Podcast transcript: Mosen at Large episode 178, Some Braille users may be locked out of the new TalkBack Braille support, The ReVision Fitness app, and farewell to the iPod Touch
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Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen. This is Mosen At Large, the show that’s got the blind community talking. This week, Braille support comes to Android TalkBack, but they appear to have made a dotty decision. Take control of your fitness with the ReVision fitness app, and it’s time at last to say farewell to the iPod family.
Jonathan: Thank you for being here for episode 178. I have a new piece of gear in the studio. It’s only a little thing, but I know that some people really enjoy hearing about how the sausage is made so I thought I would mention this. Since about 2000 when I really significantly built up the studio and I was running ACB Radio and we were living in Whanganui here in New Zealand at the time, and we’d actually built a custom studio, I bought a lot of gear then. One of the things that I bought that has lasted me well is the microphone stand, the boom stand that I’ve been using for a very long time. It was a swivel arm and you could move it up and down and left and right. You could swing the microphone out of the way. It did everything that I needed it to do.
A few years ago, I started doing a lot more video conferencing even before the pandemic. I had a camera, a good quality camera mounted on the wall of the studio, so that when I’m sitting, where I sit at my desk, I know that I’m in focus, I’m in view of the camera. I can go into video conferences with confidence that everything’s working okay. Unfortunately, this is one area where Windows is not as good as iOS. Apple has done a fantastic job of this.
If I’m going to conference into something with my iPhone, I can open the camera app and VoiceOver will tell me that it can detect my face right in the center. I know, absolutely, when I’m using my iPhone, in its little iPhone dock that I am in view of the camera, that I’m centered, all is good. There is no equivalent of this, not even in Narrator. Narrator will not tell you if you are centered in the view like VoiceOver does. I got this camera mounted. I made sure that it was a pretty fully-featured camera that focused well. For the most part, it seems to work well when I’m doing a lot of video conferencing.
The downside though is that the microphone stand was not good for this use case because all of the infrastructure of the microphone stand was above me. That meant that if I was using my good quality broadcast mic, the stand would obscure the view that people have of me. Many people might say, “That’s a jolly good thing.” I got around this by purchasing a very nice Sony Lavalier microphone. I would just pin that to me, swing the microphone that I normally use out of the way, and have good audio on video conferencing, but it wasn’t audio nearly as good as the Heil PR-40 that I podcast and broadcast with.
If you want to hear what that microphone sounds like, this is it I’m wearing it now. I have used it when doing a bit of mobile recording for this podcast. It’s perfectly reasonable, but I don’t think it’s as good as the Heil PR-40 that I use. Also, because it’s a condenser mic and it has a reasonable wide pickup pattern, you can hear a little bit more room bounce and things with this microphone. I’ve been wanting to get this sorted for a long time.
Finally, I got around to it by purchasing this new microphone stand, which is now installed. It’s pretty easy to install because it just clamps to the desk. This thing that I have is called an Elgato Wave Mic Arm LP. It says here from Amazon, “It’s a premium low profile microphone arm with cable management channels, desk clamp, versatile mounting, and fully adjustable.”Perfect, perfect,” it says, “for podcast, streaming, gaming, and home office.” I tick most of those boxes in terms of the use case that I will be putting it to and it works. I can now go into video conferencing using this microphone and all is good. It also means that it opens up some possibilities for me to do a bit more video content on YouTube.
The only downside is that it doesn’t swing up and down nearly as readily as the previous one. You can make it swing up and down, but you have to loosen the screws a little bit. It’s not designed for you to just forward, going up and down. It swings left and right perfectly well and you can angle the stand in all kinds of ways so I’m very happy with this outcome with this little Elgato stand, allowing me to use the Heil PR-40 in every use case.
Now, there is some significant accessibility news to come out of Google IO. This is that TalkBack in Android 13, which is in beta at the moment, is going to have Braille support baked in. Welcome to the club Google. It has taken ages, but it’s good that Google has come to the party with a screen reader that has Braille support without the need to install a pretty mediocre bolted-on add-in really. There is a video on YouTube that demonstrates this a little bit and I will include a link to that video in the show notes.
What it shows is that the commands in use appear to be a little bit more conventional. For example, dots-123 cord to get to the top of the screen. That dot-123 cord has been a convention for four decades with Braille displays. Good to see Google implementing it at last. If you have a Braille device that will support TalkBack on Android 13, then it’ll be great for you to kick the tires. Unfortunately, there does appear to be a significant “gotcha” with this news. You will remember that in episode 176, I was speaking with Greg Stilson and William Freeman from APH. One of the things we discussed was the lack of support by Google of Bluetooth HID Braille displays.
Now, HID stands for Human Interface Devices. The idea of this, the beauty of it is that manufacturers can support one standard that everybody adheres to, which means that Braille devices are essentially plug and play. It has many benefits and Google committed to supporting this standard when it was being devised. Humanware devices have gone this way. That includes the latest versions of the Brailliant Braille displays from Humanware. Because Humanware has a contract with APH to produce the Mantis and Chameleon devices, it also includes them.
When I heard about this, what seems on the service to be great news, I reached out to APH and asked them whether they knew if Android 13 was going to have support for HID Bluetooth Braille displays. I did this via the APH Mantis email list. It was a public request and I got a public reply from William Freeman of APH. He says this, I get to read it out to you since it is a public email list. He says, “It does not include support for HID. A ticket has been filed and they have responded that it’s not something they are planning on working on at the moment.”
William continues, “I would appreciate anyone and everyone on this list taking time to complain to Google about this lack of support.” “They agreed,” he says, “to support the new HID standard, same as Apple when we first started on this journey. They need to follow through on what they said they would do. Having folks remind them of how important their support is, would be very beneficial to everyone that uses Braille displays. Even if you don’t use Android or a Chromebook, it’s helpful for everyone to support the new HID standard,” so says William Freeman of APH.
This news leaves me just incredulous, just incredulous. If it’s true, and I have no reason to believe it’s not true, APH is well connected. They’re very on top of how important it is for Google to support the standard. If they’re building a brand new Braille feature into their screen reader and they are choosing not to support HID Braille displays, what on earth is up with that? Are they completely clueless? Do they not understand what’s going on in the world of Braille or is there some weird political thing at play here that I don’t understand and I’m not aware of. Whatever it is, if it is in fact the case that there’s no HID Bluetooth Braille support in Android 13’s new TalkBack, it’s just extraordinary, and it really puts a dampener on what should have been a very good news story for Google.
Now, I’m pretty sure you can do it via USB, but do you really want to be tethered to a USB cable when you are using your Braille display on the go? I think not. It’s not something that you have to do with any other screen reader. HID for Braille displays is the future. We should be able to choose the Braille display that we want to use. There are many people using Braille displays that have now employed this driver, why would Google leave us out?
The thing is, it’s in Google’s interests to implement this. If the world goes this way and there is this universal way of connecting Braille devices, it’s so much easier to support new devices when they come along. Gone will be those bad old days of having to integrate a driver for every single new Braille display that comes along into an operating system or into a screen reader. Everyone wins.
We win as consumers by having more choice, the screen reader developers win because they have less work to do to support whatever device we choose to use. The market wins, because barriers to entry are reduced for new manufacturers. The thing is, if this is actually right, I would love to be able to come on the show next week and say, “Oh, there was just some miscommunication and HID is in TalkBack in Android 13. I really hope that that’s the case but if we assume that there are no crossed wires, and there is no HID support in TalkBack, in Android 13 what it does is reinforces the narrative that Google just takes so long to do stuff when it comes to accessibility.
Look how long it took Google to introduce flicking around the screen to explore the screen when Apple had it from the beginning. Look how long it took TalkBack to implement good quality multi-finger gestures and even then, finding a phone that supported them was a tricky business. Look how long it has taken to get Braille into the screen reader at all without some bolted-on add-on.
Despite the fact that it’s been a couple of years, at least, I think since Apple introduced HID support for Braille it looks like it may not be in TalkBack for Android 13 according to what APH is telling us. I hope like anything, it’s just some misunderstanding. Of course, we’ll keep you posted. I have to say, though, that if it’s not a misunderstanding, I feel another petition coming on.
Jonathan: This email has the potential to provoke some robust discussion and I look forward to it. Let me know what you think about this. The email says, “My name is Aaron Espinosa. I currently serve as the president of the American Council of the Blind Students, ACBS, which is the National Student Affiliate of the ACB. I am emailing you because I authored and submitted a resolution for the upcoming 2022 ACB national convention and I would like to get your personal opinion on the resolution, as well as the opinion of your audience on it.
I want to explain to you why I authored the resolution. I personally believe in both the NFB and ACB philosophies. I help both groups out wherever I can. I attend both my local chapter NFB and ACB meetings, attend both the NFB and ACB state conventions, attend both the NFB Washington Seminar and the ACBDC leadership meetings. This year, I will be attending both the NFB national convention, as well as the ACB national convention. I will arrive in Nebraska on June the 30th and leave for New Orleans on the 8th.
I am very dedicated to the organized blind movement in America. I hate that both conventions overlap 99% of the time. I have to be honest with you, I think that the NFB and ACB hold their national conventions at the same time on purpose so that members can prove their loyalty to either the NFB or ACB. Conventions are planned years in advance. It’s not too hard to call and say these are the dates we are going to have our convention. Don’t have yours at the same time. The NFB and ACB are robbing their members of building relationships from members belonging to either the NFB or ACB. They also don’t get to learn what the NFB or ACB believe in. They are especially hurting people like me that support both organizations.
I feel like authoring and submitting the same resolution of the NFB national convention, just to hear it out of the horse’s mouth, why they don’t want to work with the ACB and have their convention at a different time.I know the NFB is in favor of having a convention in conjunction with the ACB but ACB president, Dan Spoone, hasn’t responded to NFB president, Mark A. Riccobono, as mentioned in the 2020 presidential report. What is your opinion on my resolution, Jonathan? Why do you think the NFB and ACB have their conventions at the same time? What can the members at the bottom do about it?”
Well, you’re certainly not shy of asking the controversial questions, Aaron. Thank you for getting in touch. I won’t read the resolution in full because the version I have need some considerable massaging, I think, by the resolutions committee for a variety of reasons, but what the resolution is calling for is for coordination to ensure that the convention dates never overlap. The resolution proposes that this happen in a few years from now and it also talks about that idea of a convention being held together of NFB and ACB.
I am fortunate to have good friends and good connections with both ACB and NFB. I suppose that’s one of the perks of being half a world away. I think it’s also true that on many of the big issues such as the importance of Braille and some of the big issues that we talked about recently with Clark Rachfal from ACB, there is a lot of consensus and the organizations do work together. Of course, there are deep-seated philosophical differences. If you want to get a perspective on those, you can, of course, read Walking Alone and Marching Together, which is an NFB book. Then ACB have a book called People of Vision that was published for their 40th anniversary. I’m not sure if that has ever been updated but that certainly is a good read.
What you find is that throughout the late 1950s, in particular, there was mounting tension relating to democratic principles or the perceived lack thereof, in NFB. Of course, in 1961, it all came to a head and a group of people crossed the street from the NFB convention and formed the American Council of the Blind. Now, when I was involved setting up and running ACB radio in the late 1990s, and on into the early 2000s, I did get to meet quite a few people who were part of that founding of ACB in the 1960s. As time passes, those people have also passed so perhaps the wounds don’t run as deep.
That said, there are still some pretty clear philosophical differences. ACB has term limits throughout its constitution, NFB does not. When you look at the number of people who have served as NFB president, there is a clear difference there. For example, Marc Maurer was president of NFB from 1986 until Mark Riccobono took over so that was a very long tenure. You also seldom see key elections at NFB, at least at a national level, contested.
In fact, I don’t recall in my time observing NFB conventions and attending them having ever seen an NFB presidential election contested. Some people will say, “Well, that is not good for democracy. Surely there is a variety of blind people out there capable of leading an organization like NFB, and not having an election that’s open and democratic, and where there’s a bit of debate about what should the future of the organized blind movement look like and the NFB, in particular, is not healthy.
Resolutions are another point of constitutional philosophical difference. In ACB, all resolutions go to the floor. It may be that the resolutions committee whips them into shape a little bit, but they still go to the floor for the convention to vote on. In NFB, the resolutions committee has the power to be a kind of a filter. If something makes it through the resolutions committee, then it goes to the floor but not all resolutions get there. The way that affiliate votes are tabulated on the convention floor is a little different. There are some pretty key philosophical differences.
The implication of all of this is that NFB would argue, “We are more organized. We are more together. We’ve got cohesion. The result of that is that we make a bigger difference for blind people.” ACB, I think would argue, “Well, democracy is messy. Sometimes it takes time, but democracy is essential, and it should be a core value.” I think NFB would then come back and they would say, “The degree to which we are perceived by some as undemocratic is highly overrated and not correct.” Even though time is moving on some of those philosophical roots, I think, still do run deep.
Is it time to bury the hatchet and see if the two organizations can unite again? I guess it will be up to blind Americans to decide what is the benefit to them of doing that. Is there actually some advantage in having a bit of contestability a bit of choice in the blind consumer movement space? Should they add a minimum at least get out of each other’s hair and commit to not holding conventions at the same time? That is a really interesting idea. I would be fascinated to open this up and see what people think. If you have a view 864-60-MOSEN is my number in the United States, 864-606-6736. You can also attach an audio clip or just write something down and email it in to email@example.com.
If you are a member of either organization in the United States, the NFB or ACB, why did you choose one over the other? Did it happen by accident pretty much because somebody introduced you to one and you just stuck with it? Have you shopped around? Have you actually moved from one organization to another? If you have, what caused you to make that move? If you’re not a part of either organization, why not? What keeps you from being a part of the organized consumer movement? Because I guess the argument goes that even though we can all be advocates, we can all be effective with social media and internet activism so easy to do now, there is still strength in numbers.
Let’s open it up. Thanks for raising this. It’ll be an interesting debate, Aaron, when you get it to the ACB convention floor. Since it is an ACB resolution, it will most certainly get there. To sunny Louisville, Kentucky we go, the home of the Kentucky Derby, and Rick Roderick says, “Here are my simple views in brief. Bury the hatchet, yes, merge, time will tell. I think the hostility between the organizations should end. The sniping has been counterproductive all along. I think the bragging that NFB does in all their releases should end. They always brag about being the largest organization of the blind in the US. What about we are an organization of the blind?
I think the organizations should hold overlapping conventions in the same city. This would make things a lot easier for vendors. Information sessions could be held in common. The joint sessions would get information on things like libraries, products, and programs, the separate sessions would be for passing resolutions and modifying constitutions and bylaws. The exhibit hall should be a joint venture. Perhaps ACB Media could become a joint venture. The big problem I see with merger is organizational. A totally bottom up organization is almost impossible. NFB is top-down. ACB tries to be bottom-up but, in many cases, state and affiliate leaders have a lot of sway.”
Thanks for writing in, Rick. I suppose you could argue that if you’ve got it, flaunt it, right? If NFB is the largest organization, then maybe they should say that and they can feel justified in saying so. That does appear to be the case at least when you look at convention attendance numbers.
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Jonathan: As I mentioned last week a new book by journalist Tripp Mickle has been covered extensively in the technology press and is a major talking point on Apple-related podcasts. It’s called After Steve: How Apple Became a Trillion-Dollar Company and Lost Its Soul. Its books central theme is the relationship between Tim Cook, who became chief executive days before Steve Jobs’ death, and Jony Ive, Apple’s chief designer and a close personal friend of Steve Jobs.
Reading the book really clarified for me the concept of Jobs and Ive as the Lennon and McCartney of technology. Both very capable people but when together, creating a magic that was greater than the sum of the whole. Jobs and Ive were dreamers, big thinkers, stretches of boundaries, confounders of normality. Cook is the kind of person every CEO loves to have in their organization, a safe pair of hands, a phenomenal process person, an efficiency ninja, but was he CEO material? Steve Jobs was, of course, particularly special, but even allowing for that, Tim Cook wasn’t in that dreaming, designing mode. There have been some speed bumps along the way during Tim Cook’s tenure and this book, After Steve, covers those well.
By Wall Street definition, Apple is one of the world’s most successful companies now. Tripp Mickle argues that that success is no longer due to innovation, instead Apple issues regular unimaginative upgrades to existing product lines at prices that deliver higher margins. More revenue was squeezed from those products by Apple’s successful entry into the service business. It’s been the case, of course, for a long time that Apple prides itself on controlling the hardware and software experience. Now, increasingly, they want to control the services you use on your device. Now they provide cloud services, payment services, music streaming, fitness and TV programming, among other things, and more services are coming, including potentially turning the iPhone itself into a subscription.
Wall Street is delighted but Mickle argues that the company has lost its soul. This fundamental cultural and philosophical clash saw Jony Ive becoming increasingly disengaged and disillusioned. While Mickle’s sympathies lie with Jony Ive’s for the most part, I was left wondering about the degree to which Ive and Jobs were a magic formula, take one of the ingredients away, and you end up with something fundamentally broken. Rightly, Mickle singles out the ridiculous idea that taking away the headphone jack was somehow bold. I was left curious about the degree to which the brand-damaging butterfly keyboard and the touch bar were Ive’s responsibility.
During the design of the Apple Watch and the defining of who the product line is for, I found Ive’s obsession with the fashion industry so well described in this book, a weird tangent. To me, it signaled that without the tempering influence of Steve Jobs and his intuitive understanding of customer need, Ive had lost the plot and was putting form over function. Things may have become thinner and sexier but Apple became the company of unreliable hardware and inconvenient dongles.
One part of the book that stood out for me, and I’m very curious to know more about this, was a reference to a startup that Apple learned about during the Apple Watch design phase that claims to have a microchip which could detect cancer. Initially, Ive was keen to put the chip in the Apple Watch, but they became increasingly worried about false positives, the chance of being associated with giving people such bad news, and the potential legal ramifications. Having known people who have died of cancer since the Apple Watch came out, I couldn’t have wondering what might have been and what happened to that chip, whether it really worked and how many lives might have been saved if they had had an early diagnosis.
Many of us in the blind community have lamented the significant deterioration and quality control that has affected our daily lives as VoiceOver users. Some of the background on the lack of cohesion, clear direction and decisiveness at Apple was fascinating. The book ends in 2019 with Ive leaving Apple, and since then, there have been new controversies including the latest one where Apple is potentially hemorrhaging capable staff because of its strict return to office policy that’s far stricter than its competitors.
Some of the background about the much-discussed and, for me, much wanted Apple Car and, to many, if I might use the term false stats that this project has had was disheartening to read about. Is the book a bit too hard on Tim Cook? Well, possibly. During the second Jobs era, Apple had a string of sensational successes. Those successes like the iPod, the iPhone, changes in Mac, the iPad, they’ve all brought about significant social change, and even one of them would have been rare. Continuing that level of innovation was a big ask.
The products categories have matured so perhaps what we’re seeing now was always inevitable. Mickle makes a compelling case that certain elements of the company have lost their way, that more innovation could have taken place under different leadership. I enjoyed the book, it contains some interesting anecdotes and inside information. If you’re interested in all things Apple, I have no doubt you will find it a page-turner.
Jack Mendez has read After Steve and has some comments to make. He says, “Hello, Jonathan, before I continue with my thoughts I want to say that I recognize I am cherry-picking things from the book and others may say I am not providing the entire context and I am just choosing what is most appropriate to support my beliefs. They would be correct. A lot of what I am about to say is somewhat critical so get ready.
I use and love the iPhone, I own an Apple Watch, and those tools help me, the iPhone daily and the watch while traveling. I must say I was fascinated by the descriptions of the relationship between Jobs and Ive. The interplay between the two of them was critical to products coming to market. I was especially surprised to learn that Jobs gave Ive the power to make final decisions. I suppose that any man with the kind of poster in Ive’s office that was mentioned later in the book would have gotten Steve’s attention. I really liked how the author talks about the influence of draftsmanship changed how Ive approached engineering projects.
As the book says, “Ive’s infatuation with refinement drove him to obsess over details no other company had done previously.” I can certainly respect this though I think it has led to, also, assumptions that Apple always knows best. I have had the opportunity to talk with a few designers over the years and they often had what they thought of as the best and only solution to a project. The smartwatch discussion completely and captures, for me, what Apple does best. Take the best designs of existing products, make them look great, sometimes re-engineer them, add a few features ever so slowly innovate and call it the first of its kind.
The battle between Samsung and Apple brings another of my problems with the company. Here is the description from the book that I find great. The book says, “The South Koreans had created a marketing problem and the onus fell on Apple’s marketing team to resolve it.” Jack continues, “I feel lately in terms of accessibility at Apple, this is exactly what happens. Accessibility problem, “Oh, but look at all our accomplishments so far and commitments to do better.
I would say that the innovation on the accessibility end of things has been placed at the bottom of the company’s priorities. We need some infatuation with refinement on accessibility. Do we hear of executives flying to meet with blind people? Not in a long time. Even then we heard of a lot of marketing people at events like CSUN, very little from people who had influence. I am aware that some blind Apple developers do go to conferences, but most often what I heard was that change needs to happen, but is out of their control. The isolated nature of teams at Apple means that a cohesive approach to accessibility is almost impossible.
Here is the text from the book describing early work on the Apple Car. The new hires found themselves working in nondescript warehouses in Sunnyvale, California, a new outpost shrouded in absolute secrecy. The description of Tim Cook during one of his interviews, sweeping his hand upwards as if it were charting the company’s stock performance, makes me question how many people at Apple believe in what Cook so famously said about the ROI, return on investment, of accessibility investments at a shareholder meeting, “Why hasn’t Apple hired more developers to solve accessibility problems faster?” Maybe they have and are keeping it a secret. One can only hope. In my view, the lack of progress and innovation clearly demonstrates the demands of Wall Street over accessibility.
Towards the end of chapter 16, Tim Cook sounded most weary while describing lackluster sales of the iPhone when earlier in the book, while speaking in China, he was delighted to talk about how much money was being made. I understand that his passion was and still is operations, inventory management, and logistics. I understand that Apple needs to make money by selling product. I would love to hear executives talking about accessibility with excitement during some Apple Keynote, I could go on but won’t. I loved the author’s writing style, I know that stories contain many perspectives and with a company as large as Apple has become, and I am sure that many people at Apple will find fault with the author’s conclusions. I know there are those who will disagree with me after hearing this email, should you choose to read it. I appreciate the space you provide, where people can share their points of view. Thanks again, Jonathan, for a wonderful podcast.”
Well, thank you, Jack, for sharing your thoughts with us. It is a good read, isn’t it, this book? It’s a well-told story. In response to some of the things you’ve said, I would say that it’s not just the marketing department of Apple that will say, “Look at how much we’ve achieved.” There are elements of the blind community as well. The marketing department of Apple, or any company, you would expect them to trumpet what is good. The marketing department is there to market the company. They’re doing what it says on the tin that they should be doing.
What is more of a concern to me is some of the commentary that we get in the blind community about those of us who seek to constructively point out where Apple is falling short. For example, there was the NFB resolution that was adopted some years ago now, which talked about some of the accessibility issues that were pervading iOS then, and that have continued to pervade iOS. There was some debate at the convention when this resolution came up. Not everybody supported it but, ultimately, the resolution was adopted. For a major organization in the blindness community in the United States to pass a resolution, I think, says a lot, and it was also appropriate.
Apple have quite rightly received awards from blindness organizations for what they’ve done. I’m pretty sure the American Foundation for the Blind in the United States is one example of an organization that has said quite rightly, “Thank you, Apple, for the accessibility strides that you’ve made,” because I think many of us thought when VoiceOver was introduced to iOS, that Apple would do just enough to get the regulators off their back and then just leave it to kinda languish, really, paying scanned attention to it.
Now that’s not what’s happened. In fact, VoiceOver is a very feature-rich screen reader these days and they’re innovating. Some of the things that have been introduced to VoiceOver have not been seen in any other screen reader, and they have been imitated by some other screen readers. They’ve done a lot right. We can and should express our gratitude to Apple for all of that, but we are paying customers. As I’ve said repeatedly, over the years, in many forums, our money is just as good as anyone else’s. We are as entitled as anybody else to a quality product.
What is shameful in my view, not just shameful, but incredibly damaging to the cause of blind people being able to access technology that equips us for the job, that equips us for productivity and independence is that if you do have people who point out some of the serious quality control issues that continue to plague Apple and therefore plague us as blind people, you do have an element in the blind community that attack the people who are pointing this out. They are shooting the messenger.
Now this culture that pervades Apple is not unique to the blind community by any means. There is that somewhat derisive term fanboy that is often used in conjunction with Apple, but there is a cultish mentality that surrounds some Apple users, where they can do no wrong. There are some who seriously believe that if enough blind people point out some of these shortcomings, Apple will just stop producing the product. That’s clearly a nonsensical suggestion. I would say that the people who do constructively point out where there are issues are Apple’s best friends. Your best friends are the ones who will tell you to your face when you haven’t been the best version of yourself.
When we get the repeated issues with Braille, which not only affect people who rely on Braille for their jobs but also is the only viable way for a deaf-blind person to access the product that they’ve paid for in good faith, when you get a situation where Apple encourages any member of the public, who wishes to enroll in a beta test program so they can provide feedback to the company on the next release, but they willfully exclude blind people by releasing a version of an operating system that they know full well does not work with VoiceOver, it wasn’t an accident, which can sometimes happen with code that’s in a state of flux. This was something that they reviewed. It went to a developer beta first. They knew that it wasn’t working with VoiceOver but they released it to the public anyway.
When you have a situation where Apple takes away something that many hearing-impaired people still rely upon, in this case, the headphone jack, for no viable reason other than aesthetics, when you get any number of things like this, and you have some blind people who point out these really serious concerns, you do have an element of the blind community that eats its young and attacks the person who’s raising the issue rather than focuses on the facts that we are dealing with defective products.
They are defective in such a way that if you try to find an equivalent in the sighted world, in other words, let’s take the Apple Watch as an example, if they release a beta of the Apple Watch, which was so broken, that the screen didn’t work at all, do you think there would be a massive outcry? Do you think that build would ever have been released at all? VoiceOver is the equivalent of our screen and they deliberately released that build with VoiceOver broken in it.
I am proud to say that I stood up and set up a petition about that issue because it’s just a bridge way too far for Apple to do that to blind people, to lock us out of that process. I have also pointed out repeatedly, where there are Braille issues that are debilitating way back when, of course, just before that NFB resolution was passed. In fact, we had issues where some blind people couldn’t even answer the phone, a fundamental function of the phone.
Yet while all of those things have been happening, you still get some blind people who criticize people pointing out those very serious defects. If they truly think so little of themselves that they think it’s okay to pay a significant amount of money for a product that they can’t use nearly as well as a sighted person, well, they’re entitled to think what they like, but it is not a mainstream opinion that should be given any credence or should be entertained seriously.
In your comments, Jack, you’ve highlighted a culture of clash, I think, between Apple and the blind community. You make a very good point about the lack of degree to which key decision-makers at Apple engage with the blind community. I think it was 2009 or maybe 2010, Apple was in force at the NFB convention. They did presentations, they were at CSUN for a while there, but I think you make a good point, even then a lot of that was marketing stuff. It’s part of Apple’s culture not to talk about things that are coming and they’re not treating blind people any differently whatsoever in this regard. They are a secretive company.
I think the disability movement and the blind community, in particular, has a culture around technology development, and at its heart is that mantra of the disability sector, “nothing about us without us.”
Disabled people have been told for generations what we need and what we shall have and what we shall accept, which is why some of the behavior of some blind people around Apple’s very serious accessibility defects is so offensive and harmful. Apple has modified its behavior based on the market that it’s operating in.
Certainly, geographical markets, and I’ve pointed out on this show before, China is a case in point. It’s very difficult to make too strong a comparison between China and the blind community because China is this massive geographical market and the blindness community is tiny. Nevertheless, I still think there is a case to be made, that there could be much more constructive engagement between Apple and the blind community.
Apple clearly struggles, for example, with understanding Braille and I’m sure the notetaker manufacturers are delighted by this. The biggest thing that is keeping the notetaker industry alive is Apple and its Braille unreliability. If you could take a run-of-the-mill iPad and connect a Braille display to it and get consistent, reliable operation that students can depend on, the notetaker industry would be scuttled because sighted people know what an iPad is. Not only is Apple’s repeated Braille disasters detrimental to blind people who have to suffer through them until they’re ultimately fixed, it’s actually not good for Apple’s bottom line as well, although, their bottom line is so massive that what we represent is simply a blip, a drop in the bucket.
In the end, that is the risk that we take. When we throw our lot in with a mainstream manufacturer, who would want to lose all of the benefits of the third-party apps that we now have access to? It’s a wonderful world when it’s all working properly, but the risk is that, as you say, we are at the bottom of the heap a lot of the time, and Apple has made it very clear through multiple years of defective iOS releases that, yes, they will get around to fixing some very significant user experience issues for blind people, but they’ll do it in their own sweet time and they will go gold with a release that they know has significant VoiceOver defects.
I started these comments in response to your email, Jack, by saying how grateful I am for the amazing innovation that Apple has given the blind community. I will end these comments with another expression of gratitude and encouragement, and that is to all of the blind people who are working on the inside of Apple, particularly, those involved in any way with product development or quality control.
I know from personal experience, not by having worked for Apple but by having worked in the product management of products that people depend on and feel a real affinity to the responsibility that, that can make you feel when you know that you have a hand in any way at all in an experience that can make a difference to the life of your fellow blind person, that is an awesome responsibility, in the traditional sense of the word awesome. It also brings with it significant pressures, particularly, when you are working for a company like Apple that expects a high culture of secrecy.
To anyone who sits through this, who works for Apple, actually, blind or sighted, but particularly, the blind people, and I know there are some people who listen to this podcast at Apple who get very grumpy with me, I understand, but I also just want to say thank you and encourage you to do what you do on the inside. If you happen to come across somebody who you know works for Apple, be gentle with them because you will never know, at least perhaps not until somebody like Tripp Mickle writes a book a long time down the track, what they are doing on the inside to plead the case of blind people, to plead for better quality control, to encourage that build not to go out until some particularly egregious defect is fixed.
We owe the blind people who work at Apple a considerable debt of gratitude, and no matter what you do in product development for Apple, I unreservedly salute you. Thank you.
Tom: Hey, there, my name is Tom. I now live in Cleveland, Ohio, but in case you’re wondering why the Southern accent sounds misplaced, that is because I was actually, born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina and I just moved here back in January. I’m just listening to last week’s program and you made mention of the book After Steve by Tripp Mickle. It so happens that I know Tripp and I have known him and his whole family since childhood. We lived in the same neighborhood, went to the same church, et cetera, et cetera.
I’m not saying that this is a really good book, which it is, but that’s [unintelligible 00:45:48] whether I know him or not, it doesn’t enter into it. It’s a really good book and I am actually listening to it on audible. I’m also told that it’s available on BARD as well, but I do encourage anyone to read that and I did. I have also been doing some free advertising for it inside the blindness community and I’m glad that you’ve caught onto it.
Jonathan: Well, thank you for calling in, Tom. What a small world? It is a small world. We’ve been in touch with Tripp and had a wee bit of a dialogue. Hopefully, he will be coming on the program at some point. I’m looking forward to that conversation very much if we can make it happen.
Marvin: Hey, Jonathan, it’s Marvin Rush. Just thought I would tell you my jury duty experience. Probably 35 years ago, I was called up the first time for jury duty and when it came my turn to go to the jury box and answer questions, the judge stopped the entire proceeding, called me up before the bench, and said, “Look, there’s a lot of pictures in this trial. I don’t think that you would be a good fit.” Then he praised me about showing up for jury duty, and all that. It was kind of embarrassing. Anyway, I couldn’t say anything because the guy was a friend of mine.
The second time I was called up for jury duty, I was sitting in the courtroom and one of the judge’s bailiffs, who happened to be a friend of mine, came out and said, “Look, the judge would like to see you in his chambers.” I went to the judge’s chambers and he said, “Look, I would love to have you serve on this jury, but I’m afraid that if you serve, because of your blindness, one of the attorneys may appeal the decision.” Those are my two experiences about jury duty. Thanks. As per always, you’re doing a great job.
Jonathan: “Here’s my jury duty story,” says Petra. “I have been called up for jury duty four times so far. The first time was when I lived in California and I was rejected because of blindness. That was many years ago. Then in Colorado, I was called for jury duty twice. Neither of those times was I treated any differently than a sighted person. One of those times I was selected and sat on a jury. I didn’t feel like I was treated any differently. The second time I was called up to the courtroom, but the jury was filled before they got to me. Again, I didn’t feel like I was treated any differently.
I think it’s a funny human characteristic that many people who were sighted do anything they can to get out of jury duty and those who were denied fight to be selected. I, for one, believe very strongly that jury duty is one of the most important things we can do. I would certainly like to be judged by a jury of my peers. I had one chance to be on a jury, but couldn’t because of transportation. I lived too far out of the town.”
Grace: Hello, Jonathan. It’s Grace here. Thank you for tonight’s podcast, which I really enjoyed listening to, the bit that I could understand anyway. [laughs] The person that spoke about the BlindShell 2 phone, that’s the phone I have and I must admit is the best phone I ever got. It’s got great volume on it. The battery life is better because before I bought the phone, I asked all about it from Cobolt Systems where I bought it. The man that I spoke to, he said, it’s got a better battery life, the BlindShell 2.
I love texting with it as well. I don’t use the button at the side to put me through when the chat was trying to put through to numbers, I think he was just saying the person’s name, but you see, I found it easiest when I used to use that feature to say, “Call,” whoever it was, and I didn’t have any problems after I said the word call, but as I say, I don’t use that button at the side at all now, but I love to text with it as well. It’s got about seven different voices on it. I’ve got a male voice on mine, and I just love this phone.
In fact, this is the phone that I use when I’m phoning you. I think it’s better than using a landline because I remember when I used to phone you, I think we had problems sometimes when I used the landline. This is a far better way of phoning you, with this phone. I don’t mind calling in with my mobile. It’s great. I couldn’t fault it really.
Jonathan: There is one happy BlindShell customer, and Peter is writing in from Hungary saying, “Let me contribute a minor correction concerning Chris Gray’s demonstration of BlindShell Classic 2 smartphone. According to blindshell.com in the about us section, the phone was designed and is developed in the Czech Republic, not in Hungary, as was told in the podcast.” Byron Sykes has some questions and Chris may be able to answer these in his second part of his BlindShell review, which is coming up hopefully soon.
He says, “I am considering somewhat seriously, the notion of buying one of these. Questions are, can the speech voice be changed? Are there voice options somewhere in the sounds menu? Another question, do the star and pound keys work consistently? I ask this because I currently have the SmartVision 2 from KAPSYS and these keys work inconsistently, not good when you’re in a Zoom meeting and you want to raise your hand or speak.
Thanks, Byron. Hopefully, Chris or some other BlindShell 2 user can comment on these questions for us. 864-60-MOSEN if you want to contribute or firstname.lastname@example.org on the email.
Abby: Hello, this is Abby Taylor in Sheridan, Wyoming here in the USA. I just finished listening to the most recent episode of Mosen At Large in which I heard part one of Chris Gray’s demonstration on the BlindShell Classic 2 phone. I had this phone a couple of years ago before I switched to an iPhone, so I would like to offer some comments. First of all, when I had the BlindShell phone, if I want to call or message somebody, I did not have to go into the contacts or the message menu in order to do this. I could just press that button where she says I listened after a beep, and then I could just say, for example, “Call Jonathan Mosen.”
Of course, I wouldn’t do that. Don’t worry, I don’t need to call you, but anyway, that’s just an example, but I could do that from anywhere on the phone. I didn’t have to be in the call menu. If I wanted to send a message to Jonathan, all I would have to say from anywhere on the phone, is press that button and let her say I listen after a beep, and then say, “Send a message to Jonathan Mosen,” or, “Send an email to Jonathan Mosen. I’m hoping that is the case with the BlindShell 2, but since I haven’t had that device, I don’t know. I had the original BlindShell, but I would hope that would be the case.
I would also suggest that in a future demonstration that Chris perhaps explain to people who aren’t familiar with the device at all, how they can enter text. If I remember correctly, on my BlindShell 1 phone, I could do it in two ways. I could either type it on the keypad or I could dictate the text, I believe, in the same fashion that I did to make phone calls or actually open a text message to someone.
I had some problems with the phone and so that is why I switched to an iPhone. First of all, I got the phone in April of 2020, after the pandemic started, I think it was about, or the beginning of May. A month later, on my birthday, the speaker quit working. Luckily I had the text size set to a large enough font where I could read it, so I didn’t really need the speech, which was good and I could always plug in a pair of headphones in the headphone jack, and then I could get speech that way if I needed. Luckily, I was able to work with a distributor of the phone and get a new phone at no extra cost, and then all I had to do was switch the SIM card from the one phone to the other.
That worked out, but then over the summer, twice, the phone would just suddenly freeze. This usually would happen while I was dictating a text. It would just suddenly freeze and nothing would work. The only way to fix this problem was to take the battery out and put the battery back in. That was the only way to fix it. This is a major annoyance because I’m not mechanically inclined. Even with the Mystic Access tutorial where Chris Nova, he calls himself now, demonstrated how to remove the battery, I still could not figure out how to do it.
The first time it happened, it was in the afternoon, I was able to get a friend to come over and take the battery out and put it back in. It only took a few minutes, no problem. When it happened the second time, it was late at night close to bedtime. I certainly was not about to call my friend at ten o’clock at night to have her come over and fix the battery again, so I waited till morning and, fortunately, I was expecting my house cleaner to come. She is a bit more mechanically inclined than I am and so she was able to take out and put back in the battery.
At that point, I decided, “This is ridiculous. I need to do something else.” Long story short, friends who use iPhones encouraged me to get an iPhone, which I did, and I do not intend to look back. I don’t think I will get a BlindShell Classic 2, but I certainly hope that these problems would not happen in the BlindShell Classic 2, but I just thought people should be aware that this is what happened with the original version, at least to me.
I think there were some others because for a while, I subscribed to a BlindShell Classic list and others were having similar issues. I’m hoping that this would’ve improved in the BlindShell Classic 2, but people should still be aware that there– It sounds like, to me, from Chris Gray’s demonstration, it booted him out of the app when he tried to have it call somebody. It still has some problems, unfortunately. I’m looking forward to future demonstrations by Chris, even though I am definitely not planning to go back.
Jonathan: Well, thank you for sharing your experience, Abby. I’m so sorry that I now know that when my phone rings with a number I don’t recognize, it will not be you because you are not going to call me. [sobs] Moving along to try and cope with the trauma, we’re going to read this email from Tabo, who says, “Hi, Jonathan and the Mosen At Large family. It’s been a while since I made a comment, but anyway, I am back. Hurray. Well, Jonathan, what I just need to understand is does the BlindShell Classic use Android? With its very limited menu, are you able to get to, say, the vocalizer expressive voices or does it have some specific apps which it installs/supports?
I’m curious, but I don’t think it’s a product I can own. I prefer a touchscreen over pressing buttons, but it reminds me of my first encounter with a cell phone. I use these button-operated phones and never thought they could support screen readers. It’s interesting how everything nearly is possible with technology.”
Thanks for writing in, Tabo. The very first accessible phone that I ever owned was running Symbian, and I had quite reasonable access with Symbian phones. I was doing email. I had a DAISY player, reasonable Braille access. There was a lot that you could do with talks and mobile speak. I wouldn’t want to go back, but sometimes we forget how much some of us early adopters of smartphones were able to do with a phone that just had a keypad. I don’t own a BlindShell Classic, I’ve not used one, but my understanding is that, yes, it is based on Android and it was interesting to hear in part one of Chris’s demo that it offered a screen reader function, as well as various apps like WhatsApp and Messenger, so we may well hear more about that in subsequent contributions from Chris.
Michael’s comments about YouTube have elicited some response, first of all, here’s Andy Rebcher who says, “One of your listeners’ remarks that the iOS YouTube app started misbehaving. This also happened to me a few weeks ago. The like button disappeared and some other strange navigation issues crept in. I just thought they had changed something about the app and I would have to leave with it. Today, I deleted the app and redownloaded it. So far, it is back to its old self. Maybe it’ll stay that way. Andy says, “Please wish Bonnie a happy Derby day, greetings from the Northeastern corner of the USA.” Yes, she was really into that and delighted by the unexpected result. Aadi confirms, as mentioned by Michael in the latest Mosen At Large podcast, VoiceOver is not reading the like and share buttons in the YouTube app on iPhone.
This is happening to a lot of VoiceOver users over the past few weeks. The latest update of YouTube doesn’t seem to have fixed this issue. Strangely enough, this VoiceOver behavior is not happening to all YouTube videos but with only a few videos. A sighted person is able to see the mentioned buttons on the screen. The workaround I have found is to play the video in the full screen mode, and now, VoiceOver is able to recognize the like and share buttons.
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Jonathan: When I get two listeners independent of each other getting in touch saying, “You really need to interview this guy.” I figured I should interview this guy. It turns out that there is a new app on the market. If you’re interested in fitness from a blindness perspective. Now, if you’ve listened to this show for a long time, you will know that we cover this from time to time. We’ve done a lot on meditation and mindfulness. We’ve talked about low carb eating, the ketogenic eating.
It is difficult because of some of the challenges we face, particularly with gyms. You’re walking around there, and you suddenly get a foot in your face because you’ve walked somewhere you didn’t intend to. For blind people to stay fit, it really takes some effort. Somebody who is seeking to address this with a cool new app is Tyler Merren, and he’s put out an app called ReVision Fitness. It’s a subscription-based app. You can get it for free, though, from the App Store or Google Play. Tyler’s joining me on the line now. Hi, Tyler. Good to have you with us.
Tyler: It’s great to be here, Jonathan. Thank you so much for bringing me on.
Jonathan: First of all, love the app, a big fan. I’m glad that listeners pointed me in this direction. Before we get to the app, I’d like to learn a bit about you because you know what you’re talking about in this space, right?
Tyler: I’d like to think so. [chuckles] I do have some experience, so a quick backstory on me. I was born in the US, born in southwest Michigan, grew up on a farm, grew up in a family of athletes. My parents noticed something about me when I was little that was different from my siblings. When I would look at somebody while talking to them, my eyes would drift to the side. When it started to get dark out, my vision would go just super quickly. I couldn’t see in dim light. I went to a specialist and found out that I had an eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa and pretty common in the blind community.
That’s an eye condition that causes degeneration typically in the retinas. I was losing vision, but being on the farm, my parents said, “Well, he’s got a strong back and legs. We got chores to do. We’re going to get this done.” I just got to grew up in a family that said, “You know what? You’re still going to get life done regardless.” As I grew up, I was really into sports. My family played sports, my dad played football and baseball, my sister played basketball and volleyball, so always, always interested in athletics, got involved in adaptive sports. I’ve competed for the men’s USA goalball team for about 20 years. I’ve been to four different Paralympic games.
I went to Western Michigan University and got my bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science, became a personal trainer. I’ve been a personal trainer for about a decade plus so it just built my life around fitness and working out and activities and just anything physical I’ve always really, really enjoyed. This program is a collection of all of that experience but with the mindset or the angle, I guess you might say, of being visually impaired and the challenges that go along with that.
Jonathan: The lottery of life is just so random, and the fact that you had parents who just realized that your vision impairment didn’t mean that you were useless and that you were going to pull your weight, that’s had such an impact on your life.
Tyler: Oh, it was massive. It put my feet on a path that is very different from what it could have been. That’s why I think I’m so passionate about this. I do a lot of motivational speaking as well, and I try to talk to parents of blind children. My wife is also visually impaired, and she is a very accomplished person. We do a lot of that because had it not been for their direction in this, who knows? They just said like, “Look, you’re going to be successful at this stuff. You’re going to get up and do.” That’s just always the mentality I’ve had ever since then.
Jonathan: There’s a certain element of the professional class, I’m sad to say, who wants to make raising blind kids this incredible complicated pseudoscience thing.
Tyler: It’s one of those things where it’s different in some ways. How do you put it? The methodology can be a little bit different, but you’re looking for the same result. Both my wife and I are blind. We have four children. All of our children have sight. My stepson is 22 all the way down to my youngest one is 6, and they’re all happy, healthy, successful people. Being raised by sighted parents as a blind kid, it’s not that you need to have some kind of crazy out-of-this-world plan for it. You do the same things that you would with any other kid, to hold them to good expectations and teach them how to be respectful and work hard. Maybe some of the methodology is a little different, but it’s not that complicated, right?
Jonathan: No, absolutely. I’ve got four sighted children as well incidentally so there you go. There’s something we have in common. [crosstalk] My oldest is a little bit older. I was told by somebody in this space that sighted kids grow up to resent having blind parents and all this sort of stuff. There’s a lot of myths and misconceptions that sometimes you do have to get past.
Jonathan: It is, absolutely.
Tyler: It’s about being a good parent first and foremost. It’s like my blindness is part of who I am, but it doesn’t define me. It’s not who I am. It’s part of who I am. This is the same thing as being a parent. Yes, I am a blind parent, but I’m a parent first. From there, blindness has a role to play in how our family functions. We’ve always tried to raise our kids in a way that’s like, “You know what? Our blindness isn’t going to interfere with our family structure.”
Does that mean I don’t have them help me read labels every once in a while while I’m making dinner? Of course, that’s a simple thing, but it’s such a silly misconception that your kids are going to turn out different or funny because you’re visually impaired. It drives me crazy.
Jonathan: How about the personal trainer gig? How has that gone for you in terms of potential clients when they learn that you’re blind?
Tyler: Really interesting that I think in some ways, potentially, it was a drawback, but you’d be surprised at how positive the experience was overall. I graduated in 2011 from Western Michigan University and moved my family. My wife and the kids, and I moved to Florida, a couple of reasons to get into some warm weather. Also, the personal training market in that area is pretty popular. It’s beaches and warm weather all the time. I worked as a master personal trainer for 24-hour Fitness for about six years, became one of the fitness managers and assistant fitness manager with that company. I trained hundreds and hundreds of people through the time that I spent working for that company.
I always told people when they ask me this question, “Give me 30 seconds. If I start talking to you and you don’t think that I have a clue of what I’m talking about, then you can go ahead and walk away, but give me at least 30 seconds. Don’t judge me just because of the cane that I’m holding in my hand.” There were so many people that I trained and for a long time. I had many long-term clients that really, really appreciated the way that I trained, which was slightly different because of my visual impairment, but it became very effective, very comfortable for people overall. It ended up being very, very positive.
Jonathan: Do you think an app like the one we’re about to talk about, does that take the place of a personal trainer, or can they be complementary? How do you see that going?
Tyler: I think they can be complementary. Taking the place of a personal trainer maybe is a little too strong of a stance. Trainers are a lot like mechanics. There’s a lot of really good ones out there, and there’s a lot of really not so good ones. It depends on who you are, what your goals are, what kind of trainer you have found, what their experiences. Just as a simple example, being a good personal trainer takes more than just knowing how to lift weights.
There’s a lot of people in the gym who are very good at training themselves, they’re very disciplined, but it takes a little bit more than that to be a teacher, to guide somebody through those steps, and to help motivate them. I would say that this app, this program that I’ve put together is a great substitute for somebody who can’t get that and even a great addition for somebody who can, especially in the visually impaired community. There’s a lot of barriers that are put in our way, and this program does a really good job of knocking many of those down.
Jonathan: What’s the benefit of exercise? That may seem like a really basic question to you. The reason why I ask is that there’s a lot of debate out there in the health space at the moment. I’ve, after a lot of experimenting and having heart disease and diabetes in my family, went Keto a few years ago. I’m a voracious reader. I looked at the science, it was overwhelming for me, and I’ve lost so much weight. I’m in my fifties now. I feel like I have more energy than I ever did when I was in my twenties. I’m just firing on all cylinders dude.
It’s amazing. One of the things that I sometimes hear from the Keto community is that exercise isn’t really necessary. That does concern me because while I no longer subscribe to the calories-in-calories-out hypothesis, and that one calorie is identical to every other calorie, I know that’s nonsense because I’ve read a lot about this. As you get older, muscle tone, those sorts of things, making sure that your body’s in reasonable shape, it could make the difference in terms of the quality and longevity of your life, right?
Tyler: Absolutely. When we talk about this general, broad topic of what’s beneficial about exercise, I think the first thing that we really need to do is define exercise because there is a general tendency, I think, for people to say, “Exercise, well, that must mean I’m running five miles a day, I’m doing 400 pushups, and I’m eating nothing but grass.” I don’t know why– [laughs] there’s this general picture of, “Well, if not that, then I’m not really exercising. I’m not really taking good care of myself. I’m not really focusing on my health.” I think that’s just really a misconception of exercise. I would generally say activity is maybe a better word.
Being active through your life, really there’s just no debate. There’s no debate that being active is really important for many, many health functions. Your joint health, your body’s functions, your heart strength and health on and on, your emotional health, your mental health, being active is just so crucial. There’s just a mountain of evidence for that. Now, when you get into the weeds, and you talk about, “Okay, well–” Let’s say this particular condition or this particular disease, there is still a pretty massive amount of evidence.
Things like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, so hypertension, high cholesterol, there’s, again, an overwhelming amount of evidence that says being active, exercising regularly reduces these conditions, these chronic conditions, which, in turn, improves things like energy levels, overall longevity. I think there’s just no question that improved quality of life comes along with regular exercise, but I’ll highlight again, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re training for a marathon.
That means that you are learning about your body, that you’re taking care of your body on a day-to-day basis and moving, building up some muscle tone and maintaining it over the years. You mentioned specifically, yes, as we get older, we tend to lose muscle tone. That’s absolutely right. Oh man, what is the statistic? I think it’s for every two years of age, the average amount of muscle loss is a half a pound, which doesn’t sound like much, but you add that up over the span of 30 years, and we’re talking about 15 pounds of muscle loss.
That’s a big, big difference if you’re not doing anything, but studies will show, “Hey, maintain some resistance training, something light. You’ll be able to keep a lot of that muscle tone. That protects your joints, that keeps your energy up.” There’s no question that exercise is extremely beneficial for your health.
Jonathan: It’s also not a get-out-of-jail free card though. I hear people talking about how they just chow down on a triple fudge chocolate sundae, and they think they can exercise it off.
Tyler: You can’t just save up your points. That’s not exactly how it works. One of the things I really tried to build into this program, and we can talk about a few of the elements as we go through. I really tried to build in this idea of holistic, whole body, long-term health. There’s a place for somebody who’s like, “I’m going to the beach in four weeks. I really want to cram in some fitness and try to look good.”
“Oh, okay. I’ve got some workouts. You can flip through them.” I tried to design the program around what I learned as a personal trainer and working with a lot of clients that this is a lifelong journey. It’s important to recognize that exercising is really important that doesn’t give you a whole lot of leeway to go and have a triple fudge sundae. You think about your health at a bigger picture.
Jonathan: I don’t know if you’ve come across someone called Kelly McGonigal, she’s written quite a few interesting books on things like willpower and stress. She’s a clinical psychologist who teaches at Stanford. She’s actually a real-life professor McGonigal. That’s pretty impressive. I’ve taken- [crosstalk] [laughs]
Tyler: That’s very cool.
Jonathan: I’ve taken some of her classes extramurally from her at Stanford. She wrote a book called The Joy of Movement, and she narrates it on Audible. I highly recommend this for anybody who wants some inspiration about why exercise is important and all the psychological benefits as well as the health benefits of exercise. It’s a great piece of research, and it’s very readable. That’s called The Joy of Movement from Kelly McGonigal. I want to talk about this amazing app that you’ve put together.
How did that get started? There have been people who’ve tried in the past to cater to this market. I think it’s a difficult market. First, because describing exercises to the degree of detail where you just can’t look up at a screen and say, “I am doing this right,” or, “In need to change my position a bit.” There are real challenges in that, but also the other challenge I think you have is that it’s hard to make a living in the blind community because of our sociodemographic status. You’re brave taking this on.
Tyler: Brave, maybe, but more of a– just seeing the need and being in a position to bridge the gap. You mentioned at the beginning, the lottery of life. It’s so interesting to me when I have these conversations with people. I think back through the process that this has gone through and is still going through. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but growing up in a family of athletes and being directed by my family as I was to just get out there and do and being athletic myself and really enjoying that process, it put me in a position to be able to do something like this, first and foremost.
Years and years of personal training and working with people and learning about people and understanding the potential pitfalls that people in general go through when it comes to fitness and activity. The way that this all came about is just for years and years, I knew this was an issue, not only for my own experience. I’m in college, I’m learning about anatomy and physiology, biomechanics physics, taking exercise classes, and learning proper movements and how all of this works. It’s a pain in the rear. It really was.
I had to stay after with professors and check out different models and things like that they had of like organs and other stuff just to learn because I couldn’t see my textbooks, and it just was a tremendous amount of work to learn what I learned. I did it because I enjoyed it. I wanted to learn, I wanted to know more. I became certified in strength and conditioning to be able to train elite athletes and certified as a personal trainer.
I just, I enjoyed learning this stuff, but I knew how challenging it was. I mentioned my wife who is also visually impaired, fast forward a couple of years, and even during that time, we’re living in Florida, I’m working as a personal trainer, a long list of clients that I’m working with regularly, and I’d come home from the gym and work. She’s, “Hey, you know, so and so is on this group on Facebook or whatever this blind group, and they’re asking about fitness, you really should jump on there and give them some ideas of what they can do.”
My wife is so patient with me, my typical response is, “I just worked 10 hours. I don’t feel like teaching anybody anything.”
She’s an angel, though. I knew that there’s need out there. There was this one moment that really put it in perspective for me. I’m working at the gym, I’m at the front desk, I’m waiting for a client to come in. Of the thousands and thousands of members of this gym, there was only a handful of people who were visually impaired. I’m at the front desk, I’m waiting for my next client. I heard somebody approaching the desk, coming up to check in. Then, I heard the cane tap, tap, tap. I was like, “Oh, okay. This must be either this person or this person.”
I strike up a conversation. Well, the person, she was a young mother who had just started coming to the gym a few months prior and was a regular, she’s coming in three times a week, and “Hey, how’s it going? How’s your training going?” She had a sad countenance. Didn’t sound like she was her perky self, and so, “What’s going on?” She explained that at first, she was doing really well. She was losing weight. She’d come in three times a week. She’s walking on the treadmill for about an hour, an hour and a half each time, felt really good, and she was losing weight, and now it just stalled.
I heard this time and time again as a trainer. “I was doing so great. Now, I’m not losing any more weight.” I said, “Well, okay, do you do anything else? Do you use any of the machines? Do you do any strength training or stretches or anything like that?” “No,” she said, “I don’t really know how to use any of that stuff. I said, “Well, I’m a personal trainer, and I would be happy to work with you. We can set up a fitness plan. We can talk about your nutrition.”
I started talking to her about training and getting some personal training done. I couldn’t set my own rates, the rates were set by the fitness center, and I could get fired for training anybody outside of that. When we talked about the expense of getting a personal trainer, it was something that she couldn’t afford. As you mentioned, Jonathan, unfortunately, there’s a good percentage of the blind population that just doesn’t have that kind of resource. She walked away disappointed to go use the treadmill again. The challenge for me that this moment, the reason that it struck me here is that, there were a lot of people in that situation.
I had hundreds of clients so I had many more who said, “You know what? I can’t afford this. I’m going to have to try it on my own.” At least those people, though, I knew they would walk away, and they could take a look around the gym, and they could see what everybody else is doing on the machines, they could sit down on the machine and look at the picture and see how it moves. They could step into a classroom and follow the instructor without a problem. They could pull up a YouTube video.
This young mother did not have that option. She was stuck. She really was stuck, and there was nothing I could do. I thought, “This is really not fair. This is really not acceptable.” They just drove it home. From that moment on, I started spinning these ideas around in my head like, “Okay, if I was to do this, how would I set it up? What would it need to look like? How would I structure it? How can I market this and make it accessible for people and yet still be able to sustain it and give it life?” Months and years later, after many, many hours of work and talking with people and scratching ideas and writing new ones down, the app is launched, and the program is alive.
Jonathan: How long ago are we talking about? How long have these ideas been floating around for?
Tyler: I’ve been working on this program for about three and a half years. I would say I really put pen to paper figuratively speaking about two and a half, almost three years ago. It was a lot of dialogue and sorting ideas about how to make this a good workflow and how to cater to all the different people that would potentially check in. The one commonality is blindness, but beyond that, you have experienced exercise enthusiasts. You have people who are totally beginners. You have people with health issues. I did try to figure out a way to set up the program to be able to cater to all demographics in that sense, so pretty long time in the making.
Then, once I did figure out the system, it was starting to create all the materials. You get on the platform, and everything you see on there is spun out of my fingertips onto the computer. It was just a tremendous amount of work. Setting up the LLC for my business and even things as basic as figuring out a logo and other things like that, it just took a tremendous amount of time.
Jonathan: Yes, there’s a lot involved in setting up and maintaining a business. We have talked about the Holman Prize on the show before, and you won a Holman Prize. That must have been a very significant boost for this project.
Tyler: That was what drove this forward. 2020, somebody had brought it to my attention. They said, “You should really apply for this.” People that I’ve been talking to about the program, and I said, “Well, I can give it a shot.” I did some research on it and just so many great, great projects that were presented to the Holman Prize team every year. You flip through some of the candidates like, “Wow, that’s cool. Wow, that’s cool. That’s even cooler.”
There was definitely a part of me that I didn’t even really expect to win a prize from this because of such great competition for it. The one thing I think that my project did have and I highlighted in my application was I think that my project has the potential to impact just thousands upon thousands of people, again, just such a need for such a long time. They agreed with me, and they’ve been just a fantastic support. Essentially, without them, there would not be an app right now. There would not be the functionality that’s there right now.
Jonathan: I think accessible fitness is a real issue in our community. I know many people felt quite disappointed when the Apple Watch fitness came out that wasn’t terribly accessible. They’ve added a few more things to try and make it better, but I really thought Apple, given their reputation, would have done a lot better in that space than they actually did with their Fitness+ thing. There’s an ongoing need.
One thing that I was really struck by is the clear care that you have taken with the structure. Because, as I say, one of the big challenges in this space for blind people is not just being able to glance at a screen and exercise video and know that you’re doing it right, make a little bit of a correction to your position, to the move, whatever it is just by viewing. That’s a huge challenge.
When you go into the app, you’ve got this classroom tab. I was really enthralled by this. You’ve got heaps of material in that classroom already that describes a lot of useful exercises, and in some cases, I was actually able to go through and confirm, “Yes, I’m doing this one right.” In another one, I thought, “Okay, I need to actually just correct my move a little bit. My arms are actually straight than they should be for this one.” That must have taken a lot of work to put that classroom together.
Tyler: It did. Again, when we talk about the time span of how long this project has taken, all of the work that I have poured into this has gone into designing the classroom lessons and the accessible workouts and the other tabs and the fitness plans. When I first thought of that idea, really the biggest thing was, okay, what I’ve seen– and as you’ve mentioned, Jonathan, there’s so little out there, but what I’ve seen from any “accessible programs,” with the exception of you, but generally speaking, when they say, “All right, we’re going to be really descriptive,” they’re trying to cram a whole lot of description into the middle of the workout.
It just doesn’t work well. It becomes clunky, it just doesn’t function the way that you really want a workout to. You want to flow through a workout, you don’t want to have to stop all the time to describe what you’re going to be doing. I thought, “You know what? We need to front-load this. We need to have a place where somebody can go, like a classroom, a literal learning section where you can figure out these movements and understand them and right away. You know what? I just need to build in all of the details.”
Here’s again that conjunction of being blind and knowing that I need to describe these things really well, but having that personal trainer experience. Apple doesn’t really have that per se in their repertoire. I’m the conjunction of several different factors. All of these lessons where I describe these exercises, what’s the starting position? How do you actually do the movement? Where should you be feeling it? What are ways to make it harder or easier? What are some of the common mistakes that you find? Just describing it to the greatest detail so that then you’re very knowledgeable. You’re empowered then.
You have the knowledge to jump into any of our accessible audio workouts or even– let’s say you work through some material and you feel confident enough that you know several exercises that you’re sure are going to be in the next body pump class in your local fitness center, well, now you can go and do that without feeling like you’re completely lost.
It’s about empowering and teaching people the right way to move so that they can apply it to whatever setting they find themselves in.
Jonathan: You have this classroom in one tab, but then the actual workouts on the other, and I did think, “Yes, there’s a bit of back and forth here.” Because if you want to do a workout, you might go in and take a look at what exercises the workout is going to take you through. Then, you have to go back into the classroom tab and check those exercises out. To be honest, when I thought about it, I thought, “Well, there’s really no other easy way to get that done,” right?
Tyler: There is a little bit of a middle ground. One of the things that you’ll find when you get into the program is that the instruction is found in three different layers. The classroom tab is, like you said, just straight lessons. You click on squats or sit-ups or any number of things. There’s over 100 different lessons in that tab to start with and many more being added. Take some time, learn the exercise, here’s all the details in the fitness studio.
Each studio session is built-in with what’s called a pre-workout information session. That is the second layer of instruction. I go into a workout, and I can look at the exercise list, and I can say, “Okay, I think I know what these are, but I’m not 100% Sure.” Well, if you click on the pre-workout information session, it’s a four to six minutes, give or take, depending on how many exercises, but it’s a quick thing where I jump in and I say, “Okay, here’s the workout that you’re going to be doing. It’s this format, here’s the list of exercises. We’re going to run through a quick description of each one so that you can know what they are.”
“If these quick descriptions are not enough for you to feel confident, then you can go back to the classroom and find all of the greater detail.” It’s a brief summary of each exercise prior to the workout. That’s the second layer of instruction. Then, of course, if you have done the workout before or you’re very familiar with the exercises, you jump right into the workout. I do the workouts with you. I cue you through every one. I give you reminders of as we’re doing it, what you should be feeling, and how you should be moving. There’s multiple layers of instruction that are designed to keep a good workflow whatever your experience level.
Jonathan: For those who know about this sort of thing already, what range of workouts are available at the moment?
Tyler: Right now, there are about 30 workouts in the fitness studio section. Most workouts are built-in with a beginner and an advanced level. The difference between the two depends. Sometimes the beginner versus advanced level is just variations on exercises. Sometimes the advanced level is quite a bit lengthier. It just depends on the workout session.
The workouts that I launched the program with, I would consider to be middle ground. Not all very super tailored towards the very, very inexperienced beginner and not necessarily tailored towards the super elite athlete.
You’ll find some that can challenge you both ways, some that are pretty light, pretty easy to start with, and some that can be pretty challenging. I started with some middle-of-the-road workouts. Now that the program is launched, I’m adding workout routines regularly that are working towards both ends of the spectrum. As an example, one of the very first ones that I added after the initial launch was a low-impact knee-friendly cardio workout.
Very much more tailored towards senior citizens, people with knee problems, the beginner type person who’s just getting back into exercise, and then some 10-minute workout series that I’ve recently released that have some lighter versions, some beginner versions, and then some that are a little bit more challenging. I think that there’s a pretty good mix. As I’m going along working towards each end of the spectrum, some very, very difficult workouts and some that are going to be very, very easy as well for beginners.
Jonathan: You also have the Fitness Plan tab, tell me about what that does.
Tyler: The Fitness Plan is a way to try to give you an anchor, a direction, maybe, is a better word, for what you’re trying to do. As I’ve said a few times, as a personal trainer, something that I learned very, very early in my career was that you can give somebody a great workout pretty easily. It’s really not that difficult. Most anybody can cobble together some exercises and get somebody sweating and exercising. The question really becomes, “Well, what’s the purpose? Where do we go from here? How often should I do this? Should I do this every day? Should I do it every other day, once a week? What other exercises should I mix in? What workouts should be coupled together with other workouts?”
The Fitness Plan section is a place where you can go to get some guidance on, “Okay, yes, we’ve got these 30 plus workouts many more coming out, but what do I do with them?” That fitness plan gives you the place to find the guidance that you need to sort them out. I think the way that I describe it is if the classroom lessons are the ingredients and the workouts are your pots and pans, your cooking instruments, the workout plans are the actual recipe. That’s how you actually get it done. It’s the guided instructions that you need to make your fitness goals a reality.
Jonathan: One of the things I really like about the app is that you’ve paid a lot of attention to the VoiceOver experience. I’m talking about VoiceOver because I’m an iPhone user. Little things like when you double-tap on a particular workout or an exercise description, straight away, the appropriate section on the screen gets focused, and VoiceOver starts to speak it. That kind of thing doesn’t happen by accident, and those touches are really nice.
Tyler: I did as much as I possibly could to really make the program flow easily and accessible with VoiceOver. There’s actually several details that are put in not only for blind users, but hard of hearing is another demographic that I really tried to create some accessibility built in. The text-based option is really great for somebody with a hearing disability. Every workout lesson has the option to toggle the music on and off, which is great for somebody who’s hard of hearing so they can hear the instructions a little bit better, or if you want to play your own music, you don’t like the particular selection I have for that workout.
I worked very extensively with my development team. We’ve learned a lot together, and every step of the way, accessibility was first and foremost in play. We tried to make sure there was lots of those. There’s other little things that we’re going to be working on adding in as we go along to try to make it even more accessible. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to get something done and being barred because the program is not accessible for you.
Jonathan: In the context of workouts and just generally self-improvement, social can have such an impact. There can be a good accountability mechanism. Apple Watch, for example, has a feature where you can compete with people about workouts, have little competitions, that kind of thing. Peloton’s obviously really got this nailed down, and some other manufacturers have tried to emulate this where you can all, no matter where you are in the world, go on a cycle together. You’ve got some social features that you anticipate more being added in future?
Tyler: Oh, yes, absolutely. I’ve gotten some questions about the subscription for the program. It’s very interesting to me to see the span of opinions on it. Many, many people are like, “Man, this is all you’re charging for this? This is fantastic. That’s such a good rate.” Other people like, “You really shouldn’t be charging anything for this.” [laughs] The variety of opinions is very wild. The whole idea behind these subscriptions is I’m so passionate about this project, but it takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of resources. Getting those subscriptions helps me continue to build the program and look for future functionality to be added into the app.
The goal is for it to contain anything and everything fitness-related and for it to be as functional as your Apple Watch with all of those types of functionalities that may not be accessible. I want it to be able to do all of that but in a very accessible way, connect to heart rate monitors, and be able to build communities and share challenges with other people. My dream for this is that it will do all of that.
Some of these things are actually in the works. They’re in the chute. I’m talking to the developers about it. Some of them are just ideas on paper right now, but it’s absolutely something I want as we go forward. That social aspect, being able to build a community around this and around fitness and around being blind while doing fitness I think is just so, so crucial.
Jonathan: If we could, for example, schedule an official Mosen At Large workout to happen at a particular time and listeners who are interested could all get together and essentially stream the same workout together. That’d be pretty fun as long as they all subscribe to the app, of course.
Tyler: Yes, it would be fantastic. Those are the types of things I’m talking about, just being able to build those types of rooms or community functions or find accountability partners. I have just dozens and dozens of ideas tumbling around to make this better. I don’t want to speak out of turn too much on this stuff. There’s still a lot of these ideas I’m trying to pin down the best way to do.
But even having options for subscribing to or signing up for one-on-one sessions where I have trainers on hand who can almost like a Be My Eyes are an Aira service where they can set up and view your movements and double-check that you’ve got the right positioning or– and a number of things. There’s so much potential in this, and it’s all predicated on the idea that it’s going to be accessible for people who are blind. I’m just so excited for it.
Jonathan: Definitely count me in for that. I would be totally down with that, as my kids like to say.
What about Apple Watch integration? I’m not sure about the degree to which third-party API’s exist for Apple Watch. For example, when I do a workout in the ReVision Fitness app, I have to remember to start my Apple Watch workout as well, and it will track my heart rate, it will give me all that data. Do you think that the app might ever come to watchOS or at least that somehow there might be integration with the Apple Health app?
Tyler: You are asking tech questions of a guy who can’t give you tech answers.
But I will say that, again, it’s on the list. I’ve had multiple people who say, “Will this ever integrate with the Apple Watch?” 1,000% That’s something that I really want it to be able to do. I don’t know exactly how that would function, how it works, but I have plans for that. I’ve learned, again, over the years that any little barrier to fitness or accomplishing one’s goals really can be a major deterrent.
This platform is designed around the idea that I just don’t want there to be any hindrances. Something as simple as strapping on your Apple Watch and having it automatically know what you’re doing when you open the app and kick on and read everything and then kick your information back into the app, or– those are the types of things that I absolutely want to integrate in the future.
Jonathan: That’s great because I think there are two markets, really. There are people who realize, “Look, I need to make positive changes in my life, and I’m starting from the beginning.” They may not necessarily have Apple Watches, but people like me who are seriously committed to this stuff, we’ve got the Apple Watch already. We’re used to that routine, and we want to be able to integrate that and use it. There’s so much scope, so much potential, and I think the subscription that you’ve got is very fair. Can you tell us about the subscription model and how that works?
Tyler: It’s extremely simple and straightforward. When you sign up, you can download the app off of the App Store or Google Play. It functions well with either phone model. You can download the app, you create an account. When your account is created, it automatically starts a two-week free trial, so it doesn’t cost you anything to download, doesn’t cost you anything to sign up, and it doesn’t cost you anything to check it out for the first two weeks.
You have access to every drop of material that’s on the platform. Once the two weeks has ended, it’ll pop up with a dialog box that says, “We’d love for you to continue your training.” From there, you can select either auto-renewable subscription, either monthly or annual, the monthly subscription, and it depends on your region. But generally speaking, it’s going to be $5.99 a month USD, or $59.99 annually USD. Again, those subscriptions essentially go back into more functionality in the app into helping me create more content and growing the program.
Jonathan: Is this a full-time role for you right now?
Tyler: It is, and it’s not at the same time. It ebbs and flows a little bit. I wear a lot of hats. Again, I’m a dad, I’m still an elite athlete. I’m in training for the men’s USA goalball team. Just got back from Tokyo several months ago competing in that tournament and motivational speaking and several different things that I do, consulting, and doing fitness workshops for different organizations, things like that.
This is my pet project right now. It’s definitely my baby. [chuckles] I want this to be something that just impacts people in very, very positive ways. It has absorbed a lot of my time in the past. It has absorbed a lot of my time right now as we launched the app and got everything going. It is very, very much a full-time job for the moment, and I hope it continues to be, perfectly honest. I’m in it for the long haul, I’d love to be adding more material to it over the next 4 or 5, 6 years, 10 years.
I have in the works right now some build-your-own-workout timers that are going to be posted. I’ve got some yoga material that I’m putting together, resistance bands and weight training is going to be coming up soon. I’ve been talking to people about putting some dance workouts on there. I mean, who in the visually impaired community wouldn’t love to actually learn some dance moves and be able to work out to it? It’s like just so many cool things that are coming along. It really is a full-time gig.
Jonathan: You opted to do the subscription model rather than give people the opportunity to purchase individual workouts. What’s the business thinking, the strategy behind that?
Tyler: There was actually two main branches of thinking with that. The first, the primary was, I put together all of these workouts, I put together these fitness plans, I put together the classroom lessons, and they all are designed to function together. The idea of saying, “Hey, here’s an accessible audio workout, I’ll sell it to you for 20 bucks,” whatever it might be. There’s so much that is connected to that in the program.
Like I said, between the fitness plans and the classrooms and ways to turn that workout up or down to beginner level, advanced level, it’s integrated so much in the program that I thought, “You know what? Just [inaudible 01:43:26] workouts or collections of workouts, bundles of workouts.” It’s not doing it, it’s not going to get what I’m trying to give here. That was number one, and number two, actually had this suggestion multiple times. There was some people that I worked with as I really started building this program, building the business.
They said, “Why don’t you just–? You could charge people $150 for a handful of workouts, and people will pay it because this is a really big deal, and people want this,” and I said, “I don’t like that.” I don’t like it because that puts a percentage of people out of reach of this, and certainly, if I wanted to make it 100% accessible to everybody, I would make it free but then the app wouldn’t exist. I was like, “There’s got to be a middle ground here where I don’t have to charge people exorbitant amounts that many might not be able to afford.” The subscription model made a whole bunch of sense.
I kept it as low as I felt like I could manage with sustaining the business and growing it over time to give people the opportunity to jump in and out as they please. You could be subscribed for several months on end at a time when you feel like you really need that guidance, and then when you don’t, you can unsubscribe. You can jump back in later when there’s more material. Maybe we come up with something you’re really interested in, you want to learn about it. It just made the most sense to me to give people the best opportunity to utilize the program.
Jonathan: If I get the app in its current form, do I need a lot of gear, like gym equipment, that kind of thing?
Tyler: That’s a great question. Currently, everything on the app is all bodyweight information. All like zero equipment required. The material that’s going to be coming out will start to expand into those different areas. I mean, if nothing else, a yoga mat, something simple. Even that, you don’t need anything. If you have zero fitness equipment, you could download this app and utilize pretty much everything on the app.
Again, I did that specifically to make it usable by pretty much anybody who wanted to get on there. As we go, like I said, resistance band workouts, weight training workouts, cycling and rowing workouts, all of those things will be coming down the pipe for those who have that equipment.
Jonathan: Are you happy with take up at this point, how has it been received?
Tyler: It’s been received really positively. Honestly, one of the most interesting things really is just this spread of information, I think, is the biggest challenge at the moment. I know there’s a lot of people out there who just don’t know the resources there. It’s new, and so, I think that’s taking some time, but we’ve had several hundred people sign up already. On the app, there’s a Contact Us section, people will send me messages, “What about this? Have you thought about doing this or adding this feature?” A lot of times, it’s already written down.
Sometimes I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, that’s such a good idea.” I think it’s being received super well. I’m very excited about the potential. I recognize it’s not for everybody, not everybody wants to get into fitness and all of that. My mission with this is to make sure that if you do want to, that there’s an option for you. So far, I’m very happy with the results.
Jonathan: See, you’re pretty gentle on this. The one thing I would say is I have seen people’s health deteriorate in my life, various people. The one thing they really regret is that sometimes, not always, but sometimes, it can be a one-way trip. It’s so unfortunate when people have those regrets and say, “You know, perhaps if I had taken a little better care of myself, exercised a little more, eaten a little better, I might not be in this irreversible predicament that I’m in.”
Tyler: It really is. As a trainer, I could tell you stories. I can tell you some real stories about people who– one gentleman that I worked with that was not very old, in his late 30s, had a young daughter. Because of the way he took care of himself or didn’t take care of himself, as a better way to say it, was using a walker, had several surgeries, was losing control of his bowels, things like that, just awful. Just awful. I’d love to encourage people to do the best they can to take care of their health and fitness.
This app is one of the ways that I can try to do that. Again, it’s designed to help you be successful. One of the things you’ll find when you step into any of the fitness plans, or you can just dig into them in the classroom, I have a collection of lessons called action groups. Each one of them is designed to help you formulate a plan and to analyze what your health and fitness is all about. Why are you even here metaphorically speaking, right?
Why are you even digging into this app? Why are you taking a look, why is fitness so important to you? What are your goals? Okay, why did you choose those? What’s your X-factor? What’s really driving you into these goals? I’ll take you through steps on setting up a smart plan and determining what your steps will be. It’s all designed to help people be more successful and not run into those things you’re talking about, Jonathan, just that decline of health that, unfortunately, we see all too often anymore.
Jonathan: Dude, after all that, I feel like I should be on my treadmill instead of sitting here talking to you.
Tyler: We’ve been sitting for too long. We got to do some work here.
Jonathan: Let’s just go through, you can get this ReVision fitness, and its mixed case. It’s R-E and then a capital V in the middle. It’s on iOS App Store and Google Play. There’s a website, too, right, for those who already use it that way.
Tyler: Yes, revisionfitnessapp.com. If you’re not a mobile user, you don’t want the apps, it’s all on the website. If you sign up and create an account, you can access any of them. If you’ve signed up on the web, and you think, “Well, you know what, let me try this on my phone.” Your account will work on any of those platforms once you sign up with one of them. Then, yes, you can search iOS or Google Play for ReVision fitness, and it is capital R, lowercase E, capital V. It’s ReVision, a little bit of a play on words there, but it should be pretty easy to find for you.
Jonathan: The accessibility, the clarity, the quality is just top-notch. I’m really blown away by the app. I’m glad that you’re able to come and join us to talk about it. I hope people give it a try and make some positive life change.
Tyler: You and me both. Jonathan, thanks so much for having me, man. I really appreciate it. [music]
Jonathan: If we fail to do one of these for long enough, the complaints pile up, and do we want complaints? No, we do not. It is time for another Bonnie Bulletin with the famous Bonnie Mosen.
Bonnie Mosen: Hi.
Jonathan: Sitting here on the right of me, welcome.
Jonathan: You have been enthralled, enthralled as usual by the whole Triple Crown phenomenon. Here’s my question for you. Why would someone enter the Kentucky Derby with a horse, and yes, I know they say Derby in America, but I’m not going to compromise my principles. Why would somebody into the Kentucky Derby and then not go for the Triple Crown when they’ve won the Kentucky Derby?
Bonnie: It’s happened a few times. Just for a little context, in case you did not get the myriad of breaking news stories on the first Saturday in May. Rich Strike who was an 80 to 1 long shot came from pretty much out of the clouds and won against some of the best horses in the country. He was not even scheduled to be in the Kentucky Derby. He had enough points to run, but it was only a 20-horse field. He was an alternate. Sort of like the understudy getting the starring role on Broadway because the star got sick. In this case, a horse was scratched from the derby.
Jonathan: He was like the designated survivor, dude.
Bonnie: He was, yes. Literally, $30,000 claimer, the track announcer, because everyone is focused on the front runners, Epicenter and Xander, and all of a sudden, it’s like, ” Where’d this guy come from?” Very kind of a rag-to-riches story. His owners, Oklahoma oil man, has not been in racing very long. His trainer lost several horses a few years ago in a barn fire and actually thought about giving up racing. It was just super, super exciting. The second longest shot in history. The last one was Donerail in 1913. It was announced this morning that he would not be running in the Preakness. Of course, that’s gotten a lot of people like, “Why isn’t he running in the Preakness?”
There’s a few reasons for that. First of all, the Preakness is a much shorter race than the Kentucky Derby. It’s a mile compared to the mile and a quarter of the Kentucky Derby. Rich Strike is a closer, which means the Preakness goes better for speed horses. Because if you get out there, he’s not going to have time to circle the field and weave through and get up there quickly enough. They were originally pointing him towards the Belmont Stakes, which is a mile and a half run in New York in June. He was not even really going in the Kentucky Derby. They were pointing him towards a different race, the Peter Pan in New York.
When they found out the day before that he could run the derby, they said, “Okay, well, we’ll try it,” and he won. They don’t feel that he can really do his best in the Preakness. It’s a grueling five weeks on a horse, and they would rather save their horse and keep their horse well and train for the derby. A little bit of disappointment, but it is a decision that’s been made by owners before- [crosstalk]
Jonathan: The derby has already been.
Bonnie: -sorry, the Belmont.
Jonathan: The Belmont, okay. It just seems such a shame that if you’ve got the chance to win the Triple Crown, which is such a prestigious thing to do, why wouldn’t he at least take the chance?
Bonnie: They like to run for races they actually have a chance in winning. They don’t feel like they have a chance of winning the Preakness. They were originally pointing towards the Belmont because it suits his running style anyway. It can be– these five weeks can be very tough on a horse, plus the fact he’s already marked his place in history as a Derby winner, and his stud fees will be high anyway.
Jonathan: Do you have a winner for us for the pregnant if we want to put some money on the pregnant?
Bonnie: There’s a Philly. Dewayne Lucas has a Philly that is supposedly going in the Preakness named Secret Oath. She won the Kentucky Oaks. I think we may see like we did with Mine That Bird where he won the Derby and Belmont and Rachel Alexander won the Preakness. I think we may see Secret Oath win the Preakness.
Jonathan: Okay, and as we get ready to wind up this enthralling edition of Mosen At Large. It will be remiss of us not to mark the passing of a significant era, and that is that the iPod Touch is ceasing to be– It’s already out of stock in Apple in the United States and a number of other places, too. This is the last of the famous iPod line.
Bonnie: Yes, 21 years, and like I said, the day the music machine died.
Jonathan: Did you ever own an iPod?
Bonnie: I didn’t, actually, I never had an iPod. I certainly saw a lot of them. A lot of people had them, but I never owned one. They weren’t particularly accessible for a long time in my understanding.
Jonathan: Perhaps some people would like to share their memories of iPods that they’ve earned. There was the iPod with the click wheel. I think what happened is they borrowed a technique that was used by something that I had called Rockbox. What you used to do is you’d get these iRiver mp3 players. I think that was the main brand that you could do this with. You’d install this alternative firmware called Rockbox, and you would copy files across from your computer to this iRiver player. Mine had a 20-gigabyte hard drive, which was pretty impressive back then, and you could generate these text-to-speech files that accompanied each song.
So that as you arrowed through, you did have speech, and you knew what songs you were playing, that kind of thing. I was a Rockbox guy. The first iPod I owned briefly was an iPod touch when I dabbled in it to see what the VoiceOver user interface was like, but I never did own one. I know some people did have the one with the click wheel. Was that called the Nano? [crosstalk] That one did do the text-to-speech thing like Rockbox did. Then, of course, you have the iPod Shuffle. It was pretty cool. The old iPod Shuffle thing, which was basically everybody was in the same boat with that one. It was a screenless little device, I think. Then, of course, the iPod Touch, which eventually had VoiceOver.
Bonnie: It wasn’t something I ever needed, because I had an iPhone, so I had everything. I had books and music and stuff like that. I know even Tim Cook had an iPod, which I guess if you’re CEO of Apple, you have everything anyway, but he liked having that designated music thing.
Jonathan: I agree with you. I’m a big fan of the one device so you don’t have to think what device did I have this on? You’ve only got one thing to charge. Rebecca Skipper did tweet into the Mosen At Large Twitter account about this. She said she was sad that the iPod Touch was going because it was perfectly adequate for people who just wanted to listen to BARD and other services. Wouldn’t you buy a Victor Reader Stream if that’s what you wanted to do?
Bonnie: You could, and I guess it’s the same thing that people that like their Victor Stream even though they can essentially do the majority of things on the iPhone or iPod. I always wanted iPod Touch just– I always wanted to buy a preloaded one that had all the music on it already.
Jonathan: There was a bit of that about, wasn’t there?
Bonnie: I think so. I knew people who got iPods that had tons of music on, but I think the fam– like my dentist, I remember Dr. Chenalski, he had an iPod, and he had gotten it for Hanukkah. You’d go to the dentist, and you wouldn’t know what was coming on next. It could be anything from Frank Sinatra to boogie-woogie to either just all kinds of things. I was talking about, “Oh, I really liked the music that’s on here.” The hygienist said, “Yes, his family did that because he likes to look at the end of the day to see how many songs have been played.” I think there was like 4,000 songs on it or something.
Jonathan: What a novelty factor when these devices started to come along, 1,000 songs in your pocket. Wasn’t that a slogan at one point or something?
Jonathan: I don’t think it was ever an official thing. What would often happen is that family members would give other family members iPods for a birthday or a Christmas present, and they would be preloaded with the favorite songs that the family members have put on there. Probably not strictly legal, but–
Bonnie: Probably not. Yes, it was– that’s where I heard White Bird in a Golden Cage for the first time.
Jonathan: ;laughs] Well, in the meantime, you are rocking the newest iPhone in the house because you’ve got the iPhone 13.
Bonnie: I’m actually far above everybody else.
Jonathan: There you go.
Jonathan: I’m quite happy with my iPhone 12.
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 email@example.com. If you’d rather call in, use the listener line number in the United States, 864-606-6736.
[01:59:02] [END OF AUDIO]