The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Edmonton Chapter was held October 15 at 7pm at Ascension Lutheran Church 8405 83 Street in Edmonton.
19 people attended.
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.
October Topics – Blue Sky TV, JAWS Tutorials and iPhone
Blue Sky TV
Russell provided a recorded 33-minute thorough demo of using all aspects of Shaw Cable’s Blue Sky digital TV service including navigating the talking menus, browsing the talking program guide, using voice commands to find channel or programs, accessing Netflix, Accessing YouTube, and configuring the voice assistant settings.
Activate this Drop Box link to download Russell’s seven zipped recorded MP3 files so you can listen to this excellent presentation on your computer or DAISY player, for example placing the files in the $VROtherBooks folder on the SD card of the Victor Reader Stream.
The Drop Box will open with a window to sign-in or create an account. Just select close and then find the More Options choice which has a direct download link to get the zip file.
JAWS Built-in Training Materials
Russell worked with a member of GTT to show him how to get to the Jaws training materials by going into the Jaws window, going to the help menu, and choosing “Training” from within the help menu. He then demonstrated how to arrow through the list of training materials and press enter on the desired material to get it to download and install. After that he showed how the training material can be either read with Jaws using the usual Jaws reading commands, or listened to by pressing CTRL + P.
Aside from these training materials, Freedom Scientific has also archived many of their past webinars and offer them free of charge from their web site:
You can access these webinars in any of the following three ways:
A link to the recorded archive, including text, audio, and chat history
A link to an audio only file in MP3 format
A link to the text of the lesson in HTML format
Gerry took a group of members to a separate room for training on basic iPhone navigation gestures using the built-in Voice Over screen reader. The following table lists only 12 gestures that allow you to do almost everything on an iPhone without being able to see the screen.
Use this Gesture
To DO This
Single finger touch
Select the item under your finger. VoiceOver will announce it.
Single finger double tap anywhere on the screen
Activate the selected item
Single finger flick left or right.
Select previous/next item.
Single finger flick up or down
Select previous/next item from a menu of additional choices.
Two finger rotate left or right.
Select previous/next rotor setting.
Two finger double tap
Start and stop the current action such as answering or hanging up a phone call, playing/pausing music, or video, start and stop the timer etc.
Two finger flick up
Read page starting at the top.
Two finger flick down
Start reading at selected item to end of screen.
Three finger flick left
Scroll right one page.
Three finger flick right
Scroll left one page.
Three finger flick down
Scroll up one page.
Three finger flick up
Scroll down one page.
Note that these gestures work only when VoiceOver is turned on. Sighted people who might share your phone use different gestures. The phone will not respond to the gestures sighted people are accustomed to unless you turn off VoiceOver.
The app switcher was also discussed. It lists all the open apps on your phone. You reach the app switcher with a double click of the Home button.
You move between the apps on the list by flicking left or right.
In the app switcher a 3 finger scroll up is a shortcut to close the app. It is a good idea to close apps from the app switcher as this reduces memory usage and improves battery life. Also, if an app is misbehaving it may help to go to the app switcher and close that app then relaunch the app.
Be careful with the 3 finger gesture because if you accidentally double tap with 3 fingers this turns off speech. If your speech goes silent, try double tapping with 3 fingers to turn speech back on.
The gesture help screen is a good place to practice gestures. Each gesture you perform will be announced as well as its purpose. This helps you to confirm that your gestures are interpreted correctly by the phone. To quickly reach the help practice screen, tap twice with 4 fingers. To leave the help practice screen again double tap with 4 fingers.
Next Meeting (Monday November 12 at 7pm)
We will focus on the AIRA live-agent system for providing visual assistance to blind and visually impaired people.
As always, for help with technology bring your devices and/or questions to the meeting.
Meeting Location and Logistics
Ascension Lutheran Church 8405 – 83 Street NW, Edmonton.
We meet in the basement hall. There is elevator access.
Enter the church from the back door. There is parking at the back and drop off space for taxis, DATS.
Meetings are every second Monday of the month at 7pm.
If you have someone helping you your assistant is welcome to remain for the meeting.
GTT Edmonton 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:
The Albert A. Ruel Road to Blindness
A 21 year old man stood on the beach at the Sproat Lake Provincial Park with friends early in May of 1977, and upon gazing across the lake found the Gulf Oil sign missing from the dock-side filling station there. When this fact was shared with his companions they glanced at him with puzzled looks and said, “No Albert, the sign is still there”.
That was the beginning of a road through confusion, anger, isolation, loneliness and discovery for me. It all began with a visit to a local Optometrist who could see that my vision wasn’t right, but that corrective lenses wouldn’t help. He then referred me to a General Practitioner, where I received a clean bill of health and an additional referral. This time to an Ophthalmologist. Immediately upon peering through the dilated pupils, Dr. McKerricher was able to see the problem, Retinal Vasculitis.
Now, you would think that all would start to improve at this point, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. You see, CNIB, from 1918 until 1985 only served the needs of people who were “Legally Blind”, a level of vision loss I wouldn’t reach until November of 1979. The words of Dr. McKerricher still echo in my mind today, “Albert, I don’t know what has caused this and nothing we’ve tried is helping to stop it, and you’re not blind enough for me to refer you to CNIB”!
In the middle of this transition from 20/20 vision to “Legally Blind” came the Motor Vehicle Branch and it’s rules of the road. On August 3, 1978 I drove a car for the last time as my vision had reached the level at which operating a motor vehicle became too dangerous, further intensifying feelings of fear, isolation and anger. Sadly, through this period the only available guidance and support was through family and friends, but not the experienced professionals I needed at the time. Although these support systems are critically important they can often be smothering and facilitating, rather than encouraging and supportive.
With gratitude, and some trepidation I finally was able to access CNIB services in November of 1979, and the world opened up then. There I was able to meet other blind people and receive the daily living and mobility skills required to live independently in this sighted world. I learned elementary braille and began to discover technology as necessary tools of independence.
Thankfully, in 1985 CNIB’s National Board altered the course of service to visually impaired Canadians forever. They added a third prong to their Mission Statement, “To promote sight enhancement services”. This opened the door to all Canadians who were beginning to lose sight, as well as those who had a fear of vision loss to access the full range of CNIB Support and Rehabilitation Services. So now, whether it’s someone’s Mother who is experiencing Macular Degeneration, or an Uncle experiencing the affects of Glaucoma, all have the ability to seek information, guidance and support as all involved deal with the fear and anxiety that accompanies such life altering experiences.
With the help of professional Rehabilitation Workers and Employment Counselors I was able to continue traveling independently within my own community, and even more remarkably anywhere in the world I desired to go. I managed to attend College in Nanaimo and New Westminster, as well as traveling to the Mayo Clinic and to doctor’s appointments in Nanaimo and Vancouver without assistance. All of this while living with some usable vision, but not yet needing a white cane for travel.
During the mid 1980’s I was a stay-at-home Dad and did all that was required of that challenging work, from changing diapers to preparing meals, and from cutting the grass to maintaining our home. I even took a woodworking course through Alberni’s Adult Education program and built and restored several pieces of furniture. Of course the 1958 Chevy Impala in the garage was my pride and joy, and I devised ways to do much of the work it required.
I also joined and participated in many community activities, like the local Car Club, and a disability support group that catered to the needs of people with many different disabilities. Of course, continued participation in family life remained of critical importance through this period.
In 1989 a secondary condition began to extinguish the vision that remained, which set into motion a new stream of professional rehabilitation services and supports. By the spring of 1990 Glaucoma had turned out the lights completely, and the darkness I had feared so desperately was upon me. Strangely though, I found this to be a great relief rather than the tragedy I had imagined it would be.
Through several professional rehabilitation sessions, and by joining peer mentoring and advocacy groups I was able to come to terms with this strange feeling, and to learn additional skills and strategies for living with no visual cues of the world around me. This is also about the time that I decided to explore CNIB as an employer, and to see if I could provide the sort of guidance and support to others that had been my pleasure to receive. Those 14 years were a wonderful experience of ongoing discovery for me, as teaching may be the best way to solidify one’s own learning. In other words, those we assist through this transition in turn help us all as we develop best practices and improved service.
Following a 14 year career with CNIB I also served the blind community as the first National Equality Director employed by the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC), and as a Basic Computer Literacy Trainer with the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB). Most recently I have enjoyed coordinating the CCB’s newly launched Get Together with Technology Program in Western Canada, which brings to the fore my passion for assistive technology and the power of peer mentoring.
Without sight I have continued to travel far and wide, with trips to Conventions of and for the Blind in Anaheim California and Melbourne Australia, as well as to many events and activities in Toronto and Vancouver. Of course my work has taken me to many communities throughout Western Canada, and most particularly nearly all regions of BC and on Vancouver Island. None of which would have been possible without the services and support of organizations like CCB, AEBC and CNIB.
For most people blindness generates a fear of extended movement, both within one’s home and community, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Independence comes from personal desire and increased skill. Many community organizations can assist with both through their mentoring and skill development programs. I remember always that life has little to do with what happens to me and 100% what I do about/with it. There is a quote I like to use from the National Federation of the Blind in the USA, “With adequate skill development and opportunity blindness can be reduced to the level of a nuisance”, and nothing could be closer to the truth.
Helen Keller said many years ago, “There is nothing more tragic than someone who has sight, but no vision”. She also challenged the Lions Clubs of the world to become the “Knights of the Blind, and to take up the crusade against darkness”. I too joined a Lions Club in 1992 and continue to work on the crusade that Helen Keller began in the 1920-s.
View all posts by Albert Ruel