Podcast Transcript: Mosen At Large episode 162, blind people teaching iPhone to the sighted, more on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 carbon, and a little festive fun
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Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen. This is Mosen At Large, the show that’s got the blind community talking. Today, how does a blind person teach a sighted person how to use their iPhone. Comments on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, more on blindness and mainstream technology, and we’ve got a bit of festive fun in the mix.
It is a great pleasure to be with you for the final Mosen At Large of 2021. As of now, I am officially off work. I finished at the end of Friday, the 17th, and I am not going back to work until the 25th of January, a nice long break with my youngest son, David getting married on the 22nd and other than that, and some Christmas plans that we have to spend Christmas with him and his younger sister Nicola, and of course David’s fiancé, we don’t have any plans at all. And I’m just looking forward to veging out, listening to lots of cricket, where it’s available, reading plenty of books, and just generally doing not much, except what I feel like doing. At this stage we are on track to do our usual New Year’s Eve celebration live on Mushroom FM, celebrating the fact that New Year comes first to New Zealand.
And if you are subscribed to the Mosen media list, which you can join by sending a blank email to email@example.com, that’s firstname.lastname@example.org. I will post information about tuning in to that New Year celebration. It’s live, it’s fun, and it’s become a tradition for many people.
And I will begin work on the first Mosen At Large episode of 2022 the week of the 24th of January, which means that we will publish it on the 30th of January, New Zealand time. So, if you get gadgets for Christmas you want to tell me about, if you have any thoughts on the wide range of topics that we talk about and you want to share them, please do keep those contributions coming through the usual channels. Email me at email@example.com. You can call the listener line on 864-60-Mosen in the United States. That’s 864-606-6736. If you send me contributions throughout the break, they will accumulate and I will have some material to work with when I get back, and I appreciate that.
And you know what also I might be doing over the Christmas break, is drumming. Yes, drumming, thanks to the built-in functionality in Leasy. Now, Leasy is the tool that Hartgen Consultancy put together, that Brian Hartgen develops with all these cool little adjuncts to JAWS. It’s amazing, this thing, it’s like a Swiss Army knife of JAWS-related things. You didn’t know you could drum with Leasy, did you? Well, Brian might not even know that you can drum with Leasy, but I recently discovered this by accident, and I find it quite therapeutic, and it might be the next tutorial that you get from Hartgen Consultancy.
Now, today we are going to show you how to drum… Yeah. So I’m going to show you how to drum in Leasy before he does. What you do is you get into a blank email folder in Microsoft Outlook, and you might well be saying, “I haven’t got any blank folders.” Well, just create one, create a folder called drumming, and don’t put any items into it. That’s what I would do. I’m in my drumming folder now. And then what we’ve got to do is make sure that Leasy is configured to cooperate.
And so we have to press the Leasy key. And if you have Leasy installed on your computer and you’ve used it before, you’ll know about the Leasy key, and then O…
Speaker 2: Sound switch on.
Jonathan Mosen: Don’t want that.
Speaker 2: Leasy sounds off.
Jonathan Mosen: Don’t want that either.
Speaker 2: Leasy sounds on.
Jonathan Mosen: We just want sounds on. So the Leasy key with O toggles you through those settings, and now in our empty folder, we start with a down arrow and then the up arrow we’re drumming, man.
Yeah. Oh, wow. It’s Christmas time on MOS in it, large and Jonathan here and I’m in charge. Okay. So maybe I’m not a very good rapper, even when it comes to Christmas presents, I’m not a very good wrapper. Actually. I’m a useless wrapper at Christmas, hand that over to Bonnie.
But I thought there’s a lot of potential with this drumming. And I thought, how else can I enhance it? How can we make a Leasy drumming extravaganza on the final Mosen At Large of 2021? And then I thought, well, there’s another device that makes a cool sound as well. And it has contributed to Mosen At Large over the years, in fact, and that is the soup drinker.
I don’t want to set it off, The Soup Drinker, the Amazon echo device. Because if you push that little button that mutes the microphone, it goes… And then if you push it again, it goes… Well, you could drum with that, couldn’t you? Yeah. I reckon you could drum with it.
And so we’ve got quite a little ensemble, an electronic ensemble for Christmas. So what could we do? Well, then I thought we may as well get the Drinker to sing a wee Christmas song, and we can all just drum along. So in the spirit of Christmas, take it away to the Mosen At Large production crew of one… As we bring you serenading at Christmas time.
They set you on the treadmill, and they made you change your name. Hopefully, they didn’t do that to Ross Winetsky. Hopefully they just set him on the treadmill. And that if Ross Winetsky isn’t his real name, they didn’t make him change it. He says, “Hello, Jonathan and listeners, I recently gave away my 15-year-old treadmill because the bed was so old. It hurt my legs when I ran on it. I’ve kept it for so long because the controls were manual. I then searched the Internet because I figured that, certainly, some new technology would be available for accessible control panels. My high expectations were dashed when I found only two or three articles on treadmills for visually impaired runners. Most of the articles dealt with people with low vision and how the controls were larger and had colors, which were easy to see for people with visual impairments.
I thought, what about me? But they mostly seem to describe how the start, stop, and speed buttons were generally accessible to the totally blind. When I actually went to the websites of various manufacturers, they all seem to be pretty digital and thus, inaccessible. Besides don’t we blind folks have a right to get the same feedback and control that our sighted comrades can get?
I seem to remember that you once said that you use a treadmill. If so, what controls do you use? And have you adapted it in any way? It seems to me that in this era of apps and iPhones, some manufacturer could come up with an app which could run the entire control panel. I did read an article in AccessWorld from 2006, which stated that 36% of disabled people were involved in exercise or some physical activity rather than 56% of the general population.
Yet the article did not really advocate for any improvements in this area. When I did look up exercise equipment for disabled people, almost all of the articles mentioned wheelchair users with absolutely no mention of the blind. I don’t know about other countries. However, I did see some mention of the fact that the Americans with Disabilities Act in the United States was unclear in the language of whether or not exercise equipment would even be considered as being applicable to the law.
Well, I’ll get off my soapbox because I’m not getting any exercise by standing on it and complaining. I would welcome any discussion on this issue. I would be interested to see if you or your listeners might have some suggestions about how we could advocate for accessible exercise equipment, particularly treadmills. Also, I would like to know if anyone knows of any treadmills, which are accessible. Happy holidays and happy new year to all.” That is from Ross in New Mexico.
Ross, I got after a lot of research, the best option I could find available to me in New Zealand at the time. I can’t remember how many years ago we got this treadmill, but Bonnie really wanted a new treadmill, and I thought to myself, “If we’re going to get a treadmill, we’ll get the most accessible option.” And we got this thing called Technogym MyRun treadmill. I think it’s Italian. It’s really solid. Well, you’d want a treadmill to be solid, wouldn’t you? The controls on it, the ones that start and stop the treadmill, the one that controls the incline and the one that controls the speed are big levers and they are fully accessible. It also comes with an app and it only runs on an iPad. I thought I could probably get this to work on the iPhone, but I was wrong now.
To be fair, I haven’t checked for a while, but certainly when I last checked, it only ran on the iPad and not the iPhone. The app is as quirky as Soup. And I do apologize to listeners for using such a strong expletives, but it really is as is all Soup. And what that’s meant is that I don’t bother with it too much because I found that I was getting quite frustrated, trying to set it up and make it do its thing.
But you can set programs up and it can keep track of your workouts. You can set it for example, to do a fitness workout, an aerobic workout, different categories. And once you get it going and you push the start button on your iPad, it is paired with the treadmill. So it will then start the treadmill. It’ll speed it up at different points. You know, if you want to do the whole interval thing, where you’re supposed to do these crazy bursts of fitness and then slow down for a while, and then you go up to full speed again, it does all that.
And you can sort of set the programs, but you have to be really persistent and have the patience of a saint. So I am not sure. I would like to hope that there are better options than this. When you run it with the iPad app, you do get a lot of data about your workout, how fast you’ve worked, how far you’ve walked, or that kind of thing. Now, a lot of that data you can get by buying an Apple watch and using the workout app. And so I tend to adjust my own incline and speed and just use the workout app on the watch to track how far I’ve walked. I do about 20 to 25 minutes on the treadmill every morning when I get up at 5:00 AM, it’s one of the first things I do. And I do a little bit of CrossFit stuff after that, and I’m set for the day after my morning meditation.
We have talked about accessible gym equipment from time to time, we had a WEE thread going some months ago now about exercise bikes. But perhaps anyone with some knowledge of accessible treadmill options might like to chime in. I was pretty excited about the fact that Apple watch had this API thing going two or three years ago, which was supposed to interface with gym equipment. And I thought this is going to be great for blind people, but anecdotally, it seems like there hasn’t been a lot of take up of this.
So if anyone can help Ross with this really important question, please let us know. Fitness is so important for us, and it is a shame when we are willing, but the equipment is not able.
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 864-60-66736.
Jonathan Mosen: Joe Orosco is in touch. He says, “Hi, Jonathan. Are you reading any electronic Braille with an uppercase B books on any of your displays these days? I’ve tried using Bookshare and Web-Braille through NLS to read books on a BrailleSense U2, and the text does not span the length of the 32- cell Braille display. The Braille picks up on random line breaks. Also, the translation leaves a number of formatting code issues visible, that interrupt what should be a smoother reading experience.
I would say it’s a hymns product issue, but I vaguely remember seeing something similar on the matters when I experimented with it last summer. I used to read books on a BrailleNote mPower back in college, as well as the Braille Light. I remember being able to do simple things like navigating by paragraph, but modern displays seem to have made enjoying Braille books a lot more cumbersome.
Thank you kindly for any tips on things I should consider adjusting in my quest to get a smoother reading experience. If your Mantis fits the bill, I’ll consider getting it. Keep up the great work,” says Joe.
Joe, I’m not much help directly in terms of my experience of late, because I never, literally never, read BRF files on my devices. I’m usually reading from iBooks and Kindle. If you have access to Bookshare, you could of course download the files as DAISY.
Obviously, if you are using BARD and they’ve got BRF files, then there may be something that you really want from there. And it could be that that’s the only way to read it electronically. My hunch is that what’s going on is that those files are formatted for a 40-cell Braille line, but you’ve got a 32-cell Braille display in which case the Mantis Q40, because it is a 40- cell display would deal with that particular issue.
If anyone has a BrailleSense U2 and can provide Joe with some specific tips on making sure that you can maximize the real estate of your Braille line. Then please let us know because it is an important issue, right? If you’ve just got a little bit of Braille on the line and then you have to scroll, it disrupts your reading flow. So I can understand why Joe wants to get this fixed.
The other thing I would say about using DAISY files with Bookshare is that that would improve navigation as well. If you want a zap between chapters and things like that, that’s going to be easier with a DAISY file because of the markup that’s in there. But still, if you want to use BRF, it should work the way you want it to work. So let’s see if anyone can come back with some hints for you, Joe.
He’s back. We haven’t heard from Rebscher for a while, and it’s always good when we do. “Hi, Jonathan,” he says. “I learned something new. When I imaged an old platter hard drive to a snappy new solid-state drive, it runs great as you might expect. On the old drive, however, Windows 10 was configured to defragment the drive weekly and SSD does not require this. It is a good idea to disable the disc defragmenter so it does not attempt to reorganize your data. Thanks for all the effort you’ve put in and the relevant information that you present each week.”
Well, thank you so much, Andy. Yes. This is a good point. We’ve not talked about this. Don’t defragment your solid-state drive. People tell me it can actually be damaging to defragment your solid-state drive. So there’s no need to do it. And if you are converting do make sure that any automated tasks relating to de fragment are disabled.
And Andy also says, “One of your listeners brought up the subject of the JAWS updater, when you get that notification that an update is available, some computers will permit you to just run the update from there, others like my company laptop will not, that machine has group policies and special security software on it. One or both of those cause the installation to fail. In that case, I have to download the installer from the website and run it as administrator doing so always succeeds.”
This email says, “Hey, Jonathan, and all Mosen At Large listeners, this is Kushal from Gold Coast, Australia. Had a question for you all. I am part of a charity organization called BAPS. I’m not sure if you pronounced it B-A-P-S or not. And we are a socio spiritual organization. We have a temple being built in Robbinsville, New Jersey, and we will be having different exhibits at various places in the temple complex.
We are trying to help them with making the place accessible by having things like audio description, large print and Braille, with a lowercase B materials, tactile models, et cetera. What are some resources that we could point them to for accessibility needs? For example, we are thinking of asking them to look into installing handheld GPS, audio description devices, as those found in Disney. Also, where could we ask for assistance with audio description and video?
What about Beacons? It is quite a huge area and we would like to help provide resources to them as they are in the process of construction. What is the best way to go about this? Any help is greatly appreciated.”
Well, I think that you need some sort of accessibility consultant to handle this because there’s various things that you’re trying to achieve and really what it amounts to is you want to create a blindness accessible environment in this temple.
I reckon that a good place to start could be the American Council of the Blind because ACB has done a lot with audio describers, audio description. They really are the organization that has championed that and continues to do so. So you might like to contact the national office of ACB through the website. Others may know of organizations or individuals that specialize in making environments like this accessible to blind and low vision people. So if that’s the case, feel free to share the names of any organization that might be able to help with this work. It sounds like it would be quite a significant body of work, quite a big project.
Louis Penya is riding in from Columbia and says, “Hi, Jonathan. I would like to comment on one of the podcast listener’s dental anxiety, the prevalence of high dental anxiety ranges between 3% and 10%, depending on measurement methods and sample selection. Thus, dental anxiety is a very common problem.
In fact, it could be so severe that some individuals avoid receiving adequate dental care. It is sad that many people fail to understand the great distress that many individuals experience in certain situations like going to the dentist. I think the way your listener arranged the situation with his dental clinic is very appropriate, given his high level of distress.
Finally, it is important to point out that there are very effective psychological treatments for dental anxiety called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that can alleviate the suffering of people who present this problem. There are anxiety disorder clinics in the United States, the UK and Australia that can provide treatment for dental phobia.
Let’s hear now from Tim Mehok who says, “Hi, Jonathan. I heard you mention the Chilipad. And I wanted to share my experience with this fantastic system. I am generally warm, and as a result, for years, I would periodically search for anything that would cool me while sleeping. About a dozen years ago, I stumbled upon the Chilipad.
The system is made up of a small compressor that will either heat or cool that distilled water in the chamber that is pumped through small tubes that are in the Chilipad mat. These mats come in different sizes depending on the bed size. And there is a system that will allow separate controls for each side of a queen or king size bed. One places the pad just below the fitted sheet and a thermostatically controlled temperature is maintained. The remote control has three buttons on/off and temperature up and down the units last about three or four years. And I am now on my third compressor. I set the thermostat to 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.
I have to say that the Chilipad has made the biggest difference in my sleeping comfort than anything I have used. I hope this will help anyone else that has trouble sleeping because the bed is too hot. Have the best of days.”
This is very interesting, Tim. I’m going to seek one of these out and see if I can have a play because one of the things that has helped in my epic quest for quality sleep. And I must say that I’m now sleeping better than I ever have is the weighted blanket. And I’ve talked about weighted blankets before the only trouble is while they can really help you sleep, if the weighted blanket gets too hot in the summertime, it can wake you up. So I reckon that if I have the Chilipad and the weighted blanket, I will be just really priming myself for quality sleep. So I’ll find out where I can get one of these. And I appreciate the little mini review there, Tim.
This email comes from Haya Simkin who says, “Hi, Jonathan, and audience. First of all, my best wishes to Eclipse. I used to have a guide dog. She enjoyed two years of retirement before passing away last summer due to old age and other complications, and I miss her greatly all the time. Can Eclipse work now, will she have to retire? Please give her a hug from me with lots of love.”
Thank you, Haya. That’s very kind. And Eclipse is doing really well. She’s working. She had a few days off, but she’s a spritely and lively as ever. And they’re confident that they’ve got all of the cancer. So it’s all systems go for the dog to Eclipse all dogs.
“Second of all, I am in an ineffective vocational rehab program, and I and others have been complaining to my mobility teacher about it for years. I finally wrote up my thoughts on what I think is going wrong and one idea for how to solve it that I don’t even know if that will work. In short, I think the crux of the issue is that technology has in fact taken us very far, but as you said, blind people remain unemployed or underemployed. From my experience, whether you’re trying to negotiate desired or undesired help from a sighted person or actually trying to get a job, sighted people don’t necessarily listen all the way through or take blind people at their word.
On a good day, it means that they grab you and try to take you across the street. They think you should cross on a bad day. It means that you show them your cool screen reader and your cool laptop and your cool Braille with an uppercase B display. And they are all rightfully amazed, but don’t believe that you can do the job or else they think that you are an accident waiting to happen on their watch, and don’t hire you.
There could be other factors. Maybe humans have developed to avoid people with disabilities even though blindness itself is contagious. We are all programmed to have biased brains. How can we fight the human brain with the human brain? I have one idea, utilizing FOMO, the fear of missing out. I hope that this will make employers eager to find out what they’re missing out on by not hiring various employees. I no longer believe that just advocacy and just explaining yourself at a job interview is enough because they don’t believe me.
Are there any actual studies on the issue that could supply best practices? Do you or Bonnie or any of the listeners have any ideas on best practices? I am presenting my findings to the vocational rehab program on December the 19th. Merry Christmas to you, and happy holidays to all.”
Thank you, Haya. This is something that I think about a great deal because it’s part of my day job. And I’m a chief executive of an agency that seeks to find work for disabled people, including blind people. And I think you are onto something. It is something that I talk about a lot when I’m asked to do media in my day job at the moment, certainly in New Zealand and many other countries, there is a hot labor market and some employers are having difficulty filling vacancies. And one of the things that I’ve been saying is you could be missing out on your next rockstar employee. What motivates businesses is that they know things that other businesses don’t, that they’ve got some sort of competitive edge.
And so I say to a lot of business people, you could be on the cutting edge. You could be the one that realizes in your industry that actually disabled people aren’t a health and safety risk. They aren’t less productive. They are in fact, an undertapped source of talent. And in the organization that I run, we have a disability confidence program, which helps people to get to yes. And we support them with any inquiries they have, all those, how will they… How would you questions that people have?
So I fully agree with you, the fear of missing out is a great strategy. And the fact is, that if employers overlook disabled people, they are missing out. They’re missing out on people eager to work, capable of contributing, very eager to contribute. So why would any capable, progressive business on the cutting edge want to do that? But there is a lot of educating still to do.
The good thing is though that I have seen this work. I have seen employers, who’ve given a disabled person a chance. Maybe they’ve been a bit reluctant, but they’ve been persuaded to give it a go, and they’ve been pleased with the results and the support that they were given. And then they become almost religiously fervent about it. And they tell other employers that they know, and they want to come back and hire more people.
But it is hard to stay tenacious. It’s hard to stay positive. And the only thing I say to those who are feeling a bit down in the dumps about this, because they’ve applied for so many jobs and been declined so many times, is that there’s only one thing that is certain when it comes to the job market, the job you certainly won’t get is the job that you don’t apply for. So best of luck in your search and in your dialogue with your rehab program.
This email comes from Louis Mayer He says, “Hello, Jonathan. Here is the answer to two questions, which your listeners asked in episode 160. First, how can you get Android help in Houston? There is a Houston based organization called iBUG Today, and you’ll find it at www.ibugtoday, that’s I-B-U-G-T-O-D-A-Y.com, which has call and shows and virtual training in iOS and Android.
IBUG stands for the eye Blind Users Group. There is no charge for this organization. They used to have face to face training before COVID. I do not know if they have resumed this practice. Also, there is a Houston company called RGA Tech Solutions, and you can get in touch with them by email, email@example.com. So that’s firstname.lastname@example.org, which offers paid solutions in many topics, including Android. They can train virtually or face to face.
Second, a listener asked, “How a blind person can format documents?” The following book is very useful for this. Format your word documents with JAWS and NVDA, a guide for students and professionals by David Kingsbury, assistive technology instructor, The Carroll Center for the Blind. And we’ve had David on the show before, about another of his books. It’s published in Braille, with a lowercase B, BRF, DAISY text and word, and you can find it at nationalBraillepress@nbp.org.
And Louis says, “I have listened to you for decades.” You are a glutton for punishment, Louis. And I appreciate that. He says, “I appreciate your work.” Thank you so much for that info. As promise here’s another installment from Carolyn Peat with a really thought-provoking topic for this week.
Carolyn Peat: I struck an interesting situation and I’m probably not the only one that struck this. I’ve passed an iPhone onto an older sighted member of my family, who’s never really had much experience using a smartphone before. And while I know the gestures are different when from using voiceover to using voiceover, what I didn’t realize was, for example, if we are looking for things like, “Find the send button,” or “find the recording button” on the phone, I presumed there were buttons with that written on them, but they’re not on the iPhone. And a lot of cases, they are buttons with pictures on them.
O I wondered if there was ever been a resource written for a blind or vision impaired person to help give guidance to a sighted person on how to use their iPhone. And that’s a bit of a twist, usually the other way around, but I thought, what the heck, there is no harm in asking. So I’d be interested in any responses to that.
Jonathan Mosen: Thanks, Carolyn. It’s a good question. You could do some basic things like teaching that you tap something rather than double tap and how to scroll and things of that kind. And I suppose you could cover the pretty pictures that are in the default apps like mail and calendar, and that may be all that’s necessary to get people up and running with the basics. So it could be done. I don’t know if such a resource exists.
Of course, what you get into then though, is if you want to show somebody a third party app, then you’ll have to find out what the pictures look like, if you want to say click on the thing that looks like a microphone or something like that. But you did get me thinking, I wonder if there is a way to have the iPhone describe the icon. Now I am seeing this a little bit on certain apps, when I turn image descriptions on. For example, when I’m in Uber Eats and I’m scrolling through, and it says a picture of a bowl of food, or something like that, or hamburger, or something. But I don’t know, I don’t think it does that on the buttons, where text labels have been supplied. So this is a really cool use case, where there could be a gesture, or some way of interrogating the button to find what it looks like. And I think that would be really cool to do.
Speaker 4: Mosen At Large Podcast.
Jonathan Mosen: More on audio description now, and the fact that when you choose audio description, often the Dolby Atmos goes away. And I was having a good rant about this a couple of weeks ago in the context of The Beatles Get Back documentary. Rod Caner’s writing in, and he says, hi, Jonathan, how about Disney+ on your Apple TV, HDMI into your Sonos. At the same time Disney+ on your Samsung television in stereo with AD. Would that work? He says, I suppose it would be fun to play with, Rod. The first reaction I have though, was why should I? I mean, there’s no technical reason why we shouldn’t be getting the audio description alongside Adobe Atmos track. It’s second class treatment to be treated the way that we are. And there’s no good reason for it. And I think we should campaign to get it fixed. Apple has proven that it’s absolutely possible, and they consistently get it right.
The Disney+ app does have a mode where you can share the watching experience. Because getting all of this in sync would be the challenge. But I guess you could do that through this party mode or whatever they choose to call it. But we should revisit something that has come up on this show before. Which is, wouldn’t it be good for those times when you are watching an audio described movie with the family, for some sort of synchronization option to be offered, where all you got on your iPhone was the audio description? So you don’t get program, you don’t get the content of the movie, or the TV show, whatever you’re watching. You only get the audio description? And then on the main screen. So that could be your TV through Apple TV or with some of the built in apps that are now in smart TV. You just get the movie without audio description.
And I think when this last came up, somebody had found that actually you can do that to some extent with this Disney+ sharing mode. But you do also get the soundtrack of the movie. And I don’t want that. I mean, what I really want is to be able to enjoy the movie in Dolby Atmos. But just have the audio description coming from the iPhone. That will be good for those who don’t need the audio description. And obviously it would be an option. You wouldn’t want this in every case. And if you’re a blind couple and there’s no one else around who needs the audio description, then why not crank it up and put it through the main thing? But there are times when I think that use case would be good.
Lena was inspired to write this after Mosen At Large, episode 160. She says, hi, Jonathan, thanks for another engaging and informative show. Marisa asked, if requesting large print is a reasonable accommodation? Yes, it is. The United States Department of Justice operates a phone line, where folks can get information about the ADA, Americans With Disabilities Act. For hearing folks the phone number is 8005140301. That number again, 8005140301. And for TTY users, the number is 8005140383.
The website, which is accessible and filled with comprehensive information, is www.ada.gov. So that’s nice and simple, www.ada.gov. I applaud Randy for having the courage to seek the accommodation he needs. By sharing his experience he may help others. Like blindness autism is gravely misunderstood. Would you please tell the podcast listeners where to find Louis The Blind Christmas Elf? I bet I’m not the only one who didn’t have it on my bookshelf. It’s a clever and encouraging story and not just for kids. If a listener can point me to a Spanish translation of it, I would be grateful. Thanks Randy, we’ll try and play it on next week’s final episode before Christmas. But you can also find the audio at mosen.org/louis. That’s moen.org/L-O-U-I-S.
Finally, another huge thank you for the Chromebook tutorials says, Lena. I now have helped five people get connected to friends and family, but I couldn’t have done it without your tutorials. Technology only works for me when there are fine tutorials or well written help files at hand. I’m so glad they helped Lena. And thank you very much for the email. Over the year. We’ve had many iOS related contributions, and here’s one from Brian Gaff. Who’s says I’m having some issues with recent updates of apps and other things on iOS. The new version of Voice Dream Scanner seems much harder to use instead of it almost being automatic all the time. You are trying to line it up. It keeps saying button, button, button, button. And I don’t hear the nice tone anymore. I wish I’d not updated it.
I can’t reproduce this, Brian. For me, the tone is there and it’s as accessible as ever. And I’m wondering whether you may have inadvertently turned screen recognition on. I wonder whether in fact, screen recognition is the common denominator for a number of these issues that we are about to go through. It can be a very powerful tool, but it can also mess up the user interface of a perfectly accessible app if it’s been turned on. Then says Brian, WhatsApp, I installed it from the latest update, but could not figure out how to put my phone number in. Every number I typed repeated as a completely different number or symbol. I had to get a sighted person to do it, which worked. It seemed the characters it read are not those you are typing again. Again, I think this could be screen recognition.
Also, is there a way for a new bee of WhatsApp to make it behave like a text service more? I never find a delete, and there does seem to be a lot of clutter, which does very little. There is archive, but a swipe up and down choice seems to be lacking. Well, Brian, on my WhatsApp, when I find a conversation thread, I can indeed swipe up and down and there is a series of actions available there, including archive, pin and more. And when you go into the more options, then you will find a delete button there. So it takes a couple of steps. But it would take something extraordinary for me to want to delete anything in WhatsApp, anyway. Normally you just leave it there in the messages app or the WhatsApp app, because they’re not taking up too much space. But if you really want to delete one, then that’s how you do it. If you’re not seeing that menu, then again I’d suggest that screen recognition may be the culprit.
Next says Brian. We have the incredible vanishing alert sounds in iOS. I get the alert sounds set and all of that, a few days later on, they either get turned down to zero or get turned off, WhatsApp texts and emails mostly. This never used to happen at all. And I’ve turned off the phone and turned it on again many times, with no change. It’s a 10 R which in most other ways seems fine, except that you need to give it longer, if you use Siri via voice before it is actually listening. And will suddenly blab the time over what you say, and moan about not having an app or some other, not so witty comment. I’ve had to turn off all the graphics descriptions as this made stuff worse, most of the time.
David: Hi Jonathan. I decided to treat myself this Christmas to get a new iPhone 13 Pro, and an Apple watch Series 7 cellular. I’ve been need to go out for a walk and calibrate the watch and stuff. I may now do that during the lunch break and the cricket. About the WeWALK smart cane, I actually got it for Christmas last year, as a surprise Christmas present from some friends. And yeah, I’m interested in the Moovit partnership. Because I do have some places in Moovit and some in WeWALK. So I think that should be cool if we could use the places in WeWALK and Moovit.
So you link your WeWALK account to Moovit. And all the places that you have in WeWALK should be in Moovit. And yeah, the vibrations, how it detects obstacles. When I first got it, I was trying to use the speaker, but it’s not loud enough. So I had to buy a pair of Earpods. I bought the wired earphones, because I found that there was latency from using wireless once. Especially when using voiceover on the iPhone. That can be cool if we could have WeWALK on the Apple watch now they’ve put the Moovit partnership, there could be partial support for WeWALK on the Apple watch, or you could use Moovit the Apple watch too, and have WeWALK, give you the directions.
Jonathan Mosen: Thank you very much, David. I’m not going to make too much comment on my own WeWALK experience at this stage. Because I haven’t used it enough, I don’t think, to make an informed comment. Except to say two things, I have now written twice to WeWALK; once through the app, and once in reply to an email. And not had a reply back to specific questions. So that is starting to concern me that as a new customer, they’re not answering me. It’s not a technical issue, where I’ve got a problem with the cane or anything like that. But I did have a couple of questions, and it just makes me a bit nervous.
So hopefully, I will get a reply to those emails in due course. The other thing I would be interested in, is that in my playing with the app, it seems that you can set it up to give you walking directions, and public transport. It’s giving good information actually, about the train system here and the bus system. And you can also tell it that you’re traveling with an Uber or a Lyft. And we don’t have Lyft in New Zealand. But what I haven’t found a way to do, is tell it that I’m in a private vehicle with a sighted driver. So I don’t seem to be able to get turn by turn directions, when I’m being driven somewhere. If I’m overlooking that, I’d be really interested in hearing how you do that.
James Dean: Hello, Jonathan. This is James Dean. I am a little bit behind in the podcast right now. I’m currently almost at the end of episode 151. And I wanted to mention a issue that I had. And I don’t really have a fix for it. I guess mostly it’s to illustrate that as someone who depends exclusively on a screen reader, if you can have multiple platforms at your disposal, it sometimes comes in handy. And you had talked about 1Password integration with iOS and Android, so I wanted to speak on that too. I have an iPhone 8, which when the Se 3 comes out, I’m getting a new or I’m getting that one. And when the Pixel 5a came out I got it, because the Pixel 6 doesn’t come with a charging block, and I wanted a charging block. So I got that. I was trying to attach my bank account to Google Pay in iOS, and I have 1Password, and I have my bank login information in it.
I went to log in, Google Pay uses something, at least here in the US, probably elsewhere called Plat to integrate with banks. And so it brought up this Plat page inside of the G Pay app. The old app was called Google Pay. The new app is now called G Pay. They made a new app for both iOS and Android, changed the logo and everything. Very strange Google, but they’re Google. So they’re going to do what they want to do. Anyway, the page came up, I put in my information from 1Password. I hit the username field and it had the passwords button. I was able to authenticate with Touch ID, and I couldn’t find the login for the site. Of course, because it was a different site. But I knew what it wanted, so I searched the vault and found it, and entered it.
I got it to send me a verification code once. But it would never pop up the thing that allowed me to enter the code on iOS. And I tried this several times. And I was like, “Well, why don’t we switch to the Android since it’s the native app, let’s see how this works.” Well, that actually worked. However, it took me a lot longer, because 1Password did not come up with that. I actually copied it to the clipboard on my computer, and used the keyboard to scroll through the password, and enter it on the phone. Rather than fiddling with going back and forth, and copying and pasting. I have tried Android a lot over the years like a lot of other blind people, used an iPhone since the iPhone 4. I’m liking multi finger gestures. They seem to work pretty well.
But this 1Password integration is definitely a problem. And copying and pasting is not super intuitive. Which is I guess a good point that the guy in your last episode… I’m sorry, I’ve listened to so many episodes, and I don’t want to say people’s wrong names. But he was saying that commentary has good copy and paste functions. And so that might be a reason to use it. 1Password integration on iOS and PC, in my experience is great. But on Android there’s a lot of places where it won’t come up. So maybe we need to be writing to 1Password. But just wanted to let you know that I’ve had this experience too.
Jonathan Mosen: Thank you James. Yes, it’s a shame. Isn’t it? Because 1Password is such a fantastic app on iOS and windows. I presume on Mac as well. I haven’t heard anybody complaining about 1Password on the Mac, and I think that’s where the app got started. I wonder if there is another password manager that works equally well on iOS, Android, Mac OS, and windows.
Speaker 3: Like the show? Then why not like it on Facebook too? Get upcoming show announcements, useful links, and a bit of conversation. Head on over now to facebook.com/mosenatlarge. That’s facebook.com/M-O-S-E-Natlarge, to stay connected between episodes.
Jonathan Mosen: Beth says, Hey Jonathan, I read about this new smoking law coming to New Zealand. And I’m confused as to how this will be accomplished. Do you have any ideas? I’m interested in international stuff, so inquiring minds want to know. Thanks Beth, it’s very straightforward. From 2025 onwards, New Zealand is phasing out cigarette smoking. That will start by ensuring that anybody born from 2008 onwards, won’t be able to purchase cigarettes. So you’ll need ID to be able to purchase cigarettes, and gradually they will be phased out over a period of time.
It’s a great outcome. I’m thrilled about this. I remember starting work in radio, in the early 1990s. And in those days, newsrooms and office premises generally, were full of smoke. I objected very strongly to other people’s choices putting my health in danger. Because we all know that not only is nicotine highly addictive and deadly, but also second hand smoke is a really big issue for those of us who used to have to breathe it in.
So for many years now, gosh! A couple of decades possibly. It hasn’t been legal to smoke inside. That’s basically what it comes down to. No smoking in restaurants or bars, no smoking in workplaces. You have to go outside if you want to do that. And this is the natural next step, to just eliminate it from New Zealand completely. Because with smoking, it’s not a matter of overindulging causing harm. It’s a matter of just using it as directed, if you will, causes you harm. And it contributes to the mortality of over 50% of people who start smoking. We also know that many people who start smoking wish they never had.
We delivered a major blow to the tobacco companies, not just with that legislation that banned smoking in so many places already. But also they can’t advertise in sporting events. They can’t advertise on radio and TV and in other places. So it’s been a gradual thing, and now we’re at the next step. So the fact that it’s being phased in, means that it recognizes that it is highly addictive, and it’s pretty difficult for some people who are smoking already to quit. But that’s where we are heading. And of course there are government sponsored programs to help people quit.
All these initiatives are working. There’s been a dramatic decrease in the number of new Zealanders who smoke. It’s now down to 11%. And unfortunately Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, and Pacifica people from Pacific island countries are disproportionately represented in the population of those who do smoke. Mortality of this group is a real concern. And so this is a very, very positive move. This enjoys very widespread support. I think there’s one of the smaller political parties that has opposed this, but the two major parties in New Zealand there’s cross party consensus on this. So I anticipate there will be very little opposition, as this sales through the parliament next year.
Here’s Kelby Carlson, who says hi Jonathan, since I asked about this some time ago, and since the question came up. I wanted to let you know that there is a Main Menu Legacy Podcast out there. But they’ve only posted the first episode of Main Menu. It’s been like that for months. So it doesn’t look like more episodes are coming. I, like the other listener, really would love to listen to these. And don’t understand why ACB Radio hasn’t made them available, considering many of their old shows can still be downloaded.
AdrianTamasan: Hi, Jonathan, Adrian Tamasan here from Bournemouth, UK. I think it’s great to have new devices. I have a brand new Apple things. In November and December, I’ve purchased all sorts of things from the Apple range. So I’ve got Airpods 3, I’ve got new Apple watch Series 7, iPhone 13 Pro. And now for a few days, I’ve got a MacBook Pro 2021. So all this stuff, are the most important stuff from the Apple side. It is brand new in my case now. Which I’m very happy, all about. The M1 pro chip in this machine, it is great. The work which I make in the podcasting field also, it is way better, way easier to do it in my Mac computer, at least for me. And I was just amazed, few minutes ago I’ve saved a audio file, 87 minutes in length. Which in the old machine was taking five or six minutes usually. And this machine was taking five or six seconds to be saved. It’s amazing.
When it’s about the dedicated blind devices versus regular devices accessible for blind, I would say I’m going more on the regular accessible devices. Thinking of my devices, which I’ve got around or I use in my daily activity. I think accepting the Braille display is now a specialized device, which I use at the moment. In the past I used a pair of glasses for detecting obstacles from Ambutech, some years ago. And I use a Trekker breeze again a few years ago. It’s not in use any longer. And for me, at least I’m more inclined to be on the mainstream products side. Which are accessible than on the designs, especially for blind devices. I think we’ve got a pretty hard time to learn to use the mainstream devices in a blind manner.
Also in the mainstream devices, we have the chance to receive support from a larger area. Because, for example, for mainstream, you have many, many units on the main street. Where to go for repair, for example, or we can receive support from the manufacturers as well. Which is very possible to have way more staff to take support request, than a specialized company have. And altogether, I think it is more benefit in having a mainstream device in place. If it’s no other option only, I’ll go to the made for blind products, if you wish. For example, I know people are loving a lot the Victor Stream Reader. For me, it is okay. I’m not dependent on buttons. For me, entire screens are fine. So I can use iPad, or my iPhone, or any other device. I can use it for media consumption quite well.
Thinking to the mainstream devices, I’ve got a Bose frame. Which is a mainstream device. I’ve got a Olympus recorder, which again, it is a mainstream device but with accessibility features built in. As Mac, I use windows with screen readers, of course. I have some apps, the other side, I use some apps which are made accessible, and possible to be a whole separate discussion about apps designed for blind instead of physical products, if you wish, will be a very interesting discussion. And I use a regular white cane, but because I’m a techy gig I like also to try WeWALK myself. So I can’t wait anymore to see your opinion about this product.
Especially because around the community where I’m not present, there are few hundreds of people who received such a cane through a funded program. So just this week we had a great conversation of a WhatsApp group about WeWALK. And opinions are quite different in some situations. Some people are considering useful. Some other people have quite a hard time to get to be used with these kind of devices. Also people who are using the device, they already noticed the strength and the weaks of this device.
Jonathan Mosen: Good to hear from you, Adrian. And in terms of switching from windows to Mac, I would have no hesitation in doing that if audio production was the only thing I was doing, for sure. Reaper on the Mac seems to be in quite good shape. And with those stats that you talk about, the massive decrease, the magnitudinal decrease in save times. And I’ve heard this from others as well. I think, if audio production was my primary thing, I would have a Mac in a heartbeat if I wasn’t producing a lot of documents.
And also the online broadcasting, thing’s a bit of an issue. Because Station Playlist is such an excellent suite, and they don’t have a native Mac OS voice track utility. So that’s a bit of an issue for me. But just audio production in general, things like producing this podcast. I would’ve no hesitation in producing Mosen At Large on the Mac. And in fact, Mac audio is in very good shape. It’s much less finicky than windows. And thanks also for sharing your views on this interesting topic of mainstream versus blindness tech.
Mike Taylor: Jonathan, It’s Mike Taylor calling from Florida. And I’d like to chime in on your, should you use a blind device if there’s an app available? I think you’re generalizing with a personal point of view. As it’s been pointed out on this program, many times most blind people are over 65. You’re not. Most blind people are unemployed. You’re not. What you are is the most productive person of any sort, that anybody can imagine. If anything happened to Jonathan Mosen, and they wanted to go on with your activities. It would take at least four people. And one of those would have to be Heidi Taylor. They didn’t have her, it’d probably take eight people to do what you do. All the book publications, all the podcasts, the job… you just on and on and on. I don’t know. They must have 40 hours in a day in New Zealand for you to do all that you do. You really are incredible. You’re amazing.
But the number of competent iPhone users, I think is probably much smaller than you know. You’ve worked with a lot more people than I have. But I struggle with my iPhone, and I love my Victor reader. I get up with it and go to bed with it. I’m listening to your podcast. I’m listening to books on it. I’m listening to football games. I’m listening to television, not television, but radio programs. All kinds of things. There’s a awful lot available there. And I just love these little devices. Something happens to my Victor Reader Stream or my Victor Trekker, I go through withdrawal like you would with your iPhone, if something happens dead.
The iPhone’s probably the most powerful tool that anybody’s ever held in their hands, if you know how to use it. Some of us, we can’t remember the names of the apps, that do whatever it is we would like to do. We struggle with that part. You don’t. You’re on top of your game and I think that’s wonderful. I think it’s great. I think it’s a match Made in heaven and I happy for you. But I think this bugga boo, you’ve got with the Victor Reader Stream, you need to step back and say, “Hey, if that’s your thing, that’s what you want to spend your money on. Go for it.” All right, love your program. Thanks a lot.
Jonathan Mosen: Mike, I’m tempted to award that message, message of the year for Mosen At Large, because at typifies everything that I’ve been trying to achieve with this podcast. Where people can have a respectful difference of opinion, without being disagreeable. So first thank you for your very generous comments. I appreciate that. The second thing I would say, is that I don’t think we’re as far apart on this subject, as you might think we are. I’m not sure how regularly you check into the podcast. But you may have heard a few months ago, we had quite a lively discussion about the term blind ghetto products. And I was most vociferous, most vociferous I was. In expressing my opinion that using pejorative terms like blind ghetto products, or criticizing people for their technology choices is quite unhelpful and quite unnecessary.
You’re right of course, the majority of blind people are 65 or older, and they do go blind later in life. And there’s a lot of adjustment going on at that time. There’s just so much to cope with. And many people feel some degree of depression, because of the aging process, and they see blindness as the last straw. It is a very big deal. And for me, anything that can help someone access information is great. Blindness fundamentally is an information disability. It prevents us from accessing information of all kinds. Whether that be information about what’s around us, or information about what’s on the printed page, or information about what is on the screen. We are deprived of information unless we take some sort of remedial steps to get at that information. However someone gets that, I celebrate it. And that’s why I’ve always been very careful not to criticize people for their choice of tech, because who am I to criticize what people spend their money on?
The discussion that we’ve been having in this context, was sparked by Debee. Who is a very proficient iPhone user. I know this, she trains people in it. She’s really capable. And so that was the Genesis of this particular discussion. If you are a competent iPhone user, do you need another device when the device you have, and that you are capable of using can do all the things. So if you’re really good at using your iPhone, my question really is why would you have another device with you that you could potentially lose, and fail to charge, and all those things when your iPhone can do those things?
Because you are also right when you say that most blind people are unemployed. And that means that a lot of blind people don’t have a lot of disposable income. So we should be asking the question, if you’re a competent iPhone user, is it really essential to spend money that’s very difficult to find on another device, when that one device that you are capable of using could do the job? In other words, I would suggest that having a multiplicity of devices could actually be false economy. And that is a big deal, and it is worth contemplating for blind people who are unemployed. Now, if someone struggles to use their iPhone, we’ve got some different questions. First of all, is there any training that could help with that? Are we dropping the ball as a community on good quality training? Or is it just that some people, perhaps due to issues of spatial perception, really do struggle with this device? And I think you pose a very fair question, how many competent iPhone users are there really? How many people are tantalized by this promise of all this accessible technology, all these apps that can do things, but want to throw the thing out the window all the time. Now we all have that issue with a new device for a short time. But if you’ve been trying your best for six months, 12 months or more, and you can’t get it, that is very frustrating.
And I promise you that I would be the last person to pass judgment on that because I have trained a lot of people in the use of the iPhone over the years. And I can’t actually work out what the common denominator is between when somebody really thrives with this device, with any touchscreen device, and people who struggle with it. I have seen people who never got on well in Windows or Mac OS or any of that, and they get an iPhone, and suddenly it’s like their world has opened up. There is something about the touchscreen paradigm that just makes sense to them in a way that a myriad of keyboard commands on the PC or the Mac never did. So it does work that way as well.
But I promise you that, while I’m happy to have a debate about whether a competent smartphone user needs another device, that’s really my discussion point here, I am not going to criticize people for the choice of technology that they make, that connects them to the world in the way that your stream connects you to the world. And in a way that your iPhone for you personally clearly does not, because it’s just not something that you are finding intuitive. And that’s what I’ve always said. As long as there’s a need for these products, and the market will determine that, then long may they continue and thrive and be developed. So thanks again for your message. It really did put a smile on my face because it does go to show that even in 2021, people can have a difference of perspective without personally abusing one another. Good for you. Have a very Merry Christmas.
Rebecca Skipper says, “I feel that users should have as many options as possible when it comes to assistive technology. While Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Apple should be commended for creating mainstream products that are accessible, software bugs can creep in, making apps inaccessible. This is why I still use the Victor Reader Stream. The interface for BARD and Audible books is consistent. And I do not have to think about screen layout. However, my iPhone can hold more content and downloads are considerably faster. So I’ll consider trying these iOS options. I enjoy listening to Audible books on my Echo Dot. And I’ll give up the stream if NLS ever decides to create an echo skill for audiobooks.”
Thanks, Rebecca. And for those who don’t know, Bookshare now does have a Soup Drinker skill. So you can enable that. There’s quite a lot of information on the Bookshare site about how to get that up and running. It’s a bit of a process to authenticate with your Bookshare account. And that’s understandable. But once that’s done, it’s a pretty simple process to read Bookshare books on your Soup Drinker. You will have to add them to a particular reading list. So you’ll need another device, be it desktop, laptop, or smartphone to add books to that list.
Holger is writing in. And he says, “Hi Jonathan. Bella and I are still listening to the podcast on Saturday.” And Bella, for those who don’t know, is Holger’s cat. “Great show,” he says, “regarding using the iPhone for everyday things instead of disability equipment, I go with the iPhone. And soon, with an iPad and Apple smart keyboard. Music, email, audiobooks, and so on, I use the iPhone. And soon, my new iPad.” “Also,” he continues, “having to give a description in a meeting as long as it is a choice and not a policy, I am for it. I was never interested in knowing what my coworkers were wearing in meetings. My social worker meeting tended to last one hour. And having people describe themselves, would’ve taken more time. I was able to do my work without having people to describe themselves for 20 years.
Regarding bugs, using the iPhone 12 Pro and iOS 15.2. When muting the phone, VoiceOver reads notifications. Is this a bug? Also, regarding Focus, I created a focus for BARD Mobile, Audible and music. When I open one of them, Focus turns on. But when screen lock is off, VoiceOver reads notifications. Happy holidays from me and Bella the cat.” Thank you very much, Holga. We can see if anybody comments on those issues that you’re seeing in the new year. I tend to just leave my screen unlocked pretty much all the time. And for me, the reading focus that I’ve set up does seem to be doing very well.
Speaker 7: Mosen At Large Podcast.
Jonathan Mosen: In episode 161, we heard from Luke, who said he had to withdraw from tech support because of the lack of accessible remote access solutions. So these are the solutions that allow you to get into a user’s computer when you are trying to assist them. When they might call a tech support call center, and that call center is then using some sort of tool to assist the customer.
Christopher Wright says, “The topic of remote control has interested me for a long time. Unfortunately, the best we have right now consists of IDP with a screen reader running on the other end that sends the audio back to the controller, TeamViewer, which is easier for the average person to install or screen reader specific tools like Nvidia Remote or JAWS Tandem. Of all these, I prefer Remote Desktop, even though it’s peer-to-peer and requires a little more work to get working. As far as I can tell, tools on other platforms like Mac OS and Linux aren’t options for us. Apple should promote accessible control of Macs using VoiceOver, but they don’t just like they’re happy to let VoiceOver stagnate.
I would’ve thought Microsoft would take the time to make their remote tools more accessible or, better yet, add remote capabilities to narrator. Once Windows 8 goes bye-bye in 2023, everyone should hopefully be running 10 or 11, which will make things much easier. As a blind IT technician, imagine telling someone to fire up the Narrator and click on a button to initiate a remote solution, or just making Microsoft Quick Assist or Remote Assistant natively accessible with Narrator. Maybe that will happen one day. But my attempts to contact Microsoft about this have resulted in the generic, canned, thank you for the feedback responses. Microsoft should be doing much more to make their remote tools and other enterprise technologies such as Hyper-V and Windows Server more accessible. I’m a major advocate for this because I can’t find many people to discuss this with who would care or understand. Why isn’t the NFB all over this? Are they seriously more interested in guide dogs than increasing employment opportunities for blind people? I would’ve thought the whole remote work era would prompt them to do something, but I haven’t heard anything notable.”
Christopher, I agree with you that this is an absolutely critical topic. The lack of good remote tech support solutions is stopping many blind people who could do a really good job in this field from doing that job. And that is a serious issue. You might like to contact the NFB in computer science, I believe that is still the name of their division, and find out if they have been doing any advocacy on this. And it may be something that I’ll follow up in the new year and see if we can get anyone from Microsoft to comment on this, because it may just be that it hasn’t got on the radar of the right people. I agree with you, as well, that remote desktop with JAWS is a great solution. And I use it regularly to maintain the mushroom pot machine for Mushroom FM. And over the summer, when I’m away, I’ll be doing that quite a lot. With my new thinking pad 5g machine, I’ll be able to just get in there and control the computer from anywhere.
Petra is emailing in and says, “Episode 161 was very thought-provoking for me. About blind people with car payments, I have a car. When my sighted husband passed away, I thought about giving it to one of the kids or selling it. I’m so glad I didn’t. There are many times when it is more convenient to take my car than the car of a sighted family member or friend. My daughter has a truck and a suburban, both gas guzzlers. So my car is less expensive to drive. If parking is limited, my car is smaller. Last winter, my bank debit card was hacked.” Oh, gosh. “And the bank actually advised me to use a credit card rather than the debit card. It’s easier to dispute a charge on your credit card. And the money doesn’t disappear from your bank account immediately.”
Just pausing to say, I have a friend who had exactly this problem and was given the same advice by the bank. Use a credit card, pay the whole thing off every month, if you can. Petra continues, “Now I use my credit cards. But like you, pay them off completely every month. That also gives me an excellent credit score. I certainly agree with you about Aira. They are a wonderful service and well worth paying for. I think the free five-minute offer might have been a loss lead attempt, showing people how the service works and how valuable it is. Then they would decide to pay for a subscription. I too want them to succeed and be around for a very long time. I’m looking forward to hearing about your experience with the WeWalk cane. I’ll miss you while you are on vacation.” Oh, that’s nice. “But I’ll be busy also. At least with a podcast, I can catch up with any I’ve missed. Enjoy your Turducken, and have a very Merry Christmas with Bonnie and your family. My family and I will be enjoying ours.”
Thank you, Petra. Merry Christmas to you as well. And thank you for your contributions over the year. This is a very good point that Petra makes. There are now 162 episodes in the Mosen At Large archives, if you are looking for things to listen to. And you haven’t heard all 162. You’ve got a lot of things to choose from. You could even go back into The Blind Side podcast archives, which I still have up on the web as well. The best way to do this is actually to subscribe to either podcast in your podcast player of choice. Just search for them. You’ll find them. You can then subscribe. You can also go to the mosen.org website.
Angus: Merry Christmas, Eclipse, Bonnie, Jonathan and Jonathan’s family. Have an absolutely excellent Christmas. And have an excellent new year. I hope you guys have all the best of this holiday season, and for rest of the year. Going back to the discussion about description of your appearance, it seems my limited search of history. It seems that everything after Norma Jean or Marilyn Monroe, and we were taught, be afraid of our bodies. Don’t look at your bodies. Just cover it up. Just be afraid. Be afraid. Be afraid. Don’t don’t tell anybody about your body or what you’re wearing or anything like that. And it’s really put us ‘people who cannot see that well’ at a major disadvantage.
All these people. So anybody with sight can walk into the room and get all sorts of information. We have to get it from listening and all sorts of other techniques. And when you’re not trained to do it, it’s quite difficult to develop that skillset, from what I understand. For example, let’s take the audio description of the alphabet on the 18th October. The opening started with the description, “A blonde woman in a green dress, playing a violin.”
So automatically, a person with sight could see that the blonde woman had short length hair or very long hair, and how long it is down the back. And then what color green dress it is. And then if it’s a short sleeve dress, sleeveless dress, quarter sleeve, full sleeves, if the dress is above knee, below knee, full length. It’s just like, there’s a whole bunch of standards that have to be developed here. And it’s just like, in my view, from looking at a very limited portion in history, we have to get back to actually being comfortable with our bodies and comfortable with what we wear, and [inaudible 01:17:01] end up so afraid like we have been taught.
Jonathan Mosen: This email comes from Theresa Cochran who says, “Hi Jonathan, I appreciate your interview with Cameron Algie. Every time vision loss was mentioned, I substituted hearing loss in my own mind and found many parallel experiences. I’ve been blind all my life and have never been comfortable talking about vision loss as it applied to my situation, because I have no experience of vision loss. On the other hand, I do use the term hearing loss in regards to my own experience with hearing impairment over the last several years. I now feel that I have a better understanding of what folks with vision loss are going through in terms of grief process, while losing a sensory ability.
When you were discussing choosing different ways of doing things, I was reminded that I’d just recently purchased a vibrating alarm clock. While I can still hear my iPhone alarm in most cases, I feel a very freeing sense of confidence in myself when I realize that with the vibrating alarm, hearing and anxiety over hearing loss is no longer a factor in my morning wake up routine. I have that sense of hope you spoke of with Cameron Algie. Thanks for this, and for relating your experiences with dual sensory disabilities. Okay. Deep breath. In my case, deaf blindness. Have a great Christmas vacation.”
Thank you very much Theresa. And the same to you. Yes, I think I would get one of those vibrating things, except that I’ve now got my Apple Watch. And I charge my apple watch when all my rings are closed for the day so that I can wear it when I’m sleeping. And the alarm on that does wake me up. It kind of taps me on the wrist and carries on. And that does wake me up. And I’ve never missed an alarm with the Apple Watch. Knocking on the wood. So hopefully that will continue.
Stan Luttrell: Greetings, Jonathan. This is Stan Luttrell in Medford, Oregon. And I thoroughly enjoyed your interview with the gentleman that wrote, I Can See Clearly Now. I hope I don’t break out in song. I’m telling myself not to do that. And he really said some things that I can really identify with, because I think that is quite true, that there are a lot of variables that go into whether someone is even able to deal with a loss like vision loss or any other kind of loss.
I can relate because my dad had a stroke in 1986. And he already had some terrible things he had to adjust to. At five years old, he was confined to an orphanage, and he was selected. His dad had, I think it was, five kids. And he was selected to go into an orphanage. His mother died when he was seven years old. I misspoke earlier. He was seven years old. And his dad, he had too many kids. So his dad felt that he couldn’t handle all of them. And add to that, he lost his daughter at the age of 13, when she died as a result of having an epileptic seizure in her sleep.
You add to that, well, he had a child who was blinded because, well, me, was blinded because of what they used to call RLF. And now they call it ROP. And I’m not even going to try to say that one. The nearest one I could say is retinopathy of prematurity. I’m not even going to say the first one, because that would mess my tongue. And I think when he had the stroke, he got tired. And I remember some of the people, therapists would get on my mom’s case because she didn’t work with him more. Well, it wasn’t the fact that she didn’t work with him. She did everything she could. But you can only work with someone when they want to do the work. And he got to a point in his life where he couldn’t do the things that he felt as though he couldn’t do. He was an avid gardener. He didn’t feel he could do that. Now he could supervise her gardening because we had like 120 rose bushes in our backyard. So he was able to do that. But it’s just one of those things.
And I don’t care how much book learning people have, there are things other than book learning. And I hope people remember it because I think people think things that aren’t always in everyone’s will house.
Speaker 6: Be the first to know what’s coming in the next episode of Mosen At Large. Opt into the Mosen media list and receive a brief email on what’s coming so you can get your contribution in ahead of the show. You can stop receiving emails anytime. To join, send a blank email to email@example.com. That’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay in the know with Mosen At Large.
Jonathan Mosen: Some comments on the Soup Drinker app situation. Kathy Blackburn, right? “So I called Amazon Accessibility last Friday regarding the introducing favorites problem with the Soup Drinker app. There is a got it button near the bottom of the screen that VoiceOver doesn’t recognize. To activate it, turn VoiceOver off and then double tap near the bottom of the screen. I asked the tech support rep to pass this problem on to the appropriate team.”
Peggy Kern: Whoa, hello, this is Peggy Kern. And I was very glad to discover that I wasn’t the only one who was having problems with the Amazon [inaudible 01:23:48] app on the iPhone. One of the podcast listeners shared her experiences with the app. And I was having the same experience last week, where I would click on devices. I was trying to do something, check on one of my devices or do something with it. And I clicked on devices and got this screen saying favorites. And it just seemed to be a picture. And I looked everywhere trying to find a way to go forward or back or anything. And tried the two fingers scrub. And nothing happened. I was just stuck. And tried to close the app, take it out of the app switcher, try it again. Same results.
And finally, Dan came along. And I had him look at the screen and he said there was a, got it button down at the bottom of the screen. Couldn’t find it with VoiceOver. So it was obviously there in a way that VoiceOver didn’t recognize. So I handed my phone to Dan and he tried to double tap on it, and couldn’t get it to do anything. I had to turn VoiceOver off. And then he had to tap on the button. And then we turned VoiceOver back on so that I could finish using the app and do what I needed to do.
Finally today I got around and looking to see if I could find a way to contact the developer, but there is really no way to contact the developer that I could see. It’s just Amazon LLC or some such thing. So I just now wrote to email@example.com, describing my situation and asking them to please make sure that buttons work with VoiceOver in the future. And I’m trusting that the other person who had this issue will do the same. And maybe if we get enough of us sharing what happened, they will be extra careful about making the buttons accessible.
Jonathan Mosen: Writing in his Freedom Scientific capacity, this email comes from Matt Aiter, and he says, “Hi, Jonathan. I wanted to respond to the letter you shared in episode 161 from Dan, and his experience with Freedom scientific technical support. I am the vice president of software and corporate business development. As the VP of software, I am responsible for the technical support department. One of our driving forces currently is customer experience and quality. We continuously strive to offer customers an experience that leaves them feeling valued and appreciated because, as all technology companies know, without users, we wouldn’t exist. To that end. Our support leadership team is always desiring of customer feedback. And users can email them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s email@example.com.
Dan’s experience is, we hope, a one off, as we move more into a customer success model of technical support. We define customer success as educating and empowering users to fully own their product, not just by purchasing it, but by learning the ins and outs of it. To Dan’s point, there may be questions that are asked of support that are outside of support’s purview. And we would encourage the user to a resource that would educate and train them, which fulfills our goal of empowering. Any customer can request to have their call escalated if they don’t feel they are receiving the support they need. I would welcome a call or email from Dan if he would like to speak on his concerns.”
Thanks for writing in, Matt. I know that people from a wide range of tech companies listen to the podcast, and they are all welcome to respond to any issue that listeners raise or that I raise. And we will make sure we give people the right of reply. So I appreciate you taking the time to respond with that message.
Some comments coming into my little mini review of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which I am still very much enjoying. Pete Talkington writes, “Hi, Jonathan. Thank you for all you do with the excellent Mosen At Large Podcast.” Thank you, Pete. I appreciate that. “Just wanted to drop you a quick line about your new ThinkPad X1, specifically about the battery and how to extend its life to many years. Phone and laptop batteries tend to degrade over time. And after a couple of years, they don’t last long at all even when they’ve been fully charged. The degrading effect can be minimized, almost eliminated, by not charging the battery up to the full 100% or running it down to 0%.
Laptop batteries particularly suffer when the charger is continually connected, like at a desk. Lenovo has an application installed on their laptops called Lenovo Vantage. In the section of the app relating to the battery, you can set a maximum charge level, also a minimum charge level. So if you are working at your desk for a few days, you can set these to, say 65% maximum and 60% minimum, and leave the laptop charger connected continually. Keeping the laptop charged at an optimal level, that will extend its life indefinitely. Other laptop manufacturers have similar functionality in their laptop apps. Some Android phones have this, and also iPhones, even though iPhones are rubbish. Best wishes to all at Mosen towers for Christmas and 2022. Kind regards, Pete Talkington.”
Thank you very much, Pete. And the very same to you. Yes, it is good to see laptop manufacturers and smartphone manufacturers helping us to make the most of our batteries. And the advice you give is very good because there are a lot of people who haven’t kept up with the way that battery technology has evolved. So if you’re of a certain age, you may have learned that every so often, it’s good to get your battery down all the way to 0% and charge it all the way to avoid the memory effect. Now that was old nickel-cadmium battery technology. And that doesn’t apply anymore. And as you rightly say, if you keep running your battery all the way down and then charging it all the way up and then leaving it charged for ages, you are going to shorten your battery life.
So I have had a play with the provata jab that is on my ThinkPad. And of course, I also use the optimized battery feature on my iPhone to try and extend this. But I’ve also got a contingency. When I purchased this, one of the options you could add was a battery replacement that you could exercise at any time. So I’ve got that ready to go for when the battery does start to show some age. But I want to keep it in pristine condition for as long as possible.
Bart Simons writes in and says, “Hello. In episode 161 of the podcast, you describe the laptop keyboard design. I have an issue with the layout of the arrow keys on many laptop keyboards. My company laptop will be replaced. And they propose a model where the up and down arrow keys are smaller than usual. Together, they have the same height as the left and right arrow key. As I am using arrow keys all day long, I think it will be very difficult to change muscle memory, especially because I frequently switch to my home laptop that still has the traditional layout with the up arrow key one row above the other three arrow keys. I am curious to hear if other frequent arrow key users could get used to those up and down arrow keys that are smaller sized and differently positioned. Greetings from Belgium,” says Bart Simons.
Well, greetings to everyone in Belgium listening, and especially to you, Bart. And a very Merry Christmas. There are some very odd things going on with laptop keyboards. Why on earth anybody thinks that it’s a good idea to put the home and end key up on the top row, I have no idea at all because it is so inconvenient when you’re trying to navigate. I guess part of me says, look, you can get used to anything in time. The other part of me says, we use our keyboards so extensively that if you feel this is going to bother you, then insist on another laptop.
And let’s open in this email from Thomas who says, “Hello from Ohio, Jonathan. The timing of your acquisition and review of your brand new loaded Lenovo X1 Carbon has been impeccable for me. I almost wish we had a buying portal from mosen.org that would link to the third party sites with the products and services you review so you could receive some well deserved compensation when your listeners follow your lead in purchase decisions.” Well thanks, Thomas. I actually have thought about this. But then I thought, no, because then people might think that I’m only recommending something because I get a kickback in affiliate commission for it. And I don’t really need the money at the moment. So I kind of think that not doing that helps to preserve the integrity of any comments that I might make. Thomas continues, “Since you now do this recreationally for quite some time. I owed you a five star dinner at a prime steakhouse, if ever you find yourself visiting the Eastern US.” And I mean that, oh man, I could certainly dig that, Thomas. My favorite steakhouse that I’ve eaten at in the United States is definitely Ruth’s Chris steakhouse, man, do they do amazing cuts of meat there, but in the absence of that, if anybody would like to, while Mosen at largest taking a hiatus, I would really appreciate a five star review in apple podcast or wherever you review your podcasts, because that does help us. So anybody who’d like to do a five star review, I’d be very grateful. Thank you very much in advance for that.
Thomas continues, “In November I too felt it was high time to replace my Windows laptop. Like you. I feel I must stay with windows for professional app accessibility reasons coupled with a strong desire to transition to 5G mobile broadband. I had been reading various premium laptop reviews for months and could not make a decision until your recent Lenovo acquisition an 18 year Dell loyalty needed a detour due to the sound card driver floors, lack of 5G options on desired Dell models and your recent impactful Lenovo developments. Frankly, you saved me weeks of excessive research and made my decision easy on Black Friday, I purchased your identical custom configuration of the Lenovo X1 Carbon, including the fastest I7 processor, 32 giggle bites of RAM one terabyte SSD and 5G. I wonder how one accelerates the processor up to 3.9 gigahertz as advertised.”
I think what happens is Thomas that when the need is there, it simply boosts itself. That’s my understanding. Although you might be able to over clock it in some way, I haven’t really gone there yet because for me, the key thing is battery life. “Your tip,” says Thomas, “about choosing the low res monitor to maximize battery life is much appreciated. I followed your lead in sticking with windows 10 for now. I opted for all the in-home onsite service and accidental damage upgrades and chose several Thunderbolt four docking stations for my officers at home and work along with a sleek Lenovo leather sleeve.” Oh, that does sound nice. “My new shiny carbon fiber beauty and all its accessories moved from China to Alaska to Kentucky and finally to Ohio last week at lightning speed, given the global supply chain issues of 2021, another hugely helpful hint you shared that accelerated my initial setup was reversing the control and function keys, which would otherwise have forced drastic modification of my muscle memory to learn the reverse key swap. With that idiosyncrasy out of the way, isn’t this keyboard comfortable and ample.”
Yes. And it’s something I omitted to mention in my comments last week, Thomas, this is the best keyboard of any laptop I have ever typed on. It is an absolute joy to type on and Bonnie fondles this laptop and she says, “Wow, this keyboard really is amazing. Isn’t it?” And that’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with the HP Specter that she has, which is a lovely machine. It’s pretty light, not as light as the Thinkpad, but quite light. And the keyboard’s okay. But the keyboard to type on with this Thinkpad is just in a class of its own.
Thomas continues, “In addition, you saved my sited wife time and patience by pointing out that the SIM card needs to be inserted in the tray upside down. And yes, thank you for the reminder to order a physical 5G SIM before the laptop arrived. Good thinking on assigning the print screen key as the application key too, as at will render it much more relevant.”
“Fun fact, not totally surprising your country is ahead of the Midwest US in terms of 5G mobile broadband. When I provided the IMEI code from the digital SIM card to my data provider, Verizon then informed that the device is not yet supported. I will now determine which data provider does support the Lenovo 5G digital SIM and purchase a plan for my new laptop on whatever the supported carrier turns out to be. Hopefully I won’t have to wait long to find a compatible and reliable provider in the Midwest US. Lenovo should probably post a disclaimer to us customers recommending providers that support the new 5G module. Verizon fully supports 5G on my iPhone 13 Pro Max. So this is a curious Verizon shortcoming, any listener feedback, finding connectivity for your 5G laptop in the United States, especially when plugged into AC power and set to the 100% performance power plan. This machine is a rocket! Thank you for sharing your tech passion with all of us, wishing you and Bonnie a most restful Christmas season and summer break. You sure enhanced my season by identifying and thoroughly reviewing this new Lenovo X1 Carbon.”
Wow. Thanks Thomas. It’s incredible that you bought exactly the same machine. And to know that it has a sister or brother in Ohio is very bonding indeed. I hope you are enjoying it as much as I am and it sounds like you are. No regrets at all about buying this thing pad. In fact, sometimes I just pick it up just for the joy of picking it up and thinking all over again. My God, this thing is light, isn’t it light and powerful. So I’m thrilled with the purchase and it sounds like you are too now regarding your 5G comments. I must say that where I am at the moment, the network that I happen to be on is not 5G enabled.
There is another network that has a lot more 5G and I think it has 5G where I am, but I prefer to be on the network that I have, which in New Zealand’s case is Spark. So the 4G is working well. And I’m hoping that when I get into a 5G area, I can just verify that the 5G is actually going to work, but it does seem to be the case that 5G networks are a lot more prescriptive in terms of devices that will and won’t work. So in the past, if you’ve got a 4G device that supported the band that your carrier uses for LTE, then you were usually okay. On the other hand, I have seen 5G devices being imported that do not just work on 5G until a carrier enables a profile for them. So there must be some greater degree of authentication in the 5G spec. I’m not really familiar with how that all works, but good luck with the Thinkpad, Thomas. It’s a wonderful machine and I’m glad you’re enjoying yours.
Speaker 8: (singing)
Jonathan Mosen: And it’s only during a very brief period that we can play that happy song, but it is indeed a festive Bonnie bulletin. Welcome Bonnie Mosen.
Bonnie Mosen: Hi guys.
Jonathan Mosen: How’s it going?
Bonnie Mosen: Good. It’s rather warm out there.
Jonathan Mosen: It is. It’s been very bizarre weather here. We’ve had a lot of torrential rain. The temperature has fluctuated wildly. Yeah.
Bonnie Mosen: I was just doing some Christmas shopping along Lambton Quay and it started out with a little breeze and then it got humid. And of course, none of the shops have air conditioning and you’re wearing a mask. So it’s not the most pleasant, Christmas shopping experience I’ve ever had.
Jonathan Mosen: In our defense. The reason why that is, is that really, there’s not a lot of need. Most of the time for air conditioning in Wellington. This is your ninth Southern Hemisphere Christmas.
Bonnie Mosen: Yes. I still can’t get used to the whole Christmas and summertime thing. I don’t think I’ll ever really get used to that, but also have to realize that people in Florida and California also have warm Christmases.
Jonathan Mosen: That’s right. What are your Christmas traditions? When you look back on Christmas, what images are evoked for you?
Bonnie Mosen: A lot of seeing the light, putting the Christmas tree up, we always had a real Christmas tree for most of my life and then putting the different lights up. We used to have these like blue candles that they weren’t electric candles and mom would always put them in the window. So I had that and then always opening a present, couple of presents on Christmas Eve.
Jonathan Mosen: Were they big present that you’d open on Christmas Eve? Or did you save the big presents until Christmas day?
Bonnie Mosen: You could choose whatever you wanted to open. Yeah, but you didn’t really get the big present until the next day. So like bicycles and stuff like that. I guess the biggest tradition, which I never took part in was my mom always made a jam cake for Christmas and my father always liked the jam cake in mince pie. She’d make him a mince meat pie and jam cake, which no one else in the family ate. But-
Jonathan Mosen: It’s funny how Christmas food is a bit of an acquired taste. So some people love the Christmas cakes and the Christmas mince pies and other people can’t stand that stuff.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah. And we always had Christmas cookies that had the sprinkly things on them. And my mom always made these orange balls that was coconut and crunched up vanilla wafers and confectionary sugar and orange juice.
Jonathan Mosen: And they were delicious!
Bonnie Mosen: They were, yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: Because I remember when you came out here, we were really determined to make sure that it was a combined Christmas of our traditions as much as possible. And so you got the recipe from your mum for those and man they’re not low carb at all.
Bonnie Mosen: No they’re not.
Jonathan Mosen: But are they delicious.
Bonnie Mosen: Vanilla extract. Yeah. That was the other one. Yeah. So never really had a big Christmas dinner per se. There might be some chicken and dressing or Turkey and dressing, that sort of thing.
Jonathan Mosen: Hmm. We used to have this tradition of in the morning of Christmas, we’d all sit around in the living room and dad would be in amid the presents, handing them out. And so he would pick a present and read the label, “To Jonathan, lots of love from auntie Myrtle and uncle Mabel” or something and then hand the presents out. And that was a cool tradition that he would do this. And that was sort of like a head of the household thing.
Bonnie Mosen: You still do that don’t you? You still do that. I’ve seen you do that on Christmas. They give you the presents and you hand them out.
Jonathan Mosen: Yes. It’s one of the traditions that, that I’ve carried on. So we did that. We have always made a big deal of Christmas lunch. And it’s funny because New Zealand is this hybrid. A lot of us have in a here, it had the winter traditions from the Northern Hemisphere where many of the white people of New Zealand came from originally.
Bonnie Mosen: In Britain, yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: And so even when it is a sweltering Christmas day, we’ll still bring out a roast turkey on Christmas day in the middle of the day. Some people are varied it a bit. Some people are now doing Christmas dinner at evening time where it’s a bit cooler and some people have just said, “Oh, we’re just going to do salad stuff.”
Bonnie Mosen: Some people do a barbecue.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. So they are various traditions. One thing we don’t do anymore that we used to do when I was a kid, we’d have this Christmas pudding and man, we had so many desserts on Christmas day. My brother likes the trifle that mum used to make. So we’d have trifle.
Bonnie Mosen: Trifle a big Christmas British it’s the English influence. I guess it’s a big… And I don’t care for trifle.
Jonathan Mosen: Right. Okay. Well don’t eat it then.
Bonnie Mosen: No.
Jonathan Mosen: More for me, apple pies and all sorts of things.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: And then we would have the Christmas cake and the big tradition back when I was a kid, was that they would put coins in the Christmas cake. So you’d have to eat it very carefully.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah. You don’t want to break a tooth.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. And then you’d get all these coins that came out. And then I think the Reserve Bank or something came out and said, “Don’t do this anymore folks because the composition of the coins means it’s not really safe to do it.” So some people have taken to still doing it. I was talking about this at work the other day. And they were saying, what they do now is they wrap the coins in tin foil. And they still put them in the Christmas cake.
Bonnie Mosen: Gosh, people that and crackers, Christmas crackers is Christmas emblem.
Jonathan Mosen: Christmas crackers. That’s some big tradition in New Zealand. And when we started the countdown in 2011, it’s the 10th anniversary of the Mushroom FM holiday countdown. I didn’t realize when we first started this, that Christmas crackers were not really big in the United States.
Bonnie Mosen: No, Mm-mm (negative).
Jonathan Mosen: Although people have told me that Amazon do sell them now.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: So Christmas crackers are a big thing. Everybody at the Christmas table, usually above the plate has a cracker and you pull it with your neighbor or your significant other or whatever. And there’s a party hat and a silly joke and some sort of really cheap toy. Well sometimes it’s not cheap depending on the-
Bonnie Mosen: Sometimes they’re nicer.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah.
Bonnie Mosen: Depending you can get some nicer things.
Jonathan Mosen: Yes. It depends on the quality of the Christmas cracker.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah, the quality of the cracker.
Jonathan Mosen: How much you pay for it. Yeah. So Christmas crackers are a big tradition. Sometimes party poppers as well. When Amanda and I got together and we started our own family, we inherited some of her Christmas traditions that have now become our generations Christmas traditions of the family. And that includes a pretty nice Christmas breakfast where they have waffles and pineapple and things like that. So, oh man. There’s lots of food at Christmas time.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah. You’d might as well not go on a diet. I just remember another Christmas tradition we did is the animals gave gifts and the animals got gifts too. We’d get presents for the animals because they would get excited. The dog and the cat would get really excited about a present under the tree for them.
Jonathan Mosen: Yes. I remember when I had my guide dog, Pearl, we would put something under the Christmas tree for Pearl. If she’d sit there watching it all. And then when her present came, she would get so excited about it.
Bonnie Mosen: There was a meme this morning about how to wrap a present with a cat around. It was hilarious. And it was a lot of go to the closet to take out the present, then close the door, then go back, get the cat out of the closet, take the present out of the box to check it. Then take the cat out of the box. And it was the whole thing about trying to wrap presents with a cat. So it was-
Jonathan Mosen: Oh, just put the cat under the tree.
Bonnie Mosen: I think the funniest animal story, my guy dog, Renee, who was a lab golden cross like eclipse except she was yellow because I was living in New Jersey at the time. So I had come home one year for Christmas my mom, got her this brown dog stuffed brown dog, that squeaked. So we left animals at my mom’s house. And then she had her animals in New Jersey. Well the year went by and we went home and there was a president of the tree for Renee and we opened it Renee looked at it and left. My mom said, where’s she going? She went to my closet and she brought out the brown dog because mom had brought her another brown dog. So it was like, she was saying, “Excuse me, you got me this last year.” My mom said, “Oh, she already had one.” I said, “I think she’s trying to tell you that too.” So it was really funny that she-
Jonathan Mosen: They really bright. What about when you were a kid? What are some of the memorable Christmas presents you got as a child?
Bonnie Mosen: A bicycle? I remember getting a bicycle.
Jonathan Mosen: Did you have a Big Wheels?
Bonnie Mosen: Yes. I probably did get that for Christmas.
Jonathan Mosen: I got a Big Wheels for Christmas.
Bonnie Mosen: I probably did. I don’t remember, but I know that-
Jonathan Mosen: Amanda got one too. So isn’t that cool. We all got the Big Wheels.
Bonnie Mosen: I probably got, I probably got my Big Wheel for Christmas too.
Jonathan Mosen: For those who don’t know the Big Wheels was this thing that you rode on. It had pedals, right? It had pedals. I think like a kind of a-
Bonnie Mosen: Yes, it did have.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. And then when you went it fast enough, it had some sort of contraption that made it go like a motorbike.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah, it was that front wheel. It had a big wheel at the front and two back wheels and it had like a little thing that you could store things in. It had break. I remember it had a break on it. Because my friend and I would fly down our hill and just hit the brake right before we crashed into the car. So we were very deadly on our Big Wheels.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. I think the present that I was most excited about from my childhood, that I remember, was my 10th birthday. And they had announced the release of this thing called an Andy Gibb Microphone. And the Andy Gibb microphone was this… Well, it was just a microphone, like a traditional microphone like the ones in the studio are shaped front address microphones. And then at the back of the microphone, they had a telescopic antenna and they had a button that you held down and it had a nine volt battery. When you held this button down on the Andy Gibb Mic it broadcast on AM. And by default it was transmitting on 800 kilohertz. You could put a little screwdriver in this little hole and adjust the frequency and you could also do some other things through it.
I worked out that by attaching it to all this bare wire and stringing the wire up. I could actually increase the power of it. And I would sellotape the button down and I would actually run little radio stations with this Andy Gibb Mic and I was so determined to have this mic. Just the idea of having an AM transmitter of my own. And I actually got given some money just before Christmas. And so I said to my parents, “Am I getting this from you or not? Am I getting this from you or not mum? Because if I’m not, I’m buying it right away.”
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: So they had to tell me, “Yes, you’re getting it, but you can’t have it until Christmas day.” I was so excited about getting my Andy Gibb.
Bonnie Mosen: I had a Barbie one.
Jonathan Mosen: A Barbie microphone. Yeah. That broadcast on AM?
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah. It was like the Andy give mic except it was Barbie. It was pink and sparkly.
Jonathan Mosen: What made it a Barbie Mic?
Bonnie Mosen: It was pink and sparkly and girly and you know.
Jonathan Mosen: Wow. But so what did you do with yours?
Bonnie Mosen: I could never really get it to work. You could broadcast on it. The same type of thing. And-
Jonathan Mosen: But you couldn’t get yours to work?
Bonnie Mosen: I couldn’t really get it to work. I mean, it sort of did, but it wasn’t like yours.
Jonathan Mosen: Hmm. That’s a shame because man, I loved mine. Oh man. I loved that thing.
Bonnie Mosen: I just used it to like make announcements on walking around, talking into it, like [crosstalk 01:52:26].
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. So it sounds like it worked, but we just kind of pushed ours to the limits.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: So this is being a geek and then later you could get FM mics and they had a physical switch. So you could switch those on and they stayed transmitting as long as you had to switch up.
Bonnie Mosen: I think that’s what mine was. I think the Barbie one did have a switch on it. I do remember that.
Jonathan Mosen: Wow. Yeah. Well because with this one you had to hold the button down.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: So that’s why I had sellotape the button down so I could do hours and hours of transmission.
Bonnie Mosen: I’m trying to think what other things I got so much. I was such a spoiled child.
Jonathan Mosen: Nine volt battery. Now we should point out in the interest of full disclosure on this final Mosen At Large, for the year that here you are at the ripe old age of… No I’d better not say that. At a good age and you still haven’t put your tongue on the terminals of a nine volt battery.
Bonnie Mosen: I’m not going to, because I don’t want to.
Jonathan Mosen: I think we should get you to do that for Christmas.
Bonnie Mosen: Nope. Not doing it.
Jonathan Mosen: That is the worst Christmas present I ever got.
Bonnie Mosen: Oh the pen.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. It was a few years ago. We were all spending Christmas with my parents. I believe. I think it was still Amanda and me then. And we were all there. The kids were there and we were handing out these little gifts and the kids seemed so excited about this one particular gift they had. They were sort of like. And then they give me this thing and they unwrap it, “Unwrap it, dad unwrap it.” So I unwrap this little gift and it was a very nice looking pen actually. And I thought that’s an interesting thing to give their blind father a pen. But I thought, well I do have to sign things. And it was the thought that counted, of course. It was very nice and obvious, “That’s lovely kids. Thank you very much.” And then they go and this kind of very sly weird voice, they go “Push the button, dad.” And then they go, “Yeah, push the button, dad.” What? So I push this button and get this bloody great electric shock through my finger.
Bonnie Mosen: Like taser or something.
Jonathan Mosen: It gave me one hell of a fright.
Bonnie Mosen: Taser-pen, taser.
Jonathan Mosen: What a mean thing.
Bonnie Mosen: I know one thing that Amanda does, which I think many families when there’s lots of people in it do because it’s impossible to buy for every single person. You’d be bankrupt. One tradition. I don’t know if she brought it into the family, but they get kind of a Secret Santa. So they get someone’s name and they have to either make the gift or buy it secondhand.
Jonathan Mosen: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Bonnie Mosen: So yeah, that’s a tradition that-
Jonathan Mosen: That something that she’s started to do post her and me that she’s-
Bonnie Mosen: Well, I think there’s just, there’s four kids and David’s her husband’s kids and it gets complicated and then the partners, so.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah, yeah.
Bonnie Mosen: You know, and my brother-in-law because he has… There’s four siblings and I know they started doing that because once the grandchildren… It just got way over the top with all the people.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And it’s hard to buy for them now they’re older.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: And although it seems like a bit of a cop out. I think what they appreciate is when we give them some money, really.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah, because I mean, nowadays people have what they want all the… they just want to buy it. So I mean, I bought my Christmas present today to me, so.
Jonathan Mosen: Oh, that’s nice. What did you get yourself?
Bonnie Mosen: I got a Kate Spade Tote Bag.
Jonathan Mosen: Oh did you?
Bonnie Mosen: My obsession. Well, I looked at the coaches too, but I didn’t like them so.
Jonathan Mosen: Well you are hard to buy for.
Bonnie Mosen: I am hard to buy-
Jonathan Mosen: But then I had this absolutely brilliant little flare of inspiration last weekend. I was sitting there with my Thinkingpad. I think that my Thinkingpad can be credited for me thinking. Yeah. And I was sitting there with my Thinkingpad, doing the shopping and I thought, I know what Bonnie needs and I bought it. So I’m very excited. Very pleased-
Bonnie Mosen: When do I get it?
Jonathan Mosen: Well on Christmas day.
Bonnie Mosen: Okay.
Jonathan Mosen: Patience. What, what other toys did you get? Cause I remember another one I got when I was about maybe four or five that I really liked were these toys where you would pull the string and then you’d let the string go and they would do something like talk or play a little tune. I had a bugs bunny that did it and you’d pull the string and it would go, “Eh, What’s up Doc?” and you’d pull the string again and it would go, “I like carrots.” It would have a range of phrases. And I had a talking camera like this, you’d pull the string and it would say, “Don’t close your eyes.” And, “Your picture is ready.” And all sorts of stuff like that. I love those toys. Did you get any toys like that?
Bonnie Mosen: The only one I remember. I mean, I had my Farmer Says, but I don’t remember if I got that for Christmas or not.
Jonathan Mosen: Oh yes you hacked that thing.
Bonnie Mosen: Yes, I did hack it.
Jonathan Mosen: Tell us about hacking that toy.
Bonnie Mosen: It was round and it had pictures of farm animals. And the farmer of was in the middle with his pitch pork and you pull the string and the farmer would move and “A cow says moo.” And I figured out a way to move the thing. So it would say “A cow says meow.” Because which I thought was just incredibly funny. I don’t know-
Jonathan Mosen: But your dad wasn’t impressed.
Bonnie Mosen: No, says “That is not what a cow says.” So. And-
Jonathan Mosen: How old were you when you did that?
Bonnie Mosen: Mm, probably three or four. And then I got a Care Bear. I was excited about my Care Bear and then a lot of horse stuff as I got older, because it was all I cared about was horses. So it was always horsey stuff. I got a Rub-A-Dub Dolly and I didn’t even want the Rub-A-Dub Dolly.
Jonathan Mosen: Oh, what’s a Rub-A-Dub Dolly, dare I ask.
Bonnie Mosen: It’s a baby… I got a lot of baby dolls. It was a baby doll. It was hard plastic. And you could put it in the tub and bath it. So I got a Rub-A-Dub Dolly.
Jonathan Mosen: Oh, well that’s cute.
Bonnie Mosen: Yes. And a lot of baby dolls, a lot of dolls. I got an organ one time, like a
Jonathan Mosen: Oh yes. Well I used to go to my dad’s work Christmas party and they were a pretty good employer. Actually. He worked for Johnson and Johnson. They had a big factory. My dad used to run a poultry farm, but then he had a heart attack, quite young 42, which is probably one of the reasons why I’ve got so health mad.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: For the good of his stress levels in health, they said he really should give all that up. He worked at Johnson and Johnson for the remainder of his career and they would invite kids to this big Christmas party and Santa would give some pretty reasonable presents. And one year I got this battery operated organ. I wonder if it’s similar to the one you had and it had a little switch that you switch it on. It took, I think it took-
Bonnie Mosen: Mine you had to plug in. I think it was real organ.
Jonathan Mosen: Mine was portable.
Bonnie Mosen: May had been the old one that you had, it may have been that one.
Jonathan Mosen: Right? It took D-size batteries, I think. And you could play this organ. It had a actual keyboard and they bought that for me.
Bonnie Mosen: Oh cool.
Jonathan Mosen: So it was pretty good, but dad loved surprises. I remember in 1981, by that stage, even then I was the person who fixed technical things in our house. I think when I moved out, one of the biggest challenges was who was going to program the VCR now so dad was yelling out and saying, “Jonathan, we’ve got some difficulty or other with the stereo and you need to come and fix it. Cause we’re trying to put some Christmas music on.” When I went out to the living room to have a look at what the matter with it was he’d bought a whole new stereo system predominantly for me.
Bonnie Mosen: Oh cool.
Jonathan Mosen: It was a three in one system a radio, tape and record.
Bonnie Mosen: I got a record player one time. I remember, I do remember getting that for Christmas.
Jonathan Mosen: Good memories. Aren’t they? I loved it when the kids were little Heidi’s first Christmas. So Heidi was born in may like three of our four kids. So by the time December came along, she was seven months old and we were so excited about that first Christmas and went to a lot of trouble and everything, but really all she was interested and was the wrapping paper at that stage.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah. I remember they bought Lindsay when she was two, she got a tricycle or something, but she had also gotten a doll and she was more interested in the doll than the tricycle.
Jonathan Mosen: That’s fun. So I’m looking forward to when the grandkids come along now.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: It’s going to be so special. So we are taking some time off.
Bonnie Mosen: Yes we are.
Jonathan Mosen: It’s going to be wonderful.
Bonnie Mosen: Ah, can’t wait.
Jonathan Mosen: Yes. So I thought we would finish off by playing the story that I wrote quite a few years ago now. And it was a fairly quick thing. Amanda contacted me because she is now a teacher of blind and low vision kids. And she was teaching this young child who was quite distressed about the idea that she was going to write to Santa in Braille, but she wasn’t sure if Santa could read her story and Amanda remembered all the stories that I would make up. It’s funny. The kids remember stories that I would just make up on the spot and tell them. And somehow they made an impression and I can’t remember these stories at all, but they remember them in great detail. I would’ve only ever told them once would just sort of sit there and make these stories up on the spot. But they’ve got a repertoire of these stories.
So Amanda contacted me and said, would I have a go at writing a story to reassure this child that Santa actually can cope with Braille letters? And so I wrote this story in an afternoon and then I sent it off and said, okay, well that’s that? And of course Amanda being Amanda came back and said, “That’s good, but.”
Bonnie Mosen: Oh dear.
Jonathan Mosen: “Why don’t you record an audio version?”
Bonnie Mosen: Because you’re an editor.
Jonathan Mosen: “You do all the voices and everything. Why don’t you record an audio version?” So I did that and it’s so astounding to me that something that I put together in such a short time has had such a huge impact. And every year I hear from people who say, “We played this at our chapter meeting of some blind group or another.” Or I get emails from parents who say, “I read this to my blind kid.” And it’s just amazing to me. And then it’s even been adapted into a play and translated. I think the last translation that was done was German and somebody emailed me and said, “What is a wizzemebob? It’s just a made up word.
Bonnie Mosen: Made up word.
Jonathan Mosen: They were looking for a German word for wizzemebob. So I thought that we would play Louis, The Blind Christmas Elf and well, thank you for a wonderful year.
Bonnie Mosen: Thank you for a wonderful-
Jonathan Mosen: And it’s been great to have you on the Bonnie bulletin.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah. Great to be here and everyone, hopefully 2022 will be full of good things.
Jonathan Mosen: Yes, a bit less pandemic strife would be nice. Wouldn’t it? Yes. All right. We’ll catch up with you in the new year. And here is Louis, The Blind Christmas Elf.
A long long time ago, so long ago that even your teacher hadn’t been born yet, so that makes it a really really long time ago, a stylish, shiny elf-driving car pulled into the long driveway at Santa’s busy workshop.
Out of the car stepped Mrs Scott, a smartly-dressed elf wearing a business suit and black patent leather high-heeled shoes.
They made such a loud clop, clop, clop sound on the cobblestones leading to the gingerbread front door of the workshop, that Harold, the chief elf, heard his visitor coming, even over the sound of all the toys being made and packed.
He met Mrs Scott at the door of the workshop, greeting her with a wide smile, a firm handshake and a laugh that was squeaky and high-pitched, yet somehow when you heard it, you could tell it was coming right from his wobbly little tummy. He immediately felt under-dressed in the overalls he was wearing while he was helping out on one of the assembly lines. Yet despite Mrs Scott looking immaculate, and Harold looking decidedly shabby, Harold was the boss, and she had something he needed.
“Come in, come in! You must be from the elf-improvement school,” Harold exclaimed.
Harold ushered Mrs Scott into his office, and one of the kitchen elves was asked to make her a cup of tea. Making all those toys and sorting them for Santa made all the elves hungry like a wolf, so Santa’s workshop had a big kitchen where all kinds of delicious treats were being made for the elves to eat whenever they got hungry.
Mrs Scott had been the director of the School of Elf Improvement for five years, but this was the first time she had visited Santa’s workshop. If elves were ever lucky enough to get a job with Santa, almost no one left. That meant that even though there were many elves graduating every year from the School of Elf Improvement, not many got the ultimate prize, the job of working for Santa.
Mrs Scott was at Santa’s workshop on this day, because Harold had called her late one night on her elf-phone, saying that with more children than ever in the world, they could use a bit more help.
After the tea arrived, and Mrs Scott had sampled some of the delectable fairy cakes from the workshop kitchen, she opened her briefcase and they got down to business.
“As you can appreciate,” she said, “every elf would love to work here at Santa’s workshop, but I know you can only use the cleverest, most capable elves. You have so much to do! So I’ve brought you three elf-assessments to take a look at.”
Mrs Scott took out three beautifully spiral-bound leather folders, with the name of an elf etched in gold on the front cover of each one.
“This is Huey”, she said. “Huey loves building musical instruments. During one of his exams, he built a piano, a clarinet, a huge noisy drum kit, a Didgeridoo, a nose flute and a plinkety plankety, all in under an hour. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Mrs Scott beamed.
“Well now,” said Harold looking impressed, “I’ve heard of most of those things of course, we have lots of them being built in the workshop right now actually, but what’s a plinkety plankety?”
“Oh,” said Mrs Scott, beaming with pride, “it’s a new instrument Huey invented himself! If he doesn’t come to work here, I’m sure he’ll be producing it for one of the big toy companies before the year is out.”
“Hmmm,” said Harold, “he sounds wonderful and would make a great addition to the team I’m sure, but the thing is, we’re not really having any trouble keeping up with musical instruments. Who else do you have?”
“Well,” said Mrs Scott, moving the second leather-bound volume to the top of the pile, “this is Stewy. Now Stewy is a genius at making toy kitchens, and all the things to go in the toy kitchens. Do you know,” she said, getting so excited that she spilled a bit of fairy cake all down her front, so it was just as well that her garments were elf-cleaning, “the other day, Stewy made a toy kitchen with a fridge that really gets cold? But that’s not the half of it. It only works when you put chocolate in the fridge. Put any other food in that thing, and nothing happens. Outstanding piece of work.”
“Very clever,” said Harold, “although I’m not convinced the boys and girls will want a fridge that only keeps one thing cool. And we do have some good engineers here. Still, he’s worth considering. And who is the last elf you wanted to show me?”
“Ah, well,” said Mrs Scott, suddenly looking a little fidgety, “I really wasn’t sure about whether to suggest Louis or not. Louis is special.”
There was something in the way Mrs Scott used the word “special” that immediately peaked Harold’s curiosity.
“What exactly do you mean by special?”
“Well, you see, Louis makes excellent use of his hearing. It’s not that his hearing is better than any of the other elves in the school, it’s just that he tends to take a lot more notice of what he’s hearing. Recently, we were manufacturing a load of ride-on toy tractors for a toy company, and one of the whizimybobs developed a fault!”
“Oh no,” said Harold, understanding exactly how serious a matter this was. “You get a problem with one of your whizimybobs and it can really set you back. Actually we had a fault with one of our whizimybobs here at Santa’s workshop last Christmas. It stopped a lot of our production for a week because no one picked up on it, and we nearly had to cancel Santa’s delivery altogether”.
“Well exactly,” said Mrs Scott. “If Louis hadn’t heard the subtle change in the machine caused by the problem with the whizimybobs, I think we would have lost the contract. We were so lucky he was around.”
“I’m intrigued,” said Harold. “We could definitely use someone with those skills. Tell me more about this Louis.”
“He’s very thorough,” said Mrs Scott. “He inspects things with his hands and often picks up on problems making things that we might miss visually. It’s been very useful to us more than once”.
“But why?” asked Harold, “why doesn’t he just use his eyes like everyone else?”
“Because his eyes don’t work,” said Mrs Scott. “Louis’s totally blind.”
“Blind?” Harold scratched his little head in utter bemusement. “How does he…how will he…what if he…I just don’t think a blind elf could work in our workshop.”
“I thought you might think that,” said Mrs Scott patiently, “but hear me out. Remember how you nearly had to cancel Christmas eve once, because it was too foggy for Santa to travel. If it wasn’t for Rudolph, kids all around the world would have gone without presents that year.”
“Oh I remember it well,” sighed Harold. “It was the most scary day of my life. I was so stressed out I was beside my elf.”
“Then surely,” continued Mrs Scott, “you know that people with a range of abilities and gifts make Santa’s workshop run more smoothly! Louis can bring skills that many of your other elves don’t have.”
“You make a good point Mrs Scott,” Harold said. “Send him to us. We’ll take him on. I don’t want anyone getting hurt and there is a lot that goes on in this workshop, but we’ll give it a try.”
Louis arrived at Santa’s workshop the next day, with his little suitcase and his long white candy cane. He put it out in front of him, so he new when he was getting close to an obstacle. If the cane hit a wall or something left on the ground, he would feel it. And after being shown around the place, he soon started remembering where all the divisions of Santa’s great workshop were located. It wasn’t that difficult for Louis. He soon noticed how different the sounds of the machinery were depending on which part of the workshop he was in. Sometimes, his sense of smell helped too. Just like his hearing, it was no better than anyone else’s, but since he didn’t have his sight, he took more notice of what his other senses were telling him.
Louis was very excited about meeting Santa, but Harold explained that since Christmas was getting close, Santa was very busy preparing, and usually, elves just starting out didn’t get a chance to meet with the big guy.
Louis settled down to work as quickly as he could, but he wasn’t happy. He felt that he wasn’t being given as much responsibility as he was capable of. Everyone was very nice to him, but they just couldn’t imagine how he could do the things that needed to get done if he wasn’t able to see. Louis tried to be patient and explain.
“Since you’ve been able to see all your life,” he said, “you use your sight. You depend on it for a lot of things and that makes sense. But I’ve never been able to see, so I don’t know any different. I get by just fine without any sight. I might do things in a different way sometimes, but I still get the job done in the end.”
Still, the elves found it hard to give Louis a fair chance. It’s not that they meant any harm, they just were scared about him being hurt.
Then, one day, a mad panic developed in the mail room at Santa’s workshop. Every day at precisely 29 o’clock, a small earthquake could be felt, as the mail from all the children who had recently written to Santa got delivered to the workshop.
The mail elves had an efficient system of sorting through the mail, and making sure that all the requests from the girls and boys got put on Santa’s list. At the end of every day, Santa would always check the list twice, to be sure all the good children had their requests noted.
But today, the mail elves had a problem they didn’t know how to solve. They had received a group of letters that were nothing like they had ever received before. The mail elves prided themselves on being able to read every single language in the world. But these letters had them stumped. Rather than being written with squiggly characters on the page, these letters felt all bumpy. Hannah, one of the mail elves, said the pages reminded her of her teenage brother Brad, who was having a major problem with pimples. The pages, she said, looked and felt a bit like Brad’s face.
“Do you mean kids are now writing to us in pimple?” said Harold, who had been put in charge of solving the issue because of how urgent it was.
“I don’t think any child would be quite that dotty,” Hannah replied. “But I think we need to call an elf-development meeting, to see if anyone can solve this problem. Because Santa has made it clear, we need to do whatever it takes to make sure all girls and boys who write to us have their requests read, even if we can’t always grant them all”.
Elf-development meetings didn’t happen very often so close to Christmas, but this was an emergency. All the elves from around Santa’s workshop stopped what they were doing, and gathered together at exactly elve o’clock for the big meeting.
“For the first time in our history,” Harold announced, “we have received a group of letters from girls and boys that none of our team can read. Here’s a sample.”
Harold held up a page of the dot-filled writing. Everyone stared, first at the dotty page, then blankly back at Harold. No one had any idea what the writing was, or how to read it.
“The interesting thing about this writing is,” Harold said, “if you touch it, it feels very easy to distinguish by touch, almost as if you’re supposed to read it with your hands.”
Louis’s little ears pricked up. He couldn’t see the sample, but based on the description, he was pretty sure he knew what it was.
“May I please feel a page of that writing?” Louis asked.
Harold handed Louis a page filled with the dots. Louis took the fingertips of both index fingers, and started gently running his fingers across the page. He began to speak.
“Dear Santa. My name is Sam. I’m nine, and I can’t wait until your visit. For Christmas, I would please like a cool train set, one with plenty of awesome sounds and loud whistles if you can. My sister Amy is seven. She is a pest, so I think you should bring her a frog. Love, Sam.”
“How did you do that, and more to the point, what is that dotty stuff?” Harold asked.
“It’s Braille,” said Louis. “It’s the new way for blind people to read and write. These letters are from blind boys and girls. They’re writing to you themselves. You see, Braille lets blind children write to us here at Santa’s workshop, just like sighted children can.”
Suddenly, all the elves started jumping up and down and clapping. “Hooray for Louis! Hooray for Louis!”
The elves were happy because, thanks to Louis, they could make sure that all girls and boys, including those who read Braille, could get their presents on Santa’s list.
Louis spent a lot of time in the mail room after that, but that wasn’t all he did. The elves realised that just because you’re blind, it doesn’t mean you don’t have valuable skills that others may not have. They realised that Louis just did things differently. Not better, just differently. Soon, Louis was also put in charge of whizimybob inspection. The elves used to be worried that Louis would hurt himself, because whizimybobs have so many moving parts. But they knew that Louis was careful and capable, more capable at that particular job than anyone else.
One day, Harold came into the mail room to find Louis.
“The big guy wants to see you Louis,” Harold said.
“Santa? See me? Have I done something wrong?”
“No idea,” Harold said, “I was just asked to bring you to see him.”
Louis timidly knocked on Santa’s office door. “Ho, ho, ho!” came the reply. Louis opened the door, and walked into the office, which seemed to be shaking. It turns out Santa was happy to see Louis, and Santa’s enormous belly-laughter was making the whole office bounce up and down like a carnival ride.
“I wanted to see you in person Louis,” Santa said, “to thank you so much for your gift.”
“Gift?” said a puzzled Louis.
“Oh yes,” said Santa. “You know, every year, I give lots and lots of toys to girls and boys all over the world, and that’s wonderful. But your gifts are also very precious. You see, you showed us all here at the workshop that no matter who we are, we’re all special, we’re all unique, we can all do something no one else can do. Some of us are good at some things, some of us are good at others. Some of the elves here thought that just because you couldn’t see, you couldn’t contribute as much. But they just didn’t know better. Now everyone knows you’re a very important member of our team. We’d be lost without you. You showed all of us that the best gift we can give each other at Christmas is to love and appreciate everyone around us for who they are.”
And all these years later, every year, when he’s not looking after those pesky whizimybobs, you’ll find Louis in the mail room, making sure that all the Braille letters from blind children all over the world are making it onto Santa’s list, and being checked twice. Which just goes to show, there’s nothing you can’t do, as long as you believe in your elf.