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 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 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. 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 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:

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. 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:

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 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:

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: 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 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 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 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.

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 and someone will subscribe you. You can also send an email to 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, 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 

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 with the word subscribe in the subject line or message body. If you’re already on the list you’ve been moved over. 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 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.

GTT Toronto Meeting Notes January 21, 2016 about social media

Here are the notes from the GTT Toronto meeting which took place on Thursday January 21, 2016. The topic was social media. 
Hello everyone,

Here are the notes from last night’s meeting.

Jason Fayre opened the meeting with a welcome, and said that next month’s meeting would have as its focus low tech kitchen gadgets presented by Donna Jodhan. He introduced Rylan Vroom, assistive technology instructor at Balance for Blind Adults, to talk about social media.


Rylan began by saying he’d be discussing Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn.

There are two main ways to access Facebook on the computer. There’s Facebook mobile, and regular Facebook. Facebook mobile is good because it doesn’t show graphics, is low bandwidth, and more blind friendly. He did a demo starting at the top of the page. Near the top is an edit field to search for a person. Facebook supports hot keys. If you have new messages, you’ll see it indicated near the top. Chat is the cool section where you can chat with anyone you know who’s on line. The pages link allows you to administrate any pages you manage. He talked about how you can choose who you share your posts with, friends, friends of friends, or public. Below this is an edit field where you can enter the text of your post, photos etc.. Below this are birthday notifications of your friends. Below this are all the posts of people you follow. They are displayed as heading level 3, so you can use H to move through them. Lots of people use hashtags, which are best viewed on a Braille display. Posts will show you when a post was posted, and who it was posted to. Using H is generally a good way to navigate through the home page. At the bottom of the main page is a “see more stories” link. Entering on the profile link takes you to your profile. Using H here will display your most recent posts. On the message page, you can use B for button or E for edit field, to move through your messages.


He next went to the regular Facebook page. It allows you to access your privacy settings, which is harder to do on the mobile page. Ian raised the concern that sometimes Facebook system updates can set security settings back to default. Brian M offered the adage that if you post something you should probably be prepared for the entire world to see it. Rylan added, “If you wouldn’t send it to your grandmother, don’t post it.” Brian added that Facebook has gotten better at emailing when they change their security protocols.


Poking is a strange form of Facebook flirting. It allows a temporary exchange of profiles.

You’ll also get a list of updates from Facebook groups you’ve joined. In general, the full site has much more stuff than the mobile site. Debbie asked if uploaded photos get automatically rotated to appear correctly. Rylan answered that he didn’t know, but that he suspects Facebook will correct mistakes in uploading. He warned that if you forget your Facebook password, the process for verifying yourself involves having to identify photos of your friends, so as a blind person, this is a problem. Neila raised the idea of using the ap on a mobile device. Rylan said the down side of this is that the mobile ap often malfunctions, and that entering posts on a touch pad can be tiresome. In general though it is workable, and can do things like geotag your photos. Brian M added that the mobile ap can deal with the password problem by sending you a text for verification. Ian proposed that you can hook up a blue tooth keyboard to your mobile device to make it easier to post. Judith wondered why she gets so many emails telling her about things on Facebook. Rylan replied that it’s because she’s not logging in enough, and that there’s a link in Facebook emails to change your subscription preferences, i.e. what kinds of emails you get from Facebook. Debbie asked for clarification, with a phone, are you using the ap, or the Facebook mobile site. Rylan replied that this is a matter of preference. The ap is different in how you interact with it, and special things may need to happen if you’re using a Braille display.


Twitter is completely different, it’s a micro-blogging site. Twitter is evolving, but at its base it’s a micro-blogging platform. One of its most powerful features is the ability to index specific topics, i.e. hashtags. You can search for a hashtag and find any tweets using this hashtag, i.e. talking about the same thing. Hashtags are ever-changing and time and context related, so you have to watch what you’re doing. Under windows there are a couple of twitter clients, which are ways to use twitter. TWBlue and Chicken Nugget are two that blind people use. You can also access twitter directly from the twitter website. Night Owl is a client for Macs. Twitterific is a good ap for the iPhone. Jason said Tweetings is a useful android ap. The twitter ap for iPhone is sort of accessible, but not entirely.


He did a demo of Chicken Nugget. He did a search for the hashtag A11Y which is a short form for accessibility. This opens a buffer with a vertical list of tweets about A11Y. He showed some of the menu functions, example search, either for a person or a hashtag, updating your profile, how to manage audio that might come attached to a tweet, managing the audio cues that Chicken Nugget uses to convey information…. You can directly message someone on twitter if they’re following you. There are hot keys for most functions, and you can hide the visual window, meaning that you can operate twitter without it showing on your screen. You can directly access links included in tweets. If you choose to follow someone on twitter, this means you see everything they post publicly. There’s some twitter etiquette that they’ll follow you back, unless they’re a celebrity. He demonstrated looking up someone’s profile. This displays information about them such as a bio, and where they are in the world. Debbie asked how to shorten a URL to put into a tweet. Rylan answered that some twitter clients will do it automatically, or you can look up a good URL shortener. The @ at symbol relates to users, the # number symbol relates to hashtags. Debbie made the point that lists can be a really helpful way to categorize the information or topics you follow. She asked if you can add an account to a list without actually following it. A few people answered that you can. Neila asked if there’s any user guides. Rylan answered that each twitter client has their own. Brian commented that the twitter website is completely usable, but twitter clients are much faster, especially if you’re very active on twitter. He also added that twitter isn’t mere fluff. You can get lots of information that’s relevant to you, network, ask for tips or help with something specific, and get really quick answers. It’s an extremely useful tool. Rylan said this is true, and the trick is taking the time and effort to curate it all.


LinkedIn is more of a business networking site. You can find jobs, connect with fellow professionals, and find articles on profession related topics. It’s entirely different from Facebook, because it’s very profession oriented. He did a demo of the site. Never use LinkedIn with internet explorer, because the LinkedIn site has useful tags with key strokes and accessibility information, and older versions of IE can’t handle them. LinkedIn is good at making connections between you and people you might know. The main page looks somewhat like facebook’s, with profile and update options. Neila raised the point that you can join groups in LinkedIn, and endorse the skills of people you know. Debbie asked if the mobile site is easier, and also is there an easier way to follow conversations on LinkedIn. Brian M said he finds the iPhone ap significantly easier when following and interacting with conversations.

Notes for GTT Toronto December Meeting all about screen readers for PC’s. 

Here are the notes for the December meeting.

Jason Fayre, the Adaptive technology specialist at CNIB, opened the meeting. He began by letting the group know that the next meeting, on January 21, will be on social media with Chelsey Mollar.
There was a go round to introduce ourselves.
Jason began his presentation on comparing screen readers by inviting questions at any time. He said that in the second half, there would be time for small group question and answer. Jason gave some background on his experience with access technology. He worked for Arkenstone, who did early OCR, worked as a tech support representative for Freedom Scientific who makes Jaws, and now works for CNIB.
His concentration will be on Jaws, NVDA and Window Eyes, which are the 3 major screen readers. The intention is to give a clear idea of what each one does, why one might choose one over the other, and what’s good and bad about each one.
Job Access with Speech, or Jaws, has been around as long as DOS in the 80’s. In the mid 90’s they released the first versions for Windows with Windows 3.1 the latest version is Jaws 17. It’s a good product. One deterrent can be cost: around $1100. Moving up from one version to another is about $250, up two versions will be more. If you buy a copy, you can buy an SMA, about $300, which gives you the next 2 upgrades for free. You’re allowed to install Jaws on up to 3 different systems. One of its strengths is efficiency on the internet. Another is the variety of voices available. He demonstrated the default Eloquence voice, then pointed out that the newer voices have greatly improved responsiveness. Insert control S is the keystroke to switch voices. He demonstrated Vocalizer Expressive Ava, a female voice, and pointed out its clarity. You have to have the voice installed before the keystroke will work. Go to help, web resources, then vocalizer expressive if you’re on a version before Jaws 17.
Another place where Jaws really shines is with using Braille. If you want or need to use Jaws without speech, you can do so with a Braille display effectively after some initial configuration. The other area where it excels is training. You get about 16 hours of training materials when you buy the product. Web Aim does a survey each year to rank screen readers. When they started in 2010 or so, Jaws was at 75% use among blind people. It’s now at 30% because more options are available.
A group member asked if Windows 10 is compatible with Jaws 16. Jason answered that as of July this year, Jaws released a version of 16 that does work, so get the latest version of 16.
Another question was what makes Jaws better with the Internet. Jason replied that it’s mostly because they’ve been doing it for a long time, and are constantly updating. Also, a new feature called smart navigation improves access to complex websites. 
Another question was about PDF documents. Jason said that Jaws now has a feature that allows you to scan a document and run it through OCR. This is in Jaws 17. With any version of Jaws, go to the help menu where you’ll find an option for What’s New.
Someone asked whether it’s possible to use voice input rather than the keyboard. Jason said that it’s always advisable to know the keyboard, but there are two products called JSay and Dragon Dictate that, used together, will allow you to use speech input. This option is very expensive however, so if you don’t actually need to dictate, you’re better off learning to type if you can. A group member noted that ADP will pay for these products if they’re necessary.
Jason continued with NVDA. He said that NVDA nonvisual desktop access, is what he uses himself. NV access out of Australia produces it. It’s free, and it’s very good. A couple of blind guys started developing it in 2006 to level the playing field. In many countries access technology is prohibitively expensive. Currently NVDA is available in 40 languages and run in 120 countries. It has about 20% of the screen reader market. NVDA is totally free. They do ask for donations, because its development is run on grants and donations. Jason said he donates regularly. Because it’s free, the voice used has to be free. The voices Jaws uses are owned by Nuance Communications Jaws pays them for their voices. NVDA has to use a free voice; the one they use is called ESpeak. Newcomers to synthetic voices can be easily turned off by it. There are options. One is to use voices that come built into Windows. They’re free but not very responsive. There are also companies who have made better voices available for NVDA. About $90 will buy you a range of voices to choose from. These are the same voices you can get on the IPhone. A good thing about NVDA is that it’s snappy and responsive, even more so than Jaws. It’s as good as Jaws or better on the internet, particularly with firefox. Jason said he liked to use NVDA partly because he likes to support an organization run by blind people. One of its drawbacks is working in corporate environments. PowerPoint and Microsoft Excel are difficult or undoable. For most things people do at home, NVDA is perfectly functional. NVDA made a point of making its interface similar to what Jaws uses. ESpeak can go very very fast if you like high speed speech. Microsoft Office support is getting better, but it’s not there yet. Braille support is coming along too. It can support Braille input in grade 1. Output is sketchy, it depends what display you’re using. It’s still not seamless. NVDA on the internet uses very much like Jaws, headings is H, buttons is B, they made an effort so that there would be less of a learning curve. NVDA works quite well with Windows 10, maybe a bit better than Jaws. He advises not to upgrade to Windows 10 if you can help it. You have 30 days to back out if you do upgrade.
A group member asked for a demo of NVDA on a web page. He did a Google search. He demonstrated using H to move between headings, and showed using F7 to get a links list. The links list is called an elements list, because you can get lists of other elements like headings, not just a list of links. The best experience with NVDA on the internet will be with Firefox. It also works with Crone. Chrome is generally not good for accessibility. One drawback of NVDA is the lack of technical support, because it’s a free utility. They’re working on some paid options for support, but there are many online groups for peer support. Their website has resources to link you to paid training, remote or in person. The question was asked whether NVDA has remote access capability. Jason replied that there’s an add on called NVDA remote, which allows someone to remote into your system, or visa versa, for training or troubleshooting purposes. Jaws has a version of this too.
The third option for screen readers is Window Eyes. It is produced by A I Squared, which used to be called GW Micro. It’s been around since about 1998. In the last few years they made an agreement with Microsoft such that, if you own a copy of Microsoft Office, you can get Window Eyes for free. It will make sure you have a licensed copy of Office, then you can download Window Eyes. Their web support has improved significantly lately so that it’s on par with Jaws and NVDA. Many companies are moving to a model of subscribing rather than downright ownership. For example, a $7 per month fee will get you access to Microsoft Office. This can be a more financially accessible option. Window Eyes comes with training materials available online. There were stability issues with Window Eyes in the past, but that’s mostly ironed out now. There’s a new product called Zoomtext fusion, Zoomtext combined and integrated with a functional screen reader. Someone transitioning from large print to speech would find this useful. It’s new in the past few months. The agreement with Microsoft Office doesn’t apply to the fusion product. The cost might be somewhere around $1000 U.S.. Window Eyes is used in corporate environments, but not as commonly as Jaws.
Each of these 3 products has in common that they’re supported by scripting. This means that if you have to use a product that isn’t compatible by default, it’s possible to write code to make the screen reader interact properly. A group member pointed out that Apple endorses the use of Window Eyes over any other screen reader for using ITunes.
You can find some podcasts about using Jaws with various products at
The group broke up into informal conversation.
Yin gave a report of a phone meeting with gtt people from around the country.
Monthly there’s a phone call between the leaders of the various gtt groups. In the last one, Kim gave a history, in 2012 the first meeting in Ottawa took place. Kim got a grant to expand the gtt groups. This is how groups in various provinces and cities started. The latest Ontario gtt group is in Northern Ontario. Communities are pretty spread out, so they host phone meetings.
The needs identified for groups as a whole at the moment are: how to use an Android phone, magnifying devices. How can we accumulate all this information in one place that’s accessible, and how to keep this data base up to date. They mentioned there’s an IPhone 1-800 number, and a Microsoft accessibility line. This information will be made available soon. Apple accessibility and Microsoft answer accessibility desk. The group in Ottawa sometimes breaks up into small groups, or sometimes just operates informally.
Ian asked our group at large how people would like to structure the second half of meetings. Are we happy with informal, or do we want more structure? The trend seemed to be toward less formality. A suggestion was made that during introductions, people might give their name, plus what they are hoping to get out of the meeting as a way to identify themselves to the group. Also, there might be meetings without pre-defined topics to allow people to get specific things addressed. The third idea was for a phone meeting.
Tom Decker was the minute taker for the phone meeting of group leaders from across the country, so information about that phone meeting will show up on Facebook. Kim is a faithful blog writer. Contact her to subscribe, we will post her email address. is how our information gets distributed. Subscribing there will get you access to all information. There’s a monthly open conference call for any participants.

GTT Toronto Meeting notes all about GPs Solutions.

GTT Toronto 

Meeting #3, November 19, 2015. 

GPS solutions: Brian Moore  


Brian began by noting that conventional GPS tools omit critical information for those with vision loss – names of intersections, passing points of interest, etc. – so he would not focus on these devices/systems, except insofar as they interface with systems specifically designed for the blind.  As such, there are really only a couple of options remaining in the marketplace.

Trekker Breeze is a dedicated *single function), hand-held device designed for use by the vision impaired.  It has no screen (the user interface is audio).  It has raised buttons.  It has limited route planning capability, allows you to mark points of interest, and will indicate streets as you come to them.


The other major class of GPS systems is smart-phone based, both for i-phone and android.  In Brian’s opinion, the accessibility features on android phones are not quite as good as those for i-phone.  He will focus on, and demonstrate an IOS-based app called ‘Blind Square’, designed for blind and partially sighted users.

Some general notes on pricing:  I-phones, tablets, etc are relatively expensive but are multi-purpose tools combining many different functions.  Once past the initial hurdle of buying the hardware, many of the applications are free or very inexpensive.  Blind Square currently retails online for about CAD$39. 

The Breeze stand-alone GPS retails for about $800.

Q: are there android options?

A: Brian uses a free public transport app, available for both android and IOS, called ‘Transit’ to find out when the next bus or streetcar is coming to a stop location.  Google maps is also available for android, and is particularly good for planning a route or finding a location you haven’t been to before.  There may soon be an android version of Blind Square but, on a recent check of the Blind Square website, there was no indication of this. 


Aside from the Breeze, there are a couple of other stand-alone GPS units, some with built-in DAISy players and other functions but, in Brian’s view, many of these have problems with satellite signal acquisition, or more complicated interfaces, etc.


Demonstrating GPS devices from inside a building is challenging.  But there are many u-tube videos available on using GPS devices.  Blind Square has a number of excellent demonstration videos in real-world situations on its website at 


Comment from participant:  There is an upgrade available now for the Trekker Breeze which costs about $200 but which significantly improves the functionality of the unit.

Q: Is there a difference in the level of accuracy between the Breeze and a phone-based system?

A: Although satellites are more accurate, the practical limit of all GPS systems is to within 10 metres.  This means you might use your GPS device to check your location and be told the address across the street.   

Q: Can I use voice commands to pick a destination and get walking directions?

A: Yes, using Apple Maps, a function that is built in to I-phones.  But Apple Maps presumes you can see where you are.  You can check your location from time to time, but Apple Maps will not automatically tell you when you’re crossing an intersection or passing a point of interest, as Blind Square will.


Brian demonstrated the Blind Square app (selecting a pre-programmed address because the phone was not picking up satellite signal indoors).  Locations can be logged as “Favorites”, to make them easy to find again.  “Start Tracking” gives compass directions, in clock face or degrees, as you start moving toward your destination.  Because Brian has an Uber (taxi alternative) app on his phone, Blind Square can tell how quickly a car could pick him up and roughly what the cost of the fair would be.  “Share This Place” allows you to send the destination as a link on Google Maps, to someone else via email.  

“Plan a Route”, when activated, will ask what app you’d like to use, listing as options any route-planning app installed on the phone.  One option is Navigon North America.  This app costs about $80 but, unlike most apps, allows you to download maps and routes and work offline.  This means that if you can’t get a data signal, or want to avoid expensive roaming charges, you can still find your destination.

From within Blind Square, Brian selects Google Maps to plan his route and can get step-by-step instructions on how to get there, including cues about current location, nearby intersections, points of interest, etc.


If planning a route via transit, Brian uses Google Maps on its own without Blind Square, as Google Maps is very accessible using the most current version of Voice Over.   Past versions of Voice Over have not worked as well.  Double tap the Google Maps icon, select travel mode (driving, transit, walking or bicycling) and then input the destination.  You can set parameters on your trip, allowing you to travel at a different time of day, or on a date in the future, etc.  But for travel directions right now, you can skip the parameters and just press “Start navigation”, and begin your trip.  If you swipe to the right and double tap, it will give you spoken step-by-step instructions.  

Although you can plan a route using Blind Square, Blind Square  does not do the actual route planning.  It feeds your destination and current location to another route-planning app, like Google maps or Apple maps, which does the route planning.  As well, Blind Square does not give ‘turn-by-turn’ directions.

  Q: If I don’t have a street address, can I use an intersection as my destination?

A: Yes.  Intersections, landmarks, and other kinds of locations can be used as destinations.  Even subway stations should be available as destinations.  As well, Google Maps will allow you to save histories of places you have been and will “make suggestions” about similar places.  Google Maps will also scan content in your g-mail inbox and suggest directions on how to get to a location listed there. 


Toronto transit information can come from a number of different sources.  The

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has a text service tied to the four- or five-digit number codes which identify  every bus stop and subway platform.  If you text the number code to “TEXT TTC” (416-839-8882 the service will text you back with the times the next 3 buses or trains will arrive at that stop.

As these are just text messages, you don’t need to use any data. You can save this number in your contacts instead of having to decode the name each time you want the number.


Other public transit apps include “Pocket Rocket”, “Rocket man”, and “Next Bus”.  Each of these have slightly different features and interfaces, so it’s a matter of personal preference which one to use.