GTT National Conference Call Summary Notes, Auto-Mower, Google ChromeCast and the Roku Stick, April 11, 2018

GTT National Conference Call.


An Initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind


Summary Notes


April 11, 2018.


Programmable Auto-Mower:

Michel gave us a presentation on an electric lawn mower, Robo mower or auto mower he uses to keep the grass looking good on his half-acre property.

  • They have been available in Canada for about 2 or 3 years, and in europe longer.
  • Some are made by Honda and John Deer, and the Huscavarna 450 is what Michel chose. He indicated there are three or four models sold by that manufacturer.
  • They are quiet and can be operated any time of day or night.  Some people use them at night only. They can cut grass whether it is raining or if the sun is shining.
  • They are safe for kids and pets because they stop or change direction as soon as they touch anything, and they slow down as soon as they detect an approaching opbsticle.
  • The more bells and whistles they have the more they cost. The one Michel purchased has a built-in anti-theft alarm system. If someone picked it up to steel it an alarm will sound that won’t stop until you key in a pin-code number.
  • It has a built in GPs so you can track it’s location in the yard it at all times.
  • It is rather techy looking but about the size of an electric lawn mower.
  • It even has LED headlights.
  • The blades are small and sharp so they don’t stress the grass, and because it can be scheduled to mow the grass several times each week it never has to cut long grass.
  • Michel says he has not had to change a blade and has used it one whole season.
  • It is a little like the Roomba vacuum system.
  • It has an outside charging station to which it returns automatically once the batteries start to run down, or when it’s finished mowing the scheduled area.
  • To set it up you will install buried perimeter wire in parts of the yard where there aren’t already fences or raised beds that will turn the unit away. The wire is buried like invisible fences for dogs.
  • Another item to bury in the yard is a guidance wire that will guide the mower back to the charging station. It docks itself to re-charge and returns to work once scheduled or if not finished the current schedule.
  • It can be used without perimeter wire as long as fences or raised beds border the area being mowed.
  • It has GpS assisted guidance.
  • It learns the yard and becomes more efficient as it learns where all of the obstacles are.
  • The two upper models sense obstacles and objects, like people and animals.
  • It has two speeds, fast like a fast walk and it will slow down to a crawl when it senses opsticles.
  • It learns what areas of the yard grow faster and it cuts them first and more often.
  • Michel indicated he can do 90 percent of the unit’s functions from the app on his iPhone. Start, stop, control the height, and he can see where it is in the picture. This feature is not likely accessible to blind users.
  • There is an emergency stop button on it which is a big red button, after which you can’t restart it unless you enter the pin-code.
  • The user can adjust it for height, time and schedule as well as monitor right from the app.
  • It will mow for about 4 5 hours and then charge for about an hour before going out again.
  • The less expensive models cut about 1,000 square meters, and his cuts about 5,000 square meters.
  • It can be set up for multiple zones if you let it cut one zone and then take it to the other zone.
  • It could be shared with other people in the neighbourhood, or friends and family.
  • It is capable of mowing on ground that is up to 45 degree angle.
  • Huskavarna is trying to make the features on the upper model more affordable, as these lawn mowers start at $1,900 and go to $3,900.
  • The kits to create a perimeter are about 200 dollars.
  • It doesn’t need to be cleaned as much as a traditional gass or electric mower at the end of the season. Changing blades is easy, and rarely needed.
  • These devices do have firmware upgrades on occasion.
  • Michel has low vision and uses it easily, however didn’t know whether or not the app is accessible with voiceover.
  • The display is LCD, but the start and stop buttons are tactile.
  • One could put locator dots on the buttons if they’re too difficult to feel.
  • The keypad is about the size of a typical phone keypad.
  • Some wondered whether it will work from a Google Home.
  • The app is available for both iOs and Android
  • It rides over things and does not damage them.
  • If it bumps against you it does not hurt you as it slows down upon detection of obsticles.
  • If you have raised beds it will leave a one inch strip similar to conventional mowers, and you can set it to cut past a perimeter wire by determined distances up to about 4 inches.
  • They have been using them at airports and other large areas that have to be cut regularly. Some are larger for such industrial applications.
  • It can cost less than having someone come in and cut the grass, and some companies will install the wires and rent you the lawn mower for a monthly fee. Apparently that is happening in Toronto.
  • It goes right back to the charger when it needs to or when you tell it to go home through the app.
  • It is about two feet long. Probably weighs less than 10 pounds, and it does not collect a lot of things in the tires.
  • You can set up sounds for it.
  • The phone app indicates how much charge remains.


Section Two of the Meeting:

Emergency Alert System:

Question how do we get rid of the sound on phones when they test the emergency system. It is assumed that once the alarms are sounded they quiet down and the cell phone is left with a text message indicating where to go or what to do.

Apparently the level of accessibility for these messages is dependent on who sends out the message.

Weather alerts could be from Environment Canada, and other alerts could be for tidal waves and forest fires from provincial and federal government.

Provided you have location tracking turned on you will get the alert for where you currently are.

If you do not have a data plan will you get the message? Answer from the website,

  • Unlike SMS, LTE messaging uses a phone’s data connection rather than its much slower and more crowded telephone connection.


Thunder Bay has an emergency radio station, and there’s one in Muscoca. There aren’t as many as before. Check with to see/hear what it is like.

If I’ve put my phone on mute will I get the sound? Yes, the sound will carry through mute and do not disturb.

How will we get the sound to stop? Sound will be audible once or twice and then go to your text message on Android phones and the Notifications Window on iOS devices.

It will also use unique vibration patterns.

More info about this system on

iOS 11 or better will receive alerts, which are the iPhone 5C or newer.

Many Android smart phones are also compatible.


Q.: What is Chromecast?

  • : Chromecast is a device that you plug into your TV’s HDMI port, powered by a USB cable (included). Using your smartphone or computer as a remote control, you can use Chromecast to access video content from Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, the Google Play Store and other services. You can also use it to stream almost any kind of content from the Chrome browser on a computer.
  • Albert bought google home and can only use youtube with it through ChromeCast Video. It will only play movies and Youtube video and music through the television and not the GH speakers.
  • You can ask it to pause, resume, rewind, fast forward by any amount of time, 3 minutes 5 minutes.
  • You can say Hey Google, quit or stop.
  • You can use it with netflix.
  • Google ChromeCast sells for about $35.
  • Use the Google Home app to associate ChromeCast with same Wi-Fi network as the GH speakerand then they work well together.
  • It ships with a short HDMI cable for connecting to the TV and a power cord. It is a very small round disc.
  • There is Google Chrome Audio also, to which you can plug in an external speaker or headphones.
  • Google Chrome Video cannot detach HDMI cable from round disc.
  • Can you get traditional television stations with chrome cast? No, only what you can cast from your smart phone, tablet, computer or GH speaker. One could download CBC, CTV or other TV app and see if it has the capacity to cast to Google ChromeCast.
  • Some tv’s are google chrome ready, and could be connected to the Google home speakers without the need for a ChromeCast device.
  • If you don’t have enough HDMI ports on your TV you can buy an HDMI hub. Albert got a 4-port HDMI hub at best buy.


Roku streaming stick.

  • Someone indicated that for the Canadian market it doesn’t have a screen reader built-in.
  • There are many channels you can watch. It can be purchased from amazon. Looked everywhere but no screen reader, and even updated the software and it’s still not there.
  • Apparently the screen reader is only available in the USA version.


Does anyone have a Nest thermostat who uses voiceover?

No one seemed to be able to answer this question. How does one reboot the memory this device stores so that a new schedule can be established?


GTT National Conference Call Overview

  • GTT National Conference Call is a monthly discussion group of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
  • GTT National Conference Calls promote a self-help learning experience by holding monthly meetings to present and discuss new and emerging assistive technology.
  • Each meeting consists of a feature technology topic, along with questions and answers about assistive technology.
  • Participants are encouraged to attend each meeting even if they are not interested in the feature topic because questions on any technology are welcome. The more participants the better able we will be equipped with the talent and experience to help each other.
  • There are GTT groups across Canada as well as an email distribution list where assistive technology questions are provided by participants. You may also subscribe to the National GTT blog to get email notices of teleconferences and notes from other GTT chapters. Visit:

There is a form at the bottom of that web page to enter your email.


National GTT Email Support List

CCB sponsors a GTT email support list to provide help and support with technology for blind and low vision Canadians.  To subscribe to the email list, send an empty email to:


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