CCB-GTT Weekly Meetings, July 12 to July 19, 2020 via Zoom Conference

This week……..

Weekly CCB GTT Open Chats,

CCB GTT Youth Zoom Conference Call,

(NEW) CCB GTT Android Users Group

and

CCB GTT Toronto Group.

You’re invited to the CCB GTT’s Zoom Conference call meetings for the week of July 12 to July 19, where we will focus on the needs and concerns of Canadians who are blind or partially sighted.  The calls will take place over the accessible Zoom Conference system, which will allow participants to dial in using their landline phones, smart phones or computers.  See below for the Zoom link and phone numbers.

Week of July 12 to July 19, 2020:

Monday, July 13, 2020, 1:00 PM Eastern/10:00 AM Pacific Time: Brian Bibeault and Corry Stuive will host.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020, 1:00 PM Eastern/10:00 AM Pacific Time: Gerry Chevalier:

Wednesday, July 15, 2020, 2:00 PM Eastern/11:00 AM Pacific Time: Kim Kilpatrick and Guest host:

Wednesday, July 15, 2020, 2:00 PM Eastern/11:00 AM Pacific: Rebecca Jackson, Nolin Jenakov and David Green

(NEW) Wednesday, July 15, 2020, 7:00 PM Eastern/4:00 Pm Pacific: CCB GTT Android Users Group

  • Have you ever found yourself asking which type of phone should I get for my needs? An IPHONE or an Android? The truth is both have their advantages and disadvantages, but Apple gets most of the press. That is why your hosts for the call, Tracy and Matthew, have put this group together. We want to share some of the perks of using an Android device. More importantly we want your input as blind or partially sighted users and are here to discuss any questions you may have. This is not an android Only group, we welcome the input of Apple users and users of all experience levels. In our first meeting we will be discussing the purpose and goals of this group and will mention some of the excellent accessibility features available on Android devices. After that, the floor is yours!!! We want to hear what works for you and what issues you may have. The group can help you with your issues. We look forward to your participation!!!   CCB GTT Android User Group use this link to attend.

Thursday, July 16, 2020, 6:00 PM Eastern, 3:00 PM Pacific: CCB GTT Toronto Group

  • Topic, Are you in the market for a new phone? Bewildered by the choices? The options? The features? Apple or Android? This month our own Jason Fayre will be helping us talk about what matters when choosing a phone.
  • (NOTE) The meeting credentials are different for this meeting than the regular CCB-GTT Zoom Log-in.
  • Meeting Id 93700586904,  Password 005761

Friday, July 17, 2020, 1:00 PM Eastern/10:00 AM Pacific Time: David Green and Guest host.

You can participate by phone or internet from wherever you are:

CCB is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

https://zoom.us/j/9839595688?pwd=N01yeERXQk4rWnhvNCtHTzZwdXcwQT09

Meeting ID: 983 959 5688

Password: 320119

Alberta One tap mobile for Smart Phones:

+15873281099,9839595688#

BC One tap mobile for Smart Phones:

+17789072071,9839595688#

Manitoba One tap mobile for Smart Phones:

+12045151268,9839595688#

Montreal One tap mobile for Smart Phones:

+14388097799,9839595688#

Toronto One tap mobile for Smart Phones:

+16473744685,9839595688#

Direct Dial:

Alberta: +1 587 328 1099

BC: +1 778 907 2071

Manitoba: +1 204 515 1268

Montreal: +1 438 809 7799

Toronto: +1 647 374 4685

For more information, contact:

Kim Kilpatrick, GTT East Coordinator

GTTProgram@Gmail.com

1-877-304-0968 Ext 513

Brian Bibeault, Volunteer Coordinator:

gtt.northbay@gmail.com

Corry Stuive, National Program Coordinator

corry.gtt@ccbnational.net 

GTT Toronto Summary Notes, iOS 13 Features and Issues, October 17, 2019

Summary Notes

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

October 17, 2019

 

An Initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind

In Partnership with the CNIB Foundation

 

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

 

Theme: iOS 13 Features and Issues

 

GTT Toronto Meeting Summary Notes can be found at this link:

 

Ian White (Facilatator, GTT)

 

Ian opened the meeting. We usually start the meeting with a round table of questions and tips.

Ian said that he’s having trouble deleting a contact from his contact list. A member said that you have to have the contact open. Tap on the edit button, and then you’ll find the delete button at the bottom. A 4-finger single tap near the bottom of the screen will take your focus directly to the bottom of the content. A 4-finger single tap near the top will do the reverse. Accidentally doing a 4-finger double tap will bring up a help menu.

Albert with GTT in BC, said that they’ve been recording and editing their meetings, then posting them as podcasts. You can search for the Canadian Council of the Blind podcast in your favourite podcast ap.

 

Ian then introduced Dug Poirier, Assistive Technology Instructor and Information Services Coordinator at BALANCE for Blind Adults. He’s been teaching assistive tech for, a long time. He’ll run us through IOS13.

  • iOS13 was rushed out, and many, not only assistive tech users, had trouble at first. Now it’s relatively stable. Apple doesn’t necessarily mention the differences you’ll find as a Voiceover user. You often have to learn by using it. Ian raised the point that we should talk about trouble shooting, so we know what to do when something goes wrong or doesn’t work the way we expect.
  • One change in the mail ap is regarding threads. You can flick down to expand. It’s fairly intuitive to use.
  • One big change, that’s very welcome, is taking accessibility settings out of the general category, and putting it in its own category under settings There are a lot of tools in here.
  • There are some new Voiceover settings and haptics, which you have to enable. You can use haptics for system settings as well. You’ll find that under settings, accessibility, Voiceover, audio settings, sounds. You can choose sounds, haptics, or both. It makes the interface feel very new. It seems to offer faster feedback and functionality.
  • There are new rotor settings. Show context menu, replaces the old 3D touch menu. The 3D touch menu was an option to tap then tap and hold, which brought up other functions. 3D touch didn’t take off with ap developers, so was morphed into the context menu.
  • The vertical scroll bar appears when you’re in lists, for example a list of books. It’s down the right side. Every flick down moves down by 10%. It’s an excellent tool. It’s the same as the table index that’s found in the contacts list.
  • Any phone below a 6S won’t support IOS13, and you won’t be prompted to update.
  • You can now customize touch gestures. You can add or change what gestures do. Keyboard shortcuts, hand writing, and braille screen input can all be customized now. You can access it under Voiceover settings, then commands. It sounds more complicated than it is.
  • There’s a new slide-to-type feature. It seems daunting, but can actually work well if you spend time with it. It does take some getting used to. You can add a rotor setting to toggle it on or off. It’s a form of predictive typing. You start by placing your finger on the first letter of the word you want, and holding it there till you hear a sound. Then, slide your finger to the subsequent letters of the word. Using your finger position and predictive algorithm’s, the word will be filled in. If it comes up with the word you want part way through, lifting your finger will insert that word into your text. A member contributed that in auto complete settings, you can define two or 3 character shortcuts that will, if followed by the space bar, insert what ever text you’ve defined. For example, you could set up a two letter shortcut for your email address.
  • The, add punctuation group is another nice new feature. You can access it through, Voiceover, verbosity. It allows you to define which punctuation is spoken, which can be very helpful if you’re editing. You can create your own punctuation group setting.
  • Under Voiceover settings, is something new called, activities. This allows you to set parameters for specific aps, that is, how the phone functions or speaks to you depending on what ap you’re in. A member pointed out that the Applevis podcast has some really good examples of this.
  • A lot of stuff in the email ap has been changed with regard to Voiceover. Most of it is good. The delete button is more prominently placed, and in order to reply or do other things, you have to find the, more, button. You can now delete multiple emails and email folders all at once.
  • If you open a message with a lot of emails within it, as in, there’s been a lot of replies back and forth, you can open it, then flick left or right to move through individual messages within the thread, and delete particular ones if you want. Remember to close the message though, otherwise you could get confused about what view you’re in.
  • The best resource for learning is Applevis; Their site has great blogs and podcasts. There’s a cast called Double Tap, on AMI audio. Apple.com/accessibility can be helpful. Jeff Thomson at BlindAbilities has good content. A member said she’s part of a Facebook group called iPhone and iPad Aps for the Visually Impaired, that’s quite good.
  • Change can be tiring, but the best way to adjust is to make yourself use the new thing. Also remember that updates are about security as well, so refusing them can be risky. Apple is especially energetic at cutting off support to previous versions.
  • A member said she’s having trouble with dictating texts. If she uses Siri, and tries to add to what she’s already dictated, only the addition is shown in the body of the text. It’s intermittent. Others agreed they’ve seen this too. A member suggested a work-around where you create the message in the notes ap, then paste it into your text message.
  • A visual user said that she sometimes has a problem of her screen rotating 90 degrees if she moves while using her phone. Dug recommended locking this feature. You can do this from control centre. Locate the status bar, then swipe up with 3 fingers to open control centre. In there is an option to lock orientation.
  • A member asked how to find out what version of IOS they’re on. Dug said go to settings, general, then software updates.. If you tap on, about, it will show you what you’re running currently. Once you’ve upgraded, you can’t go back. If you haven’t upgraded from the initial version of 13, you should. 13.1.3 is the current version. Apple generally releases an update every month or so.
  • A member pointed out that resistance to change, is also a desire to cling to productivity. The truth is that an upgrade like this can cost you a week of optimal productivity.
  • A member raised the topic of Voice Controller. Dug said that it’s a huge feature worthy of its own session. It’s a way to make the phone activate gestures by voice, swipe left, swipe right ext. It’s meant particularly for people with limited hand mobility. It takes a lot of work up front.
  • A member raised the question of whether IOS13 drains your battery more quickly. Dug said he hasn’t noticed any difference. He commented that batteries do naturally run down, and that it’s recommended to fully drain your battery once a month or so in order to maximize its life. A new battery is around $90 installed. You need to take it somewhere to have it changed. There are cheaper solutions than going to an Apple store, but they come with risks of losing functionality.

 

Ian closed the meeting by thanking Dug, and by saying that if you have ideas for future meetings, or knowledge on something you’d like to present on, please get in touch.

 

Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, October 17, 2019 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.Blog/

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

 

 

 

GTT Toronto Summary Notes, Microsoft Soundscape, September 19, 2019

Summary Notes

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

September 19, 2019

 

An Initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind

In Partnership with the CNIB Foundation

 

The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Toronto Group was held on Thursday, September 19 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.

 

Theme: Microsoft Soundscape

 

GTT Toronto Meeting Summary Notes can be found at this link:

 

Ian White (Facilatator, GTT)

 

Jason opened the meeting by welcoming the two guest speakers from Microsoft, who joined via Zoom. They talked about Microsoft Soundscape.

Amos Miller introduced himself. He started off in the UK, and introduced Melanie.

Melanie Maxwell said that they are both calling in from Redmond Washington, and are both part of the Soundscape team. Amos explained that the team is spread out over the U.S. and the UK.

Amos began by describing how Soundscape differs from other GPS aps. We wanted to explore how we could use technology to enrich peoples’ awareness of their surroundings. How could we have a greater understanding of what’s around us, and where it is in relation to where we are, to aid with orientation, way-finding, and our experience out doors. The way we achieve that is through the use of 3D audio, or spatial audio. This means,  sound that you can hear, that sounds like it’s in space around you, not between your ears. You can imagine that if you were standing on a street corner, and there was a Starbucks across the road and to the right in front of you, you would hear the word, “Starbucks,” coming from that direction. Instead of Soundscape telling you there’s a Starbucks 200 metres in front of you and to the right, it will just say the word, “Starbucks,” and you will hear that it’s 200 metres in front of you and to the right, just from the nature of the way you hear it through the headphones. For the best experience, it does require stereo headphones, and we can have a long conversation about that; that’s definitely unusual, especially for our community when you’re out doors, and trying to hear the ambient sounds as well. There are very good solutions for that, so there is a lot of reasons why Soundscape persisted to advance the thinking and the experience. When you walk down the street, you will hear those call-outs in 3D around you, giving you that P.O.I. information. We’ll also talk about how you can navigate to your destination using what Soundscape refers to as the audio beacon.

Before I dive into that though, I’ll give some background to the project. I’m the Product Manager for Soundscape in Microsoft Research in Redmond. This work started out 4 or 5 years ago when I was still in the UK. I was involved with the local guide dog organization there, and working with them to try and figure out how technology can integrate into our own independence and mobility when we’re out and about, but in a way that enhances that experience. Some people from Microsoft started working with mobility instructors, and guide dog and cane users. We explored a range of ideas long before we figured out how to solve the problem. We landed on this notion of how important it is to enhance the awareness, but not tell the person what to do in that space. A lot of what orientation and mobility trainers will do with us is to work on a specific route, but especially how to perceive the environment, how we read the cues that the environment is giving us from a sound perspective, echo location, traffic noise, direction of the wind, the tactile feeling of the ground: all of the signals we can get from the environment in order to orient, and make good navigational decisions. The work that we did with Guide Dogs in the early days of Soundscape was really to see how we can build on that. The idea of sound playing a big role in the perception of the space, was really how this idea evolved. Soundscape as an ap, is the first incarnation of that idea.

The ap is free, and available from the Ap Store. It does rely on map data, and so it does need to be able to access that data. For the most part, it will download the necessary data from the environment that you’re in, and from that point forward it’s not using data. So it’s not constantly drawing on your data plan, but it does require one. We’ve tried to optimize it so that the data usage is minimal, and in certain situations, it will also work in areas where there is no data.

Bose frames are a very good way to get the stereo effect. Bone conducting headphones are another good way. EarPods or standard headphones will work, but they will block your ears to ambient sound. Putting it in one ear to keep the other ear free won’t be effective because you won’t get the signature 3D effect. Amos said that he personally likes EarPods because of their sound quality, and it’s possible to insert them lightly into the ear and still have ambient sound. Some sports headphones are a good solution too, Plantronics for example. This type of headphone rests around the back of your neck, and clips over the ear. They sit in front of the ear canal without blocking it. They’re used commonly by runners and cyclists.

Melanie then took over. She began by running through some of the core features. The demo she provides will be limited because it can’t be presented in proper 3D audio.

“I’m going to walk us through the home screen first. Our goal with anything we design is that we want it to be really simple to use, and accessible. One thing you’ll notice is that we don’t have a lot on the home screen. I’m going to walk us through the home screen. The, set audio beacon, is one of the largest buttons on the screen. There are also buttons for, my location, nearby markers, around me, and, ahead of me. There are two parts of Soundscape; there are automatic components, where you can put your phone in your pocket and hear things, and there’s an active component, which are the buttons on the home screen. For example, if you want to know more about your current location, you can tap the, your location, button. Tapping on it gives you information about nearby intersections, what direction you’re facing, and then what intersection is closest to you. If you’re inside, you might here that you’re inside. The callout will change depending on where you are. When your phone is in your pocket and you’re moving, Soundscape relies on directionality of movement from the phone itself.

Another callout we have is, what’s around me. You’ll get location names and distances of places around where you are. You can change a setting between metric and imperial. You have choices for the Soundscape voice as well, including a French Canadian voice. Soundscape uses GPS, so it will only work inside buildings if map data is available. Either way, accuracy inside a building isn’t going to be as good. We have had users make audio beacons inside buildings. This can work reasonably well in a very large building, but we’re not at a place of very good accuracy in buildings.

There are two ways of finding a building. One way is to create your own marker. This relies on the accuracy of GPS. We recommend that if you want to create a marker, walk around the location a bit, as in, walk back and forth in front of it, to allow the phone to get as pinpointed a location as possible. This should get your marker accuracy to within a few metres. You won’t get 1 metre accuracy. Don’t try to create the marker when you exit a building, because the phone won’t be pinpointed enough yet with GPS.

There is a more complicated way as well. Soundscape uses Open Street Maps, which is an open-source ap that anyone can update. A lot of the buildings in Open Street Maps have their entrances marked. If Soundscape can find a building entrance on Open Street Maps, it will default to using that. Adding something to Open Street Maps isn’t an accessible process unfortunately, because it’s visual map-based. If there’s a building entrance that’s particularly important to you, you could try to have someone go into Open Street Maps and enter it for you, and it will show up in Soundscape. Open Street Maps update themselves once per week, but it might take two weeks for it to show up in Soundscape. Markers that you create yourself with Soundscape show up immediately.

To create a marker at your current location, from the home screen, find the, mark current location, button, located near the top of the screen. Double tap that. If you start in a tutorial screen, you can dismiss it. A name will be automatically assigned, but you can edit it. Pressing done, means the marker will exist as a custom P.O.I. There’s another whole page of controls where you can edit and manipulate your markers.

This moves us on to a unique feature of Soundscape, beacons. Beacons are one way of navigating to a specific place. Instead of giving you step by step instructions for you to follow in order to find your destination, Soundscape creates a sound that emanates from the destination you’ve set, and you navigate from that. This is done by using a marker, and turning it into a beacon, then activating it.

Start by double tapping on the button on the home screen called, set audio beacon. On the next page, you have a few options. You can set an audio beacon on a marker you’ve already created, or you can enter an address that you want to find. You can also browse nearby places and choose one to place a beacon on. You can also filter nearby places by category, restaurants etc.

 

To set a beacon on an existing marker, from this page, double tap on the, browse your markers, button. Here, you can browse your existing markers. Double tapping on a marker will set it as a beacon.”

Jason added that he and Chris Chamberlin are producing a tech podcast, and one of their recent episodes was on Soundscape. In it, they do a stereo demonstration of setting and following a beacon. Listening to this episode with headphones will give a very accurate experience of using Soundscape.

Amos then opened it up for questions. One member reported that some of the stores Soundscape announced for her in real time, were closed. The response was that the ap is getting its data from Open Street Map, so if their data isn’t up-to-date, Soundscape won’t be getting accurate information. Amos made the point that there will always be a question mark between you and the technology. “In Soundscape, we try to stay on the right side of not pretending that we can do more than what we think we can. We’ll never give you an impression of greater accuracy than what we can actually give you with the technology. A great example of that is, if you’re navigating to somewhere and you get close, Soundscape will tell you you’re close, then turn off the beacon, leaving the specific locating of an entrance to you. There will always be cases where there’s a dissonance between the technology and your experience. We give you all the information we can, but you’ll always have to make sense of it based on your own senses. We had an early incarnation of the ap that tried to follow a road. Sometimes the data would be wrong, but testers would follow the beacon out into the middle of an intersection, even though all of their awareness of their surroundings tells them it’s not a good idea. All GPS aps will tell you to use your best judgment, and then they’ll give you instructions that are pretty difficult to ignore. We’ve always been very careful in the design of Soundscape, not to give the impression that it knows better than you about the space you’re in.”

A member asked whether they are considering adding functionality that would allow Soundscape users to update information in Open Street Map, using a Soundscape interface.

Melanie replied, “That isn’t something that’s on our immediate road map, but it is something we’ve discussed. There is a, send feedback, button in Soundscape where we welcome information. We can’t necessarily respond to every report by updating Open Street Maps, but we definitely do add our own updates routinely, so it’s worth reporting this way if you want to. Open Street Map is open source with a strong community, and we’ve found that if we flag a particular area as being poorly represented, the community will often step up to fill in the gaps. It may be useful for the visually impaired community in Toronto, to make contact with the Open Street Map community in Toronto to see if the two groups could work together.

Another member said that she finds it hard to operate the phone and work her dog. Is there another way to interface with the ap?

Amos responded that most of the information you need will be announced even with your phone locked and in your pocket. If you have the kind of headphones that have play/pause and fast-forward/rewind buttons on them, the play and pause button has a few functions. One press will mute or unmute Soundscape. A double press of that button will activate the, where am I, feature, and a triple press will repeat the last call-out. Bose Frames, Aftershocks and EarPods all have this functionality, and have good sound. We have worked hard for as much of a hands/free experience as possible. It’s a background or ambient experience for some users. Some people keep it on in the background while riding the bus and checking email. It’s a companion that you should be able to get used to without having to give it a lot of attention. Work on ignoring Soundscape

Soundscape does not work on Android phones. Jason and another member contributed that functionality on Android is important, because accessibility should mean being available on as many devices as possible. A member contributed that AMI research has shown that Android use among young people in the visually impaired community is higher, and rising. In general, iPhone use outstrips Android use in the visually impaired community in North America, but that’s definitely not true in other parts of the world.

Another member asked if there’s any consideration of using voice commands to run Soundscape. Amos replied that there are. IOS provides some even easier ways to do that now, with Siri shortcuts and so on. There are two reasons why we haven’t really got there. The first is that when you’re out doors in noisy environments, that’s not going to work so well, especially if your microphone isn’t quite where it needs to be, which can lead to frustration. Secondly, the direction of trying to minimize your need to even give Soundscape commands, is the goal as we try to optimize. There are certain situations, such as choosing a beacon, which is a handful when you’re on the go, and voice commands could simplify that. We look a lot at the telemetry of which buttons are being pressed and so on. When people are on the go largely, you don’t really need most of them. You don’t really need to pull the phone out and press buttons, especially with the headset buttons, but we do look at voice commands. It’s always good to hear people’s experiences and preferences in that regard.

A member asked if the ap will work with IOS13? Amos replied that it will, but be warned … There are a lot of warnings out there about IOS13 having a lot of its own accessibility issues. The recommendation is to wait a few days till IOS13.1 comes out.

A member said that she uses Bluetooth hearing aids, and that she was very impressed with how well Soundscape functioned with them.

Amos said, “We are both delighted to hear, we’re both smiling here.”

A member said he wasn’t clear how close or far you could be to a destination to use Soundscape, as it doesn’t give turn-by-turn directions. Should we be using it in conjunction with another ap?

Melanie replied that they have received similar feedback in the past. The current recommendation is that Soundscape can be used alongside other navigation tools. If you’re in a location that you’re not familiar with and you want a lot of detail about how to get there, Google Maps might provide really great turn-by-turn directions. You might then also use Soundscape to help you understand what’s around you as you move from point A to point B. When you’re in a space you feel more familiar with, you might know the general layout but you don’t know exactly where the building is. In that case you might set a beacon on the building and start making the necessary turns.

Amos added that you can do long walks with Soundscape, but that it’s really optimal around 400 to 150 metres. It’s often very good when you go somewhere using Google Maps and it tells you you’ve arrived, but you still don’t know where the building is. In that case, Soundscape can be very helpful. We do get the question of adding turn-by-turn directions to Soundscape, and we’re not ignoring that.

For the past year, we started to explore uses of Soundscape outside the area of city navigation and mobility. We started to explore, for example, the idea of using Soundscape for kayaking. You can use a beacon to keep oriented on a lake; you can hear where the shore is, or where you took off from. We’ve played around with trails and recreational experiences. We’re having a lot of interest and traction on that front. Personally, I think that the experiences people get in recreation are mind blowing. They’re just wonderful because of the level of independence it gives you. So if any of you are so inclined, I highly recommend for you to try it. We are doing some work with the local adaptive sports organization. We’ve set up a trial that enables them to curate a route which would then surface on Soundscape. They’re going to run their first adaptive sports kayaking program next week with Soundscape as a test. It’s something that’s different, and that we felt was very rewarding for participants.

A member contributed that the active tandem cycling and sailing groups in Toronto might want to connect with Amos.

A member asked what Microsoft is working on for the future of Soundscape.

Amos replied that the recreational aspect is something they’re really excited about, and also the Bose Frames. We have talked about a hands-free experience, and sensors built into the device that track your head movement, enabling us to improve the audio experience. Amos invited Jason, who has had the opportunity to try this type of Bose Frames, to describe the experience.

Jason explained that the newest Bose Frames will have a gyro/accelerometer in them. What it will allow you to do, is set a beacon in Soundscape, then locate it just by turning your head, and it’s really quite cool.

Amos added that it has some very interesting applications for what Soundscape can offer.

Jason asked how people can give feedback.

Amos answered that they can email soundscapefeed@microsoft.com and that comes to our team. There is also a feedback button in the ap itself.

Amos and Melanie signed off.

Jason then went through a few points.

All of the meeting notes are now up on the GTT website. He then demonstrated something that has been added to the website. Do not try this with Internet Explorer, you must use a modern browser. One of the links at the top of the page is for meeting notes. Jason opened the notes for May, 2019. Arrowing down from the main heading, you’ll come to a line that says, listen to this article, with a play button. This is a new feature, that will read you the article in the new Amazon Newscaster voice. If you would prefer a voice other than Jaws, or if you’re a large print user, this is an option. Jason did a demo of the high-quality voice. Any of the meeting notes you call up, will offer this option.

IOS13 was released today. If you have an iPhone6S or better, you  can run it. It’s probably a good idea to hold off on installing it. IOS13.1 should be out in 4 days or so. They released IOS13 a bit before it was ready, in order to align with the new iPhone release. IOS13 offers a lot of cool things. One of the coolest is that you can change all of your VoiceOver gestures. An example of why you might want to do this is, there are people who have a really hard time with the rotor gesture. You could change that to a different gesture. Also, if you have anything newer than an iPhone 8, you can turn the VoiceOver sounds into vibrations. There are several vibration patterns to choose from. We’re hoping to have a presentation on IOS13 next month.

Jason also announced a new tech podcast that he and Chris Chamberlin are doing. It’s through the CNIB Podcast Network, and it’s called the CNIB Smartlife Tech cast. It’s on most popular podcast platforms.

 

Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, October 17, 2019 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.Blog/

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

 

 

 

GTT Toronto Summary Notes, CSUN Assistive Tech Conference Summary, March 21, 2019

Summary Notes

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

March 21, 2019

 

An Initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind

In Partnership with the CNIB Foundation

 

The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Toronto Group was held on Thursday, March 21 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.

 

Theme: 2019 CSUN Assistive Tech Conference Summary

 

GTT Toronto Meeting Summary Notes can be found at this link:

 

Ian White (Facilatator, GTT)

Jason Fayre (Presenter)

 

Jason opened the meeting. He invited questions and input.

 

General Discussion:

A member raised the topic that AIRA is offering 3 months of free service. You’re eligible if you’ve never paid for AIRA before. The deal is on till March 29. You pay your first month at $29 U.S. and your next 3 months are free, 30 minutes per month. You don’t get glasses; you just use your phone. Another member described a device he had with him. Samsung has an in-house accessibility program. They offer a free, downloadable program that works with virtual reality glasses. The member passed the device around. It’s something wearable on your face, that holds your phone, and augments what the camera sees, in various ways. It’s a device for people with low vision. It’s a competitor to Iris Vision and New Eyes. It’s mainly for magnification and enhancement.

Another member raised a problem watching Netflix on his phone, and the controls get minimized Another member said she called Netflix, and they say it’s an iPhone issue. She recommends when the “show controls” button comes up, tap and hold. Netflix has an accessibility team; Twitter might be one way to find them. The first member said he now uses his Apple watch to control it. Someone else recommended that if you want to track down an accessibility person at a particular company, try finding them on LinkedIn.

Someone raised the question of what’s going on with CELA. When will their website be fixed. A member said that downloading and direct-to-player should now be working. They completely redesigned their site, and almost everything about how they operate. Things didn’t go as smoothly as they’d hope. Now, you can access CELA and Bookshare through the same site. It will really facilitate getting more titles from the U.S. soon.

Albert from GTT on the west coast contributed that someone from CELA will be on the national GTT call on May 8 to talk about the changes. The main site to find out about national GTT stuff is www.gttprogram.blog. Many things are posted there. The national calls are always on the second Wednesday of each month, 7:00 P.M. eastern.

A member raised a problem in Jaws 2018 and Windows10, where demands by the computer to install upgrades, were causing Jaws to crash in Outlook. He said the Microsoft accessibility help desk was able to downgrade him to a previous version of something, which helped. Jason added that using Windows10 pretty much requires you to keep your Jaws completely updated. The Office version number is also relevant to the equation. NVDA is getting very good, so if anyone’s frustrated, it’s always an option.

A member raised a problem with Windows8 where turning on the computer seems to load many windows, which he has to close before he can continue. Jason recommended the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk. You can also use Be My Eyes, and call Microsoft through that. This allows you to point your camera at the screen for easier diagnostics.

A member asked about files that say, “empty document,” when you open them. Another member said this is likely because the document is a scanned image, or if the protection on the document is too high. Another member added that, in Adobe, there’s a setting under “reading” that will help to read the entire document verses reading only one page at a time. Try going under the view menu, then accessibility, for more options. PDFs are always challenging. One might work, one might not. Another member added that Jaws now has built in character recognition for PDF documents. Within Jaws 2019, press insert, space bar, O, then D, it will allow you to read some PDF’s. Also, you can do this by navigating to the file name without opening it, open your applications menu, and arrow down to, recognize with Jaws OCR.

Another member raised the question of how to use Outlook to make appointments consulting other peoples’ calendars. Jason replied that it’s possible but not simple, maybe too in-depth for the meeting. Jason volunteered that he has a document he wrote in another context, which explains how to do it. He offered to send it out to the group.

A member asked about how to fax from a printer. Jason answered that you’d have to call the printer company and ask if there’s a way to do it directly from the computer.

A member asked if it’s possible to combine all your calendars into one. Jason answered that if you attach all your calendars to your phone calendar, your phone will show everything. Everything will show in a unified list in the phone calendar ap.

 

CSUN Summary:

Jason then began talking about his experience at CSUN. This is an enormous assistive technology conference that occurs in California each year. It’s put on by the University of Southern California North Ridge. It’s the largest conference of its kind anywhere. It includes any kind of assistive tech, not just blindness-related stuff. Microsoft and Google have a large presence there. Apple attends too, but keeps a low profile.

There’s a large exhibit hall where companies set up tables to display the latest things. The other part of the conference is presentations on specific topics. Apple did have a table this year, but they didn’t present.

This year there wasn’t one defining great thing, or extraordinary trend. There were, however, some interesting new things.

Hymns released a new Q-Braille XL, which is a note taker and display that you can hook up to your phone or PC.

Another interesting element related to the hotel which hosted the conference. This was a new venue for the event. AIRA had set up a free access point for the hotel, so that if you had an AIRA account, you could use it there and not have to pay for your minutes.

The hotel had what you might call a “smart elevator.” This works by having a key pad on the wall at each elevator bank outside the elevator. You type in the floor you want into the keypad, then you’re directed to a specific elevator car. This is a system designed to streamline elevator use in very busy buildings, and it had a feature that allowed you to turn on speech. Jason then played a brief audio recording demonstrating use of the elevator.

It really is obvious when you spend any time in the U.S., how effective the ADA legislation has been in making things more accessible. Jason described getting into a cab for a very long cab ride. Facing him in the back seat, was a little display showing you dynamic details of your trip. When the trip started, a voice says, “to turn on voice accessibility, press the button in the corner.” Then, you’d get a verbal update of your fair and location. This proves that the technology exists.

Another highlight is always the networking. Jason got to meet with representatives from Microsoft and Google.

One exciting piece of tech that was being displayed was a set of Bows glasses called the Bows Frames. Both AIRA and Microsoft are planning to incorporate them into GPS aps. There are highly directional speakers in the arms of the glasses, that sit right behind your ears. Bone conducting headphones can slightly block your hearing and echo location, and this effect is lessened when the sound is coming from behind your ears. Jason connected them via Bluetooth to his phone, then sent them around the room. The sound is directed toward your ears, and he demonstrated how local the sound is, so that someone sitting next to you doesn’t hear a lot of sound bleeding out. Flipping them upside-down turns them off. The true innovation is that they have an inertial measurement unit in them. This means they can track your head movement for GPS and navigational purposes. They go for $200. Like bone-conducting headphones, this is mainstream technology. The Bows store near the hotel hosting the conference was swamped with people wanting them. The sound quality for someone on the other end of the call through the glasses is quite good.

Unless you’re moving, GPS can’t tell which way you’re facing. AIRA plans to integrate with these because the accelerometer lets them know that immediately.

A member raised the topic of looking a bit strange walking down the street apparently talking to yourself, using the glasses. Jason said that it’s getting less and less unusual as more sighted people start using Bluetooth devices. He described the experience of talking to his headset, and being misunderstood by people around him, and having them offer help. He was told that it’s a universal gesture to tap your ear, as a non-verbal sign to others that your engaged in a different conversation.

Albert reported that most announcements at CSUN were tweaks of things we already know about. One of the exceptions this year, a new exciting device, is the Canute, out of Britain. It’s a 9-line, 40-cell braille display. It’s portable but beefy. It shines for anything you’d want to see multiple lines of braille for, such as music or math. They’re hoping to launch by the end of this year, and CNIB is very interested in working with them. The target price is around 1500 pounds, maybe $2600 Canadian. Jason had a prototype with him, and demonstrated it. There’s storage, and you could store many books. The refresh rate is line by line, so you could time it to be at the bottom line by the time the top line is replaced. Braille readers at the conference were very excited about it. They described it as going back to paper braille. This is not a replacement for a note taker, it’s firmly a braille reader. It’s a stand-alone device. They hope to integrate it with Duxbury. This would allow paperless proof reading.

There’s another device in development that is a tactile graphics display, called Graffiti. It will be appropriate for diagrams rather than braille.

Jason described several workshops on the blind Maker movement that interested him.

He spent a lot of time at the conference asking, “When will we get this in Canada?” Amazon and Google both released new things, but not in Canada yet. If there are things you know about that aren’t available in Canada, express to companies that you want them; it might help.

Amazon Prime has all kinds of audio described content, that we can’t get at. Representatives talk a good talk, but are unwilling to commit themselves about times or reasons.

One new thing is a DAISY player from a company out of China. Unfortunately, their representative didn’t speak very good English. Jason got a contact for the U.S. that he’ll follow up on.

Albert, who was at CSUN for the first time, was impressed that it wasn’t just a group of assistive tech companies. All of the big players in technology were there. This wouldn’t have been true 10 years ago. The reason is that mainstream companies are increasingly taking accessibility more seriously over all.

Jason also discussed a company called Native Instruments, that’s very well known in the field of digital music. They’ve recently built accessibility in. One of their music keyboards that you can connect to a PC, has an accessibility mode. When you turn it on, all of its features talk, and so you have easy access to all the functions.

It’s a good idea to get yourself on to the GTT national email list. It’s high traffic, but it’s very diverse and helpful. Google GTT support to find out how to get on it. You can put it in digest mode. There’s also a GTT WhatsAp group.

A member raised a question about Google Docs. A few people said that they’ve used it, and it’s doable, with a stiff learning curve.

 

Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, April 18, 2019 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.Blog/

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

 

 

 

GTT Toronto: Thanks to all for Toronto’s 4th White Cane Week ‘Experience’ Expo, held on February 2, 2019

Hey GTT Toronto!

—-Message from Ian White, President, CCB Toronto Visionaries Chapter, Canadian Council of the Blind—-

Once again, thank you for making our 4th year hosting the WCW ‘Experience’ Expo our best year yet. Following on from the discussion at the Assistive Technology Forum, we have one more very important thing to do.

 

As you know, the employment rate of Canadians who are blind, partially-sighted, and deaf-blind is very low, and the cost of assistive and accessible technology is very high. Given these facts, the CCB is endeavouring to better understand your thoughts, experiences, and goals in these matters so that we may advocate for you more effectively. We want to work with you towards a future with a higher employment rate for those with vision loss as well as increased accessibility and independence.

 

Our goal is to eliminate or minimize the barriers limiting those with vision loss from acquiring the education of their choice and from entering and thriving in today’s workforce. So help us help you and complete the brief survey below!

 

Tell us about your circumstances. Where you are and where do you want to go? We want to help you get there.

 

Click here to complete the survey!

 

Please invest the 8 to 10 minutes it will take to complete the above survey. If you can, do it today  or if not, then no later than Friday March 15, 2019.

Once you’ve submitted your survey, please pass the survey link along to as many others living with vision loss as possible. The more survey respondents we get, the better we’ll be able to understand the present status of Canadians with vision loss and to act accordingly.

Thank you in advance for your participation.

All the best,

 

Ian White

President

CCB’s Toronto Visionaries Chapter

 

GTT Toronto Summary Notes, Seeing AI, TapTapSee, Be My Eyes and Aira, January 17, 2019

Summary Notes

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

January 17, 2019

 

An Initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind

In Partnership with the CNIB Foundation

 

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

 

Theme: Seeing AI, TapTapSee, BeMyEyes and Aira

 

GTT Toronto Meeting Summary Notes can be found at this link:

 

Ian White (Facilatator, GTT)

Chelsy Moller Presenter, Balance For Blind Adults

 

Ian opened the meeting. Chelsy Moller will be presenting on recognition aps.

 

General Discussion:

  • We began with a general discussion. OrCam will be presenting at the White Cane Expo. AIRA will not. We’re still in negotiation to see if they will open up the event as a free AIRA event space. Apple will also not be there. They make it a corporate policy not to present at generalized disability events.
  • Ian raised the issue of getting a media error 7 when he’s recording on his Victor Stream. Is there a list of errors somewhere? Jason answered that perhaps it’s a corrupted SD card. A member said that there’s a list of errors in an appendix to the manual, which can be accessed by holding down the 1 key.
  • Michael asked if there’s a way to add personal notes in BlindSquare, such as, 25 steps. One recommendation was a document that you could access through the cloud. Another recommendation was to mark a “point of interest” in BlindSquare. When you do this, you can name it, so you could call it, Shoppers 25, to indicate 25 steps. Another recommendation was to make notes using the iPhone notes ap. Another recommendation was to set up geo-dependent iPhone reminders. Within a radius of the spot you want, your phone would just tell you whatever information you put in.
  • A member raised the problem of using Windows 10 and Jaws, trying to synchronize contacts email with Apple, and having duplicate folders in his Outlook email. Microsoft exchange might help.
  • Jason told the group that he has an Instant Pot smart available for sale. This is a pressure cooker that works with the iPhone, and it’s no longer available as an iPhone connectable device. He’s thinking $100, talk to him privately if interested.
  • Then he described a new keyboard he got. It’s a Bluetooth called REVO2, which he received as a demo unit. It’s got 24 keys. You can type on your phone with it, or control your phone with it. Its most useful use is when you need to key in numbers after having made a call, such as keying in bank passwords etc. Alphabetic entry works the way old cell phones did, press 2 twice for B. It has actual physical buttons. It can control every aspect of VoiceOver. You can also route your phone audio to it, so you’re essentially using it as a phone. It’s about $300. It can be paired to iPhone and Android. Here’s a link to the David Woodbridge podcast demonstrating the Rivo Keyboard:
  • A member asked if Phone it Forward is up and running. This is a program in which CNIB takes old phones, refurbishes them, then redistributes them to CNIB clients. Phone It Forward information can be found at this link.

 

Seeing AI, TapTapSee, Be My Eyes, and AIRA Presentation:

Ian introduced Chelsie, who is an Adaptive Technology Trainer, and Engagement Specialist. She’s here tonight to talk about recognition aps.

We’re going to focus on 4 aps, Seeing AI, TapTapSee, Be My Eyes, and AIRA.

  • Seeing AI is an ap that allows the user to do a variety of visual tasks, scene description, text recognition, vague descriptions of people, light levels, currency recognition, and colour preview. Each of these functions is called a channel. As a side note, Chelsie said that her iPhone10 uses facial recognition as your password. A store employee told her it wouldn’t work because it needs to see your retina, but this isn’t true; it works from facial contours.

Chelsie opened the ap. There’s a menu, quick help, then channel chooser. To get from channel to channel, flick up. She did a demonstration of short text with a book. It’s helpful for reading labels and packaging. Try to keep the camera about a foot above the text, and centred. This requires some trial and error. The document channel takes a picture of the text. It’s better for scanning a larger surface. Short text is also very useful for your computer screen if your voice software is unresponsive. Short text will not recognize columns, but document mode usually will. The product channel is for recognizing bar codes. This is a bit challenging because you have to find the bar code first. Jason said that it’s possible to learn where the codes typically appear, near the label seem on a can, or on the bottom edge of a cereal box. The person channel tells you when the face is in focus, then you take a picture. You get a response that gives age, gender, physical features, and expression. Chelsie demonstrated these, as well as currency identifier. It’s very quick. The scene preview also takes a picture, and gives you a very general description. The colour identification channel is also very quick. There’s also a hand writing channel, that has mixed results. The light detector uses a series of ascending and descending tones. Beside the obvious use of detecting your house lights, it’s also useful in diagnosing electronics. If you turn all other lights off, you can use it to see if an indicator light on a device is on.

Seeing AI is free. It’s made by Microsoft, who has many other ways of generating revenue.

  • TapTapSee is a very good ap for colour identification. This is always a tricky thing, because colour is often subjective, and is affected by light levels. TapTapSee takes a picture, and gives a general description including colour. For more accurate colour description, Be My Eyes and AIRA are better. TapTapSee is free.
  • Be My Eyes is a service in which a blind person contacts volunteers who help with quick identification or short tasks. Because they’re volunteers, the quality of help varies. You may have to wait for a volunteer. There’s a specialized help button. You can use Be My Eyes to call the disability help desk. This is useful if you need technical help from Microsoft, and they need to see your screen. This ap is also free.
  • AIRA is a paid service. Chelsie has been using it for a month. She’s very happy with it. It connects a blind user with a trained, sighted agent. This could be anything from “what is this product?” “I need to find this address,” I need to navigate through a hospital or airport. When you set up your profile, you can specify how much information you want in a given situation, and how you like to receive directions. They can access your location via GPS, in order to help navigate. They will not say things like “it’s safe to cross,” but they will say things like, “You have a walk signal with 10 seconds to go.” They’re seeing through either your phone camera, or through a camera mounted on glasses you can ware.

They have 3 plans, introductory, 30 minutes. You cannot buy more minutes in a month on this plan. You can upgrade though. The standard plan is 120 minutes at $100, or the $125 plan, that gives you 100 minutes plus the glasses. The advantage of this is that you can be hands-free when travelling. The glasses have a cord connecting them to an Android phone that has been dedicated to the AIRA function. Otherwise, you simply use your own phone with its built-in camera. This happens via an ap that you install.

The question was raised about whether the glasses could be Bluetooth, but the feedback was that there’s too much data being transmitted for Bluetooth to work.

On the personal phone ap, you open the ap and tap on the “call” button. With the glasses, there’s a dedicated button to press to initiate the call.

Chelsie spoke about how powerfully liberating it is to have this kind of independence and information. You can, read her blog post about her experience here

The third plan is 300 minutes and $190. All these prices are U.S.

Jason added that, in the U.S. many stores are becoming Sight Access Locations. This means that if you already have an AIRA subscription, use at these locations won’t count against your minutes. The stores pay AIRA for this. This will likely begin to roll out in Canada. Many airports are also Sight Access Locations. You can’t get assigned agents, but you may get the same agent more than once. If you lose your connection, the agent will be on hold for about 90 seconds so that you can get the same agent again if you call back immediately. For head phones, you can use ear buds or Aftershocks.

 

Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, February 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.Blog/

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

 

 

 

GTT Toronto Summary Notes, NVDA Session One, November 15, 2018

Summary Notes

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

November 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, November 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.

 

November Topic: NVDA Session One

 

GTT Toronto Meeting Summary Notes can be found at this link:

 

Ian White (Facilatator, GTT)

Jason Fayre (Presenter, CNIB)

Chris Malec (Note taker)

 

Ian opened the meeting:

The meeting began with a roundtable discussion. A member is getting a new computer soon, and asked about what software is compatible with what. Jason answered that Jaws 2018 and Office 365 work well together, as do Office and NVDA. For browsers, Microsoft Edge isn’t quite there yet in terms of accessibility. Chrome is quite reliable, and Internet Explorer is increasingly not useful. It’s not being updated, so it can’t support new web technologies. It’s really important, if you can, to keep your screen reader up-to-date, because browsers and websites are constantly being updated. Office 365 updates monthly for example. The latest version of Jaws is 2019, which came out two weeks ago. Jaws has always done the typical upgrade system, where you can purchase a maintenance agreement that gives you the next two upgrades. In the U.S. they’re going to an annual subscription fee around $60, which gives you regular upgrades. This plan isn’t in Canada yet.

Jason then demonstrated the small speaker he will be using for his presentation. It’s called an Anker SoundCore Mini. It’s about the size of a tennis ball, and they’re quite cheap, $30 on Amazon. Anker makes iPhone chargers and speakers. It’s Bluetooth enabled, has an audio jack, an FM radio built in, and a micro SD slot. It has a really good battery life too.

Jason also demonstrated a new type of Bluetooth keyboard available for the iPhone, called a Tap keyboard. You wear it on your hand. It looks like five rings connected by a cable, and goes on your thumb and each finger. You type by using defined gestures, tapping on a hard surface. For example, each finger is a vowel, and other letters are made by various finger combinations. It’s possible to get quite fast with it. It’s fully accessible. It’s useful for typing on the go. It’s about $200 off Amazon. The company is called Tap Systems. There were some blind people involved in designing it. It allows you to type with one hand. It has a VoiceOver mode, so that you can control your phone with it. It’s gotten a lot of mainstream press related to virtual reality systems. A member asked about the best browser to use with Jaws. Jason said Chrome is the safest, but that FireFox works well too. There was an issue with FireFox for a couple of weeks, but it’s resolved now. Compatibility can be a problem; FireFox won’t work with Jaws16 for example.

 

 

Primary Presentation, NVDA:

Ian introduced the topic. NVDA is an acronym for Non-Visual Desktop Access. According to their website, it was the idea of a couple of Australian developers who have vision loss. They wanted to design a free screen reader as a social justice cause; many people in the developing world need screen readers, but can’t afford what was available. Whole sectors of the populations were cut off from computer technology. They decided to build an open-source screen reader, so that anyone who wants to, can add content. It’s available as a free download. They now occupy about 31% of the screen reader market globally.. Jaws has about 48%. This trend has been steady. It’s been translated into 43 languages, and is being used in 128 countries world wide, by millions of users. They do ask for donations if you’re able, because that helps keep it going. The updates come automatically, and are free as well.

Jason discussed making the topic of NVDA a multi-evening topic, in order to focus on different aspects of using it.

You can find NVDA at NVAccess.com or dot org. From the site, there’s a download link. When you do this, the first screen asks for donations, either one-time, or on-going. The default is a one-time $30 donation, so you need to find the button on the page that says “I don’t want to donate at this time.” You have to have Windows7 or better to run it. NVDA is labelled by year, then by version, so that NVDA 2018.3 is the third release for this year. There are usually four releases per year.

Jason then demonstrated the installation process. In response to a member question, Jason said that you can also download it to something like a Microsoft Surface. It does have limited touch control. It works on Windows only, not Apple or Linyx. The installation process is a series of simple steps, and then a very short installation time compared to Jaws. Jaws typically takes 5-10 minutes, and NVDA took less than a minute. Once you start the installer, NVDA will talk to you in its own voice during the install.

A dialogue comes up inviting you to configure. You’ll be asked which keyboard layout you want to use: laptop or desktop. The desktop layout uses a numeric keypad for many functions. Laptop mode uses other key combinations, assuming you don’t have a numeric keypad. If you’re installing it as your primary screen reader, check the box that says to load automatically when starting your system.

You are then asked about whether you will allow data collection about your use of NVDA, for development purposes.

The voice that came up in Jason’s demo was the default Microsoft voice. This is new. E-Speak, the voice that used to come up had a well-earned reputation for being intolerable. Though unpleasant to some, E-Speak has lightning-fast response times and speech rate compared to the Microsoft voice.

There are other options for voices. You can buy add-ons for around $100, that will allow you to use Eloquence or Vocalizer voices, some of the voices you might be used to from Jaws or on your iPhone. You could have Apple Samantha as your default NVDA voice. Even within Microsoft there are a few passable voice options.

Many navigation functions will remain the same, because they’re Windows hotkeys with no relationship to the screen reader. You can adjust the speech rate from within NVDA preferences, or there’s a shortcut keystroke.

There’s a quick-help mode that you can activate with insert1. The help mode is a toggle, and it’s the same keystroke as Jaws. NVDA has tried to reproduce as many of the same keystrokes as they could.

If you go to the NVDA menu under help, there’s a quick reference section. This brings up a webpage with all NVDA commands. All of the commands are reassignable. There’s also a “what’s new” section, and a user guide.

NVDA works with a good range of braille displays.

It will work with all the major applications that you’re likely to use. In terms of browsers, you’re still better off with Chrome or FireFox.

 

There are built-in sound effects to indicate actions like pop-up windows. The level of announcements you get is configurable. Navigation commands within documents are the same as Jaws. Just as with Jaws, insert F gives information about the font.

Because NVDA is a free product, it doesn’t have free tech support. You can, however, purchase hourly tech support, in blocks of hours, at around $13, and the block will last a year. There’s also a very high-traffic mailing list to ask questions of other users. There’s also a training guide which you can purchase. It’s more structured, and has a series of tutorials. It’s $30 Australian, and is  quite good. There are three different courses, basic, Excel, and Word. Each are $30, and worth it. You can get them in audio for a bit more money, or as braille, which is also more expensive.

Ian contributed that you can ask an NVDA question in a Google search, and will most likely find an answer.

Excel, Word, Outlook, Thunderbird, and the major browsers work well. Occasionally you’ll find an application where NVDA works better than Jaws, perhaps because the developers wanted to use it.

Because of licensing, you can’t use your Jaws Eloquence voice in NVDA. To compare, the NVDA installer is 21 meg, and the Jaws installer is well over 100. NVDA also works faster. There’s an NVDA pronunciation dictionary.

As Jaws does, opening Google lands you in the search field. NVDA has the same concept of forms mode. The home and arrow keys work the same as Jaws when navigating webpages. There’s a current Chrome bug in which entering text into the search field causes the phrase to be spoken repeatedly as you enter each keystroke.

You can use H and numbers one, two and three to move through headings. Insert F7 brings up an elements list. It defaults to a links list, but if you hit shift tab, you have the choice to switch between which elements you want a list of, headings, buttons, landmarks etc. You can use insert Q to quickly turn off NVDA, and control alt N, to start it. Entering and exiting will give you a four-note tone to let you know it’s doing it.

Add-ons for NVDA are what Jaws calls Jaws scripts. These are little bits of code that people have designed to do specific tasks, remoting into a machine for example.

A member asked if it can be used on a Chrome book. Jason answered no, because Chrome books run Chrome OS, which is a totally different operating system.

NVDA does have a built-in OCR function.

 

Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, December 20 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.Blog/

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

 

 

GTT Toronto Summary Notes, Rogers Ignite, Smart TVs and the BrailleMe, October 18, 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, October 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.

 

October 2018 Topic: Rogers Ignite TV, Smart TVs and the BrailleMe

 

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

 

Attendees (30)

Ian White (Facilatator, GTT)

David Isaacson(Presenter, Rogers)

Debbie Gillespie (Presenter, CNIB foundation)

Aamer Khan (Note taker)

 

Ian- opening Remarks & Open Questions

 

How to Access Help Menus?

For a lot of products (especially Humanware) products holding down the number “1” key can access the Help menu.

 

What kind of computer should I buy?

Suggestion were made to

  • member said the Intel NUC Series processors (computer chip) are good
  • Lenovo T series may be a good choice as known for its toughness
  • Look for solid state hard drive as it is significantly faster
  • Gaming laptop is likely overkill if not using for gaming

 

What’s up with JAWS and Chrome?

Member informed that there is a bug with JAWS 2018 and Chrom 70- keystroke of “alt+down arrow” must be used to open combo boxes

 

What kind of Tech is Out There to help with Hearing Loss?

  • Tom Decker described he uses CommPilot hearing aids which also come with a auxiliary cable which can be plugged into almost anything.
  • Audio conn are $2200 each for each ear
  • Bose is coming to the market with “hearphones” hearing aids with significantly cheaper product $500 USD

 

What kind of discounts are there for Cell Phones?

Most of the cell phone carriers have discounts for people with disabilities including the below mentioned by members:

  • Rogers Wireless and Telus have a $20/month discount for people with disabilities
  • Virgin Mobile and Bell offer 2 extra gigs of data to people with disabilities

BrailleME Presentation

Presented by Tom Decker

  • BrailleMe is a low cost Braille display that works on iPhone and android via Bluetooth as well as the PC via USB.
  • preconfigured for NVDA, Spanish, English, French and several other languages
  • Frontier Computing will be the Canadian distributor, however currently only available in the United States.
  • Questions about servicing (no info at this time)
  • Does not use pizo electric cells, runs on magnet
  • $700+ CDN for the unit
  • Durable, makes noise
  • Six cell Braille, cursor routing keys
  • Members are claiming Orbit Braille reader has a high failure rate

 

 

Smart TV Demonstration

Presented by Debbie Gillespie

 

  • Debbie describes the remote in detail specifically the Description of accessible button on remote
  • TV being demonstrated is a Samsung NU8000
  • Debbie will be playing Three sound Recordings
  • Sound clip-1: asking like SIRI
  • Can you change the speech rate-Yes
  • Be careful of claims of “accessible” or “Smart TV’s” some will offer large print, screen readers or just WIFI
  • Low fidelity user guide, cannot re read paragraphs, you can pause and start but can’t re read
  • It is not on by default, you can turn it on by pushing down on the button
  • Cannot change voice type
  • Cable box overrides, tv controls for audio description

 

Rogers On demand- TV won’t read it

It will read AppleTV, Netflix, Chromecast, DVD player

 

 

 

Rogers Ignite Presentation

Presented by David from Rogers

  • Rogers general information on Vision Accessibility Products/Options
  • Rogers Accessibility Desk (877) 508-1760 (will have all pricing information on Rogers Ignite. you can also dial *234 on any Rogers phone
  • As of October 21st, 2018 Rogers will be offering a 30% discount to people with disabilities (for example a CNIB card or other evidence will be required for the discount) If already subscribed to vision products, it will not roll over automatically (like if you have Braille bills)

 

The Ignite Box Demonstration

  • The Ignite Box has the same tech as the Comcast X1 box and has been enhanced with a new remote, voice commands and a screen reader
  • With the voice commands you can speak into the remote and search for shows whether they are on cable or Netflix or your PVR
  • You can search shows by which are audio described
  • The unit comes with its own wireless modem which is a very good one (members report it is resolving long standing wifi dead zone issues)
  • Base speed on modem is 150 MB (very fast)
  • Only one box in the household needs a coaxial cable (the cable from the wall)
  • New features include Restart button (to restart a show), record and a tone for when the menu has reached the end
  • New Enhancement of Volume control, separate for menu and TV is coming
  • You can press the  B button twice to active voice guidance on the remote
  • You can turn on “Voice guidance on” holding Accessibility button
  • All recordings stored in the  cloud:  200 Hours of recording comes with the base package
  • Base package also includes Apple App so you can watch shows through iPhone or iPad, max of 2 devices outside the home are allowed for viewing at a time. You cannot set a recording from mobile devices (must be done through the box)
  • You can also download the shows to your mobile device for travel or subway use
  • No AirPlay support for mobile devices (stream to chromecast, Bluetooth speaker etc.
  • Maximum of 5 boxes allowed per household
  • Rogers Wireless  has a $20 month discount for people with disabilities (cell phone
  • Question: Shaw- multiple boxes- each box has different settings? yes for rogers as well you can name your box it too
  • No support currently for Amazon Prime
  • No adult content
  • Flex Channels in the top tier packages you can  swap out called “Free for Me”  only channels u are paying for)
  • KidsZone, restricts children’s access based on your PIN

 

Updates

  1. Metrolinx- Triplinx app and website are more accessible now
  2. Presto App- update, you can check your Presto balance if you have an
  3. Android phone with NFC (Near Field Comms) technology
  4. Crosstown App- Can give you updates on construction sites- accessibility is still an issue
  5. Way Around-App- It works like the pen friend with barcodes and text/speech you can input to code, but no actual pen so no loss of data if you switch phones
  6. Next month’s meeting will be about  learning NVDA (free screen reader) : NVDA 1O1 Part 1.

Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, November 15 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.Blog/

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

 

 

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 Summary Notes for the 2017 Fall and 2018 Spring Seasons are Now Available Online

Summary Notes

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

Posted on August 13, 2018

 

An Initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind

In Partnership with the CNIB

 

Thanks to Ian White and Jason Fayre for managing and facilitating the GTT Toronto Group we now have access to the great Summary Notes from their entire list of past meetings.

 

GTT Toronto Summary Notes 2017 and 2018

 

 Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, September 20 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, 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, What Was New At CSUN, April 19, 2018

Summary Notes

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

April 19, 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, April 19 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.

 

April 2015 Topic – What Was New At CSUN:

 

GTT Toronto April 19, 2018 Meeting Summary can be found at this link:

 

Jason opened the meeting by greeting participants who joined via the Zoom conferencing system. Tonight’s guest speaker is Stephen Ricci. He will be speaking about his experiences at CSUN, which is the largest assistive technology workshop in the world. It’s held annually in San Diego.

Jason interjected with a couple of comments and ideas. One thing that isn’t happening as much in this group as we might like, is to have formal time to exchange questions or curiosity about specific technologies. Our meetings have generally consisted of a speaker, then social time, but the idea of GTT is to share information between members of different levels of knowledge and experience. This is what we’d like to encourage, so at the end of the meeting tonight, we’ll have a go-around to ask if anyone has questions they’d like to ask.

Stephen then took over. The conference offers a pre-conference portion, which is a good idea if you’re attending for the first time; it helps orient you to what’s available and how to get the most out of the experience. It’s often true that you learn more after-hours socializing, than you do in the formal workshops. Next year it’s moving to Anaheim. Over 4800 people attended in 2016. It’s not primarily a consumer show. Consumers do attend, but it costs over $500 U.S. to go, and it’s really directed at businesses, high-end users, researchers, professionals and policy-makers. The conference has several aspects, and it’s common for attendees to go with a specific agenda in mind.

The conference is launched on the first night by a keynote speaker. It’s a good way to get into the groove. The speakers range widely, and are usually entertaining. The exhibit hall is a collection of display tables where venders can show their latest products. The exhibit hall runs for around 3 days.

Networking is a huge part of the experience. You meet people, learn about new products, and find out about trends. There are a lot of parties and receptions sponsored by venders. There’s collaboration so that the largest organizations don’t overlap, so you can attend as many as possible. Smaller ones might be hosted by manufacturers, larger ones might be hosted by someone like Microsoft. Awareness, inclusivity and accessibility are the principles of the conference.

Another aspect of the conference is announcements and unveiling. Often announcements end up not being surprises, as the community is a bit small.

Presentations, panels and workshops go on, with a wide range of topics covered. They are categorized by disability streams. The conference covers multiple disabilities, so it’s necessary to focus on the area that’s relevant to you. Stephen said that the presentations and workshops have become less important to him than the networking and exhibit hall.

What’s new at CSUN this year? There are fewer venders, because there have been mergers. VFO was created by Freedom Scientific, Optelec, and AI Squared.

Notable products Steven saw included APH’s new product called Graffiti, a tactile graphics display. It’s a tactile device that will render an image on a page-sized surface. It’s not ready for release yet. It’s not arranged in cells, so it can be more flexible in what it shows. Stephen asked around at CSUN about the braille Orbit, and the answer he got is that the problem at this point is inventory. The Orbit is a 20 cell display that’s going to cost hundreds rather than thousands. It’s an international project that has had setbacks, but intends to bring an affordable braille display to blind users, especially in developing countries.

Hims is a company Stephen likes. He finds them to be leaders in innovation, and likes their staff. They’ve released the Polaris Mini, a 20 cell note-taker. It’s on an Android platform, and is being sold mainly to students. It’s braille in, braille out, has a hard drive, and has an introductory price of $4000 U.S. The Polaris, a 32 cell with the same functionality, is $6000 U.S. The Braille Sense U2 and the Braille Sense Mini are covered by ADP in Ontario, the Polarises aren’t covered yet.

Hims has a near and distance camera with a monitor, and they’ve introduced one with optical character recognition. They’re also reselling Handitech products. This is a European company that makes nice braille displays. Those aren’t covered by ADP. While the ADP program has some limitations, we’re lucky in Ontario compared to other provinces. Also, school-age students have access to quite a bit of funding for assistive tech through the schoolboard, and post-secondary institutions often offer bursaries for that purpose.

Every year seems to have themes at CSUN. This year, themes were head-worn tech gear like eSight. There was also OrCam, New Eyes, Patriot Point, Iris Vision, and Jordy. These range in complexity, but all essentially offer magnification in real-time. There was lots of talk of AIRA as well, glasses with a camera that connect you to a trained live agent to answer questions. The advantage of these types of tech is that they’re hands-free.

Other new things in prototype included insideONE Tactile braille Tablet by Insidevision. It runs Windows10, and is a note-taker by a new company trying to break into the market. It’s a tablet with a braille display, and raised braille keys. It’s about $5500 or $6000 U.S. These expensive products are mostly geared for the education sector. Another prototype product is the Braille Me, a 20 cell refreshable braille display from a company called Innovision from India. It has limited note-taking ability, and it’s being sold for under $500 U.S. It’s a direct competitor to the Orbit. The Braille Me is available now, but no one was sure how. The company’s online. They’re looking for distributers in North America, and their device uses magnetics. As a representative of Frontier Computing, Stephen is always on the lookout for new products to expand their line. He likes to stay aware however, that even if prices are cheaper for products from Asia, you need to consider what happens when the products need repair. There is usually no one in North America who can repair them. You need to consider how long will you be without the product while it’s being sent away for repair. Zoomax is a Pacific Rim company who make good products at good prices. They’ve opened a North American office recently, so we may see them coming up as a competitor for companies like Hims. The net effect may be to bring down prices overall.

VFO is shifting so that all of their products will update in the Autumn of each year, and be named for the year following its release. These include products like Jaws, Zoomtext, and Zoomtext Fusion. There is still a wide range of portable magnifiers. Table-top magnifiers are becoming more sleek and foldable.

Jason contributed that at CSUN, he got to check out the Canute, a 9 line 40 cell display. You can get about a half a printed page on it. Its best use is for things like math, braille music, or a calendar. Its cost is around $2000. Jason said he will be getting a unit for testing within a month or 2, and will be looking for testers.

A member asked about portable recording devices. Answers included the Victor Stream, the Olympus line, and the Plextalk. CSUN didn’t offer anything new this year. With an Android phone, you can go to the Google Play store, and look for aps with the highest rating. A member described an ap which records speech and converts up to 3 minutes of speech into text.

 

A member raised the question of good laptops. People generally agreed that there’s not a huge difference between mid-range and high-end models, but that cheaper models can be sluggish, particularly if you’re running multiple functions at the same time. SSD or solid state drives are becoming more and more common.

A member asked whether it’s possible to run a desktop computer without a monitor, and the answer was yes. Macs might freak out without a monitor, but you’re fine with Windows.

Jason asked for ideas for future meetings. A member suggested a go-around in which each member describes an ap they like, and how to get it.

Another member suggested an evening about audio devices in general and book players in particular.

A member raised the question of whether a 3D printer could be used to create music as an alternative to using braille music. He asked for some brainstorming on the idea. Another member described an online process where 3D printing can be crowd-sourced for a fee. The issue is that you need to have the program or blueprint to start with.

 

Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, May 17 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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

GTT Toronto Summary Notes, Online Shopping, November 16, 2017

Summary Notes

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

November 16, 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, November 16 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.

 

November 2017 Topic – Online Shopping:

 

www.gtt-toronto.ca is the local website for getting together with technology, where you can find out about future meetings, and read notes from past meetings.

 

Ian opened the meeting and invited us to have a go around in which you give your name, and some aspect of technology you’re interested in, or would like to cover in future meetings. Ideas included the new Trekker Breeze, the Amazon Echo coming to Canada, starting a blog, integrating Siri with Wheeltrans, an accessible MP3 player for music, newest GPS aps, accessible podcasting and audio editing, an accessible timer that’s discreet and doesn’t disturb others, vibrating watch bands to tell time and also as sonar for proximity alerts, and learning the basics of Apple and Windows.

 

Jason spoke about Uber, who presented to the group several months ago. They just released their new service animal policy, which looks very promising. It’s been circulated on several blindness-related email lists.

 

Jason announced that the latest version of Firefox has broken accessibility, and screen readers have not caught up to Firefox57. Use Chrome. Internet Explorer is obsolete, and most sites won’t support it anymore. Adam added ESR version 52 is a version of Firefox that does work at least with Zoomtext. It’s available in 32 and 64 bit versions. Rylan added that this solution will only work temporarily. Rylan added that Chrome may be starting to display mobile versions of sites; he’s noticed this in the past day or two. It may be Chrome deciding that the mobile version is better for accessibility. Jason added that this can happen if your window isn’t maximized, because some sites adapt to what they’re being displayed on, and a minimized window will trigger the mobile version. Rylan noted that the latest versions of Jaws are compatible with Google Chrome.

 

Meeting Theme:

Rylan introduced himself as the speaker for the evening. He discovered that most people in the room have done online shopping before. Rylan asked for questions off the top. A member asked which sites are not accessible. Rylan answered Best Buy and Kijiji.

 

CregsList, Kijiji and Letgo are online shopping platforms that allow you to buy second-hand products. It can be risky because you’re dealing with strangers, but it’s also an opportunity to get good deals.

 

An extension of this is eBay.ca. Rylan began by demonstrating eBay. The site displays a carousel, which is a section of constantly changing content, and isn’t helpful for screen reader users. The easiest thing is to look for an edit field which will offer you a search window. He used number 1 and number 2 to move through heading level one, and heading level two. There are options to help you refine your search results such as price, condition, format, location etc. Watch the location, as you’ll have to deal with shipping. eBay puts the refine search after the search results. Below the link for the result, you can arrow down to read the price, shipping rate, whether the item is available immediately or on auction or both. You get information about the seller, how many items they’ve sold, what their feedback from previous customers has been etc. To use eBay requires a PayPal account. The iPhone ap is accessible too. eBay has done work to make their site accessible. Make sure you’re on eBay.ca so that you don’t have to worry about exchange rates.

 

Rylan then discussed straight online shopping sites. A member asked whether any screen reader should work on an accessible site, and Rylan answered yes, as long as you’re using a reasonably contemporary version. Hotwire and Pricline are other examples of sites that are difficult from an accessibility perspective. In terms of large retailers, Walmart is one of the worst from an accessibility perspective. Although Best Buy’s site is bad, the fliers they send are accessible on an iPhone. Grocerygateway delivers, and works well. Loblaws just announced a new service that’s coming. LCBO has an online ordering system, but the delivery can take up to two weeks. You can have something shipped to your local outlet and have it there in a couple of days.

 

Canada Post has flex delivery, which allows you to divert packages to your local postal pick-up location. You can trigger this when ordering. You register through Canada post, and they give you a custom address which is the postal outlet rather than your home. That way you know packages will go directly to the outlet, and won’t be left at your door unsafely. The item must be under ten pounds.

 

Amazon has lots of stuff very cheap, and has a good accessibility department. Someone said there’s an Amazon site dedicated to screen reader users which can be found at www.amazon.Com/access. Rylan disapproved of this, as it segregates accessibility rather than building it in. Amazon Prime is a service you pay for annually, which gets you some perks and discounts, such as free shipping on many items. Students get half price for Prime.

 

The site is less cluttered than eBay. Pressing H is one way to navigate results. R for regions is another way to navigate, but sometimes doesn’t work as well as headings. Many results have the word “sponsored,” which means the company has paid to have their result prominently placed. You can down-arrow for price, or enter on the link for more information. Use H until you find the heading titled with the product you’re researching. There are form fields to allow you to choose colour, add the item to your wishlist, or add the item to your cart. Some items are eligible for free shipping even without Amazon Prime. If so, it will say so on the page. A lot of Amazon products come from other parts of the world. The page gives a customer rating, and may offer you gift wrapping. Amazon has a great return policy, but you have to ship it back yourself. They will send you a pre-paid shipping label via email, but you’ll have to put the package and label together and get it into the mail yourself.

 

Reviews can be helpful, particularly if there are a lot of them. It’s worth while reading reviews for cues that suggest the reviews are plants.

 

You can set up 1-click ordering, which expedites the order process. So far it’s not possible to order through your Amazon Echo, but now that the Echo is available in Canada, that might change soon.

 

The product review page shows you an average customer rating, the reviews, and how many reviews were one through five stars.

 

Rylan demonstrated buying an item. Enter on the “add to cart” button, then the “proceed to checkout” button. At that screen you can change the quantity, or delete the item from your cart if you change your mind.

 

A member asked about security. Rylan said that he doesn’t take any special steps and just uses his own creditcard, but you can get pre-paid Amazon cards, pay through Paypal, get pre-paid Visa cards from your bank, or keep a card dedicated to online purchases with a low limit. Online transactions have become much more secure in the past few years. Retailers don’t want you frauded any more than you want to be frauded; it’s bad publicity for them. For security reasons however, when you’re setting up an account on a retail site, don’t use the same password you use for your email. If your email password gets hacked, you’re in big trouble. A member contributed that his bank account sends him a text every time his card is charged. If he sees a text for something he doesn’t recognize, he knows it’s fraudulent. Most banks will do this; look for the phrase, ‘feedback alerts.”

 

A member asked about cheaper sites like DealExtreme. Rylan said such sites aren’t likely to have the level of accessibility of Amazon. Jason said that there are very few sites that an experienced screen reader can’t navigate. A member added that some sites offer a customer service phone number that you can call, and have an agent complete your order for you.

 

Upcoming Meetings:

  • Next Meeting: Thursday, December 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:There is a form at the bottom of that web page to enter your email.
  • http://www.gttprogram.wordpress.com/

Toronto Resource: GTT Toronto Web Page for Announcements and Summary Notes

GTT Toronto Web Site

 

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

 

CCB National has partnered with Kim Kilpatrick and a program called Get Together with Technology (GTT), to encourage those who use adaptive technology (and those who would like to know more) to get together and share their knowledge.

 

As a result, GTT groups have sprung up in CCB chapters across the country, meeting regularly to talk and learn about the technological tools that can enable independence and help build confidence.

 

In cooperation with other groups within the vision-loss community here in Toronto, the CCB Toronto Visionaries have launched our own GTT group, GTT Toronto, which meets once a month from September through June.

 

From apps on the latest smart phones, to tips on how to get the most out of your desktop computer, to navigating social media, GTT groups are self-directed, discussing topics brought to the group by group members. And don’t worry if you are not ‘tech savvy’. The idea of a GTT group is that those with some knowledge will share that knowledge with the rest of the group.

 

You can register on the GTT Toronto Announcements-only page to receive notifications of upcoming meetings by subscribing to the above link.

 

GTT Toronto Meeting notes for March 17.  About Iphone apps. 

Here are the notes for last night’s GTT meeting. Enjoy!Jason opened the meeting by describing how to keep in touch. There is now an announcement email list. Most people should be on it already. Send an email to gtt.toronto@gmail.com and someone will subscribe you. You can also send an email to gtt-toronto-announce-subscribe@lists.fayretech.com and you will be subscribed directly. Next month’s meeting topic is screen magnifiers.
 
We went around the room to introduce ourselves. Ian asked if anyone had ideas for up-coming topics. Proposed ideas were: online banking, a CSUN conference wrap-up, (CSUN is a very large adaptive technology conference held annually in California,) and smartphone technology such as home-automation.
 
Jason then introduced the evening’s presenter Martin Courcelles, who is an accessibility consultant with Ontario Lottery and Gaming. He is here to talk about iPhone aps.
 
Martin began by talking about iPhone gestures. Gestures are useful because they make things happen more quickly. A 4 finger double tap will open a help window. A 2 finger single tap will start and stop voice-over speech. A 2 finger double tap will answer the phone, start and stop playback of music or video. Ian asked about the unlock sequence. Martin answered that if you don’t have a password set up you can swipe to unlock, or on a newer phone you can use your fingerprint on the home button.
 
Looktel V O tutorial is available from the App Store. This ap will walk you through exercises to practice your gestures, and train you on when and where to provide them. It gives a good overview of how many aps work generally. He has over 270 aps on his phone. One example he gave is a parcel tracker. Spotlight search (3 finger swipe down on the home screen) gives you a search field to look for specific aps. You can also launch aps by using Ciri. Ciri used to be an ap, but now it’s built into the phone. It’s web based so if you don’t have internet access you can’t use Ciri. Voice-over is not internet dependant.
 
The general layout of aps is that there is screen information at the top, and options at the bottom. Along the bottom is a row of options called tabs. Whatever is active at the time will say “selected,” after the name of the tab. He demonstrated the phone ap by showing the tabs along the bottom.
 
The next ap he demonstrated is Seeing Assistant Light, light meaning he didn’t pay for it. Within this there are options for magnifying, light detection, barcode scanning etc., this ap can be used on older iPhones as well. He demonstrated the light detector, which uses a varied tone to indicate ambient light levels. A higher tone indicates more light. Some of his other aps include a podcast player, the CNIB library ap, the KNFB reader which is a text recognition product, and Blind Square a GPS ap designed for blind people.
 
He opened the ap store, and pointed out the familiar layout, with tabs at the bottom. Some aps are accessible and some aren’t, developers vary in their interest in making their ap accessible. There are a Ciri’s of games called blindfold games which include card games, bowling, and air hockey. Within the ap store he did a search for Blindfold using Ciri. He did this with the dictate function within the search field. You can tap on any search result for more information, or swipe right to the “get” or “install” option. When the ap is downloaded you get an open button. He left the ap store to find the ap on his phone. Double tapping on the ap will open it. Blindfold aps have good help features, and explain the relevant gestures well. A member clarified that if the ap store says “get,” that means it’s free. Paid aps will list their price. Some will look free, then have in-ap purchases once you’re in the ap.
 
1 Finger double tap and hold gives you move or delete options. Our groceries’ is a grocery list editor for keeping track of your grocery lists; it’s Android compatible so you can share with a housemate who has Android.
 
Jason raised the suggestion to demonstrate the Be My Eyes ap. A member said she’s tried it. You get a real person from anywhere in the world in one of several languages, who will help you. It’s like a Skype call to get visual assistance. Jason said that Crowd Vis is a paid version, and the staff is trained. Be My Eyes is slightly less reliable. A member pointed out that you can Facetime a sighted person for assistance if they have a smartphone and are willing to help you out with a visual task.
 
There are silly aps, eg; one that will make a whipping sound when you sweep your phone through the air. Ian asked for Martin’s top five most used aps. 1 Was Facebook. The mobile ap is much easier to use than the computer because it’s quicker and simpler. Voxer is a kind of walkie-talkie ap that you can use to chat with people. Messaging is useful and very straightforward. You can send messages using Ciri. Martin demonstrated by sending a message to Jason using speech only. You can do this in one step by saying “text Jason Fayre,” then dictate the text you want to send.
 
A member raised the point that you can ask Ciri to spell or define a word, and Martin demonstrated.
If your phone is not speaking, try using Ciri and say “turn on Voice Over.” You can use a sighted person’s phone by doing this.
 
The question was raised about how to correct an error in a dictated text. If you know you’ve made an error right away, you can stop dictating and shake your phone to erase the whole thing. A member said with IOS 9 there is a new easier way to select text. You have to add “text selection” to the rotor first, turn the rotor to text selection, then choose what unit you want to select by swiping, then turn the rotor back to copy or delete, but this is pretty complicated. Martin described the rotor. You put two fingers on the screen and rotate them clockwise or counter clockwise. Pinching and unpinching will determine the unit of text to be selected, character, word, sentence etc.. Jason recommended IOS Access for All, a book for $20, iosaccessbook.com. He said it’s an excellent resource. Tom Decker has published a tactile version with tactile diagrams that show what different screens look like. Appleviz is a website with a lot of resources and an email list, and reviews of aps from an accessibility perspective. Debby pointed out that the manual for each IOS has a chapter on accessibility and Ciri. Jason pointed to inclusiveandroid as a site for Android accessibility help.
 
Debby raised the topic of using the wish list in the ap store. Find the ap you want, then look for the share button, then keep swiping right and there’s a wish list option. This allows you to keep track of things maybe you want to look at later or download later.
 
Martin described Voicedream Reader, which allows you to download eBooks, and read them in a variety of high quality voices. You can play audio books from within it as well. The iPhone is useful because you can attach many things to it like a Braille display or an external keyboard.
 
A member asked about entering multiple phone numbers into your contacts. Martin agreed that entering contacts is confusing and frustrating. He said that after entering a phone number there should be a button that allows you to label it as home, mobile etc. Many people agreed that Ciri is useful for setting a timer, an alarm, or scheduling an appointment. Most people believed that Ciri will not let you set up a repeating alarm. Martin tried using Ciri, and it did allow him to set up a repeating alarm. A member asked how to stop a sounding alarm. Another member pointed out that if you don’t do it right you’ll set up the snooze function. If you tap ok or the unlock button it will stop. Careful, because the volume buttons will stop the alarm but put it into snooze as well.
 
A member announced that she’s looking for a used iPhone, anything above a 4.
 

GTT Toronto Meeting Notes All about accessible kitchen gadget. 

Here are the meeting notes from the last GTT Toronto meeting. If anyone else on the blog has other gadgets to share with where you got them, please email 

gttprogram@gmail.com 

Here are the notes for our February 18 meeting. Thanks to Chris Malec for preparing these.

Jason Fayre opened the meeting with a welcome. A new announcement list has been set up to keep information flowing to members. The purpose of making a new list is to improve the usability of the list for those running it. Use will be seamless during the transition. Subscribing to the list will allow you to receive notes from each meeting. If you’re not on the list already, send an email to gtt-toronto-announce-request@lists.fayretech.com with the word subscribe in the subject line or message body. If you’re already on the list you’ve been moved over. Gtt..toronto@gmail.com will get you in touch with the group organizers.

 

The meetings should be driven by the members, so if there are topics you’d like to see covered, let us know. Bring ideas up now, or email them to the organizers.

 

Next month the topic will be iPhone aps, presented by Martin Courcelles, who’s been in the accessibility industry for a long time. In April we may cover screen magnification, but the floor is open for other ideas. Other ideas we’re considering are: how to get audio described content, Android aps. Meetings will run till June, we’ll take the summer off, then start again in September.

 

Jason then introduced Donna Jodhan to present on low tech gadgets for the kitchen. Jason added that he also brought an iGrill and a talking kitchen scale, which are higher tech gadgets.

 

Donna began by identifying http://www.speaktome.com as a website from the U.S. where many of these gadgets come from.

The first item is a doorbell. It has 6 different chimes: it’s $29 U.S. It’s something you can set up yourself as a blind person.

The second item is a popcorn popper. It’s for the microwave. It takes 2 minutes to pop the corn with no additives. Donna has used it and likes it. The cost is $27.25 U.S.

The next item is the beep egg indicator. You drop it into a pot of water with your eggs. There are 3 distinct melodies that play, one for each level of doneness. The soft boiled melody is Oh Suzanna, medium is Take Me Out to the Ball Game, and hard boild is Hail Hail the gang’s all here. You set it to your desired doneness. $19.95 U.S.

The next item is a cooker that plays the sound of a clucking chicken when your eggs are boild, but we’re not sure what level of doneness the clucking chicken indicates. $30.

The next item is an electric hotdog cooker. It holds between 6 to 10 hotdogs, and the sound of a barking dog plays when the dogs are done. $30.95.

The next item is talking measuring cups. It measures up to 3 cups, and takes 3 double A batteries. It measures dry or wet ingredients, and costs $59.95. There’s probably a cheaper equivalent in Toronto. The next item for fun, is cups with varying sounds that chime when the cup is lifted off its dedicated platform. The sound unit detaches for washing. Each cup is 12 ounces and a set is $11.95 U.S.

The next item is a salt shaker that makes the sound of a slot machine when picked up.

Next is a liquid level indicator. You place it on the side of a glass or container. One sound tells you when you’re getting close to the top, and another sound tells you when you’ve overflowed. This one isn’t new, $12.95 U.S.

There’s a talking coffee maker, the buttons are easy to find, and it talks to you during the set up process to instruct you. Donna didn’t know the make, but will get back to gtt with that information. The speech is very clear, and tells you when your coffee is ready, and guides you through the steps of making the coffee. The last item is a timer. Many of us have timers already. Donna’s favourite timer is available from the Braille Superstore in Vancouver by mail. It’s a small unit you can attach to your belt. The timer will count down by minutes then seconds, and there are 6 different alarm sounds to choose from.

 

Jason opened the floor for anyone to describe favourite kitchen gadgets. Ian raised the Hamilton Beech talking microwave, and many agreed it’s a great unit. Ian said it’s one of the best devices for blind people. Some said it’s no longer available, but a member said it’s available through Blind Mice Mart. A member who works with Regal said that they sell talking scales, and the popcorn popper Donna described. Donna said one of her favourites is the knife with a guide to help slice things.

 

Jason described his iGrill. It’s a thermometer that has a probe that sticks into the meet, there’s another attachment that sits outside the stove and communicates with your smart phone to tell you the temperature. The cheapest model is about $60, and the most expensive is maybe $90. You can set alarms for it to go off when your desired temperature is reached. It’s not low tech, but is extremely useful. He also brought a talking kitchen scale. This is useful for precise measuring of ingredients. This is available in the CNIB store. Many devices may not be designed for blind people, but are still very useful. He found a microwave in a mainstream store that has proper buttons rather than a touch pad. He described a one cup measure that had a very distinct tactile line inside for measuring smaller amounts. A few people said that the Forman Grill is very easy to use. It has a simple tactile temperature control, only one lever.

 

Donna asked about accessible stoves. Is there such a thing? Jason answered that he recently got a stove that’s usable, if not entirely accessible. It’s flat top, but there is some texture to help centre a pot. It requires help initially to mark the touch screen, but starting the stove automatically sets it at 350, which is helpful. Once the buttons are labelled it’s easy to use. It’s a Whirlpool.