Podcast Transcript: Mosen At Large episode 169, persistence pays off when it comes to advocacy, Apples Peak Performance event, and David Kingsburys free Windows Screen Reader Primer
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Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen and this is Mosen At Large, the show that’s got the blind community talking. On the podcast this week, when it comes to advocacy, persistence pays off. We recap Apple’s peak performance event and David Kingsbury discusses his new free book a Windows Screen Reader Primer.
Speaker 1: Mosen At Large podcast.
Jonathan: Welcome to our 169th episode. I appreciate you being here. I never for a moment take for granted that there are so many options that you have in internet land. The fact that you take some time out to hear this podcast is something for which I’m very grateful every week. I have been an advocate all my life. Sometimes that advocacy has been in a professional capacity, but even if I hadn’t been fortunate enough to have those roles, I would still have been an advocate.
I believe in justice, I believe that individuals can change the world. I believe that there’s one thing that is certain. If you don’t try and make a good change, then you’re not going to make a good change. I quite often get asked to give speeches on advocacy, particularly in a disability context. If you’ve heard me give any of those speeches, you could be sick of me saying this, but I often equate advocacy to banging your head against a brick wall. It feels like you’re getting nowhere.
It feels like nobody cares, but then every so often, and perhaps when you least expect it, the wall moves. Sometimes it moves a little bit and sometimes it moves a lot. You realize that all this work makes a difference. I have had one of those fortunate experiences and they are experiences to savour. I wanted to tell you about it because we have talked about this on the show before. As long as I have breath in my body, I will call out ableist language because of the harm that it does. It is foundational.
If we don’t get the ableist language thing sorted, then we are going to continue to have problems with our unemployment, with the services that we receive, with the amount of funding that is allocated to disability issues, it is foundational. I’ve been campaigning about this issue for most of my adult life, at least 25 or 26 years. The first time I formally lodged a complaint on the ableist language issue was back in 1998. When I heard an interview on our public broadcaster, in which the presenter said about a contentious issue at the time, you would have to be blind to go into this and not realize it was a political mind field. In other words, when he said blind, he meant stupid, inept, ignorant.
I complained to the body that oversees broadcasters in New Zealand, the Broadcasting Standards Authority. At the time they pretty much laughed me out of the place. They said, “It’s a known fact that blind has two meanings. Just look it up in the dictionary.” Well, there are all sorts of things that you can look up in the dictionary. Of course, you then have to ask the question, who wrote the dictionary?
Certainly, not many disabled people had input into that dictionary, but things have slowly moved. As you will know, from this podcast, when I last complained to the broadcasting standards authority about this kind of issue, they didn’t go that far. They didn’t say you’re talking nonsense. They said, “It’s an interesting discussion, but that they didn’t feel they had a role of being a trendsetter on the subject.” Their dismissal of my complaint was a lot more nuanced.
I keep talking to people about this. I talk to people who run media outlets. I talk to journalists, I try and educate because a lot of this thing is not deliberate. Harmful language doesn’t have to have a harmful intent, it can just be done out of ignorance. A lot of ableist language comes from there. It occurred to me a couple of weeks ago that ableist language and guide dog refusals have one thing in common. You know they’re going to happen to you again, but they can often happen when you least expect it. When you’re relaxed, when you’re just doing something.
This happened to me a couple of weeks ago when I was reading the Sunday papers and read a piece in Stuff, which is one of our major outlets for media here in New Zealand. There was an article that had an ableist reference that talked about stumbling blindly into a situation. I read that and I thought, “Oh my goodness, not again,” but you can’t take up every single instance of ableist language or you’d never get any peace, you’d never get anything else done.
Then there was a second reference in that same article, and I couldn’t let this one go because it was egregious. Essentially, without going into the subject matter of the article, it basically said, “If you don’t know what’s going on here, then you must be blind.” Now, I actually have a lot of respect for Stuff. Stuff is doing a lot of things here in New Zealand that they can be very proud of. They have actually employed a disabled journalist who is doing a fantastic job of covering some disability issues. They’ve also become conscious of the historic poor coverage of racial issues. They really are thinking about these things and that’s refreshing. I decided that I would write to their chief executive, a pretty conciliatory letter talking about the harm that ableist language causes and saying, what can we do about this?
I would be happy to go and talk to journalists about the issues and how ableist language does cause a lot of harm and the kind of things that you could do instead. What constructive, positive things can be done? Well, I wrote that letter and waited a week and a day I think. I waited eight days and hadn’t got any reply, not even an acknowledgment of my reply.
I was disappointed by that. Then I decided that I wasn’t prepared to let this drop. To have in a well-read column, that if you don’t know what’s going on, you must be blind, I just didn’t want to let that one go. I used reluctantly the formal complaints process at Stuff, and that actually did get a swift and very thoughtful reaction that culminated in a couple of things.
The first is that I have been having dialogue with the head of news at Stuff, and it’s been a wonderful discussion. He said that he honestly had not thought about this issue before. They were obviously very attuned to racial issues and women’s issues, but this thing just hadn’t occurred to him. I emphasized that I understood that, that I didn’t think people were out deliberately to denigrate disabled people. It was just not in their skill set. I’ll explain why in a minute. The second thing was that they offered me some editorial space.
As I record this, it’s actually on the front page of the Stuff website, which is extremely well-read to talk about ableist language, what it is, the harm it causes, and what people can do instead. The head of news at Stuff also forwarded that article before it was published on the Stuff website to their over 400 journalists and said, “We would like you to be mindful of ableist language in the future.”
To be honest, I feel quite emotional about this because I finally feel heard, I finally feel like somebody gets it, and this has come about because there was no frothing at the mouth or anything like that. It was two people having a sensible dialogue and he has subsequently looked into ableist language more. He’s taken some advice on this. He now understands the issue.
We have open communication now, so that if there are issues, I can point them out in the future, and hopefully, we will make progress. I don’t expect ableist language on Stuff to disappear overnight, but I do think we’ve got a situation now where journalists are more aware of this issue than they’ve ever been before. For most, it will be the first time, they’ve even given it any thought because these terms are just so embedded into people’s lives. They don’t consider why they might not be appropriate in 2022 in a country where we’re trying to be more inclusive.
It’s a wonderful outcome. I’d like to conclude this by reading the article that I sent to Stuff, trying to explain to people who’ve probably never thought about this issue before why this issue matters. Here’s the article. “Sexist and racist language is now generally frowned upon, but ableist language is still rampant. Discriminatory words matter. Even when used as a matter for or said for a laugh, they create subconscious bias. Thankfully, far less racist and sexist language is being used or tolerated now than even just a few years ago.
When it occurs, it is rightly called out. While some may lament that as politically correct and woke, I celebrate the more inclusive country we have become where one’s race, gender, or sexuality is a source of pride, not a subject that can be used to deride. For all the progress we’ve made in some areas, New Zealand media, and society in general, is still full of ableist language, as a blind person I notice it, and I’m troubled by it although not all disabled people agree with me.
Ableist language uses terms around disability in a negative pejorative sense. You may read that please to a politician have “fallen on deaf ears.” This means that politicians are ignoring a request yet the one MP we have had in New Zealand who is deaf, Mojo Mathers, was a thoughtful considered person. The blind leading the blind is often said with a snicker to lament some incompetence yet recent history is full of examples of blind people for leading organizations of and for the blind, improving the lives of blind people.
Louis Braille was himself blind and gave blind people the gift of literacy. Someone might be described as crippled by indecision. Yet there are many capable, decisive people who use wheelchairs. I could write an entire article on the ableist language around mental health and neurodiversity. The counterargument is that words have two meanings. It is said that when someone says you must be blind if you don’t know what’s going on, it’s figurative. We all know it and those who say otherwise should stop being so sensitive and focus on what matters.
That argument misses the point. Why have sexist and racist references thankfully declined so much? I believe it’s because of the increasing participation of women and ethnic minorities in our newsrooms, the C-suite, our boardrooms, and in our parliament, all places where disabled people are rare, if not totally absent. Disabled people aren’t going to make it to those change agent roles in greater numbers unless we correct centuries of being undervalued and raise expectations of disabled people among the nondisabled. If an employer has been saturated with a lifetime of words describing impairments as a negative pejorative thing, they must work extra hard to overcome that conditioning before making the hire.
Think I’m exaggerating, the stats say otherwise. 24% of New Zealanders are disabled. While being one of the largest minorities we have some of the most appalling statistics. The unemployment rate of disabled people is still at 9%. Compare that with the general unemployment rate and you see we have a major crisis. The number of disabled people not in employment, education, or training is a massive 48%. There is a significant wage gap between the disabled and nondisabled. Not only does ableist language set low expectations among decision-makers of all kinds, but disability can come at any time to anyone.
When it does, a lifetime of ableist language can limit a newly disabled person’s expectations of what might be possible. I conclude with a challenge, decide to be a part of the change that is needed. If we each take responsibility for reducing and ultimately eliminating the ableist language we use, we will be a fairer, more prosperous nation. If you find yourself about to use words like blind, deaf, crippled, crazy, or lame in a negative context and where disability isn’t the subject under discussion, think of what other words also work. If the words ignorant or inept work, when you are about to say blind or deaf, for example, you know you are about to use an ableist phrase.
All humans are worthy. When we live that fundamental truth through the words we use, we are a better, more inclusive country.” That is the article on Stuff.
Speaker 2: What’s on your mind? Send an email with a recording of your voice, or just write it down email@example.com. That’s firstname.lastname@example.org or phone our listener line. The number in the United States is 864-60MOSEN that’s 864-606-6736.
Jonathan: Apple’s peak performance event took place earlier in the week. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights through a blindness lens. I’ll also share some commentary on what was announced, and as always, I look forward to what you have to say. As expected Apple has announced an update to the iPhone SE. This is the third generation of this product. It still has the iPhone 8 form factor, and it includes the home button with Touch ID. Some blind people seem to be nervous about making the leap to Face ID and some people, in general, think that Touch ID just makes more sense in an era where many of us are still wearing masks.
Apple is attempting to address this with changes to Face ID in IOS 15.4, and that’s going to be released next week. Nevertheless, the Touch ID method of biometric authentication is still attractive. You get the same chip as is found in the iPhone 13 with the new iPhone SE, so you will notice a huge speed increase over the previous SE. Performance will be boosted because the new SE’s sports four gigabytes of RAM, that’s up from the three gigabytes in the previous generation and battery life is going to be longer.
Specifically, Apple suggests that you’ll get two extra hours of regular use compared with the previous generation because of newer battery technology and the efficiency of the new chip. If you buy a 20-watt charger, the phone will charge impressively from 0 to 50% in just 30 minutes. Apple hasn’t confirmed it, but reliable sources say it has a bigger battery. If you’ve listened to this show, you will know that battery life is the subject of criticism with previous generations of the iPhone SE, and you get 5G.
Now, I think this generally makes the carriers a lot happier than it makes most users for now. At this point, I think it’s fair to say that 5G has failed to live up to a lot of the hype, but you could say that you are future-proofing yourself to some degree. Now, if you care about the colors of these phones, it is available in midnight, starlight, and product red. It has the same front and back glass as the iPhone 13, so it should be more durable, a chance to consider ridding yourself of those horrible cases that spoil the aesthetics of the phone. It has just a single 12-megapixel camera, and it’s still IP 67 water-resistant.
They’ve gone to IP 68 on the 13. All this starts at $429. That’s a $30 increase on the price of the previous generation. You can get the SE with 64, 128, or 256 gigabytes of storage. The 256 is a new variant. It wasn’t available with the previous generation of SE. Now, when Apple adds the SE suffix to a product, you know that it’s a budget brand and that there will be sacrifices you’re going to have to make. That doesn’t mean that they are bad devices at all, but it does mean that it’s important to understand the limitations of the SE product that you are considering and whether those limitations are important to you or not.
The things Apple leaves out may be completely irrelevant to the way that you use the device. What are you sacrificing with this generation of iPhone SE? First, not all 5G devices from Apple are created equal. Although the device does have 5G, it doesn’t include the significantly faster MM-wave version of 5G. Now, this is only a stripping back of features in the United States, because in all other markets, all Apple’s flagship products don’t include MM-wave 5G.
If you are in the right place and have access to that faster 5G in the United States, you will definitely see it perform a lot slower than say the iPhone 13 mini, which is another thing that you might consider if you’re looking at a smaller phone. In reality, though, the 5G included in the iPhone SE is plenty fast enough for every commonplace task today, including streaming high-definition movies and downloading large media files at a very good speed.
The camera system is nowhere near as fancy as the non-SE models, but I can’t definitely say what that might mean for the common blindness use cases. I think it’d be useful to do some side-by-side comparisons with some of the popular blindness apps like Seeing AI, Envision, and Aira to determine how much of a difference that makes for the tasks many of us use our cameras for. You can’t use MagSafe accessories with the SE. MagSafe is quite a cool technology. It lets you add accessories like extended batteries, charges, and wallets simply by snapping them on the back of your phone with a satisfying click.
Finally, yet again, the ultra-wideband chip isn’t included in iPhone SE. I personally think that for blind users, this is a big deal that you should think about carefully. What it means is that if you have an iPhone SE and you buy AirTags, you won’t be able to take advantage of precision finding. If you heard the demo on this podcast that Heidi and I did of AirTags, you’ll know that it’s a particularly blind-friendly feature because precision finding helps you precisely locate something that you’ve lost. When you don’t have any side at all, precision finding can save you a lot of stress.
I personally would think about that when you’re buying an iPhone SE. If you want a small device, for now, you still have the choice of the iPhone 13 mini, which is a more capable phone in several respects but is also more expensive and it uses Face ID, which may be a deal-breaker for some. I would encourage people not to fear Face ID, but it does come down to personal preference and that’s fine.
Rumors are that sales have been so poor of the iPhone mini range that Apple is going to discontinue it when the iPhone 14 products are released later this year. The new iPhone SE sounds like a good product that meets the needs of consumers on a budget and who love their Touch ID. Given that Apple must know that it’s a favorite in the blind community, I am a bit disappointed that they’ve decided not to add the wideband chip so that precision finding can work.
In other news from the event, there is a new iPad Air offering a 5G option. It’s powered by Apple’s powerful M1 processes so you know it’s going to be fast. It has a USBC port. I hope the iPhone 14 has one of those too. The port is up to twice as fast with 20 megabytes per second of data transfer. It starts at $599 for the Wi-Fi-only model. You can choose from either 64 or 256 gigabytes of storage. No 128 option there, but I guess that’s the incentive to go with the higher-priced tier, because really who wants a 64 gigabytes iPad in 2022? iPad Air now has the Center Stage feature which can help you look great in video conferences.
I think for those of us who are blind, this is a great feature for ensuring you look your best without too much effort. I personally find an iPhone or an iPad, the best devices to do video conferencing with as a blind person because before the meeting starts, you can open the camera app and get feedback from voiceover about whether you’re centered in the camera view, that allows you to enter a meeting with confidence that you can be seen properly. Add Center Stage on top of that, and you have every chance of looking great to your colleagues.
While I was rocking the treadmill and listening to the new iPad Air being announced, I found myself a bit perplexed about the differences between this new device and the iPad Pro that was announced last year. I did a bit of comparing and here’s the deal as I understand it. The iPad Air is cheaper and it has Touch ID. That may be a selling point for some people who just don’t like the Face ID. You get a wider range of storage options with the iPad Pro.
Although the entry Pro product is $200 more than the entry Air product. The iPad Pro sounds better because of its superior speakers and the iPad Pro has MM 5G. The iPad Air does not. It does have 5G, of course, on the iPad Air but not the very fast version. To be honest, I think that the iPad Air will be the sweet spot in the product range for most people. Finally, let’s have a talk about the newest member of the Mac family, the Mac Studio. It looks a lot like the Mac mini, but looks can be deceiving. If you are a creator who wants a powerhouse, a beast of a machine, then this thing is going to make you droll.
You can get Mac Studio in a range of configurations, for example, how much RAM and storage are in the machine. There are two chips to choose from at marketly contrasting price points. You can pick up a Mac Studio with the M1 Max chip that was announced earlier this year for the MacBook Pros. If you want to pay a couple of thousand US dollars more, you can have the latest piece of wizardry to come from the Apple Silicon team, the M1 Ultra.
Unless you are producing very complex videos and animations, it’s probably way more power than you need, but don’t let me stop you. In fact, if you’ve got the money to throw at this, I would like to remind you that my birthday is next month and presents are welcome. The M1 Ultra supports up to 128 gigabytes of RAM. It has a 20 core CPU with 16 high-performance cores and four efficiency cores. As well as a 64 core GPU and a 32 core Neural Engine, Apple says it’s nearly eight times faster than the M1 which powers the data Mac mini.
Because the Mac Studio is like the Mac mini, that means that unless you are totally blind, you’ll want to plug a display into this thing. Apple has got you covered there as well because they announced the Studio Display, which is an external monitor. Now, I said that you won’t need this if you’re totally blind, but that may not always be true because this thing has a phenomenal speaker system. Anyone who’s heard the audio coming out of Mac Books know that Apple know how to get great sound from their computer products. They have pulled out all the stops with this monitor. You get multiple speakers and rich bass as well as spatial audio and Dolby Atmos.
The monitor also includes Center Stage. Again, giving you every chance of looking great on those video calls. Now, you can use this with Windows as well, but not all features will work including Center Stage. There are probably cheaper and more effective options for that. Just in case you were worried about running out of ports, if you buy the Studio Display, you get additional ports, including three USBC ports and a Thunderbolt 4 port. The monitor also offers various stands and other accessories. If you just want the Mac Studio with the M1 at the entry configuration and no monitor, it’ll set you back just $2,000. If you get the maxed out product with all the accessories, you can go well over $11,000.
I have to tell you, I do feel a bit conflicted about this Mac stuff. I left the Mac gladly in the end in 2016 when the MacBook Pro with touch bar was announced and that dreadful butterfly keyboard was also announced. My article called Saying Goodbye to the Mac is still read frequently. I don’t regret it, but I do have huge admiration for what Apple is doing with Apple Silicon on the Mac. The machines are fast. They have astounding battery life even when you throw serious work at them.
No 5G on the Mac though, which seems to me a curious omission. Apple controls the entire experience so they can optimize every aspect of it. That strength for me is also a weakness. We’ve been talking on the show of late at length and have talked in the past about how Apple can sometimes dreadfully drop the ball on accessibility in a serious way. Braille users have been feeling that pain. I am hoping that most of it will go away with the release of iOS 15.4, but only this week, I learned of another deaf-blind person who is isolated and at risk because of what Apple has broken.
Even if I didn’t have certain software that I need to use that currently has no Windows equivalent, being so dependent on Apple for everything when their accessibility is flaky and the time they take to remediate it is so long, is not a risk that I’m willing to take in my studio. That’s particularly the case, given that voiceover on the Mac gets less love than voiceover on iOS.
If my primary screen reader breaks on Windows, I have other choices. In Mac OS I don’t. If I suddenly find myself unable to use an aspect of voiceover that I depend on I’m up Soup Creek. I do wish Apple would win back the confidence of those of us who have got to the point where we know we can’t depend on their accessibility technology exclusively. What do you think of what Apple announced? Are you going out and buying an iPhone SE third generation?
Are you interested in the Mac Studio? I think certainly an entry-level Mac Studio running tools like Reaper would be absolutely amazing, especially if you are a musician with many, many tracks and virtual instruments and effects running at the same time, it would just be wow. Let me know what you think. Drop me an email. email@example.com is the email address. That’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Attach an audio clip if you want, or just write it down and you can also call our listener line. That number in the United States is 864-60MOSEN, 864-606-6736.
Charlie: Hey Jonathan. I was actually reading up on your tweet about the next Mosen At Large. I was just looking at, do I really need another SE 3? My answer is actually no. No, I don’t because for me, the specs has not been bumped up too much. There’s only a chip that is really changed, but otherwise than that, the memory of the phone is not changed. We don’t have a 120 gigs storage. We don’t have a 256 gig storage which would’ve really appealed to the eye.
For me, if that is not there, why do I have to then buy again another phone that I am packed to the gills with data and not being able to use all the apps that I really want to use? Even though the phone is going to be faster, but the apps is going to be minimal that I can use on the phone itself because this one already, my SE 2022 or SE 2020 rather is already packed to the gills and I can’t put any more stuff on it. I had to delete a lot of apps in order to use minimal apps on it and it’s not fair. I want to experience the iPhone as good and as nice as it probably is, you understand? Why must I go minimalistic on a phone which where I want to experience everything about it.
Jonathan: That’s Charlie from South Africa with that contribution. Charlie, you can certainly get a 128 or a 256 version of the iPhone SE. You could also get a 128 version of the previous generation, but now they’ve added 256 as a new option. Petra is in touch and says, hello, Jonathan and all. I listened to the Apple event as I usually do. I finally got to experience spatial audio. Wow. It’s awesome. I’m really excited about the new iPhone SE but I won’t be getting one anytime soon. I just got the iPhone 13 mini in September, I can’t afford to change now. I don’t miss the home button but I would really like Touch ID. I’m doing okay with Face ID for the most part but I did perfectly well with Touch ID. It is quick and easy. I also have more problems with this iPhone than I have ever had before from voiceovers stuttering to apps behaving a little strangely.
Sometimes voiceover will say mail, and just as I double-tap, it jumps to weather and opens that. Maybe that’s an iOS problem, not the phones but it’s frustrating just the same. I’ll just say that I wish Apple had come out with this new SE before I got the 13 mini. I like Touch ID much more than Face ID. I’m also one who likes smaller phones. I will be looking at this new phone when it is available to handle. I know in advance that this podcast will be a good one, most of them are. [chuckles] I’m hooked.
I hope you and Bonnie stay well, happy, and in love. Thank you, Petra. I think we will try to do the first two and I’ve no doubt about the third.
Speaker 1: Mosen At Large podcast.
Jonathan: There’s quite a bit of reaction this week to our ongoing story about the accessibility problems with Uber. I do have some good news to report. Just after I published Episode 168, we used the Uber Eats app, and we found and that has been confirmed by others that now when you select items in Uber Eats, they do again speak when they are selected and we don’t have this for want of a better term, phantom place holder item in association with each thing that you can select. It’s great to have that back.
A couple of other things though, on Twitter, Sam Taylor pointed out something, and I thought this was the case but you start to doubt yourself. Until fairly recently, when you flip through the menu items in a restaurant on the Uber Eats app, you would hear a description of the dish without actually having to double-tap and go into the dish itself, you could find out what the dish contained, and it made it very easy for you to know whether it was worth going in or not.
Now, you have to double-tap into the dish itself and get the description from within there. That is a massive regression really in terms of efficiency. Over on the ride-sharing app, well, there has been no change there. I was very excited. I posted on my personal Twitter account last Sunday, New Zealand time, that I thought the Uber rides issue had been fixed as well. Now, interestingly enough, what happened in the case of the Uber Eats app was that it was fixed without an app update so there was some service side fix applied.
Then I went right in after that success with the Uber Eats app, checked the Uber app, and the first time I attempted to request a ride, I got the old experience. It was perfectly accessible. I jumped on Twitter and said, “Yahoo, they fixed it all,” only to find that some people wrote back and said, “Well, it’s not fixed for me, mate.” Sure enough, when I went back in, it wasn’t fixed for me again either.
It was a temporary aberration, unfortunately. I wonder how long we are going to have to tolerate this inaccessible experience that so many of us have with the Uber rideshare app. Curtis Chong is commenting on this. He says, “Hello, Jonathan, a couple of podcasts ago, you mentioned a problem with Uber where after a person typed in a destination, you could not flick right with one finger to hear the results of that search.
Instead, one had to use Explore by Touch to focus on and activate the desired result. My findings verify this problem but with one additional twist. If instead of flicking to the right, you flick to the left, you are able to get into the results list but from the last result, thus causing to spend even more time finding the result you actually might want. This last bit of information is valuable to folks who because of dexterity issues must use a keyboard instead of the iPhone’s touchscreen.
As for the rest of us, I fear we must continue using the Explore by Touch method until Uber finally fixes this problem.” Curtis says, “If I haven’t said this before, I do want to express my gratitude and appreciation to you personally for providing the useful information you continue to offer through the Mosen At Large podcast.” Thank you, Curtis. I appreciate that, and also, the very useful hint.
Francisco Crespo is writing in and it says, “Fortunately in Argentina, the Uber app has not been affected by the accessibility issues that you guys have been reporting. I wanted to provide a possible explanation to your question of how it is possible that these issues affect only some users, even though they are in the same version? I have seen this problem with Cabify, a Spanish rideshare service that works in Argentina.
They have an accessibility team but they were not able to reproduce the bugs I reported. At some point, we figured out that some of these platforms offer completely different layout based on the user’s region. This means that what’s accessible somewhere may not be elsewhere. Of course, testing for accessibility in this context gets chaotic. Unless you have blind users reporting issues from everywhere, the team will not realize they exist.
Once the team figured this out, they fixed all my voiceover bugs. My suggestion is that you guys attach the city and country where the issue was reproduced.” Thanks, Francisco. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as this. The issue is that some of us have spent hours wasting our time it seems on filing bug reports. I know that one user mentioned to me on Twitter that he is now canceling his Uber Pass.
I don’t know whether Uber Pass is available everywhere but it is available certainly in Australia and New Zealand, and you pay a flat monthly fee, and you get discounts on rides and discounts on deliveries from Uber Eats. He has spent hours and hours filing detailed bug reports. I know this to be true because he’s an accessibility professional. I know that he can file great bugs.
I have been trying to file these bugs. They know where we live but the difficulty we have is getting past the front line. Getting actually to somebody who understands what voiceover is, doesn’t tell you ridiculous things like uninstall and re-install the app, and has basically no clue about voiceover. I think this is the frustrating thing. People are quite happy to file bugs but they get very unhappy when they’ve taken the time to provide all this detail and you don’t get those bugs to the right people. You’ve obviously got very lucky in the case of Cabify that somebody who knew what they were doing will talk to you and work with you, we have not had any such luck.
Scott: Good day, Jonathan and all. It’s Scott from Sydney here again. I just wanted to bring up the Uber issue again. Unfortunately, I’ve found something in the latest update that’s broken. I don’t know if it affects everybody who uses the app. As of now, when you choose a destination, you cannot choose a ride type anymore. It says swipe up for more options, but when you try and swipe up with three fingers, you hear the boundary type sound as if you’ve hit the edge of the screen and can’t go any further.
I’ve tried swiping up, down, left, and right even turned voiceover off, tried swiping up with three fingers, turning voiceover back on, which made absolutely no difference. Another way I’ve reached out to Uber and it seems to have gotten me a response reasonably quickly was via Facebook. I went into Facebook to research for Uber and told them exactly what’s broken, that accessibility is suffering in a big way, and then whoever’s looking out for accessibility at Uber just doesn’t seem to care about it anymore.
They wrote back and said that they’re going to pass the feedback on to the appropriate team the same that you always get back. I got to say, when I last wrote to them on Facebook and Messenger, they did have the Uber Eats’ issues fixed in an update or two later. It just surprises me as you’ve mentioned in the past, Jonathan, that they don’t seem to test these things, they don’t want beta testers to test accessibility, and every few updates, something majorly breaks. Until they fix this issue, we’re locked out of the app. I’m stuck on Uber Transit at the moment. I can’t change to UberX. I’ve got to get some sighted assistance to actually switch that out for me.
Jonathan: Scott, I can duplicate one thing but not the other. The thing I can duplicate is that if you do contact Uber through social media channels, whether it be Twitter or Facebook, then they will make nice noises at you on those social media channels and say, “Thank you so much for your patience. We will pass this on.” It is seldom if ever that you actually hear from anybody who can follow up, that you can have a dialogue with.
I’d like to be able to get on a Zoom call for example and share my iPhone screen and show someone precisely what’s going on with these apps. You never get to that point. At least most of us, mere mortals appear not to be able to get to that point. What I’m pleased to say and I’m sorry it’s happening to you. What I’m pleased to say I can’t duplicate is the inability to select the right type. I heard somebody else from Australia on Twitter, making this point as well. Perhaps it’s an Australian thing, or perhaps it’s just happening to a few people. I can’t explain that.
That’s the mystery of some of these things that are going on. They’re happening to some people, but not others. Mike May wrote in and showed me a position description that’s out there now from Uber, they are looking for a director of I forget the exact title, but it’s something like advocacy and disability in diverse markets or something like that. It can be based in D.C., San Francisco, or New York.
I think if you’re going to do that, you’d probably want to base yourself in D.C. They’re looking for somebody with government relations, public policy, technology, business-type experience. If that’s you, you should check out Uber’s careers portal and have a go, because we really need somebody in there who cares and who’s actually connected with our community. You would have to be completely disconnected from the blind community not to have heard the howls of pain from people who are experiencing all of these Uber hassles.
Jonathan: This email comes from Ross Winetsky. He writes, “Dear Jonathan and worldwide Mosenites. This is a two-part email contribution to your show. Part one, on the topic of songs, I have broken song favorites into oldies and current releases. Favorite oldy is Big Brother and the Holding Company and Janis Joplin with Piece of My Heart. Shameless self-promotion,” says Ross.
“As a very young man, I played guitar in a band which opened dozens of shows for Janice and Big Brother in San Francisco during the ’60s. What a talent she was and so tragic we lost her so so young.” “Favorite current release,” says Ross, “is [unintelligible 00:42:10], and the least favorite song is Barry Manilow, and I write the songs. My mother used to sing tragic Appalachian and Old English love songs around the house.” Thank you, Ross.
“Part two, can you or your listeners recommend the best accessible thermostat after only four years our VIP 3000?” It sounds like a broom from Harry Potter. “Our VIP 3000 talking thermostat died. I am looking for either a good talking thermostat or a smart thermostat, which is not too terribly complicated to set up and the app is accessible. Stay well y’all,” says Ross. Y’all come back. Now you’re here.
Well, Ross, I don’t have any knowledge about thermostats because I think we do things differently in New Zealand. We use things like heat pumps, which can blow hot air in the wintertime, and cold air in the summertime. We’ve got three Mitsubishi heat pumps that are connected to Wi-Fi. We can control them with Google Home and the soup drinker. No Siri support, though. They also have a reasonable app. It’s not perfect, but it’s reasonable. I don’t think heat pumps are a big thing in the US from what I can gather.
If anybody can help Ross with his thermostat question, then we would be most grateful. The email address, of course, as ever, email@example.com. That’s J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N@mushroomfm.com. You can record something on your smartphone if you want and attach it as an audio clip, or you can write the email down. You can also call the listener line in the US. The number is 86460-Mosen 864-606-6736.
Abby Taylor: Hi, everybody. This is Abby Taylor in Sheridan, Wyoming. I have a lot of songs that I like. I can’t really pick just one. Instead, I’m going to talk about a song that I have never liked. Those of you who listen to the Mosen Explosion may have already heard this a few months ago when I just had to meet email Jonathan after he had done nerve to play that song on his show. Well, of course, he didn’t know that I didn’t like that song so I really can’t blame him. I figured he needed to know and he needed to know why. Now I will tell all of you in case you didn’t hear this on the Mosen Explosion a few months ago.
The song in question is called Goody Two Shoes. It was made popular in the 1980s by Adam and the Ants. At the time I was in college and the reason I have never liked the song is because it was and is about me. Back then, as now, I was one of those people who didn’t do a lot of partying. I was one of those people in college who stayed in my dorm room at nights and studied, instead of going out and partying or going to somebody else’s room and making merry.
Whenever I heard that song, it was as if Adam and the Ants, were singing it to me and mocking me for my good behavior. Frankly, folks, I am proud to be a goody-two-shoes because it has paid off. I graduated in 1985 with a BA in music. Afterward, I did two years of study and practicum in music therapy. After my internship at a nursing home, I became a registered music therapist and worked in his occupation for 15 years before I started writing.
That’s that and that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Great podcast, Jonathan. My best to you and Bonnie and looking forward to more episodes, especially more Bonnie Bulletins. I miss those when they don’t come around. Everybody take care. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. No, don’t smoke. You don’t chew. Know you don’t smoke, don’t you? Bye-bye, everybody.
Jonathan: Oh, there you go, Abby. I can try and increase the frequency of the Bonnie Bulletins. Sometimes we sit around the table, and we say, “Have we got anything to talk about on the Bonnie Bulletin this weekend?” Bonnie goes, “I don’t think so,” so we don’t. I shall tell her that she’s missed. She’ll appreciate that.
Here is Dawn from Sydney and she says, “Hi, Jonathan, I thought I would add my favorite and unfavorite songs to the list. Like you, I am a Beatles tragic,” or some people would say I’m just tragic, Dawn, but she says,
“I am also a folk music tragic. I think my favorite or one of my favorite songs of all time is Longer by Dan Fogelberg.” Okay, Dawn, I got to stop you there. I like Dan Fogelberg and I actually in all seriousness do like Longer. It’s a beautiful song, isn’t it? It irritates me as well that song. It irritates me. What it irritates me about it is what is the plural of fish. What is the plural of fish? It is not fishes and yet through that song is singing longer than there’ve been fishes in the ocean.
Now I know that the Bible talks about the five loaves and fishes but that’s the only place where I have heard the plural of fish, not simply being fish. It annoys me every time I hear it. It annoys me. Another one like that, by the way, is Air Supply’s Two Less Lonely People in the World. It used to really, really bugged me and I used to say it’s too fewer lonely people in the world, not less. You should know the difference between less and fewer.
I know we did a big session on a Mosen at Large episode a long time ago, about people’s grammatical pet peeves. That is one for me. People who do not know the difference between less and fewer. Then somebody emailed me when I played the Air Supply song on the radio on Mushroom FM and they emailed me and said, “You’re probably thinking about the song the wrong way. It’s not that there were two less lonely people isn’t two fewer lonely people. It’s two people who are less lonely than they were before.”
I have to confess, I hadn’t thought of it that way before. That has given me some peace of mind. Anyway, on to the rest of Dawn’s email. She says, “My most unfavorite song after much deliberation would be Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. This song has been used for so many advertisements and in all sorts of other context that I now find it utterly overdone and boring.”
Well, thank you for that, Dawn. I became a Harry Chapin fan in my teenage years, which was probably not a good idea because I actually had quite a bit of depression in my teenage years, and Harry Chapin didn’t help. Somebody said to me, if you like Harry Chapin, you’ll also like Leonard Cohen. I can’t get into Leonard Cohen and I kind of feel like there’s something wrong with me for that because so many people think he’s brilliant. I just don’t see it. Anyway, thank you for your email Dawn. Good to hear from you.
Loriel: Hi, Jonathan, this is Loriel from upstate New York here in the United States. I wanted to share a tip with your listeners, and I hope that this gives someone some assistance as I know that I struggled with this for a significant period of time before I was able to actually get this rectified. I believe starting with iOS 15.1. I’m not sure if it was the very first 15.1 or if it was an update to 15.1, but it was early to mid-January where I began noticing on both my iPhone 13 Pro Max and my iPad Mini sixth edition that unfortunately with Twitter, all of a sudden voiceover would not read properly.
I could not for the life of me figure out what I may or may not have done that could have caused this. I went through voiceover settings or so I thought, and would later learn with the assistance of Apple’s tech support, specifically someone who with accessibility, that there was a section that I completely overlooked and never would’ve thought to look at had they not pointed me in the right direction.
I’m going to explain first what to look for if you should have this issue. Basically, it’ll be very, very glaring, very noticeable. If you have just recently upgraded from iOS 14 to an iOS 15, whatever the version of 15 may be. If you open Twitter and all of a sudden it looks kind of funky.
By that I mean if you scroll around with voiceover swiping your finger left to right, and you notice that it’s not reading properly and doesn’t seem to be, to only seems to be reading, maybe a word, maybe a part of a phrase, maybe a phrase, maybe only a couple characters or spots where it seems to have what I would affectionately call dead air, where you scroll and you hear nothing other than the click of the movement on the screen if you have your iOS sounds turned off within voice over.
Once I spoke with Apple tech support, they told me to do the following. I’m going to demo this as I talk it through. What you will do is go to your settings.
Speaker 1: Settings, double-check, settings.
Laurie: You’re going to want to scroll down to accessibility.
Speaker 1: Accessibility button.
Laurie: I’m doing this on my iPhone 13 Pro Max.
Speaker 1: Accessibility features help you customize your iPhone for your–
Laurie: Okay. You’re going to look for your top heading, which is vision.
Speaker 1: Vision, heading.
Laurie: You’re going to swipe over once to voiceover.
Speaker 1: Voiceover on, button.
Laurie: You’re going to double-tap here.
Speaker 1: Voiceover on.
Laurie: Now you’re going to want to you swipe until you get to where it should say Voiceover recognition.
Speaker 1: Audio button connect activities, frail button, speech button speaking, rate, speak, voiceover recognition button.
Laurie: Okay. Once on voiceover recognition, you’ll double-tap.
Speaker 1: Using on device intelligence. Your iPhone will automatically–
Laurie: Okay. Once in this screen, you are going to want to look for screen recognition.
Speaker 1: You iPhone on screen recognition on button.
Laurie: If it says on that’s perfectly fine, you want to double-tap on this
Speaker 1: Screen recognition on.
Laurie: You will want to scroll down until you find the option for–
Speaker 1: Your iPhone apply to apps. Amazon music.
Laurie: Apply to apps. Now, once you double-tap in here-
Speaker 1: Apply to.
Laurie: -it will show you the apps that this has automatically been applied to. In my case, before I corrected the error with Twitter, I had both Amazon Music, as you just heard a moment ago, and Twitter selected in this particular screen. What tech support indicated that I should do is unselect Twitter. Obviously, you’ll swipe through.
Speaker 1: On Twitter button.
Laurie: You can hear where it says Twitter. It is not presently selected and I’m not going to at this time, I don’t want to have to restart my iOS device but what you ultimately do is if it does show that it is indeed, if it says selected Twitter, you will double tap on that to where it will no longer say selected and ultimately you will essentially back out of this level by level.
Speaker 1: Screen recogni– voiceover recognition, back button, voiceover, back button, voiceover, accessibility, back button, access settings, back button settings, voiceover settings, heading.
Laurie: Okay. Once back to the main setting screen, you can close out of it.
Speaker 1: Doc setting.
Laurie: You will need to restart your iOS device. Once your iOS device has been restarted, you can open the app. In this case, for me, it was Twitter. You should be able to see that any issues with reading with voiceover no longer exist. Now I don’t ever recall turning on screen recognition within voiceover recognition, specifically apply to the Twitter app. This is possible that I turned it on and was unaware, but I also have to wonder if perhaps for some reason, maybe it turned on by default.
Anything is possible I suppose. Hopefully, this tip will help someone else who may have an issue, whether with a Twitter app or with another app. You may have to do some scrolling and swiping throughout your list of apps. Once you get to the apply to apps screen, to see what, if any apps are “selected”, it will, before you actually double tap on the apply to apps button, or option within screen recognition options in the voiceover recognition settings, it will tell you before you ever double tap on that what apps already are selected.
As long as you can recall what apps it says or selected, you can easily go through and unselect and see if that corrects any voiceover reading issues. I hope this tip helps. Thank you so much for all the incredible, wonderful information that you have shared, Jonathan, over the years, and continue to share not only from your own experiences but also from so many around the world. I’m a long-time listener and absolutely enjoy the podcast.
Jonathan: Thanks so much, Laurie, both for the compliments on the show and the time that you took to demonstrate that issue. The screen recognition feature of iOS, as we demonstrated, when it was first released is a powerful tool in the right circumstances. I had an app which was completely inaccessible without this feature. When I opened the app, you would find that there was just nothing on the screen as far as voiceover was concerned. You’d flick around and you’d get that sound that indicated there was no element on the screen at all.
When the screen recognition feature came along and I was able to open the app with that on, I found that there was this initial kind of splash screen with a continue button. Once I got past that, the app was actually fully accessible. It was quite a revelation. It was just that initial screen that was preventing me from accessing it but as you’ve identified, there are downsides to this feature. I actually struck it right away during the beta period of that feature being introduced to iOS because I was also beta testing an app, which normally has a 100% accessibility. I found that I couldn’t use the app in anymore. It was doing very bizarre things.
I wrote to the developer, because I was on the test flight builds for it, and I said, “What have you done, mate? What have you done? You’ve got this exemplary app and now it’s not working at all.” He wrote back and he said, “What do you mean? I haven’t done anything to break accessibility.” I kept insisting to him. Well, you have, because I can’t use the app at all. Now it’s gone really strange and weird and wonky.
Then I had to do what we in New Zealand and I think in most English-speaking countries call eating humble pie, and I believe in the states, they say eat crow. When I found out that by inadvertently enabling the screen recognition feature, this perfectly accessible app, I had rendered it completely inaccessible. It is a weird downside of this feature. Be very careful with it and I’ve not seen it turn itself on, but I have seen people enable it very easily if the screen recognition feature is on the rotor, because the voiceover rotor’s focus seems to set itself to really unpredictable things. I would prefer that it stayed on, say, words or characters when you flick up by default.
I’m not quite clear about what it is. That means that sometimes the rotor just goes off into a land of its own and by swiping up and down, you are changing your language or you are toggling screen recognition on and off. That’s the most common scenario in which I have seen the feature accidentally having been turned on and it’s been enabled for someone who hasn’t realized it’s done and suddenly an app that worked perfectly well before doesn’t work anymore.
It is a problem that we have discussed before actually on this show. I have advised listeners to go in and turn screen recognition often that has fixed the problem, but you can never have too many reminders of these things. When it happens to you, it is really disconcerting if you don’t know what you’re looking for. It probably is a good idea to just do the full thing and obviously, check the rotor whenever you are in an accessible app if you’ve got screen recognition on the rotor to be sure that it’s not inadvertently on. It can’t do any harm to just go in there every so often and verify the apps for which screen recognition is enabled.
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Jonathan: I’m pleased to say there’s a new book out. It’s called When One David Kingsbury Book is not Enough. Sorry, I had to get that in there somewhere. It is by David Kingsbury and it’s a Windows screen reader primer and David Kingsbury joins me now. Hi, David, good to have you back with us.
David Kingsbury: Thank you for having me, Jonathan. It’s great to be back.
Jonathan: For those who weren’t listening when you were last on this show, could you just introduce yourself? Tell us a little bit about who you are.
David: Well, again, my name is David Kingsbury, I’m an assistive technology instructor at the Carroll Center for the Blind that’s in Massachusetts, outside of Boston. I’m also active with the American Council of the Blind. I’m the president of the Massachusetts affiliate of the ACB. I’ve been a technology instructor at the Carroll Center for going on seven years now. Well, that’s a little bit about me.
Jonathan: This is the third book I think you’ve written. Is that correct?
David: That’s right. The first one was about formatting word documents, the second one was about web browsing, and now there’s this third one.
Jonathan: This current book really is a magnum opus. It is massive. There’s so much in it and I imagine it must have taken you a good while to write it, I’d estimate what, a couple of years or so?
David: Yes, it’s taken about a year and a half. I’ll tell you one thing that may be sped it up a little bit was the pandemic because I didn’t commute to work so that saved me 10 to 15 hours a week and I plowed some of that time into writing this and researching it. Also, I did draw in at least a couple of chapters on what I had already written about Word and web browsing. Those were a little bit quicker to write than the others.
I think I started in more or less August of my years run together, 2021, does that sounds right. All right, 2020, I’m sorry. 2020. It’s been about a year and a half or so, but I’ve really enjoyed writing it and learned a lot in doing it too.
Jonathan: As an author, you do learn a lot when you do a process like this. What was your objective in writing this book?
David: My objective was to try to write something comprehensive. After I wrote the first two books I thought, “Well, gee, what should I write next?” As I’m sure learning assistive technology and the Windows environment, it’s a little bit like a puzzle, a big jigsaw puzzle. You’ve got things that you need to learn about screen readers and about Windows, maybe 10 or now 11.
The various Microsoft Office applications, there were four or five major ones, various web browsers, and then a few other important programs. It can be pretty daunting I think unless you are already quite proficient at technology. I thought that rather than let’s say pick off another piece of a puzzle-like a book on Excel or Outlook or something like that, I thought it would be more valuable to make a better contribution to try to write something comprehensive where you could get all the basics in one place.
The subtitle is All the Basics and More, and you could get a little bit more. As a technology instructor, I’ve sometimes thought when somebody comes for training it’s almost like, “Yes, they have to learn what they have to learn but then they have to go home with reference material.” It’s almost like they have to learn it and write the textbook themselves at the same time. I thought, “Why don’t I take a shot at writing the textbook?”
I’m hoping it plugs an important gap, something that can obviously be used primarily by those wanting to learn how to use screen readers as well as those who have been using screen readers for a while want to learn a few new things. Then also for other technology instructors, as well as for teachers of the visually impaired, that is those who are teaching students in high school and so. That’s my hope that this becomes the go-to textbook.
Again, not something that’s going to replace all the other things out there but something that you can go to one place and have a comprehensive guide to using a screen reader in the Windows environment.
Jonathan: You’re a brave man because one of the things you’ve done in this book is that you have compared the three screen readers and most common use today in Windows, Narrator, JAWS, and NVDA. One thing that really impressed me is that you haven’t been hesitant to point out areas where people will be losing out on functionality and useful features if they are not using JAWS because I think often people just don’t understand the power that JAWS has compared with other options.
David: That’s true. That comes out as you very well know, especially when we start talking about customizations, all the things that you can potentially do in setting center and quick settings. Also some of the wonderful tools like text analyzer, speech and sound schemes. JAWS is really set apart in that way. That said, I wanted to give people a sense that once you are comfortable with one of the screen readers, the learning curve for getting the basics of the other ones is really not that steep. It definitely pays like with web browsing to not just be dependent on a single screen reader.
Jonathan: The book is divided into various sections. You start off with the basics of Windows and then you go on to chapters on specific areas, a number on the Office products: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. You’ve got web browsers there and you also talk about a few techniques that are interesting. It demonstrates how many of us use our computers in different ways. You, for example, talk about using Excel as a password manager.
I wondered to myself how would I do that in iOS, for example, because with 1password, I have things on Windows and I have them in iOS and Android for that matter, although, I don’t use Android that often. Similarly, favorites, which user just you could put into a folder and then access them with Windows Explorer so the favorites are essentially browser agnostic. Then I wondered how well that would work when you use your iPhone where those favorites might not be there or might not be compatible.
David: That could be again, as you know, as well as anybody, there are many different ways you can deal with a particular technology issue. I came up with this way of managing my own passwords, actually after I listened to your very good podcast on one password. I made an effort to learn it, I spent a few hours working on it and it seemed pretty cool to me. Then I thought of what the requirements are of a good password management system.
The problem I have as a trainer is I have people coming in, I don’t necessarily have a lot of time with them but most people like I have for many years have the same bad habit of just using the same password for everything.
Jonathan: Yes, that’s a disaster, isn’t it?
David: You’re right. I don’t have two or three hours to teach people how to use one password or KeePass and I would never say, “Don’t use those.” I would never say that because those people like yourself who use them are very happy with them. I’ll say, “At least while you’re waiting to learn that other, here’s a very quick and easy way that you can do this.”
Now for myself I also for a lot of the passwords that I have, for apps that I have on my iPhone I have one of the older phones so I use the finger ID so I can get into most of my apps on my iPhone, that way for when internet banking and so on so works pretty good for me.
With the business of the favorites, I know you talked a few weeks ago about getting into Brave, learning the Brave browser. Most people when they learn a new browser, again, one of the biggest hurdles for some folks, not that it’s a huge hurdle is, “Gee, now how do I deal with my bookmarks and my favorites and things like that?” The technique that I came up with means you don’t have to learn any of that. It doesn’t matter what browser you’re using you can just have all of your favorites or a.k.a bookmarks all in the same place and that’s worked very well for me at least. I think it would work for many people.
I personally use two computers so work computer, a home computer, and occasionally I’ll look at some of those favorites on my iPhone and they’re right there in my OneDrive so I can access them there too. It works for me and I think it would work for a number of other people. Again, not necessarily everybody.
Jonathan: Now this is interesting. You’re saying if I put those shortcuts in a OneDrive folder and I use say the OneDrive app on my phone or Dropbox or whatever, that those will be compatible with my iOS browser?
David: Right, because you just go into that favorites folder that’s sitting as one of your folders like any other in OneDrive or Dropbox, I guess you could do Google Drive also if you wanted to and you just double tap on that favorite and it opens the URL.
Jonathan: Okay, that’s the missing link for me as it were that I didn’t appreciate that you could actually do this on other operating systems and that those shortcuts would work. Then you can change browsers as often as you like on any platform, and your favorites will still be there.
Jonathan: Your Excel chapter is fantastic. I picked up a couple of tricks. You’re obviously an Excel geek and expert at this. It seems to me that Excel is a little underutilized in the blind community. Do you think that’s true?
David: I think so. I think Excel is a little bit like PowerPoint in that people sometimes just have a fear of it. When I’ve trained people in Excel and they’re new to it, it really can hurt your head. You can really get headaches because you have to deal with spatial issues, what is where at the same time that you’re trying to learn these commands. It’s not quite as straightforward and intuitive if you haven’t visually seen those things before as simply being in a text document.
The one thing that I make a big point of is this wonderful Define Names command. I say to people, “If you use that, you put that in very early in putting your spreadsheet together, it makes things much easier,” because people will be deep into a spreadsheet somewhere, they don’t know what column that relates to, what row it relates to, and using that Define Name command I think is the single most important tool to make Excel accessible.
Jonathan: I completely agree with that and it’s something I encourage my staff to do because I get large spreadsheets that can be quite complex and have millions of dollars in budget, and just being able to go deep into the spreadsheet to be able to tab around and know the data that you’re dealing with, the column you’re dealing with, it makes the world of difference just hearing those headers in the JAWS message voice. The cool thing is that this approach is screen reader agnostic, it’ll work with any screen reader. There used to be JAWS-specific ways to do this, but this is a general way to do it.
David: Right. The JAWS technique still exists. I don’t train people in it and in fact the last time freedom scientific did one of their FS trainings which by the way are Excellent, as you know, they talked about the Define Name command in Excel and they hardly talked about their own command. That’s not to say that it’s not good, but I think the Define Names is just better easier to use. Like you say, it doesn’t matter what screen reader another person’s using because it’s an Excel command.
Jonathan: A lot of people at home think that Excel is not a tool that they have a need for and yet as you illustrate really well in this book, there are so many home-related tasks that can be best performed in Excel.
David: Yes, correct. Most people would think, “Well, obviously you’re going to use Excel for anything number-crunching related,” but I think whenever you have a list like a basic list, people’s names, their phone numbers, their email addresses, it’s much better to put that in Excel than in simply a Word document because you can manipulate the columns so much more easily then you can do that in Word.
Then one of my favorite little things is– Let’s say you have 30-40 people and you want to send an email to that group, now in theory in Outlook, there are these things called contact groups. I found they’re very difficult to use if you’re going to need to update that list. New people come into the list, old people go out, and with just good old select, copy and paste, you can take that column of emails and put it right into the To field of an email message or the BCC field if you want to hide them all. It just works very easily and it’s much more easy to maintain that list as people come in and as people leave the list.
That’s my favorite way of sending emails to larger groups. Now if it’s a lot of people, then you need one of these both email manager programs, but 20, 30, 40 people works very nicely, very easy.
Jonathan: One of the big challenges with assistive technology training is the old adage of giving someone a fish versus teaching them to fish. How do you strike that balance between “Follow these steps to do these things,” and giving them the tools that encourage self-discovery and explaining the actual concepts?
David: I do try to step back and explain a few things. For example, I do spend time on the Word ribbons, how you move around them but then also the logic of when to use them, when not to use them.
I have to say this is a book, it’s a textbook. Books can fall short in that way. I don’t think it is a substitute particularly for people who were new to screen readers to getting training, to get individualized training if fortunate enough to be in a place where you can get it. Getting a sense of those concepts, being able to ask questions and people have all different questions depending on their needs, there’s really no replacement for that.
Jonathan: Can I explore with you how much thought you gave into the order that the chapters appear? I may be overthinking all of this, but when I was doing technology training, one of the things I noticed was that if you start off with the web and you have people press keys and they get the answers, the results that they were expecting, so you focus on content consumption, it gives them some confidence.
That when they move on to content creation, they’ve acquired a few computer skills and they fear the computer less, but I did notice that in your book you’ve put the content creation chapters first, the office chapters, and then you move on to the web browser. Was that a deliberate strategy on your part to do that?
David: It’s just what seemed to make logical sense in the writing of the book. I would not say to people, particularly people who already have experience using screen readers, “Don’t read this from beginning to end in that order. Move around, go to where you want to go to because it makes sense for you.” The way I handled it in a way is that I’ve been a trainer now for seven years, and I’ll train people for two-week periods, four-week periods things like that. I do have a more or less logical order in which I train.
Part of what I put in– Not all of it, of course. Part of it was almost me writing down the scripts that I have memorized into my head. Part of that does have to do with the order in which things are in there, but not entirely. You generally want to start with the screen readers themselves, then the Windows environment, then I could see somebody easily skipping over to the web but you want to know something about text editing and navigation and reading before you jump to the web.
I think the most important thing is for people to use a book like this in a way that makes sense for them. For many people, that is not going to be by reading it from beginning to end in the order in which it’s presented.
Jonathan: When the Microsoft ribbons were introduced, a lot of blind people didn’t like them. JAWS even introduced a feature to get around them, they were controversial. Now it seems like everybody’s got used to them. What do you think of them?
David: Like most people, I don’t like change. I often come kicking and screaming into it. I have really come to appreciate the ribbons and if they went back to drop-down menus, I wouldn’t like that at all. I like the ribbons because–
Well, at least from the standpoint of a technology trainer, at least for my own uses, it almost forced you to figure out ways to be more efficient. Back in the day where you’d hit the alt key, you’d open up the file menu, you’d right arrow seven times to something, you down arrow 11 times to something else and you knew you could always find stuff that way. You would just do it that way.
The ribbons also may almost made it too difficult to do it that way. It hopefully encourages people to learn some shortcut keys either via the ribbon or figuring out a way with the applications key. Of course, I think one of the strengths of Windows is that for anything that you want to do, there’s usually three or four or five different ways to do it.
One other thing I’ll say is, “I don’t know when they introduced it four or five years ago,” but this really wonderful little tool, the Alt Q for query or question because some people like me it’s my job to memorize all these miserable little shortcut keys. For a lot of people, it isn’t so. If you can just hit Alt Q and then type in the word bullet because you don’t know what the way to get there in the ribbons is or the shortcut, very, very nice way to easily execute some commands. I very much like that feature for those who don’t have the time or inclination to learn all those shortcut keys.
Jonathan: Yes, it’s funny you mention Alt Q. Just parenthetically, I was reading your book on Microsoft word. These days when I’m just reading something for pleasure, I find the voices for the read-aloud feature on the ribbons under the review tab in Microsoft Word fantastic. That’s so natural and still good at a high speed. I was reading the book in Word, it’s beautifully marked up, but it’s not until all the way towards the bottom of the book that you mentioned Alt Q and I was sitting here yelling at my computer going, “When is he going to mention Alt Q?” I love Alt Q, I’m totally dependent on Alt Q. I very seldom memorize any commands. It’s like this glorious command line right in office.
David: Well, we did put this book out for free. One of the reasons being that I want to put it out, I want to make a living document, put out a second edition. The idea of putting Alt Q early in, not a bad idea to put that in early, rather than way at the end, after you’ve gone through all this misery of having to swallow all these commands.
Jonathan: It is seriously such a powerful tool and anybody who hasn’t tried this in one of the office applications give alt Q a try, just type what you’re searching for and then down arrow. What I find is that Microsoft search algorithm is very good, even if I don’t know quite what the feature is called, normally alt Q will find it for me. It’s really well done.
David: It is. Then also, if you’re a little bit more advanced, one nice thing about it is you can hit it alt Q, maybe not quite get the right thing, but you down arrow through and you say, “Gee, there’s something else that’s interesting. Let me check that out.” You can maybe find out something very new and interesting by mistake almost.
Jonathan: Just a bit ago, you mentioned something very important and that is that the Carroll Center is giving this book away, which I think is a tremendous gift to the blind community because it’s taken you all this time to produce. How many pages is it?
David: A 12-point Ariel with one-inch margins all the way around 325 pages.
Jonathan: Right, so it’s a huge body of work and you could have got a good price for work like this. What was the rationale behind making it available for free?
David: A couple of reasons. One, the Carroll Center, publishing is not our job. That’s not what we’re into, that’s not our major source of revenue nor will it ever be. Our main goal is really to get things out to people, whether it be technology or other types of rehabilitation services, but then also I thought it would be good to put it out for free because technology books by their nature have a very short shelf life.
I did want to put the effort into this book to put something out that there’s a flurry of people buying it. Then it just collects dust because it gets out of date. I thought by putting it out for free, it will just be easier over time to update it. The idea is, I like to say that will maybe make it a living document, as opposed to something you do it once. It’s nice and then its shelf life is finished six months later or something like that. I will definitely be updating it, at least, once a year, maybe more often as new things come along or as I decide that there were things that I’d like to add to it or maybe reorder, like sticking the alt Q higher up in it. My intention is, again, that it’d be a living document that I updated and it stick around for a few years in that way.
Another thing is, I guess, more philosophically, technology is very empowering as we know, but technology also has the possibility of increasing inequality. I’m all for people paying for things, I’m for the free market and all of that, but it’s nice if something like this gets to those who can afford it, but it may not necessarily get to others who can’t afford it.
I’ve got some very nice emails from people in India, Uganda, Aruba, a few other places saying, “Thank you for making this available, just would not have had access to it otherwise.” I think that’s important too. In my earlier life, I worked for the United Nations, working in developing countries, so that means something to me too, that it can get to people who might otherwise not be able to afford it or access it.
Jonathan: I think the only thing that’s constant in technology is change. An example of this is that in the current version of the book, you rightly point out that in the current shipping version of Windows 11, it is a bear to change your browser. You have to go through all sorts of hoops to change all the file types, so that you can use a browser other than Edge. It’s horrible, although Firefox has worked around it, but the backlash has been such that in the insider builds of Windows 11 now, they have addressed that and it’s very similar to how it used to be in Windows 10.
David: Good. I’m very glad about that. Again, back to these things going out of date quickly, I noticed that with the web browser book that I wrote, we took it out of our bookstore about six months ago, probably should have taken it out a little bit earlier. Ironically, the book on Word formatting that’s done with National Braille Press, the content there is still largely intact.
That still seems up to date to me, but if you’re a person contemplating, “Gee, should I buy a book or not,” you’re not going to know that and you might not want to buy it because of the short shelf life. Again, I hope to update. That that’s good news if in Windows 11, they’re going to go back a little bit closer to the way it was in Windows 10. If that’s the case, that will be in the update next time around.
Jonathan: How will the process work when you update the book? How are people going to find out about those updates?
David: First I’ve got to write it, but through the same ways we publicized the book going out the first time, it will go out through the various groups.io list. We put things out that way, top tech tidbits and maybe I’ll send an email to you when it’s [crosstalk] ready.
Jonathan: Please do. I’d gladly read that. What’s your favorite web browser at the moment and why?
David: I revert to Google Chrome. I just use Chrome the most personally. I still like the Google search engine, I think that’s still the most powerful, at least, for me. I know there are the privacy concerns, I guess, I shouldn’t say this, but maybe I’m a little bit more fatalistic than most. They’ve got all your information anyways, so whatever, but I think Edge is a great browser now, unlike several years ago.
Firefox, I find has just gotten, at least on my computers, slower, less responsive, a little bit more complicated to do things that are easier to do elsewhere. I’ve also taken a spin through Brave. I like to just change them around a bit from time-to-time, also. I really like the Immersive Reader that is in Microsoft Edge, but I also say that there is a way you can do something similar in Chrome. It’s some weird little bizarre thing where you’ve got to go to some add-in page that they don’t call an add-in page and you have to load it. Once it’s on there, if it works, great, if it doesn’t, then you’re out of luck. Some of the people I train for some reason, it just doesn’t go there, but I’m able to do that Immersive Reader type of thing on Chrome also. I go to Chrome, but I think Chrome and Edge are equally good. That’s my opinion.
Jonathan: In the book, you make reference to Narrator becoming an increasingly capable screen reader. I think we would all agree with that. In fact, there is one task where I believe Narrator has the edge over anything else and that is in reading email, just when you want to go through a long list of email, open them up, have the email bodies speak instantly without any other verbiage, deleting the email and going on. Narrator I find can’t be beat right now. What else do you think has to happen for Narrator to become even more viable?
David: If I was going to ask one question of the Microsoft folks, it would be what is your ultimate goal for Narrator? Do you want Narrator to compete for the market with JAWS, with MVDA, because if that’s something they want to do, then of course, they’ve got a quite a ways to go to have the power of all the customizations that JAWS has. If they want a good respectable screen reader, that’s responsive, they’re already pretty close to being there.
One thing I’ve been a little surprised at, just my opinion, is they really went gangbusters up to two years ago or so, coming in with lots of new features and so on. I was quite surprised. I think you may have commented on it also, when Windows 11 first came out last October, very surprising that there were not major new things coming in Narrator. A little surprised that Narrator really has not added a lot of new features in the last couple of years, after really doing an amazing job for two or three years there of really get up and going.
Jonathan: That begs the question has Microsoft stopped because they’ve gone as far as they want to go or have we stopped seeing things because there’s something so big being developed that it is taking time? I do keep hearing rumors that Microsoft is working on a comprehensive scripting language for Narrator, more customization that will basically make it very easy for third-party developers to leverage that.
David: It could be. Again, I don’t have that insider type of knowledge. Perhaps there is something big in the works, but I like others, who are little bit surprised that when Windows 11 came out with all the fanfare, really nothing changed in Narrator, but you never know. Things could happen. Microsoft overall, still seems quite committed to accessibility. I use their accessibility desk all the time. I suggest to all the people I train use it. It’s a fantastic resource.
Jonathan: It is, isn’t it? They do such a good job of that answer desk.
David: They really do.
Jonathan: Yes, and Crystal’s doing a wonderful job of leading that team. Windows is now quite stable, isn’t it? What you’ve written, particularly in the context of the office applications could have been mostly written two or three years ago. That’s a very good thing.
David: Yes, definitely. Little has changed except for the occasional nice new feature. Windows, I think also is quite stable. I remember when licenses like Microsoft 365 licenses came along, people were very leery. They did not want to be at the cutting edge of things because they thought it could really mess up their accessibility settings. I don’t think there’s that fear anymore.
I also remember that when I started training full-time, six, seven years ago, it was a nightmare in one way. We had people with Windows 7 and people with even XP still, people with Windows 8 and 8.1 and new people just starting with Windows 10. Then what’s the other one, there was another Windows in there that was really terrible, that I forget the name of. I had classes where I’d be training people on three or four different operating systems, all of which acted very differently. It is definitely nice that even now we have Windows 10 and 11, but really the differences aren’t that major between them.
I just feel a little bit more comfortable with technology that bad things aren’t going to suddenly happen tomorrow. I think it’s also great that we have choices now that we didn’t have before. There is JAWS, there is NVDA, there’s Narrator. There’s several browsers. I don’t think we had those choices five, six, seven years ago, quite so much as we do now.
Jonathan: Yes, exactly. I was actually saying to Brian Hartgen right here on the show last week, that there was a time when the question was, what’s the accessible application that does this thing? Now, its which application do you prefer. We’ve got a much greater variety of choices now.
David: Yes, and it just makes you sleep a little better at night. Six, seven, eight years ago, if my JAWS died on me, it’s nightmare time or something. I turn on Narrator, maybe five, six times a day, whenever my JAWS hiccups on me. It’s just very reassuring to know I’ve got that Narrator voice there just waiting in the wings. It just makes you feel a little bit more safe and secure in this wild technology land we live in.
Jonathan: One of the things I really like about your book is that we all have personal preferences and you are not afraid to express yours and people’s preferences just differ. We’re all individuals. One of the things, for example, that had me chuckling is that you have an opinion that’s completely the antithesis of my opinion. I do everything in reverse that you talk about and this is relating to the spell-checker in Word, versus the spell-checker in Microsoft Outlook.
You are saying that you prefer the newer spell-checker in Word and that sometimes you will even go into Word and you will write your email in Word and then do a copy and paste after spell checking because you like the spell-checker so much and I’m exactly the opposite. I used to write documents in Outlook and then paste them into Word after spell checking because I liked the Outlook spell-checker so much better. Then recently, I got a push in my Microsoft Office. Now the Microsoft Outlook spell-checker is as bad as the Word and I was so annoyed about that. It’s funny how people’s preferences do vary.
David: Oh, that’s funny. Hopefully, reasonable people can disagree. That’s one thing I like about your podcast is you bring on people with different opinions. Now, I don’t think this is something that’s going to get people too angry like some of the topics that you’ve covered, but I think people can disagree on this one. I love– love is maybe too strong a word. I just really appreciate the newer spell-checker for various reasons that I think I mentioned.
Jonathan: No, no, I’m going to cancel you, David. I’m going to cancel you because you don’t agree with me about spell-checkers. [laughs] What is it about the Word spell-checker that you like?
David: Couple of things and I’m comparing it to say the 2016 spell check. One, it’s easier to teach, I think and that when you come in to the dialogue box, you always come in at the same place, whereas with 2016, you come in where you last were and it’s a little confusing. I think the main thing is that it reads to you so much more context of the line you’re on, the sentence that you’re on.
There are JAWS keystrokes, insert C for hearing your context and things like that, but I don’t have to train people in that when it just automatically says the text of the line you’re on. The main thing is it reads you context much more easily than the earlier spell-checkers. That’s my favorite reason for using it.
Jonathan: Good on you. I really enjoyed the book. Is there anything about the book that we haven’t covered or highlighted that you’d like to mention?
David: One, it’s free. You’re not going to lose any money downloading it, that’s one thing. Beyond that, a subtitle is all the basics and more and I think that more part of it is in there to emphasize that even for people who are fairly experienced using screen readers, you could definitely pick up some nice tidbits, some things that maybe you didn’t know before. I think that would be the main thing.
The like I said, the main thing use it as a reference, use it as a textbook, share it with other people because that’s why it’s also out there for free. I’ll say one last thing, which is again, we put it out for free, but I don’t want to be bashful in saying if you do download the book and you do appreciate it and you feel you can afford opening up your wallet a bit, donations to the Carroll Center are appreciated. That would be @carroll.org, C-A-R-R-O-L-L.org/donate. That will also pass the signal to others at my organization, that putting this out for free was appreciated. It’s appreciated by thank you emails, but it is also appreciated when there are donations.
Jonathan: It is a very generous thing that Carroll Center has done. Also, it’s a significant contribution that you personally have made to our community. I do know what it’s like to write these things and how much you have to proof things and check things. I also come across people who understand the potential of this technology, but man, it frustrates them. It just does not come naturally for them to have access to a book like this, a comprehensive resource, it’s a huge contribution to our community. I can’t speak highly enough about this book.
David: Thank you again. The idea was to, hopefully, fill a knowledge gap that I thought was there. If it does do that for a number of people screen reader users, as well as other technology trainers, then I will feel that it was definitely worth the time to do it. I certainly enjoyed writing it. It was not a sacrifice.
Jonathan: Tell us how people can get this book.
David: You get it from the Carroll Center website. The easiest thing is just to go into your favorite search engine and type in the Windows screen reader primer and it’s going to be your first search result that will bring you to a webpage where you’re asked for a little information about your name., how did you hear about the book, things like that. Then there’ll be a second page where you can download it. When you do download it, it will go right to the downloads folder, the book itself, in a zip file, as well as a subfolder with some practice files, because there’s also an appendix at the end, that people can use with practice exercises and so on.
One other thing that I’ll say, I can maybe take advantage of being on here with you to get to some of your listeners. The book is big, over 300 pages. Most people, myself included, don’t tend to open Word documents that are over 300 pages and try to navigate around. I’ve also divided the book up in chapters. I have an additional zip file that I can send to people on request and I’ll give my email in a moment, that simply has each of the chapters as a separate file.
If on a given day you just want to read about Excel, you can open a 30 or 40-page document as opposed to the 300 some odd page document and you request that from me. Shall I give my email address now?
Jonathan: Yes, please do.
David: That could be requested at email@example.com. That’s D-A-V-I-D.K-I-N-G-S-B-U-R-Y@carroll.org. Again, that’s C-A-R-R-O-L-L.org and I’ll send you that zip file as well as instructions on where it’s going to go when you download it to your computer.
Jonathan: That’s a Window screen reader primer, I would be surprised if anyone opens this book and doesn’t learn a thing or two because there are so many different ways to do things in Windows. It’s a great read. I really appreciate you coming on the podcast to tell us about it, David.
David: Thank you, Jonathan. It’s always great to be with you and love your podcast. I listen every week and keep up the good work.
[music] Jonathan Mosen, Mosen At Large Podcast.
Jonathan: This email comes from Chris Moore and it says, “Hi, Jonathan. My employer kindly provided me with a Mantis Q40 Braille display. What a nice employer. The device is wonderful and a joy to type on. Sadly, when switching into terminal mode and connecting to my Windows 10 device via USB, the 40-cell display is only showing the message Braille display. It did work initially after adding it as a new device via the JAWS Braille settings. I’ve tried unticking the device from the list and adding it again, but still no Braille is being displayed. There are three options in the basic Braille settings, remote Braille, no Braille, and then the Mantis. No Braille seems to appear first, then it flips to Mantis. When I quit JAWS and fire up NVDA the Braille is there and working without a hitch. I’m rocking JAWS 2020, but due to be upgraded to JAWS 2022 soon. I’ve heard that Narrator can sometimes hog at the Braille display and not give it back. I’ve not gotten Narrator set up to work with Braille, so don’t think it is that, especially as NVDA has no problem accessing the display. Any idea of what the problem could be?”
In other news, “I’ve had my Cochlear Bone Anchored Hearing aids upgraded to the Baha 6 Max, they are much smaller in size and audio is streamed directly into the selected program, rather than switching to a dedicated streaming program in earlier Baha versions. There was always a delay to allow for the switch. Now, it is like my iPhone is constantly streaming into my hearing aids, no matter what program is selected. It is wonderful. Sound quality is much better, too. Thanks in advance.” Good to hear from you, Chris. That does sound like a worthwhile upgrade that you’ve got there for your hearing, so well done.
I’m not sure if I can precisely duplicate what you have because the only screen reader I use Braille with is JAWS and I was able to just connect the Mantis and it started to work. I am running JAWS 2022, but I think the first version that I would have used may well have been JAWS 2020. It should be supported there.
Your layout looks similar to mine based on your description. When I go into the options and choose Braille, I have remote access Braille. I have no Braille and then I have the Mantis, which is the third choice. When I go into the options, I can see that it is set to USB. I believe that if I had a Bluetooth dongle on my studio PC, I would also be able to choose Bluetooth. If you have Bluetooth on your device, you might just want to make sure that USB is indeed selected. I’m not an NVDA user, so I don’t know if it works the same way as Narrator does, where yes, it can be a bit of a bear to get your Braille display back for use with JAWS after you’ve used Narrator with it. Whether NVDA is the same, I just don’t know. I don’t use it.
Hopefully, an install of 2022 will give you a chance to start fresh, potentially. I would also think that Freedom Scientific should be able to assist you with this and troubleshoot for you. That’s what they do. They’ve got good tech support there. If you’re able to get hold of them, then I would think they could tandem into your computer and just see what’s going on and see if they can resolve it for you. If you do get it sorted out, let us know what happened and how you got it resolved.
Jonathan: That beautiful music is the signature tune for another edition of the Bonnie bulletin with Bonnie Mosen.
Bonnie: Hi, guys.
Jonathan: Welcome back.
Jonathan: This Bonnie bulletin is dedicated to Abby Taylor.
Bonnie: Oh, cool. Hi Abby.
Jonathan: Who says Mosen at Large just isn’t the same without a Bonnie Bulletin.
Bonnie: That’s nice. Glad I have a fan club.
Jonathan: We’ve had quite the adventure here. I think we have mentioned on the podcast on several occasions that we’ve had some interesting things going on with drainage. Since this has happened to us, it turns out that quite a few Wellington places have drainage things.
Bonnie: We’re a hilly city and we are on a very active geologically speaking island being on the fire realm and so, it shifts and moves. Then if you have torrential downpours, we have slides and we have a lot of flooding that can happen. I think part of Plimmerton right now, there’s a lot of trouble there.
Jonathan: Yes, there are quite a few places in Wellington and particularly, in the northern suburbs where it’s bad. When I first moved in here, it wasn’t so bad, but over the last two or three years, we’ve had situations where when we’ve had reasonably heavy rain, we’ve got water coming in from the internal access garage. Somebody said when I was talking to people about this, “Oh, you should talk to the council because it might be something that the council needs to fix.”
Goodness knows we pay our rates, but your expensive local taxes in America. I called the Council and to my great surprise, they did actually come in a reasonably timely manner within about two weeks. Then they said, “No, it’s nothing to do with us, mate.” We went on this intrepid quest, this sacred quest for a drain repair laying type company. I would call these people and it got very complicated because some would say, “Oh, we can eventually visit, but we can’t visit at the moment.” Some would say, “We’re not even taking any new clients.”
I thought it would be fairly straightforward to just call the number that was at the top of a Google search that had a high rating and I’d be able to get them to come over. We called this company in November of last year and they came over. They actually unblocked some of the drains, which was helpful. Then they gave us this estimate. It wasn’t even a quote, it was an estimate. They told us what hideous amount it was going to cost to repair.
Bonnie: Definitely the wrong job.
Jonathan: Digging a big trench, basically redirecting the water flow. I said, “Well, I don’t like having to pay that kind of money, but we’ve got to get it done.”
Bonnie: We have to. It’s an investment and it could be a lot worse if we continue to have flooding, it would undermine the foundation of the house.
Jonathan: Yes, and carpet damage and all sorts of things. Also, the kids are grown up now and if we ever want to downsize and get a mini Mosen Towers, then we have to sell it in good conscience with that issue resolved. I said to the guy, “Okay, Mr. Drain laying guy man, we’ll do it. Get in touch.” February comes along and we have a couple of unusual floods in February. Finally, I call this guy back and I say, “When are you coming?” He has no recollection.
Bonnie: – recollection of ever coming here.
Jonathan: No recollection of ever coming here and giving us the estimate or anything. He’s basically pretty blasé, “Oh, I’m pretty busy.” Everybody says this.
Bonnie: It’s bizarre.
Jonathan: Says how busy they are. I ended up having to make a spreadsheet. It got so complicated and I was getting so confused about who I’d called and who I hadn’t called, that I made the spreadsheet and made notes of who had said what, was it worth calling some people back? Some people said, “Oh, yes, we’ll call in the next couple of days and make a time,” and never did. Then I talked to a colleague at work and he said there’s a website called Builderscrack. This may be of use to someone in New Zealand. It’s a relatively accessible site. You go on there and you describe your job and people make bids for it, essentially and you pick the bid you want. You can get them to come over or you can phone them. I had several organizations who contacted me through that, but none of them turned up. They’d get as far as what time would be suitable and I’d suggest a time and they would not confirm and no one turned up.
Bonnie: It’s a universal issue, I think because I know people it happens to in the US, where they start something and never finish it.
Jonathan: We are fortunate, it’s a big job and we’ve got the cash to pay. Anyway, I’m desperate. I’m ranting onto my work about this, anyone who will listen in my office about this. Finally, one of my colleagues at the National Office introduces me to Jack the drain layer. It sounds like you need a scream after that, Jack the drain layer. He comes over, Jack the drain layer. I call him up and he’s over in a couple of days. He has a look at the work. He’s very thorough. They gave us a quote and they said we’ll start by the end of this week and they did. Now the job is all finished and I feel so much happier. I mean I feel so much poorer, but we’ve got, hopefully, our drainage issues sorted. I’m almost willing it to rain now-
Bonnie: Yes, it’s supposed to rain.
Jonathan: – so we can try it out. Hey, Mother Nature, could you send a downpour our way?
Bonnie: There was this broken pipe or something under the lawn, the trouble in New Zealand is-
Jonathan: Oh, here we go.
Bonnie: – people do a lot of things themselves and in fairness, they do in the state-
Jonathan: The DIY
Bonnie: – the DIY. This house has a lot of DIY, particularly on the lower level. Apparently, a pipe was laid wrong and broke. It’s amazing it lasted this long. We were having this water drain across our driveway, that’s gone now.
Jonathan: We’re the second owners of this house. The people that I bought it from were the original owners of the builders and they did take some short circuits and all sorts of things. I hope they’re not listening, but they did.
Bonnie: I don’t care if they’re damn listening.
Jonathan: It’s cost us a bit, but it was all done. It was really professional, in terms of they turned up when they said they would, but I was just astounded by how difficult it was to find somebody to do that job.
Bonnie: It’s hard to get people to do anything. My niece and neph, her husband are redoing a like 300-year-old Victorian house and they’ve been working on it for two years now I guess, almost three. They’re doing a lot themselves because they can’t find people to work. They did a good job. They’ve done. They estimated four days and it was four days.
Our yard, I’ve already found a gardener, but I’m not sure we need a gardener now because [laughs] they had to do a lot of digging and we have a dirt yard now. I keep expecting to see chickens out there, scratching around or something, but eclipse is a bit bemused, like, “What happened to the grass?”
Jonathan: I was thinking it was going to be much noisier than it actually was. I’m working from here at the moment because we’ve got a major Omicron outbreak here, we’ve timed it, so that we let the virus in essentially pretty much deliberately, we’re not locking down anymore. When we have about 96% or 97% of the population vaccinated, which is an astounding vaccination rate for a country, really, to get that high, but it is still ripping through and we are getting 21,000, 22,000, 23,000 cases a day. Here in Wellington, the peak is really peaking right now.
Bonnie: One out of every three people coming into the hospital, I think and that had have COVID and a lot of the medical staff are saying it’s becoming a real issue. I was talking to some friends this morning on a Zoom call and they were saying a lot of people aren’t staying home that are sick because there’s no funding for businesses anymore. People are just very blasé about it now.
Jonathan: It is very tough for business who are faced. They’ve had a very hard-
Bonnie: Hospitality industry.
Jonathan: – time during the last couple of years and now, they’ve got real issues of continuity. How do they keep going when so many staff are going down and it’s an existential risk to a lot of these businesses, it’s a very difficult time.
Bonnie: Politically now, our labor party is no longer the per third party.
Jonathan: People overseas would find that hard to believe because of course Jacinda Ardern is very popular overseas, but the sheen has, at least for the moment, worn off. You have to say that one poll does not an election make and sometimes you do get rogue polls, but based on the sentiment, I think that poll was probably about right.
Bonnie: Yes, they were saying a lot of it is a lot of mixed messages coming out of the government that they did pretty well for a while, but now, it’s like they don’t know what they’re doing. When that traffic light thing came in, no one understands it. The cases are going up now, we don’t have to isolate as long, how much sense does that make? People are just kind of sick of it.
Jonathan: Well, I think epidemiologically what’s happened is that you go through phases with a virus. You try to keep it out, which we did successfully for a very long time and then you try and stamp it out. When you can’t do that, you have to live with it. I guess gradually, what’s happening is there’s a living with the virus, which has been deliberately timed to be when a large amount of the population is vaccinated, but it’s still causing massive disruption. People still can get quite sick, even when they’re vaccinated.
Bonnie: Now there’s a new variant apparently this year.
Jonathan: People are fatigued and yes, the message isn’t quite as clear. Even if people disagree with it, locking the whole place down because of the virus, people get that, but this is a much more nuanced kind of thing.
We are obviously thinking of our friends in Ukraine and if anybody happens to be listening, we are sending you just nothing but good wishes. We’re monitoring things closely. We will have more to say soon about a very special project that I’m a part of with respect to raising funds. There’s going to be quite a big thing coming up in April.
You and I have been talking a lot about our shortwave memories as children. Don’t you think it’s interesting that here we are, half a world away and we both have these common memories from listening to the shortwave?
Bonnie: I also wanted to reach out to any Russian listeners as well. I said the other day, I stand with Ukraine and I have my arm around Russia. As the Russian people, we are thinking about you guys as well because I know many Russians have gotten a lot of abuse overseas. This happens when there’s any kind of conflict, but we know that it’s not the Russian people.
Jonathan: They’re being exposed to a lot of propaganda, but I know that a lot of Russians are just absolutely appalled by what’s being done in their name. Yes, we’ve been talking about old radios and listening to old shows and different places. We branched out a bit. I know we talked about Radio Moscow on the last Bonnie Bulletin, but we’ve been talking about things like HCJB in Quito Ecuador, you were trying to get your family moved to Ecuador.
Bonnie: I’m not sure why that was. I hated the school I was at and I was convinced that if my family moved to Ecuador, it would be perfect. I’m not exactly sure at that age, what my thinking, what was an Ecuador that I needed so badly, but we obviously did not move to Ecuador.
Jonathan: When I was a kid, initially anyway, I thought that all shortwave listeners were DXers, but actually that isn’t true. Sometimes I would listen to the DX Partyline on HCJB and I can still remember the theme song that they used for that. I can’t remember the guy’s name. Do you remember the guy who hosted DX Partyline?
Bonnie: Was it Craig Somebody, was it?
Jonathan: I don’t know. I remember Jonathan Marks on Media Network on radio.
Bonnie: I remember a midnight, what was it called, something mailbag. Everybody had a mailbag show.
Jonathan: Yes, they did.
Bonnie: It was like Musical Mailbag. That was the name of it.
Jonathan: On HCJB, they used to talk about DXers and shortwave listeners. I thought aren’t they too the same, but they’re not. You were a shortwave listener and I was more of a DXer because I used to write away with the reception reports on the old Olympus manual typewriter, goodness knows what my typing and spelling was like because, of course, in those days you couldn’t read it back and I’d send away my reception reports and I get these QSL cards and now I feel kind of sad that I didn’t keep them.
Bonnie: Probably worth something now.
Jonathan: Maybe because a lot of those stations don’t exist anymore.
Bonnie: It’s funny because I found some old Radio Moscow programming on YouTube with the same echo and the same frequency noise.
Jonathan: They did a very echoey studios, didn’t they must have used condenser mics in a room with a high ceiling or something.
Bonnie: I started reading the comments, which is always a lot of fun. I didn’t realize there were that many children around the world, in the US and the UK, that were listening to Radio Moscow in the late ’70s and early ’80s.
Jonathan: I suppose it was a form of quiet rebellion in a way.
Bonnie: I guess so, but it was like all these, “I was a child and I used to turn into Moscow Mailbag and I’d write in with my horrible, stupid questions. Oh, those were such good days when the earth seemed so much smaller.” It was just funny that I had no clue that there were all these kids out there that listened to the radio. [chuckles]
Jonathan: Did anybody send any curly questions that they answered? I’m sure they filtered the questions very carefully, but I’d like to have sent in a question like, “I just finished reading One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, is that fundamentally true?”
Bonnie: They would ask questions like that? I don’t remember that particular one, but they would answer, give the Partyline basically.
Jonathan: What is the Partyline? That was a pretty awful book.
Bonnie: That was, I don’t know, like treasure to the country or so. I don’t know what it would be, but I wish there was more programming, old programming that I could pull up. I’d forgotten one thing they did with the news, where they would say, “Here’s the news, here are the main points,” and they would do these headlines and then they-
Jonathan: I’d forgotten that too. Here are the news and here are the main points and then they’d say now the news in detail.
Bonnie: In detail, yes. Then it’d be like 15 minutes of news. I guess that’s the same thing as, “Here are the headlines.”
Jonathan: Yes, here’s the main points.
Bonnie: I always wonder what happened, some of the presenters, I know where they are, but you wonder what happened to a lot of the others because a lot of them were children of diplomats. A lot of them had lived abroad for many years. I was listening to this old Moscow Mailbag and there was this lady on there that was doing it. She had the most posh British accent. [chuckles] Good memory. It was an interesting time to listen to all these channels because you did feel like you were peeking into, with any country, just peeking into a different world. It wasn’t as instantaneous as hopping on the internet and reading about Istanbul or something, it was a treasure trove. You’d scroll down that dial and never know what you were going to pick up. You might hear some unusual music.
I remember one night listening to, I don’t know whether it was out of Hong Kong. It was definitely Asia, China listening to Chinese rock music or pop music and it was really nice.
Jonathan: Man, I remember Radio Peking was just so over modulated, they were just totally saturating their signal. We were getting nostalgic about this three years ago or so and I bought this radio, a portable world band radio with the keypadtuning, where you punch in the frequency and it’s got various features, made by a Chinese company. I believe they are called Texon and there’s really nothing broadcasting to the Pacific, plus there’s so much interference from all the gadgets, but there’s no nothing broadcasting in the Pacific that I can find, other than actually, Radio New Zealand.
Bonnie: I had searched YouTube for [unintelligible 02:00:04] who was probably had the most popular show on Radio Moscow. We found some stuff where he was playing with his tecsun.
Jonathan: Yes, the same radio we’ve got.
Bonnie: He picked out Radio New Zealand, which was kind of funny.
Jonathan: I love to hear from you. If you have any comments, you want to contribute to the show, drop me an email written down or with an audio attachment to Jonathan J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N @mushroomfm.com. If you’d rather call in, use the listener line number in the United States at 864-606-6736.
Mosen At Large Podcast.
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