GTT Edmonton Meeting Notes, Fitness Tech, February 10, 2020

Summary Notes

GTT Edmonton Meeting February 10, 2020


The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Edmonton Chapter was held February10 at 7pm at Ascension Lutheran Church 8405 83 Street in Edmonton.

14 people attended.

Reading Tip: These summary notes apply HTML headings to help navigate the document. With screen readers, you may press the H key to jump forward or Shift H to jump backward from heading to heading. Read the Additional Resources section following the meeting notes to learn about our one on one telephone support, the National monthly teleconference, and the support email list.


February Topic –Fitness Tech

Lorne and Russell demonstrated the Apple Watch and other fitness and wellness technologies.


Russel Apple Watch Demo

Russell demonstrated some of the health and fitness apps available on his Apple Watch series 4. It is a great tool for helping to keep you motivated to exercise and stay fit. He demoed the Heart Rate App, the ECG App, the Activity App, the Workout App, and the Breathe App.

Heart Rate app

Your Apple Watch monitors your heart rate if you are wearing it. You can check your current heart rate, resting rate, and walking average rate at any time by opening the Heart Rate App. Russell showed an example of his heart rate stats for the day. You can also set the Heart Rate App to notify you if your heart rate goes above a certain rate, for example, 120 BPM, or below a certain rate, for example, 40 BPM after resting for 10 minutes. These rates can be set through the Watch App on the iPhone. The app also keeps track of your heart rate during a workout which you can view in the Workout app, and keeps track of your heart rate while using the Breathe app.


The Apple Watch ECG app can help detect atrial fibrillation (AFib, which are irregular heart rhythms, and track this in the health app. Russell gave a demo of how to take an ECG on the Apple Watch. The app warns that the Apple Watch cannot check for signs of a heart attack and suggests that you contact emergency services if you believe you are having a medical emergency.


Activity App

The Activity App on the Apple Watch helps you keep track of Moving, Exercise, and Standing. Each of these categories is referred to as a ring. The Moving ring tracks the number of calories you burn in each day by moving. You can set the number of calories you wish to burn each day, and then track how well you are doing throughout the day. The Exercise Ring is set to 30 minutes of brisk exercise. You can track the number of minutes of exercise you have completed at any point in the day. The Standing Ring keeps track of how many times you’ve stood during that day. By default, it prompts you to stand once each hour of the day.


Workout App

The Workout App on the Apple Watch can be set to the type of activity you plan to do, for example, indoor or outdoor walk or run, indoor or outdoor cycle, hiking, stair stepper, yoga, etc. You can also choose what you wish to track, for instance, distance, duration, heart rate, total calories burned. Russell opened the Workout app to show some of the different setting choices available.


Breathe App

Russell opened the Breathe App on his Apple Watch and showed how you can set the duration of the breathe session, and discussed how you can set the number of times your Apple Watch prompts you to breathe each day through the Watch app on the iPhone. The duration can be set from 1 to 5 minutes. Russell then went through a 1 minute breathe session. When you set the duration and tap on start, VoiceOver prompts you to “Inhale along with the taps you will feel on your wrist and to Exhale between taps”.



Lorne Webber Demos



Lorne demonstrated some of the accessible fitness and health tracking features of the Fitbit app, as connected to his Fitbit Charge 2, especially as it compares to those of the Apple Watch.

The Fitbit itself contains little to no accessibility features, especially for totally blind users; excluding a vibration notification when it’s successfully connected to the power and charging, like most phones.

Via the Fitbit app, “silent” vibrating alarms can be set for the Fitbit to alert you with a vibration which won’t stop until you tap the screen or press the side button.

The Fitbit app gives the user access to fitness and health metrics such as Total steps, distance, Flights climbed, total caloric expenditure, current and resting heart rate, daily time spent exercising, and, if you wear it to bed, total time sleeping and a sleep score estimating how restful your sleep was, (i.e., were you technically sleeping but doing lots of tossing and turning in your sleep.

Perhaps the biggest advantage the Fitbit has over the Apple Watch is its Battery life, approx. 5-7 days of 24-hour use, as compared to the 24- 48 hours of most Apple Watches. (with the proviso that the Apple Watch is much more fully featured than the Fitbit; these more powerful features take up much more battery life.

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of the Fitbit is the need to view all of it’s statistics via the Fitbit app. Without the app on a smartphone or Tablet, the device itself, unlike the Apple Watch, is not accessible. Some users point out that the most basic feature of an Apple Watch on your wrist is that it can tell you the time accessibly, which the Fitbit cannot.


Polar Heart Rate Strap

Lorne also demonstrated his Polar H7 Heart Rate chest strap which can connect to hundreds of iOS and Android apps to keep track of Heart Rate during exercise. The strap must be next to your skin not worn outside clothing. Lorne was using the Runmeter app which is very accessible and offers hundreds of configurable audio announcements, however many other apps offer comparable functionality such as the WalkMeter app.


7-Minute Workout App

Next Lorne demonstrated one of the many guided exercise coaching apps; 7-Minute Workout,

Which has its premise that you can start your fitness journey by just performing a series of 12 body weight exercises in just 7 minutes. The app counts down and notifies you when you need to switch, and what the new exercises are. One Criticism of this app is that if you happen to be unfamiliar with how to perform that exercise, while the app does offer some text based descriptions, the pictures/diagrams built in to the app probably won’t be very helpful for a totally blind user.

Blind Alive Workout Videos with Audio Description

In terms of following along with pictures, diagrams and videos of exercises, Lorne discussed exercise videos, which sighted people will recognize from decades ago. They have been much harder for those with no or very low vision to follow along with, unless they have sighted assistance; now that has changed.


Lorne discussed the amazing resource which is the website, which hosts Eyes Free Fitness.

(The following quote is taken directly from the home page, donations would be welcome and go to support keeping this resource free).

“You just discovered the home of a complete set of the Eyes-Free Fitness® audio exercise programs. All programs are completely free for your downloading pleasure — no strings attached. These programs allow you to stretch, strengthen, condition, and tone your body, all without the benefit of eyesight. All these programs are thoroughly described with extra supplementary audio and text materials, should they be needed.

Mel Scott, who is blind, brought together a team of fitness instructors, musicians, and audio editors in order to provide a variety of exercise programs for people who need or prefer non-visual cues while exercising.”



Lorne also discussed a number of relaxation and meditation resources, such as the Headspace app

which is one of several accessible guided meditation apps where you get the first lesson for free but then must pay to continue to more advanced material.

Headspace, along with many similar options is also available if you have a Google Home or Amazon Echo smart speaker, just by saying Connect to Headspace, or Open Headspace.


Some people prefer to listen to nature sounds or calming music in order to meditate, relax, or unwind from a busy day; your smart speaker can help you with this. just ask it to play types of sounds, such as Ocean sounds, or sleep sounds; sometimes you will have to enable a specific skill such as the Amazon Echo Island Sounds skill, before it will start playing.

If you have a subscription to a streaming music service such as Spotify or Apple Music, you can ask the smart assistant to play “relaxing music, meditative music, yoga music, etc. and it will queue up a corresponding playlist of music to help you relax.


Many of the above Meditation/relaxation  resources can also be found for free by searching YouTube for meditation, guided meditation, ASMR, Nature sounds, Meditation music, relaxation music, etc.


Next Meeting (Monday March 9 at 7pm)

  • Vicky Varga from Edmonton Public Library will provide an update on accessible library services such as CELA and NNELS.
  • As always, for help with technology bring your devices and/or questions to the meeting.


Additional Resources

Telephone Support

Contact our GTT coordinators, Kim Kilpatrick in the East or Albert Ruel in the West to book one on one telephone support.

Kim: 877-304-0968 Ext. 513


Albert: 877-304-0968 Ext. 550



GTT Blog and Monthly Teleconference

CCB sponsors a national GTT monthly teleconference. You may subscribe to the GTT blog to get email notices of teleconferences, meeting notes from GTT chapters, and other information. To subscribe, activate the Follow link at the bottom of the blog web page to enter your email.

GTT Email Support List

CCB also sponsors a GTT email support list to provide help and support with technology for blind and low vision Canadians.  To subscribe to the email list, send an empty email to:


GTT Edmonton Overview

  • GTT Edmonton is a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
  • GTT Edmonton promotes a self-help learning experience by holding monthly meetings to assist participants with assistive technology.
  • Each 2 hour meeting consists of a feature technology topic in the first hour and a general tech discussion in the second hour.


GTT Edmonton Meeting Notes, Independent Living Skills, January 13, 2020

Summary Notes

GTT Edmonton Meeting January 13, 2020


The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Edmonton Chapter was held January13 at 7pm at Ascension Lutheran Church 8405 83 Street in Edmonton.

17 people attended.

Reading Tip: These summary notes apply HTML headings to help navigate the document. With screen readers, you may press the H key to jump forward or Shift H to jump backward from heading to heading. Read the Additional Resources section following the meeting notes to learn about our one on one telephone support, the National monthly teleconference, and the support email list.


January Topic –Independent Living Skills

We had a robust round table open discussion on independent living skills. People talked about their strategies and tech they use to perform everyday tasks. The topic turned out to be one of our more interesting ones. The discussion lasted nearly two hours with lots of enthusiasm and lots of ideas shared about how to do everyday tasks. Many of the tasks relied on common sense approaches as well as using tech. Following is a brief summary of the discussion.


 how to get the bus:

  • Google the destination to be aware of its surroundings.
  • Use the ETS app or Transit app.
  • Don’t be shy. Ask someone at the bus stop.
  • You can use the AIRA app which provides trained sighted agents to help you get to the stop by using the video camera on your phone. It was pointed out that AIRA now provides the first 5 minutes of each sighted assistance session for free.


How to shop:

  • Many people remember the location in the store of products they use regularly.
  • Customer service can be a great help.
  • Seeing AI app can be useful for reading product labels and info.
  • Place an order online and pickup (Superstore) or get delivery for about $9 (from Save On Foods. Save On has a code that allows you to use 2500 Save On points for free delivery. This code saves you a lot more than using your points for anything else.
  • Use Be My Eyes app to have a volunteer guide you and describe your item by looking through the video camera of your phone. It was mentioned that, unlike AIRA which uses paid trained agents, Be My Eyes uses volunteers so there may be a wait for a volunteer to engage you.


How to Cook:

  • Use an Instant Pot. Put everything in it at once. Seasoning is everything! Use less liquid so it is thicker. If you get the Bluetooth InstaPot, then you can control all the settings from an app.
  • Label stove with dots for “Start”, “Medium”, “High” etc.
  • Label microwave critical buttons such as #5, Power, Start, and Clear.
  • Modern induction burners are appealing because they only heat the steel pot, the burner does not get hot.
  • Use smaller knives so less likely to cut yourself.
  • When grilling on the BBQ, get a 2-sided spatula with attached tong (you can slide the spatula under the food, and then squeeze the food with the tong, so you can easily flip the food.
  • Use a boiling water probe to tell the level of hot water in a cup.
  • To avoid messy bacon frying, cook bacon at 350 degrees in the oven (on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
  • Add milk to eggs and scramble them in a frying pan. When you press on them and they don’t make a squishy sound, they are done.
  • When browning meat such as ground beef, it will feel dry to the touch when it is fully browned. More frying is safer than less.
  • Organize spices in baggies and /or in same size containers using braille labels if you know braille.
  • Put braille labels on spice containers and refill the same labelled container when it is used up.
  • Sometimes can tell the difference with texture or smell
  • Use braille recipe card labels and secure them to tin cans with rubber bands. Put the card aside when you open the can and it becomes your shopping list.


How to do Laundry:

  • Use the “Seeing AI app to help sort colors of clothes.
  • Buy clothing in similar colors, so they will match, and can be washed together.
  • Avoid white clothes, which might absorb other colors.
  • Use “Color Catchers” or “Dye Magnets” which absorb colors that run from clothes. They are like dryer sheets, but you put them in the washing machine. London Drugs carries them.
  • Use sock pairing devices (CNIB has them), or buy same color socks, or socks with different textures so you can tell the difference.



  • Hotels have more services and help available.
  • The Travel Eyes organization pairs sighted and non-sighted  individuals to travel together on trips.
  • Use headphones that do not cover your ears such as the popular bone conducting headphones from Aftershokz.
  • Use an app for GPS navigation and orientation such as Blind Square or Microsoft Soundscape.
  • Can do both touring and mountain biking with a tandem bicycle and an experienced captain.
  • Be aware of what insurance covers.
  • Wear good boots, jacket, all weather gear, be sure clothing is reflective.


House Cleaning:

  • Feel with your hands what needs cleaning.
  • Clean once a week because it probably needs it.
  • Use an app like AIRA or Be My Eyes to get help to tell you if an area is clean.


  • Smart apps can be used to control lights, thermostats etc.
  • If you are going into college or university, be sure to clearly identify your needs for accessible course materials (audio, e-text, braille, tactile, tutor) to your contact at the disability student office. These materials and/or services take time and special grant funding needs to be organized so be sure you are leading the process and not the other way around.


Next Meeting (Monday February 10 at 7pm)

  • Topic is to be announced.
  • As always, for help with technology bring your devices and/or questions to the meeting.


Additional Resources

Telephone Support

Contact our GTT coordinators, Kim Kilpatrick in the East or Albert Ruel in the West to book one on one telephone support.

Kim: 877-304-0968 Ext. 513


Albert: 877-304-0968 Ext. 550



GTT Blog and Monthly Teleconference

CCB sponsors a national GTT monthly teleconference. You may subscribe to the GTT blog to get email notices of teleconferences, meeting notes from GTT chapters, and other information. To subscribe, activate the Follow link at the bottom of the blog web page to enter your email.

GTT Email Support List

CCB also sponsors a GTT email support list to provide help and support with technology for blind and low vision Canadians.  To subscribe to the email list, send an empty email to:


GTT Edmonton Overview

  • GTT Edmonton is a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
  • GTT Edmonton promotes a self-help learning experience by holding monthly meetings to assist participants with assistive technology.
  • Each 2 hour meeting consists of a feature technology topic in the first hour and a general tech discussion in the second hour.


Access: Technology lags for people with vision, hearing impairments, Victoria News

Access: Technology lags for people with vision, hearing impairments

Author: Nina Grossman

Date Written: Oct 23, 2019 at 9:30 AM

Date Saved: 10/28/19, 8:53 PM


This is the third instalment of “Access,” a Black Press Media three-part series focusing on accessibility in Greater Victoria. See Part One- Access: A Day in the Life Using a Wheelchair in Victoria, and Part Two- Access: Greater Victoria non-profit brings the outdoors to people of all abilities

Heidi Prop’s fingers run over the raised white cells on her BrailleNote Touch Plus. She easily reads more than 200 words per minute, consuming online content with the tips of her fingers faster than most people can with their eyes.

Without vision since birth, Prop doesn’t ‘see’ the words in her head when the pins pop up to form braille words on the android-based braille tablet, she instead hears them like a narrator. She’s sitting in an office at the Pacific Training Centre for the Blind (PTCB) in Victoria, but the braille display allows her to read and write almost anywhere. With a braille output, Prop can check her email, browse the web, download apps and more.

The device is a model of technology that’s added ease to her life, but not all aspects of digitization have made the same leap; many aspects of the internet remain hidden to the blind community.

For example, devices called ‘screen readers’ make web pages accessible, but often stumble when navigating inaccessible websites. Elizabeth Lalonde, PTCB executive director, opens a Wikipedia page on grizzly bears and a robotic voice begins washing over the screen at a rate too rapid for most of the sighted population to consume.

But before the screen reader reaches the information, Lalonde has to navigate a series of unlabeled links and buttons – small hurdles standing in front of the content she’s trying to reach.

PTCB helps people who are vision-impaired learn how to navigate the world around them – from crossing the street and taking transit to cooking dinner or reading braille.

The centre also focuses heavily on using the web – a skill more or less required in order to survive the modern world. But technology is advancing beyond the speed of accessibility, says Alex Jurgensen, lead program coordinator at PTCB, who adds that creators end up playing catch up, adapting their websites and devices for vision and hearing-impaired users long after initial creation.

“A lot of information is out there, but websites can often be inaccessible,” Jurgensen says, noting things such as forms, apps and anything with unusual or unlabeled text can pose a challenge. Scrolling through unlabeled links will have the voice reader say “link” with no further description and scrolling over an image with no alt text embedded in the code will simply read off the name of the image file.

Lalonde says Instagram, for example, is simply not worth using for the vision impaired. But it could be if people described what was in their photos, or if Instagram added an alt text option for each picture, so users could describe what they posted, such as “pug sits on a red blanket in the park on a sunny day.”

Jurgensen describes it as adding a ‘sticky note’ to your image – an easy step that allows those who are vision-impaired to access a prominent element of everyday internet use.

But some elements of the information age don’t adapt. For example: memes. Text created as part of an image is indistinguishable for screen readers. Jurgensen notes apps such as Skip the Dishes can be difficult too. Without labelled button options, he’s ordered food far spicier than he’s intended.

One exception is the iPhone, which becomes usable for vision-impaired users with the simple slide of a toggle that turns on ‘voice over.’

“Camera. Maps. Google. Finance Folder.” The robot voice used to guide drivers to their destinations guides Lalonde through her phone. She double taps on the screen when she’s ready to use an app.

But devices with built-in accessibility software are few and far between – a disheartening reality for the more than six million Canadians living with disabilities.

Lalonde and Jurgensen say websites and online content should be “born accessible,” with accessibility built-in as part of the creation, instead of as afterthoughts or available only through expensive or impractical add-on software.

People with vision-impairments aren’t the only ones facing challenges either. A huge number of videos fail to include subtitles or descriptions of content, throwing in barriers for anyone who has hearing impairments.

And the barriers are nothing new. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines were published in 1999 by a group of international experts in digital accessibility. The guideline was used internationally to create digital accessibility policies.

The experts created a testing and scoring format for websites and programs, finding the most successful sites included criteria such as audio tracks (so people who are hearing impaired can understand audio information), the ability to re-size text, the ability to turn off or extending time limits on tasks, and designing consistently, so people will always know where to find what they are looking for when they are navigating the site.

READ ALSO: Victoria’s $750,000 accessibility reserve fund makes improvement ‘not the side project’

And while the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms included people with disabilities when it was created in 1982, it’s only recently that a bill relating directly to accessibility was taken to the House of Commons.

The Accessible Canada Act (Bill C-81) received unanimous support in May and is in the final stages of becoming law. Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough called the bill “the most transformative piece of legislation” since the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and called its progress “a testament to the work, commitment and contributions of the Canadian disability community.”

The bill, still not fully formed, is expected to include digital content and technologies law, likely based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines – meaning a number of official sites might be scrambling to get their content up to code.

“A lot of the solutions are fairly simple,” Lalonde notes. “But it’s a question of getting businesses and innovators to adapt accessibility into their process from the start.

“It’s a catch-22,” she adds. “Technology has made a major difference in my life and I know [in] the lives of a lot of blind people because it’s allowed us to access so much more information than we could access before. In some ways it’s been absolutely phenomenal, but … the lack of accessibility keeping up with the technology – that’s the problem.”

Jurgensen nods. “No matter how many steps we take forward it feels like it’s a cat and mouse game, and we’re the ones who are one step behind.”
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Voice Dream Scanner: A New Kind of OCR by Bill Holton, AccessWorld

Voice Dream Scanner: A New Kind of OCR | AccessWorld
Author Bill Holton
9-11 minutes

Bill Holton
There is a new player in the optical character recognition (OCR) space, and it comes from an old friend: Winston Chen, the developer of Voice Dream Reader and Voice Dream Writer, both of which we’ve reviewed in past issues of AccessWorld. In this article we’ll start out with a brief conversation with Chen. Then we’ll take a look at the developer’s latest offering: Voice Dream Scanner. Spoiler alert—it will probably be the best $5.99 you’ll ever spend on a text recognition app!
AccessWorld readers who use their phones to audibly read e-Pub books, PDFs or Bookshare titles are likely already familiar with Voice Dream Reader. It works so well with VoiceOver and TalkBack, it’s hard to believe it wasn’t developed specifically for the access market. But according to Chen, “I just wanted to build a pocket reader I could use to store all my books and files so I could listen to them on the go. No one was more surprised than me when I began receiving feedback from dyslexic and blind users describing how helpful Voice Dream Reader was for their needs and making some simple suggestions to improve the app’s accessibility.”
Chen’s second offering, Voice Dream Writer, was also directed at the mainstream market. “Sometimes it’s easier to proofread your document by listening to it instead of simply rereading the text,” says Chen. At the time, Apple’s VoiceOver cut and paste features and other block text manipulation capabilities were,shall we say, not quite what they are today? The innovative way Chen handled these functions made Voice Dream Writer equally useful to users with visual impairments.
Reinventing the OCR Engine
“I’ve been wanting to add OCR to Voice Dream Reader for a few years now,” says Chen. “It would be useful for reading protected PDF’s and handouts and memos from school and work.”
The hurdle Chen kept encountering was finding a useable OCR engine. “There are some free, open source engines, but they don’t work well enough for my purposes,” he says. “The ones that do work well are quite expensive, either as a one-time license purchase with each app sold or with ongoing pay-by-the-use options. Either of these would have raised the price I have to charge too much for my value proposition.”
Last year, however, Chen began experimenting with Apple’s artificial intelligence (AI), called Vision Framework, that’s built into the latest iOS versions, along with Google’s Tesseract, TensorFlow Lite, and ML Kit.
“Instead of using a single standard OCR engine, I combined the best aspects of each of these freely available tools, and I was pleasantly surprised by the results.”
Instead of making OCR a Voice Dream Reader feature, Chen decided to incorporate his discovery into a separate app called Voice Dream Scanner. “I considered turning it into an in-app purchase, only there are a lot of schools that use Reader and they aren’t allowed to make in-app purchases,” he says. As to why he didn’t simply make it a new Reader feature, he smiles, “I do have a family to feed.”
Chen has been careful to integrate the new Voice Dream Scanner functionality into VD Reader, however. For example, if you load a protected PDF file into the app and open it, the Documents tab now offers a recognition feature. You can now also add to your Voice Dream Reader Library not only from Dropbox, Google Drive, and other sources, including Bookshare, but using your device’s camera as well.
To take advantage of this integration you’ll need both Voice Dream Reader and Voice Dream Scanner. Both can be purchased from the iOS App Store. VD Reader is also available for Android, but currently VD Scanner is iOS only.
Of course you don’t have to have VD Reader to enjoy the benefits of the new Voice Dream Scanner.
A Voice Dream Scanner Snapshot
The app installs quickly and easily, and displays with the icon name “Scanner” on your iOS device. Aim the camera toward a page of text. The app displays a real-time video image preview which is also the “Capture Image” button. Double tap this button, the camera clicks, and the image is converted to text almost immediately. You are placed on the “Play” button, give a quick double tap and the text is spoken using either a purchased VD Reader voice or your chosen iOS voice. Note: You can instruct Scanner to speak recognized text automatically in the Settings Menu.
From the very first beta version of this app I tested, I was amazed by the speed and accuracy of the recognition. The app is amazingly forgiving as far as camera position and lighting. Envelopes read the return addresses, postmarks and addresses. Entire pages of text voiced without a single mistake. Scanner even did an excellent job with a bag of potato chips, even after it was crumpled and uncrumpled several times. Despite the fact there is no OCR engine to download, and the recognition is done locally, a network connection is not required. I used the app with equal success even with Airplane mode turned on.
After each scan you are offered the choice to swipe left once to reach the Discard button, twice to reach the Save button. Note: the VoiceOver two-finger scrub gesture also deletes the current text.
Scanner does not save your work automatically. You have the choice to save it as a text file, a PDF, or to send it directly to Voice Dream Reader. You probably wouldn’t send a single page to Reader, but the app comes with a batch mode. Use this mode to scan several pages at once and then save them together: perfect for that 10-page print report your boss dropped on your desk, or maybe the short story a creative writing classmate passed out for review.
Other Scanner features of interest to those with visual impairments are edge detection and a beta version of auto capture.
Edge detection plays a tone that grows increasingly steady until all four edges are visible, at which time it becomes a solid tone. Auto-capture does just that, but since the AI currently detects any number of squares where there is no text this feature is only available in beta. However, if you’re using a scanner stand it will move along quite nicely, nearly as fast as you can rearrange the pages.
You can also import an image to be recognized. Unfortunately, as of now, this feature is limited to pictures in your photo library. There is currently no way to send an e-mail or file image to Scanner. Look for this to change in an upcoming version.
The benefits of Voice Dream Scanner are by no means limited to the blindness community. Chen developed the app to be used as a pocket player for documents and other printed material he wishes to scan and keep. Low vision users can do the same, then use either iOS magnification or another text-magnification app to review documents. It doesn’t matter in which direction the material is scanned. Even upside-down documents are saved right-side up. Performance is improved by the “Image Enhancement” feature, which attempts to locate the edges of scanned documents and save them more or less as pages.
The Bottom Line
I never thought I’d see the day when I would move KNFB-Reader off my iPhone’s Home screen. Microsoft’s Seeing AI gave it a good run for its money and until now I kept them both on my Home screen. But I have now moved KNFB-Reader to a back screen and given that honored spot to Voice Dream Scanner.
Most of my phone scanning is done when I sort through the mail. Seeing AI’s “Short Text” feature does a decent job helping me sort out which envelopes to keep and which to toss into my hardware recycle bin. But Scanner is just as accurate as any OCR-engine based app, and so quick, the confirmation announcement of the Play button often voices after the scanned document has begun to read.
This is the initial release. Chen himself says there is still work to be done. “Column recognition is not yet what I hope it will be,” he says. “I’d also like to improve auto-capture and maybe offer users the choice to use the volume buttons to initiate a scan.
Stay tuned.
This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.
Comment on this article.
Related articles:
• Envision AI and Seeing AI: Two Multi-Purpose Recognition Apps by Janet Ingber
• An Evaluation of OrCam MyEye 2.0 by Jamie Pauls
More by this author:
• Letters, We Get Letters: Receiving Digital Scans of Your Mail Envelopes Using Informed Delivery
• A Look at the New Narrator, Microsoft’s Built-In Windows Screen Reader
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Primer on Converting Photos of Text on Facebook for Blind Screen Reader Users

A quick primer on how to convert a Facebook photo from your iPhone/iPad containing text so that screen reader users can enjoy the learning/laughter as well.  This primer supposes you are using iOS 12.x.


  1. download and install the free iOS app called Seeing AI. It’ll be your conversion tool.
  2. With focus on the target photo in Facebook one finger double tap to open it.
  3. Scroll through the page to find the More Button and one finger double tap to reveal a list of options, the first of which will be the Save Button. One finger double tap that button and the photo will be saved to the Camera Roll in your Photos Folder.
  4. Navigate to your Photos Folder and locate the last photo saved in the Camera Roll and open it with a one finger double tap.
  5. With the photo opened navigate to the bottom of the page and one finger double tap on the Share Button.
  6. Scroll through the list to find Seeing AI in the list and one finger double tap to launch it. It will convert the photo and any text therein for you. If the photo contains a picture it will attempt to interpret it, and in another section of the screen it will present the converted text.
  7. copy the text to the clipboard with a three finger quadruple tap.
  8. Navigate back to Facebook and locate the photo in question. You may have left it open when you navigated to the Photo Folder, so locate the Close Button and one finger double tap it. Otherwise, scroll to the original photo and perform a two finger double tap and hold to launch the edit field where you will paste the converted text.
  9. In the active Edit Field you will spin your Rotor to the item called Edit, then swipe up or down with one finger to find the Paste Button and one finger double tap it to paste the text from the clipboard.
  10. Once the text is pasted you can scroll to, and one finger double tap the Save Button.


Thank you in advance for making the FB world a little more accessible and enjoyable for blind, partially sighted and deaf-blind Facebook users.


Game-Changing Technology: A Review of the Horizon Smart Glasses from Aira – AccessWorld® – June 2018

AccessWorld: Technology and People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired is a monthly periodical for anyone who uses or wants to use assistive technology, provides technology training, has students or clients who use technology, needs to make purchasing decisions, or wants to keep abreast of technological trends and events.
— Read on

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.

Reminder: Next northern Ontario/ rural GTT teleconference call all about accessible apps for I Devices and android.  March 17 7 PM Eastern. 

Reminder next Northern Ontario/rural GTT conference call Thursday March 17 7 PM Eastern. All about android and IOS apps. Join us if you live in Northern Ontario and/or in a rural area with no GTT group on Thursday March 17 for our regular monthly teleconference call. 

This one is all about accessible apps. 

We will give equal time to Iphone and Android apps during this presentation with experts of both types of devices sharing their favourite apps. 

Here is the call in info. 


March 17 2016. 

Time: 7 PM Eastern time

Call in number: 


Passcode 5670311 

For more information contact Kim at 

1-877-304-0968 X. 513. 


KNFB reader app reduced in price from December 23 to 25.

Hello everyone.

I found out that the KNFB reader app is reduced in price from $99 to $74 from December 23 to 25.

So, go to the app store and search for it.

We had a demonstration of it last week in Ottawa.

It is a very good app for reading documents.


It can read business cards at times and read some boxes and cans but not as well..

Most blind people agree that this is an excellent app and also reads pdf’s well.

Happy holidays.