple episodes on each disk. However, I found that the DVD player I bought will only play the first episode on the disk. Evidently, there is a menu on the disk that allows a sighted user to select play all, but that doesn’t do me, a lone, totally blind person any good. Does anyone have a solution to this problem?” Thank you for getting in touch, Carol. I too, would be interested to find out what solutions people suggest for accessibly navigating DVDs. When I need to do this, I use a program on my PC called DVD Audio Extractor. It shows me the different files on the DVD and I can play them on my computer. Now you may or may not want to do that.
Of course, you may need to buy an external DVD drive that plugs into your computer to do that, but it’s accessible. It also allows you to extract the files from the DVD so that once you’ve done it once, if you’re a blind person living on your own, or even in our case, two blind people living on our own and we just want the audio, we’ve extracted the files into something that we can then play elsewhere, but there may be other ways. I think I did hear about some accessible DVD player that was trying to make those menus talk for when you’ve got it connected to a television or something like that, but I don’t have any details. If people have strategies or devices for navigating DVD or more commonly these days, Blu-ray discs, please share it.
Douglas Howard is in Ontario, Canada and says was just wondering, “I have a desktop computer as well as a laptop computer. They are both Dell computers. My desktop computer is brand new. I just received it yesterday. My laptop is about six years old or so. Each computer has a sound card. If I use a screen-reader and broadcast music, and I would like the screen reader in my ears playing because I figured that would save from the bleeding out when I am recording. Is there a particular sound card I should buy for the computer?”
Douglas, I think it’s really important to be clear about the use case for any device that you might be buying. If you are wanting to do internet radio, which is what I think you are saying, then Station Playlist will let you do all of this without purchasing an additional audio device, if you want to. When you’re playing music, you can actually mute that music in your headphones through the sound card, if you want to, and it will still play out over the stream.
You can get a beep to tell you when your track is ending and unmute it. It means, for example, that if you have a busy live show and you want to check social media or emails that might be coming in, you can mute the sound entirely while you do that. Also, audio ducking, which is available in all current screen readers, will duck the audio so you can hear your speech over the music. You may not need a second device because of the audio pipeline in station playlist studio. If all you’re wanting is a second sound card for a screen reader, any cheap one will do, just buy one for 5 or 10 bucks and plug it into the USB port. Based on your description, that’s what I would recommend.
If you were dealing with multi-channel, multi-track recording and something like Reaper, then obviously I would make a different recommendation. If you want to learn more about Station Playlist Studio, we do have the Broadcast It tutorial, still available. You can go to mosen.org and go into the store section there. You will find Broadcast It, which is a comprehensive guide to the Station Playlist suite. Brian Hartgen and I put that together some years ago and you’ll find it quite informative.
Jonathan: It is time now for another exquisite bonnie bulletin with the exquisite Bonnie Mosen.
Bonnie Mosen: Hey, everybody.
Jonathan: Welcome to you.
Jonathan: This will be the last time you’ll be down here on a Sunday morning.
Bonnie: I know. It will be nice to be able to have a nice little lie in and just relax.
Jonathan: You’ll be the lie in king.
Bonnie: I’ll be the lie in king, yes, exactly, exactly.
Jonathan: What a good pun. What did you want to talk about this week?
Bonnie: Well, it’s been great being on the show for the past however many years.
Jonathan: You still will be.
Bonnie: I still will be.
Jonathan: You’ll be on the podcast. We don’t want to make this more dramatic than–
Bonnie: I’m hoping that there may be times when we can do podcasts together about certain topics.
Jonathan: Oh, boy.
Bonnie: We’ll have a certain person that we interview together because that would be really nice.
Jonathan: Name one.
Bonnie: Maybe– I don’t know. I just, I I’m listening to the, I was listening to the Resolutions, maybe Nagdu or someone.
Jonathan: You say you want a resolution.
Bonnie: It’s so funny because when they got to Resolution 8, or 208 or whatever way, whatever they, they titled them at, Mark Riccobono said revolution. I’m like, “Oh, too bad it wasn’t nine.”
Jonathan: Revolution number nine.
Bonnie: I know. He just got his word, I’m sure he’s exhausted but just got his words mixed up, “Revel-resolution eight.” That was funny. I’ve been listening to the virtual convention, NFB this week and ACB, I believe it’s next week and it’s nice. I have really missed going to convention. Also, I think it opens it up to so many people who either can’t go to convention or never thought about going to convention, don’t want to go to convention, whatever it really opens up the world for them and brings in more people around the world, not just in the US and Canada, but it’s really good that they’ve been doing these virtual conventions and I think even next year when they hopefully are back in Omaha for ACB and New Orleans for NFB, that they’ll have some hybrid model as well.
Jonathan: They have done a good job and I haven’t listened to a lot of it because the time zones are [unintelligible 01:17:49]
Bonnie: Yes, time zones are tough.
Jonathan: I did listen to some of it yesterday and I thought, wow, this is like one of those telethons. It actually reminded me of the Democratic National Convention where I thought they did a really good job with the streaming and the virtual side. They took this little break. Suddenly, there’s this pippy person on there doing a mindfulness fitness break.
Bonnie: Yes. That’s Jessica Beecham and some of the guys that out of Colorado-
Jonathan: Is that who it is?
Bonnie: –the Sparks and Recreation, ah, the Sports and Recreation Group.
Jonathan: Well, she did a good job.
Bonnie: Yes, she’s very good.
Jonathan: It was almost like getting the Mosen at large contributions from Maria Kristic, because every time Maria sends in a contribution, I feel like I’ve just had the most ginormous jolt of caffeine. When I heard Jessica come on so upbeat and that, “Okay, we are going to get moving.” I’m like, “Wow. Okay, good, no coffee for me.”
Bonnie: Yes. I want to hear, “Tap that free white cane,” again.
Jonathan: Now you keep talking about this.
Bonnie: They were dancing around and guess it was Friday maybe. I was at work. They were moving around and walking around. Then there was some little song that I guess somebody has recorded somewhere about tap that free white cane. It was very catchy. I can’t find it on YouTube so if anyone has it–
Jonathan: Well, it’s good to know those songs are still being done because I remember going to my first NFB Convention in 1995. I got given a copy of the NFB songbook. Then I think I bought a record of it, a recorded some of the songs sung from the songbook. I think it was a fundraiser thing. They had that song about Wait, Wait, Wait, Your Book’s Not in Yet, which is my favorite. When I was talking to Marc Maurer about this some years later, he said it was to the tune of Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys Are Marching. I said, “Isn’t it the tune of Jesus Loves the Little Children?” He said, “Yes, he’d never thought about that, but is actually the same tune.”
Bonnie: Yes. A lot of those military songs are to the tune of other things, sound off and things like this.
Jonathan: Well, there was a group and then of course, there’s that old one about I’ve Been Working in the Workshops.
Bonnie: Oh, yes, I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.
Jonathan: Glory, Glory Federation, of course.
Bonnie: Glory, Glory Federation
Bonnie: It was catchy and got stuck in my head as these things do.
Jonathan: Right. Ear worm! Well, if anyone knows where we can get the– what’s it called? Tap, tap—
Bonnie: Tap That Free White Cane.
Jonathan: Tap That Free White Cane
Bonnie: That Free White Cane, yes.
Jonathan: Did you look it up on the Tube?
Bonnie: I did, and I couldn’t find it. I found a video of The White Cane program from– the Free White Cane program from NFB, but I couldn’t find Tap That— it may not even be called that. I’m not even sure. ACB starts next week. It’s funny when you hear people–
Jonathan: Where equal opportunity stream is [unintelligible 01:20:34]
Bonnie: And equal opportunity people go to each one, so it’s nice.
Jonathan: What about when ACB staff members get awarded door prizes at NFB conventions.
Bonnie: That’s fun.
Jonathan: That’s very egalitarian, guys, it’s beautiful.
Bonnie: That’s funny.
Jonathan: May there be peace on earth and let it begin with you guys.
Bonnie: Yes, exactly, but it’s good because it does give people a chance to see what the other side, if you want to put it–
Jonathan: I mean, guys, look, there are too many serious issues confronting blind people for there not to be cooperation when cooperation’s possible.
Bonnie: There’s good and bad in both organizations, as there is in any organization, whether it be a political party, whether it be a consumer group, that sort of thing. I understand why people will be more active in one than the other. That’s fine. It could be for geographic, it could be for philosophical. There’s nothing wrong with that but at the end of the day like you said, we’re all fighting the same battle. We just choose to do it maybe a little bit differently. I’m not ACB or NFB. I’m both. I have friends in ACB and I have friends in NFB, and there are things that I like about both organizations. I’m happy to go to both conventions.
Jonathan: She’s a little bit country and he’s a little bit rock and roll.
Jonathan: Now that that whole appeasing thing is over, what else should we talk about?
Bonnie: Just talking about the medical thing. That was one thing that was actually brought up in, I think, it was resolution number eight this morning, was about how ophthalmologists don’t talk to newly blinded adults about rehabilitation and someone who was not against the resolution, but commented that they don’t even do it for children who are low vision. You’re praised so much for seeing the letter that if you really can’t see it, you get to where you pretend to see it or you’ve memorized it and there’s not– that’s a problem that’s been going on for so long that the medical–
Shanna was talking about her husband being a doctor that they’re taught to treat, and that’s what doctors are trained to do. I remember when I was in grad school and we had a– and it was a fascinating course. It really was, on the medical aspects of disability and these doctors and nurses or medical professionals would come in and talk about, I learned so much about epilepsy and other things. They told us about how they “treated it” and what the medical ramifications were for these disabilities and these health conditions.
When we were talking to them about what training– and this is 1994, what training do you guys get on it? They don’t. A lot of it is because when you’re in medical school, you are so busy. If you’re an intern or a resident and there’s so much that’s being put into your head that they don’t until they’re out practicing. I do think that that’s a deficit in our medical training, that they’re not taught that. That a lot of times it’s learned by the seat of your pants. Some of them are better at it than others. Obviously, I’ve had good experiences and then I’ve had experiences that make me go “Okay,” but there’s definitely a gap there.
Even when they’re having their conferences, a lot of times, they say, “Well, it’s so full of medical stuff that we don’t have time to really do this.” I think a lot of that’s lacking because you’ll see people, particularly ones who are very, very good, neurosurgeons or oncologists who are very, very specialized, who are just at the top of their game and they know how to deal with the issue, but not necessarily the patients.
Jonathan: I think there are two issues. One is a broad one, which talks about the way the medical profession in general thinks about disabled people. It’s almost as if they can’t get past the actual impairment and look at you as an individual with dignity, with capacity, despite an impairment. That is quite common. Some of the most patronizing experiences I have had have come from the medical profession, but I’ve also had some really great ones as well.
Bonnie: I have too.
Jonathan: The second issue specifically relates to eyecare professionals, and this is a perennial problem, and it’s a really serious problem. I’m certainly well aware of that from when I was the chair of the blindness organization here in New Zealand, because we were constantly trying to think of ways to change the narrative. What often happens is somebody gets to the point where there’s a diagnosis and the eyecare professional says, “There’s nothing more I can do for you. You might as well go home. Often, it’s even worse than that. It’s, “You’re going to be dependent for the rest of your life. Don’t expect to work.” I’ve heard of people being told this.
Bonnie: I’ve heard of it as recently with a person in their 20s. He was told that by [unintelligible 01:25:24] and the ophthalmologist.
Jonathan: Don’t expect you can have a job– you’re going to go blind, so you won’t be able to work. You’ll be dependent on your spouse. These things are said, and that is outrageous. That’s particularly– Hopefully, with a little bit of assertiveness, you can overcome the problems of being patronized, even if you shouldn’t have to, but when you’re vulnerable and you’re wondering, “What sort of future might I have as a blind or low vision person?” for ophthalmologists not to be trained to give that person a bit of hope and at least refer them on to an organization that can give them some perspective and some rehab, that is a terrible shortfall.
Bonnie: Well, in Massachusetts, and this may be true in other states, but the eye care professionals are required to register people or tell them and register them with services for the blind. Now, the person it’s their choice, whether they want to take those services or not but if they– and someone from Massachusetts, correct me, if I’m wrong, if the things have changed, but if they don’t do it, they can be fined. I think that’s so great.
Jonathan: I understand the UK may have a similar thing. I’d be interested to hear from listeners in the UK about this, because quite frequently, I hear the term from the UK, registered blind.
Bonnie: They’re registered blind here too as well.
Jonathan: Well, I think that the term has come from the UK, but in New Zealand, when people talk about being registered blind, that means being registered with blind and low vision in New Zealand. As I understand it in the UK, there was some sort of formal process that registers you as a blind person. I believe that eyecare professionals may have to do it. I could be wrong about that, so I hope that people in the UK will let us know what it means when people talk about being registered blind in the UK.
Bonnie: I remember when I first moved to Massachusetts, I had to go see an eye doctor to get one of those lovely forms that you have to get if you want to get paratransit or train cards, that sort of thing. I was there and I worked for the Mass Commission for the Blind. I was there and they go, “Now, I need to tell you about– are you registered? Do you know about the rehab services here?” I said, “Oh, yes, I work for them.” At least they were pretty good and I went back and told my boss and he said, “Well, at least they’re doing the job.”
Jonathan: That’s right.
Bonnie: That was really refreshing.
Jonathan: Another element of this though, is the constant repetition involved in proving your blindness
Bonnie: Yes, that’s a bit annoying.
Jonathan: I get hearing aids at the moment. The funding is so stretched that it only comes up every six years now, which is very frustrating because technology moves on a lot in that time. The last time I did though, I had to go through a process of once again proving that I am still as totally blind as I was since I was born. It’s really frustrating. Actually, some things that I’m involved with, and my day job require this as well and it’s out of our control. I just wish there was a little bit more common sense applied to these sorts of things, because it’s just such a time-waster.
I doubt that I’m going to have a miracle befalling on me. I’m sure there are much more deserving people of miracles than me, heathen that I am. Anything else you wanted to cover this week?
Bonnie: Just some of my employment matters. Carolyn certainly brought up some very good points.
Jonathan: All three contributed some good points.
Bonnie: Yes, some very good points about employment. Some of you know I just took over the role of work-ready advisor for Blind Low Vision New Zealand. I’m in my third week. The concept behind this is getting people-
Jonathan: The opinions expressed in this podcast are not necessarily…
Bonnie: -are of me and not of my employer. I’ll put that disclaimer in there. This is a universal issue. It’s not a New Zealand issue. Work readiness and when are you ready to go out? Getting a job as teamwork for anyone, not just blind or visually impaired or disabled people, for the sighted as well. Trust me, I’ve talked to HR people and they get resumes from sighted people, the presumed sighted people, and they’re like, “Did you even read the job ad? You’re not work-ready at all.”
What do you feel in your employment journey over the years helped you or didn’t help you when becoming work-ready? What would you have liked to have done differently or had done differently? I know from myself, I ever had the– and that’s where it’s so great now with technology because I grew up in the old days when we didn’t have the internet. I was like my grandfather. I walked uphill 20 miles for this.
Jonathan: When we got home– Anyway.
Bonnie: When I was young, I didn’t have access to really blind mentors. I knew what I wanted to do, but I wasn’t encouraged in that pursuit or didn’t know people that were doing it and the, “professionals,” education and otherwise, were, “Oh, well, you need to do this, or this is what blind people do.” As we know, blind people do all kinds of things, all kinds of different jobs. Just having access to that, and people who could talk to you about, hey, this is how I work as a lawyer. This is how I work as a journalist. This is how I work as a barista. Insert whatever career path you want in there. That’s something that I really wish I personally had had more access to, is just– I remember what I went to the CNI for the first time, I met people that were doing all kinds of things.
Jonathan: Yes, I think that’s right. This is one thing that I am a bit of a broken record on. I think that exposure to adult blind mentors is so critical, especially for kids in their teenage years, because there’s a lot going on. Suddenly, your sighted peers are starting to drive and do certain things, maybe some activities that you feel excluded from, and you do start to wonder, “What’s my future going to look like?”
I think this is one of the areas where consumer organizations really can help, if you can meet people, they don’t have to be something extraordinary. Just holding down a job, maybe with a family, or maybe not, just whatever. Just making, as NFB likes to say, living the life they want.
Bonnie: Just contributing in society whatever way you want to contribute.
Jonathan: It makes you realize what’s possible in a world where so often you’re being surrounded by people who want to place limitations on you that are often completely unnecessary limitations. I think the mentoring thing is really critical.
Bonnie: Yes, it is. There’s no way that a professional can know everything about what– Professionals should not be expected to know everything, but to at least have the resources where if someone is interested in exploring a job at Starbucks or starting their own business, then having people that can help them, then do that.
I think that and really concentrated rehabilitation training, whether it be at a residential facility, or just having a consistent rehabilitation training from someone is another thing, just getting you really– and internships and volunteer work and that sort of thing, so that you are able to build up your confidence because some people just aren’t confident going out in the workplace.
Jonathan: When I was a kid, I was really keen to work in radio and I had a lot of people telling me why I couldn’t do it. Then somebody came back from an overseas trip and said that they had met and heard a broadcaster in Singapore who was blind. His name was Roger Kool. Even just knowing he existed, doing commercial radio, the kind of thing I wanted to do, spurred me on.
Later, I had the privilege of working with Roger on ACB Radio. That was really amazing. I was able to tell him the story, that just knowing that he was out there, inspired me to continue to give it a go. Roger died sadly, far too young. A few years ago now, I think, I was contacted by his son who was learning a bit more about his life and my name had come up in his research. I was able to talk to him about his dad and what he meant to me. It was amazing.
Bonnie: I learned the other day when I was at the professional journalism group at the NFB Convention is that Elizabeth Campbell, who works for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, had been a journalist since the early ’80s. I wanted to be a journalist. I remember when I went to some sort of career fair we had at school. This was when I had started going to the school for the blind when we moved to Tennessee, I wanted to be a journalist.
I was told there were no blind journalists, but yet she was there and I think there were a few others. She started out– they didn’t have– the journalists didn’t turn in their stories on typewriters, they used the old– what was it? We called it the TR-80.
Jonathan: The TRS-80. [laughs]
Bonnie: TRS-80, which they called the Trash-80. That’s how she turned in her stuff to her editors and didn’t know she existed.
Jonathan: I know. That’s why mentoring is so, so important. Anyway, well, thank you for another great Bonnie Bulletin. We look forward to of course, the Bonnie Bulletin continuing on the podcast, and you can join the increasing throng. I must admit you’re getting an increasing throng of people who listen to you on your studio 70 Show, having a WeChat and playing lots of good ’70s tunes, weekdays at 11:00 AM and PM Eastern Time on Mushroom FM. Tremendous.
Bonnie: Thanks, everybody.
Jonathan: Thank you. Goodbye.
Bonnie: Thank you. Bye.
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, 864-60mosen, that’s 864-606-6736.
Speaker: Mosen At Large Podcast.
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