GTT Toronto Summary Notes, Music Apps, September 20, 2018

Summary Notes

 

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

 

GTT Toronto September 20, 2018 Meeting Summary Notes can be found at this link:

 

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.

 

Main Presentation

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.

 

Upcoming Meetings:

  • 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:

http://www.gttprogram.wordpress.com/

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

 

GTT Toronto Meeting Invitation, Music Streaming and Downloading, September 20, 2018

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

September 20, 2018

 

An Initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind

In Partnership with the CNIB Foundation

 

*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.

 

Hey Everyone, You’re Invited!

 

The Theme: Music Streaming and Downloading

 

The Date & Time:

Thursday, September 20, 6:00 PM til 8:00 PM

The Place:

CNIB community Hub at 1525 Yonge St.

 

Hey Everyone!

 

As Summer fades into Fall, we’re ready to reboot GTT Toronto, the Canadian Council of the Blind’s Get Together with Technology adaptive technology user group here in Toronto!  Our first meeting of the new season will be on Thursday September 20, from 6pm to 8pm at the CNIB Community Hub, 1525 Yonge Street.

 

At our last meeting in June, we got an excellent overview of using screen-readers to access the internet. This month, we’ll learn about music, what are the most accessible ways to get it, which downloading sites and streaming services are easiest to use, and which ones have the best content.

 

Starting with this session, we’ll be changing up the format a little.  We’ll start off the meeting by addressing any specific tech questions you may have about the tech you’re using, or tech you’re curious about, and our collaborative group will try to troubleshoot your questions or offer advice, if we can.  So bring your gadgets, bring your questions, and we’ll share the knowledge we have!

 

Please book WheelTrans pick-ups for no later than 8pm.  Or, if your ride is not coming until after 8pm, please book your return ride from the Midtown Gastro Hub, 1535 Yonge Street.  The Gastro Hub is right next door to the CNIB Hub and welcomes you to sit and enjoy a beverage while waiting for your WheelTrans pick up.

 

On a low-tech note:

Survey Request

Hillary Scanlon is a visually impaired university student who is working on a project to find a low-tech solution to the problem of finding disposal bins for garbage, compost and recycling, when you’re blind or visually impaired, and out in the community. As part of her project, she’s hoping to get as many responses as possible to the below survey. It will take 10 minutes or less.

 

So come on out to the GTT Toronto, get connected, Get Together with Technology, and make the most of the powerful tools that can open up your world!

 

As usual, light refreshments will be served.

And don’t forget, you can get the notes from our past meetings at

https://www.gtt-toronto.ca/

 

So, bring your adaptive technology, and your questions, and join the GTT Toronto adaptive technology user group!

 

To visit GTT Toronto’s web page for meeting announcements and summary notes visit this link.

 

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:

http://www.gttprogram.wordpress.com/

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

 

GTT Toronto Summary Notes, Aira Smart Glasses Explained, May 17, 2018

Summary Notes

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

May 17, 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, May 17 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.

 

May 2018 Topic – Aira Smart Glasses Explained:

 

GTT Toronto May 17, 2018 Meeting Summary can be found at this link:

 

Thanks again to Chris Malec for taking these awesome notes! People may not realize it, but she writes these in real time!

Jason opened the meeting by saying that there was a BlindSquare announcement that many airports will be BlindSquare enabled; they went live today.

Tonight’s meeting is about AIRA, which is newly launching in Canada. Our guests are Greg and Kevin from AIRA.

Len Baker Vice President for Strategic Partnerships and Innovation, spoke on behalf of CNIB. CNIB wants to unleash the power of technology. We want to make sure accessibility is built in to products off the shelf, and to remove cost as a barrier to getting technology into the hands of blind and visually impaired people who need it. This can work first through government eg; the ADP program, then through industry and infrastructure. AIRA, BlindSquare and KeyToAccess are three partnerships that CNIB is involved with to better the lives of its clients. Len’s role in CNIB is to help foster these kinds of partnerships with all kinds of organizations.

Kevin began by explaining that AIRA stands for artificial intelligence remote assistant. You download an ap, then dial up a live agent who can see through your phone camera, or through glasses. The glasses have a camera mounted on the side. Either way, you’ll live stream video to trained agents. These agents provide instant access to information. They’re not meant to replace basic skills, but they can check labels, navigating a new environment, assembling furniture etc. From a navigation point of view, the agent won’t tell you what to do, just give you information.

Greg took over. If you have the ap, you’ll find that all CNIB locations have been AIRA enabled for two days as a trial. The ap will tell you that you’re in an AIRA access location. This means that, whether you have an account or not, you can use the service for free in that location.

The agents are heavily screened. We get thousands of applicants, and are very strict in the hiring process. The agents are trained to think like a pair of eyes, not like a brain. Their job is to tell you what they see, not what they think, or what you should do.

Greg then did a demo. He opened the ap. He immediately got a notification saying that he could call for free, because he’s in a “free access” location, i.e. the CNIB. AIRA has been partnering with many organizations and businesses to do this, airports for example. He tapped on the “call AIRA for free” button. Greg asked the agent for a general description. The agent described the room, wall colour, tables, items on the tables, individuals along the edges of the table, artwork on the wall. Greg asked for more detail about what was on the table. The agent replied, “A 1l Sprite bottle, grapes, cheese and crackers.”

Greg then asked the agent to describe what she could see in his profile. She said what they look for are things like whether you use a guide dog or a cane, what level of vision you have, how much detail you prefer in description, and how you prefer to be given directions, clockface verses cardinal directions etc. Greg explained that, when you sign up, you complete a five-minute questionnaire about your preferences, that goes into your profile.

The agents are distributed throughout the U.S. They need to prove that they have a secure, quiet location to work from, and get thorough background checks. The background check includes a criminal background check.

When you sign up, you get a pair of glasses. They connect wirelessly. You can then choose to use the glasses or your phone camera. Navigation tasks or anything you need to have your hands free for, are good choices for using the glasses.

Some users wear their phone on a lanyard, or place it in a pocket with the camera exposed. Many users prefer the phone camera at all times. The phone camera is sharper, and better for reading; the glasses are better for panning.

An agent can invoke a holding period if you’re call is cut off before your task is complete, so that you’ll get the same agent next time. Often, agents will take a photo of something so that they can enlarge it and see it more clearly, or transcribe it into an email and send it to you labelled. Students use it to have blackboard notes transcribed.

When you call in, the agent gets a dashboard. They see your camera image, a Google location map of where you are, and a Google Maps search box, so they can look for something for you. The agents’ ability to multitask is truly impressive. They might be navigating an airport or describing an art installation.

IOS10 or later is what’s required. AIRA has a partnership with ATT, which has global connections. When you sign up in Canada, you get a small My-Fi box that handles all your data, because this takes a lot of bandwidth. You can use Wi-Fi too. It doesn’t use your data if you’re using the glasses, but it does if you’re using your phone camera. The charge on the My-Fi lasts about six hours, and the charge on the glasses lasts about two hours. For $89.00 U.S. you get 100 minutes per month, the glasses, and the My-Fi. This converts to $113 Canadian as of this writing. The calls aren’t recorded, but you can arrange to record a call if you want to. Australia and Canada are the latest new additions, but the UK and Ireland are coming. You can still use it in other countries if you use your phone camera. It’s not clear yet whether AIRA is available in parts of Canada that aren’t covered by Rogers.

An agent can remote into your computer to help you through processes that aren’t accessible to a screen reader. Some users use it for fashion sites, matching etc. At the end of each call you can rate the agent and leave comments. The community is still small enough to be pretty tight, so any bad behavior on the part of an agent would become known pretty quickly.

$329 is unlimited minutes. You can up your plan if you know there’s a month you’ll be needing it a lot. The minimum commitment is one month. Renewal will be automatic, so canceling requires you to take action.

When creating your profile, you can include photos of people important to you, which can help you find them in a crowd. You can ask an agent to favourite pictures, which means they’re kept in your profile. This might be useful for taking a picture of your luggage, to make it easier to find at an airport. You require a phone to use the ap. You can’t use it with just the glasses and My-Fi.

If you sign up today, you should have your glasses within approximately five days. As soon as you sign up however, your account is active, and you can use the service through your phone. The cost is explained by the fact that you’re getting live time with a highly trained professional.

Agents will not speak while you’re crossing a street; this is a very strict policy, from a liability perspective. There’s a slightly gray area: if you’re crossing and missing the kerb they might say something. It’s an information tool, not a safety tool. The explorer agent relationship is emphasized; you can get as much information as you want.

An agent has the right to end a call if they’re not comfortable.

Hearing aids can connect if necessary, and a text communication option is coming. This could be useful not only for hearing impaired users, but for times when you’re in an environment where you can’t speak out loud, but need information. The audio is rooted through your phone, so you can use whatever headphones you choose, or your phone speaker.

AIRA is connected to the prioritizing protocol of ATT, so if you’re in a crowded environment, AIRA calls get prioritized just below emergency data transfer. Users must be 18 or older.

Greg explained that one of the challenges is trying to mediate the social impact of using AIRA, and having the public around you confused by what you’re doing. People will still offer to help, and you have to figure out how to balance that. It makes a different and new kind of social interaction. One solution is to just say you’re on the phone. There’s a sighted-person social cue, point to your ear to indicate that you’re on the phone, and people will go away.

When you sign up, you can gain access to the AIRA community. There’s a mailing list and a Facebook group.

AIRA has partnerships with Uber and Lift. The agent can summon the car for you and help you find the car, or contact the driver for you. Work is in progress to have French-speaking agents available in the future.

You can go right to the AIRA site. There’s a sign-up form. You can download the ap, then find the, become an explorer, button. This will take you to the sign-up process. It’s a choice of whether you want to sign up on the computer or the phone. There’s a referral program. If you refer someone, you each get a free month. Whatever plan you sign up for, is what you’ll get as your second free month.

 

 Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, June 21 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:

http://www.gttprogram.wordpress.com/

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

 

GTT Toronto Summary Notes, Accessing Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) Information, March 15, 2018

Summary Notes

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

March 15, 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, March 15 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.

 

March 2015 Topic – Accessing TTC Information:

 

GTT Toronto March 15, 2018 Meeting Summary can be found at this link:

 

Ian opened the meeting. Tonight’s topic is about aps related to the TTC, Toronto Transit Commission. Jason will be presenting.

Before talking about TTC, Jason wanted to let the group know that AIRA has launched unofficially in Canada. There will be an announcement upcoming, and a future GTT meeting will focus on it. It’s a visual assistant where the agents are trained and dedicated. It uses smart glasses with a camera, and your smart phone. The website is www.aira.io and it’s a subscription service. So far the pricing is in U.S. but they may launch Canadian pricing in the future. The official announcement should be next week.

Related to TTC, we’re going to cover new beacons at subway stations, transit aps, and the website, as well as the TTC texting service.

St. Clair subway station now has beacons. If you have BlindSquare turned on, you will get lots of information about the layout of the station as you move through it. There are 16 beacons arranged around the station. You don’t need the paid version of BlindSquare, you can use BlindSquare Event, which is the free version. The TTC hopes to roll this out to other stations eventually. At the moment, BlindSquare Event covers Bloor to Laurence, and Don Mills to Avenue Road. The purchase price is about $65. The beacons at St. Clair station is a pilot project. TTC approached CNIB, responding to feedback of passengers wanting more transit information. Bluetooth must be turned on in order for the beacons to work. There’s a setting in BlindSquare to turn Bluetooth beacons on and off. It’s on by default, but it’s worth checking if your not getting beacon information. You also may need to close BlindSquare and re-launch it. One user reported that beacons plus all the other information was overwhelming, and it can be helpful to change your settings to filter announcements.

A useful resource is to read subway station descriptions. If you want the layout of a subway station, the quickest way is to do a Google search for station description for the station you want. You’ll get a description of street exits and where they’re situated, how many levels the station has and what’s on each level, and roughly where on the platform stairs and elevators are located. You can also access these pages from the TTC website, but a Google search is the fastest way to get the information you want. One useful strategy is to pull this information off and put it into a document so you can download it onto a portable device, and keep it with you.

Jason then moved on to talk about the TTC trip planner. It used to be very good for helping to plan a rout, but it got taken over by Metrolinx, and they destroyed its accessibility. There’s a trip planner on the Triplinx ap which is somewhat useful. An advocacy representative from CNIB says that Metrolinx is working on it, but not quickly. She advised any concerned individuals to try and get on committees for Metrolinx to get our voices heard. There was a lot of frustration in the room over the issue. www.triplinx.ca has a feedback form, unlike the TTC website. Members encouraged each other to give feedback to them about the problem. TTC is obligated to use the regional Metrolinx platform, and it’s nearly impossible to retrofit the trip planner for accessibility. Members agreed that we as a group should take some sort of action. Ian offered to draft a letter, and Debbie G offered to find the right place to send it. Another member reported that, while it’s not a solution, you can call customer service and have them do a trip plan for you over the phone. Ian suggested to all members to take action on as many levels as possible using social media or direct contact with the TTC.

Jason moved on to speak about relevant aps. These give schedule information overall and in real time. Transit aps are generally free, but you need data or Y-Fi. An ap called Transit runs on iPhone and Android. Jason opened the ap to demonstrate. The main screen will show you routes nearby. Double tapping on a route/stop will give information for the same stop going the other way. The information is reading from GPS on the vehicles. It also tells you how long it would take to get an Uber from your location. It gives you times for the next 3 vehicles coming, the route name, and the stop. You can set routes as favourites so they’ll show up at the top. You can also activate something called, ride this route, which tells you the next few stops when you’re riding a vehicle. The accessibility is generally good. In some parts of the ap there’s a repeating message saying, “no places visible,” over and over. They know the bug, which is Voiceover related, and they’re working on fixing it for the next update. It’s available in multiple cities. The map data is updated as you move, so you’ll hear frequent clicks as you travel. If you’re on a street with many bus routes, it’s helpful to choose only the route you want, so that you’re not bombarded with information you don’t need, for example routes with multiple branches.

The next ap Jason discussed is called moovit, note the unusual spelling if you’re looking for it. Jason launched it to demonstrate. These aps generally don’t require much setup. They’ll ask for permission to access your location and permissions for notifications. The search function stores several of your previous searches. Debbie volunteered that the ap works best when you add frequent destinations to your favourites. That way you can populate your search field much more quickly. The walking directions get better when it’s in favourites too. Jason demonstrated running a trip plan. There are fields for start and end points, then you get options of routes, which give you how long the trip will take, and how accessible the transfer points are. You can activate a button that tracks you as you move through the trip, and warns you that your stop is approaching.

Jason tried an ap called NextBus, but found it not very accessible. It’s the TTC recommended ap, which feeds data to other aps, but it’s not as accessible as Moovit or Transit.

Jason then went on to describe the texting function for scheduling. Every stop has a 4 or 5 digit number associated with it. If you text the TTC at 898883, then put the stop number in the body of the text, it will send you the next 3 arrivals in real time. If you’re at a stop with multiple routes, enter the stop number, a space, then the route number. If you put the word, “help” in the body of the message, it will come back with assistance. Stop numbers are posted at each stop on a visual sign, and also available on the TTC website. You can also call customer service to get stop numbers. You can subscribe to TTC e-services, and receive email notifications when there are service disruptions on lines you care about. There’s also a Twitter feed put out by the TTC with alert information going out in real time. Some aps will allow you to request notifications about disruptions on routes of your choice.

 

Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, April 19 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:

http://www.gttprogram.wordpress.com/

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

 

Guest Post: In celebration of Freedom to Read Week, CELA Gratefully Acknowledges the Federal Government $2.5 million Commitment in the Current Budget for Production of Accessible Reading Materials

In celebration of Freedom to Read Week and on the eve of the release of the next year’s federal budget, CELA would like to gratefully acknowledge the federal government’s ongoing commitment to public library services by highlighting the $2.5 million allocated for the production of accessible reading materials in the current budget. These funds, awarded to our main production partner, CNIB, are used to produce accessible materials for the estimated 3 million Canadians with print disabilities.

CELA’s mandate to provide equitable library services through Canada’s public libraries is supported by a combination of provincial, territorial, and municipal funding. Our efforts focus on acquiring and curating library materials, facilitating and coordinating production and delivery, maintaining the CELA web site and catalogue, and supporting patron and member libraries at a national level.

CELA contracts with CNIB to perform two functions related to public library services for persons with print disabilities, both which are supported by federal funding. The first is original production based on selections by CELA staff – human-narrated audio titles that are not available commercially, braille, and accessible text files.

The second is the physical production and shipping of items directly to the patron’s home – either on DAISY CD or embossed braille. As a service that reflects the values of Canadian public libraries, CELA believes this to be an essential component of our commitment to patrons that may lack the necessary Internet access, equipment or comfort level using online services.

By the end of the current budget year, we anticipate that:

  • Patrons using CELA services will have borrowed, downloaded or accessed over 2.1 million items
  • Over 1 million DAISY CDs and close to 20,000 braille volumes will be delivered directly to the patron’s home
  • Over 450 libraries across Canada will carry CELA DAISY CD deposit collections so that patrons can borrow accessible collections locally or for libraries to deliver via their visiting library service
  • Nearly 7,000 new books, a majority of which are human-narrated audio, will be added to the CELA collection and close 100,000 additional titles will be made available through Bookshare
  • Close to 8,000 new titles in French will be made available through our partnership with Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) to bolster our collection of French titles
  • Over 2,300 new patrons will have signed up for CELA services through their local public library
  • Nearly 500 library staff across the country will have attended webinars and other training opportunities provided by CELA staff.

For more interesting statistics about how government funding supports CELA services, watch our social media over the next few days and consider sharing to educate your patrons about the importance of accessibility.

CELA is incredibly grateful for the annual funding support we received from government at all levels. Canadians with print disabilities would see a dramatic decrease in the quantity and quality of materials available in accessible formats without it. We are also grateful to literacy partners for providing opportunities for Canadians with print disabilities to engage with our national stories and in our national conversations, and our organizational partners for supporting our funding efforts, helping to spread the word about CELA and lending their expertise to the evolution  of our services. Thanks also to our colleagues in CELA member libraries for the incredible work they do in providing CELA services. We look forward to continuing to work with all funders and partners to make the dream of equitable library service a reality.

Sincerely,

Catherine Biss

Chair, Board of Directors

Centre for Equitable Library Access

 

GTT Toronto Summary Notes, Accessible Gaming, February 15, 2018

Summary Notes

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

February 15, 2018

 

An Initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind

In Partnership with CNIB

 

The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Toronto Group was held on Thursday, February 15 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.

 

February 2018 Topic – Accessible Gaming:

 

GTT Toronto February 15, 2018 Meeting Summary Notes can be found at this link:

 

Summary Notes:

Ian opened the meeting. Tonight’s topic is accessible gaming. Our schedule of topics has slid, so let’s open things up for suggestions from the group. Topics raised included transit aps, Google Glass or low-vision and sight-enhancement aids, GPS solutions, the basics of assistive tech for new-comers to sight-loss, entertainment streaming, and lifestyle aps.

Jason introduced himself, as well as his fellow presenter Mike Feir, who joined us via Skype. Mike asserted that games offer an easy way to learn technology; “We learn best when we don’t realize we’re learning.” He’s interested in what visually impaired people can do to live richer, better lives.

Jason said that www.appleviz.com is a great place to look for accessible games to play on your phone. You’ll also find reviews and instructions. It’s a website run by volunteers, and it’s a place for visually impaired people to find important resources related to the iPhone.

Jason began with the simplest accessible games. You can still get braille or tactile versions of chess, monopoly and playing cards. 64 Ounce Games is a company that combines braille embossing, laser art and 3d printing to make packages to add on to existing games, to make them accessible. You have to buy the original game first, then 64 Ounce Games will sell you a package with braille cards or overlays to make them usable by blind people. You need some sighted help to put it all together. Prices are U.S. and range around $10 to $30. A member asked about an accessible chess game. A member said that www.blindmicemart.com has them, or Maxi Aids or the Braille Superstore in the U.S.

Jason continued on to talk about PC games. Accessible computer games are quite new. Until very recently, there was nothing truly rich and engaging. Now, you’re starting to see game developers giving it some energy. This is partly an awareness issue, partly a computing power issue, and partly a new recognition of the great things you can do with audio. www.audiogames.net is a site that specializes in games for blind people that are computer or phone-based. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of Android games. This site has reviews, forums and information. Jason introduced a game called A Heroes Call. The founders are gamers and programmers who used to be sighted, and began a campaign on Kickstarter to develop games for the blind. They’ve gotten a lot of attention in sighted gaming circles as well, because their Kickstarter campaign was so successful. The game uses voice actors, symphonic music, and is extremely professional. It’s widely available. It’s currently exclusively audio at the moment, but the creators are planning to add graphics. Although it’s only audio, sighted people are playing it because it’s so rich. It’s $20 to buy, which Jason calls a bargain considering the quality. The game is only available on Windows right now.

Jason ran a demonstration of Heroes Call. He said that if you’re not using a screen-reader, it has its own built-in audio. Using a combination of its own audio and the screen-reader, the game invites you to answer questions establishing your character, as most role-playing games will do. The game initially gives you tutorial information. You really want to have headphones, because the audio feedback is directional. Jason and Mike concluded that this is the current pinnacle of audio games. It’s hard to make a living making these games, and they’re not exactly coming out all the time, or being updated.

Mike pointed out Code7 as another PC game that’s quite good. Mike said that he does a segment on Kelly and Company on AMI every Thursday from 4:15 to 4:30, on audio entertainment, including gaming.

A member asked about games that don’t require keyboard input. Jason answered that the Amazon Echo has some games available that work based on speech. Yes Sire and Captain Stalwart are two, and there’re lots of trivia games. The best way to find them is to go into your Amazon Echo ap, double tap on skills, and sort by category for games. Being an audio product, all the Echo games are accessible. An Echo dot is about $60, and the ap comes with it. The Google Home has a few games but not many.

A member asked for blogs or podcasts with content about blind-friendly games. There are YouTube channels devoted to this topic. Some examples are:

Liam Erven’s Youtube channel

Playing Killer Instinct as a blind person on XBox

Jason then began to talk about XBox. It’s a game console that attaches to a computer or TV, for the purpose of playing games. Now, game consoles allow you to do other things too, like watch movies, or communicate with other gamers. Recently, Microsoft has become extremely active around accessibility. They have put Narrator, their text-to-speech solution, on the XBox. To activate Narrator on a game controller, hold down the top middle button (also called the Guide or Xbox button) until the controller vibrates, then press the menu button which is the right hand button below the guide button. You can also plug a keyboard into the USB port on the Xbox, then press Windows+Enter to activate Narrator.

Narrator allows you to navigate through the system, but it doesn’t mean the games themselves will be accessible. This next step has to be up to the game developers. Currently, there are some mainstream games that have enough audio cues in them already, that they’re playable by blind people. In these games, your character and your opponent are on opposite sides of the screen, and opposite sides of stereo headphones. Blind players have been able to win in gaming tournaments against sighted competitors. Blind gamers have become much more vocal. They’ve begun attending gaming conventions and encouraging game developers to make their games accessible. You’re starting to see developers adding audio cues as an extra layer you can enable if you want to.

With the XBox, in Windows, there’s an XBox ap that allows you to stream to your monitor. You might want to do this because it allows you to use optical character recognition features in your text-to-speech software to read menus that aren’t readily accessible. Both Jaws and NVDA have optical character recognition functions that allow you to pull information off your monitor.

Narrator allows you to change the voice or the speed. Jason did a demonstration of interacting with the XBox using Narrator. When you start dealing with mainstream games, you realize how big they are. Killer Instinct  is 47 gig. If you want more space, you can plug USB drives into its ports. It’s USB3 so it shouldn’t slow things down much. When playing, you can choose to have the music track turned down in order to hear the voice and audio cues more clearly. It’s not completely simple to get it going, but it’s totally doable. It’s not all about direct violence. There’s another game called Madden NFL18. It’s a football game that already had a lot of verbal commentary. Someone got motivated to add accessibility cues to it. If you do a search for Madden NFL18 accessibility, you’ll find a Readit post talking about how to play the game as a blind person.

Playing in the Dark is a Europe-based multi-player racing game that’s free. Heroes Call developers and XBox people are talking, so there may be some movement toward each other.

Another dimension of accessible games are smaller-scale games for your phone. A company called Blindfold Games has about 80 phone-based games that are less complex. They include word games, music games, puzzles, and pinball etc. Another popular one is called Diceworld. It’s an ap with about 6 dice-based games. There are accessible versions of chess, sudoku, and word games. Many are free, and most are $5 or less.

Looking around on www.audiogames.net would be the way to find accessible PC games. RS Games is usable on PC or phone, it’s free, and has some conventional games like Monopoly. These can be multi-player, so that you can play with others on-line.

 

Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, March 13 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:

http://www.gttprogram.wordpress.com/

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

 

GTT Toronto Summary Notes, Android Phones and Tablets, January 18, 2018

Summary Notes

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

January 18, 2018

 

An Initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind

In Partnership with CNIB

 

The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Toronto Group was held on Thursday, January 18 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.

 

January 2018 Topic: Android Phones and Tablets:

 

GTT Toronto January 18, 2018 Meeting Summary Notes can be found at this link:

 

Summary Notes:

Ian opened the meeting. He introduced Shane to talk about Android.

Shane began his talk by discussing the difference between Android and Apple. He disclosed that he typically uses Apple, but trains on Android. The Pixel is his favourite Android phone. He had one, which he passed around. He asked around the room, and only one out of a dozen people are regularly using Android with accessibility.

Shane said what he likes best about Android is the Google Assistant. He finds the voice dictation interface better than Apple. Android is partially open-source, which is one advantage over Apple. Apple tends to be more stable and refined, but Android is catching up quickly. Apple accessibility is still preferable, but Talkback is getting better. The navigation is a bit awkward. A member contributed that getting a Google phone is a good idea because you’ll get updates quicker, this includes the Pixel and the Nexis. Other companies will take longer to push out the updates by a few weeks or so. Another member said he thought that lately, updates are more cosmetic then substantive. Members agreed that the Nexis isn’t in production any more, and that the Pixel is among the most expensive. The Motorola phones are cheaper but still good. Lower-end phones like HTC or OnePlus do work from an accessibility standpoint. Always try to test a phone before you buy it, because you can find a situation where a phone manufacturer has tinkered with something basic like the home screen, and disrupted the accessibility functions.

Talkback, the Android accessibility platform, works in similar ways to Apple’s VoiceOver. The swiping gestures are the same, and Apple rotor functions are accessed by swiping up or down.

There are three types of gestures, back and forth, up and down, and diagonal. If you want the first item on a page, swipe up then down without removing your finger from the screen. There are lists of Android commands available.

There are no screen dot protectors for Android because there are hundreds of different models of phone.

You can set up Google Assistant to respond by voice, by saying “ok Google.” Everyone who had an opinion, agreed that Google’s voice recognition and web searches are much more efficient than Siri. This is particularly relevant for someone with difficulties using a keyboard or making gestures. Siri will display web results, but Google will dictate the information. Another advantage is that Google works off-line.

Jason raised the issue of the Doro phone. It’s an Android phone being marketed by Bell. It has a software overlay that turns it into a much more menu-driven interface. It greatly simplifies the learning curve. The problem is that the company who designed the software is now out of business. This means there will be no updates to the software. It’s worth considering if you’re looking for something simple. It’s particularly useful for seniors. Shane said he has a Doro phone available for later testing if anyone’s interested. Jason said that he’s heard from bell, that they’re not concerned with Claria, the software company being out of business. As far as Bell is concerned, the phone does what they say it will. It’s also true that no matter what phone you have, you’ll probably upgrade it in a few years anyway. It costs about $300 off contract. Blindshell and a few others are similar, but they’re only available in Europe.

Samsung phones have their own built-in voice Assistant, which doesn’t do quite as much as Talkback. It’s good for people transitioning from Apple, because the gestures are more similar to Apple gestures. Voice Assistant also has trouble working with Firefox.

Lazarillo GPS for the Blind, is a GPS ap that’s quite similar to BlindSquare, and works on Android. The difference is it doesn’t support beacons, but it’s free. Nearby Explorer is a paid ap that allows you to download maps, so you can use it without data.

Other aps for Android include Spotify, Youtube, Google Sheets, which is a spreadsheet ap, and many others, which can run on both Android and Apple.

Iris Vision is a pair of Samsung goggles that low-vision people can use to magnify things or bring things like signs closer. It’s a much cheaper option than something like E-Sight. It uses the Android phone as its basis. Because Android is open-source, it’s more adaptable for innovation. Developers will often start with Android for this reason. Apple has a lot of restrictions on what you can do with their hardware.

Be My Eyes, and KNFB Reader are available on Android. The Seeing AI people say that it will eventually be available on Android, but they won’t say when.

A member clarified that Android is the name of the operating system, equal to Apple IOS. As software, it can run on any phone that isn’t an Apple. It’s the phone equivalent of Windows; it can run on many platforms.

Another advantage of Android is that, as well as the phones being cheaper, they’re also more flexible in terms of replacing batteries, having an SD card etc.. It gives you more choice about your hardware.

As a trainer, Shane approaches clients with the question, “What problems do you have that technology can solve?” Google Assistant can often offer solutions.

You can do wireless file transfers to Android phones, mediated by various aps. With Apple phones, you’re restricted to using iTunes.

You can swap sim cards between Apple and Android phones.

The topic was raised of the difference between Seeing AI, and Be My Eyes. Be My Eyes puts you in touch with a real person who will look through your camera and give you information. Seeing AI uses optical character recognition to give you text to speech. Be My Eyes works on both platforms; Seeing AI is only available on Apple.

A few years ago, Apple was way out in front where accessibility is concerned, but that’s not true any more. The playing field is much closer to level now. In general though, Android does require more tinkering or configuring to make it work the way you want it to. The National Braille Press has a very good book on Android.

Out of the box, with many Android phones, you can turn the phone on, hold two fingers on the screen for about five seconds, and Talkback will turn on.

A member contributed that, world-wide, 85% of all phones are Android.

www.inclusiveandroid.com is all about Android accessibility. It’s a good resource for researching models of phones.

Another advantage of Android is that you can keep an older operating system and just update aps as you go. Apple aps will almost always say you have to have the latest version of the OS.

 

Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, February 13 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:

http://www.gttprogram.wordpress.com/

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

 

Assistive Tech Article: CNIB Calls for Senate of Canada to Include Strengthened Requirements to Accommodate Canadians With Sight Loss

CNIB Calls for Senate of Canada to Include Strengthened Requirements to Accommodate Canadians With Sight Loss

 

January 31, 2018 admin

 

OTTAWA, Jan. 30, 2018 /CNW

 

CNIB is calling on the Senate of Canada to make amendments to strengthen requirements to accommodate Canadians with sight loss. As the Senate resumes

 

sitting at the end of January, they will continue their study of Bill C-49, the Transportation Modernization Act. CNIB supports the passage of this important piece of legislation, specifically the creation of an airline Passenger Bill of Rights.

 

Canadians with sight loss have difficulties travelling in Canada independently, especially when travelling on an airplane. Problems exists in all facets of airline travel: from booking tickets, to navigating airports, and providing sufficient space for passengers with sight loss and their guide dogs.

 

“Flying in Canada and internationally is often difficult. I can’t independently book my own ticket online,” said Diane Bergeron, CNIB Vice President, Engagement and International Affairs. “Canadian airline websites fail to meet basic usability guidelines, which makes travel planning nearly impossible. When I’m lucky and I can book my flights, I’m often told to call someone because I have a guide dog.

 

We want this Bill to be amended so that accommodations for Canadians with sight loss are enshrined in the Passenger Bill of Rights. Canadians with sight loss continue to encounter unnecessary barriers when travelling by air, and many of these simply do not need to exist.”

 

The Senate has two options: pass the Bill as is or send it back to the House of Commons with amendments.

 

“The legislation isn’t bad, in fact, Canada needs a Passenger Bill of Rights,” said Thomas Simpson, CNIB’s Manager of Operations and Government Affairs. “The problem CNIB has is there is no disability lens on Bill C-49. No one took the time to think about problems that exist for Canadians with disabilities who travel, and how this piece of legislation can help alleviate these problems.

 

I’d like to think in 2018 that the Government of Canada would think about persons with disability when drafting all legislation.”

 

Fran Cutler, a Canadian with sight loss who often flies when travelling, has often experienced barriers to her independence when flying, most recently as a result of the attendant call buttons.

 

“The flight attendant call button is no longer accessible for me and for hundreds of thousands of Canadians who have sight loss,” said Cutler. “The familiar physical call buttons have been moved to the touchscreen on many refurbished aircraft models. Imagine how helpless you would feel if you could not see the screen and you were ill or being harassed by another passenger!”

 

Bill C-49, known as the Transportation Modernization Act, seeks to modernize Canada’s Transportation Act and several other associated pieces of legislation. Bill C-49 seeks to create a Passenger Bill of Rights to create standards for how national airlines treat Canadian passengers.

 

About CNIB

 

CNIB is a registered charity, passionately providing community-based support, knowledge and a national voice to ensure Canadians who are blind or partially sighted have the confidence, skills and opportunities to fully participate in life.

 

Founded in 1918, we’re entering our 100th year of operation and celebrating a century of changing individual lives and society as a whole.

 

Throughout our history, advocacy has been a key focus of our work. To learn more, visit http://www.cnib.ca or call 1-800-563-2642.

 

For further information: please contact: Matisse Hamel-Nelis, Communications Specialist, CNIB, (416) 486 2500 ext. 8355, MediaRelations@cnib.ca

 

Original at

https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/cnib-calls-for-senate-of-canada-to-include-strengthened-requirements-to-accommodate-canadians-with-sight-loss-671745623.html

 

GTT Toronto Summary Notes, Smart Speakers, Seeing AI and ShopTalk CNIB, December 14, 2017

Summary Notes

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

December 14, 2017

 

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, December 14 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.

 

December 2017 Topic – ShopTalk, Smart Speaders and Seeing AI:

 

GTT Toronto December 14, 2017 Meeting Summary can be found at this link:

 

Ian opened the meeting. We’ll be talking about Google Home and the Amazon Echo. The next meeting will be all about Android.

 

CNIB ShopTalk:

Shane took over to discuss ShopTalk. This is a program where local businesses have installed beacons that give information through Blindsquare. St. Clair station, the closest subway station to the CNIB Hub which hosts our meetings, has also installed them. This isn’t publicly announced yet because it’s still being tested. In January, Shane and the TTC will be recruiting testers. Shane will run an orientation with some TTC staff, and anyone who’s interested in this should get in touch with Shane. More information will be coming out on the GTT list. TTC hopes to make this available at all stations. It will offer information about entrances, fair gates, collector booths etc. on the fly. It will offer specific directions for finding stairs, busses and so on.

 

BlindSquare Event is a free version of BlindSquare . It has a radius of several kilometers, and it makes BlindSquare available for people who haven’t purchased the ap. It makes a given area accessible to BlindSquare even if you haven’t paid for it, but only within that radius.

 

Seeing AI Updates:

Jason took over, and began by describing the latest update to Seeing AI, which is the free Microsoft solution for text recognition and barcode scanning. The latest update includes colour identifier, hand-writing identification, currency identification, and light detection. Because it’s constantly being updated, it will get even better by degrees.

 

Smart Speakers, Amazon Echo and Google Home:

Jason then began his presentation about smart speakers. In front of him he had a Google Home, a Google Home Mini, an Amazon Echo, and an Echo Dot. These are all devices that connect to the internet. They’ll answer questions, and do various home-control tasks. Amazon was the first to release this technology. The original Echo came out in 2014. For a long time it wasn’t available in Canada; you had to buy it from the U.S. As of December 5, 2017 they’re available here. You can order them through Amazon, or get them at Bestbuy here.

 

The Amazon Echo is about 6 inches tall, and looks like a beer glass. There are 4 buttons on the top, volume up and down, microphone on/off, or start microphone. All of these devices respond to a wake word. They’re not recording all the time, but once they hear the wake word, they listen to what you’re saying, and respond. The echo wake word is Alexa. It will respond to queries about the weather, the time, setting timers, making phone calls so it becomes a speaker phone, and will give you recipes and much more. Another one of its features is that it allows you to talk to other smart devices. The Alexa ap is what you install on your phone for initial setup. From this ap, you can talk to it through your phone. There are 4 possible wake words, Alexa, Amazon, Echo, and computer. You can attach the device to multiple phones. You don’t actually need the ap for much after setup if you don’t want to use it.

 

It has “far-field recognition,” which means you can activate it from far away. The microphone is quite sensitive. There are lights on the top of the unit that show visually when it’s listening. By default, the lights activate. In the ap, you can turn on a setting to play a sound to let you know it’s been activated by the wake word. It’s not sensitive to know who’s speaking to it yet, but Amazon is working on specific voice recognition so that one person could, for example, order something from Amazon, and it would be automatically charged to their specific account. Not all features are available here yet, but they’re coming. In the U.S. you can play Audible books on it.

 

Where the Echo Shines is in its ability to work with what it calls skills. This means specific tasks that you can write a small program to perform. Skills are written and published, and you can enable them. If you’re technically inclined, you can write your own skills within its parameters.

 

Jason demonstrated a skill he wrote titled GTT skill. When activated, it offered him options to read the date of the next meeting, or read the previous meeting notes. He invited it to read the last-month’s meeting notes. This skill is not yet public, but will be. When you publish a skill you need images, and that’s the last step. Once Jason has that, he can publish it, and anyone can access it.

 

Setting the language of your device controls how it speaks, how it understands, and what skills you can use on it. There are local and specific skills. Banks and airlines for example, will publish their own skills, that will allow you to interact with them and do things you might now be doing on-line. You can write skills that are kept private, for example incarnations of home automation. Writing skills requires some programming knowledge. Home automation processes often require extra hardware.

 

If you know the name of the skill you want, you can ask the Echo to enable it. Within the ap, you can search under categories. There are over 15,000 skills. There’s an Uber skill that ties into Uber, then lets you order a car.

 

The standard Echo costs around $130, and has the better speaker. The Echo Dot is the same circumference as the standard, but about a third of the height. It’s $50. If you have a smart thermostat, you can control your home temperature through the Echo. If you want to control devices in your home, look on the Amazon site for compatible interfaces. Jason uses Wemo.

 

The Echo will connect via bluetooth, so you can connect it to other speakers. It’s got a line-out jack too. The Alexa ap is completely accessible. From the ap store, look for Amazon Alexa by Amazon.

 

Microsoft and Apple are also coming out with stand-alone smart speakers. The Microsoft Home Pod will be around $400. Google is coming out with a larger version called the Google Home Max. It’s a much larger version that has stereo sound.

 

The Google Home and the Echo are comparable, but the Google Home excels in web searches and geographical information. Both devices ask for your home address during setup. The Google Home is about the same height as the Echo. Jason demonstrated it giving the weather forecast. You can hook it up to your contacts, and use names to make phone calls rather than phone numbers. It’s using wireless to make the calls. You don’t need to have a phone in your house. It does similar things like timers and alarms. He demonstrated using it as a translator by translating a sentence into Spanish. Many things that Google can do on a PC is accessible via the Google Home. It will sometimes give you information, then send more details to your phone ap. It has a version of skills called “actions,” but not nearly as many. You can sync it to your calendar, and query it about your appointments. Both devices will let you set up appointments or reminders. You can’t play YouTube videos on the Google Home unless you have a TV or a device called a ChromeCast hooked up to it. If you have a ChromeCast and a TV, you can use the Google Home to play Netflix to it.

 

Everything that works or doesn’t work right now, can change from moment to moment because the net connection allows continuous updates. The Google Home hooks up to www.allrecipes.com so that you can ask for recipes, and have them read to you.

 

Jason demonstrated asking for flight prices. It replied, then offered to send price alerts to your email account. This process can be done on Google on the PC, but it’s very complicated.

 

You can set it up so that when you say “good morning,” it will reply with news from specific sources, or specific information. It’s pretty forgiving about phrasing; it picks up on key words.

 

After initial setup, you can sign up for sustained subscriptions to music services. Both devices do Spotify, but neither do Apple Music. The Echo offers Amazon Music, which is free if you’re already signed up to Amazon Prime.

 

The Google Home Mini has better sound than the Echo Dot. The Echo and Echo dot have an audio  jack so you can connect it to your stereo or another speaker. If you have a standard and a mini of either, you can specify which device you want to play music from.

 

The Echo will read books you’ve purchased through Kindle. A member asked whether either device can read books from CELA. The answer is no, not at present.

 

Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, January 18, 2018 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:

http://www.gttprogram.wordpress.com/

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

 

 

BC May 9th Election and CELA/NNELS Library Funding Talking Points

Dear CCB/GTT participants,

Here are the “Talking Points” circulated by CNIB following a conference call with their CEO, John Rafferty on Wednesday, May 3, 2017 where blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted Canadians were invited to learn more about the state of CELA Library funding in BC specifically, and in other parts of Canada. Please use these talking points if you intend to contact candidates running for office in your community, and if you live in other parts of Canada, use them when you meet with your elected Provincial representative.

Quoted text:
Key Messages – Accessible BC Library Services

Access to alternate format materials has been a long-standing barrier for Canadians with print disabilities. Today, Canada’s answer to this challenge has manifested through two very different models of service – CELA (Centre for Equitable Library Access) and NNELS (National Network for Equitable Library Services).

Accessible alternate format materials include many different medium given an individuals reading or literary preferences. This could include high quality natural voice audio books, literary or braille books or braille music and access to current electronic and news papers/magazines. This content, as with that provided through Canada’s public libraries must be easy to access, either through a library service point, through Canada Post delivery or via direct to player download.

For a system to be considered truly equitable and accessible, the unique needs and individual preferences of patrons must be at the forefront of the delivery model. A one-size fits all approach, will further marginalize those who do not fit into a uniform service delivery model.

In order for access to CELA services to continue, we are asking that you contact candidates running in next weeks’ election and ask them to commit to fully funding CELA as your library service provider. Currently, the Government of BC has fully funded NNELS and CELA receives very limited financial support. This is both wrong and cannot be sustained.

To continue CELA services, $135,000 is required. This will ensure that the residents of British Columbia who have downloaded or received over 38,000 items via Canada Post last year can continue to do so in the future.
End of quoted text.

Thx, Albert Ruel, GTT Coordinator
The Canadian Council of the Blind
Western Canada