GTT Victoria Meeting Notes, April 1, 2015:

The round table discussion asked participants to tell a little about the expertise they bring to GTT, and what they might hope to gain from their participation.

Linda B: Knows a little about a lot of things related to daily living skills, adaptation to vision loss and entry level computer technology with PC computers.

TJ: Is losing sight so attempting to upgrade his screen reading skills in preparation. He’s interested in accessible cell phone technology with limitations in terms of cost to operate said equipment. He indicated that he knows nothing about nothing. LOL

Douglas C: Douglas said he knows a little bit about some technology like the VR Stream and JAWS, however that he’s still not up to full speed with his assistive software.

During the meeting a discussion ensued about the trekker Breeze and the soon to be announced firmware and hardware upgrade. It’s since been learned that it will be a hardware upgrade that will come at some cost to the owners of older units. Once the upgrade is announced in June all new Trekker Breezes sold will come with the upgrades built-in.

Mike C: Has been a JAWS, VR Stream and Trekker Breeze user for a number of years and is comfortable coaching on those devices. He has recently acquired an iPhone 5 and is quickly coming up to speed in its use as well.

Shari A: Uses an Android phone and is thinking of moving to the iPhone due to the number of people in the blind community using that access device.

Colin L: Colin is still learning to use screen reading technology. He hasn’t yet logged on the NNELS, and will be doing so in the near future. Colin’s background is in Microsoft products.

Gina H: Gina is sorting throughsome of the difficulties she’s having with daily living skills, mobility, access to information and confidence building. She is learning how to use her new iPhone 5, and she’s also learning Braille and white cane travel techniques.

Elizabeth L: Elizabeth uses JAWS on a Windows 7 PC and her iPhone 5.

Elizabeth also announced that the Pacific Training Center for the Blind will host a 3-hour Braille Literacy Workshop on May 31, 2015. This event is free to persons who are blind or partially sighted. Contact Elizabeth for more details.

Sabina E-O: From NNELS indicated that she is a Librarian, and that she knows a lot about Libraries, books, how to access books, and how to get a NNELS password. She is at the other end of the toll free support line and email address found on the NNELS web site,

Corry S: Corry indicated that he’s an avid iPhone and iPad user, as well as PC computers from a low vision perspective. He is not a screen reader coaching source.

Barbara A: Barb thought she was quite proficient at operating MS Office products, however the advent of the Ribbons in those products has set her way back. She would rate herself as a 30 to 40% proficient JAWS user, with some struggles on the internet and other applications. She knows nothing about iDevices. She uses a Trekker Breeze, however hasn’t used it in a while so might need some brushing up. Barb indicated having some sight, however that she uses screen reading technology due to eye fatigue. She said she’s frustrated at how quickly things are changing in the computer and assistive technology sectors.

Someone in the room asked for a Ribbons workshop. This will be looked at for a future session, or a one-on-one coaching opportunity.

Skye M: He is totally blind and uses all the currently available screen readers, like System Access, NVDA, JAWS and Window Eyes. He is a technical wizard and a wealth of knowledge.

At this point in the meeting a discussion took place about the accuracy of scan and read systems like DocuScan, Openbook and the KNFB Reader app for the iPhone. Lighting was identified as an important issue, and still some fonts don’t scan well. The KNFB Reader app was thought to be a very good and accurate device for accessing short pieces of information on the go.

Ken H: Ken is totally blind, and he doesn’t have any technology yet.

Tom D: Tom is the iPhone guy, however he indicated that he’s not really a techy person. His knowledge is more from the perspective of a Rehab Teacher, whereby he looks at daily living and independence needs when viewing the many apps, strategies and devices available for blind users. Tom is also connected to many Facebook, LinkedIn and other assistive tech and Rehab Groups where he finds information about assistive technology and strategies for living with vision loss. He embraces and keeps abreast of new and emerging trends. If anyone wants to meet up with Tom to learn more and to explore what might be coming down the road please be in touch with him.

The Café at Fort Tectoria is always available as a meeting place downtown. All they ask is that we buy coffee from time to time, and that we Tweet and Facebook about the facility.

Jill M: Jill has had the iPhone for three years, however due to her vision having declined she is very frustrated with it, and all technology. She indicated that she learns slowly. She has a MacBook Pro and has recently upgraded to the iPhone 6, so now needs to learn Voice Over. Tom has started to lend a hand with that. Dr Mary Lou Jackson has suggested that she move to VO rather than fighting to use the magnification features of her Apple products, so she’s involved in transitioning.

Greg M: He is a low vision musician and computer user. He uses Odacity to play and record music as it allows him to slow down the music when learning.

Trevor J: Trevor has a pretty good background with JAWS, the VR Stream and the Trekker Breeze, and he’s soon going to upgrade to another cell phone and might need guidance in that transition. He’s looking forward to learning more about iPads, iPhones and Mac computers.

Aryana R? Aryana is active with a newly formed Arts and culture group focused on providing support to blind citizens interested in such pursuits. She is sighted so has no expertise in assistive software or devices, however provides voluntary support to the participants of these groups.

Erin L: She has recently graduated from the Pacific Training Center for the Blind. She is a good user of JAWS and the iPhone, and has recently moved away from the Android platform with Talkback software. She could assist people with both types of cell phone.

Albert R: Albert is working on behalf of the CCB at coordinating the GTT Program in Western Canada. He is totally blind and offers training in small groups and to individuals on the PC operating system with JAWS, scan and read software, the iPhone and on GPS devices. Albert will be travelling to Prince George and Kamloops to meet with groups there who are interested in similar gatherings, so if anyone knows of people in need of assistive technology support in those communities please pass on the info.

The second hour of the meeting was dedicated to a discussion on the cost of cell phone plans, and how to manage the costs of data as well as the calling features of mobile devices of this nature.

The notion of receiving a “free” phone when cell phone companies push their contracts was discussed, and participants were urged to investigate the true cost of those contracts. The phone is not free as it actually is paid for in the monthly cost of said contract.

If the phone is purchased outright, or secured with the help of local Lions Clubs a far better month-to-month fee arrangement can usually be worked out.

It was determined that diligence is required when managing the amount of telephone talking time allowed through the negotiated plan, as well as the data usage.

Some use Pay-As-You-Go plans with no data, so WIFI becomes critical when accessing many apps on the iPhone. Some people who use Shaw as their internet service provider have access to WIFI where ever Shaw Open is available.

GPS apps don’t use data as they connect to Satellites according to some in the room, and it was recently tested on a trip from downtown Victoria to Langford with the cellular data turned off. The GPS app functioned the entire trip.

Some in the room offered their expertise to assist during the investigation and purchase phases if anyone finds their not confident enough to negotiate a cell phone contract, or monthly plan if they already own the phone.

Cell phone providers are mostly interested in selling contracts, however the end user must work diligently at ensuring that their needs are met by the plan they sign on for. If you’re not receiving the level of service you need from the person who is serving you, you have the right to see another service provider, or to come back another day.

*Note: The next meeting will be on Monday, May 4, 2015 from 1:30 to 3:30 PM at Fort Tectoria.