Podcast Transcript: Mosen At Large episode 143, thoughts on what it means to be blind, calendar apps for iPhone and has Apple lost its moral authority on privacy?
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Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen and this is Mosen At Large, the show that’s got the blind community talking. Today, New Zealand’s Broadcasting Standards Authority rules on my complaint about the ableist use of the word blind. Plenty more comments on Blind Pride and blind culture and has Apple lost the plot on privacy?
It is as always tremendous and epic to be back with you for another episode, we’re at number 143 already and this episode is special. I have no doubt that you will have heard of the famous Abbey Road studio two. This is the studio where the Beatles performed, Pink Floyd did some of their magic. It is kind of like a mecca for the music industry, studio two at Abbey Road and I’m really pleased to tell you that this episode of Mosen at Large is not recorded in studio two at Abbey Road.
I know. We can dream and in fact, I did you see. This is why I mentioned this. The other night I had this bizarre dream that Mosen at Large was being recorded in studio two at Abbey Road. I dunno if I want to record the podcast there but I would love to get a digital audio workstation like Reaper, I’m sure it’s all on Pro Tools now, and bring out those original masters that have been so carefully digitized of the Beatles work and just ride the faders and do mixes and stuff like that but anyway, back to the reality of my relatively mundane life, well, by comparison with playing with all those Beatles masters anyway, and onto the show’s topics today.
If you listened to Mosen at Large Episode 110, you will have heard my rationale for filing a formal complaint with Radio New Zealand for the repeated use of the word blind as a synonym for ignorance, lack of awareness and lack of information. This is ableist language, and it does immense harm to disabled people. Normalizing the idea that disabled people are less capable. Outside of the blindness space, similar language would include things like falling on deaf ears, or being crippled by indecision. There’s a lot of it about, as they say, and increasingly, disabled activists are quite rightly crying, “Enough already.”
New Zealand has a series of broadcasting standards, and all broadcasters must adhere to them. When we think that a broadcast has breached these standards, in most cases, the first step is for a listener or viewer to file a formal complaint with the broadcaster. If you disagree with the findings of the broadcaster’s formal complaints procedure, you can escalate your complaint to an independent body called the Broadcasting Standards Authority.
If they find in favor of your complaint, they may impose remedial measures on the broadcaster. In extreme cases, this could even extend to not being allowed to broadcast advertising for a given period prescribed by the BSA, or ceasing broadcasting for a given period altogether. Although these extreme penalties are quite rare, normally, the broadcaster is required to read a summary of the BSA’s findings and possibly apologize.
One of the standards to which broadcasters must adhere relates to discrimination and denigration. In the general information provided by the BSA as a guide on complaints, they note that discrimination has consistently been defined as encouragement of different treatment of a particular section of the community to their detriment. Denigration is defined as devaluing the reputation of a class of people.
I argued that by using the term blind as a pejorative in the manner that they did, Radio New Zealand denigrated blind people as a class, Radio New Zealand unsurprisingly declined to uphold my original complaint, claiming that there was a long standing concept of “ministerial blindness” that was completely separate from the word blind being used to mean absence of sight. Now I happen to have an undergraduate degree in Political Science and a master’s degree in Public Policy. I also happen to have good access to Google and I can tell you that no such concept of “ministerial blindness” exists now, nor has it ever existed. This is something that Radio New Zealand has invented. I therefore complained to the Broadcasting Standards Authority, the BSA.
In defending themselves to the BSA, Radio New Zealand said, you could trace the use of the word blind in the way that it had been used in this item all the way back to 1692. Of course, if they had read Leona Godin’s book they would know it goes back much further than that. In responding to this defense, I invited the BSA to reflect on where we would be if We started referring to all disadvantaged groups in the way that we did back in 1692. If Radio New Zealand started doing that, they would have few listeners left. No women, no one who wasn’t white. No one, frankly, who has a conscience would be listening. It would not be okay to refer to ethnic minorities or women in the way we did back in 1692.
The question then becomes, why are disabled people expected to put up with something no other disadvantaged group would accept? I’ve said several times in this podcast, and many times in my public speaking career, that advocacy is a bit like banging your head against a brick wall. It’s easy to get a sore head, but every so often the wall moves. Sometimes it moves along way. At other times, and most of the time, the movement is barely perceptible, but it is movement nonetheless and I’m pleased to say that on this occasion, we do have some movement, albeit not as much as I would have liked.
I first complained to the Broadcasting Standards Authority in 1998 about misuse of the word blind when Radio New Zealand used blind in a similarly ableist way. In their 1998 decision, the Broadcasting Standards Authority resoundingly rejected my assertion that Radio New Zealand had denigrated blind people, they sent me away with a veritable flea in my ear by saying that whatever the etymology of the word equating blindness with lack of knowledge or ignorance, the two concepts are no longer linked.
Now the 2021 decision is far more nuanced. The BSA has declined to uphold this complaint, but not because they believe there are two separate definitions of the word blind. Their decision confirms that blind people do constitute a recognized section of the community for the purposes of the discrimination and denigration standard. They then assert their view that the BSA may only intervene and uphold a complaint where the broadcast has caused actual or potential harm at a level that outweighs the right to freedom of expression. The BSA goes on to say, where discrimination and denigration complaints are concerned, the importance of freedom of expression means that a high level of condemnation, often with an element of malice or nastiness, will usually be necessary to find a breach of the standard.
They say that the authorities role is to reflect current and evolving community attitudes, including towards the acceptability of language. They go on to say, although in our decisions we may raise awareness about the changing views towards particular words and phrases, we are cautious about going too far or attempting to lead the way. They’re not denying that this language is ableist. They’re not denying that it’s harmful.
What they are saying is that one particular use of the word blind, given how often it is used in this way, cannot be interpreted as individually harmful enough in itself to be a breach of the standard, which is a really interesting argument. As I say, much more nuanced than the flat out rejection of my assertions from 1998. They did not find that the use of the word blind in this context is okay, only that it didn’t reach the very high threshold required for them to intervene, noting also that it was a serious expression of political opinion.
Where do we go from here? If you can’t take an individual reference like this to the Broadcasting Standards Authority and have them act because it’s one example of a systemic problem, what can you do? Well, I do have the option to appeal the Broadcasting Standards Authority to New Zealand’s High Court. In some ways, I’m very attracted to this option, because it would give disabled people in New Zealand the opportunity to talk about the unconscious bias ableist language causes.
For example, we have a labor shortage in this country right now, because we’re not bringing in many migrant workers while our borders are closed. Yet two thirds of working aged disabled people remain unemployed. 48% of disabled New Zealanders are not in employment, education, or training and that number has actually increased recently, this despite technological advances, and a lot of investment and programs for disabled employment.
One of the reasons it is so hard to move the needle is the unconscious bias caused by ableist language. Ableist language is one of the foundations upon which lack of opportunity is built. I believe a high court case would demonstrate the high degree of harm ableist language causes in terms of lost opportunity and therefore potential loss of income for disabled people. I think that those consequences are extremely harmful. I was preparing to take the high court route and fund it myself, despite the considerable expense, when serendipity worked its magic once again, because right after the BSA published its decision, I learned that a parliamentary select committee is holding an inquiry into the Radio New Zealand charter.
To give you some background if you’re not from New Zealand, Radio New Zealand is a non-commercial public broadcaster funded through taxation and its objectives are set by a charter. There has to be a Radio New Zealand charter because the law says so, and then charter is like a constitution for the organization. It’s a strategic document and that inevitably forms priorities at an operational level. I chose to keep the high court option for another day and have instead made a comprehensive submission to parliament about the need for a clause in Radio New Zealand’s charter that would require it to be more inclusive of disabled people.
It’s also worth noting that since New Zealand is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, we are obliged to ensure that disabled people are included in cultural life and that efforts are made to create an accessible society. Separate from the ableist language issue, I’ve advocated strenuously in recent years to have Radio New Zealand lift its game when it comes to its accessibility practices on social media.
I believe that the inclusion of an appropriate clause in the Radio New Zealand’s charter could and should result in disabled people being included at the governance, senior leadership and on air parts of the business. That disabled people ourselves should be fronting stories on disability issues. When more disabled people are writing stories about us, you can be sure that ableist language would disappear, although the charter should guard against that specifically as well.
The BBC gives me hope. In Britain, not just the BBC, but other broadcasters have committed to more disabled people being behind the mic, the camera and the keyboard at media outlets. The BBC is giving serious thought to the way it reports disability issues. I think advocating for a clause in Radio New Zealand’s charter is the most constructive way forward. My submission, which runs about 6,000 words, will be published by New Zealand’s parliament and when it is, I will link to it in the show notes and let you know in a future episode of Mosen At Large. I will also be giving verbal testimony to the parliamentary committee and I look forward to answering their questions.
I want to thank those who have provided encouragement and support during this important advocacy effort, particularly the chief executive of Blind low Vision NZ, John Mulka, for his letter of support calling out the use of ableist language and pointing out the harm that it does. Slowly but surely that brick wall will continue to move.
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Jonathan: Listener responses to the recent discussions that Shermeen Khan has generated Leona Godin, various people talking about Blind Pride. It’s all here and we begin with Petra who says, “Hi, Jonathan. I always think of pride as being proud of something you have achieved or accomplished, not something you were born with or happened to you without your efforts. I’m happy to be an American and proud of my country, but I can’t say that blindness is anything I’m proud of.
Given the choice to see or not, I would choose to see, I am proud of many of my accomplishments. I very much enjoyed your discussion with Shermeen. What an articulate, intelligent young woman she is. The two of you were great in that interview. I love it when you discuss technology though most of it is above me and I enjoy the thought provoking discussions. Listening to your podcasts has sometimes been quite expensive. Because of one of your recent podcasts I bought a Traeger Grill. I’ll be listening,” says Petra. “Thank you for the time you put into these podcasts.”
Well, it’s my pleasure. Thank you for the time you put into writing in Petra. People are proud of different things, aren’t they? Because now what you’ve put in my head is that song about I’m proud to be an American, you know the one. It’s a variable thing, isn’t it? Here is a very interesting email from Tim Mehok who says, “hi, Jonathan, I played the interview with Shermeen to a sighted woman I am dating who has very little experience with the Blind culture.” Interestingly the Blind is spelled with an uppercase B.
“We both enjoyed it and discussed some of the interactions Shermeen and you had with the sighted population. Although I heard your interview with your ex, I want to suggest you have a round table discussion with sighted spouses of couples where one is blind. I think this would be valuable to the sighted dating partner before they decide to tie the knot. Many thanks for your program and the balanced approach you take.” Well, thank you, Tim. That’s very kind. That is an intriguing idea. I wonder how we would choose from the many sighted spouses that are out there, but it would be good to get that perspective.
Rebecca, in response to our interview with Leona Godin said, “I can’t wait to read this book, and I can identify with the frustrations I heard in the sample text on Audible’s site when it comes to dealing with medical professionals. I have been Blind since birth and my parents took me to eye doctors in Memphis and Miami in the hopes of finding a solution to give me some sight. As a teenager, doctors hoped that I could gain enough sight to see faces or doorways.
As a Blind teenager, struggling to fit in and struggling to get accessible materials I falsely talked myself into believing that having just a little site might solve all my problems. I had surgery in 2001 and I continue to have light perception because of it though my vision didn’t improve. Doctors wanted to do more surgeries, but I said, no. I hated the psychological ups and downs. It was time for me to deal with the issues I was facing. I am privileged in that I didn’t have to go through the trauma of losing vision slowly.
I find it much easier to be grateful for what I have rather than yearning to be “Normal.” Normal is an illusion anyway, and something created by the able-bodied population. I am still getting used to the idea of Blind Culture though and I am not sure that Blind Culture will ever exist in the same way as the deaf culture does. Because there are so few of us who are totally blind and does Blind Culture include those who are low vision?
Now premature infants may be born as early as 22 weeks increasing their chances of having multiple disabilities. It is more common for seniors to have age related visual impairments or diabetic retinopathy. So, what other conversations should we have when it comes to Blind Pride and Blind Culture?” Rebecca is also spelling blind with an uppercase B. Wow, we’ve started a trend.
She continues, “How does someone with multiple disabilities fit into this conversation around language? The reality is that there are a few people like me who were born blind. I strongly believe in intersectionality and treating everyone as a person first. I agree that we have a lot of diversity in the blindness community, and I think that should be celebrated along with everything else we have to offer. I am proud of what I have accomplished because of my blindness, but it doesn’t define me. I think that message is what we need to convey to the world.”
Thank you, Rebecca. Again, these are very personal perceptions, but I do disagree with you on the blindness not defining thing. For me my blindness does help define me. I would be doing things very differently if I were not blind, I’m sure. I wonder what I would have become. I’m the only person in my family of five kids who’s got a university education. If I were sighted, would I have bucked the trend and got that university education? Would I’d be working in broadcasting or the industries that I’m in now? I probably wouldn’t be, so my blindness has defined me in a huge way.
Not only am I proud of being blind, I’m proud of that too. As I’ve said on many occasions, I reject the whole person first narrative so I won’t revisit that question, but I’m really thrilled that you shared your perspective and a bit of your story with us as well Rebecca. We have a note from Lena, which says, “Hi, Jonathan, your interview with Leona Godin left me feeling inspired and uplifted. I have read the introduction of the book and I am looking forward to reading the rest of it.” This is a time when I wish I had Braille with an uppercase B.
“Some of our most vulnerable rehabilitation institutions are teaching the mythology of blindness. They are teaching blind people that the blind cannot find their way unless someone teaches them the roots.” Of course we know that is incorrect. They are teaching them to accept discrimination. They are teaching in an attitude of be grateful for the little you have because 200 years ago, you wouldn’t have had anything. They are teaching these blind people that they can only pursue certain careers. It grieves me as much as the constant barriers we encounter as we go through our everyday lives.
I also frequently encounter an attitude of fear. A lady who was totally blind and has multiple sclerosis is not able to use a walker at a particular institution, which I won’t name, because it could identify the woman because “these experts” tell her that a blind person can not use a walker. Well, blind people are using walkers all over this country and probably the world.
This week, a driver pulled over and asked if she could ask me a question. She wanted to know if it was true that blind people can not learn Braille over the age of 35. Her sister had been told that the state of California would not provide Braille instruction because she was over 35. Honestly, how’s the woman going to write down her phone number or anything else that she might want to write in Braille?” Fortunately, there are resources for learning Braille. You’re right. We need a Blind Pride movement and we need to employ the tactics that other successful groups have used.” Thank you so much, Lena.
I came across a very interesting discussion. I don’t look at Facebook very much at all. I can go for weeks without checking it, but I did look at it the other day. I saw that the National Federation of the Blind in the United States was looking at renaming its Meet the Blind Month, which they have in October. I always liked to Meet the Blind Month though, because every year it reminded me to play Tom Lehrer’s National Brotherhood Week song.
If you’ve not heard that song, oh, you’re missing out. You need to check out National Brotherhood Week, but they said, “What should we call, Meet the Blind Month instead?” I was absolutely thrilled to see a number of people say, “Call it Blind Pride Month.” Yes, absolutely. That would be a wonderful thing to do. I think July was Disability Pride Month in some parts of the world.
Chris Gray is out there. See, you just never know who might be lurking out there listening to Mosen At Large. Good to hear from you, Chris, hope you’re doing all right. He writes in to say, “Hi, Jonathan, thanks so much for these podcasts and all the information you pack into them. They are a true contribution to the blind community. I have spent a lot of time pondering the particular thread of conversation regarding “Blind Pride”.
As you brought this topic up, I found myself somewhat disturbed by it and wanted to be inclined to take an alternative view. However, as the discussion has unfolded, others weigh-in and your expansion on your thoughts have been made in response to those posts in this regard, I have come to believe that the real problem I have had may be an issue of semantics and no more.
I am lucky to have been raised in a family where my blindness was never viewed as something that had to rule my life or lessen my life in any way. My parents wouldn’t allow me to go to a blind school in order to keep our family whole. They always told me that my blindness would not and should not shape my life in and of itself. Were there things I might not do like fly a plane? Of course, but aside from these obvious limitations I should and had better view the sky as the limit.
I have come to suspect that my major concern about your views on Blind Pride incorrectly intermingles a different issue. Many in the United States preached for decades that blindness was not a disability, but only an inconvenience. That philosophy created huge mischief in our country. For example, many denounced the installment of detectable warnings on platform edges and audible traffic signals at street crossings. This in my mind is a simple denial of blindness.
Things we cannot see like colored platform edges or traffic lights ought to be made accessible to us. That’s just plain common sense. To say that they don’t is denial of a disability we cannot help or change. How can we deny blindness is nothing more than an inconvenience and be proud of it. In my view, blindness isn’t an inconvenience or in the negative sense of the word, a disability, it’s just inability to see nothing more or less.
Luckily, we seem to be outgrowing the notion that technology that makes us “visible” like audible pedestrian signals is demeaning or a badge of inability is wrong. I believe blind people throughout our country are embracing this and other technology more and more. I hope the days are gone from the time in the early 1980s when a blind leader went on TV in New York City and said that a blind woman who had been dragged to her death in the city’s subway system deserved it because she wasn’t a good enough traveler. He went on to oppose platform edge detection in the NYC subway system. That is an inexcusable denial of the reality of blindness. That was a long time ago, at this point. Today I am proud to use an audio traffic signal or to check out a headset in a movie theater to experience a described movie. Jonathan, I am coming around to the view that we are not very far apart in our thinking on this matter.
As I have come to recognize that these are two completely separate lines of conversation, I have come a long way towards adopting your point of view. While I am not sure I am proud of being blind. I accept and embrace my blindness as a completely okay reality of my life. There are so many things I likely would never have done or accomplished as a sighted person. There are so many wonderful people I have known specifically because I am blind. I can honestly, perhaps even proudly say, that blindness has enriched my life. I think this is the real crux of what you were saying as well.
A lot of what has led me to this thinking about this carefully, is that, unfortunately, I do know blind people who hate their blindness and it hurts me deeply to see this. This point of view could not be farther from mine and I’m guessing, actually I know, yours as well. I hope that we, as individuals, as you from your podcast can provide those among us who are not so comfortable with their blindness, a new and more optimistic way of thinking about it. Yes, blindness can be frustrating, but life is frustrating at times too. All the best, and keep these great podcasts coming.”
Thank you so much, Chris. It really is good to hear from you. I totally agree with every word of this. I think I mentioned in the series that Glenn Gordon did with me called In the Arena where I told my life story that I was at a pretty low ebb at one point as a teenager. I was lucky to get online really early, use bulletin boards with the good old FidoNet. I’m sure you’ll remember all this stuff as well, Chris, and the CompuServe Information service.
Through that, I discovered a lot of NFB literature and the NFB literature helped me a lot, but I guess I’m quite fortunate in that because I don’t live in the United States, I don’t have to be particularly partisan about the various groups. One thing I could never understand about the NFB was the stance that at least it used to take on things like audible traffic signals, audio description, and detectable warnings. I was flabbergasted when I was at an NFB convention and after having denied that detectable warnings were necessary, were quite willing to take money for the building of some additional device that you would have to carry, I think it was on the Washington Metro, in order to get some sort of warning when you were getting close to the edge of the subway.
Here in New Zealand and in many other countries I’m familiar with in the English-speaking world, audible traffic signals just are. There’s no great philosophical debate about them. I think you’re absolutely right. I think this actually does play into the Blind Pride Movement because if you are proud to be blind, you will say, “I am blind. I don’t have to hide it. Deal with it.” If information is important enough to be conveyed to a sighted person, then it’s important enough to be conveyed to me in an alternative format I can access. That’s what a non-disabled society is about. I’m not shy about asking it because I’m proud that I’m here and I’m proud that I’m blind and it’s not an unreasonable request to ask for an inclusive society.
It always did trouble me that the NFB of those days, and I think they’ve probably moved on quite a lot, seemed to impose a much higher standard of competence on blind people just to get around and live their life and do their thing than was expected of sighted people. I just didn’t think that was reasonable. I’m glad that things do appear to have moved on. I do remember, even when I was running ACB Radio, that we had these discussions about the NFB actively campaigning against the audio description mandate, which I also could not understand.
Stan: Greetings Jonathan Mosen and fellow Mosen at Larger’s. I do have a couple of comments on your stellar interview that you conducted. Yes. While it may have been a long interview it was really worthy of your efforts. There’s so much to unpack here. You talked about your experience of someone telling you that you don’t sound blind on the radio and how the switchboard lit up and that’s interesting because I feel that we live in a parallel universe. That’s what I often tell people in the mid 90s a friend of my ex sister-in-laws told me that I didn’t sound blind on the radio. I don’t know what being blind on the radio is supposed to sound like but I didn’t go into that one. I said, I don’t think I’m going to like what I hear, so I didn’t want to parse that subject although it might’ve been interesting.
You talked about Helen Keller and how she was a socialist. One of the interesting things that I think we do in this country especially, we tend to demonize something and make something bad if it differs from what we choose to believe. I go back to George Washington in 1789 when he warned of the dangers of the USA’s two political parties. Now in the States as things currently are, if you are a Republican you’re supposed to demonize the Democrats. If you are a Democrat you’re supposed to demonize the Republican. No, far be it. You can’t find any common ground because that would be a no-no. Of course this works on a religious level too and I’m not going to go there but oh my gosh, if you’re an atheist, Oh my God, that’s horrible.
The Blind Pride situation. I’m proud of who I am. I’m comfortable in my own skin. I’m blind but I’m proud of what I’ve done. I always think that maybe I could’ve done more but I’ve done a lot. I’ve managed to run for a political office. I was a board member of the Rogue Valley Transportation District. Now when I wasn’t reelected I said that I was not going anywhere.
I wanted to let you know because I think you’d be interested in this, the RVTD as we call it, has what they call a STAC committee. Special Tansportation Advocacy Committee. What that sub committee does is we advise the board of directors as to what programs serving the disabled community and others receive funding. I’m involved in that now but I’m very proud of that and I’m proud of what I may be able to accomplish. One of the things that we do when let’s say some of the para-transit vehicles are retired because they’re replaced after so many years, we can decide other organizations how they can receive the vehicles. That is going to be a great thing and I’m very happy that I’m going to try to make a difference.
Jonathan: Thank you, Stan. “Eureka. Eureka.” It’s an email from Dawn in Sydney who says, “Hi, Jay, I wanted to tell you about a piece of equipment you might not have heard of. It was an Australian invention called the Eureka. It was voice only but was ahead of its time. It had a modem of sorts with arrow keys, a basic note-taker, functions such as weather, time and date and a music program. Unfortunately the company stopped producing them which was a great pissy as it had the potential to become a great little laptop. It was certainly instrumental in setting me and others on the road to becoming computer users.
I have been listening to others’ opinions in the last few weeks on the subject of Blind Pride. I am now of the opinion that I am definitely proud to be blind and always have been but just have never thought of it in those terms. I am proud of the things I have achieved in my life. I am proud of my belief that I am of equal value to anyone else in my community and perhaps most of all of just being able to be me.
As far as the blind culture is concerned, I’ve always believed in the importance of having a blind community. I feel that for far too long blind people have been almost discouraged from interacting with other blind people. We are no different from any other minority group such as deaf people or gay people.” Thank you very much for your email Dawn and I’m wishing you the best in Sydney. Things are not good there right now with the outbreak of the Delta variant of COVID-19. We’re thinking of you on this side of the pond and hoping that things improve really quickly.
Now regarding the Eureka. Oh, yes, I remember the Eureka. The speech on that thing was interesting. I believe it was the first speech I ever heard that sounded female. I found the speech a bit of an acquired taste but I’m sure I would have acquired the taste had I owned one. Being in New Zealand, we were very much a keynote country so we didn’t have a lot of people with Eurekas but I remember being super impressed with the music composer.
There was a guy, I’m pretty sure his name was Jeremy Miller, who would come over to New Zealand and show the Eureka. I just thought, “What a very intriguing device.” I believe it was based on CPM which is an old operating system and you could play adventure games on it. I seem to remember playing the Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy text adventure on the Eureka.
Now, some years ago on the Mosen Explosion we had a demo of a real live working Eureka that was done by Joy Tilton. I don’t know whether Joy is still out there and whether she still has her working Eureka. I’m sure if I fossicked around in the Explosion archives long enough, it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack, but I would probably find that demo of the Eureka which would be quite cool.
If anybody’s got a working Eureka, you’re very welcome to give us a demo because it really was quite something. That music composer, you could make it do multiple part harmony and all sorts of things. Boy, the other thing I remember about that Eureka was that its alarm got really really, really grumpy and aggressive with you the longer you left it to the point that it would start yelling at you, wake up, and it would play this really dramatic horrible dissonant music. [chuckles] It was extraordinary.
Now, there is an element of blind culture you raised that I don’t think has been discussed before and it is an important one. That is that yes, there are sighted people who have actively discouraged blind people from mixing and congregating. I think it is a really serious issue. I think it’s a form of abuse. This happened to me in fact. I was incredibly lucky that my parents moved so that we were virtually opposite the school for the blind. So I would walk to school, I would go home.
Then when it came to going to high school I went to my local high school but it also happens to be the high school that a lot of the kids who were boarding at the school for the blind went to. These were my peers, my compatriots, people that I had grown up with and the teachers were pretty aggressive about trying to separate us and saying in our lunchtimes when every kid has the right to just hang out with whoever the hell they like, whoever they feel comfortable hanging out with, some of these teachers would actively say, “You should go and mix with your classmates. You shouldn’t hang around with these other blind people.” I wonder how common a phenomenon that is.
Now this emailer would like to be anonymous. It says dear Mr. Mosen, I have listened to your podcast Mosen at Large quite a bit lately. I want to thank you for all the work you do to gather the information and put on this podcast. I work for a state blindness agency in the US. I am a certified vision rehabilitation therapist, assistive technology instructor, and I also do document accessibility and document remediation to fix inaccessible documents. I am totally Blind, and look at that, another blind with an uppercase B, and a Braille reader with an uppercase B, myself. In fact, Braille in addition to AT is one of my favorite things to teach.
Having said all that, I want to tell you how valuable I find your podcast and demos. I apologize for the longer email and for the fact that I organized these categories with headings, it helps me think.” Oh, that’s certainly okay. I guess that if you’re doing what you’re doing, you’ll be into structure and logic and methodical layout.
Anyway, the email continues, “I’ve been working on this for a couple of days. I am very curious to hear what you think of some of my thoughts. Braille, I will say I have always been visually impaired and I had no way other than reading via hearing someone read to me until finally at age 12, a vision teacher realized that I did not know print. It was a constant guessing game and I really had no way of reading. I remember it was a Wednesday in February, 1997 when she had first met me and assessed me. After the assessment she asked if I wanted to learn Braille and I jumped up and down and begged to start right then. We did not get to start learning until Friday that week.
I also lost the rest of my vision, which I was quite happy about as it was nothing more than a hindrance in that it was a pinhole in the right eye only and very blurry. It lied to me all the time. Coincidentally, the following year, after a lot of fighting and a mental health crisis, I began learning the cane. I was previously told I had too much vision to learn the cane, even though I fell often and remember getting lots of sprains in my ankles throughout childhood, I digress.
I think Braille is wonderful in that with it I learned over time to spell and about grammar. I use a Braille display for proofing my writing and reading things at work daily. I studied to become a TVI and if I could just get the math down, I could pass my last test and get the degree. I would love this, as I feel every student should have exposure to Braille. I wondered what your opinion is on UEB Braille? I find that it wastes more paper and I really don’t like how they remove the contractions such as by, I-L-L-Y and two, which I really use a lot and how they remove the ability to place some contractions together, which I believe was originally done to save space.”
Well, I’ll answer this one before moving on to the next heading. In general, I support UEB. The original concept of UEB was that not only would the codes be unified, but they’d be unified across the English speaking globe. There are a couple of reasons why I think that’s important. I used to be involved in the World Blind Union and I got to see firsthand how we complicate the lives of students in developing countries who may get books donated to them, particularly mathematics books, where there were various alternative forms of mathematics. Now, because the United States has stuck with Nemeth, that value proposition has slightly been eroded, but I still think it’s a really important and laudable goal.
When you look at the barriers that people in developing countries are facing, we may well talk on this podcast about technology we can’t access and nableist language and things, but in some of these countries, the kids are struggling to get white canes. They’re struggling to get textbooks. If they have to come to grips with a plethora of codes, because they’re being donated a range of books from different countries, and that’s a barrier we have the power to eliminate as a blind community and we should, I certainly accept the reason for originally joining contractions together, like to the, by the, of the. And you’re right, it was to save space, but more of us are consuming Braille now via Braille displays.
I know you’re going to talk with us about Braille displays in just a moment. That’s no longer as relevant.
It’s also confusing for kids when we teach them that you join them together in Braille, but you don’t join them together in print. The final reason why I support UEB is because so much Braille is generated by computer now and there were so many ambiguities in the old code that there were errors that crept in that are eminently avoidable if the Braille code has less human intelligence being required to make a judgment about what a symbol means at any given time. Now I know there is a lot of concern about UEB mathematics. It’s not my field. I respect the concerns of those who have it. In general, the principles of UEB I think are very sound and important.
“Braille displays,” this email continues. That’s the next heading at a heading level two. “Due to issues with my wrists and hands I can no longer use most Braille displays as their keyboards have staggered keys, meaning they are not straight like the Perkins or the old Braille Lite/Braille ‘n Speak. I am using a slowly dying Braille Edge, which I love, but soon I should receive my Mantis from work, which I am eagerly looking forward to. I really wish there were more options for me to choose from for Braille note takers or displays with either straight keyboards, or QWERTY these days.
AccessiBe. I wanted to mention I was thrilled that your findings with AccessiBe were a mirror to my own. Thank you for doing a great podcast on this. Blind pride. I am not sure how I feel about this concept. I’d say slightly divided. I don’t want sight although my parents and other family think I am ridiculous when I say it would invalidate everything I have accomplished. I do think if I was sighted I would have done what my mother, father, and brother did, which is drop out of high school.
Other than waiting for someone else to bring me places, my life is pretty great most of the time. My guide dog and I travel often or we did before the pandemic. My blindness is a part of me. I think it has encouraged me to fight against the odds. I will say, my opinion of my blindness has changed many times over the stages of my life. In elementary school I had no clue what they meant by blind and thought I was pretty normal, just couldn’t see much. In middle school I hated it as I was excluded from friend groups and loved it in sixth grade when I finally got to learn how to read.
In ninth grade, when I went to a school for the blind, I began to see that it wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, it gave me more opportunities than I would have had coming from a family who did not have money. I’d have never been able to afford college otherwise. In my ’20s, it was something I could overcome or at least that’s what I thought I had to think. Now in my late ’30s, it’s a part of me, the good, the bad, the ugly. I wonder if this is a life stage thing for you and others?”
Oh yes, I think so. I think so. It is a life stage thing. I remember when I was a teenager, I was pretty despondent about the blindness thing because I felt that the odds were stacked against me that no matter how good I was at something, I wouldn’t be allowed to succeed and that was pretty depressing. I think being a blind teen can be really hard, especially when you get to the point when others are starting to drive away in their vehicles and you start to realize the impact. I think that’s right. I think it’s something that has grown for me.
The email continues, “Blind culture. I think there may be a soft culture. I know more musical blind/visually impaired people than those who have no musical ability of any kind. I think many of the blind friends I have though are congenitally blind or those who went blind early. I wonder how those who are newly blind fit into this? In my experience as a CVRT, those who lose their vision as adults seem to resist using the term blind or blindness products or learning Braille. I’ve even had a client who was what I would consider a high partial tell me to my face that they’d rather be dead than visually impaired or blind. I got a bit offended with that one, but was mostly diplomatic about it. My point here is that I think many of the things that hold those of us who were blind from birth or young age together don’t necessarily hold those who lose their sight as adults together. I am curious about your thoughts on this. I am always open to other interpretations. I wonder if there are maybe two different blind cultures that intermingle at times.”
Thanks so much for your email. I think about this too. I know that your email was written before we had the discussion with Leona, but we talked about this last week about how somebody who goes blind later in life can be inducted into this blind culture as it were and how some of them simply just don’t want to be, but also how we have a responsibility to make sure that we are welcoming.
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Jonathan: Thank you to everybody who completed Amanda’s survey. She’s been really thrilled with some of the responses she’s received. Rhonda writes in about this and says, “Thanks a bunch for passing along Amanda’s survey access information. I was incredibly pleased and impressed. The questions took me back to a time when I played sound identification games with my sons and when my dad played them with me. Since BVI teachers are now mostly sighted and students often are a one off, I truly appreciated Amanda’s grasp of the necessity of greater awareness and importance of teaching soundscapes to their students. Before the digital revolution,” she says, “did you whistle phone numbers and get a connection?” We could do that with Ma Bell here in Wisconsin, USA.”
Good to hear from you, Rhonda, and I’m sure Amanda will appreciate that feedback. Thank you for completing it. Our system to the best of my knowledge didn’t allow us to whistle the phone numbers but I am aware of these shenanigans from a really good book called Exploding the Phone and anyone who’s interested in people who play with phones in the old days should read that book.
Also, if you go into the archives of The Blind Side podcast, which is still up there, you can hear my interview with Jim Fetgatter, who featured in Exploding the Phone and we talked about some of these techniques. There’s also a really good audible drama, Bonnie and I loved it called, Phreaks, P-H-R-E-A-K-S. The story is based on fact but it’s a fictional story about a blind girl who learns about how to get into the phone system through whistles. It’s just a really good ripping yarn. I highly recommend it.
You could do some things of interest. I remember that if you were on a call and you flashed the switch hook, you quickly press the little button that you would normally hang the phone on but you do it quite quickly, you would disconnect the call but you’d seem to get into some special mode with the exchange. At that point you could make noises, you could whistle and you could do all sorts of crazy things.
I used to also call the test phone numbers, just dial random numbers that I thought might get me into interesting test modes and I used to be able to make free calls from payphones. I think our payphones in New Zealand were very different and they may well be similar to the ones that they had in Britain. What you would do is you would push that little switch hook really, really quickly to emulate the pulses of the dial. I had the reflexes and the patients to learn how to do this.
It meant that that bypassed the system that required you to put money in the phone. Without payphones you had a button A and a button B and you’d put your coins in the slot. You were supposed to dial the number. Then when a caller answered, the microphone was muted and it would only unmute the microphone if you pressed button A and then all the coins would drop into the slot, waiting for the man from the post office to open up the phone next time and collect their loot.
If the call didn’t answer then you could push button B and it would make this interesting machine noise and the money would come out of a slot in the front. If you knew what you were doing with emulating the pulses you could completely bypass that system. Eventually the post office cottoned onto what was going on and they introduced these newer phones that had a much slower return on the spring. When you push down the button, then that meant that you couldn’t do that anymore. What a sad day that was. Phone fan.
I received this email and it’s very, very long, so long that I almost didn’t read it because it’s just so long that it’s difficult to abridge but I will abridge it and I will cover it because I think it raises some interesting points, particularly at this time of year in the United States, where if it wasn’t for the pandemic people would be gathered together in hotels for the NFB and the ACB conventions. Some people go along and they get energized by these conventions. Other people go along and they feel like they’re outsiders, like they’re not good enough, like they don’t fit in. This email is from someone who has asked to remain anonymous.
“Conventions. The travel was exhausting, the two times I attended a national convention of either blind consumer group. NFB in Denver in 1989 and ACB in Las Vegas in 2014. I hope they do hybrid conventions in future. I attended ACB in Las Vegas in 2014 but was ultimately disappointed. The hotel had seen better days and had a threadbare air. The hotel was itself rather complicated to get around.
I had so hoped to learn where things were and not need volunteers, not always easy to locate all the time. Yes, conventions are expensive. I know I spent close to $1,850 and could have used the money to take a curated trip to somewhere interesting where I had not have felt like a failure among all the successful blind people bubbling and bouncing around looking for meeting rooms, friends, possible hookups, work contacts and who knows what else. I find dealing with huge crowds exhausting. So many blind people walk so fast at NFB and don’t care if they knock into you. Maybe your experiences were different.
The sounds of those metal tipped NFB canes on a marble hotel floor in halls with high ceilings can sound ominous. I know because while a student at an NFB run training center, I attended the 1989 convention in Denver. I felt depressed feeling like I’d never live up to the skillset so admired by NFB’s elite. Since that the two big organizations were really all that great, the unemployment figures for blind people would have reversed in the past 80 years or so. I keep hearing the figures are basically 70% unemployment with 30% employment. I have friends who say they don’t find that many successful blind people very helpful.
In some ways blind people are much better off than 50 years ago. We have so much access to information, it is mind-blowing. I struggle to handle all the information paths now available to me, podcasts, BARD, Bookshare, Kindle, Learning Ally, NFB news line, various websites, YouTube. I have so many books on my computer. Thousands. I’ll never get to all of them. Before say 2012 or so, I never would have thought this could happen. So much is only a download away. It’s not that people can’t learn things as a blind person. It’s that to me everything is just so much harder and more complicated. I feel exhausted.”
Thanks to that anonymous contributor. That is just a tiny, tiny snapshot of a very long email. I’m not reading some of it because it talks about people in anonymous terms but with enough detail that it could be personally identifiable. I don’t think that’s particularly fair to the individuals particularly when the contributor has asked to remain anonymous. Essentially the gist is that there are some people who are too busy to help this individual out, some of whom purport to be mentors but then don’t want to assist.
I think I would say a couple of things about this. I’d be interested in people’s comments about how they find going to these conventions because I have heard this sentiment expressed before by people who say, “Look, it it’s almost like going to a cult.” That’s what some people say in the case of going to NFB. That going to either convention, it’s just daunting. It’s intimidating. It’s one of those experiences where you walk away from it and you feel like you’re inadequate. I wonder whether others have felt like this. If so, what can be done about that? Is there anything that these consumer organizations can do to make the experience more friendly?
I have been to both conventions and certainly in ACB’s case, and perhaps more so now than ever, NFB’s, they really make an effort to make volunteers available so that those who feel challenged by the mobility aspects of the convention can enjoy them. I suppose there’s always more that can be done. In terms of the mentoring, I think there’s a responsibility on both sides here. In my case I get emailed by a lot of people and I try to respond to every email I receive. I may miss a few but I do my best.
If I get emailed by somebody who just seems so terribly negative, you do wonder what difference is your intervention going to make? If somebody is absolutely convinced that somehow you, the person being contacted, are a member of the blind elite or super blind or even worse, super blink, then what’s the point of responding? Because as Henry Ford so beautifully put it ,whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. I think mentors and consumer organizations, sure, they have an obligation to be welcoming and show some compassion and some empathy but equally you are going to wear people down if you constantly display negativity. Since this email is anonymous I can be a bit more blunt than I otherwise would be if I was naming the contributor. I think that this email, much of which I haven’t read, is incredibly negative. It displays a sense of envy to me, of blind people who have been successful. I’ve said this before, and I’ll continue to say it, success is not a zero sum game. Just because another blind person has been successful, it doesn’t deprive anyone else of being successful.
We have a choice, don’t we? The choice that we have is to say, how did they do that? Can I have what they’ve got? What do I need to do? I believe we have a lot that’s within our control, but it’s up to us to seize the opportunities we’ve been given and to work hard to create opportunities. There are responsibilities on both sides, but I’d be interested in people’s convention stories and whether they have also felt overwhelmed by attending them.
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Jonathan: Here’s an interesting question from Kelby Carlson. Hi, Jonathan, I’ve gotten to the point where I have a ton of appointments I have to keep track of and it’s more than I can easily remember, so I finally need to start using a calendar app. I tried to use Apple’s regular calendar, but find having to scroll through and adjust every field means it can take several minutes to create an event, not a very efficient use of my time. I am wondering what app or techniques you use to keep track of meetings on a daily basis. I have SwifttoDo, that’s all one word by the way, SwifttoDo, which works pretty well as a task manager, but I haven’t found anything equivalent for a calendar.
Thanks, Kelby. I haven’t heard of that SwifttoDo thing before. I’ve used various task management apps including OmniFocus and Todoist and even the reminders applets built into iPhone. I’ll have to try that one although OmniFocus is the one I keep coming back to because it’s so powerful. Anyway, back onto the subject of calendar apps. I have to say that the first thing I would do is whenever possible do this on my PC. It is just way easier to do it that way. My appointments are all on a Microsoft exchange server anyway.
One of the things I really like about the calendar integration of Microsoft Teams, which works with my Outlook calendar, is that when I’m making appointments, and a lot of them do take place via Teams, you can see right away whether a slot that you are suggesting is available for the people that you’re adding and that is just so nice. Then it can suggest the next available slot that everybody can do based on calendar availability and that obviously works if you are making appointments with people in your organization. Microsoft Teams has done a really good job of that. There is a scheduling assistant in Microsoft Outlook as well, but it is a little bit more fiddly. This is one task where I think the PC is way more efficient.
That said, there is of course your friend Siri. You can make appointments with Siri. When you master it’s syntax, you can actually make quite complex appointments with Siri. Also, don’t forget your Amazon Echo or similar soup drinker enabled device, because that can also be a really good choice for making appointments by voice. The calendar integration in that is actually quite impressive.
If you really don’t like the calendar app, and I get why you don’t, the best one that I have found, with a caveat, is a thing called Fantastical. I think you pronounce it fantastikel, like it’s a pan, Fantastic Calendar. Fantastical from Flexibits. If you just search on the word Fantastical in the app store, you will find this. They do charge a bit now for this. I think they’ve gone to a subscription model. The nice thing about Fantastical is that it uses natural language syntax, very similar to the way that you’ve been able to make appointments on the Mac for years. I could type into the appointment field, meet with Kelby tomorrow at 2:00, and it will fill in all of those fields accordingly. It’s very well done.
One thing I found though was that when I started using this with our Microsoft Exchange Server at my work, having used it for many years before coming to this job, it automatically moved all my incoming appointments from my inbox to my calendar before having responded to them. It was very bizarre and I couldn’t get to the bottom of it. In the end I had to stop using Fantastical because it was just more trouble than it was worth in the environment that I was in. You might be in a very different situation and Fantastical is a wonderful app.
It’s really powerful. It has features like when you view your calendar and you have a meeting coming up that is, say, a Zoom meeting or a Teams meeting or a Google Meet meeting. It knows them all and there’s a button that you double tap to join the meeting and it launches the appropriate app from your calendar from Fantastical and get you right in there. Give it a shot. If you’re willing to throw a little bit of money at the problem and subscribe, I think you will be quite pleased unless you have that same little glitch with exchange servers that I had.
Alternative calendar apps, third-party calendar apps for iPhone are a big area. If you are using a third party calendar app for your iPhone, that you really like, please share your favorite. Get in touch, firstname.lastname@example.org on the email with an audio attachment or a written email, the listener line 8646O-Mosen. 864-606-6736.
To the UK we go where Rachel Usher is commenting on this. She says, “Regarding your listeners’ thoughts about Apple’s in-built calendar app I must admit I agree. When I first had an iPhone back in 2011, I did manage well with the built-in app. I could navigate it easily and set up my appointments quickly. I don’t know why, but I’ve always just opted to operate my phone rather than relying on Siri, who in my experience can be a bit temperamental. As new iOS updates have been introduced however, I have noticed the inbuilt app has become less manageable and I just can’t figure it out as it is now. Maybe I’m just missing something. It seems to be too cluttered for my liking these days.
I now much prefer Fantastical. I really like it’s simple layout and also the fact I can create events and reminders within the same app, plus a lot more, too many great features to list here. While I realize it may be possible the inbuilt app might have many of the same features. I haven’t opened it for a good while now, so not 100% certain, I just prefer the layout of Fantastical. I may even have far more capabilities than I’m aware of, but for anyone looking for an alternative calendar to the inbuilt one, I would highly recommend giving Fantastical a try. Thanks, Jonathan, loving the podcast as always,” concludes Rachel. Thank you, Rachel. I’d forgotten that Fantastical also does reminders in the same app. That is indeed a cool feature.
Speaker 2: For all things Mosen at Large, check out the website where you can listen to episodes online, subscribe using your favorite podcast app and contact the show. Just point your browser to podcast.mosen.org,that’s podcast.M-O-S-E-N.org.
Jonathan: “Time for futuristic speculation,” as Vaughn Rolls writes. “Hi, Jonathan. I hope you are well, and thank you for providing such an informative podcast. I’d be curious to know your thoughts on where you see LIDAR and artificial intelligence taking us in the next 12 months with the new iPhones. As an aside, did you ever think we would reach the day where iPhones would become a primary scanning device for a blind person? I work in court reading documents every day, often with very little notice. I have started using seeing AI as my primary scanning solution, rather than using the more established products. I can now say to in court at the bar table while a magistrate or judge is speaking to me and read documents as they are handed across the table, truly remarkable,” concludes Vaughn.
Isn’t it incredible, Vaughn, when you go back to the Kurzweil reading machine of the 1970s and that huge device and how long it took, and now we have so much more power in the palm of our hands. That is Moore’s law at work right there, pretty impressive. I do hear rumors that at some stage LIDAR might be extended to cover a longer range. I don’t know whether that might be coming up in this coming iPhone or whether we’ll just continue with the status quo.
I think where LIDAR will really come into its own is when Apple’s augmented reality glasses come out. If they can get the privacy aspects sorted out, and that is a big if, and you are able to identify individuals, obviously you’ll be able to identify objects and not only know what those objects are, but your proximity to them, it will be very interesting. Aira did some presentations at CSUN when I was working for them, where they made the point that they were gathering a lot of data in the process of just helping blind people about the typical issues that blind people want to have resolved by human assistance. From that, being able to extrapolate what artificial intelligence might be able to do to remediate some of those issues. It could relate to traveling, it could relate to identifying objects, any number of things. There are a lot of data points there, and that was certainly a focus of Aira before they really slimmed down to the much smaller entity that they are now.
I think the technology will become a lot more reliable over time, but I also think people’s applications of the technology will become more inventive. A good example of this is the way that podcasting evolved. Podcasting was not new technology in any way whatsoever. It took two existing well-established technologies, the RSS feed and compressed media files like MP3 and fuse them together in an interesting way.
I think that will be the next frontier, with this technology now becoming more established and more widely available and of course there’ll be a new generation of phones where LIDAR is available, I believe that LIDAR will be available in all the phones. That’s the rumor anyway, that all the new apple iPhones in the 2013 lineup will have LIDAR, so it will be much more widely available. What will developers do with this technology? That’s particularly interesting as people start returning to some degree of normality now.
If you have a view on what the future holds for LIDAR in a blindness context, please feel free to share. Plenty of speculation emerging about the iPhone 13 and how it’s going to have a bigger camera bump because the case manufacturers are already starting to ramp up for the iPhone 13, and there is a suggestion it’s going to have a slightly bigger camera bump.
Now, Faraz has a question. He says, Hello, Jonathan. In response to Apple not including a charger with the iPhone 12s, do you think that they will also not include the cable with the next iPhone? Additionally, do you think that it will also be removed from the other products because I personally think that it is ridiculous that they have even removed it from the phones in the first place considering that I’ve already paid over $1,000 for a premium product. As an example, I recently purchased an iPad Pro 12.9 inch fifth generation and at the time of purchase, I got the free 20 watts power adapter. My question for you is also, why do you think they are including chargers with other products, but not with phones? I would appreciate your feedback on this. Keep up the great work.”
Thanks, Faraz. Well, I suppose that Apple’s argument is that lots of people have these iPhone charging bricks hanging around, those little cheapy ones, and they are claiming that it’s environmentally more friendly not to include these plugs which may be surplus to requirements. In the case of your iPad, you do need a bigger charging brick, which you may not have if you don’t own one of the iPads from recent times. I suppose they’re arguing that because there are fewer iPads in circulation, that’s the justification for continuing to put the charging brick in there.
I don’t think they’re going to take the cable away. I’ve heard no rumors about that. The environmental argument for doing so is less strong. I think we’re good in that regard. It is a bit irksome though, isn’t it, that given what we pay for iPhones, and these are premium products, that we don’t get the charging brick, and now you have to spend some more money. I have to say, getting that fast charger for the iPhone, I think it might be about 18 Watts, I forget the exact wattage, but wow it really does make a difference to the speed with which my iPhone 12 Pro Max charges.
While I am on the subject of battery life, a little observation, I never liked all the haptic feedback that the iPhone started making. When I had the opportunity to switch it off, I switched it off but recently I reset my phone and it was on and I left it on for a while to see how much I liked it. It could be my imagination and it could also be that there are a lot of variables going on because I am running the iOS 15 beta, so you would expect battery life to be a bit all over the place during that process.
My anecdotal evidence would suggest that turning off the haptic engine, with voiceover, so it’s not constantly tapping and giving you all that feedback as you flick through your daily life, makes the battery last a lot longer. You should try this. I’d be interested to know if it’s the same for you. Have you found that by turning off the haptics in voiceover, you get an appreciable improvement in your battery life? Drop me a note. Let me know 18646O-Mosen is the number on the telephone. 864-606-6736 in the United States. My email address, of course, to which you can attach audio or write something down. email@example.com.
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Abby Taylor: Hi, everybody. This is Abby Taylor in Sheridan, Wyoming. I just came up with a great idea for a future reminiscing topic. I recently discovered through the Blind Abilities podcast, that you can tweak a setting in the messages app, so that when you want to record an iMessage or listen to an iMessage that somebody sent you, you simply lift the phone to your ear. Well, I thought that was neat. I was sitting here at my kitchen table, eating lunch and I had the phone to my ear, elbow on the table.
I was recording an iMessage to a friend and I was definitely reminded of the first time I ever attended a summer camp. This particular camp wasn’t your ideal summer camp. It was a camp for the blind, and they had campfires and picnics and that kind of thing at night. Then during the day you had to take classes in mobility and daily living and all that good stuff, which as an adult I appreciated the opportunity to learn some of those skills, but as a kid I just wanted to have fun.
Well, one thing they did at mealtime, which they thought was fun and I didn’t, was if you were eating and you had your elbows on the table, they would sing this song, [get your elbows off the table Abby Johnson, get your elbows off the table Abby Johnson. Get your elbows off the table, get your elbows off the table, get your elbows off the table, Abby Johnson]
Well, how embarrassing was that? So, why don’t we talk about our memories of summer camp? It wouldn’t have to be a camp for the blind. Maybe you had the fortune or maybe misfortune to be sent to a camp for sighted kids and you had to convince a counselor that you could actually ride a horse or sail in a canoe or go swimming, even though you were blind and that you shouldn’t have to sit on the sidelines or maybe you did have to sit on the sidelines. Let’s talk about our summer camp memories. I think this would be a great time to do that.
Jonathan: Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh. Thank you, Abby. I think that the summer camp thing could possibly be more of a US phenomenon, maybe Canada as well, I don’t know. I think they had a go at introducing summer camps here in New Zealand for blind kids when I was a teenager and for a while the Seventh Day Adventists ran this thing called the New Vision Camp. I actually resent having been dragged along there now because it was a good bit of indoctrination and [mimics], but we went on outings and sang songs. I don’t know, I don’t remember too much about it, except that I went there a couple of times, and in retrospect think I could have done much better things with my summer.
My enduring memory of it is not a pleasant one actually and it is of a young, deaf, blind kid who attended that camp. He could speak but not very well and I think there were also some behavioral issues and some of the counselors, they called them, and I think that that term also comes from America, were quite young. I think they were in their late teens, maybe early ’20s and when this kid had behavioral issues or whatever, they would smack him. This was a consequence of his impairment. Thank goodness it is now illegal to smack children in New Zealand, but it wasn’t then.
I remember they really got freaked out because he kept repeating after awhile, over and over again, “I’m going to smack you. I’m going to smack you tonight.” I think they realized that when he got back out of this camp, that there was going to be trouble because they’d smacked this multiply-impaired child because they thought that was a way of keeping him in line, and that clearly he was going to be talking about this in some way, so then they suddenly became awfully nice to him. I remember being horrified by this. I have to say, my memories of all of this are not pleasant, but I’m sure there’ll be a variety of memories, some of them probably quite happy, that will come back.
This email comes from Jenks, who says, “Dear Jonathan, dear Mosen At Large listeners, I am pitching in for the first time. Well, that’s fantastic. Welcome, always good to get new listeners and regulars alike. My name is Jenks, and I am currently living in Freiburg, Germany, close to the Black Forest. I have two topics. First and foremost, I want to thank you for opening your knowledge vaults every week to us. I am listening to your show each time. I am a musician and also coaching blind people in all things Apple, but there are always things to learn.
Here comes my second topic. I heard a lot about Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio. As a surround fan, I thought to myself, “I need air pods pro to experience it.” As I have had tinnitus before, I always take good care of my ears. I really like the sound of the headphones, but I hate the annoyingly loud system tones of them when turning them on or switching between the transparency or noise-canceling modes.
Of course, I read the manuals and checked the settings, but I couldn’t find anything there, so here I am turning to the knowledgeable people here. Does anyone know how do I ever turn off or turn down the level of the system tones of AirPods Pro? I hope there is a solution, otherwise, I have to send them back. That would be a pity. Help would highly be appreciated. Thanks again for the work you do.
Well, I hope someone has an answer for you, and if they don’t have, if there was no way at the moment, this would definitely be worth contacting Apple accessibility about and logging it at least as a feature suggestion. You are right. For all of us, especially blind people, our hearing is precious, and you want to preserve it, and I understand why you want to take such good care of it. Thank you for writing in and I hope we’ll hear from you again.
Christian Bertling is writing in and says, “Hey, Jonathan, I have a quick question about your Samsung TV. How, how,” he cries, “do you configure the microphone to work with the Soup Drinker instead of Bixby? That’s all we have. That was indeed a quick question. Now, for those who are new to the podcast, let me emphasize that Soup Drinker is the name that we give to Amazon’s Virtual Assistant that’s in the echo and various other things and we do that because the moment I mentioned its actual name, it sets off devices all around the world.
It has been a while since I’ve done this question, but as I recall it the process is that as you set the TV app, you are asked whether you want to use Bixby or the Soup Drinker. If you want to use the Soup Drinker, then a QR code is displayed on the screen. Of course, the iPhone supports the QR code, so I’m talking about the iPhone in this instance since it’s what I have. You go into the camera app. You point your camera at the television. It will detect the QR code. I think it’s pretty easy for a blind person to do this because the QR code is pretty easy to scan. Then it will take you to the appropriate page, either on Amazon’s website or in the appropriate app, and you can authorize the use of your TV with a Soup Drinker, so it’s a pretty simple process.
If you don’t do it the first time, if you want to give Bixby a go, then there is a Soup Drinker app that you can find on your TV and you can go into that and set it up at any time later. Now, depending on the model of the TV that you have, you may need to press the button on your remote control to talk to it or you may be able to have it use one of the usual wake words. I think our TV can wake up with a wake word, but we don’t have that enabled because we already have so many Soup Drinker devices in our living room. We’ve got a standalone echo. We’ve also got the big Sonos Arc, so our cup runneth over with Soup Drinker devices. Hope that helps.
Interlude: Mosen At Large Podcast.
Jonathan: Apple has been under fire over the last week following a suite of announcements relating to child safety. We’ve had various emails asking that I take a look at this issue on the show and explain what’s going on. I think this issue has been of Apple’s own making to some degree. It has been a communications debacle. As is often the case with Apple, their initial communication is lousy, it’s vague, it’s contemptuous of public opinion, it’s arrogant, and then they circle back and do the mop-up, the communication work that they ought to have done in the first place.
As we all know, speculation fills a vacuum, so a lot of misinformation has been allowed to spread online, but there are those who, even when they are in possession of the actual facts have concerns. Let’s go through this suite of announcements, and I’ll endeavor to be factually accurate, while also offering you my views on what Apple is doing. You are, of course, very welcome to share your own views here on the podcast. I’ll begin by getting the easiest one out of the way first, I think, and that is that if somebody uses Siri, or the search feature on their Apple device to search for C-S-A-M which I have learned over the last week stands for Child Sexual Abuse Material.
The response a user will get back will advise the material that they’re searching for is illegal. It’ll provide links for reporting that material and it will offer places where a user can get help if they are attracted to this material. The second major change coming sometime in iOS 15 relates to the Messages app and Family Sharing accounts. Let’s talk about Family Sharing first. My kids are older now, but when they were younger, I appreciated Apple’s Family Sharing features. Now it’s been the case for some time with Family Sharing that depending on the age of the person who is a member of the family sharing group, you could enable certain features.
For example, when my kids were younger, I’d receive a notification every time they wanted to use the Bank of Dad to buy an app, and fair enough too I like this on a couple of levels. First, because I don’t want my credit card to be used for countless games and in-app purchases. I want to know what they’re buying, but second, as long as they’re kids, I want to know the kind of apps that they’re installing on their phones. I believe I not only have the right to know that, as a conscientious parent, I have a duty to monitor that.
You can also already manage the screen time of children if you are a parent, and you’ve got Family Sharing set up.
When you’ve done this, it’s possible to ensure that the games say are, unavailable for a period long enough for them to get their homework done, so that’s what we have now. What’s coming shortly is a new feature for family sharing accounts known as communications safety in messages. Now, Apple isn’t imposing this on anybody. It’s something that the family organizer must expressly enable and it works a bit differently depending on the age of the child. The feature pertains to the Messages app. When enabled, Apple detects when a message might contain sensitive visual material.
If it does, their device will warn them that it appears that the material they’re about to view could be unsuitable, and it will blur the image. It will ask if the child is sure that they want to proceed. If they do proceed, this is where the options differ depending on the age of the account holder. If the child is 12, or under, and the family organizer has enabled this feature, the family organizer will receive a notification telling them that their child has viewed an image that may contain sensitive material. Now if a child declines to view the message if they heed the warning and they don’t unblur the image, then that notification doesn’t get sent to the family organizer.
None of this is sneakily done, the child is advised that if they proceed, the family organizer will be notified that they’ve looked at this image. If the child is over 12, then their parents won’t be notified. This feature not only applies to the viewing of messages, it applies to the sending of them as well. If someone is encouraging a young person to send a sexually explicit photo, then the same warnings apply. One major piece of misinformation that’s going around the internet about this feature is that Apple is snooping on people’s messages. These people say this runs counter to everything that Apple is supposed to stand for when it comes to privacy. That is not what’s happening.
Let me try and explain this in a way that might resonate with blind people who use iPhones. I’m going to go off on a bit of a tangent, but trust me it is relevant. Blind people benefit from the extensive machine learning on Apple devices when it comes to images. For several years, we’ve been able to instruct Siri to show pictures of specific things. For example, if you’re a guide dog handler, and you want to show off some pictures, you can ask Siri to show photos containing dogs and it usually does a good job.
Recently, Apple has become good at describing images and photos to blind people and even images from the web or social media. Why is that experience so snappy? It’s snappy because Apple’s not going out to the web to get descriptions of those images like you will see on other products that are trying to describe images. It is using machine learning that is on your device entirely. It’s what Apple calls on-device intelligence. That same kind of technology is being used to make an assessment about the material attached to a message whether it be incoming or outgoing. Nothing is going over the internet to do this. The photo never leaves the device. No one is snooping. I say, good for Apple. Even if you’re a tech-savvy parent, and I consider myself to be that you can’t watch over your kids 24/7. If you aren’t tech-savvy, this stuff can be even more of a worry and a source of confusion. Young people face an enormous amount of peer pressure. They may feel coerced or simply make a decision to send a photo that could come back to haunt them. Once a photo like that has been scened, the young person loses control of what happens to the photo. The recipient may well forward it all over the place, even upload it to social media.
If Apple can use machine learning to help safeguard our kids, then as far as I’m concerned, bring it on. If you think it’s gone too far, for whatever reason as a parent, you don’t have to enable this feature, it is opt-in. Apple is using technology in an elegant, safe, and classic Apple manner. What it’s demonstrating is that they can find ways for parents to be good vigilant parents without photos leaving the device. Now the final feature Apple is introducing is US only, and it pertains to the uploading of photos to iCloud photos.
Since storage and possession of CSAM is illegal, Apple has a legal requirement to ensure that they are not storing such material on their servers. When you upload things to iCloud photos, you are uploading to Apple’s servers. Plus let’s not forget that these images are of real children. Don’t we as a society have a duty to do all we can to stamp this stuff out? What is Apple doing specifically? If you are a US-based iOS or iPad OS user, and you sync pictures with iCloud photos, your device will locally check these pictures against a list of known CSAM.
Some people are spreading the misinformation that this means that Apple is putting a database of this material on your device. They are not, they are including on your device a database of numerical signatures or hashes if you will, of known CSAM, and that database is maintained in the United States, not by Apple, but by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. When you upload your photos to iCloud photos, nothing is being scanned for content.
This is a numerical process that matches against a very specific set of images. For every numerical match, Apple creates a safety voucher on your account. It’s an internal process. Even then, there is no actual scanning of the photo going on. That process only happens when you reach a certain threshold. That threshold has been a bit vague, but interestingly, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Craig Federighi has recently said that the threshold is 30.
If you have 30 of these images that are classified as highly offensive and exploitative of young children, at that point, things start to happen at the Apple end. It will alert Apple’s moderators and reveal the details of the matches. If a moderator, so a human being confirms the presence of CSAM, they’ll disable your account, and as they should do report these images to legal authorities. Now, a couple of things here.
The first is that I’ve heard some people say, “Well, I take photos of my kids all the time, they’re one, they’re two, they’re in the bath, they’re cute, I want to keep these photos because they’re precious. Now Apple is going to be scanning those photos and calling me a criminal. That’s absolutely not true. That will not happen because of the hash-based system that this is using. These are very specific images.
Second, this only applies to photos that you sync with iCloud. You do have the option to disable iCloud photos if you want to, but where are you going to go if you want to use a cloud service? You should know that most other major services because of legal requirements if they’re storing your photos they are doing things that are checking these photos. It is pretty hard for anyone to argue that clamping down on the trafficking of CSAM isn’t a good idea.
We all want these people to be brought to justice, but we have people here that are claiming that this creates a precedent that could either create back doors, which I think is a really emotive term in this context or encouraging authoritarians regimes to set up similar systems for material that they find politically or culturally unacceptable. I agree that we should always be vigilant consumers.
Some of the decisions Apple has taken regarding features and apps in China continue to give me cause for concern, yet what about is them is often used as a distraction. People said, for example, that if you legalize gay marriage, well we’d soon be legalizing bestiality. We have to take a feature like this on its merit while watching out for any scope creep. When I look at some of the great new privacy features on IOS 15, like iCloud relay and email protection, and the ability to generate multiple email addresses, I believe Apple is as committed to privacy as they ever have been.
In this area, I trust Apple on privacy, as much as I’m going to trust a corporation on anything and much more than I trust any other technology company. Now trust is hard-won, and it’s very easily lost of course, but as a parent, I respect Apple for trying to strike the right balance. These machine learning approaches, doing things on devices as much as possible demonstrate safeguards can be put in place for kids in a safe way.
You will know if you’re a regular listener that I don’t consider Apple to be infallible. I don’t consider them to be perfect. Humans are fallible, humans are imperfect, but I support them on this one. By all means, let’s have a philosophical discussion about any risks of the technology that’s being deployed, but mischaracterizing it as so many critics have done, does them no credit
Peter: Hi, Jonathan. It’s Peter from Robin Hood County, hoping you and your family are well. This is an interesting topic, privacy. I’m quite happy to have my phone scanned for pictures of child sexual abuse against minors or children, as we call them in England. They are not going to find any on my phone, all they’ll find is a picture of the dog, some flowers, and my other half. I’m quite happy for Apple to scan my phone. My liberties have not been infringed because I feel I haven’t done anything wrong.
One has to remember with freedom comes responsibility and that responsibility is to try and be a model citizen wherever you can. I don’t think we would have to do this kind of thing if the world had a moral compass and it doesn’t. You just listen to your news bulletins throughout the world, murders, stabbings, perverts, anarchists, all sorts of things. Everybody has an idea of what privacy is and everybody has an idea of what their rights are.
Everybody’s got human rights, as one of your guests said a few programs ago, and therefore Apple has the human right to ensure that pictures of child sexual abuse against minors or children, is not going to be permitted, but there’s always a little caveat who will guard the guardians. That’s what’s I say, but for what it’s worth, I’m happy with it for the present. It’s what the governments throughout the world will want after this has been successful.
Speaker 1: What’s on your mind? Send an email with a recording of your voice, or just write it down, firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N@mushroomfm.com or phone our listener line. The number in the United States is 864-60 Mosen. That’s 864-606-6736.
Jonathan: Micheal Panteladis writes in and says, “Hi, Jonathan, just a note to thank you for your help with iCloud drive, it worked a treat.” Well, that’s good to know. “You should be working at Apple.” No, I don’t think they’d like that and I don’t think I would either. “Re iTunes,” says Michael, “again, I have downloaded on a Dell laptop, but again JAWS 2021 is not really working with it. I know again, I should ring Apple, but I don’t think I would get very far with them. Do you have a thought on how I can make iTunes accessible with JAWS 2021?”
The first thing I would do, Michael, is make good use of the F6 key. If you think of the F6 key like the start menu key in windows. When you press F6 frequently enough, you will eventually get to an edit field where you can type things into iTunes that you want to search for, and that’s like a commonplace to start from, which can be very helpful. I do find iTunes, bloated, convoluted. I don’t use it very much at all other than to back my device up for encrypted backup purposes. I can’t really comment on whether there are any actual accessibility problems or whether it’s just hard to use. I do note that Leasey from Hartgen consultancy does have some iTunes features built into that. You might like to check Leasey out if you don’t have it already because it’s a Swiss Army knife of productivity, really very impressive.
They do have that iTunes support there. I think also that Hartgen Consultancy may have produced an iTunes course. Those are the two things that I would recommend checking out. If anyone would like to share hints and tips for working iTunes like a boss by all means be in touch email@example.com is my email. You can also call the listener line that number 86-460 Mosen in the United States. 864-606-6736.
Saddam Ahmed: Hello, Jonathan. It’s Saddam Ahmed here. Just thought I’d drop you another audio contribution and it’s concerning email lists. I think you did mention email etiquette. Why email list is so bad. I recently had an experience on an email list specifically for the blind community. I won’t mention what happened, but suffice to say it was very traumatic and I’ve never understood why people particularly in our blind community on email lists.
I’ve seen it happen before to other people. It’s the first time that’s happened to me, essentially it was gaslighting, but what I’ve always wondered is why people have to attack you personally. You send an email out and the email that I sent out it was quite a benign email. It had nothing to do with what this person came back with and the hatred and vindictiveness and malevolence and I’d even use words of lack of empathy and compassion that this person showed.
They knew what they were doing. They knew what they were writing was extremely inappropriate for public consumption, but yet they chose to do that anyway and the condescension and arrogance that they showed, it was absolutely astonishing. I had known this person for 11 years, so this person goes back to high school, but I just didn’t realize how much hatred this person had for me. They could have done a whole bunch of things. They could have done a lot of things, but yet they chose to write the email back onto the public list, knowing that this would upset me.
I’m glad that I responded clearly and coherently and this person, thank the Lord is no longer in my life, never will be because you don’t need people like that in your life who will treat you with such hard word and use words like, denigrate. This person denigrated me, this person was malevolent and very, very vindictive. I would say that he is a keyboard warrior, and this does not happen to a certain extent on mainstream email lists. I’m on the Thunderbird email list to discuss the Thunderbird application, I’m on email list to do with Linux.
I’m on an email list for Android, which is just predominantly people that don’t have a disability, but what absolutely astounds me is the level of anger and how people will attack you personally is absolutely astonishing. Some people can not just do it professionally. This person was doing it not only on email, but he has been doing it through social media and also via phone. There was a three-way gaslighting going on. Thankfully I’ve taken steps that he’ll never be able to contact me again.
What I failed to understand is just people that have a go at you personally, I have never been one to attack. Even if I don’t agree with the person’s viewpoint, you can do better than attacking someone’s health. You can do it better than attacking someone’s sexuality, and you can do better than attacking someone’s race and what color of their skin. Really looking back on after I’ve analyzed it, it’s a very sad indictment on this person because to personally attack someone like that, like I was attacked, was just horrendous.
The other thing I wanted to comment on is apple support, specifically the Disability Answer Desk versus the Accessibility Line. I don’t have to call Microsoft Disability Answer Desk that often. I really try to sort out the issue and if I cannot sort out the issue, then I call them. A case in point, I installed a windows 11 developer build, and it definitely was not ready for prime time, but I was able to go back to a stable build. I did that all on my own just by Googling the steps and what have you.
When I have had to call them, there’s a huge difference in quality between Microsoft Disability Answer Desk and Apple’s Accessibility Line. I’m not sure what Apple is doing. How they’re training their personnel, but Apple’s Accessibility Line has really gone downhill in a big way to the point that I don’t call them anymore. If there’s an issue, I just work through things, work out things on my own.
Jonathan: Thanks, Saddam. Good to hear from you and I am sorry that you were subjected to that attention. I think this about criticism, some criticism is a gift and some criticism is simply trash. If you can analyze the criticism and say, okay, there’s an element of truth in this. There’s a modicum of truth in it. Then take that truth and be grateful for the gift that one has been given. If someone is simply intending to express their anger, which may be directed at you, but is usually about some issue that they have in themselves, then discard it. I know it is really hard to do that.
Ross Wolinsky: Hi, Jonathan and listeners. This is Ross Wolinsky calling from New Mexico in the United States in the hot New Mexico. It’s warm weather here in the summer. I’m calling about the Apple disability- the answer line. I’ve probably called them four times in the last month and a half and I’ve had pretty good luck. Out of four calls, there was one occasion where I couldn’t seem to get my phone to work right. I couldn’t get any sound out of it and he said, “Well, he’ll give me the number for the technical number because it didn’t have to do with technology.”
I convinced him that I thought it might have something to do with the VoiceOver not working properly and he actually did follow through and continue. The other three calls have been wonderful and having always been specifically regarding VoiceOver. Sometimes at night, if I can’t sleep I like to listen to a radio station or a podcast.
There are occasions when sometimes I’m asleep and I’ll grab my phone and out of cure of being asleep do something weird that I don’t know if I did.
That’s what I did last night and there was just no sound coming out anywhere. This was at about 3:30 in the morning at my time. I spoke to a woman who is just wonderful and we tried everything and she said, Do you have another a phone or something?” I went, “Well, yes, my Apple 8, but it’s not charged up.” She said, “Well, plug it in.” She connected with me and then used the camera and by using the camera, I saw it was on the screen and it was a pretty obscure thing where somehow on the rotor I had turned the VoiceOver all the way off volume.
She directed me how to do it. Took about a half an hour and she was very patient. For me, I can say that so far I haven’t run into any slam doors in my face other than the first one that I was able to talk myself out of. I’m hoping my luck will continue, who knows? I’m curious to hear what other listeners have to say and be well everybody.
Jonathan: I’m really pleased that you called in with some positive feedback because it’s important that we get a balance. That’s a great story about somebody who went above and beyond and got you sorted there with your VoiceOver rotor volume. I just tried this myself because I have a Braille display, so it was easy for me to rectify the problem. You’re right. If you have your VoiceOver rotor volume set to zero, and then you turn VoiceOver off with a triple-click of the side button or with Siri, or however you choose to disable it, and then you enable VoiceOver again, the volume stays at zero.
Now I’m not sure that’s a good idea. I’m trying to think of a use case where that should happen because if you don’t want speech on at all, say, as a Braille user, then you can turn the speech off, can’t you? To have your VoiceOver rotor set to 0% and you may have done it accidentally and you think, “Oh, I’ll just turn VoiceOver back off and back on again and it will set itself back to the default volume,” which I think makes sense. Then find that it’s still stuck on 0%. If you are not a Braille user, that really is a bit of a problem. I guess you can keep flicking the rotor and flicking up until you suddenly start to hear your phone talking. I think this is a good Apple feature suggestion to contact them and say, “Maybe having that volume stay at zero when you reenable VoiceOver is not a cool idea.
Interlude: Jonathan Mosen, Mosen At Large Podcast.
David: Hi Jonathan. I got my invite to get my vaccine on Tuesday. I got the email and the process to make the appointments is very accessible. It’s a good experience. I got the email and the text to say that my appointments have been confirmed, but it’s just one gripe I have. It’s not being able to add it to my calendar. Is there a way that I can put them into my calendar because I thought if it went to your Google, it would detect an event? That it would detect dates and locations as events and put them into my calendar. Good on SENZ Sports Radio is now on the air. I listened to the launch. What I’m waiting for is the commentary schedule.
What commentaries they are going to come up with other than the warriors? Are they going to take the rugby from gold and ZB? Are they going to have any Black Caps commentary? Are they going to take the commentary off Magic Talk because they’re in a three-year deal? Will SENZ buy out the remaining two years of Magic Talk’s contract so they can bring Brian and Jeremy back. To also do commentary of the Black Caps overseas to us such as in England, where they could hook into Sports Extra that I already support. The late radiosport used to do and access to some Australian commentaries like the AFL, some AFL games, or A-League games every quarter if we could access those commentary.
Jonathan: Thank you, David. Our government has done an outstanding job of keeping COVID-19 at bay. I think you could argue that it’s done the best job in the world at keeping COVID at bay. We haven’t had any community cases for a long time. Even the Delta variant is currently out. It’s hard to fault their approach there, but the vaccine rollout has been quite problematic. It is taking a very long time. Basically, I think to score some political point, they’re moving on to the vaccination of people in group four, before they’ve completed the higher priority vaccination of group three, even by a long way, there are lots of group three people still to be vaccinated.
I am one of them, disabled people are included in group three, which I think is commendable. It’s often been who you know and what secret numbers you know. Somebody gave me a secret number and I called the secret number and actually, they said, “Oh, we can take you on Sunday.” Which was a bit of a surprise, this was some weeks ago. I couldn’t take that appointment on Sunday because I had just had the flu vaccine and you’re supposed to leave a two to three week gap between when you get the flu vaccine and when you get the COVID vaccine. I said, “I can’t take this, but I know someone who could,” and Bonnie, therefore, has been vaccinated fully now, which is wonderful.
The ministry of health released an 800 number that you could call if you were in group three and you hadn’t been vaccinated yet. I think it’s only about 20% of group three people had been vaccinated by the state. Most of us had not and people called this number and it was a shemozzle for people, where we live in, in Wellington, because when people got through after a considerable wait the call center was originally telling them that Wellingtonians did not qualify to book appointments on this number.
That was some communications snafu that they eventually sorted out. When I got through on the Friday afternoon that they launched the number, I did get an appointment. My first vaccination appointment was in fact supposed to be this Tuesday, just gone the 10th of August. Then I was fortunate enough, lucky me, to have one of these hearing loss episodes. I’ve talked about this on the podcast every so often, where you can be just doing your thing, minding your own business. It’s like someone flicks a switch and you lose hearing in one ear, fun times. That happened to me on a Sunday. By the Tuesday night, my hearing in that ear was starting to come back, but I was still really nervous about getting the vaccine while my body was fighting off this hearing thing and jeopardizing my hearing recovery.
Luckily, I too then got experience with the website and it’s a fantastic website. This is our book my vaccine website in New Zealand, and I was able to reschedule so that my first appointment is a few hours from now, as this podcast is published on Sunday afternoon, New Zealand’s time. That’s good, but this website is really good because you can choose the date that you want just by pushing B with JAWS to get through the buttons on the page. Then when you choose the date, you’ve got a list of time slots at the location that you’ve chosen. If the time slots are unavailable, it’s visible, but it’s grayed out, so you know you can’t take it, but if you press the letter B, then each available time slot is its own button.
You just push B to navigate, slot by slot, press the space bar on the appointment you want and you’re done. It’s absolutely genius. It’s actually worked out okay for me that my vaccine has taken so long because the government has got some new advice here now, where they’re saying, actually, you can slightly improve your immune response by leaving at least six weeks between doses of the vaccine and we’re using Pfizer exclusively here at the moment. Originally they were going three weeks apart to get it done. Now they’re suggesting that you wait six weeks between your first and second jabs. I was able to go into the vaccine website once again and reschedule my second jab six weeks from today, so it is all worked out. I’m glad that you by now will have got your first vaccine shot, David, and that the process is accessible.
I don’t use Gmail, I can’t comment about what it is pertaining to the message that you got by email that meant that you couldn’t add it to your calendar. What I would do is just simply say to Siri, “Make an appointment called vaccination at whatever on whatever,” that’s in your calendar. All it takes is just like three seconds of talking to your phone. I wouldn’t overcomplicate it. David was also talking about SENZ. This is new Zealand’s newest radio network. I like a good radio station launch. I used to really enjoy it when the testing of radio stations would be intriguing and fun, and they would do fun things to try and get you listening, get you hooked.
Then they would make a big splash with their launch. These days, you don’t get that very much in the SENZ launch was extremely boring. They were actually late, I think they came on about three or four minutes late. I don’t know what’s up with that, but to give you a bit of background for those interested in radio and sports coverage and all that sort of thing, you never know Stephen Jolly in Australia might be listening. [chuckles]
We had a radio network here run by a company called NZME, which is a major conglomerate now that owns one of our big newspapers and a whole lot of radio networks. The radio network was called Radio Sport and it did sports talk and had a lot of commentary rights. They chose to withdraw from the negotiation process for radio cricket rights, which basically completely messed up any potential for Radio Sport to be viable in the summertime because New Zealanders are all listening to cricket if they’re sports fans in the summer. Then during our very strict level-four lockdown here in New Zealand, NZME decided to close Radio Sport.
One minute presenters were talking about, we’ll see you tomorrow, next thing it was off the air. There’s a radio network that’s been gaining a lot of ground in Australia called SEN, Sports Entertainment Network. At roughly the same time that Radio Sport closed down the TAB, the Totalisator Agency Board, which handles betting in New Zealand, also closed down its radio network, which used to broadcast racing. The folks at SEN in Australia saw an opportunity and they said, “We’ll buy your frequencies off you and we’ll start a sport network. We’ll use all of our expertise that we’ve gained from doing sport in Australia. We’ll bring a New Zealand flavored sports network called SENZ.”
It was about a year in the planning but it is now on air. I don’t think I’m really the target demographic for this network. I don’t like sports talk, just endless talk about sport unless it’s something really big that I’m interested in like a major cricket fixture or something like that. In an event like that, I would listen, but generally, I do not. That’s fine. I’m not the best judge of how well it’s doing, but I do agree with David, the critical thing is going to be what sporting rights have they been able to secure? I understand they are going to be covering the Black Caps when they go to Australia.
They’ve got that locked down, I guess, because of their SEN-related rights in Australia, but the key will be can they poach any of the rights from others in New Zealand who have them? That remains to be seen.
I love to hear from you. If you have any comments you want to contribute to the show, drop me an email or written down or with an audio attachment to Jonathan J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N@mushroomfm.com. If you’d rather call in, use the listener nine number in the United States, 864-606-6736.
Interlude: Mosen At Large Podcast.
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