GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group
September 20, 2018
An Initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind
In Partnership with the CNIB
The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Toronto Group was held on Thursday, September 20 at the CNIB Community Hub.
*Note: Reading Tip: These summary notes apply HTML headings to help navigate the document. With screen readers, you may press the H key to jump forward or Shift H to jump backward from heading to heading.
September 2018 Topic: Music Apps and Services
Thanks again to Chris Malec for taking these awesome notes! People may not realize it, but she writes these in real time!
Ian opened the meeting.
Next month’s meeting will be on accessible TVs, and we’ll be joined by Kim Kilpatrick, the founder of GTT.
Jason took over to give some updates. It’s possible that next month, we’ll also be joined by a representative from Rogers, to demonstrate their new accessible cable box. It’s called Rogers Ignite TV. It’s based off of the U.S. system from Comcast, which is largely accessible as a set-top box.
CNIB just announced a new program called Phone It Forward, this week. People or corporations can donate used cell phones, and CNIB will be distributing them to clients who need them. The phones will be stripped, then loaded with accessibility aps. It’s meant to be a no-cost deal for the client. We don’t know what the cut-off is for the age of donated phones. A tax receipt will be issued for any donated phone, but an employee said they’ll only be using iPhone 5 or higher. At this point there’s nothing in place about data plans, but they’re trying to work that out. The push right now is to get donations of phones. The phones will be unlocked.
Jason raised the topic of rearranging the structure of our meetings. We want to encourage discussion back and forth about whatever topics people want to share information about. This will comprise the first part of meetings, and a presentation will be the second part. The idea is to bring problems or something you’d like more information about, and draw on resources from the group. Also, bring any new information or tips that you’ve discovered.
Tips that arose from discussion
When using a touch pad, curl all your other fingers inward to avoid accidentally activating something you didn’t intend.
Turning off the Reading Pain in Outlook will prevent or avoid many annoying problems. Do this by pressing Alt V, P, N, arrow down to Off, and hit enter there. The Thunderbird keystroke is F8.
Talking Tuner is an ap for tuning instruments or your voice. It’s accessible and voice-activated.
For success with the Seeing AI ap bar code reader, try laying the object on a table for stability, then hold the phone 8 inches or so away. Bar codes on boxes are often on an edge or the bottom. Light levels can matter too. It will use the flash, but it might help to have a light on. Try rotating the object slowly and incrementally, not continually. On cans and jars, the code is often at the seem of labels. Cans are more challenging, so if you’re learning, try starting with angular boxes.
Tap Tap See and KNFB Reader have both been updated recently.
The Identify ap is an alternative if you’re not fond of Seeing AI. Both aps are free. There’s an ap called Envision AI that has a small cost associated with it, that’s available on iPhone and Android.
The advantage of having the Microsoft Office subscription version is that it gets updated very often. There have been issues around instability with Excel. The problems come and go, but having the subscription version is the best way to keep current with updates that solve problems. Microsoft has a Disability Answer Desk, at 1-800-936-5900. They know about screen readers, and are a great resource. If they can’t answer your question, they will escalate it.
Apple also has an accessibility desk. 1-877-204-3930.
The topic of Libre Office was raised. It’s the free version of Microsoft, and is the descendant of Open Office. It doesn’t use the ribbon structure, but it seems to have some accessibility issues. It works better with NVDA. It can be used with files created in conventional Microsoft products.
A risk in continuing to use old versions of mainstream software like MS 2007, is that, as you update your screen reader, things might become incompatible, because the AT companies aren’t making their products with older mainstream software in mind. If it works, keep using it. Also, if you have files sent to you from other people who are using newer versions of mainstream software, you might have trouble reading them. For example, if you receive a document created in pre-2007, and it has tables, Jaws won’t read them. You have to save them in the new format.
For anyone using tables and a screen reader, one piece of advice is to make your heading titles short, as the screen reader will have to read the whole thing each time you move within the table.
For advice using Jaws with very specific software like SPSS, stats management, the best advice is to contact Freedom Scientific. SPSS may have their own accessibility team.
The ap called, Transit, was recently updated, and works well. Their release notes are thorough and amusing.
The Triplynx ap is also very good.
Jason took over to talk about music aps. Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play Music are the main three. Most of these services have a free and a paid version. They’re all about $10 to $12 per month for an individual membership, and $15 or so for a family membership. These are streaming services. Spotify’s free version will let you search for an artist. It will then put together a playlist of artists including that one, plus others. You can’t play an entire album, and it will advertise at you. Go to Spotify.com and download the free trial. It can run on most playing services. It has a program that you can install on your PC that works well. The client looks like a regular web page with search functions. Spotify is known for discovering new music, which is a great feature of most music services. It generates a playlist each week based on what you’ve chosen recently. This is a great way to find out about music you’ll probably like, based on your tastes. The iPhone ap works well, and so does the Android ap. You can connect your Amazon Echo or Google Home, to your Spotify account, and play music on your device. You can download music, but can’t take it out of the Spotify ap. The free version has a time restriction, a certain amount of play per day. If you load the ap on your Apple device, there’s an option to pay using your iTunes account. There may be a small fee associated with doing this.
Jason loaded the ap on his phone and demonstrated what the screen looks like. It doesn’t integrate with Siri. It’s the most versatile of the services. The artist gets $0.001 per play.
Apple Music is exclusive to Apple, but there is an Apple Music ap for Android. It’s new within the past three years, and around the same price. The great thing about it is that it’s integrated into Siri. The Spotify trial is 30 days, but the Apple Music trial is 3 months. Apple Music has a “for you” tab, which is its way of introducing you to new music it thinks you’ll like. All three of these streaming aps have radio stations based on genres. These aren’t the way to access generalized regular or internet radio stations, you’d need TuneIn or your smart speaker to do that. Apple Music allows you to upload your personal music collection of MP3 songs into your ap using iTunes. It will also replace poor quality versions of songs with a better quality version if it has one. One caution here is that improperly named or tagged files will give you trouble in playback.
Google Play Music isn’t particularly differentiated from the other two, it’s really more about which devices you’re using. Apple and Google both allow you to download music and play it from other aps. All three aps are accessible. Google Play offers a 30 day trial.
Other smaller services exist, like Amazon Music, but their collections tend to be smaller. Tidal is a service for streaming high quality music. It’s around $20 per month, but the quality matters to some people. The interface can be tricky. The files are much bigger, so keep that in mind regarding data use. They don’t tend to have as big a selection. HD Tracks is a service where you pay by track, rather than a flat subscription fee.
Spotify allows you to set the quality that you get, and you can choose to get lower quality when you’re using data verses y-fi.
YouTube is another source for free music. YouTube Music is a new service. It’s a downloadable ap. It’s got an enormous selection. The auto-play feature will essentially make a playlist. Playing it through the Apple TV gives you a lot less ads. Creating actual playlists with YouTube and Voiceover is quite difficult.
The Sonos ap will perform a search on all the services you’re subscribed to.
If you’re subscribed to more than one service, you can specify to your smart speaker, which service you want to search on.
Apple Music gets updated whenever you do an IOS update. Spotify updates every few weeks. Accessibility glitches usually get addressed pretty promptly.
- Next Meeting: Thursday, October 18 at 6pm
- Location: CNIB Community Hub space at 1525 Yonge Street, just 1 block north of St Clair on the east side of Yonge, just south of Heath.
- Meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month at 6pm.
GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group Overview:
- GTT Toronto is a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
- GTT Toronto promotes a self-help learning experience by holding monthly meetings to assist participants with assistive technology.
- Each meeting consists of a feature technology topic, questions and answers about technology, and one-on-one training where possible.
- Participants are encouraged to come to 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 a national GTT monthly toll free teleconference. You may 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.