Windows from the Keyboard Tips, Series has ended, December 16, 2020

Attention: This is the final reminder that the Windows from the Keyboard Tips blog series has ended. If you have an idea for a future GTT blog series, please email it to:

I hope you have enjoyed reading the tips as much as I have enjoyed researching and writing them.

Happy computing, Gerry Chevalier

GTT Edmonton Meeting Notes, GTT History and Resources, September 14, 2020

Summary Notes

GTT Edmonton Meeting September 14, 2020


The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Edmonton Chapter was held September14 at 7pm as a Zoom virtual meeting.

12 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 one on one telephone support, the National blog, CCB Podcast, Zoom meetings, and the support email list.


September Topic –GTT History

Our guest was Kim Kilpatrick from the Ottawa national office of Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB). Kim is the founder of the GTT initiative in CCB and she presented a short history of GTT.

Kim, blind from birth, and an avid braille user and technology user has always been keen to learn from other blind people. She especially wanted to share their experiences with technology. She organized a small group and they had their first meeting in the CCB Ottawa office in 2012. They were enthusiastic and wanted to continue to meet and ‘get together with their technology’. However, they did not want to take on the bother of making a legal organization and board of directors. So, they asked if CCB would sponsor their group.

That was the birth of the GTT program within CCB and Kim was hired in 2014 to lead the program.

GTT now has chapters in Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary, and Northern  Ontario. Training others to use technology became an important GTT initiative. David Green was hired to train over the telephone and via the Zoom meeting app. David now trains full time – for example he had 6 students on our meeting day, September 14. Kim also does one-on-one training especially for students who want help with braille technology. Their contact information follows these notes.

Kim also highlighted the increased use of Zoom to reach out to GTT members across Canada which has become a significant innovation that grew out of the Covid requirements for isolation.  Currently, there are Zoom meetings every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 11am Edmonton time as well as a national zoom meeting on the second Wednesday of the month at 5pm Edmonton time. An Android user group meets every 3rd Wednesday of the month at 5pm. A youth group now meets every Wednesday afternoon. The meeting invitations are posted on the GGT blog (see below). If you have ideas for Zoom meeting topics Kim wants to hear from you. Her contact information is below.  Kim and David can also help you install the Zoom app on your phone or computer if you don’t have the app and want to participate in the GTT Zoom meetings. Thanks for a great presentation, Kim.


New Members

We welcomed to new attendees at the meeting Pamera and Katherine.

Additional Resources

Telephone Training and Support

Contact the CCB national office GTT coordinators to book one on one telephone training.

Kim: 877-304-0968 Ext. 513


David Green 1-877-304-0968 Ext. 509

GTT Blog and Regular Zoom Meetings

CCB sponsors about 14 monthly Zoom meetings on technology, lifestyle, and open chat socialization.  You may wish to read the GTT blog to find email notices of the Zoom meetings and other information such as the weekly Windows from the Keyboard Tips. If you would prefer to receive the blog posts in your email inbox, then you may activate the Follow link at the bottom of the blog web page to enter your email. IF you have difficulty contact Kim or David for assistance.

CCB Podcast

CCB sponsors a podcast feed. Use your favorite pod catcher app or the Victor Reader Stream book playing device to subscribe to the feed. Search for “Canadian Council of the Blind”. You will find episodes on technology as well as general interest topics such as CELA Library, NNELS Library, WBU, and more.

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:


CCB-GTT Windows from the Keyboard Tips Summary Notes, Microsoft Ribbons, June 17, 2020 with a Link to the CCB Podcast Episode

Get Together with Technology (GTT)

Sponsored by the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB)

Summary Notes:

June 24, 2020

Theme: Microsoft Ribbons

Use the above link to play and/or download the CCB Podcast.

Presenter: Gerry Chevalier

In this 19 minute 8th episode of the Windows from the Keyboard series, Gerry discusses Microsoft ribbons. He explains how to navigate the ribbons and execute ribbon commands. He also shows how to use the Quick Access Tool Bar, and how to search for ribbon commands and get help using the Tell Me What You Want To Do search tool.

For more information please contact your GTT Coordinators/Trainers:

Kim Kilpatrick 1-877-304-0968 Ext. 513

David Green 1-877-304-0968 Ext. 509

CCB-GTT Backgrounder:

The CCB was founded in 1944 by a coalition of blind war veterans, schools of the blind and local chapters to create a national self-governing organization. The CCB was incorporated by Letters Patent on May 10, 1950 and is a registered charity under the provisions of the Income Tax Act (Canada).

The purpose of the CCB is to give people with vision loss a distinctive and unique perspective before governments.  CCB deals with the ongoing effects of vision loss by encouraging active living and rehabilitation through peer support and social and recreational activities.

CCB promotes measures to conserve sight, create a close relationship with the sighted community and provide employment opportunities.

The CCB recognizes that vision loss has no boundaries with respect to gender, income, ethnicity, culture, other disabilities or age.

The CCB understands in many instances vision loss is preventable and sometimes is symptomatic of other health issues.  For the 21st century, the CCB is committed to an integrated proactive health approach for early detection to improve the quality of life for all Canadians.

As the largest membership organization of the blind and partially sighted in Canada the CCB is the “Voice of the Blind™”.

GTT is an exciting initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind, founded in Ottawa in 2011 by Kim Kilpatrick and Ellen Goodman.  GTT aims to help people who are blind or have low vision in their exploration of low vision and blindness related access technology.  Through involvement with GTT participants can learn from and discuss assistive technology with others walking the same path of discovery.

GTT is made up of blindness related assistive technology users, and those who have an interest in using assistive technology designed to help blind and vision impaired people level the playing field.  GTT groups interact through social media, and periodically meet in-person or by teleconference to share their passions for assistive technology and to learn what others can offer from their individual perspectives.

CCB National Office

100-20 James Street Ottawa ON  K2P 0T6

Toll Free: 1-877-304-0968 Email: URL:


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.


GTT Edmonton Meeting Summary Notes, Canadian Assistive Technologies Exhibit, December 9, 2019

            Summary Notes

GTT Edmonton Chapter Meeting December 9, 2019


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

27 people attended.

IMPORTANT: 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.

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.


Thank You for Treats

A big thank you to all those members who brought treats to make this a festive meeting to celebrate the Christmas season.


December Topic – Technology Exhibit

We were treated to a technology exhibit from Canadian Assistive Technologies, a company with over 30 years’ experience providing assistive technology to blind and low vision Canadians. Company owner, Steve Barclay, exhibited some of the latest tech available. Following is a list of what Steve showed us with links to the product description and pricing.


Steve also has some good deals at the Canadian Assistive Technologies gently used marketplace which is worth checking out.

For more information on these or any other Canadian Assistive Technologies products, you may contact Steve at:

(844) 795-8324



Steve’s team also produces a weekly assistive technology podcast which is called AT Banter.

Next Meeting (Monday January 13, 2020 at 7pm)

First hour topic is to be announced.

  • The second hour is for you. For help with technology bring your devices and/or questions.


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.




I live with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. Here’s which one you should pick By Geoffrey A. Fowler The Washington Post

I live with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. Here’s which one you should pick

By Geoffrey A. Fowler The Washington Post

Wed., Nov. 21, 2018

Sure, you could chose a smart speaker based on sound or price. The go-to gadget gift of the season is available from Amazon, Apple and Google with better acoustics, new touch screens and deep holiday discounts.

But you’re not just buying a talking jukebox. Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant also want to adjust the thermostat, fill your picture frame or even microwave your popcorn. Each artificial intelligence assistant has its own ways of running a home. You’re choosing which tribe is yours.

The Consumer Technology Association says one in 10 Americans plan to buy a smart speaker this year. (Tyler Lizenby/CNET / TNS)

I call it a tribe because each has a distinct culture — and demands loyalty. This decision will shape how you get information, what appliances you purchase, where you shop and how you protect your privacy. One in 10 Americans plan to buy a smart speaker this year, according to the Consumer Technology Association. And Amazon says its Echo Dot is the bestselling speaker, ever.

The last time we had to choose a tech tribe like this was when smartphones arrived. Did you go iPhone, Android, or cling to a BlackBerry? A decade later, it’s increasingly hard to fathom switching between iPhone and Android. (A recent survey found iPhone and Android people don’t even like dating one another.)

Now imagine how hard it will be to change when you’ve literally wired stuff into your walls.

Article Continued Below

In my test lab — I mean, living room — an Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod sit side by side, and the voice AIs battle it out to run my home like genies in high-tech bottles. Here’s the shorthand I’ve learned: Alexa is for accessibility. Google Assistant is for brainpower. And Siri is for security.

Read more:

Look who isn’t talking: Why Canadians are being left behind in the voice-activated tech wars

Tech is trying to invade your home, kitchen-first

The 5 home renovation trends dominating this year

Amazon’s aggressive expansion makes Alexa the one I recommend, and use, the most. Google’s Assistant is coming from behind, matching feature by feature — and Siri, the original voice assistant, feels held back by Apple’s focus on privacy and its software shortcomings. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, but I review all tech with the same critical eye.)

Smart speakers are building the smart home that you never knew you needed. Inside the audio equipment, they’re home hub computers that work alongside smartphone apps to connect and control disparate devices and services. Now with a speaker and the right connected gizmo, you can walk into a room and turn on the lights without touching a button. Or control the TV without a remote. Amazon even sells an Alexa-operated microwave that cooks, tracks and reorders popcorn.

Click to expand

Article Continued Below

But home assistants can also be Trojan horses for a specific set of devices and services that favour one company over another.

My buddy Matt recently asked me to help him pick speakers and appliances for a big remodel. He loves the Google Assistant on his Android phone, so selecting his tribe should be easy, right? Hardly: He wanted to put Sonos speakers all around the house, but they take voice commands directly via Alexa. (Sonos says Google Assistant support is coming, though it’s been promising that for a year.)

Figuring out which connected doodads are compatible can be like solving a 10,000-piece puzzle. The best smart home gadgets (like Lutron Caseta and Philips Hue lights) work across all three tribes, but sometimes alliances and technical concerns make appliance makers take sides.

Each AI has its limitations. They’re not all equally skilled at understanding accents — Southerners are misunderstood more with Google and Midwesterners with Alexa. The price of ownership with some is letting a company surveil what goes on in your house. You can try, like me, to live with more than one, but you’re left with a patchwork that won’t win you any favours with family.

How do you find your AI tribe? Here’s how I differentiate them.


Supported smart home devices: Over 20,000.

Who loves it: Families who buy lots through Amazon and experiment with new gizmos.

The good: Alexa knows how to operate the most stuff, thanks to Amazon’s superior deal making. The only connected things it can’t run in my house are the app-operated garage door and some facets of my TV. Amazon also has been successful at spawning new connected gadgets: Alexa’s voice and microphone are built into more than 100 non-Amazon devices. And Amazon recently announced plans to offer appliance makers a chip that lets Alexa users voice command inexpensive everyday things, from wall plugs to fans.

Alexa has also mastered some of the little details of home life. It will confirm a request to turn off the lights without repeating your command — super helpful when someone nearby is napping.

The bad: Alexa grows smarter by the week, but it can be a stickler about using specific syntax. It also has the weakest relationship with your phone, the most important piece of technology for most people today. Amazon has bolstered a companion Alexa app for phones, making it better for communicating and setting up smart home routines, but I still find it the most confusing of the lot.

Amazon doesn’t always show the highest concern for our privacy. This spring, when Alexa inadvertently recorded a family’s private conversations and sent it to a contact, Amazon’s response boiled down to ‘whoopie.’ And it records and keeps every conversation you have with the AI — including every bag of popcorn it microwaves. (Amazon says it doesn’t use our queries to sell us stuff beyond making recommendations based on song and product searches).

Some love Alexa’s ability to order products by voice. But as long as Alexa runs your house, you’ll always be stuck buying those goods from Amazon. (That microwave will only ever order popcorn from Amazon.) The coming generation of appliances built with the Alexa chip inside could similarly trap you forever into Amazon-land.

Google Assistant

Supported smart home devices: Over 10,000.

Who loves it: People who are deep into Google’s services.

The good: Google Assistant comes the closest to having a conversation with an actual human helper. You don’t have to use exact language to make things happen or get useful answers. Its intelligence can also be delightfully personal: It’s pretty good at differentiating the voices of family members. And on the new Home Hub device with a screen, Assistant curates a highlights-only show from your Google Photos collection.

While Android phone owners are more likely to use lots of Assistant-friendly Google services, the Assistant doesn’t particularly care what kind of phone you use — its simple companion apps work on iOS and Android.

And Google is neck and neck with Alexa on many of the nuances: Night mode reduces the volume of answers at night, and it can even require Junior to say “pretty please.”

The bad: As a relative newcomer to the smart home, Google has been catching up fast. But in my house, it still can’t fully control my Ring doorbell or send music to my Sonos speakers. And I’m not convinced that Google has Amazon’s negotiating sway, or the influence to bring the next generation of connected things online.

The bigger problem is privacy. Google’s endgame is always getting you to spend more time with its services, so it can gather more data to target ads at you. Like Alexa, Google Assistant keeps a recording of all your queries — every time you ask it to turn off the lights. Google treats this kind of like your Web search history, and uses it to target ads elsewhere. (Thankfully, It still keeps data from its Nest thermostat and home security division separate.) The potential upside is that when Google discovers your habits in all that data, it might be able to better automate your home — like what time all the lights should be off.


Supported smart home devices: Hundreds.

Who loves it: Privacy buffs and all-Apple households.

The good: Apple means business on security and privacy. Any device that wants to connect to HomeKit, its smart home software that works with Siri on the HomePod and iPhone, requires special encryption.

What’s more, your data is not attached to a personal profile, which aside from protecting your privacy also means that Apple is not using your home activity to sell or advertise things. (While other smart speakers keep recordings and transcriptions of what you say, Siri controls devices by making a request to its system through a random identifier, which cannot be tied to specific user.)

And Apple is pretty good at keeping the smart home simple. Setting up a smart home device is mostly just scanning a special code. Even creating routines, in which multiple accessories work in combination with a single command, is easier in the Siri’s companion Home app than with competitors.

The bad: You have to live in an all-Apple device world to reap these benefits. Siri’s a pretty good DJ, but only if you subscribe to Apple Music. You’re stuck with the HomePod as the one-size-fits-all smart speaker, and Siri still isn’t as competent as her AI competitors.

And Apple’s security-first approach has kept too many appliance makers from joining its ecosystem. Sure, it’s quality not quantity, but Siri still can’t interact with my Nest thermostat or Ring doorbell, just to name two. Apple did recently loosen up a tad: starting with Belkin Wemo’s Mini Smart Plug and Dimmer, it no longer requires special hardware for authentication — that can now happen via software. The move should make it simpler to make new products Siri compatible, and allow it access to existing ones.

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Article on a new navigation tool.

Tools that help with navigation.

See below article

Posted by Kim Kilpatrick

GTT coordinator


It seems that very regularly thee days, products are tested and developed to help people who are blind or have low vision to get around.

However, sometimes these products are developed without consulting people who are blind to know what they exactly need and would like in a product.

I find this happens most with navigation apps and tools.

What is it we want to know when traveling outside?

How much is too much distraction?

How much information do we need?

What format do we want it in?

This project seems to be testing many people who are blind or have low vision.  This is always a good sign.

They also seem to be testing travelers who use canes, guide dogs, some with less and some with more vision.

Also, they seem to be asking the testers what else they might use the device to do.

This is very interesting reading.


See below.

Posted by Kim Kilpatrick 

GTT Coordinator

Putting SUNU to the test
Perkins students, staff take award-winning navigation tool for a spin

Rob, a Perkins student, uses the navigational wristband SUNU to locate 
doorways during a testing session for the device.
December 30, 2014
Byline: Alix Hackett
No one likes waiting in line at the bank, least of all Perkins teacher Kate 
Katulak. Because she is visually impaired, Katulak sometimes has trouble 
keeping tabs on the person in front of her, which can lead to some awkward 

“With a guide dog you have to constantly ask people, ‘Excuse me, are you 
moving up?’” she explained. “And if I say ‘forward’ to my dog she’s going to 
lead me right around people… so I cut a lot of lines.”

Enter SUNU (formerly known as Ustraap), a wristband that uses an ultrasonic 
sensor to detect obstacles and vibrate as they come closer. Someone wearing 
SUNU while waiting in line can feel the vibrations lessening as the person 
in front of them advances, prompting them to move forward themselves.

Katulak was able to try the product for herself during a recent two-day 
testing session run by SUNU and Perkins Products to gather feedback on the 
wristband, which is still in the prototype phase. Perkins Products staff 
formed a makeshift line, and Katulak practiced moving forward an appropriate 
distance behind them. On the first try, she was able to mirror the movement 
of the person in front of her.

“The band pulsated, and the pulsation kept getting lighter and lighter so I 
moved toward you,” she said. “That’s pretty cool.”

SUNU touts itself primarily as a navigational device, designed to help 
people who are blind avoid low-hanging tree branches or find doorways in a 
room. But during testing, SUNU’s chief strategy officer Fernando Albertorio 
was interested in hearing what other uses people came up with after wearing 
the wristband for the first time.

“To be honest with you, this is a use we hadn’t even thought of,” he said, 
referring to standing in line. “These two days are really about learning as 
much as we can in order to make improvements to the product and inform our 
launch and how we market it.”

SUNU and Perkins have been working together ever since SUNU (then known as 
Ustraap) won the Perkins Technology Sidecar Prize as part of MassChallenge, 
a Boston-based competition for entrepreneurs. Once a prototype of the band 
was developed, Albertorio tapped Perkins Products Director Joe Martini to 
recruit testers for the device who might use it in different ways.

“It hadn’t been tested with people who use guide dogs, individuals with low 
vision, or people who are deafblind,” said Martini.

During testing, each user donned a SUNU band and practiced using the 
vibration feedback to gauge distances, avoid obstacles and locate doorways. 
In one exercise, Albertorio held a plastic tree branch out at eye level, and 
asked testers to stop before walking into it. Perkins Products technology 
specialist Joann Becker, who uses a cane to navigate, said walking into 
stray branches is one of her biggest pet peeves. During the test, she strode 
quickly toward the branch, but stopped just inches away from it.

“Wow,” she said. “I could feel that it was there all of a sudden. I knew if 
I kept going, I would hit it.”

Perkins trainer Milissa Garside, another tester, wasn’t as worried about 
hitting things at eye level. “I’m short, so I don’t run into a lot of that,” 
she said, but like most people who tried SUNU, she had ideas for other uses.

“I would love to use this to locate a (traffic) light pole when I want to 
press the ‘walk’ button,” she said. “This would be so helpful, you have no 

Article on Braille. Is it becoming outdated?

Is braille less relevant now?  I really hope not.

Posted by Kim Kilpatrick

GTT Coordinator

I learned braille when I was six years old.

I could not wait to do that!

Having others read to me was interesting but not totally satisfying as I wanted to read for myself.

Braille was wonderful.

I could read and write by myself.

I could read in the dark and not get caught.

I could read in moving vehicles and not get sick.

But, braille was bulky.

Huge books, braille machines that were noisy and heavy to carry.

For GTT, I have been able to play with several braille displays.

I’d like to thank the people from Aroga Technologies and from canadialog who have been letting me play with braille displays.

I have tried out the focus displays, braille note from humanware, braille edge, and braille sense.

It is such a pleasure to be able to read and write braille any time with my I devices.

I prefer it to anything else.


I have also started playing with the braille screen input mode built into IOS 8.

I am getting more used to it.

If any of you are using it or other braille displays and products, I would love to hear all about it.

So, I was delighted to read this article.

it is from June 2014 and I share it with you.


Braille isn’t [quote] embattled–we’re on the cusp of a golden age for blind

Far from heralding the death of a great medium, technology may be ushering
in a new era of access and greater independence

Ian Macrae, The Guardian (UK)
Thursday, May 22, 2014.

[photo caption:]  A cash machine keypad with Braille: ‘Braille has gone

Imagine a situation where you walk into your favourite restaurant and ask
for the menu, only to be told it isn’t available. Chances are it wouldn’t
stay your favourite for very long.

As a braillist–someone who uses braille–the dream for me is when the
opposite happens. A small number of chain restaurants offer menus in
braille; sometimes, they’re even up to date.

It is difficult to over-express the sense of liberation at being able to
browse and choose your preferred pizza independently. And in Co-op
supermarkets, where some of the own-brand labels feature braille, there is
pride in being able to identify a bottle of wine from a label that few if
any other people in the store are able to read.

All too often, though, finding anything in shops is a matter of random
selection, peering in earnest, or asking for help. And just when it seemed
the situation couldn’t get any worse for braillists, along come headlines
suggesting the end is nigh for braille, that this communication lifeline is
about to be cut off.

This week, Dr Matthew Rubery, curator of an exhibition on alternative
methods of reading for blind people, described braille as [quote] embattled.
He went on to say its biggest threat [quote] is computer technology, which
makes it much easier not to have to learn it. A lot of people fear braille
won’t survive because it will be read by so few people. The use has declined
and there are concerns about funding to keep it going.

This seems to me a rather glass-half-empty view, although there is some
evidence to support his argument. Anecdotally, it is claimed blind children
are no longer being taught braille. This is said to be owing to sighted
teachers who believe computer technology, and in particular synthesised
speech, has rendered it redundant. Therefore, the teachers don’t need to
learn braille either.

If this is true, and no other factors were to come into play, then the
outlook might really look bad. But, like print, braille has gone through a
process of evolution. It started out in classrooms as the equivalent of the
slate – my five-year-old hands punched out each dot individually through a
sheet of thick manilla paper. We learned to write it backwards and read it

Then Harold Wilson’s [quote] white heat  age of technology ushered in the
mechanical era. Classrooms echoed to the deafening collective rattle of 15
or more braille machines – the Stainsby, the Perkins, the Lavender –
pounding away at dictation or composition.

And now, like print with its tablets, Kindles and touch screens, braille has
gone digital. And it is my belief that this could well mean it becomes more
widely available and infinitely more useful. This is important because it
means all children in future will be able to enjoy the same degree of
literacy, not to mention the same levels of liberation and pleasure, as I do

Think of this: I am writing and editing this piece on an Apple computer
using braille from an electronic display that drives pins into the correct
shapes to form a line of braille text. Once the piece is published I will be
able to go to the Guardian website on my iPhone or iPad, use Bluetooth to
connect up a portable braille device, and read it along with you. The main
problem currently is the cost of the braille-reading equipment: the cheapest
is 900 [pounds].

But, fellow reader, we are now in the age of the app and of haptic
technology, which communicates through vibration and touch. It is already
possible for me to download an app that will create on my touch screen a
virtual braille keyboard on which I can compose texts, emails, tweets and
Facebook updates in braille.

Meanwhile, the search is already on for the holy grail of braille–a means
of creating dots without using expensive mechanical cells that make the
shape of braille characters using pins. Then the world would truly be at our

What is needed is an app that would turn digital text on your device into
electronic impulses in the shape of braille characters, transmitted by the
screen of your iPad or other tablet, to be read by touch. To go back to my
restaurant quandary, all I would need to do would be to call up the menu
online, put it through my haptic braille app, and read it on my screen.

Add into that mix a scanning app, and I could point my device at what was on
the supermarket shelf and have the haptic braille app produce the package

And if you think this is hopelessly optimistic pie in the sky, it’s worth
remembering that less than five years ago 96% of all books produced would
never be turned into forms accessible to blind people. But with the advent
of e-books and existing technology, I am now able to read pretty much any
book I want to in electronic braille.

So rather than seeing the end of braille, we could be entering a golden age
of access and communication. Here’s to more pizza, more wine, and more


Fascinating article and video on possibilities for travel in the future.

This is a fascinating article and video.

If some of these things happen, travel for people who are blind or have low vision could be very different and enhanced.

I think we are already noticing this.

With apps like blindsquare for I devices, near by explorer for android, and more, travel even in new locations is getting much easier..

Any device that enhances the tools in our tool box is always welcome.


See article and video below..

Posted by Kim Kilpatrick

GTT Coordinator

Visionary – International Guide Dogs Federation magazine February 2015.

Cities Unlocked 

exploring the world using 3D Soundscapes 

John Shelton, – Cities Unlocked Program, Manager , Guide Dogs UK 

In 2013 Guide Dogs and Microsoft created a film called A Family Day Out to
demonstrate technology concepts that could greatly enhance the quality of
life for blind and visually impaired people. 
Following the launch of the film, Guide Dogs and Microsoft teamed up with
Future Cities Catapult to research and pilot some of the concepts; the
programmed of work is called Cities Unlocked.

To bring the concepts imagined in the film to life, we conducted an in-depth
analysis of current technology and transport issues affecting intermodal
journeys made by people who are blind or partially sighted. This research
identified the key stress points in their journeys and possible solutions to
alleviate them. We then set about designing and developing prototype
technologies that, with a little training and practice, dissolve into the
background of the user experience to enhance but not hinder cognitive
ability. The pilot technologies are moving us closer to Social Computing –
whereby places, points of interest and objects are aware of each other, and
are contextually aware of us and our social interactions.

How the technology works
Crudely speaking, there are three aspects to the technology:

A ‘Cities Unlocked’ smartphone app that can be used with just one hand ..A
bone-conducting headset containing a Gyro, GPS and Accelerometer to place
information in 3D space relative to the direction the user is facing ..A
boosted environment using GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth Low Energy beacons to aid
orientation, navigation, transport and retail experiences Once user
preferences have been set and a route selected, the phone can be stowed in a
pocket or bag, leaving the user free to go about their business whilst
receiving useful information through the headset in a unique 3D Soundscape.
Additional buttons mounted on the headset, allow the user to access more
information on the move without needing to take the phone out of their bag
or pocket.

Here are examples of some of the features:

If the user is facing in the wrong direction they hear a clip-clop sound
coming from the direction that they should be facing ..The user rotates
towards the clipclop sound, and when they are facing in the right direction
they will hear a gentle ping sound ..The ping sound plots the route, so the
user simply follows the ping whilst using their guide dog or cane ..Along
the route the user receives navigation information e.g. “turn left in
20 metres”

They also receive contextual information e.g. “dropped curb approximately 3
meres” or “caution, this street regularly has cars parked on the pavement”

Points of interest, shops and street furniture are also announced in 3D
Soundscape – it sounds as though the announcement is coming from the
direction of the point of interest. If the user changes direction the
announcement automatically changes direction accordingly.

Bus stops, bus timetables, and when the next bus is approaching are
announced. On the bus journey the technology continues to announce
approaching stops and points of interest that the bus is passing. It also
works in a similar fashion on train journeys.

Results from our user trials We conducted a trial with 8 participants and
used data collection tools to assess mobility and quality of life factors
while the participants undertook a long, complex and unfamiliar intermodal
journey without the technology. This provided a baseline measure against
which to measure any positive or negative effects when traveling the same
journey some weeks later using the technology.

The illustration shows the improvements across 17 wellbeing measures in six
areas; physiology, orientation skills, cognitive/conceptual skills, mobility
skills, safety skills, and use of residual vision (for those that had some).
The pink area shows results using their normal mobility aid, the blue area
shows the improvement when the technology is used alongside the mobility

The results show that the concept is a success in helping VI people’s
mobility. Importantly, none of the markers showed a negative impact, and the
results indicate that the technology is a complement to traditional mobility

Next steps
Recognising that the solutions need to be sustainable on their own merit,
otherwise they will raise expectations and lead to disappointment, we have
now started planning for Phase 2 to incorporate the lessons learned into a
bigger and more ambitious project.

We know that what we are doing is important globally – but we must all
remember that what we are doing isn’t really about the technology; it is
about people and the user experience.

Watch the Cities Unlocked film with audio description:

NOtes on CELA from our national teleconference on February 11, 2015.

More than 20 people attended this conference call.

We welcomed Margaret and Lindsay to tell us about the CELA service.

Margaret told us about the history of cela.

CNIB had been lobbying for many years to have accessible library service delivered through public libraries.

Other organizations of canadians who are blind or have low vision have also wanted this to happen.

It is a right for all Canadians to access library services in their communities..

Coming to a charity to obtain library services was inappropriate.  

Many studies were conducted.


In the end, the federal government asked CNIB to organize this service.

A report was produced called Reading Reimagined.

The report said that this service that should come through local public libraries.

In April of 2014, CELA (Centre for equitable library access) was launched.

As of February 2015, this service is available through over 600 public libraries in 1600 service points.

Most of these libraries are in Ontario, Alberta, and PEI.

There are also libraries in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and some in BC.

Libraries contribute funding to help the CELA service.

The list of participating libraries has been growing.

There were 25 thousand CNIB library clients prior to April 2014.  they are still able to use the service through

They are encouraged to join CELA if they wish to do so.

They would then benefit also from services from their local public libraries.

The aim of CELA is to meet the needs of users across the spectrum of technical abilities and interests.  They can get Cd’s in the mail, download their own books, choose their own books, or get help choosing and selecting books.

There are currently 300 thousand titles in the collection.

90 thousand are from CELA.

200 thousand are through bookshare.

When you join CELA, you get an automatic membership to bookshare.

To find out more about bookshare itself, go to


5000 titles were added to CELA in the last fiscal year.

The formats offered through CELA and bookshare include:

human narrated audio


hard copy braille

electronic braille


described video

electronic text

bookshare offers books in:

synthetic speech

electronic braille

and text 

Delivery options available

direct to player (this will allow books to go directly from the library to supported players.

At the time of this blog entry, (February 2015) the players include:

plextalk players

sold in CAnada by aroga technologies


Victor stratus and victor stream second generation (sold by Humanware)

Braille electronic (you must download these to a device or computer with braille display or talking book player that can support the brf format

hard copy braille

books on CD delivered through the mail

Download from a web site.

How to sign up for CELA

CELA is available to Canadians with a broad range of disabilities.

Any disability (learning, or physical) that makes it difficult for someone to read print can be eligible.

You would sign up through your local public library.

The books you access through CNIB and CELA are the same collections.

Local library staff have had some training about CELA.

If the library has questions or does not know about CELA, they should visit the CELA web site at

To register for CELA, you need a public library card, proof of your address, fill out a registration form, and declare that you have trouble accessing or reading regular print.  You do not need a doctor’s form.  

CNIB staff can also assist you with finding out about CELA.

CAnnot search books from public library, CELA, or bookshare all in one place.

You must go to each site for their collections.

Some libraries are starting to enter CELA records into their catalogs.

In future, they might integrate all services into one place.

Every existing CNIB library client before april 2014 is also now a CELA client.

How can people advocate for their libraries to come to CELA?

Someone mentioned there is a good presentation about CELA on youtube.

In Ontario and Alberta, CELA funding is provided provincially for all of its municipal libraries.

CNIB will still be creating books in braille and audio formats.  CELA will not do that.

Here are some apps for I devices and android that work well with bookshare and CNIB library books.

For Iphone, the app voicedream reader which costs about $10 CAnadian is excellent and allows you to search and download bookshare books directly into the app.

It also works well with CNIB library books.

If people want, Kim could do a conference call on how to download these books to your iphone.

There is also an app called read2go which is about $20 and works with bookshare books.

On androi there is a free app called goread which allows you to download bookshare books directly onto  your device..

Posted by Kim Kilpatrick

GTT Coordinator

CELA contact info.

Contact info for CELA from our national conference call last week.

Posted by Kim Kilpatrick

GTT Coordinator


We had a very successful conference call on February 11 2015.

I will be posting more detailed notes to this blog about the call very soon.

Lindsay provided contact information below and I know some of you on the call were very interested in getting it.

Stay tuned for more.

Hello Kim,


Thank you for the opportunity to speak with your group last night. It was a pleasure to speak with such an engaged group of readers and technology enthusiasts.


I’m following up to provide my contact details and summary of CELA as we discussed yesterday. The CELA website address is My contact information is in the signature block below.


Here’s the text from the bookmark that Margaret mentioned which summarizes CELA services nicely:


Do you or someone you know have difficulty reading print?


Your public library offers a collection of over 230,000 books and more for people who have trouble reading print due to a learning, physical or visual disability.


•        A choice of formats including audio, braille or accessible e-book

•        Bestsellers, award-winners, classics, self-help, business and more

•        Books for kids, teens and adults

•        Download books or receive home delivery by mail


Ask at your public library


Best regards,


Lindsay Tyler

Manager, CELA Member Services

Centre for Equitable Library Access

T: (416) 486-2500, ext. 7746 or 1-855-655-2273 press 2

F: (416) 480-7700

Thanks again to the people at Blind Bargains, developing a full page braille display.

A full page braille display?

Is it really approaching?

Posted by Kim Kilpatrick

Thanks again to the people at Blind Bargains for this article.

Many of us (if we are lucky enough to be able to afford one) have used refreshable braille displays with our computers and smart phones.

These displays are wonderful.

They allow me to read in braille what is on my computer or device.

If anyone wants help learning to use their displays, I am able to provide training with the following displays and notetakers.

Braille note

Braille sense

Focus braille displays

braille edge

Although these displays are wonderful, they only display one line of braille at a time.

For some things, this works well.

However, for math, for times when you need to touch the whole page at once to feel the lay out, skim over a schedule, etc, having more than one line of braille would be wonderfully helpful.

The refreshable braille cells are extremely expensive.

See the article below for a possible new development in this field.

Austrian Researchers Tackling Full Page Braille Display Challenge with BLITAB

A team of researchers has recently raised over $10,000 to create an alpha prototype for BLITAB, a full-page braille display project which has been in development for three years. The claim on the project’s page as the “world’s first tablet for blind people” is perhaps a bit misleading, but the project itself has some lofty goals. The BLITAB would include braille translation features as well as a GPS and support for obtaining information from NFC tags.

The project’s Indiegogo crowdfunding page describes the technology like this:

BLITAB is a next curve Braille device for reading and writing that displays one whole page Braille text, without mechanical elements. It is like an e-book which instead of using a screen displays small physical bubbles. They rise and fall on demand, composing a whole page in Braille code without any mechanical elements.
The project has received support from some major corporations including T-Mobile, Volkswagen, and 3M. The full-page braille display is a challenge that many have tackled, but to this point, no devices are available for retail. Perhaps the BLITAB will be the one to buck the trend.

Source: BLITAB
Category: News

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Thanks to the people at Blind Bargains. New voices for NVDA screen reader.

New voices for NVDA screen reader

Posted by Kim Kilpatrick

I really love what the people at blind bargains are doing.

They have many interesting podcasts and interviews from technology exhibits for people who are blind and have low vision.

They also have a great app and very interesting articles.

Below is a great one I found from them about NVDa and some new voices you can get for it.


For those who don’t know NVDA, it is a free screen reader for windows computers.

Their web site is

Here is the article.

Acapela Adds its Voice to the NVDA Screen Reader, Available Starting at 59 Euros

Acapela Adds its Voice to the NVDA Screen Reader, Available Starting at 59 Euros – Blind Bargains

Blind Bargains

Users of the free NVDA screen reader now have another option for obtaining enhanced voices. Acapela Group is now offering two voice packages, which both include a variety of voice styles and languages and work on up to three computers.

The basic package, which costs 59 Euros or about $67 in U.S. Dollars as of this post, includes what Acapela calls the Colibri voices, which are slightly more robotic but better at higher speech rates. Upgrading to the 99 Euro package ($112 USD) adds higher quality voices which may be more suited for reading books and longer passages.

The voices are available for a 15-day free trial and delivered as an NVDA ad-on.

Source: Acapela TTS Voices for NVDA
Category: News

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Copyright 2006-2015, A T Guys, LLC.

 Using Voiceover screen reader and braille display.
Sent from my iPhone

Very interesting device that is still in development.

Very interesting device being developed for bone conduction through sunglasses.

Posted by Kim Kilpatrick


This article came from a very useful list I am on called LV Ottawa (it is a blind and low vision list for people in Ottawa Canada)

The person who sent it got it from another list.

I paste below.

I can see many interesting ways this could be used by the blind and low vision community.

For people with low vision, they could put their lenses in and have bone conduction head phones and glasses all in one.

For those of us who have light sensitivity and need to wear sunglasses anyway, these would be great.



Here’s an interesting piece that was on another list I’m on.  

Get this through your skull: Ditch the earbuds. That’s more or less the
message from a startup called Buhel, which is aiming to radically change the
way you take calls — from inside your head.

Sound a little crazy? Let me explain.

The company has concocted a pair of Bluetooth 4.0 sunglasses — aptly named
SoundGlasses SGO5 — that pump the sound of music and calls into your inner
ear through your cranium. It’s kind of a head trip.

Buhel says the intra-cranial aural magic happens through the wonders of bone
conduction technology. Small, soft speakers tucked into each lightweight,
polymer arm of the sunglasses (the parts that hug the sides of your head)
let users listen to calls, tunes, videos and more from connected iPhone,
Android and Windows mobile devices through their skulls, hands-free and
ear-free, too.

Without earbuds muffling surrounding sounds, SoundGlasses free users to hear
noises around them. In other words, taking and making phone calls while
driving, biking or running can be a lot easier and, more importantly, safer.
For ski bunnies, Buhel also offers similar ski goggles. They’re called
Speakgoggle G33 Intercoms and they allow you to talk through your nose

You can’t make this stuff up.

To chat on calls, SoundGlasses wearers need only speak. A bi-directional
noise-cancelling mic embedded in the nose bridge of the shades picks up and
transmits their voices. To place and end calls, Buhel says users simply push
a button on the glasses. The button also controls volume and activates
interaction with Siri and Cortana, Apple’s and Microsoft’s respective voice

If you have an eye for fancy lenses, Buhel has you covered. Depending on how
much you spend, you can choose from a variety of scratch-resistant lenses.
Or you can even add your own prescription lenses. The shades’ lithium-ion
battery juices approximately three hours of talk time and recharges via a
USB cable/wall charger combo.

Some obvious questions: How clear will the audio be when vibrated through
your inner ear? And, um, what about cloudy days? You don’t wear sunglasses
in the dark.

Buhel’s parent company Atellani recently launched the high-tech specs on
Kickstarter. The campaign is the company’s second stab on the crowdfunding
platform and has already exceeded its $80,000 funding goal, with 36 days to
go. A set of these bad boys will put you back a pledge of $160. Shipping is
slated to start in May.

Blind square intro.

An audio introduction to the GPS app blind square

Posted by Kim KIlpatrick


I have been enjoying this app for a few months now.

Thanks to one of our GTT Ottawa members who told me to get it.

This is a GPS app for I devices which costs 30 dollars.

It is well worth that.

Enjoy this audio introduction.

GTT conference call open to everyone nationally about CELA library services.

National conference call about library services CELA and more.

Posted by Kim Kilpatrick

GTT Coordinator

We will have a national conference call on Wednesday February 11 2015.

It will start at 7 Eastern time.

Here is some information about it.

Many GTT members have asked us about the CNIB library service and the new CELA service.

How does it work?

How are they different?

Are they different?

How can people access them?

So, we are  delighted to have Margaret McGrory, Vice President, Executive Director, CNIB Library and Lindsay Tyler, Manager, Centre for Equitable Library Access, joining us to answer your questions about the changes in library service..

Space will be limited so RSVP to Kim Kilpatrick to get the call in info.

If this is very popular, we will invite them to join us on another conference call.


To book a space, call Kim at (613) 567-0311


Or e-mail

KNFB reader app for IOS reduced from $99 to $49.

Posted by Kim Kilpatrick

GTT Coordinator

I just heard that the very popular and well designed KNFB reader app for IOS devices has been reduced from $99 to $49.

I did not hear for how long this is taking place but if you are thinking of getting it, everyone I have met who has tried it is very impressed with it.

I admit that I personally have not spent a great deal of time with it but it was very carefully designed and does seem to work well.

You can also import PDF documents into it directly.

I also find voicedream reader does a good job of reading PDF’s on I devices.


Be My Eyes a very interesting new app for IOS

Posted by Kim Kilpatrick


There has been a lot of talk about a new app which helps identify things for you through sighted volunteers.

I tried it out the other day and talked to some lovely people from Portugal who told me about the box of tea I was holding.

They were very excited to do it.

At first, they told me to zoom out and I wasn’t quite sure what that meant.

Here are a few links for podcasts and information on the app.

Here are four podcasts describing use of the app to solve everyday problems:





1F) And finally, here is a podcast interview with the creator of the non-profit:

Thanks to the top tech tidbits folks for these links.

The app is free.

Try it out.


New app just released called voicedream writer.

Posted by Kim Kilpatrick

When looking through my app updates, I noticed that one of my favourite apps: voicedream reader had an update.

They said they have released a new app called voicedream writer.

It is a paid app like voicedream reader.

It allows you to write and edit.

It is new but has anyone tried it?

Maybe we will try to get a promo code to try it or maybe I’ll just buy it because I love voicedream reader so much.

If anyone has tried it, please let me know at

Voicedream reader could be a topic for a future national conference call if people would like that.