Guest Post: A review of Aira. What it is, how it works, and the ways it has changed my life, by Jonathan Mosen

Here is a great article written by Jonathan Mosen about Aira:

 

http://mosen.org/aira/

 

A review of Aira. What it is, how it works, and the ways it has changed my life

mosen.org

 

A review of Aira. What it is, how it works, and the ways it has changed my life

Introduction

 

Recently, I was pleased to attend the CSUN assistive technology conference. I’ve had the privilege of going to 10 of these before, but it has been a few

years since I was there last.

 

When you’re involved with an industry, you tend to watch developments so closely that changes usually seem incremental. But occasionally, something new

comes along that is so game changing, it stops you in your tracks. For me, San Diego-based Aira is one such technology. I am late to this party. Aira has

been rolling out for some time in the United States. And indeed, we covered Aira in an edition of

The Blind Side Podcast

last year. But since mentioning my Aira experience to people via outlet such as my Internet radio show,

The Mosen Explosion,

I’ve learned that not everyone yet fully understands what the service is or how it works. For those not familiar with Aira, or who would like to read

someone else’s impressions of it, read on.

 

What is Aira

 

According to

the company’s website,

 

Aira is today’s fastest growing assistive community. One tap of a button instantly connects you with a sighted professional agent who delivers visual assistance

anytime and anywhere.

 

Here’s what that means in practice. At present, Aira is a smart phone app, available for iOS and Android. Since Aira is a service for blind people, it’s

no surprise that the app is exemplary in terms of its accessibility. And in iOS, it even sports Siri integration.

 

Using the app, you can connect via video, much like a FaceTime call, with agents who can provide you with visual information. Audio quality is excellent,

far clearer than a standard cell phone connection. Essentially, an Aira agent can tell you anything at all that a pair of functioning eyes can see, plus

perform a range of tasks pertaining to that information.

 

You can acquire the visual information using your smart phone’s camera, or, when you become a subscriber to the Aira service (Aira calls its customers

“explorers”) you receive a pair of smart glasses. These are included as part of your subscription, so there’s no hardware cost upfront.

 

The service is available officially in the United States at present, where Aira has an arrangement with ATT. Aira explorers receive an ATT MiFi device,

allowing them to use the service on the go without the data consumed by the video connection eating up a customer’s own cellular plan. If you have a cellular

plan equipped with the personal hotspot feature, you are free to pair your Aira glasses with your phone using that method. For those with large data plans,

this may be attractive because there is one less device to keep track of, carry, and charge. The downside, other than the data consumption, is that a video

connection to Aira for a long time may cause significant battery drain on your smart phone.

 

When you’re at home, work, or anywhere that Wi-Fi is available that doesn’t require web-based authentication, you can pair your Aira glasses to that network.

As far as I have been able to ascertain, 5 GHZ Wi-Fi isn’t supported at present.

 

Because of the need for high quality video, the glasses pair via Wi-Fi, and not Bluetooth. The glasses are associated with your Aira account. This is useful

if, like in Bonnie’s and my house, you’re sharing your minutes as a couple. More on that later.

 

The upshot of all of this is that for 18 hours of every day, professional, well-trained sighted assistance is just a few taps or a Siri command away.

 

Describing it like this makes it sound kind of cool. But I want to explain the impact that Aira has had on our lives in the brief time we have had it,

to illustrate that, at least for some of us, this technology is more than just pretty cool, it’s life-changing.

 

My first Aira experience

 

If you’ve been reading this blog or listening to The Blind Side Podcast over the years, you will know that in recent times I have come out as having a

hearing impairment. I love going to these big conferences because I get to catch up with old friends and make new ones, as well as see the latest and greatest

technology. I hate going to these big conferences because often, I find myself in difficult audio environments. It can be very noisy. Hotel lobbies and

restaurants are often exceedingly crowded, with high ceilings causing noise to bounce everywhere. The environment is difficult and tiring, but I keep going

and doing the best I can, because the alternative is to sit at home and rust away, and I’m certainly not going to do that.

 

One smart thing that Aira has done is to start rolling out a concept called “site access”. With appropriate sponsorship, or perhaps at times where there

will be many potential customers in one place, Aira can enable free access to a location or even the entire city through their smart city project. There

are two benefits to the strategy. First, it’s helpful for existing Aira explorers because they can use the service as much as they want without it counting

against their monthly plans.

 

Second, anyone, even those not signed up with an Aira monthly plan, can go to the iOS App Store or the Google Play Store, download the app, create a guest

account, and use the service for free. As I found out, it’s convenient to have access to Aira in such situations, and it offers the opportunity for Aira

to convert those guests into full-time explorers. Smart stuff.

 

It was thanks to this program that I gave Aira a shot. Had I been required to go to the booth to give it a go, I probably would have run out of time and

wouldn’t be writing this post. But it was a cinch to download the app and set up my guest account.

 

I first decided to put Aira through a simple test. Having arrived in San Diego after a long journey, I wasn’t taking much notice of the hotel layout when

the porter showed me to my room. So, the next morning, I made my first call to Aira, and asked the friendly agent to guide me to the elevator. Not only

did I get to the elevator effortlessly, I was also guided right to the button for the elevator.

 

But the call I will never forget is the one I made to ask for assistance getting to the exhibit hall while exhibits were being set up. If you’ve visited

the Grand Hyatt in San Diego, you’ll know how cavernous the lobby can sound. When the lobby is full of people, I find it impossible to navigate, because

there’s just so much sound bouncing everywhere. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from Aira, but I was keen to see what would happen.

 

This is the moment when I transitioned from the intellectual understanding that “this is quite a good concept”, to the emotional connection that made me

say “holy guacamole, this thing is changing my life!”

 

I’m not a guide dog handler at the moment, but I have been in the past. One of the advantages of working with a dog over using a cane is that you avoid

many obstacles without ever coming into contact with them. The exception is if you are a cane user with good echolocation. I think that even with full

hearing, I would have found echolocation difficult in that very noisy lobby, but it’s certainly not viable for me now. Therefore, in that type of environment,

I often find myself hitting people’s legs with my cane, as I try to find a way forward. With the Aira agent talking in my hearing aids which were also

delivering environmental sounds, I was getting information about where the crowds were, and when I needed to veer to avoid running into people. I was told

when it was necessary to turn to reach my destination and given confirmation that I was indeed heading in the correct direction.

 

Because of my hearing, and the fact that I know navigating these environments can be difficult, I had allowed myself plenty of time to reach the exhibit

hall. But I reached it much more quickly than I had anticipated, and with much less stress than usual.

 

When we eventually reached the exhibit hall, which was some considerable distance away, the agent informed me that the door was closed. I expected this,

since I was heading to the exhibit hall before it was officially open to the public. The icing on the cake was when she said that she could see a counter

to the left of the door with a sign labelled “Exhibit Services”. She then informed me that there was a man behind that counter and offered to lead me to

him. She did so, and he let me in. Astounded, I thanked the agent, and ended the call.

 

Full disclosure, at this point, it gets a bit embarrassing. No technology has made me cry for joy before. But a stressful experience I have to psych myself

up for had just been made effortless and enjoyable. I was utterly overwhelmed. This was all achieved with no more than the free app and the camera on my

iPhone X.

 

Piloting Aira outside the US

 

I’ve no doubt that I would have been wowed by Aira even if I had been blind without a hearing impairment. But, having had a taste of the independence it

was giving me, even better than the independence I had when I was a traveller without a hearing impairment, I really wanted to see if there was any way

I could take this home to New Zealand. I knew it would be unlikely, because Aira is very clear that they are only available now in the United States and

I think parts of Canada. But I genuinely felt that having had a taste of Aira, I would feel a sense of disability if I lost it again.

 

I met with Aira’s CEO, Suman Kanuganti, who kindly agreed to let me pilot the service here. Since this is a fairly glowing review of the service, I want

to be clear that I am paying the same as everyone else. This is not a paid advertisement. And I’m aware of the limitations of using the service here when

it’s not officially supported. For example, Aira is currently unavailable between 1 AM and 7 AM Eastern time. At this time of year, that equates to 5 PM

to 11 PM New Zealand time. That’s a time when we have had a need for the service, but I signed up knowing what I was getting into, so that’s an observation

rather than a complaint. Even for Aira’s existing customer base, I’m sure many hope that this downtime will soon be a thing of the past. I’m one of those

totally blind people without light perception who has non-24 sleep/wake disorder. I’m fortunate that because most of my deliverables can be delivered at

any time, I just let my circadian rhythm do its thing. That means I’m sometimes very productive at 2, 3 or 4 AM. I’m sure there are many Aira users in

the United States in a similar position, who’d value having access to Aira at that time.

 

I’ll also be providing feedback on any technical or cultural issues relating to the use of the service here, should they arise. The most obvious cultural

issue is that many of our place names are in the Maori language, the indigenous language of New Zealand. Understandably, Aira agents don’t have experience

pronouncing them correctly, but that’s no different from listening to the same place names spoken by most text-to-speech engines.

 

When mobile, Bonnie and I are using Aira with our mobile data plans. We share a cellular plan that has 25 GB of mobile data per month, and our LTE networks

are very robust here, particularly in urban environments.

 

Signing up as an explorer

 

Typically, when you sign up as an explorer, you can start using the service right away with your smart phone, and the hardware is shipped to you. Since

I was at the CSUN conference, I was able to sign up online, and collect my hardware from the Aira booth.

 

The ability to use the service as a guest is fairly new, and one of the problems I had was that I couldn’t sign up with the email address I had associated

with my guest account, because the system flagged it as already in use. It would be nice to have a feature within the app that allowed you to upgrade to

a paid account while signed in as a guest. Hopefully that will come in time. The only way around it for now is either to sign up with a different email

address or complete the process over the phone.

 

When you make your first call as a fully-fledged explorer, an Aira agent assists you to create your profile. It’s here that you really start to appreciate

how carefully the services been devised. Suman Kanuganti and his team have worked closely with Blind people, sought their advice, and taken it to heart.

It would have been easy for a service like this to have become patronising. Instead, the culture feels like it is truly a partnership between the explorer

and the agent.

 

As part of the induction process, you are advised that Aira will never tell you that it’s safe to cross the street, and agents will remain silent while

you are crossing. If you are mobile, and the agent detects that you’re not travelling with a cane or a dog, they will disconnect the call. They make it

clear that they are not a substitute for your blindness skills, or for your mobility tool of choice. And they advise that they keep personal opinions out

of all descriptions and interactions.

 

You’re asked if there are any additional disabilities that it would be helpful for them to be aware of. I was able to tell them about my hearing impairment.

 

Rather like when using JAWS, you are offered three levels of verbosity. The three levels are explained to you clearly. Your default level is recorded in

your profile. You can change the default at any time, or for a particular call. The most verbose option will even describe people’s facial expressions

as you’re walking down the street.

 

You’re asked whether you prefer directions to be given as a clock face, or in terms of “left” and “right”. In a noisy environment, it’s easier for me to

differentiate between 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock, than between left and right.

 

Once the process is done, all your preferences are recorded and immediately made available to the agent when you call in.

 

Ride sharing Integration

 

Using the APIs of the ride sharing services Uber and Lyft, Aira can connect to your accounts to both call and monitor your rides. You may ask the agent

to initiate the entire process for you, or you could use the app of your ride sharing service of choice to call a vehicle, then get the agent online who

can see the car you’ve been allocated, and help you watch for its arrival.

 

Some people have safety concerns about using ride sharing services, since you might walk up to a car that you think is the one you’ve called, only to find

its some random person. Having an Aira agent assist you to the vehicle will avoid that.

 

It’s also a brilliant way to catch drivers who speed away because of your dog. An Aira agent can take pictures remotely using the camera you’re connecting

with, be it the camera on your smart phone or the one built into the glasses. This gives you photographic evidence of the driver speeding away.

 

Sharing minutes

 

Recently, Aira introduced the ability to share minutes with up to two additional people. The feature is great for blind couples like Bonnie and me. Inviting

Bonnie to share my minutes was easily done from the app, and she was signed up in minutes, although there was a technical issue which prevented her from

logging in. This was resolved in a few hours after contacting Aira.

 

How we’ve used Aira

 

There is a wonderful section on the Aira website and in its app, with extensive lists of the way that people are using the service. As the father of two

daughters, one use case that both resonated with me and amused me was the explorer who asked an agent to describe their daughter’s new boyfriend.

 

But here are just a few of the ways that we’ve used Aira since we’ve had it.

 

What does this button do?

 

It was wonderful to be able to ask an agent, trained to explain things clearly, how to operate the air-conditioning in my hotel room in San Diego. I was

also curious about a little panel to the right of the air-conditioning unit. After getting me to look at the unit, the agent took a photo, blew it up,

and told me that it was a control panel for the windows in my hotel room. I probably wouldn’t have bothered investigating it had it not been for Aira.

 

Journalism

 

Bonnie has now embarked on a journalism course. Today’s journalists must operate in a multimedia environment. This includes taking their own photos. Thanks

to the technology VoiceOver offers, it’s possible for a blind person to take good photos. When action is moving fast though, it may not be possible to

capture that action quickly enough. And VoiceOver’s camera functions are limited to recognising people. Seeing AI will recognise scenes, but only after

you’ve taken the picture. Aira to the rescue.

 

Just a couple of days after Bonnie began sharing my Aira minutes, she needed to cover a popular Wellington street festival. Bonnie tells me she couldn’t

have done it without Aira. Giving instructions to the agent ahead of time about the kind of material she wanted to capture, the Aira agent was able to

take pictures at exactly the right time and give Bonnie advice about how to angle the camera. Her photography lecturer praised the photos.

 

The agent gave vivid, detailed descriptions of the festival and the people participating in it, which made it easy for Bonnie to write a descriptive, colourful

newspaper story that wasn’t devoid of visual imagery even though she is blind.

 

When Bonnie got the munchies after a hard day’s journalism, the agent helped her locate the food truck she wanted from a number that were at the festival,

and then read her the menu on the side of the truck.

 

Preserving the moment

 

Since Aira can take pictures using the glasses or camera remotely, we recently used it at a birthday party we attended to get the perfect picture for our

own records, and for posting to social media.

 

Compiling reports

 

When you travel and collect receipts, you end up with little bits of paper, business cards from cab drivers with receipt information scrawled on the back,

and big pieces of paper.

 

I’ve become adept over the years at performing optical character recognition on all of it for the compilation of expense reports, but it’s time-consuming.

I took the stress out of the situation and handed it to Aira. My agent advised using the camera on the iPhone X for this task rather than the glasses.

She gave instructions regarding the positioning of the camera, took pictures of all the documents, and I had no doubt that each receipt was fully in the

picture.

 

She put them all in a single document which she then emailed to me. This process took probably a third to a quarter of the time it would have usually taken

me.

 

Transcription

 

As someone who’s been totally blind since birth, I’ve enjoyed becoming more familiar with effective use of the camera and understanding the relationship

between distance and getting the subject of a photograph fully in the picture. When in hotels, I sometimes find getting a good-quality capture of hotel

compendia and in-room dining menus a challenge. The print may have become faded over time, or there’s a wide variation of print types. It can also take

time to work out whether there is print on both sides of the page or not, and sometimes that can vary even within the same document.

 

At a recent hotel stay, Aira took all the stress out of rendering the in-room dining menu accessible to Bonnie and me. The agent very quickly snapped pictures

of all the pages and could see at a glance when the pages were single or double-sided. Then, the agent transcribed the text into a fully accessible Word

document. I was given the choice as to whether I wanted a full transcription, which of course took a little longer, or just a summary of the items on the

menu and their prices.

 

The mysteries of the minibar

 

Many hotel minibars now have sophisticated sensors that charge you for an item when you lift it out of the fridge. Rather than hunt around for a barcode

on each bottle, can, and food item, an Aira agent was able to recite the cans in the fridge in left-to-right order.

 

Real-time audio description

 

Bonnie and I recently took a gondola ride in one of the most picturesque parts of New Zealand. One of our party was sighted, nevertheless, I decided to

call Aira, to ask an agent if she could give me real-time audio description as we rode the gondola, then as we stood on the viewing platform. It was a

moving experience to get such detailed descriptions of the water, the tree line and the city below. Our sighted companion was impressed, saying that Aira

had told us things she wouldn’t have thought about describing.

 

Does Aira harm the accessibility cause?

 

When I’ve discussed Aira with some blind people, a few have expressed the concern that the service may discourage those of us who have it from continuing

to advocate for a truly accessible world. They fear that as providers of information and services become aware of Aira, they may feel under less of an

obligation to do the right thing when it comes to accessibility.

 

For example, if you read this blog regularly, you will know I’ve been campaigning about the code to complete the New Zealand census not being accessible.

If I had been an Aira explorer at the time, an Aira agent would have read the access code to me, and the process would have taken about a minute maximum.

Would I have begun my campaign for the codes to be inherently accessible if Aira had been in our home to do that for me? I would like to think so.

 

A similar concern was expressed when JAWS introduced the ability to perform OCR on inaccessible PDF files.

 

I believe Aira is a pragmatic solution that delivers access to us today. That in no way means that those of us with the skills and inclination to advocate

for a more accessible world shouldn’t continue to do so. If we’ve been able to use Aira to work around the problem, it’s just that, a work-around. Most

of the world’s written information today is born accessible. Someone must take a deliberate step to convert it into something inaccessible, and we must

always object to that occurring. So, we must still advocate for all aspects of life to be as accessible as possible.

 

In this highly visual world, there’ll always be plenty of tasks for Aira to perform, even as accessibility improves.

 

Does Aira erode blindness skills?

 

The arrival of the pocket calculator, the cell phone with a built-in contact directory, and many other technologies have been the cause of people expressing

concern about the “dumbing down” of the human race. A few people I’ve spoken with about Aira have wondered if it will cause an erosion of blindness skills

among its users. I don’t believe so. I contend the impact will be positive.

 

For me personally, other circumstances, specifically my hearing impairment, have made travel time-consuming and exhausting. Freedom of movement should

not be the privilege of the blind elite who happen to find travel intuitive and easy. Freedom of movement is, in my view, a fundamental human right.

 

With the ability to travel under less stress, I believe my travel skills, which may have eroded a little over the years as I’ve begun avoiding tricky situations,

will in fact improve due to increased use.

 

Remember, Aira does not replace your cane or dog. You must still know how to use your cane in a way that helps you locate obstacles and provides you with

clues about your environment.

 

What it costs, and is it value for money?

 

Assuming you have a smartphone, there is no other hardware you must purchase to use Aira. It’s all included as part of the package.

 

The current pricing structure looks like this:

 

list of 4 items

  • Basic Plan. 100 regular minutes a month for $89.
  • Plus Plan. 200 regular minutes a month for $129.
  • Pro Plan. 400 regular minutes a month for $199.
  • Premium Plan. Unlimited regular minutes a month for $329.

list end

 

I believe it is possible to get further discounts on the Pro plan if you pay a year, or even several years, in advance.

 

If you run out of minutes, you can purchase additional ones.

 

You can cancel or upgrade your plan at any time.

 

Whenever a company provides a service directly to the blind community, there are always people who will express concern about cost. Unfortunately, the

economic reality is that the cost of research and development, as well as the overheads involved in running a business, must be spread across a smaller

group of people when providing a service to our community. This equation is made more difficult because so many people in our community are unemployed

and living hand to mouth. Sure, for some people, Aira will be worth sacrificing a few daily cups of premium coffee for, but it’s not that easy for everyone.

 

Some people question whether the service is worth the cost given that there is a free service, Be My Eyes, which connects you with sighted volunteers.

Be My Eyes is a useful service, and I don’t seek to denigrate it at all. I am signed up with it, have supported it since before it went live, and I use

it from time to time. But Be My Eyes relies on volunteers. Some people are so keen to assist a blind person that they answer a call when they may have

been better letting it go. Others simply don’t explain things clearly enough. And yes, there are some who are outstanding. But I equate using Be My Eyes

with asking a stranger for directions in the street. Sometimes you will get somebody who couldn’t be more helpful. At other times you will get somebody

who doesn’t know their right from their left, or just isn’t observant about the world around them.

 

With Aira, the agents have been trained extensively, plus they have tools that help pinpoint your location and provide other data. There’s also a guarantee

of privacy with Aira.

 

I know of people who’ve used Aira to help them sign employment contracts, complete tax returns and more.

 

So, in my view, there is no question that Aira will revolutionise the lives of many blind people if they can afford to access it. This raises important

public policy questions. Many agencies serving blind people will provide funding for sighted assistance to be available on-location at specific times.

Perhaps such agencies fund several hours of assistance each week in the workplace. Other agencies may fund a human reader to visit a blind person’s home.

Aira gives you access to sighted assistance on demand, at your convenience, not at the convenience of the sighted person. This is important because some

tasks may only take a couple of minutes, but they can be show stoppers on the job until we can get that assistance. In a work environment, sighted assistance

on-demand through Aira has the potential to improve a blind person’s productivity.

 

There’s also the social investment argument. If a much wider range of blind people can feel comfortable about travelling in unfamiliar areas, government

investment in Aira could pay dividends by improving employability.

 

Looking to the future

 

Most blind people become blind later in life. And most of those people don’t have smart phones. This group is often forgotten, so it’s encouraging to see

that Aira has been giving them considerable thought. The coming generation of seniors will be more assertive and tech savvy. They will have had experience

of technology in the workplace, and they are willing to spend money to ameliorate the consequences of their age-related disability. However, they may decide

that coming to terms with the blindness specific touchscreen paradigm is just too difficult. Certainly, that’s the case now. Yet I think many seniors would

love to have access to Aira. If they can have an agent assist them to read the newspaper in the morning, describe pictures of the grandchildren or go through

their mail, that’s something many would gladly pay for.

 

The market for Aira’s services is going to increase significantly with the introduction of their new Horizon technology. Currently, to use Aira, you need

at least two things – a smart phone, and the glasses, both of which need to be charged. If you want to use it without eating into your data plan, you’ll

need to carry the ATT MiFi device around with you. That also needs to be charged separately. That’s three things in total that need to be charged.

 

Within the next few months, Aira is promising to simplify their offering significantly. They’ve taken a Samsung Android device, which includes a physical

home button, and developed their own firmware for it. This device is not designed to be used as a cell phone. Rather than requiring a MiFi, the data SIM

will be in this device. The new Horizon glasses, which are much more fashionable and elegant looking, are tethered to this device with an unobtrusive-looking

cable. The field of view is much improved, as is the video quality. That means less need to keep turning one’s head at the instruction of the Aira agent.

With the glasses getting their power from the Horizon device, battery life is massively improved.

 

This all means that someone who doesn’t have a smart phone will fire up the Horizon device, double tap the button, and talk to an agent. Smart phone users

will retain the option to control their Aira experience via the app they’re used to.

 

This configuration also reduces latency and any potential for video degradation. There will no longer be a wireless hop that the video needs to take between

the glasses and the device transmitting the video to an Aira agent.

 

Clearly, considerable thought and capital investment has gone into the next generation of the service. This demonstrates that Aira is continuing to innovate

and thinking about broadening its base.

 

Over time, artificial intelligence will become smarter, and will be able to do more of the things that human agents are doing for Aira explorers now. It’s

therefore sensible forward planning that Aira has begun work on their own artificial intelligence engine they are calling Chloe. Initially, Chloe will

offer optical character recognition, and perform functions relating to the operation and configuration of the Horizon device. I imagine that over time,

Chloe will become more capable. That will increase efficiency for the explorer and reduce overheads for the company.

 

Concluding thoughts

 

Aira’s evolution is an exemplary case study of how to tap into a niche market and create a new, innovative product. Of course, it’s not perfect, but what

is? Sometimes, you can lose cellular coverage when you really need it, causing the connection with the agent to drop. There’s nothing Aira can do about

that other than ensuring they’re using hardware that maximises the cellular signal, and to have a robust protocol in place for seeking to re-establish

the connection. But all in all, the service is fantastic.

 

There’ve been a few phases of Aira adoption for me. The first was hearing about it and understanding intellectually that it was a clever idea. The second

was the strong, powerful, emotional realisation that this could really change my life. The third is the dawning realisation that I’m not imposing on anybody

anymore. Many of us can relate to having sighted family members or friends who we turn to when we need a pair of working eyes, and we hope we are not overdoing

  1. When I first started using Aira, I had a twinge of reluctance about making calls, wondering if someone might need the help of the agent more than me.

Then, one day, it really dawned on me. The people at Aira want me to make the call. After all, if I use up all my minutes, I might buy more. So, when I

make a call to Aira, I’m not inconveniencing anybody, I’m strengthening their bottom line. How wonderful it is to call on sighted help without feeling

like I might be a burden.

 

If you’d like to try Aira

 

Due to the exchange rate between the United States and New Zealand, unfortunately Aira is a little more expensive here than it is in the United States.

Bonnie and I are presently using the Plus plan, at $129 USD a month, which equates to $179 NZD. When the novelty wears off a little, it will be interesting

to see if we need the 200 minutes.

 

So, if you would like to give Aira a try, I’d appreciate it if you’d sign up using our referral link. The referral program means that the person being

referred, and the person who did the referring, each gets a free month. Pretty good marketing. To take Aira for a spin,

activate my referral link.

I hope it makes as much of a difference to you as it has to Bonnie and me.

 

Are you an Aira explorer? What do you think of the service, and what are some of the ways you’re using it? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

 

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GTT Newsletter Articles, Donna’s Low Tech Tips, Writing Your Signature, April 2, 2018

April 02 2018

Writing your signature

 

Hi there!  It’s Donna and thank you for allowing me to come into your inbox.

Today, I’d like to touch on the subject of writing your signature.

 

When signing your name, place a signature guide over the line requiring your signature. Then write your name in the space provided.

 

Another way to locate the proper                   place to sign is to ask someone                       to make a fold which you can feel along the line requiring your                    signature.  (Make sure the ridge                      of the fold is upward.)

Or have someone place your index finger at the beginning of the signature line and sign your                    name to the right of your finger.

 

People with low vision may find lines easier to locate if traced with a dark pen or marker.

many people who are visually impaired find it helpful to use dark-lined paper when writing.

If the edges of the paper seem to disappear, place the paper on a                 contrasting surface.  For example, if you are writing on white paper, place the paper on a dark place mat, or dark table top, or another dark surface.  The contrasting surface will make it                         easier to see the edges of the              paper.

 

Many people find it difficult to read materials written in pen.  Writing with a wide-tipped black marker on white paper is generally easier to see.

 

I hope that these tips are helpful to you.

 

If you would like to become a member of  my CCB Mysteries chapter you can do so for the price of $10 annually and in return you will receive unlimited access to either of the following libraries.

Recipes –

http://www.donnajodhan.com/library-recipes.html

Audio mysteries for all ages –

http://www.donnajodhan.com/library-audio-mysteries.html

Or you can subscribe to both for the price of $20 annually.

 

To contact me, send me an email at info@sterlingcreations.ca and I’d be happy to respond.

Have a super day and see you next week.

Donna

 

GTT Newsletter Articles: Donna’s Low Tech Tips, Meet the Talking Bathroom Scale, March 26, 2018

March 26 2018

Meet the talking bathroom scale

 

Hi there!  It’s Donna and thank you for allowing me to come into your inbox.  As mentioned in my previous blog, I would like to concentrate on the lower levels of technology and today I’d like you to meet the talking bathroom scale.

 

Now, I’ll state up front that I bought this nifty piece of technology many years ago and I am not sure who sells it today but I can give you some contact info to check out.

 

When I bought my first talking bathroom scale, I was lucky enough to have my friend Maria bring it to me from the United States as she had purchased it for me at a convention.  However, I am hopeful that someone in Canada would be selling it today and I’ll share my contact info with you at the end of my blog.

 

The talking bathroom scale is really a very simple device.  It is larger than the regular scale and when I bought it the cost was quite a bit more than the regular scale.  It works through the use of a square battery and you can insert the battery into a small compartment at the bottom of the scale.  So you’ll have to flip it over in order to locate it.

 

My present talking bathroom scale can announce my weight in either pounds or kilos and I can choose my preference of announcement by tapping the bottom right hand corner of the surface of the scale with my foot.  Each time I tap with my foot the scale announces what I have chosen.  The voice is in a clear male tone with a somewhat British like accent.

 

To use the talking bathroom scale; I first place it on a level floor surface.

Next I stand on the scale and I  place each foot on either side of a large round button which is located towards the top left hand corner of the scale.

Within seconds you’ll hear a voice that says “please step off.”

When you step off the voice will then tell you your weight in whichever format you have chosen.

At this point you could tap the bottom right hand corner to change the format of your weight and the scale will announce it to you.

 

So for example:  I stand on the scale placing my feet in the position indicated above.

The scale asks me to please step off.

It announces my weight to me in pounds.

I tap the bottom right hand corner of the scale with my foot and it then announces my weight in kilos.

 

The next time I stand on my scale it will announce my weight in the format that I previously chose.

Note:  When you first stand on the scale, it beeps before it asks you to please step off.

 

Simple and easy and here is the contact info that I can share with you.

Frontier Computing – Toronto – 416 489 6690

The CNIB store – I would phone the main number and ask for the store – 416 486 2500.

I am not sure who else in Canada sells it.

 

So have fun now with the Talking Bathroom Scale and see you next week.

 

If you would like to become a member of  my CCB Mysteries chapter you can do so for the price of $10 annually and in return you will receive unlimited access to either of the following libraries.

Recipes –

http://www.donnajodhan.com/library-recipes.html

Audio mysteries for all ages –

http://www.donnajodhan.com/library-audio-mysteries.html

Or you can subscribe to both for the price of $20 annually.

 

Have a super day and see you next week.

Donna

GTT Newsletter Articles: Donna’s Low Tech Tips, Using the Touch Tone Telephone, March 19, 2018

March 19 2018

 

Hello there and I’m Donna Jodhan thanking you for allowing me to come into your inbox.

 

Today, I’d like to talk about how you go about using the telephone.

So here we go.

 

USING THE TELEPHONE

Touch Tone Telephones

 

 

* All touch tone telephones are identical in the display of the numbered buttons, making it                                    easy to memorize the location of each number.

 

Numbers are arranged in this way:

 

top row from left to right –  1 2 3

second row from left to right-  4 5 6

third row from left to right –  7 8 9

zero is in the centre of the fourth row.

Use your index finger to skim the buttons and locate the desired                 numbers.

 

* Try the three-finger method in which the second row of buttons (4,5, and 6) act as the home row:

Put your index finger on 4, your middle finger on 5 and your ring finger on 6.

With your index finger on 4, reach up to 1 or down to 7.  Likewise with your

middle finger on 5 it can reach up to 2, down to 8 and 0, and with your ring finger on 6 you can move it up to 3 and down to 9.

 

With practice, it won’t be long before you will be able to dial as fast as someone looking at the numbers.

(“Lefties” will have to reverse this process, just as with everything else in this right-                                   handed world.)

 

If you would like to become a member of  my CCB Mysteries chapter you can do so for the price of $10 annually and in return you will receive unlimitted access to either of the following libraries.

Recipes –

http://www.donnajodhan.com/library-recipes.html

Audio mysteries for all ages –

http://www.donnajodhan.com/library-audio-mysteries.html

Or you can subscribe to both for the price of $20 annually.

 

Have a super day and see you next week.

Donna

 

GTT Newsletter Articles, Donna’s Low Tech Tips, The Talking Microwave, March 12, 2018

Sorry folks, it seems my first attempt at posting this tip required a password.  That was not the intention.

March 12 2018

Meet the talking microwave

 

Hi there!  It’s Donna and thank you for allowing me to come into your inbox.  As mentioned in my previous blog, I would like to concentrate on the lower levels of technology and today I’d like you to meet the talking microwave.

 

I am happy to tell you that just a few years ago, I got introduced to the talking microwave and since then I have used this gem every day in my kitchen.  The model that I bought at that time was by Hamilton Beech and I am sure that since then there have been additional improvements and other companies manufacturing and selling talking microwaves.

 

Sadly enough though, this product has been discontinued but I am very sure that there are other similar microwaves out there that offers similar functionality.

 

So what can I do with this talking microwave model?  Well, I can do such things as:

Cook or warm food at specified times.

Cook or warm specific foods.

Defrost frozen foods.

Cook and warm food by weight.

Set my timer.

Set my clock.

 

I can warm and or cook anything from frozen to fresh vegetables, potatoes, soups, popcorn, a dinner plate, pizza, and beverages.

 

That’s my talking microwave and I hope you will go out there and make friends with the one that is being sold at Independent Living Aids.

Visit www.independentlivingaids.com

 

If you would like to become a member of  my CCB Mysteries chapter you can do so for the price of $10 annually and in return you will receive unlimitted access to either of the following libraries.

Recipes –

http://www.donnajodhan.com/library-recipes.html

Audio mysteries for all ages –

http://www.donnajodhan.com/library-audio-mysteries.html

Or you can subscribe to both for the price of $20 annually.

 

Have a super day and see you next week.

Donna

 

 

GTT Articles, Donna’s Low Tech Tips, Identifying Money, March 5, 2018

March 05 2018

 

Hello there and I’m Donna Jodhan thanking you for allowing me to come into your inbox.

 

Today, I’d like to talk about IDENTIFYING MONEY

and I have some great tips for you re how you can go about dealing with your money.  Dollar bills, coins, and cheques.

 

PAPER CURRENCY

There are many different ways to identify bills and it really doesn’t matter how you do it as long as your method works for you.

Here are some tips.

 

* Some individuals prefer to separate bills by denomination,                        placing them in different                                            sections of their purse or wallet.

 

* You can purchase a special                          billfold which has different                            sections for different bills.

 

* You can fold your bills in a                         special way for easy                                                    identification. For example:

  • Leave five dollar bills completely unfolded.
  • Fold ten dollar bills in half lengthwise.
  • Fold twenty dollar bills in half, end to end.
  • Fold fifty dollar bills end to end, then lengthwise.
  • Fold hundred dollar bills in half and in half again.

 

* When you receive money from others, ask what each bill is and fold it right away or put it in a               special section of your wallet so you will be able to recognize it later.  Take your time, don’t be                 hurried.

 

*                      An electronic bank note reader is available (through the CNIB) to identify paper currency. The                                     device is easy to use.

Insert a                                    Canadian bank note, push the button at the front of the device, and the reader will announce by voice (in either English or French) the denomination of the bill.

 

COINS

* Coins can be identified by touch.

Select one coin at a time and use a fingernail or your fingertips to feel the different sizes and edges of                 each coin:

 

  • A dime has a serrated edge.

 

  • A nickel has a smooth edge.

 

  • A quarter has a rough grooved edge and is larger and thicker than a nickel.

 

  • A dollar coin (loonie) has an eleven-sided smooth edge and is larger and thicker than a quarter.

 

  • A two dollar coin (toonie) is larger than a loonie. The edge of the coin alternates from rough to smooth.  The centre of the toonie is gold in color and the outer edge is silver.

 

*A special purse or coin organizer with separate slots for nickels, dimes, and quarters may be a useful item.

 

CHEQUES

 

* Large print/tactile cheques are available from your bank. You may find it helpful to make your own cheque template with sections cut out for date, cheque amount, and so on.

 

So have fun now with your money and see you next week.

 

If you would like to become a member of  my CCB Mysteries chapter you can do so for the price of $10 annually and in return you will receive unlimitted access to either of the following libraries.

Recipes –

http://www.donnajodhan.com/library-recipes.html

Audio mysteries for all ages –

http://www.donnajodhan.com/library-audio-mysteries.html

Or you can subscribe to both for the price of $20 annually.

 

Have a super day and see you next week.

Donna

Accessibility Support: Apple Accessibility Support, Google Disability Email Address and the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk

Apple Accessibility Support, Google Disability Email Address and the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk

 

For those who use access technology with the below noted systems, apps and devices, you may access free technical support by contacting Apple, Microsoft and Google using these toll free numbers/email address.

 

Apple Accessibility Support

1-877-204-3930

 

Microsoft Disability Answer Desk

1-800-936-5900

 

Google Disability Support, no phone number available:

disability-support-external@google.com

 

Thx, Albert, GTT Coordinator

Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB)

Get Together with Technology (GTT) Initiative

Albert.GTT@CCBNational.net

Mobile: 1-250-240-2343

 

CCB-GTT Top Ten iOS Apps for 2017 with Long Descriptions 2018Jan05

The Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB)

Get Together with Technology (GTT)

Top Ten iDevice Apps of 2017 With Long Descriptions

 

Here are the Top Ten iDevice Apps of 2017 as surveyed late in the year through the GTTProgram Blog, GTTSupport Email List and GTTProgram Facebook Group participants.  This was not a scientific survey, so might be considered by some to be a “Fake List”.  Be that as it may, your friendly GTT Group has likely had a hand in the results, and all of you are encouraged to submit your favourites for the 2018 list as we roll into November/December.  In order to do so, please stay in touch and participate with GTT groups where ever they gather throughout 2018 by following us at,

www.GTTProgram.WordPress.com.

 

Of course, none of the below apps are usable by blind, deaf-blind or partially sighted iDevice users if the screen reader (Voice Over) and/or magnifier (Zoom) apps aren’t mastered first.

 

The Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired offers free access to a series of videos called iFocus, which provides independent tutorials for learning the accessibility features of Voice Over and Zoom.

https://www.hadley.edu/InstructionalVideos.asp

 

Listed according to the votes submitted:

Top 10 iDevice Apps:

1. Seeing AI, a free app By Microsoft Corporation.

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/seeing-ai/id999062298?mt=8

Seeing AI is a free app that narrates the world around you. Designed for the blind and low vision community, this ongoing research project harnesses the power of AI to open up the visual world and describe nearby people, text and objects.

 

Optimized for use with VoiceOver, the app enables you to recognize:

  • Short Text – Speaks text as soon as it appears in front of the camera.
  • Documents – Provides audio guidance to capture a printed page, and recognizes the text, along with its original formatting.
  • Products – Scans barcodes, using audio beeps to guide you; hear the name, and package information when available. (works with iPhone 6 and later)
  • People – Saves people’s faces so you can recognize them, and get an estimate of their age, gender, and emotions.
  • Scenes (early preview) – Hear an overall description of the scene captured.
  • Currency – Recognizes currency notes. (Requires iOS 11)
  • Color – Identifies color.
  • Handwriting – Reads handwritten text like in greeting cards
  • Light – Generates an audible tone corresponding to the brightness in the surroundings.
  • Images in other apps – Just tap “Share” and “Recognize with Seeing AI” to describe images from Mail, Photos, Twitter, and more.

 

Seeing AI is built to help you achieve more by leveraging the power of the cloud and artificial intelligence. As the research progresses, more channels may be added.

2. Native iOS Mail, a free email client built into every Apple device.

Mail (also known as Apple Mail or Mail.app) is an email client  included with the operating systems macOS, iOS  and watchOS  by Apple Inc.  Originally developed by NeXT  As NeXTMail, a part of their NeXTSTEP  operating system, it eventually became Mail after Apple’s acquisition of NeXT.

3. Voice Dream Reader, a paid app By Voice Dream LLC.

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/voice-dream-reader/id496177674?mt=8

Featured as Best New App in 81 countries including the United States and Apple App Store Permanent Collections in Education.

 

“This app is one of the best educational finds of my entire career.” – Forbes

 

“As a user myself and as a mother of a child with dyslexia, I am blown away by the features of Voice Dream.” – Quartz

 

“Voice Dream Reader is hailed by many as the best mobile text-to-speech (TTS) app.” – Examiner

 

Supported Document Formats

– PDF, Plain text, MS Word, MS PowerPoint, RTF, and Google Docs.

– Web articles.

– EPUB eBooks. (DRM-free books only. Kindle and iBooks are not supported.)

– Bookshare Books.

– DAISY text-based books and audiobook.

– Audiobooks in MP3, MP4 or zipped MP3 format.

– Experimental rich text and image support for all documents.

 

Text-to-Speech

– One premium Acapela voice of your choice free with the purchase of the app.

– 36 built-in iOS voices in 27 languages are also available for free.

– 200+ additional premium voices in 30 languages from Acapela, NeoSpeech and Ivona available through in-app purchases.

– Correct pronunciation with your own pronunciation dictionary.

– All voices work offline and play in the background even with the screen locked.

 

Reading Styles

– Tee-up a list of articles and play while you drive, walk or run.

– Spoken word is highlighted to improve comprehension and retention.

– Auto-scrolling and full screen, distraction-free mode to help reader focus.

– Finger reading. For beginners to read by at running a finger under each word.

– Pac-Man. Harvard and MIT developed speed-reading method for everyone to read at 2x speed with no loss of comprehension.

– High contrast and large font size for low vision readers.

– Optimized for VoiceOver, Braille and switch control.

4. Nearby Explorer, a paid GPS app By American Printing House for the Blind (APH).

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/nearby-explorer/id1095698497?mt=8

Nearby Explorer is a full featured GPS app designed for use by people who are blind. Instead of just providing directions, it describes the environment in ways comparable to reading signage or observing road characteristics.

 

It uses onboard maps, so a data connection is not required, but if you have one, Nearby Explorer supplements the on board map data with crowd collected locations from Foursquare or Google Places. It includes complete maps for the United States and Canada which contain millions of points of interest. The onboard maps are over 4GB in size, so be sure the device you plan to use has enough available space before purchasing.

 

Nearby Explorer works with any device running iOS version 9 or later, but if the device does not contain its own GPS receiver, like most iPads and iPods, you must use an external GPS receiver. All iPhones contain GPS receivers.

 

Nearby Explorer works by letting you select from several different location related options about what to announce as you move. These include both typical items like street name and address and specialized options like approaching streets, intersection configurations, and nearby places and the distance and direction to them. (All announcements are optional.) All of this information is shown on the home screen and is available at any time, but typical use is to adjust the level of announcements, then lock the screen and put the device away. This keeps both hands free and let’s your preferred voice speak the characteristics of the environment as you move.

 

You may also use the devices position and orientation to obtain additional targeted details such as pointing the end of the device to scan for businesses, even in a moving vehicle, or tilting it vertically to function as a compass, including a listing of streets in the indicated direction. This all works with the device locked, so one need not fuss with the touch screen while moving. You may even mark a point, then use the position of the device to get haptic feedback about that point’s location.

 

Nearby Explorer includes a transit feature that provides detailed mass transit schedules for over 60 metropolitan areas in the U. S. and Canada. It treats transit stops just like favorites and points of interest by announcing their name and relative position as you move, but in addition, transit stops add next vehicle stop time, direction of travel, and route name to the announcements. You can use the transit schedules to look up times or even follow a route.

 

You may virtually move to any area in the U.S. or Canada and explore the road network, search, or use the transit maps for that area.

 

For complete details about Nearby Explorer, see http://tech.aph.org/ne

5. TuneIn Radio, a free app By TuneIn.

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/tunein-radio/id418987775?mt=8

Listen to your favorite radio stations for free with TuneIn Radio. With over 100,000 radio stations, TuneIn has the largest selection of sports, news, music and talk radio from around the world.

 

With the free TuneIn Radio app:

-Stream real radio stations from around the world live.

-Listen to your favorite talk shows and podcasts live and on demand.

-Enjoy live coverage of sporting events, concerts and more.

 

Get even more with TuneIn Premium.

-Get live play-by-play from every MLB, NFL and BPL game, all season long.

-Let your imagination run wild with access to a library of over 40,000 audiobooks.

-Enjoy exclusive access to over 600 commercial-free music stations

-No banner ads!

 

Listen Anywhere:

-Enjoy TuneIn anywhere you go with Apple Watch.

-Try out TuneIn for CarPlay when you’re on the go.

-Enjoy TuneIn Radio at home with your Google Chromecast.

6. Native iOS Reminders, a free app built into every Apple device.

Reminders is a pretty great “getting started” app for those new to to-dos. You can use Reminders to make shopping lists or packing lists or to keep work and home organized. You can set reminders for specific times or specific locations, so you can remember to take medication when you need to, and stop by the store when you leave the office.

7. Transit, a free app By Transit App, Inc.

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/transit-bus-train-times/id498151501?mt=8

“You won’t realize how much time you can save planning until you use this app” – LA Times

“Killer app” – WSJ

“MBTA has a favorite transit app — and it’s called Transit” – Boston Globe

 

Transit is your real-time urban travel companion. Navigate your city’s public transit system with accurate real-time predictions, simple trip planning, step-by-step navigation, service disruption notifications, and departure and stop reminders… all presented in a clear, bold interface. Public transport not cooperating? Easily request an Uber, reserve a car2go, or grab the closest bike share.

 

10 GREAT THINGS YOU CAN DO WITH TRANSIT:

1) See real-time arrivals for nearby buses and trains instantly upon launch.

2) Watch your transit vehicle approaching on a map in real-time*

3) Compare options with powerful A to B trip plans using real-time data.

4) Launch GO for step-by-step navigation when you’re on an unfamiliar route or want to nap/read/space out.*

5) Receive departure alarms and stop notifications as well as prompts to pick up the pace in GO.*

6) Get push notifications if service disruptions will affect your commute.

7) View transit schedules and route itineraries—even when you’re offline!

8) Locate bike share stations, see the number of bikes available, pay for passes, and unlock bikes (in select cities).

9) Check ETA (and surge) for nearby Ubers, and book in two taps.

10) View availability and book cars with car2go and other local car-share services.

8. VO Calendar, a paid app By Devista B.V.

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/vo-calendar/id508386832?mt=8

NOTE: Can only be used together with VoiceOver (for blind and partially sighted people).

 

VO Calendar is a weekly calendar specifically designed to be used with VoiceOver.

 

The result of this VoiceOver-only design is not only a smoother navigation through the app. It also makes it possible for the VoiceOver speech to give smart summaries depending on the context. This prevents you from having to go through each event Individually.

 

Existing events are automatically synchronized. If you prefer not to type, you can record voice memos instead.

 

You can use VO Calendar with the VoiceOver gestures you are used to.

 

However, there is an even faster way. With the screen being split into two halves you can scan the right half of the screen with your right thumb. A single tap with your left thumb then is enough to activate the concerning function. After getting used to you will find out this helps you to browse through your calendar even quicker.

 

The left bottom always contains the ‘Return’ button so you can still reach it with your right thumb (being an L-shaped layout). At the top left you can always find a summary of the current screen content. In case you are left-handed you can swap left and right.

 

Note: If you have multiple calendars configured, VO Calendar will show all concerning events. New events will be assigned to your iPhone’s default calendar. Change the default calendar in: Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Default Calendar.

 

VO Calendar is developed in cooperation with Royal Dutch Visio, Centre of Expertise for blind and partially sighted people (www.visio.org).

9. Bank, free apps by a variety of Canadian Banks.  IE., TD Canada by TD.

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/td-canada/id358790776?mt=8

The TD app for iOS provides quick, easy, secure access to your TD chequing, savings, credit, and investment accounts. By clicking “Get”, you consent to the installation of the TD app provided by the TD Bank Group* and to any future updates/upgrades. You are also acknowledging that you understand that the TD app and any future updates/upgrades will/may perform the function described below. You may withdraw your consent at any time by deleting or uninstalling this app.

 

The TD app is free to download, however standard wireless carrier message and data rates may apply.

 

BANKING BENEFITS

  • Get fast access to our most-used banking functions with Quick Links, and check account and Rewards balances without logging in by using Quick Access.
  • Make TD Credit Card Account payments in fewer steps and use your Rewards to help pay down your balance.
  • Send, request and receive money with INTERAC e-Transfer®.
  • Make Canadian and submit U.S. bill payments. (Subject to eligibility requirements and applicable fees. Foreign exchange costs may also apply. Customer must register for the U.S. Bill Pay Service and set up payees in EasyWeb first. A U.S. dollar cheque will be mailed to the payee.)
  • Access your personal banking and investing information from your Apple Watch.
  • Keep track of your spending and receive real time notifications with the TD MySpend companion app.
  • With TD for Me you can receive branch information, local events, offers, tips and reminders.

 

INVESTMENT ADVANTAGES

The TD app allows you to monitor the market, research investment ideas, and trade everything from stocks to options wherever you are!

 

  • Act quickly on market opportunities – trade stocks, ETFs, options and multi-leg options, as well as mutual fund while on the go.
  • Help protect your portfolio from market loss with stop orders.
  • Stay on top of your investments with real-time holdings, balances, orders and activity.
  • Keep tabs on your favourite securities with watchlists, now synced with WebBroker.
  • Set mobile push notifications to receive real-time price alerts for stocks, ETFs and mutual funds.
  • Make informed investment decisions with comprehensive real-time quotes and advanced charting with technical indicators available in the landscape mode.

10. CBC Radio/News, free apps by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/cbc-radio/id325946767?mt=8

Listen to your favourite CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) Radio programs and podcasts on your iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch. Enjoy Radio One and Radio 2 live streams, as well as more than 80 of CBC Radio’s most popular programs and podcasts on demand. Listen to our featured stories, curated for you every day. Browse through 12 categories, including News, Politics and Comedy. Check out archived episodes, save and download your audio for later listening. Build a playlist of your favourite clips and play them beginning to end. Sort by episode or segment. Find the local frequency for your favourite CBC Radio broadcast channel, and see what’s playing on any CBC Radio network. The CBC Radio app allows for in-app search, which allows you to search for any CBC Radio One audio from 2013 to the present. You can also continue switching to a different device and pick up your listening where you left off.

 

Respectfully submitted on January 5, 2018 by,

 

Albert A. Ruel, GTT Coordinator

 

For more information please contact your GTT Coordinators:

Albert Ruel                   or                               Kim Kilpatrick

1-877-304-0968,550                           1-877-304-0968,513

albert.GTT@CCBNational.net                       GTTProgram@Gmail.com

 

CCB-GTT Top Ten iOS, Android, PC and Mac Apps for 2017

The Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB)

Get Together with Technology (GTT)

Top Ten Apps of 2017

 

Here are the Top Ten Apps of 2017 as surveyed late in the year through the GTTProgram Blog, GTTSupport Email List and GTTProgram Facebook Group participants.  This was not a scientific survey, so might be considered by some to be a “Fake List”.  Be that as it may, your friendly GTT Group has likely had a hand in the results, and all of you are encouraged to submit your favourites for the 2018 list as we roll into November/December.  In order to do so, please stay in touch and participate with GTT groups where ever they gather throughout 2018 by following us at,

www.GTTProgram.WordPress.com.

 

Of course, none of the below iDevice, Android, PC or Mac apps are usable by blind, deaf-blind or partially sighted users if the operating system, screen reader and/or magnifier apps aren’t mastered first.  To learn more about how you might gain the skills you need for mastering the above, get involved with a GTT group or conference call near you and ask your questions.  You can also sign up for the GTTSupport email list for this very purpose by sending a blank email message to,

GTTSupport+Subscribe@Groups.io

 

Favourite Apps Listed according to the votes submitted:

Top 10 iOS Apps:

  1. Seeing AI, a free app By Microsoft Corporation.
  2. Native iOS Mail, a free email client built into every Apple device.
  3. Voice Dream Reader, a paid app By Voice Dream LLC.
  4. Nearby Explorer, a paid app By American Printing House for the Blind (APH).
  5. TuneIn Radio, a free app By TuneIn.
  6. Native iOS Reminders, a free app built into every Apple device.
  7. Transit, a free app By Transit App, Inc.
  8. VO Calendar, a paid app By Devista B.V.
  9. Bank, free apps by a variety of Canadian Banks.
  10. CBC Radio/News, free apps by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

 

Top 10 PC Apps:

  1. MS Office, a paid word processing, email and spreadsheet suite of apps by Microsoft Corporation.
  2. Audacity, a free, open source multi-track recording and editing app.
  3. Firefox, a free open source web browser by Mozilla.
  4. Humanware Companion, a free VR Stream companion app by Humanware.
  5. JAWS, a paid screen reading app by Freedom Scientific.
  6. Notepad, a free Native app by Microsoft Corporation.
  7. NVDA, a free screen reading app by NVAccess.
  8. Openbook, a paid scan and read app by Freedom Scientific.
  9. Chicken Nugget, a paid Twitter app by Accessible Apps.
  10. GoldWave, a paid audio editing, recording and conversion app by GoldWave Inc.

 

Top 8 Mac Apps:

  1. Amadeus pro, a paid Audio editor / sound and voice recorder app by HairerSoft.
  2. Dropbox, a free cloud based file storage app by Dropbox.
  3. Facetime, a free iOS communications app by Apple.
  4. Skype, a free communications app by Microsoft Corporation.
  5. Twitterrific, a paid Twitter Client By The Iconfactory.
  6. Native Mail app, a free iOS email app by Apple.
  7. Twitter for mac, a free twitter client By Twitter, Inc.
  8. Audacity, a free, open source multi-track recording and editing app.

 

Top 4 Android Apps:

  1. Aqua mail, a free email client by MobiSystems.
  2. Amazing mp3 recorder, a free memo and call recorder by StereoMatch.
  3. Nearby explorer, a paid app By American Printing House for the Blind (APH).
  4. Podcast addict, a free Podcast player by Xavier Guillemane.

 

Respectfully submitted on January 5, 2018 by,

 

Albert A. Ruel, GTT Coordinator

 

For more information please contact your GTT Coordinators:

Albert Ruel                   or                               Kim Kilpatrick

1-877-304-0968,550                           1-877-304-0968,513

albert.GTT@CCBNational.net                       GTTProgram@Gmail.com

 

Tech Article: Firefox 57 from an NVDA user’s perspective – Marco’s Accessibility Blog

Firefox 57 from an NVDA user’s perspective – Marco’s Accessibility Blog

Marco’s Accessibility Blog

 

Helping to make accessibility accessible on the web and elsewhere

 

Article found at:

https://www.marcozehe.de/2017/11/07/firefox-57-nvda-users-perspective/

 

Firefox 57, also known as Firefox Quantum, will be released on November 14. It will bring some significant changes to the Firefox rendering engine to improve performance and open the door for more new features in the future. Here is what you need to know if you are a user of the NVDA screen reader.

 

For users of the NVDA screen reader, some of these changes may initially seem like a step backward. To make the accessibility features work with the new architecture, we had to make some significant changes which will initially feel less performant than before. Especially complex pages and web applications such as Facebook or Gmail will feel slower to NVDA users in this Firefox release.

 

Improvements in the pipeline

 

Fortunately, NVDA users will only have to put up with these slowdowns for one Firefox release. Firefox 58, which will move to beta the moment Firefox 57 is being released, will already improve performance so significantly that most smaller pages will feel as snappy as before, larger pages will take a lot less time to be loaded into NVDA’s browse mode buffer, and web applications such as Gmail or Facebook will feel more fluid.

 

And we’re not stopping there. In Firefox Nightly, then on version 59, performance improvements will continue, and more big pages and web applications should return to a normal working speed with NVDA.

 

I need full speed

 

If you do require Firefox to perform as fast as before and cannot or do not want to wait until the above mentioned performance improvements arrive on your machine, you have the option to switch to the Extended Support Release (ESR), which is on version 52 and will receive security fixes until long into 2018.

 

However, we encourage you to stick with us on the current release if you possibly can. Your findings, if you choose to report them to us, will greatly help us improve Firefox further even faster, because even we might not think of all the scenarios that might be day to day sites for you.

 

I want to stick with you. How can I help?

 

That’s great! If you encounter any big problems, like pages that take unusually long to load, we want to know about them. We already know that long Wikipedia articles such as the one about World War I  will take about 12 seconds to load on an average Windows 10 machine and a current NVDA release. In Firefox 58 beta, we will have brought this down to less than 8 seconds already, and the goal is to bring that time down even further. So if you really want to help, you can choose to upgrade to our beta channel  and re-test the problem you encountered there. If it is already improved, you can be certain we’re on top of the underlying problem. If not, we definitely want to know  where you found the problem and what steps led to it.

 

And if you really want to be on the bleeding edge, getting the latest fixes literally hours or days after they landed in our source code, you can choose to update to our Firefox Nightly channel, and get new builds of Firefox twice a day. There, if you encounter problems like long lags, or even crashes, they will be very closely tied to what we were recently working on, and we will be able to resolve the problems quickly, before they even hit the next beta cycle.

 

In conclusion

 

We know we’re asking a lot of you since you’ve always had a very fast and efficient browsing experience when you used Firefox in combination with NVDA. And we are truly sorry that we’ll have to temporarily slip here. But rest assured that we’re working hard with the full team to kick Firefox back into gear so that each followup release will bring us back closer to where we were before 57, plus the added benefits Quantum brings for all users.

 

Find the full article at:

https://www.marcozehe.de/2017/11/07/firefox-57-nvda-users-perspective/