Podcast transcript: Mosen at Large episode 187, Aira arriving on new devices, differing Uber experiences, and tech tips for travel
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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 Aira is coming to some new devices, including your computer and the blind shell too. People continue to report differing Uber experiences, and Bonnie and I share some tech travel tips.
It’s great to be back with you once again, not much else to do at the moment because it is pouring down and wintery and generally just yuck outside, so why not be in here talking with you? I’ve got a couple of items of news before we get underway with some really interesting listener comments. A few months ago, I mentioned to you that Serotek was releasing a new version of its Remote Incident Manager, which is known as RIM for short.
At the time, it was still fairly early in the development process, but now Pneuma Solutions has released the public beta of this and you can kick the tires. For those who don’t remember what rim is, the goal of this new version of rim as we mentioned at the time will be to be attractive to both blind and sighted people who want to provide remote technical support and training.
This is something that has come up separately from rim because there are jobs to be done in the remote tech support area, but if there’s not an accessible tool to do that, then it locks some blind people out of jobs that they could otherwise do. This is important technology. Pneuma Solutions say they want to be competitive with mainstream products, like TeamViewer while being fully accessible.
They’re promising that the quality and responsiveness of remote screen output is going to be dramatically improved, and all audio output on the default sound card of the Target PC comes across not just the screen reader output. Now, what about those of us with a squillion audio devices in their PCs? They say that they are working on non-default sound cards as well. This works regardless of the screen reader that’s running at either RIM. If you’re a JAWS person wanting to assist someone running Narrator or NVDA, then you can rock this thing.
Perhaps you need to provide remote assistance in your job, or maybe you are the tech support person in your family because you know about this stuff and you want to be able to assist people. You will be able to work with sighted people using rim without the sighted person having to hear speech output as long as the blind person is running NVDA on their local machine. That is an NVDA advantage there.
Pneuma says it’s easy to transfer files between machines using the clipboard as well, and latency should be good because you don’t have to go through a server in the United States or anywhere else. Most connections are peer-to-peer without requiring either end to mess with opening ports or other arcane configuration details. Yes, it can be a bit difficult to get the router to do that kind of thing.
In the event that rim can’t make a peer-to-peer connection. It’ll use their network of relays around the world. I’m going to have a catch up with Mike Calvo and Matt Campbell of Pneuma Solutions in the near future, and I will bring that to you within the next few weeks. We’ve got quite a backlog of material at the moment, but it won’t be too far away.
I wanted to tell you about this right away, because if you want to try this out for yourself and maybe let me know how you’re getting on with it, you can go to getrim.app and grab the public beta. It’s available now. That’s getrim.app. If it’s as good as it says on the tin, then I think this could be a very significant development for several important use cases in the blind community.
In other news, if you think that your Netflix is sounding a bit different in certain situations, that’s because they’ve announced that they’re rolling out spatial audio for select audio programming. The feature should deliver more immersive sound, particularly for those listening to a TV show or a movie with headphones. Netflix has collaborated with Sennheiser to convert surround sound mixes into an expansive spatial audio presentation that interestingly can be played through stereo speakers or headphones without anything else.
You don’t have to buy any new thing or own any proper surround system for this to work. According to Netflix, spatial audio is compatible with all devices, all streaming plans, and it doesn’t require surround sound speakers or home theater equipment. They say here in their release, Netflix spatial audio helps to translate the cinematic experience of immersive audio to any stereo.
The work creators do to bring you into the story happens no matter what device you use to watch Netflix. Now, at launch time, there was a fairly limited selection of content supporting the new audio experience. You can browse what’s available by searching for spatial audio in the Netflix search bar. If you’re like one of the last two people on earth to watch the current season of Stranger Things along with me, that is one of the options that has this new surround sound options.
Jonathan: Oh, you’re excited about that, Boris.
Jonathan: Yes, I guess you’ll have a lot more time to watch Netflix shortly. Maybe they’ll do a Boris Johnson biopic. Be the first to know what’s coming in the next episode of Mosen At Large, opt into the Mosen media list and receive a brief email on what’s coming so you can get your contribution in ahead of the show. You can stop receiving emails anytime. To join, send a blank email to email@example.com. That’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay in the know with Mosen At Large.
Jonathan: You may recall that previously on Mosen At Large.
Speaker 3: Recently on Mosen At Large.
Jonathan: Yes, yes, yes, we heard from Tiffany Jessen, and she was talking about her Alt-Tab problem. She said that sometimes when she’s had a lot of windows open, the Alt Tab stops working. She can press Alt Tab and she can’t cycle through all of her applications. Now, we have various comments on this. The first one suggests an alternative way around the problem, and it’s from Don Barrett. He says, “Try using the Windows + Tab key, which is a very easy way of bringing up a list of running applications.
She might find that even though the Alt Tab has stopped working, the list that comes up from that keystroke combination may work for her. The left or right arrow keys will move backwards and forwards through the list of open applications with the enter key taking her to the last spoken application.”
Thank you, Don. Jenny Emery is writing in and she says, “Hi, Jonathan. I think this is my first time writing to you regarding this podcast. I have been listening for a while now and want to let you know how much I appreciate all of the information shared by you and your listeners. I have so many questions. I fear that once I start you and the listeners might get tired of me writing.” Not at all, Jenny, not at all. “However, for now, I am writing with one main purpose. In Episode 186, if I have that correct–,” Yes, you do. “Tiffany wrote regarding an issue where when she Alt-tabs through windows/applications some do not appear.
I just want to let Tiffany know she is not alone out there, this has happened to me. In my case, I didn’t even have that many windows open, maybe three or four. I didn’t report it or worry about it too much as honestly, I just thought it was due to my very old computer, which barely functions. It needs to go to the place where old computers go for recycling, I suppose. I just remember being so frustrated. I was trying to pay a bill or save bank documents or something to that effect, and performing the task was virtually impossible.
I kept thinking maybe somehow a program had closed, but then when I started closing everything down to restart from scratch, I saw the program I had been trying to get to was still in fact, actually open and just wasn’t coming up when circling through the open programs. Sorry, Tiffany, this isn’t very enlightening and I don’t have any answer, but I just wanted to let you know I know exactly of what you are speaking. I only hope touch wood that this doesn’t start happening to me on my work BZ so far so good.
I will be curious to know if anyone else experiences this. Meantime, if it occurs again, thanks for the insert F10 tip. I think that was the workaround mentioned. Happy July 4th to my fellow Americans out there. I now live in Illinois and I hope all in my original Canadian home enjoy the nice July 1st Canada Day.” Jenny, July 4th wasn’t the best for Illinois, was it? I still hope that you managed to celebrate and thank you for writing in and letting Tiffany know she’s got company with this one. Well, look at this. It’s Angie Matney writing in from the Great State of Virginia.
Speaker 4: Angie Matney from the Great State of Virginia?
Jonathan: See, and I know that we’re going to get some people who write in and say, “It’s a Commonwealth you knit. It’s a Commonwealth.” Well, Angie lives in Virginia. She’s a lawyer and she’s calling it the Great State of Virginia. I’m just going to go with that, and she says– See, she says, “Hello from the Great State of Virginia, how exciting that you will soon be welcoming your first grandchild. I’m so happy for you and the family.” Thank you, Angie.
“I too, have become a JAWS laptop mode convert in recent months.” All the angels are singing in celebration, Angie. She says, “This happened primarily because I use Mantis on both my home and work computers, which of course, has no insert key.” It is a great device, the Mantis, isn’t it? You would’ve thought that given that blind people were going to use this thing– The Mantis is created for blind people. They would have found a way to put the insert key in there somewhere. Still, it’s a good device. Angie continues, “The only issue I have with laptop mode is that there are a few commands where JAWS key and Insert produce different results. For example, while Insert + J brings up the JAWS context menu, JAWS key + J moves to the previous word and speaks it.
I found a workaround on the Mantis, control shift caps lock J will bring up the JAWS context menu, but I have not yet found a way to duplicate insert + A which reads the address bar. JAWS key + A reads to the bottom of the current document or window and Control, Shift, Caps Lock A displays all text from active non-empty frames in the virtual viewer. What now?” says Angie.
“I use the read address bar keystroke quite often and as of now, my only solution is to perform this on the laptop keyboard. Do you or any of your listeners know if there’s a way to replicate this on the Mantis or on any other keyboard where you don’t have easy access to an insert key? I haven’t yet gotten around to asking APHOFS about this one, but in light of the discussion about laptop mode here, I thought I’d bring it up.”
Angie, you are right. There are one or two keystrokes which don’t appear to have a non-insert equivalent. Another one is to get into the keyboard manager, which is ironic because what I’m suggesting you do is go into the keyboard manager. You can do this from your Mantis of course, by pressing the JAWS key with F2, to invoke the list of managers and press K to get to keyboard manager.
If you load the file for your browser and you can assign it to any keystroke that you like. What’s interesting to me is I think that the Caps Lock with A key should read the address bar, because Caps Lock with down arrow, performs a [unintelligible 00:12:01]. They’ve actually got two functions assigned there while there is one that’s actually quite an important function that isn’t assigned to a key that you can use if you don’t have an insert key, which is the motivation for many people getting into laptop layout in the first place.
You can correct that and I know, Angie that you will have the JAWS skill to go into keyboard manager and make that change. Angie also says, “I also wanted to respond to the discussion about applications that lock out other apps, including screen readers. When I was in law school, which somehow is now more than 13 years in the past, these apps were fairly common.
My own law school used a similar application for exams, but they very helpfully sent my exams to me and let me complete them in word. Unfortunately, I did not have the same easy experience when I sat for the Virginia bar. I asked for a similar accommodation, but I was told that I could dictate my answers including my responses to the essay questions to a court reporter. I was told that that was how blind people took the bar in Virginia.
I knew I would not be able to pass the bar, if I had to dictate everything and I was prepared to postpone taking the exam. Fortunately, however, an attorney with the firm where I was going to be working after law school, contacted someone at the bar and explained the situation. I was eventually able to take the exam using JAWS on a clean laptop provided by my future employer.
Based on all of this, I believe I may have been the first person in Virginia to take the bar with a screen reader. I’m sorry to hear, this is still an issue for some law students today. Enjoy your upcoming travel,” says Angie. Oh, we certainly wi– Well, I hope we will [chuckles]. There are some really dodgy things happening with increasing Coronavirus cases and airport chaos, but we’ll do our best, Angie.
Thank you for the information. You are so right, the skill involved in dictating something like that is very different from sitting in front of your own keyboard and the thought processes that go into writing something down, expecting a blind person who’s used to working in a written way to dictate that material. It’s blatant discrimination, pure and simple.
Joe, who raised this issue in the first place of the laptop layout is writing in again, and he says, “Thank you for addressing my issue with the insert key on your podcast. Yes, I do use the laptop key layout on JAWS, however, having a JAWS key on the left and the right side of the keyboard is very important to me. It is nice to be able to speed-read a document using my right hand on the keyboard and at the same time holding a phone in my left hand. I have not been able to figure out a way to lock the insert key in place on a Lenovo L13, no matter what I try with a function key or a shift key, et cetera.
For me, the ideal keyboard was the classic Lenovo IBM keyboard with seven rows, nice spacing, nice key travel and click through on the keys.” Sounds like the think pad I have now, Joe, and yes, I love that keyboard and of course a dedicated insert key. He concludes, “My favorite laptop was the Lenovo x20 perfect size, perfect keyboard. Keep producing great content.”
Here’s Pranarv who says, “Dear, Jonathan, I have an iPhone 13 mini running iOS15.5. I use a pair of Aftershokz Titanium headphones. I was on a call with my boss and had to conference that call with a client. I tapped on contact, found the client’s name, dialed and spoke to the client. My boss was on hold on the other line. I swiped to the merge calls button and tapped. I lost sound on the headphones.
The call had been switched to the phone’s speaker. Once I was done with the call, the phone audio dropped back to the headphones. Any idea on why this happened. I want to use headphones with my calls because VoiceOver behaves better on calls when I have headphones on. I can multitask easily on the phone without VoiceOver speech interfering with the calls audio.”
Well, on the face of it, that does sound like a bug, Pranarv and I hope you can report that to Apple for investigation. Hard to know whether it’s something they can fix in iOS, whether it is something specific to the iPhone mini that is in hardware or at a deeper level, but hopefully if you can report it, Apple might be able to look into that one for you. On another matter, someone had mentioned Grammarly, there is another program called ProWritingAid, which is popular because it gives better writing suggestions but is inaccessible.
This situation was being discussed on one of the NVDA lists [unintelligible 00:17:04] and Christensen from NV Access found a possible grammar checker at the following URL. It’s quite a lengthy URL, but what it takes you to is a web extension for Microsoft editor, the editor that many of us know and hate [chuckles]. I really do not like the Microsoft editor in word or outlook.
Yes, it’s gone to outlook now. I find it really convoluted and just not very intuitive and ugh, but it is accessible. This, again comes back to this whole question of what’s accessible and what’s efficient and usable, but I’ve not tried the extension that inserts itself into Chrome in edge, so that if you are writing in an online forum somewhere and you want to do a spell check and a grammar check, you can do that and apparently this is accessible. Pranarv says, “As an aside, hats off to Microsoft for what they are doing with accessibility. There are still some ways to go, but so many things are way better than they used to be. I speak as a Windows user since Windows 3.1.
David: Hi, Jonathan TVNZ+ gets a minus from me as a blind person. All they’ve done is change the name, got a lot more shows but there is no audio description. That’s all I have to say on that.
Jonathan: Very succinct and completely true. It is outrageous that in 2022 TVNZ had come out with a new brand TVNZ+, and while audio description is available on TVNZ itself, if you’re watching it live, there is no way to watch audio-described content on demand. That is ridiculous. I did take a complaint some years ago to the human rights commission on this, the lawyer for TVNZ, the chief lawyer came over to my house [chuckles] and we had a very nice little get-together and he understood the issue and made all the appropriate noises, but we still don’t have audio description on TVNZ+. It might be time for another complaint or another nice meeting or something.
More on something that was mentioned in Episode 184, the ClearVision Project and Jackie Brown says, “Hi, Jonathan, just listening to the podcast, a good episode as always. I used ClearVision when my son was little, it’s a brilliant service. You complete a very accessible form in which you give the age of the child or children. If they have specific characters or type of story they enjoy, you can provide details. They send you a bag containing six books to start with. You then recycle these three at a time, so you always have three books available. My little grandson, Ezra will be three next month, but because I’m not physically close enough to share the print braille books with him, I use the service on an ad hoc basis so that when I visit him or his parents bring him to see us, I have books available to read to him. Reading to your children or grandchildren is one of the most worthwhile and rewarding passtimes out there. I know you will have lots of fun doing this. When my son was growing up, I used to read all the ClearVision books onto tape for him.
Yes, it was 25 years or more ago now, this meant I built up a great stock of stories he could listen to. I transferred all those recordings to my PC and have purchased Ezra, a small children’s player so he can hear the stories at bedtime when I’m not there. I don’t know if they will deliver outside of the UK. That is something you will need to check out or perhaps start a similar service yourself.”
[chuckles] In my spare time, Jackie. “Another brilliant little device you may like to check out is a Toniebox. That’s T-O-N-I-E box. It is a simple but fantastic box that comes in various colors. You buy characters and simply put them on top of a magnetic pad on the box, and it begins to tell the story. The character range is getting bigger all the time. Peter Rabbit, Toy Story, nursery rhymes, Spot the Dog, you name it.
The box costs around £70 in the UK and each character around £15. The Toniebox is rechargeable and there is an app where you can upload your own material using a generic character. As soon as the child lifts the character off the box, the story stops. Put it back on the book continues where it stopped. Jonathan, I can see you are going to have great fun on your own without keeping a grandchild [chuckles] amused with all this stuff.”
One of my kids told me about this device, but they didn’t tell me what it was called, Jackie. Thank you for giving me the name of the device. Oh, gosh, reading to your kids is just so wonderful, you are right. It’s one of the highlights of my life. Of course it doesn’t necessarily need to be reading, it can be stories that you’ve made up. I used to make up a lot of stories, wrong since forgotten by me, but at random times my kids will trot one out and I’ll think, “Well, that’s actually quite an ingenious plot, but I have no recollection of it.”
Thank you for information about the ClearVision Project, Jackie. I’ll check that out. As I say, I’m already rocking the MVP Book of the Month Club once again, and you do get to keep those books. You are so right though about the gadgets. I’m looking forward to being back on the market for toys again. I have a legitimate reason to go into the toy shop and have a play. I remember one of the coolest experiences when my kids were little, was when Richard got a Barney for his third birthday. He was just Barney-crazy.
In fact, I’ve got a recording of a blind line episode way back on ACB radio. When I had Richard in the studio just after his brother, David was born. Richard would have been just two at that stage when David was born, and I got him in the studio and it was live and I said, “Richard, you’ve got a little brother, what do you think?” He kept saying, “Daddy, put Barney on.”
I was trying to engage with him on the show, you know, “Well, are you pleased to have the baby? What’s he like? Do you think he’s cute?” “Put Barney on.” It was ridiculous. Anyway, we got this Barney for him for his third birthday and I don’t think it was accessible, but the idea was– And this is 2001, so it was fairly advanced for its time. It had a USB port and you would cable it up to your computer and you would run this app, or maybe it was a website. You would answer questions about your child. What was their favorite food? What was the child’s name? Luckily, it had Richard in the database and then you’d hit submit, and it would upload all this stuff to the Barney toy.
We gave this to him. We’d set it up. We gave it to him on his third birthday and we’d switch the Barney thing on and it’d say, “Hello, Richard.” It started singing, “I love you.” It said, “I love you Richard.” It would say, “I love chicken nuggets,” because chicken nuggets were his favorite thing at the time. He was just over the moon, “Oh, daddy, Barney’s talking to me.” [laughs] I can only imagine what they have available now. That technology has moved on so much and I look forward. I have the greatest pleasure in finding out, but you enjoy that precious time with Ezra, Jackie. As we know, as– Well, you’re a grandparent, I’m a grandparent to be, the kids grow up so fast. Don’t they? I don’t know where the time goes.
Ny is in touch and I do hope I’m not totally mangling the pronunciation of your name. My sincere apologies, if that’s the case, but the question is an interesting one. “I have an iPhone bug and wish to see if anybody has a fix for it. I currently use the iPhone SE, second generation 256GB. The bug is when I use a foreign language keyboard, it doesn’t allow me to use the emoji keyboard when I’m using the iMessage app. When I remove the foreign language keyboard and just have the regular English keyboard and the emoji keyboard, the emoji keyboard shows up and is usable.
I’ve contacted Apple accessibility and they were not of any help. Hopefully, somebody who uses multiple languages can comment on this.” It’s not unreasonable as Tom Jones would say, “Oh no, that’s not right [chuckles] it’s not unreasonable though, that if you’ve invested the dollar-dollar or the pound to pound into Dolby Atmos equipment and you are blind, you’re going to get a little bit perturbed.
When you switch on the audio description only to find that you can’t make the most of your Dolby Atmos equipment, because those who are doing the production have chosen to give you a lesser quality version of the audio in exchange for audio description. There’s a lot of this about, and it makes some of us extremely grumpy [chuckles]. Rod Kahn is monitoring for this, and he has in recent weeks sent me a couple of emails on the subject. He says, “Hi, Jonathan. It might not be very much used to you, but last night–,” And this was back in June, “Watching The Suspect on Channel 4.” This is in the UK. “I was amazed to find that this series is broadcast in Dolby Atmos and accompanied by audio description.”
That is great news, Rod. Wait, there’s more as all the good infomercials say, because I recently received another email from Rod and he says, “Today, I thought that I would look at the program Stranger Things on Netflix–,” You and half the world, Stranger Things is just so popular. “To see what all the hype was about. After updating the app and selecting the program, I then went to select the AD and surprise, surprise, the AD choice, now listed English 5.1.
I watched with Atmos plus AD, hope that you get the same in New Zealand.” Was it 5.1 or was it Atmos, because there is a difference but even so, I guess having audio description with the 5.1 is certainly an improvement over having the audio description in stereo. Bonnie and I watched the first series of Stranger Things and we really liked it.
We just haven’t gotten around to the rest of it yet, so this could be the impetus that we need to catch up. I think I might have to watch Season 1 again, to remind me of what it was all about but hats off to Apple. They’re very consistent about making their audio description track also include Atmos, and we are loving Season 3 of For All Mankind. I thought that Season 2 started off a bit slowly, but wow, Season 3 hit the ground running and every episode has been a perla so far. Of course, when you’re watching all that space stuff going on and you are absorbing the whole Atmos experience, it is trippy man, trippy.
Herby: Hello, Jonathan and everyone. This is Herby in very hot and humid Houston, Texas, but that’s why they invented air conditioning. Nobody has to mind the heat, if you’re inside, but [unintelligible 00:28:35]. Let’s talk about the hot topics of technology instead. I wanted to talk about two issues. The back-to-back ones actually that were brought up on the previous podcast episode in regards to another voice speaking and then your iPhone, everything’s still coming through the earpiece. I have actually had some experience with both of these issues. Interestingly enough, let’s start with the VoiceOver one.
I actually do experience this on my Mac. I’m running a 2019 Intel Mac and I am using Siri Voice 4. Sometimes I have to reset VoiceOver and when I do, the other voice that I have because I have to use a separate announcement voice, Karen, she will actually come on instead and speak and say VoiceOver on. Then a few seconds later, it will default back to the Siri voice.
I have experienced this with Mac and I have in the past– And I don’t remember if it was on the 12 or on the 11, but I did experience the bug where I would be using my Siri voice, and then it would switch over to the low quality Samantha and it was like, the voice was gone. I had to completely reset it or re-download it. It’s been a while now. I have actually experienced this phenomenon in the past. At least with a Mac, it’s not that often I have to reset VoiceOver, and it fixes itself within a few seconds so it’s not a big deal for me. It’s just a minor annoyance. Now, Amazon apps and earpieces. There has actually been some known issues in the past. I know a lot of Amazon music users were complaining about opening the music app and it’s suddenly switching to their earpiece. I’ve experienced this, and I know a couple of other people have as well with my Bose headphones. What’ll happen is, I will turn on my Bose headphones, turn them off, and everything is still coming through the speaker and it’s like you’re in a Bluetooth call where the audio quality is reduced.
My workaround was just to activate Siri and that would solve that problem. I realized I should be probably saying the Amazon Soup Drinker app here, but because I don’t think that’ll set off anybody’s. I’ve experienced this with the Soup Drinker app as well at times where if I activate the A lady, it will switch to the earpiece. They’ve now fixed that bug. The phone, I think does go into a weird– It goes into like it’s a speaker phone mode. In regards to the phone, switching to the earpiece when turning off Bluetooth, I have only experienced this with the Bose headphones and not with my AirPods.
I’m wondering now if the resolution might actually fix my problem that the listener mentioned, because the Bose headphones I have actually integrate with the Soup Drinker app and you can use a button on the side and activate. It’s pretty cool actually. I wonder if there’s something going on with that or if the Bose app is also doing something similar, where the app itself is using Bluetooth.
I never thought about that, and the solution though, that was mentioned and that is definitely interesting, so thank you for that. Yes, I have definitely experienced that bug. Currently, it is actually behaving itself and ironically it’s been behaving itself since the podcast. I don’t know if it’s coincidence or not, but I actually was listening to the podcast on my Bose headphones that give me the problem whenever I disconnect them.
Jonathan: See the power of Mosen At Large, it puts fear into the heart of technology.
Howard: My name is Howard West. I am totally blind. I was a firearms dealer from 1968 to 2018. I held a Class 3 License, and in conjunction with that from ’74, until 2018 I did not renew. None of these weapons in any of these shootings are actual assault weapons. They look like assault weapons and all of the reporters claim they are. The difference in these are they only fire a semiautomatic that is one shot per trigger pull, just like a hunting rifle or any other semiautomatic weapon. The only difference is the size of the magazines, but that’s not important because magazines are quickly and easily changed.
An assault rifle is a select-fire gun which can have semiautomatic three-shot burst or fully automatic fire, depending on the company that makes it. It’s either semiautomatic, full automatic, or semi-three shot and full. No actual assault weapon has been used in any of these shootings. Now after Sandy Hook, all the schools were to have metal detectors, locked doors, and all this type thing to prevent anyone from getting in with a weapon. It never happened.
Now, the big deal is the same thing. There are two schools in Guilford County that are putting in metal detectors. That’s all I have heard about. It is very difficult for an individual to buy a fully-automatic weapon. A full-auto weapon has to be transferred. The paperwork takes 8 to 12 months and sometimes longer to be approved for you to purchase a fully-automatic weapon. An individual can only own a fully-automatic weapon made in this country before 1986.
Any weapons made after ’86 cannot be owned by an individual. Full-auto weapons are not a simple thing to get and they are quite expensive. The last one I still have was made in 1921, the current advertised value of this gun that I’m trying to sell now is $54,000. There are some even more expensive. There are some, a lot less expensive but they are still expensive and complicated to buy.
I held a Class 3 Firearms License for longer than anybody else in the State of North Carolina as of 2018. I do not know what the current record is. A license costs $500 per year, and you must have a regular firearms license, which is $90 every three years but the Class 3 has to be paid yearly. This is not an easy thing to do.
Jonathan: Thank you, Howard. I defer undeservedly to your superior knowledge of firearms because I know nothing whatsoever about them. Then, of course, there are various legal provisions that exist from state to state, but America has got a problem and it’s an embarrassment, it’s ludicrous and it’s also killing innocent people. Since you phoned in with that message before I had a chance to air it, we’ve had the 4th of July parade in Illinois, a pure act of evil, a pure act of terror that was planned weeks in advance, carefully executed. While I don’t know anything at all about firearms, I have read in the media that 60 rounds were fired in around about 22 seconds. Over 70 rounds were fired in total.
What possible legitimate purpose can be served by making those weapons available to anyone who is outside of the military in a combat zone? What possible purpose? The gun lobby blames all sorts of things other than the bleeding obvious, the access to guns that is so easy in the United States. When these issues come up, you hear a lot in the media in the US about depression, about mental health. Obviously, that is a critical issue and mental health services should be available to anyone who needs it. Universal healthcare is of course a completely different topic, but a very important one as well.
Do you know what country has the biggest use of SSRIs, in other words, antidepressants like Prozac? It’s Iceland. Interesting, so you’d expect some major blood bath to be going on in Iceland if the gun lobby were to be believed, but actually, they’ve had just five gun homicides since 2020. In the same period, the United States has had over 30,000 gun homicides, 30,000.
There are some who say it’s not the antidepressants, it’s those video games, those horrible video games that are encouraging violence. Well, Japan is one of the largest consumers of video games in the world. They’ve had only 10 shooting deaths a year. It’s the easy access to the guns. There’s a wonderful article– Well, a sad article really that keeps coming up from the Onion every time a mass shooting happens in the United States.
It’s tweeted so much that you might as well just pin it to your Twitter timeline and the headline is something like, “This problem is difficult to solve,” says the only country in the world that has it. I guess there are two ways that a country can go when they have a pandemic of mass shootings. One is to hunker down as you suggest. I suppose in the end, Americans will have to decide if they want schools to be full of metal detectors and locked doors, and have its children going to schools at such a formative age in that sort of environment. I suspect that there still will be people who would break through such measures and perform shootings anyway. If they can’t get into schools, would they go somewhere else? Does that mean that there would be more mass shootings just in the street at random? Does it mean that every workplace would have to be similarly equipped with metal detectors and locked doors, or is the answer to say that legislative public policy settings with respect to guns in the United States aren’t working?
In the end, I guess that will be for the American people to decide. Meanwhile, I think the rest of us will continue to scratch our heads in utter perplexity at the whole second amendment concept. I am glad that you felt able to call in and leave the message that you did when you know obviously that you and I have very different perspectives on the subject. Thank you for taking the time to do that.
What’s on your mind? Send an email with a recording of your voice, or just write it down, email@example.com. That’s J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N@mushroomfm.com or phone our listener line. The number in the United States is 864-60 Mosen. That’s 864- 60-667-36.
Jonathan: Here’s one of the stars of our We’re With U Benefit Concert with a contribution. It’s Ross Winetski. he’s not going to sing for us today though. He says, “Dear, Jonathan, it’s hell. I recently moved from a rural New Mexico town to Jacksonville, Florida, which is quite a change since Jacksonville is extremely large and urban. I have not used a ride-sharing service since I lived in Nashville. The other evening, I needed to run to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription before they closed. I opened the Uber app in my iPhone 12. The iOS is totally up to date.
My first thought was, ‘My goodness, this is certainly different than it used to be.’ I fooled around with it for a while. My first confusion was when it told me to set a pin on the map. I figured it was probably smart enough that if I just ignored it, the phone would locate my address. My real stumbling block was how to create a ride to the pharmacy where I could go through the drive-through window, quickly get my prescription and have the Uber return me home. I figured it must have something to do with creating stops on the way. However, I could not figure out how to do this.
When I lived in Nashville, the driver was usually quite willing to reset the route so I could make this type of round trip. Ultimately, I did get an Uber. Unfortunately, I did not get a very friendly driver. Prior to leaving my house, I told the driver that I needed to do a round trip. Halfway there, she told me she couldn’t do a round trip on her app and needed me to do it. I explained that I tried and could not. She began to threaten me with leaving me at the store, so I could call an Uber for the ride home.
I was not too thrilled with this since the store was about to close and was not in the greatest neighborhood. Finally, I offered her $20 in cash if she drove me home and she reluctantly agreed. The bizarre part was when she started yelling that her husband didn’t know she drove for Uber and that she had to be home before dark, because she couldn’t see at night. Several times she repeated she needed new glasses because she could not see at night.” Whoa, you should have offered to take over the driving for her, Ross.
“All in all,” he says “It was a bit harrowing. With that introduction, I would like to ask if you would give a tutorial on how to use Uber with VoiceOver. Also, if you are familiar with Lyft, could you also discuss how to utilize that with VoiceOver. I am sure it will be easy enough once I get a better idea of the protocols for setting a ride. As always, I appreciate you and your show as well as your audience.” Thank you, Ross. I don’t think a demo of how I use Uber is going to help in this instance, because what you were describing sounds like the experience that I had when I was blithering on about this subject a few months ago.
You may or may not have been listening at that time, but what happened was that I eventually broke through the first line of tech support, thanks to a very helpful listener, I have to say and I did get to talk to a group of engineers at Uber. What they told me was that even if you and I are running the same version of Uber on our phone, so I can look it up and say, “I’m running X.XX,” and you can say, “Yes, that’s the version that I’m running.” The experiences that we may have could be completely different. That’s why we had some listeners who were complaining about how inaccessible Uber had become. Others were saying, “What are you talking about? It’s perfectly fine, it’s like it’s always been.”
I suspect what’s happened is, you have somehow got this inaccessible experience and I have not. They rolled it back for me in some way. What happens for me is, if I’m calling an Uber from somewhere that I call an Uber from fairly frequently, like home. I have a list of addresses that I’ve been at recently, and I can just double-tap home and because it’s home, actually, it’s always there just like my work address is always there. If I’m at an unfamiliar location, I simply type in the part name of a business or a street address, and I can then double-tap the appropriate search result. When it’s working properly with VoiceOver, there should be no need to set a pin on the map and do all that kind of stuff.
It really does suggest to me that although I got a fix and I’m very grateful for that, not everyone appears to have the fix. What I will do, Ross is forward to my contacts at Uber, your message and see if they have any advice on this because I suspect that’s what’s going on. Regarding your driver’s point about not being able to change the trip, I believe that is correct for a good reason. That good reason is that if you can have drivers changing the trip on you, you may have drivers abusing that feature to add components to your fair that you didn’t want.
I’m pretty sure that it’s always been the case that, that part of the process has had to be initiated by a passenger. I may be wrong about that, but I’ve always done it when I’ve had to do it, which makes all the more important the need for the app to be fully accessible. I am no help at all with Lyft because we don’t have Lyft in New Zealand, therefore I don’t have a Lyft account. We have another ride share service in New Zealand that I think comes out of India called Ola. That is pretty popular here.
The one thing I don’t like about Ola is that I frequently send messages to Uber drivers. I’ve got a lot of presets in my phone with keyboard shortcuts. If I’m standing outside, I can just type UBX in the Uber messaging app and then press the space bar. It puts a big spiel in there about how I’m a blind person, “Please look for me, because I won’t be looking for you.” With Ola, at least the last time I used it, there wasn’t a way to message the driver. You could only call the driver and sometimes there’s quite a significant language barrier when you call the driver.
We don’t have Lyft here, but if anybody else wants to take on that challenge about using the Lyft app and you can produce a good tutorial, go ahead. Just remember to keep your speech rate at a sensible level. This email is from Shirah. It says, “Hi, Jonathan, hope everyone is well. I wanted to contribute to the question. Someone had a few episodes ago regarding finding internet stations, streaming URLs. It is not too difficult to achieve this.
There are three ways you can approach it. I am using the NVDA screen reader with the Caps Lock key set as the NVDA modifier key, VLC player to test the stream and Mozilla Firefox as the internet browser of my choice. You can follow the same keyboard commands depending on the screen reader and operating system by using the relevant keyboard command. Method 1, fetching stream URL from tunein.com.
Step 1, go to tunein.com. Step 2, search for the station you want. Once you find it, press Play and let the initial TuneIn advertisement finish playing. Step 3, hit Control + Shift + C, then hit Control F, and on the input box type JP_ audio and hit Enter. This will look for the page source with that particular code on that line. Look for SRC and the streaming URL is wrapped inside the double quotation marks. Method 2, fetching streaming URL from onlineradiobox.com.
That’s one I’ve not heard of before. Step 1, go to onlineradiobox.com. Step 2, find the station you want, press Play, and give it a few seconds to play. Step 3, hit Control + U. This will load page source code on another page. Now hit Control + Caps Lock + F. This will bring a little dialogue box with an input field, type in, stream equals and press the Enter key. Now on that line of the code, the streaming URL is wrapped inside double quotes. Method 3, fetching streaming URL from streema.com. Wow, that’s another one I’ve not heard of. That’s spelled S-T-R-E-E-M-A.com. Step 1, go to streema.com. Step 2, find the station you want, then press Play. This will open a player in a small popup window. On that page, find and press the play button. Step 3, hit Control + U. This will open a new tab with the source code. Now, hit Control + Caps Lock + F, and on that input field, type, < audio and presenter.
That’s the “less than” symbol and audio. Focus will then be on the player code. Now, keep scrolling with down arrow from here until you get to the bit source SRC and the streaming URL is wrapped within double quotes. I hope the above made sense and helps out. Your mileage may vary depending on where you are and your level of geographical restrictions on the above websites. I was wondering if anyone in the community has any experience with AWS, Amazon Web Services.
I currently manage a window server in combination with NVDA and Narrator at work. If anyone is successfully managing AWS servers with screen readers, I would be grateful to know which screen reader they are using and how hard it is to manage. Also, does anyone know the best way to learn braille with an uppercase B in the UK? I have started the Hadley Institute course, but this takes a while for the workbook to arrive from the United States. Well, thank you for your questions and also for the help. I hope that Christopher who asked this question initially finds that helpful. I hope you get an answer about those other questions.”
William: Hello, Jonathan, this is William Poker. I just want to say I’m still enjoying your podcast. I love the episodes and I recently got a braille display through the Perkins library. I live in Boston, Massachusetts and I’m loving it. I’m reading braille books now. I’m reading magazines. I can even connect to my phone with it and I’ve connected it to my windows PC. It’s only a 20-cell, but I’ve gotten back into braille because of it. That’s pretty much it. I just want to say thank you for all you have contributed to the visually-impaired community.
Jonathan: Very kind of you, thank you, William. Isn’t that cool about the braille display? This whole program from NLS in the United States is just genius, so exciting. The idea that braille will be put in the hand under the fingertips of more people who perhaps found the cost of braille displays cost-prohibitive. It is such a good news story, and I’m glad that the display is working out for you and that it’s rekindled your interest in braille.
Tim: Hello, Jonathan. This is Tim in North Carolina, and I want to congratulate you on that wonderful news that you announced about becoming a grandpa, a granddad or grandfather. It’ll be interesting to hear what name your grandchild picks out to call you. I also remember that you were talking in some episodes back about anticipating the joy that you would experience in becoming a grandfather. I am so delighted that it is going to be happening for you. I hope for you many adventures with your grandchild.
Jonathan: Thank you, Tim. It’s taking a while. Taking a while I tell you. I’m too excited about this. It’s interesting how people say we are divided by a common language. I think this is another example. In America, it seems that the common term is definitely grandpa. In British-English-speaking countries, we tend to say granddad. There are all sorts of variants. When Heidi was very little, she couldn’t say granddad. She started saying papa and it stuck. Then all of my kids called their grandparents papa. You’re right. Sometimes it’s the grandchild that chooses the name. I’m quite happy with granddad. I think Bonnie’s still deciding what she wants to be called.
Aira has unveiled a suite of new announcements in association with the US summer conventions and that seems like the perfect time to have a chat to Jenine Stanley from Aira. Hi, Jenine? Welcome back.
Jenine Stanley: Hi, Jonathan. Good to be here.
Jonathan: Let’s start at the beginning, a very good place to start. For those people who aren’t familiar with Aira, can you just give us a brief overview of what Aira does?
Jenine: Sure. We are a visual interpreting service. What that means is that we utilize professionally-trained agents to give you visual information that you need, and you direct that entire process. That is done right now through a smartphone app.
Jonathan: Aira has been through quite an evolution over time as is the case with many startups where there are bold ambitions, and then you gradually see what works and what doesn’t. I think one of the most significant things about the announcement you’re making today is that it has some hands-free elements to it, because some people have missed the fact that the glasses are gone. There are some strategies around that right. What’s the recommended wisdom these days in terms of using Aira hands-free?
Jenine: We tell people there are a number of ways that you can go hands-free. That there are neck supports, neck holders for your phone. There are pouches that you can put on a cross-body strap. There are lanyards, are a big favorite of people, and there are body harnesses. Well, all those are wonderful, but your phone is still sticking out there and for anyone to interact with.
Jonathan: Yes, there’s a nervousness about that, especially if you’re a blind person because you’re not going to see who snatches your phone away, if that happens. Do you hear stories about that? Is that a common thing or is it more just a fear and a myth that doesn’t actually happen in reality?
Jenine: This could be more common in the UK, although I have heard of it here and it seems to be increasing here.
Jonathan: It is interesting this, isn’t it? I remember when I was with Aira exactly this, that the people who expressed the fear about their phone being snatched off mainly came from the UK. I often wondered what that was about.
Jenine: Yes, apparently it is something that happens over there and that’s just really frightening. After we saw that webcam on the guide dog and saw what people actually did to that poor dog. Oh, my goodness, that was horrific.
Jonathan: Yes, that was a pretty telling thing. Where is Aira available now?
Jenine: We are of course, United States in Canada, the UK, Australia, and your home New Zealand.
Jonathan: If you’ve taken the glasses away and streamlined the service, so that it’s fundamentally an app that you run to connect with professional agents, why don’t you just open it all the way up and let anybody who wants to pay for it or use the service, use the service?
Jenine: Well, I can tell you, Jonathan, it’s just about that way now. If you have a phone number in any of the locations that we serve, including the Republic of Ireland. If you have a phone number in one of those locations and you understand that we primarily are English speakers– We do have a Spanish service available and very limited French right now for our Canadian friends. You can use Aira, absolutely. In fact, today I talked to someone from Libya who was at our announcement that we made at ACB and she is using the service and loving it. If you can get a phone number, you’re in.
Jonathan: Does that have to be a cellular phone number or can it be just like one of those VoIP services where for example, Skype could give you a US number, any number of other services could do that, is that sufficient?
Jenine: I’m going to turn that one over to our customer care team because I honestly do not know the answer to that one.
Jonathan: I know that one of the major concerns was GDPR, the regulations around Europe, but presumably if you are working in the UK, you’ve got that figured out with GDPR. That should open theoretically, any English-speaking person in the European area.
Jenine: Absolutely. That’s how we were able to bring back the Republic of Ireland. They were in the initial beta over there of course, but then we dropped them. Now, we aren’t carrying the Euro as a currency just yet. It’s coming along with the Canadian dollar for the poor Canadians who get soaked on [laughs] the exchange rate.
Jonathan: Yes, exchange rates are a thing. You would have to elect to pay in the currency that the phone number is in. There will be exchange rates coming into play there.
Jenine: That’s correct. Unfortunately, yes, at this time.
Jonathan: Before we go onto the exciting announcements, I wanted to ask you about capacity and how that works because I do monitor social media obviously. I’ve seen this myself, where for simple use cases, I’ve sometimes had to use Be My Eyes because I have called Aira and no one picks up after repeated attempts. I understand, obviously that because you’ve got paid agents, you can’t have people sitting there twiddling their thumbs all the time, but obviously it’s frustrating for paying customers not to be able to make a connection. How do you balance that out? Do you think the balance is right at the moment?
Jenine: That’s where some of the AI comes in, honestly, to analyze our call flow, et cetera, which changes practically weekly in terms of conditions, what’s popular, where, et cetera. We are always hiring people and we’ve gone recently on a big push toward hiring people like we used to do before the conventions. We used to have a big push to hire people in April and May so that they could be trained for the conventions and ready to go.
Well, we’ve gone back to that, but this year it was just in general to hire people. We’re always hiring. We really want to promote that. We are hiring people who are eligible to work in the US. You don’t have to be a citizen. You just have to be eligible to work in the US. Hiring people from all 50 states, et cetera. We haven’t yet gone to a model of hiring people outside of the US. That gets rather expensive.
Jonathan: That’s my next question because I suppose if you can tell intelligently where the call is coming from, so you could take a look at the IP address and you could say, “Okay, this IP address indicates that the call is coming from New Zealand,” if you could have New Zealand-based agents who perhaps know the area, sound a bit more like us, know how to pronounce some of the local place names, and the Maori language, [crosstalk] that would be epic. Is that just something that can’t work with the Aira business model? Is it basically as simple as that?
Jenine: At the moment, it’s not going to work. However, as we spread and as we become more global, we’re hoping that it will, but at this point in time, we really can’t see that happening yet. Not yet. However, as we get more access partners as well in the countries that we serve and I know it’s really hard because we don’t have on-the-ground in-person sales reps in all those countries, so that’s a little difficult too.
Jonathan: What about some commission-type approach where if there’s an Aira enthusiast, say in Australia or New Zealand or somewhere in the UK, who really promotes Aira to a potential Aira access partner and brings that person to you for you to seal the deal, is there some sort of opportunity for an affiliate type program there?
Jenine: At this point, we don’t necessarily have that. However, it’s something we’ve definitely talked about. We have something similar to that for the agents. If you refer someone and they put you down on their application as the referral, and they stay with us for 90 days, you’re going to get two free hours of Aira, 120 minutes.
Jonathan: Let’s talk about some of these announcements. Could I start with one that probably won’t be a surprise to anybody because it’s been talked about for a while but it’s still great to see it getting to fruition? This is the desktop app that will be available for testing, I think by the end of this month. Is that the timeframe?
Jenine: Yes, that is correct. That is our Aira for desktop. It’s misnamed a little bit because it’s not a desktop app. It’s actually a web app. We started out thinking we were going to make a desktop app and that just got to be unwieldy and it wasn’t doing what we really wanted it to do for people. This is a web app. You can walk up to any computer anywhere now, you’ve got VoiceOver on the Mac, you’ve got Narrator on Windows, you can have that speech with the computer and you can pull up Aira anywhere. This app will allow you to connect with an agent. It will not allow remote control, not screen sharing.
It will allow for a screen share, it will also allow for messaging for you to use different headphones, microphones, cameras. I’m sorry, not headphones, but microphones and cameras. It will allow you to use TeamViewer so you can bring up a screen share, have TeamViewer up there when you open the app, and your agent can quickly get that information as opposed to what goes on now where you have to hold up the phone to the screen or the agent has to wait for you to find the password and whatnot if you don’t have it stored with them.
Jonathan: On the one hand, it’s good that you don’t have to install anything and you can just walk up to any computer. That’s obviously really convenient if you can just remember the URL and I’m sure you’ve got a simple URL in mind.
Jenine: Yes, we will. [chuckles]
Jonathan: On the other, it sounds like a scaling back of the original plan because I think the original plan as it was described at past conventions was that the whole experience would be built in that you wouldn’t have to download and install TeamViewer and get your code and your password. The remote-controlled experience would just be built right into the app.
Jenine: Right, and that was the original plan. The more we tried it and the more we worked with it, the more it just wasn’t working. It wasn’t affording a quick and easy experience for people. It was a lot of, “Oh my goodness, now you’re going to have to connect.” It was sort of TeamViewer looped on top of what we already have and that just wasn’t any different. We looked at it and said, “No, it’s actually better to do a web app.”
If people need to connect, they have the freedom to use TeamViewer, they can use Google remote, they can use any connection software that they’re familiar with, and can tell the agent how to use, so that’s not a barrier. It’s hard to explain, but we just thought, “Okay, we want to get this in the hands of people. If there’s a way at some point to make a remote assistant type of thing where they can remotely get into your computer, we’re always looking at new things, but right now we want people to use it as is and find some value in it.
Jonathan: What’s the value-add there because, sure, you can walk up to any computer and log in and use this, but you also have your phone with you pretty much at all times and you’re still going to have to run TeamViewer or equivalent, find out what the code is and give that to the agent?
Jenine: You are but the way that this works is you can quickly log on with an agent, do a screen share, and then move over to TeamViewer. It takes less time actually than it does with the other system. That’s one aspect of it. The other aspect of it that people are finding, and this is why we’re doing this limited public beta, is to see just how people are going to use this because a lot of people said, “You don’t have a remote option, why would I use this?” It turns out that the agents have a much better view from the laptop camera. If you want to read mail or look at items that are around in particular, it’s much easier to manipulate those with the stable camera that you’re not holding in one hand while you’re turning the pill bottle in the other hand.
Jonathan: Right. Screen share is available but remote control is not. I think what’s also interesting about this is that the camera is enabled. If I’m remembering correctly, that wasn’t the original plan, that it would just be an audio-only app with the standalone, so that’s another value-add there.
Jenine: Correct, yes. You can actually change cameras. If you have more than one camera installed, you can go to another camera, so that is actually a nice feature as well. I often use it to describe things if I’m out on Amazon and I hit something that, “Ah, what is that? That description makes absolutely no sense to me.” I’ve got that tab open for the web app and just go right in and there I’ve got an agent, I can screen share, “Okay, look at this thing. What the heck is that?” I’ve got the answer and I’m done.
Jonathan: You’d probably want to put a shortcut to that site on your desktop and you can even assign that shortcut once you’ve got it on the desktop to a hotkey so you could, for example, just press control hold A for Aira if you’re in the Windows space and it will launch that site.
Jenine: You could. I’m trying to figure out how to do that on the map because that would be infinitely useful.
Jonathan: This actually does remind me to mention something that I’ve been wanting to for two or three episodes since I became aware of this. There is now an app that was created by an enterprising blind person in the UK for Windows. It’s simply called Can You See Me and it’s a free app. You download this for-
Jenine: This is brilliant.
Jonathan: Yes. It’s just so simple. You run this app and you are in front of your camera and it tells you whether you are in view of the camera or not. This is something that Mac users and iPhone users, have had for totally like ever, as my kids would say, because it’s built into the camera app and so before you go into a conference, you can just run the camera app on your Mac or iPhone and you will be able to see whether you are in the view. There’s never been a way in Windows before. This could be handy if you are doing something with your laptop where you need to be seen, where you need to be in the view. When will this be available and how will people be able to access the test process?
Jenine: Right now we have a website, Aira.io/choice, where you can learn about all the options. We’ve got a form up there that you can fill out and we will send you instructions as soon as the beta is ready. This is a public beta so anybody can come on. This is for Mac, for Windows, and for the iPad. This will also work on the iPad. You’ve got three devices there that you can be working with this on.
We encourage everyone to sign up. You’re going to be using your Aira minutes at this point. If you don’t have a plan, you can still use the free five. This is not limited to geographic area. It’s anybody who can get an Aira account. You’re welcome to use the beta. Come on over to Aira.io/choice and sign up. We hope to have something working by the end of July.
Jonathan: That’s pretty imminent. We might have a bit of a chat about the plan options in a bit, but let’s talk next, if we could, about something that we’ve been talking about on the podcast quite recently, and this is the BlindShell phone. Aira is coming to that.
Jenine: Yes, Aira is coming to the BlindShell phone. You will see an announcement tomorrow, I believe, from BlindShell about this as well. Everything’s happening in the end of July. [chuckles] We hope by the end of July to have this app, in the very least in beta, on the BlindShell Classic 2. This opens up a whole new world for a lot of people. This is an amazing device, actually. They have put a lot of work into.
I listened to the wonderful demo and discussion about the device on your podcast and it’s come a long way even since Chris did those reviews. It’s actually a really viable thing for just anyone who really doesn’t want to have to deal with the smartphone or deal with a touch screen is actually more appropriate.
Jonathan: They’ve got some sort of ecosystem where people can build apps. I’m not sure, for example, how WhatsApp and some of those things ended up on the BlindShell. I think the BlindShell under the hood is Android-based. Presumably, there’s some sort of process involved there, but it sounds like you are working closely with the developers of BlindShell.
Jonathan: Is it essentially a fork of your Android app?
Jenine: No. It’s actually a completely new app. It looks a lot like our desktop app when you go into it. We call it internally Aira 3.0, but it looks a lot like that when you go in so it’s nothing like our current mobile app. It has been adjusted a little by the gang at BlindShell. What they do, I believe, is to take apps and then adapt them to their ecosystem. Someone says, “I would like this app like they have Amazon on the BlindShell.” I have no idea how that worked but they were able to make it work on the BlindShell.
Jonathan: People who don’t see this in their lives or don’t feel it because they’re just super comfortable with technology don’t necessarily get how many people struggle. If you can put Aira in the hands of those people, that’s a real equitable thing to do to just have this device that’s easy to operate quite powerful though, and then Aira will be there.
Jenine: Yes. My husband is one of those people. He’s got hearing loss, he’s got a traumatic brain injury, and vision loss. This is a man who built all of our computers, all of these things, and he said, “I just can’t crack the smartphone. I cannot get it. It just isn’t happening. The BlindShell is something that he is starting to learn and starting to really enjoy, actually, being able to manipulate it. It’s tactile enough for him, which is pretty amazing given that he likes to work outside a lot and his hands are practically ruined. It is a great device and we’re excited to be on it too.
Jonathan: The process for authenticating when you want to sign up for Aira, I presume that will be okay, fairly similar to the way it works on other phones.
Jenine: Yes, absolutely. You will put in your phone number, you will get the code, you’ll put the code in, and then you will actually be right in the home screen and ready to make a call.
Jonathan: Wonderful. Now let’s talk about this handsfree issue. What have you got there in this regard? I’d like to understand the scope of this announcement. You are working with another device.
Jenine: Sure. We are. We are. We are working with the ARX headset. This is a headset with a camera. It’s not glasses. It is a headset. It has bone conduction headphones on it and a microphone. It also has a camera on the right side. I have not seen one of these yet, but we have talked to someone today who actually has one and is really enjoying it. However, we are going to be working with the ARX team. Again, end of July, we should have a beta for people who have this particular device.
It does work tethered to an Android phone at this time. The folks at ARX are wanting to make an iOS option. I’m not sure how they’re going to make that work, but they are hoping to do that by the end of the year for this particular device.
Jonathan: Right. A big one for Android users here that they get this huge advantage.
Jenine: They get something before iOS. I’ve heard it already, Jonathan, from our Android users. [chuckles]
Jonathan: You’ll plug this into the USB-C port of your Android device. Do you look nerdy walking around with this headset on?
Jenine: So many people have so many different headsets these days that probably not. Apparently, this one is black so you may not be able to notice it as much as say a white one or a hot pink one or something like that. So many people are using different types of video camera mounts that this may not be quite as strange.
Jonathan: You have a number of options, I guess, in terms of partners. Why this one in particular?
Jenine: These folks met all of our criteria for a wearable. We were thinking that the price was going to be an issue. The price certainly is an issue for a lot of people. ARX is around $1,300 US. That’s a big chunk of money for a lot of people. That doesn’t include the Android phone, but the actual operation of the device met all of our internal technology type criteria which are way beyond my pay grade.
Jonathan: Do you know at this stage what the battery life on the unit is?
Jenine: No, I do not. However, we have a direct link on that webpage, Aira.io/choice. You can connect directly with ARX. Go right to their website. They have a list of approved devices that it works with on Android. Also, you can fill out a form, another form. Yes. You can fill out both of them if you want to get information for when we actually have a working app on that particular device.
It has an app, the ARX app for Android, and it’s very similar to the other device. It has document reading. It has quick text reading. It has facial recognition so you can put someone in there, a picture of someone, and name that someone, and then they can recognize that person as you’re looking around, et cetera. It’s very similar to OrCam and things like that in the suite of products that it has.
Jonathan: That’s interesting. Is this a blindness-specific device?
Jenine: That’s a good question because it’s honestly not being marketed that way, oddly enough. It’s possible the app is just an add-on of this suite of services. It is not being marketed, though, as a blindness product, which is an interesting approach.
Jonathan: You’ve got this and you’ve also got the BlindShell Classic 2. Why isn’t Aira on the Envision platform?
Jenine: I’m going to tell you to stay tuned for more on that in August. That’s all I can say. [laughs]
Jonathan: I know that this is what you say, “I don’t have anything to announce today.” [laughs]
Jenine: You got it, yes. You can lean into that whenever you like.
Jonathan: Oh, I’m so glad I’m out of that space. [laughs]
Jenine: Yes. Just stand by for August is all I’m saying.
Jonathan: Right, because that’s an obvious fit, isn’t it? They’ve got the hardware-
Jenine: Oh, absolutely.
Jonathan: -there with the glasses and everything like that.
Jonathan: It would be a win-win.
Jenine: And on iOS.
Jonathan: Yes. Win-win for both organizations I would have thought.
Jenine: We’ve honestly been talking with Envision since they first came out, and I believe it was 2019, I think, at CSUN. We’ve been talking with them ever since. It’s one of those things that stay tuned.
Jonathan: That would make it an incredibly attractive proposition. They’re continuing to do some interesting things with AI and that kind of thing, but there are just sometimes when you want a hands-free experience where you want to talk to an agent, and I guess that’s why the thing you’ve announced and the thing that you might are both very attractive to bring the handsfree experience back in hardware form. You’ve definitely got out of the business, it sounds like, of manufacturing, Aira-specific hardware
Jenine: We do not want to be in that business. It’s a very, very difficult space to be in right now with supply chain issues and things like that. Also, it’s an expensive proposition anytime. We want to concentrate on agents. We want to concentrate on the quality of the app and the experiences on desktop and other places. We figure people who do devices like ARX, they know what they’re doing. They know exactly how to get, how to update, how to do all that stuff. We’d have to create another company practically to do that within Aira now.
Jonathan: Obviously, when a company goes into startup mode, you have to try things and some things work and some things don’t work, and you find the equilibrium point where you get a business that is hopefully sustainable. I know that Aira has been quite public about it being touch and go for a while there. Do you think that Aira now is on that sustainable business track where it seems that a lot of emphases is being placed on getting vendors to pay the Aira access model?
Jenine: Yes, we are definitely now on that track. The big concentration for us is to keep the prices as low as we can for the end-user and make Aira available through corporate or through governmental funding for people because it’s an essential service for a lot of people. Getting that mindset about it is really important. Getting that into the brains of especially some of the government funders is really a priority now.
Jonathan: For a brief period, Aira had a chief executive who made a pretty bold move, and I completely understand why. That bold move was to offer the five-minute free call deal. I guess the logic is there that the more users Aira can claim use the platform, the easier it is to get the big Aira access deal. I get the logic but I sometimes wonder as I sit there listening to the tone again and again, is that something you guys wish you could ditch because as a paying customer, it annoys me that I have to sit there in a queue waiting and not getting an answer?
Jenine: The nice part is that we have put in call constraints and we put in that priority connect where paying customers– We have a high enough call volume and that is always in a flux. I’m sorry, my dog is making noise in the background.
Jonathan: That’s all right. My wife’s dog does it all the time on this show.
Jenine: He wanted to have his say. The priority connect actually when we hit that call volume, and we trigger it and tweak it all the time, when we hit it, only our paying customers get through. That will allow for some restriction or some lifting of that constraint for you. However, once again, because of the labor shortage in this country, and I’m sure around the world, there are times when you’re going to wait and we don’t have enough agents.
We did also allow you to stay on hold and not lose your place in the queue because if you hung up, you went to the bottom of the queue, or if the call hung up on you, you went to the bottom of the queue. Now you can wait as long as your heart desires and you can stand that tone, which we are looking at getting rid of.
Jonathan: Wouldn’t it be good, though, to have some sort of message that tells you where you are in the queue because currently you just hear that tone over and over and you have no idea how long the wait might be? If I’m second in the queue, I’m more inclined to wait than if I’m 9th or 10th.
Jenine: It is on the roadmap, shall we say?
Jonathan: That’s good to hear.
Jenine: It has been a request from a lot of people so it is on the roadmap. Our engineers are aware of it and aware of how to make this experience a little bit better when we have these long connect times or long wait times.
Jonathan: For those who are paying, why don’t you just take the initial flak and say, “Look, the five-minute deal it’s not sustainable anymore. We have to ditch it completely.”?
Jenine: We want everyone who can to take advantage of the service. For some people, that free five minutes is all they’ve got, it’s all they really need. We don’t want to take that away. It’s one of those do we want to tear that bandaid all the way off? We want people to have access. We would love it if we could open up free five again, but that was crazy, crazy.
We want to be able to do it where it’s supported by another entity because obviously with Aira, our own funds, we can’t do that. If someone were to support it, we’d love to open it up even more and give people maybe two free calls a day or three or whatever. At this point, we can’t do that, but I don’t honestly think we’re going to get rid of it because it goes against the company’s core value of giving access to people at some level to visual information.
Jonathan: How’s Aira access going? Where is Aira access available now in broad terms?
Jenine: Oh, boy, we are getting into the corporate market, we’re getting into employment big time. We have some big corporate partners in the United States the names of whom I cannot disclose. However, we have been able to hire over 100 people or actually help in their job search. They got the jobs, not us, but we have been part of that job search and part of the reasonable accommodation package for their jobs in positions that blind people would never have been in before. That’s a big deal.
These large companies were at smaller companies, colleges and universities have been increasing purchasing Aira for their students. That’s pretty much where we are. US airports, we would love to be able to work on some international places. If you have any ideas, we are happy to work with you, Jonathan. I’m angling for the trip down there actually.
Jonathan: Yes, there you go. [chuckles] Oh, we’d love to see you.
Jenine: You’re on my bucket list actually.
Jonathan: Good. Oh, really? Oh, you’ll definitely have to make it happen. Some of those corporate customers that you have as I understand it, have, shall I say, some quite extensive customer-facing elements about them. Do you think that you will be able to convert some of those where that is the case [crosstalk] to Aira access deals where the general customer will benefit from those customer-facing elements?
Jenine: We are definitely hoping. I know exactly who you’re talking about. [crosstalk]
Jonathan: I think I did pretty well with that question.
Jenine: I was very impressed actually. Yes, it is something that we’re definitely looking at and trying to find because, like many large corporations, things get siloed and placed into certain groups who never talk to each other. We’d like to find the right person in that retail-facing group that we can talk to. The other large company is of course Walmart. That one I can say.
We continue to work with Walmart. We tell people, “Please tell Walmart, tell them you want Aira in Walmart.” With the number of workers shrinking, to be able to assist people, it’s really important that we can actually do the shopping and get what we need done with some assistance because it’s certainly not out there in the flesh when you’re in the store many times.
Jonathan: Yes. See, I’ll tell you what’s really got me interested in this. Bonnie and I have an American Express Platinum Charge card. It has a concierge service. You can call this concierge service and they will do anything. They will go onto websites and book things for you and set things up. Obviously, not everybody has access to a card like that, but it made me realize how easy it is to just farm these things off. Obviously, that doesn’t mean that we should stop advocating for things to be accessible, but sometimes it’s just easier.
I have done this with Aira as well. Just call an agent and say, “Can you help me shop with a particular website that I want to be on and quickly get this done because I don’t have a lot of time right now?” That’s for me worth using my Aira minutes. If there were more Aira access deals like that where effectively blind people could have that concierge service free of charge to them, that would be quite impactful.
Jenine: Yes, I totally agree. I think what we take for granted is the energy factor that it takes to do some of these things. There is such a thing as screen reader fatigue, and definitely eye strain if you’re using screen enlarging stuff. It’s very tiring to try to sort through and then hit an accessibility barrier. It’s just exhausting and it keeps people from traveling, it keeps people from really doing what they want to do. I don’t think it’s at all demeaning or anything like that to say, “You know what? I don’t have the energy to do this.” Having a disability I think takes a lot of our mental and sometimes physical energy, and I think it’s okay to acknowledge that.
Jonathan: It can make you quite grumpy at times grappling with a website that’s got little glitches. Can make you grumpy.
Jenine: Oh, yes. You’re doing everything you can to that submit button and nothing is happening.
Jonathan: You also have an Aira points program, which was recently introduced. This is quite interesting because loyalty points, that kind of thing, it’s big in the industry. How’s that going? As I understand it, that’s with Starbucks at the moment, is that right?
Jenine: It is with Starbucks at the moment through the end of the year. If this one is successful, then we can broaden it out to other access partners, other things, and international things because right now it’s only in the US, unfortunately, as is the Starbucks offer. We’re working with Starbucks to try to make that a worldwide offer for Starbucks. The points program works by you first of all registering, and that is Aira.io/Aira-points and you register there. Then each time you go to a Starbucks, just make an Aira call. You don’t have to buy anything.
You can just say, “Hey, agent, I’m at Starbucks. Log me in. Got it. Bye.” Then you will get points. Each month you’ll get a report on your points. When you get 250 of them, you can redeem them for a Starbucks $25 gift card. The way this came about was we really wanted to reward people for going to the access partner and the access partner, of course, wants to see when are people going? Where are they going? Which Starbucks are they going to?
That’s about all the information that they get actually from us, but they can get a lot of data from that small bit of information about how people do things and what they do. If this works for Starbucks, it could work for Target, it could work for a Walmart coming on board. It can be tied to maybe a grocery store’s loyalty program. You never know. We’re trying out the model. If it works, wonderful. If it doesn’t, it’s one of those things where we tried and maybe now was not the right time.
Jonathan: One thing I wondered when I read about the program was couldn’t I have the choice if I were eligible for the program of having either free Starbucks or free Aira?
Jenine: Good point. That’s where we want to extend the loyalty program. Right now we’re working on the partnership piece with Starbucks, but next year if this one works out, then loyalty points can go anywhere. They can go back to Aira. “Oh, you’ve been a customer since the beginning. Wow. You deserve X.” What is one of the audio companies that does that? I think it might be iZotope does that, “Oh, you’ve been with us six months and here you get special pricing for this.” That’s all out there. It’s all on the– [chuckles]
Jonathan: They’re a funny company, aren’t they? Because-
Jenine: Oh my gosh.
Jonathan: -one minute their $999 product or whatever was available for like $20 and you have to just buy it. [chuckles] It’s extraordinary.
Jenine: Yes. I keep saying, “Don’t fall for it, Jenine. Don’t click on it. Don’t,” and it’s so hard. [laughs]
Jonathan: Yes, you still do. Can I ask you about pricing because that has remained constant since I think about 2019?
Jenine: Yes, 2019.
Jonathan: 2018, actually. I remember pretty well, 2018. [chuckles]
Jenine: Yes, I was going to say 2018. In fact, yes.
Jonathan: 2018, yes. Is that still an appropriate set of pricing tiers? I’m actually cognizant of this at the moment because Bonnie and I are traveling to Europe and we both thought, “Oh, it might be quite good to have a few more Aira minutes available to us.” Are those plans set in stone for the foreseeable or is there any review going on?
Jenine: For the foreseeable, yes. We are reviewing, but for the foreseeable future, yes, they are pretty much set. Again, we want to try to make this something that people can afford and yet give them the number of minutes that they need. We’ve heard people that they want a level between our intro and our standard plan. That’s all going into the research of how do we repackage and reprice and all of those things so that we’re offering people what they want with minimal price increases when and if we have to do it.
Jonathan: You can buy additional minutes, of course, to your plan and they stay in your Aira bank as it were until you’ve used them, so they don’t expire. When you know, for example, that you’ve got a lot of travel coming up in a month, how easy is it to upgrade and then downgrade again?
Jenine: Upgrading, very easy. You can do that within the app. Downgrading you do have to call us, and we’re sorry for that old model. That is under debate right now as to whether how long that model is going to stay. When we redesign the app, which by the end of the year you may be seeing some betas for the new mobile app, but when we redesign that, we may get rid of that requirement to call in and actually downgrade your plan because it’s crazy. Nobody does that anymore.
Jonathan: No. I suppose the logic is that they want to try and convince you to stay on the higher tier plan, so they want to talk to you about that.
Jonathan: Especially in the blindness market, there might be very legitimate reasons why there are some financial constraints there.
Jenine: Yes. The good thing is you can do these things anytime you need to. You can do it for one month. You can up your plan and then just call us and take it back down to the regular level. No contract, nothing like that.
Jonathan: Is there anything that you can tell me that we haven’t covered?
Jenine: One of our biggest focuses of course is employment, the other one is education. Those are two things you’re going to see us focusing more and more on. We want to hear employment stories. We want to hear how you might be using Aira, what the constraints might be with your employer on using Aira. There are obviously some perceived security hurdles with using it in some environments and we’d like to be able to address those. I think other than that we’re just trying to give you the best service we can.
Jonathan: I have to say when I started my current job, one of the horrific things I found was that our annual leave system, our payroll system was totally inaccessible. Aira was a lifesaver because it takes a while to swap out a complete payroll system. I’ve done that now. Meanwhile, I was able to call Aira and just have them approve leave requests and that sort of thing so that was wonderful. It would also be remiss of me not to mention the enormous contribution that Aira has made to many during the COVID pandemic and the rapid antigen testing.
Jenine: Yes. That is something that’s it’s going to continue until we don’t need it anymore. Hopefully, that will be sooner than later. I received one of the accessible “tests” from our lovely government here. It came two boxes, no braille, no email explaining, nothing. I am a little cautious about the word accessible being applied to that particular test. I think we’re going to need it for quite a while and we’re very happy to do it. It’s one of the things that we are happy to contribute our resources toward.
Jonathan: For those who don’t use Aira, you can go in and take a look at a range of free offers that are sponsored by various companies where minutes are available to perform certain tasks. Am I correct in saying, I’m fortunate not to have had to take one yet, that there is actually a free promotion available for rapid antigen testing?
Jenine: Yes. It is under the Aira COVID promo and you can find all of those by tapping on apply free access offer. It’s right above the call button on your screen. You can also swipe to it on both iOS and Android and you’ll open up a screen that gives you three different categories of free Aira. You’ve got promotion, product, and location. The location ones will pop up automatically on your phone. If you go in there, you’ll find out exactly how many Starbucks there are in any given square foot of the United States.
Jenine: There are lots of them.
Jonathan: Yes. Brilliant. It’s been a pleasure to catch up and to learn about these initiatives. I think the web-based app is particularly exciting. We have a number of people who are using the BlindShell 2 who will be just thrilled at the prospect of being able to get this professional remote assistance on demand. The whole concept of getting some sort of hands-free access back is all very exciting, so significant announcements. I really appreciate you coming on the show. It’s always lovely to chat.
Jenine: Yes. Oh, same here. I’m just so happy that we’re bringing this secure way of getting information to the folks who use the BlindShell because that’s a gap that’s out there-
Jonathan: Yes, it is.
Jenine: -of being able to get secure access. I’m happy about all of them, but I think the BlindShell is near and dear to my heart. I have one sitting on my desk here.
Jonathan: Very good. We look forward to hearing more as it all unfolds and thank you so much again.
Jenine: Thank you, Jonathan.
Jonathan: Welcome to the Bonnie Bulletin. Here is Bonnie Mosen.
Bonnie Mosen: Hi, guys.
Jonathan: Welcome back.
Jonathan: You have been braving the New Zealand hospital system.
Bonnie: I have.
Jonathan: Isn’t it interesting that no matter–
Bonnie: Like every hospital system.
Jonathan: Ye. No matter where in the world you go, you have this issue where they’ve had all this fancy, fancy medical training. I think there’s a relationship here actually. I think what happens is that they see everybody as a medical condition. When you are blind or you have some sort of impairment that you are quite adjusted to and you don’t really think much about, they just can’t get past it. I can’t tell you the times that I’ve been to the doctor for something not related to blindness at all. I never go to the doctor for anything related to blindness, but they’re always fascinated with the genetic condition.
Bonnie: It has something to do with the disability. If you get a cold, it’s because you’re blind. You may be not as clean as-
Bonnie: -you should be. It’s interesting because I have found that people that aren’t as well educated as medical professionals or lawyers, I’ve found them to be more accepting a lot of times.
Jonathan: I find that interesting. They need some sort of module in the medical training thing on disability confidence and disability awareness.
Bonnie: They have very little time from what I understand.
Jonathan: They need to make time. It’s important. I can promise you, as they should be in this country, they will be doing a lot on our Treaty of Waitangi. I’m not complaining about that for a second, but if they can find time for that, they can also find time for some disability confidence stuff. What happened to you that is prompting us to talk about this?
Bonnie: Some of you know, like a year ago because it’s been a year, I had a really bad pain in my ear.
Jonathan: Because you put, was that hydrogen peroxide?
Bonnie: Yes, which you can do. You can clean your ears with–
Jonathan: I’ve never heard of that until you did.
Bonnie: Even the doctor said that was okay, but it turned out I had a perforation in my eardrum, a small perforation and so it hurt like Hades. Went to the doctor, and turned out I did have an ear infection and a small tear. He referred me, which the way you do here you can either go private or public. Public you get referred. It could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years to get in to see the doctor. If you go private, you can get in– I don’t know what the waiting list is now, but fairly quickly.
He said, “There’s no urgency with this, we’ll just do the public system,” because the doctors in the public system are the same ones in the private system, you just see the private ones quicker. I went and the ENT that I saw is very well known in this country. They did an audiogram, which I did have a slight hearing loss in my right ear slightly below normal. I think that’s always been there.
Jonathan: You’re getting old now, you know.
Bonnie: Also I had ear infections when I was a kid.
Bonnie: I had the grommets as they call them.
Jonathan: Oh, you had the grommets.
Bonnie: They called them tubes in the States. I had that.
Jonathan: The tubes. I felt that when Americans watch the tube, it’s watching the cartoons and stuff.
Jonathan: What they might be doing is watching your ear.
Jonathan: It’s very confusing.
Bonnie: Grommets sounds worse though. I did have tubes when I was a kid and I did have a lot of ear infections. They said that that probably makes the tissue in your eardrum a little thin as you get older. I went to the ENT and she was really good that day. I asked, “Is it going to affect my hearing? Can I fly with it?” It’s not in the part of the eardrum that affects hearing, not in the part of the eardrum that would be affected by pressure. I went back to the hospital, which going to the hospital is just an unpleasant experience, particularly with COVID.
Jonathan: COVID, you’re talking like your speech synthesizer again. [chuckles]
Bonnie: Yes. You go in and there’s like no one around to help you. You’re in this huge atrium, and so I did find the reception area then someone escorted me to the outpatient area.
Jonathan: You didn’t use Aira?
Bonnie: No, because you’re masked up and it’s hot. It is so hot in the hospital. I was supposed to be there at eleven o’clock. My appointment was eleven o’clock so I got there at 10:30 because you never know what’s going to go on. Finding someone to guide you and all that good stuff. Everybody’s behind Plexiglas so trying to find people and talk to them. It’s just not a pleasant experience. I got there and I sat and was reading my book and it was about 20 to 11:00, 15 to 11:00. Then the doctor comes out because I’m not expecting them to appear at eleven o’clock or after.
The first thing I do is drop my dog. Then I got her and then I had to pick up my bags and I followed the doctor back to the room. She had a medical student in there. She checked my ear. The hole’s still there, but she says probably not going to heal, but she’s going to discharge me because it’s not doing anything. If it gets worse or if I start having symptoms, then we’ll think about doing something. I asked again about flying and I said, “We’re doing a lot of flying in September. We’re going to Europe,” and she goes, “Oh, that must be difficult with your vision loss.”
I’m like, “I get on a plane and I came to New Zealand with my vision loss. I have traveled probably more than the average person.” I said, “No.” She goes, “You can’t take the dog,” and I’m like, “No, I could take the dog, but dog probably wouldn’t appreciate 34 hours straight on a plane practically and all the different things we’re going to be doing, and not to mention the fact the paperwork of getting into the UK and back.” I said, “No, the dog’s not going, but I’ll have my cane. People do travel other ways without their dog.” Then she said, “I guess you don’t swim or scoober dive.” I’m like, “I have swum. There are blind people who do swim. Don’t you watch–” [crosstalk]
Jonathan: Yes. She’s making the assumption that because you’re blind, you don’t.
Bonnie: Yes. There’s a medical student sitting there, which made it even worse.
Jonathan: When these things happen, you probably don’t want to sweat the small stuff and make too much of a big deal of it but there’s a little part of you that wants to go, “Do you know who I am?” Sort of thing, and make the point. It’s very demeaning the way a lot of medical professionals treat disabled people.
Bonnie: It is interesting because some of them are okay. I’ve heard so many women talk about when they were younger that doctors, gynecologists, or whatever would assume they would never get pregnant and wouldn’t even talk to them about vitamins if you were considering. I remember going to because women need to have these checks every year or should have these checks every year. I was in my 20s and I went to this gynecologist that was on our plan. I didn’t actually see her, I saw the nurse. The gynecologist, the particular practice, she’s a well-known fertility specialist.
Everyone was like, “Oh, you’re going to her. You’re having fertility.” I’m like, “No, she just happens to be on my plan.” The only way I would see her is if there was some geological issue, but I saw the nurse and she was a midwife. She was wonderful. My blindness had nothing to– She goes, “You’re a young woman.” I think I was 24. She goes, “I want you to start taking vitamins with folic acid because if you have children–” There wasn’t any, “Oh, you’re probably never going to have kids.” I see so many people that have been badly treated, but it seems like the gynecologists that I’ve had have been the ones that have been the most okay with it, which is interesting.
Jonathan: This is the thing, it’s not to say that every medical experience you have is dreadful. It’s just that there is, it seems to me, an increased tendency in the medical fraternity for you to have an ableist experience but that doesn’t mean you always do.
Bonnie: Yes, don’t always-
Jonathan: Sometimes you get exceptional experience.
Bonnie: -because I have had good experience with the people that you would naturally think would be the ones that are-
Jonathan: It’s interesting.
Bonnie: -because I’ve had some horror stories. I do remember going to a doctor’s office in New Jersey the first time I went and I was well dressed. They were just, “Oh my God, your lipstick, your makeup.” That particular doctor, one time I came in for just a general checkup and she goes, “Let’s go.” I had the file and she goes, “Okay, your mother died of cancer, right?” I’m like, “No, my mother’s still alive.” She, “Oh, I’m sorry.” There were three of us that went to that doctor, three blind people, three blind women in Morristown-
Bonnie: -and I knew exactly who she was talking about. I’m like, “Would you do that to a Black person or mix up someone’s file just because we’re all blind?” I went to a different doctor after that.
Jonathan: Anyway, it’s good news about your ear.
Bonnie: Yes, it is good news.
Jonathan: It’s good that you were able to check about the flying because you’re right, we’ll certainly be doing a lot of it. This segues me nicely into the next topic because we have this email and it says– This is Nina. Did you know there’s an Abba song about Nina?
Bonnie: Yes, I did. Nina, Pretty Ballerina.
Jonathan: Nina, Pretty Ballerina.
Bonnie: Yes, I used to work with Nina [crosstalk].
Jonathan: It says that right here. “It’s Nina from Boston,” she says, “I have met you both.” I remember precisely when I met you, Nina. It was in 2016 at your work in Boston. I remember this. She says, “I worked with Bonnie.” I’m sorry.
Jonathan: She says, “I’m traveling to Mexico in September-” Oh, we’ll both be traveling in September, three of us will be traveling in September, Nina, “-and want to know what are the best gadgets to bring with me besides my iPhone and Apple Watch. What do you bring with you when you travel? Should I bring a charging block, and which one would you recommend? I want to simplify what I bring and the number of chords so any ideas is appreciated.” Then she says, “Bonnie, call/email me with your thoughts.” Should we read her phone number because it’s here? [laughs]
Bonnie: No, don’t do that unless it’s her work phone number. I didn’t check that part, might be a personal number.
Jonathan: You did get that email I forwarded you.
Bonnie: I did, yes. I need to email her back. So good to catch up.
Jonathan: The first thing I’d say, Nina, is there is some software I would recommend, particularly if you’re going to be doing a bit of flying, and this is Triplt. I got you on to Tripit, Bonnie.
Jonathan: Do you like Tripit?
Bonnie: I do like Tripit. I’ve got a lot of stuff to put in Tripit.
Jonathan: The way this works, and TripIt is all one word, by the way, is that you get this app, you can also use it as a website if you want, and you set up an account with TripIt associated with your email address and you can have multiple email addresses. I have it on my home address and work addresses that I’ve had since I started using Triplt back in about 2006, I think, or maybe even earlier, maybe when I was at HumanWare where I started using this. It’s been around a long time. It goes all the way back to the Symbian days.
The idea is that when you get an itinerary or accommodation information for a hotel booking that you’ve made, you just forward the email that you got to firstname.lastname@example.org. It sees that it’s come from your email and it builds you this Triplt itinerary, which you can then look at all in the one place in the Triplt app or on the Triplt website. You can subscribe to a service called Triplt Pro.
Especially at this really difficult time for traveling, that’s a good thing to do because it can tell you when there are delays, it can tell you when there might be an alternative flight that you can upgrade to. It can give you little perks and benefits of the hotel that you’re staying at. Also if you are part of hotel points, plans, or programs for frequent flyer miles, then it can keep track of those for you as well. Triplt is a really good app. The next gadget I would think of is noise-canceling headphones, especially if you’re going to do a bit of flying.
Bonnie: I know a lot of people that use them. There’s so many out. There’s Bose, of course.
Jonathan: Get the Bose Quiet Comfort.
Bonnie: That’s a good one. Beats.
Jonathan: You can’t go wrong with the Bose Quiet Comfort.
Bonnie: I’m actually going to look into getting something. I’m not sure what yet. I had a pair that are Panasonic, I think, but they’re like the cans that go over your ears. They’re big headphone and I’m not sure that I want that.
Jonathan: What would you rather have?
Bonnie: I don’t know. If they’re small, do they have small ones? I don’t know.
Jonathan: I’m sure we can find something for you.
Bonnie: I want to go touch them.
Jonathan: Right. I think that’s a good idea. Yes. Bose do a range of noise-canceling headphones as do other manufacturers so that’s important. The other thing I’d say is–
Bonnie: Sennheiser does.
Jonathan: Yes, they do. I had some Sennheiser noise-canceling headphones for quite a while and they were very good.
Bonnie: I saw them at JB Hi-Fi. I think I looked on their website. I can’t remember.
Jonathan: I’d also recommend checking how your cellular carrier handles roaming in the country that you’re visiting. We have a cellular carrier, which we chose in part because when you go to a country, you pay a daily fee when you switch on your phone and start to use it. Other than that, you use all your plan minutes and data as if you were at home. That’s really very good value for money because sometimes you can be locked into some exorbitant roaming prices when you travel, so check that out. It’s also possible that your carrier has Wi-Fi calling. If your hotel has good Wi-Fi and you’re going to get on the hotel Wi-Fi anyway, then you can use Wi-Fi calling and perhaps save a little bit of money that way.
You may also want to consider, depending on what your carrier is offering you, buying a local SIM, especially if you have an iPhone that is new and has dual SIM. It might be that your carrier is eSIM and you have the sim slot free or vice versa that your carrier has given you a physical sim that’s in your phone, leaving the eSIM-free for you to get something local with a local phone number for where you are. Then rates can often be way low if you just want to use data for navigation, that kind of thing. A local sim is often a really good way to go.
In terms of charging things, I’d take us back to what we talked about in last week’s episode, get yourself one of these new gang charges that are very low profile and have lots of ports. We’ve been putting ours through their paces in the last week, and we’ve been plugging things in and just testing it in our big Kahuna battery. You might want to consider a big battery as well like the one that we got that will charge your laptop and that kind of thing.
We mentioned the model in last week’s episode. That might be a bit overkill, but I find it’s just comforting to have that much power available. You never know when you’re going to have some sort of weird layover or something and you can’t get access to a wall outlet. Any other gadgets you would recommend?
Bonnie: No, I think just look at how long you’re going to be gone, what you’re going to be doing because I think sometimes we over gadget ourselves when we travel.
Jonathan: The more gadgets you take, the more you can leave behind of course. That’s why I really like this one that has the two USB-C ports and a couple of USB-As because it’s just one little plug that you take with you. You can plug everything into it. Of course, the downside of that is exactly the same as the upside. If you leave it behind, you’ve lost the ability to charge everything.
Bonnie: Also look where you’re going, what power adaptor you’re going to need because we’re going to have to buy one for the UK and one for Europe.
Jonathan: I’ve been to Mexico, but I can’t remember. Do they use the same plugs as US and Canada over there?
Bonnie: I don’t remember.
Jonathan: I don’t remember.
Bonnie: Been to Mexico too, but I don’t think I was plugging anything in when I was there.
Jonathan: They must do. I don’t recall having to use a different adapter, but maybe I did. That’s just a consideration. Whenever you travel internationally, find out what pins you need at the end. Most things are dual voltage now. In North America, they use 110 to 120 volts. In most other parts of the world, it’s 220 to 240. That no longer matters as much for pretty much everything, but you may need a different plug at the end.
Bonnie: Definitely I’ll have my charger. I always pack them in the backpack because safer than luggage getting lost because you wouldn’t want your chord to get lost or delayed in your luggage and have to charge your phone. I’m taking my little MagSafe battery that I have. If you have a newer iPhone, the MagSafe battery is great. It’ll give it a little pump. Hopefully, we’ll be able to charge stuff on the plane.
Jonathan: You should be able to because there are planes that have USB-A in the seat in front of you. Just plug the MagSafe battery into that to give it a charge with the USB-A to a lightning chord. This is one thing you’ve got to be aware of actually is that the iPhones are now shipping with USB-C to lightning. There are still places like airline seats where you’ve got USB-A ports. If you want to charge your phone, there may be full wall outlet type plugs, but there may not be.
Bonnie: I haven’t seen any.
Jonathan: You do need to make sure that you have a USB-A to a lightning adapter to keep your iPhone charged because if you’ve bought a new iPhone lately, you will not have one. You might have to buy one unless you’ve kept one from a previous iPhone. Nicola, she’s really onto it. She said, “Dad, I might have to grab a USB-A to lightning.” I was very pleased that she thought of that.
Bonnie: She’s worried about that 24-hour flight.
Jonathan: She wants to be able to watch the flicks and all that kind of stuff.
Bonnie: She could watch them on the screen.
Jonathan: You want to be able to watch your own flicks. You want to be able to download all these.
Bonnie: Now they have Wi-Fi.
Jonathan: What you’d want to do, if you’re on a very long flight, like we’ve got about 36 hours of flying to look forward to.
Bonnie: Oh my God.
Jonathan: What we all want to do or what she’ll certainly want to do is to download a lot of material in advance. This is a good thing to do because you can’t guarantee the quality of Wi-Fi on the plane.
Bonnie: Could be bad on Air New Zealand. [crosstalkK]
Jonathan: To be fair to Air New Zealand, that’s because you’re crossing the Pacific and things. They’re using satellite, the latency is low. Lots of people are using it in a confined space.
Bonnie: I wish they’d get DirecTV. Man, JetBlue had that. That was so good, except for the time I flew back from California and the satellite was out, I couldn’t get satellite coverage. There were some very upset children.
Jonathan: Oh, I’m sure. The thing is, so what you do then is you download things ahead of time for those long trips. If you’re a podcast fan, download The Mosen At Large back catalog and you can skip around by chapter. If you use Netflix or Disney+, I’m pretty sure we’ll let you do this. They probably all let you do it. You can download content to your phone.
This is where having a big phone or even an iPad is good value because you can download lots of material and just have it on your device. If you subscribe to one of the streaming music services like Apple Music or Spotify, if you’ve got favorite playlists, make sure that you’ve actually downloaded them to your device so that you have things to listen to without an internet connection.
Bonnie: Of course, with this trip, as all my long-haul trips, there is the how many books will I actually read?
Jonathan: Yes, you can do that.
Bonnie: [chuckles]It’s like I never get through them.
Jonathan: Yes. If you use audible, for example, make sure that you–
Bonnie: Make sure that you download the book.
Jonathan: That’s right. There are a few tips, Nina. It’s hard to recommend– You asked about specific brands, it’s hard to do that because the market’s a little different in the US because they use different plugs from the ones that we use. I think the trick is to see if you can find one of these new gang chargers because they’re so thin, they’ll have a bunch of ports in them, and that should set you up for charging everything. You’ll need that charger and of course the appropriate cables.
Bonnie: Hope that helps and hope you have a great trip to Mexico.
Jonathan: Yes. I’m sure it’ll be marvelous. Thank you for another informative Bonnie Bulletin.
Bonnie: Thank you.
Jonathan: I’d love to hear from you. If you have any comments you want to contribute to the show, drop me an email written down or with an audio attachment to Jonathan, J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N@mushroomfm.com. If you’d rather call in, use the listener line number in the United States, 864-606-6736.
Voice-over: Mosen At Large Podcast.
[01:57:00] [END OF AUDIO]