Thank for being You

Thank you everyone for being yourself. There is no better feeling than knowing the impact each of you have on the lives of your family, friends, and everyone else you encounter. We can only change the world if we focus on the positive aspects of each of us. So

I request each of you take time today and express gratitude to another. For extra karma points, express sincere gratitude to another person that is of a different or opposing ethnicity, race, religious affiliation, political viewpoint, or other perspective.

Help me support the “Love After War” documentary and raise awareness about Intimacy barriers for disabled Veterans returning home

You will never hear about the most problematic plight transitioning disabled Veterans face from Veteran Organizations, elected officials, the VA, or anyone else. It has nothing to do with efforts to thank and recognize Veterans. It has nothing to do with VA services and benefits. It would not even be evaluated as part of establishing goals for educational opportunities and employment. The most significant barriers facing my fellow disabled Veterans and I involve reestablishing trust, intimacy, and relationships with our loved ones.

Ensuring all Veterans are able to feel loved, Dr. Mark Schoen and Dr. Mitch Tepper established the ground braking documentary, “Love After War.” Dr. Schoen is the critically acclaimed director and producer of several documentaries on sexuality and relationships. Dr. Mitch Tepper is a world renown researcher, advocate, and sexologist. Dr. Tepper devotes his life to assisting individuals with disabilities achieve independence within their relationships.

Spend a moment reflecting upon the last time you heard anything discussing services or information on intimacy related to Veterans. Most of us, even members of Veteran communities and mental health professions, never even received an email or glanced across a Facebook post discussing intimacy. Yet a contributing factor in the elevated rates of Veteran depression, anxieties, and even suicide involves missed opportunities to reestablish bonds of friendship, trust, and intimacy within our own families..

Watch the trailer for “Love After War” to understand the importance of rebuilding intimacy between disabled Veterans returning home and their loved ones.” This issue impacts all types of service related disabilities from combat injuries to military sexual trauma. It does not matter if the individual lost their limb(s), lives with Post-Traumatic Stress or Traumatic Brain Injuries, loss the ability to see and/or hear their partners, or sustained injuries to reproductive organs, the pain associated with the loss of love, trust, and intimacy is very real to us.

The “Love After War” documentary will resolve the gap in available information related to the loss of intimacy for our disabled Veterans. It will feature the first-hand accounts of Veterans and their families describing the struggles they faced upon returning home. And these stories will move you to tears.

In my own experiences, the roughest part of going blind from combat injuries has nothing to do with blindness. Rather the toughest part revolves around a horrific four year period when I failed to connect in a meaningful fashion with my wife. The primary barrier was the inability to express what was going on inside my head, while she did not know how to rebuild our relationship. While I did trust her, I opted to withdraw and lock myself away. Not until we managed to reevaluate our marriage, associated roles, and redefine intimacy did we find a more meaningful method to connect.

I need your assistance in ensuring that the stories of my fellow disabled Veterans, our families, and myself cease to happen. The “Love After War” documentary is only the first step along this path, and we need you to finish the project.

An anonymous donor presented the documentary team with a matching grant challenge.. We strive to raise at least $50,000 this week. This would allow the “Love After War” team to finish production and release the film. This goal is only feasible through your tax-deductible donations to the cause.
matching challenge.
, we have this week to raise $50,000

For more information or to stay up to date on “Love After War” visit us on Facebook, Twitter, and visit the campaign.

Narrator’s Five Best Windows 10 Fall Creators Update Features

A suspension bridge spans the logo with the acronym BVT in the middle. Beneath the bridge the words Blind Vet Tech appears. The bottom of the logo contains morse code reading TAVVI.
In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides, News and Reviews podcast, we provide our five favorite updates to Narrator from Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. These are a combination of new and updated features that makes Narrator much more powerful of a screen reader for Windows 10. Its our opinion that Narrator will become the leading screen reader for Windows users, since its an integrated screen reader that Microsoft is vested in enhancing its usability. The top five are:

  1. Caps lock 1 – Input Learning –
  2. Automatic Scan Mode
  3. Caps lock Shift Enter – Toggle Search Mode
  4. Caps lock Shift D – Describe and recognize text in an image
  5. Caps lock W and R – Read the entire window or from Narrator’s cursor

If you enjoy the Blind Vet Tech Podcast series, we invite anyone interested in assistive technology for the blind to join us on our monthly tech teleconferences. Click here to see a list of our calls and how to connect via Zoom.

Stay Informed

Stay up to date with the latest news and announcements from the Blind Vet Tech team, by doing one of the following:

If you have any questions, comments, or requests, feel free to send us an email here. All of our podcasts and other information related to Veterans, blindness, acceptance of a disability, and other resources may be found at BlindNotAlone.com

Don’t miss another Blind Vet Tech teleconference, click here to see a list of our teleconferences and others we support.

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Options for Voice Over when the focus is on the Status Bar

A suspension bridge spans the logo with the acronym BVT in the middle. Beneath the bridge the words Blind Vet Tech appears. The bottom of the logo contains morse code reading TAVVI.
In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides, News and Reviews podcast, we demonstrate some options that becomes available when you place Voice Over’s focus on the Status Bar. The Status Bar is located at the top of an iPhone or iPad’s screen. While on the Status Bar, you can quickly check connectivity status, current time, and battery level. However, Voice Over is also to preform the following actions:

  • Three finger swipe downwards to bring up Notifications
  • Three finger swipe upwards to bring up Control Center
  • One finger double tap to bring the current page’s view back to the top of the page

If you enjoy the Blind Vet Tech Podcast series, we invite anyone interested in assistive technology for the blind to join us on our monthly tech teleconferences. Click here to see a list of our calls and how to connect via Zoom.

Stay Informed

Stay up to date with the latest news and announcements from the Blind Vet Tech team, by doing one of the following:

If you have any questions, comments, or requests, feel free to send us an email here. All of our podcasts and other information related to Veterans, blindness, acceptance of a disability, and other resources may be found at BlindNotAlone.com

Don’t miss another Blind Vet Tech teleconference, click here to see a list of our teleconferences and others we support.

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Forget Resilience, but show me how you transcend adversity and become a Transilient Veteran

Being a Veteran means that at some point in our lives we consented or were drafted to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Some of us faced our adversaries abroad, while others received debilitating injuries from their fellow Service Members. Some of us have the scars, badges, and medals denoting bravery, while other bravely served but did not face combat. Regardless of how one served in the military, we all served.

A major piece of military service comes from the numerous transitions we each experience. Entering the military, Drill Sergeants or Instructors strip us down to our core and reforge us into the values of our respective service component. During our military service, we travel throughout the country and world, leaving behind old battle buddies and finding new comrades to watch our backs. Eventually, we each leave who military and transition back into civilian life. Each of these movements requires us to evaluate ourselves and our identities.

The term resilience commonly appears in news and research articles to describe a key strength of military personnel and Veterans. This is very true, we are able to bounce back during each of the transitions we face during our military service and beyond, but I feel this term is very limited when thinking about a Veteran’s greatest strength and goal for each of the transitions we process through.

Transilience, however, offers us Veterans a much better gauge to measure our accomplishments by. While this term only appears in the literature of the social sciences in a study from a nurse in the mid 1990’s about the strengths displayed by the children of alcoholics and the writings of my mentor, Ed Canda PhD, transilience offers us a critical concept to strive for. In its most literal definition, transilience is the developmental leap of transcendence. This means the biological, social, cognitive, and spiritual growth we do not just aim for, but exceed.

I break down transilience a little differently. To me, transilience is our ability to transcend resiliency and create a new life and identity for ourselves following a transition in our lives. After going blind, I tried to be resilient and return to the person, husband, and Army officer I was before being injured. This did not work. Not until I assessed and altered who I truly was deep inside and discarded the old me to become the new me, was I able to find peace and belonging in my life.

This is what I hope all Veterans aim to become, more than who you were, but evolve into who you are now but do not stop there. Keep evolving who you are with each new experience. Do not feel afraid to venture into the unknown, but boldly advance into the unknown and learn.

Families, friends, and support services do play a significant role in this process. We need you all to allow us the chance to grow and be there for when we fall. We need you to support us transcend from how you used to know us, and grow with us into our new lives together. This is not easy, but no path ever is easy. If the journey of life offered us no challenges, then we would not be having this conversation, rather we would all be the same.

On this Veterans Day, I implore each of you look at yourselves and figure out a solution to become more than who you think you are, but display just how Transilient you are.

harms way, while others served honorably without stepping into a combat zone.

OrCam MyEye: The most advance stand alone smart glasses for the Blind to recognize the world

According to the National Federation of the Blind, there are an estimated 7 million Americans with a visual disability. According to the World Health Organization, there are 285 million visually impaired people worldwide. That means there are many people out there who are searching for solutions to help them live more independently.

We are lucky to live in a world where the advancements in technology are outstanding. There is a lot of work and research being done to find ways to improve life for partially-sighted and blind people. Reading and recognition devices are just some of the advancements being made. There are video magnifiers, screen readers, braille printers and more. But none are as compact and portable as the OrCam MyEye assistive technology device.

Orcam being used to read a book.

Nicholas Dedekind, an OrCam MyEye user from Belgium, started losing his vision at age 12. Before OrCam, Nicholas tried software magnifiers for on-screen use which he says were heavy, slow, and not very effective. After his parents found out about the OrCam MyEye, Nicholas initially thought that it seemed unrealistic and too good to be true. He thought that maybe these glasses were just like many of the other glasses that aims to improve refraction or increase fields for visually impaired individuals. However, after trying the OrCam device, he was ecstatic. “It was an exciting, eye-opening experience. The product exceeded my expectations,” he says.

OrCam does not rely on connectivity to a smartphone or to a cloud and does not require wi-fi, or Bluetooth connection in order to operate. Rather Orcam conducts everything like text, facial, and product identification through a small module you can place on your hip or in a pocket. This means the response time can be almost instantaneous and the user never has to rely on getting a cell phone signal. Most importantly, it means the system is protected. It is rare to find technology for people who are blind or visually impaired that is this secure and easy to use. The fact that the OrCam device does not connect to a cloud means it requires less power and one charge can last for a while.

Visually impaired and blind individuals who are interested in stand alone wearable devices to increase their independence should check out the Orcam MyEye.Eye. It is perfectly suitable for those with no experience with smart phones and requires a multi-functional recognition solution to advance smart phone users who wish to limit usage of their smart phones.

This post was shared to Blind Not Alone by Orcam, in an effort to share information about Orcam.

A community enables one to conquer the 200 mile #DirtyKansa gravel race as a blind tandem team

Nothing beats the thrill of finishing a 200-mile gravel bike race than being surrounded by the people who made it happen. For many, cycling is an individual sport featuring a single person atop of a bike pedaling to their heart’s content. If you look at the words, “teamwork” and “tandem,” there is no room from an “I.” This is exactly where my Captain, Mike, and I found ourselves at 2040CST crossing the finish line and surrounded by our friends and family. It’s through our friends and family we with disabilities owe much of our achievements, since our independence requires a bit of dependency on others.

So how did this all unfurl? Through teamwork, volunteerism, compromise, and focusing on tangible goals.

This time last year, our team could not have guess they would be celebrating together. However, one person possessed the idea and will power to see it happen. With less than 20 miles left during the 2016 Dirty Kansa 200, Mike Reynolds, and Emporia-based ophthalmologist, received inspiration to complete the the 2017 race with a blind stoker. The idea occurred while crossing an old wooden bridge thanks to the euphoria endurance athletes commonly feel. Us in the military may experience similar emotions upon completion of training ruck marches, completion of a successful mission, or the day we recognize the positive accomplishments of our service.

Over the next five months, Mike remain committed to completing the Dirty Kansa 200 with a blind stoker on his Calfee Tetra. However, he struggled to identify a partner, despite contacting blindness organizations, tandem clubs, and even Paralympic training programs. Nothing would sway Mike from this goal.

During this time, my fellow University of Kansas student Veteran, Matt, shared a Facebook post about finishing some other gravel races. This caught my attention, since my visual impairment eliminated any chances for me to ride independently. Matt proposed we enter the Emporia Veterans Day Freedom Fest spur challenge. The 5k run, 40-mile gravel ride, and obstacle course occurs the weekend prior to Veterans Day. It represents everything Veterans Day activities should include, community building celebrations, military and Veteran outreach and education, and furthering local Veterans-based initiatives. The fact that Emporia is the home of Veterans Day makes this an even more special event to support.

At this point our team has yet to come together. Both Mike and I recognize the only way to accomplish our respective goals require the assistance of others. The reliance on another is not weakness or burdensome, but a chance to establish a meaningful connection that lifts the team to new heights. Endurance sports athletes learn this lesson rather quickly. Running or cycling across the country requires pacers, support vehicles, and communities to aid them through easy days and overcome dark moments when failure is a breath away. Marathon runners require the various volunteer stations along routes to provide energy drinks and gel packets to push their muscles to the brink. Cyclists need a mechanic to keep their bikes moving for other riders along the route to lend a spare tire or pump.

Disabled athletes likewise learn the importance of assistance to compete. Visually impaired runners rely on pace groups and volunteer stations along course routes just like sighted runners. However, one would not even be able to register without lining up sighted guides for training and on race day. Hand cyclists involve mechanics in maintaining bikes, and will request other cyclists to give them a little bump to crest a hill. Deaf swimmers focus on visual cues to announce the start of a heat. The beauty of these arrangements stems from the sheer enjoyment and celebratory feeling that spreads throughout the entire team upon finishing the event.

Returning to the Emporia Freedom Fest 2016 Spur Challenge, Mike, Matt, and I find ourselves a part of the few tandem teams. Demonstrating his competitive nature, Matt scoped out the field of tandem bikes staged for the second component of the Spur Challenge. He described to me the amazing Calfee Tetra’s, and the other Salsa Powder Kegs on the racks. When we completed the first part of the challenge, a 5k run, most of the tandems remained on the racks. This provided us with much optimism for the 40-mile gravel grinder, even though we rode a road tandem. My introduction to Mike and his wife Joyce occurred roughly two-thirds of the way through the course when they easily overtook Matt and me. Let’s say it’s very difficult to miss a shiny white carbon fiber tandem rolling along upwards of 20mph on a flat of hero gravel. It sounds like a fast-moving car, you just wish to draft. But Matt and I could not even keep up, despite trying for a short moment.

After the race concluded, Mike asked Leland, the lead for Gravel City and both the Freedom Fest and Dirty Kansa, who the other tandem team was. After finding out our information, mike hunted us down and proposed the question if I would like to accompany him on the DK200.

This simply took my breath away. First, I never knew a 200-mile bike race existed. Watching Mike leave us in his literal dust imposed a second mental block. Simply stated, I doubted my ability to serve as Mike’s stoker. However, Mike displayed a tremendous degree of patience and understanding by providing me a couple of months to think it over.

One of the important pieces of teamwork involves the team’s strength. My apprehension instilled a self-induced barrier. Representing the truest definitions of selfless service and team work, Mike believed in me and gently nudged me to believe in myself without breaking me. The chain strength comes from the capabilities of each link. Stress the weakest link to much, and it breaks. Tandem cycling is exactly like the chain. The Captain and the stoker works in unison to propel the team forwards. A cadence maintains the speed, the pair feels each other out through verbal and nonverbal cues. 

Mike’s desire to see us succeed became very clear while training for the DK. Being split between Emporia and Lawrence places much trust on each part of the team to prepare themselves when separate and optimize times when riding together. Mike provided training plans and tips. When it came to riding together, Mike continued to demonstrate selfless service by venturing out to Lawrence or picking up and taking me to Emporia to ride parts of the DK route. During the training rides, we established a goal and pedal are hardest to achieve it, while trying not to risk any injuries.

Our first time riding together is one for the memory books. We hoped to ride the first leg and back of the DK, while also posing for some action shots by the DK photographer. Accompanying us was Todd on a fat bike. Given the February timeframe, one might hope for a beautiful day, but Alas the temperature barely rose above 30. We made it to the Cattle Pens, took the pictures, and then headed home. Yes, the cold weather was too much for this Army Veteran to handle.

Though our next two rides paired us against cold temperatures and decent winds, we manage to ride 60 miles and then our first century. The 60-mile ride allowed us to get loss around Lawrence as what should have been a simple route ended up going from Lecompton, over to Eudora, around Clinton Lake, and then back to my house. This is what happens when you trust navigation to a GPS that just refused to connect and then rely on a blind back seat stoker driver with Blind Square on the iPhone. At this point, I struggled to contemplate how we could even complete the race, then we rode our first century. Completing the 3rd and 4th legs of the DK invigorated us, and we found our groove.

The next two century rides when off without a hitch. We realized that as a team, we would be able to complete the DK. Our spirits would not even be hampered by the troubles on our final training ride along the 2nd leg of the DK. During this ride, the rear tire sprung a leak. Mike attempted to patch then replace the tire, but nothing seemed to work. Despite this, we felt strong coasting into Eureka for a pickup.

Finally, we arrive at the DK itself. Mike and Joyce graciously hosted my Dad, Jessie, Brent, and myself. Our SAG consisted of Joyce, Tom, Davao, Peggy, and Brent. Mike, Jessie, and I rode the 4 miles to the start line to warm up. Yes, even in a 206-mile race, you really do need to warm up before starting, and 4 miles is a drop in the bucket. When we reached the starting area, we stood out. Just about everyone knew Mike and bid us good luck and many individuals wondered how I could see with my entire face covered. Mike lined us amongst the front row of cyclists. The starting line consists of many rows of 30 bikes across with barely enough space to wave hi. The atmosphere resembles a New Year Eve ball drop, but at 0545 in the morning. Like the New Year’s Eve, once the clock hits zero, its organized pandemonium.

Our starting strategy involved taking it easy and allow the sprinters and fast movers the chance to go around us. Well, when you have roughly 1,100 cyclists, it’s better to play it safe and then catch them on the back end of the course. The move payed off, as the first couple of turns, though still congested, provided us with the room to maneuver the tandem safely.

Each leg presented its own challenge for our team. The first leg featured us crashing. The second leg forced us to check our rhythm. The third leg demonstrated why a milk shake might not be a suitable halfway point nutritional splurge. The fourth leg proved what is possible when properly motivated.

Wondering about those crashes, well each is funny. During a river crossing, Mike played the nice guy and let another cut in front of us. The individual just about stopped at the banks of the river, causing Mike to steer off to the left and off the crossing’s paved area. Mike flew off to the side of the tandem and I graciously maintained an upright position holding onto the tandem. When Mike returned, he looked at me in amazement that I was just standing there looking as if nothing happened. However, we would change fates on our next crash. Heading into the 1st Check Point, a series of gates and poles puts one’s balance to the test. Well that is great on a single bike, but an 8ft long tandem cannot make those turns, so we crashed. This time Mike showed me off and landed rather gently, got up, and started to run with the Calfee. Slight problem, I did not land so smoothly and barely managed to find and grab onto the back of the tandem. About 10m into the sprint, Mike realized this and slowed down enough for me to find the bike.

Well we were not the only entertaining couple of runners. Waiting for us at an entrance to pit row pinot, Daveo and Tom also seemed caught up in the excitement and started running next to us. Only caveat is both gave us conflicting directions to the break area. Well our SAG team rocked the entire Check Point, quickly conducting some bike maintenance, switching out our Camelbacks, and provider an update on Jessie and the lead group.

The second leg lack of crashes or disastrous situations contained its own elements of intrigue. After smoking the first leg, we needed to revisit our tempo and save energy for the second half. However, the pleasant weather, beautiful rolling Flint Hills, and our fellow riders made this a challenge. The DK’s tandem class is rather small, so to come across two other tandem teams introduced a balancing act between maintaining our pace while trying not to enter a race to the next check point. Technically we met both teams during the first leg, it’s during the second leg you try to find something to occupy your mind, like racing. The two tandem teams consisted of male and female partners. The first set we came across hailed from Oregon, and the second from Columbia, Missouri. Both contained relationships with Veterans, as the first woman is a psychologist at the Portland VAMC, and the other tandem teams where Marines. Both teams aspired to beat the sun and was their first time entering the DK tandem class. Another facet of the second leg is the stunning rolling hills, groves of trees, river valleys, and ridge lines. We opted to walk up the final 50m of the Beyotch Climb, and cruised into Eureka at our fastest century time to date, 6:52.

Our support team once again enabled Mike and I to rest and refit ourselves. The Calfee received a quick once over and underwent a bit of tender love and care under Mike supervision. I opted to sit down, not that I have not been sitting all day so far, and enjoy a large Sonic milkshake from my Dad who walked the 3 miles to fetch it. 

The learning lesson is dumping a bunch of sugar and saturated fats into your body at the halfway point of an endurance race might not be the best idea. Most of the third leg remains a blur to me, since the ancient condition of dragging ass zapped my energy. Several times Mike asked me if I was awaking, to which I replied, mostly. The funniest part of the race occurred during this leg. A section of the route takes you by the former CEO of Dr. Pepper’s sprawling ranch with the most perfect white picket fence. The area features an amazing downhill portion across the front of the house and up onto a ridge. Mike and I discussed how awesome a Dr. Pepper pit stop by the CEO’s house would be. Not even a minute after this exchange, a rider who was resting on the side of the road opened his bottle of Dr. Pepper and started drinking it as we passed. This forced us to start laughing at how perfect the moment was. That rider was not the only one with the idea to rest in the area, with numerous riders resting on the road side, under trees, and in the creeks.

By the time we hit the third and final check point, the desire to finish strong prevailed. We hoped the stop would be a quick one, but that would not be the case. If a single rider places a lot of torque on the drive train of a bike, expect some wear and tear. Now imagine the torque from two riders. Luckily nothing broke, but the front cogs nearly fell off the bike as Brent lubed the chain and belt. We came very close to dropping out of the DK due to mechanical failure, but we figured we could hobble the last 50 miles. Before taking off, Tom FaceTime with my 7-year-old daughter, Abby, and we received our final pep talk from her. She of course knew we would finish and win, but then I know better than to argue or cast doubt against what she says.

And so, we took off on the final leg, racing against Apollo to the horizon. The fourth leg starts off with a nice downhill out of Madison and through some smaller hills. The main concern arose to our south, as large thunderclaps formed over the route for the first leg and stood there taunting us. This provided a bit of motivation to make it through several miles of dirt, which could become a mud bath. Once again, I created the weak link in the chain thanks to an Achilles injury flaring up. Fortunately, the ominous clouds retained their distance and rain content, and we crushed the Percy’s Punch climb and the dried mud beds. Only a couple of small climbs and about 20 miles of gravel resided between Team Tandem when Mike spurred us on. Growing frustrated with my tired talking, Mike upped our pace. Upon passing the Pastor’s Bridge and seeing the Emporia water tower, Mike checked our timing and announced the potential to challenge Apollo’s chariot, so we poured our remaining efforts into finishing the race strongly. 

If the race’s kick off sounded like the Time’s Square New Year’s ball drop, then the last half mile was filled with a ball drop at every corner and the finish line featured the ball drop combined with Independence Day. To showboat a little over the finish line, Mike took his feet off the pedals and allowed me to pedal the last stretch into the finish line. Every inch of the area contained cyclists, SAG teams, volunteers, DK staff, and the entire town of Emporia cheering on finishers This left very little room to navigate a normal bike, much less an extra-long Calfee. Well when you are blind and the loudness of the noise overloads your remaining sense of positioning, yelling for e to stop pedaling will get you nowhere. I should have probably warned Mike that I could not hear in loud situations, but he learned the best way, the hard way. I am pretty sure everyone jumped out of the way, for I did not feel us run over anything, and we did not crash, so go us.

Did we beat the sun? Yes, barely. The Official sunset on June 3, 2017 in Emporia, KS, occurred at 2043. Our official time over the line, 2040, meaning we completed the Dirty Kansa 206-mile gravel race in 14:40. Well, technically, 210 if you count the warm up. My daughter’s belief in winning the tandem class also came true, with the next team finishing about 30 minutes later.

Once we dismounted, Joyce, Tom, Daveo, Peg, Brent, and all our friends and fellow cyclists enveloped our team. Even my Daughter joined us on Face Time cheering us on and crying out of happiness. This moment will remain engrained in my brain, as this type of celebratory bonding rarely occurs over one’s lifetime. During the DK awards ceremony, we would feel the sharing of gratitude, applause, and celebration by everyone. The awards ceremony pays tribute to the top five finishers in various categories. Jessie took fourth in the males 29 and younger category. Todd took 6th in the fat bike category. When it came to the tandem class, we grew worried when we did not hear the names of the wonderful Portland VAMC Psychologist, but felt very happy when the Marine couple from Columbia took the podium. Then much speculation transpired between Mike, Joyce, Tom, Daveo, Peg, and myself before the announcement of the 2nd and 1st tandem teams. I thought another team was ahead of us in the timing and was shocked when the 2nd place team took the podium, leaving us as the champions of the Dirty Kansa tandem class.

When the announcement came, the crowd continued the joyous cheering for all of those who podium. When Mike, Tom, and I reached the stage with Mike as my sighted guide, white cane in hand, and Blinded Veterans Association shirt, the audience grew very silent. Personally, I think this is because everyone wondered if I would fall off the podium, after several other previous 1st place winners struggled to lift their legs high enough, or as one young male nearly fell backwards after attempting to show off with a one leg jump onto the 3rd place podium. I did slowly approach the podium, and did think, oh shit can I lift my leg high enough? Well the answer was no, so I kneeled and then stood up on the small square as Mike, resembling a trained gymnast, simply hopped up with little ease. Once everyone realized the Facebook Live feed would not be on America’s Funniest Home Videos, we all received a standing ovation. Know how I mentioned the loudness and rarity to be immersed in so much celebratory love and pride, well that moment beat the finish line moment. On a side, everyone realized why my floppy hat completely covered my eyes under the helmet. As one rider asked, “is it dark under there?” I replied, “all of the time.”

The Dirty Kansa ranks on my greatest lifetime achievements, and it’s all thanks to Mike, my captain, and coach,’ Joyce, his wife and our lead SAG supporter’ Tom, my Dad who drove us around all over and was always there to ensure we were ready; Daveo and Peg, for showing us some serious love at the SAG’s and taking some photos of the ride; and Brent, for repairing what we broke and enabling us to keep pedaling. This story would not have been possible without the support of Matt, who served as my first tandem captain on the Freedom Fest Spur ride; Chris who is my sighted running guide; and Richard Hunter, who started me thinking about becoming a blind athlete through the California International Marathon. 

A single rider cannot complete the Dirty Kansa by themselves. Heck, you cannot even register without listing who will support you. 

The DK requires a team mentality. Teamwork appears between the cyclists and their SAG team keeping the bike rolling and nutritional supplies stocked. Team building develops between cyclists throughout the course, inspiring everyone to pedal just a little harder or to lend support to a fallen rider. Teamwork is a necessity both on the tandem and around the tandem, since tandems require a bit of respect for everyone safety. The team mentality filters throughout all the communities, individual farms, volunteers, supporters, and so many other countless and unnamed individuals who go out of their way to support every aspect of the Dirty Kansa. 

The Dirty Kansa is not for an individual to demonstrate their prowess, but for everyone to come together and support each other achieve their independent goals.

If you wish to be apart of a team who supports blind athletes achieve goals like this. Check out these links. We in the blindness community requires the support of our volunteers who make it possible for us to compete. If you wish to be apart of this movement or want more information, feel free to contact me.

Have some #Halloween fun with #Alexa and #Siri with these simple commands

A suspension bridge spans the logo with the acronym BVT in the middle. Beneath the bridge the words Blind Vet Tech appears. The bottom of the logo contains morse code reading TAVVI.
In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides, News and Reviews podcast, we demonstrate some fun ways to utilize Alexa and Siri on Halloween and other times. Both digital assistants offers an amazing array of daily to seasonal responses that allows you to have fun. Here are some of the commands we used:

  • Alexa
    • Good Morning, to receive a factoid about the day
    • What should I wear for Halloween
    • What are you wearing for Halloween
    • Tell me a Halloween story or joke
  • Siri
    • Happy Halloween Siri
    • What should I wear for Halloween
    • What are you wearing for Halloween

If you enjoy the Blind Vet Tech Podcast series, we invite anyone interested in assistive technology for the blind to join us on our monthly tech teleconferences. Click here to see a list of our calls and how to connect via Zoom.

Stay Informed

Stay up to date with the latest news and announcements from the Blind Vet Tech team, by doing one of the following:

If you have any questions, comments, or requests, feel free to send us an email here. All of our podcasts and other information related to Veterans, blindness, acceptance of a disability, and other resources may be found at BlindNotAlone.com

Don’t miss another Blind Vet Tech teleconference, click here to see a list of our teleconferences and others we support.

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Help Arizona State develop devices and methods for blind travelers to navigate and orientate themselves to their environments through this study

The Arizona State University’s Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing requires the feedback from blinded individuals related to traveling preferences. The study aims to learn more about how we navigate and orientate ourselves while using canes, guide dogs, and sighted guides. The goal of the center’s studies involves developing next generation devices and methods for us blind travelers to successfully navigate our environments.

I request that if you are a visually impaired individual over the age of 18 and utilize a cane, guide dog, or sighted guide to navigate, click here to participate in the study.

Note, the link for the survey has been updated and works now.

Spend Today Recognizing Life with Blindness or a Visual Impairment Through Our Goals and Not Our Sight

Throughout the United States, October 15th celebrates White Cane Day. Dating back to President Johnson’s 1964 Presidential Proclamation, today allow us with a visual impairment to demonstrate possibilities. Whether you think of today as White Cane Day, White Cane Safety Day, or Blind Americans Equality Day, I request you set aside any preconceived notions you may possess about blindness and learn how we each view today.

To me, blindness is only a term describing my inability to utilize my optical system fully established by evolution. Yes, blindness is not a term that describes the inability for an individual to receive any light, rather blindness refers to a range of conditions impacting one’s ability to do things like read normal print, use peripheral or central fields of view, recognize colors, or a host of other barriers to pursue a specific goal..

Therefore, calling today Blind Americans Equality Day makes more sense. Not all the conditions encompassing blindness or visual impairments requires a white cane. Even those who may benefit from a white cane may not rely or even use a white cane to achieve personal independence. Rather, we each employ different tactics and tools to achieve our personal goals. So today is about treating us with a visual impairment equally.

Yes, this counters efforts to recognize the white cane as the symbol of blindness. Not everyone who is blind looks at the cane as a piece of their identity. Likewise, not everyone who is possesses a visual impairment even acknowledges themselves as blind. Therefore, we need to approach those who are blind or visually impaired just like you would anyone else. We are no different than anyone else.

To assist a blind individual, achieve independence, I request the observance of a few guidelines:

  • Do not assume we are all totally blind, rather 85% of those with a visual impairment possess residual sight
  • We hear you just fine, so do not shout
  • Do not take our arms or grab our hands if we look lost, rather ask how you may assist
  • We are fully capable of making decisions, so do not turn towards our companions to ask what it is we would like
  • Guide dogs guide us, so just completely ignore them
  • Introduce yourself when speaking to us, since many of us do not possess the magical ability to recognize you by your voice
  • Focus on our goals

Recognize Images in #iOS11 with #VoiceOver and a Three Finger Single Tap

A suspension bridge spans the logo with the acronym BVT in the middle. Beneath the bridge the words Blind Vet Tech appears. The bottom of the logo contains morse code reading TAVVI.
In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides, News and Reviews podcast, we recognize images on a website with Voice Over. iOS 11 introduced a simple way for the blind to identify what is happening in a picture through a three finger single tap. Voice Over will announce the number of faces, any clearly discernible expressions, and objects in the photo. Yes, the Photos app received this feature in iOS 10, iOS 11 enables you to use the feature in almost every app on your iOS device. If you are struggling with utilizing the feature, here are some tips:

  • Make sure Screen Curtain is off by preforming a three finger triple tap
  • Make sure the screen brightness is set to at least 30% for best results, though its debatable how much this actually impacts the recognition process
  • Select Images in the Voice Over rotor under Settings>General>Accessibility>Voice Over>Rotor to quickly swipe up or down to the previous/next picture

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on how to recognize pictures and images in iOS 11 with Voice Over and a three finger single tap.

Stay Informed

Stay up to date with the latest news and announcements from the Blind Vet Tech team, by doing one of the following:

If you have any questions, comments, or requests, feel free to send us an email here. All of our podcasts and other information related to Veterans, blindness, acceptance of a disability, and other resources may be found at BlindNotAlone.com

Don’t miss another Blind Vet Tech teleconference, click here to see a list of our teleconferences and others we support.

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Learn How to Optimize Storage on your iPhone or iPad Through iOS 11 Storage Settings or Offloading Apps

A suspension bridge spans the logo with the acronym BVT in the middle. Beneath the bridge the words Blind Vet Tech appears. The bottom of the logo contains morse code reading TAVVI.
In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides, News and Reviews podcast, we demonstrate how to optimize your iPhone’s or iPad’s storage in iOS 11. Apple changed how information appears in the Storage settings in your Settings > General settings menu. Of note, you may quickly regain much storage by automatically deleting messages and large files from the Messages app that are more than a year old. If you keep swiping, Apple changed how individual apps appear, and if you tap on one, you may offload the app. Offloading allows you to delete the app while retaining user settings from the app. Here is how the iPhone or iPad Storage settings appear:

  • Amount of storage used and total capacity of your iOS device
  • On/off toggle to automatically delete messages more than an year old
  • Option to view and delete large files from the Messages app that are more than a year old
  • List of individual apps, highlighting their name, storage required, and last used

If you double tap on an app, a detail menu appears with the following options:

  • List the name of the app, developer, and version
  • Amount of storage the app requires
  • Amount of storage the user settings and data files require
  • Offload or a reinstall and delete button an its description

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on how to optimize your iPhone’s or iPad’s storage in iOS 11.

Stay Informed

Stay up to date with the latest news and announcements from the Blind Vet Tech team, by doing one of the following:

If you have any questions, comments, or requests, feel free to send us an email here. All of our podcasts and other information related to Veterans, blindness, acceptance of a disability, and other resources may be found at BlindNotAlone.com

Don’t miss another Blind Vet Tech teleconference, click here to see a list of our teleconferences and others we support.

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What to Expect from #iOS11 for #VoiceOver and Zoom Users

The frenzy to download and update your iPhones and iPads to iOS 11 is upon us. The update brings a host of new features from cutting edge Augmented reality capabilities, apps which incorporates machine learning to improve accuracy of responses over time, searching with handwriting, Siri becomes a translator to English, and Voice Over stability tweaks. For a full list of updates, visit Apple’s official press release here.

It is my opinion that iOS 11 is safe for Voice Over users to download and install. I have been using iOS 11 on my primary iPhone 6 128GB since the start of the Public Beta release at the end of June. My main concern is for individuals with devices older than iPhone 6. My iPhone 6 behaved rather sluggish throughout the beta and even after the official release. This is even after reseting it to factory defaults and installing iOS 11. So if you use an iPhone 5S, Mini 2, and similar aged products, Voice Over may not react very smoothly all of the time.

Just like earlier iOS updates, Apple included some new features, changed existing ones, and even preformed some updates that you will not realize but improves the overall functioning of your device. This review will focus on accessibility updates, new iOS features, tips on using new features, and conclude with thoughts on taking the plunge. Before we delve into exploring iOS 11, many of you might be wondering two things, is my device supported and how much space will iOS 11 need. iOS 11 supports iPhone X, 8 Plus and 8, 7 Plus and 7, 6S Plus and 6S, 6 Plus and 6, SE, and 5S. iOS 11 will support iPad 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2nd and 1st generation, 10.5-inch iPad Pro, 9.7-inch iPad Pro, iPad, Air 2 and original, iPad 5th generation, iPad mini 4, 3, and 2. Finally, the iPod touch 6th generation is also supported.

Next, some of you might be wondering how much space will iOS 11 consume. Those with an 16GB device who are pressed for space need not worry. iOS 11 received a significant amount of attention by Apple that not only decreased the amount of room you might need, but almost cut the need for this discussion. iOS 11 requires roughly 1.8GB to download. This should not be a problem, thanks to the attention provided those cramped for storage. iOS temporarily uploads apps into the cloud, installs the update, and reinstalls any removed items. 

Once you finish the iOS 11 update, head over to Settings > iPhone Storage, and see what is taking up space. Here you will notice two new options, the ability to offload apps while keeping app information and clear out messages over a year old. The offloading choice is a nice feature if you have some apps you might access once in a great while, but otherwise really have no need to keep it on your device. When you reinstall the app, all the earlier settings will be in place. The Messages clean out is like spring cleaning. On my personal iPhone, this saved me 300MB of storage on my device. While looking at iPhone Storage, glance through the list of apps. You will see all the apps on your device, the amount of storage they consume, and the last time you accessed it. If you tap on an app, you will see more details about the app, and have a choice to offload the app individually. on your device. If you do offload an app, the amount of space consumed will be updated and the offload button will be replaced with a re-download button.

Accessibility Updates

Voice Over

Voice Over gained the ability to drag and drop single or multiple items. The best place to test this out is on the home screen with your apps. Do a one finger double tap and hold for a moment. Now switch the rotor to action and swipe up. You will have the ability to select items, drag it, place it before or after an app, create a folder, or place an app in the folder. IOS 10 did possess a similar feature for arranging apps on the home screen, but iOS 11 enables you to do this with multiple apps. Add as many apps to the drag session by navigating to another app, swiping up or down and add it to the drag session. You will be ablating do this within an app for moving around items. iPad users will find they will be able to drag and drop items between apps when in split screen mode.

The Rotor received several new features based on the app you are in. If you are on text, an option will allow you to find misspelled words. When you land on the word, the predictive typing above the onscreen keyboard will provide you some options, or you can find the Edit in the rotor and swipe through the same list of alternative spellings.

In the mail app with threaded messages, you can swipe down to expand the messages so you may read each individually. Additionally, the More action in Mail will allow you to just reply, forward, or a couple of other options straight from your messages list. 

When you are looking at a photo in the Photo app, the Show Facial Features rotor option will allow you to find faces, noses, eyes, mouthes, and more. Just swipe up or down on a picture, and double tap on Show Facial Features. There is another option for Show Details, which highlights various meta tags of the photo.

If you are on a news website or blog site with posts or articles, turn the rotor to articles. This will allow you to jump to the next article on the page, without having to worry about heading navigation or running into ads.

IF you enjoy plain around with Verbosity settings, bring up Voice Over’s settings and check out Verbosity. Apple placed toggles to speak hints, punctuation, speak detected text, table output options, and whether Voice Over speaks other formatting options.

The most common Voice Over bug we encountered involves hearing Voice Over’s clicks and swipes but no voice. While no one is sure why this happens, fixing it requires you to just turn Voice Over on and off.

Zoom and iOS’ Visuals

Zoom did not receive any major updates, but iOS received many visual modifications. If you do not have Voice Over on, you can now place a finger on the menu or status bar, i.e. battery indicator, time, etc.…, and iOS will magnify it. The Calendar app’s font is much easier to read and other minor tweaks reduces some of the eye strain reported by many users. Apple even polished the icons of many of its apps, so they appear cleaner and easier to read.

Other Accessibility Features

IF you encountered trouble answering a call, tighter phone, or FaceTime, you may let your device automatically answer. Navigate to Call Auto Routing and tap on Auto Answer Calls. You may toggle this on or off and set the amount of time in seconds for the call to be answered. During this time period, you will be able to dismiss the call. Personally I like this feature and leave it on during the business day.

iOS Updates

Siri 

Apple advances Siri’s abilities to personalize your entire iOS experience. In the release notes, Siri will continuously learn how to better serve you and provide recommendations based on what you consume in Safari, Calendars, Emails, questions to Siri, and a whole lot more. Apparently, the personalization will carry across to all of the devices you signed into with your Applied. These changes become clear when noticing Siri’s settings read, Siri and Search. IF you now have a meeting appointment, flight, or contact update in Mail, Messages, etc.… you will have the option to place it in the appropriate place. Yes iOS 10 rolled out a similar feature, but iOS 11 improves upon it.

Specifically targeting individuals with hearing and speaking impairments, Siri gains a new accessibility setting, Type to Siri. This feature removes the ability to speak to Siri and offering a text box when you press and hold the home button or say, “Hey Siri.” Also in Siri’s accessibility settings, you can set how Siri reacts when you toggle the side ringer option, aka mute switch.,

Looking for a universal translator? If your Siri language is set to English, ask Siri to translate something into Chinese, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. You will then hear Siri repeat what you asked in English and then speak the word or phrase in the desired language. Below this command in the Siri card, you can tap on the play button to hear the word or phrase again.

In the never-ending quest for realistic voices, Siri’s default voices sound much more natural. You will need to head to Siri’s settings to sample and download the new voices. In my opinion the American female voice resembles an early 20-something, which may be difficult for those who struggle with higher pitch vocals. However, the American male, and all of the British an Australian voices are nice.

Control Center

Control Center received some significant updates. These include the actual structure to the Control Center when you bring it up and the ability to customize what appears in the Control Center. Let us start with what appears in Control Center. First, we have several new buttons, the ability to turn cellular data on and off, access to media controls on the Control Center’s main page and not buried on page 2, and the standard buttons that appeared in Control Center at the bottom which you can now customize. Overall, Control Center regains its usefulness with options and buttons to control various aspects of your iOS experience.

iOS users finally have control over Control Center. Yes, that pop up that appears when you place VO’s focus on the Menu bar and then do a three finger swipe up, can be customized. In the Control Center menu, a new button states Customize. Two headings appear on this page, Include and More Controls. VO users can perform a one finger swipe up or down to remove items, or a double tap and hold on the reorder button to rearrange items. To add a control, double tap on the insert a control button. Here is a full list of all of the controls available:

  • Accessibility Shortcut will bring up the accessibility shortcut )Triple Click Home) if you more than two or more items controlled by the Accessibility Shortcut
  • Alarm
  • Apple TV Remote
  • Calculator
  • Camera
  • Do Not Disturb While Driving will prevent alerts, calls, and other notifications from appearing on your iPhone if it detects you driving
  • Flashlight
  • Guided Access
  • Low Power Mode
  • Magnifier turns your iOS device into a digital magnifier
  • Screen Recording
  • Stop Watch
  • Text Size provides fast control over the size of dynamic text

TV and TV Providers

The TV app and TV providers arrived in iOS 10, but iOS 11 improves these features. The TV app serves as the central point to find a particular movie, show, or episode from across all of those TV networks’ apps. However, the awesome bit of news comes from supported TV Providers. This might be why many did not realize about this app, since few if any providers signed onto Apple’s program. Now you should really check out TV Providers and link your cable subscription to TV Providers. Then head over to the settings for TV, and toggle on those network related apps. No longer will you be limited to wondering what is on and when, rather the TV app will become the center of your entertainment life.

Emergency SOS

Our iPhones demonstrated how they may save lives thanks to Siri and tracking our locations. iOS 11 advances these capabilities through Emergency SOS. If you push the power button five times, your iOS device will contact emergency services and provide your location. If you set up your Health app and listed some emergency contacts, they each will receive a text message and your location when Emergency SOS activates. You may turn this feature off, so when you press the power button five times, iOS 11 presents the lock screen with a Power Off, Emergency SOS, Health ID, and a cancel button.

Conclusion

We at Blind Vet Tech who tested out iOS 11 definitely enjoyed it. Yes, it contains bugs, but none of them drove us away. Even the most problematic bug with Voice Over’s muted voice is easy to resolve. For a complete analysis of the bugs in iOS 11, check out what AppleVis.com noted.

If you have any questions about iOS 11, join us on our next Blind Vet Tech Monthly Tech Talk, and let’s talk about it. These talks are open to anyone interested in learning how the blind uses various tech solutions and devices successfully.

Learn How to Use iOS 11 Camera’s QR Code Reader, Photo’s Facial Features Recognition, and OCR Images with Voice Over

A suspension bridge spans the logo with the acronym BVT in the middle. Beneath the bridge the words Blind Vet Tech appears. The bottom of the logo contains morse code reading TAVVI.
In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides, News and Reviews podcast, we demonstrate how to use the new QR Code reader in the Camera app, explore facial features in Photos, and recognize text in images through Voice Over. Apple continuously improves features for the blind and visually impaired with each update, and these three new features simply make iOS the goto device for us. Here is how to preform these features:

  • QR Code Reading through the Camera App
    • Open the Camera app and place it over a Qr Code
    • Wait for Voice Over to announce that a QR Code was recognized
    • Navigate to the Notification banner at the top of the screen that allows you to read the QR Code and navigate to the embedded link in Safari (if available)
  • Find facial features in the Photos app
    • Find a picture with a face in it by doing a three finger single tap on a photo in the Photos app
    • With the photo opened, place Voice Over on the picture and do a one finger swipe down to locate Show Facial Features (if this is not available use the rotor to find Actions)
    • Double tap on Show Facial Features and then explore by touch or swipe to find the facial features,/li>
  • Recognize text in images with Voice Over
    • Find an image in Safari, emails, social media or wherever that might have images with text
    • Place Voice Over’s focus on the image and do a three finger single tap
    • You will hear details about the photo, and if text is identified Voice Over will say “Possible Recognized Text”

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on how to use the new features in iOS 11 for QR Code Reading in Camera, finding facial features in Photos, and recognizing text in images with Voice Over.

Stay Informed

Stay up to date with the latest news and announcements from the Blind Vet Tech team, by doing one of the following:

If you have any questions, comments, or requests, feel free to send us an email here. All of our podcasts and other information related to Veterans, blindness, acceptance of a disability, and other resources may be found at BlindNotAlone.com

Don’t miss another Blind Vet Tech teleconference, click here to see a list of our teleconferences and others we support.

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Blind Vet Tech Monthly Tech Talk for September

This is an announcement for the Blind Vet Tech Monthly Tech Talk for September 21. This month we turn our attention towards our new conferencing platform, Zoom.us and what is new in iOS 11. Zoom is a highly accessible conferencing platform allowing participants to connect via their computers, smart phones, or through a dial in number, see below for how to do this and coming shortcut kets.

Apple releases iOS 11 on September 19, and we are super excited to share what we know. Voice Over received many updates and tweaks, earning our trust and approval. The couple of updates exciting us include the ability to fill out PDF’s, recognize a bit of text in images through a built into Voice Over OCR, find facial features in Photos, and ability to drag and drop multiple items. Zoom users will enjoy the ability to place your finger on the menu bar and automatically zoom into it without Zoom on, clean up of the Control Center for easier navigation, and the easier to see Dock and app switchers.

Participate on the call through Zoom by:

  • Thursday, July 20
  • 1900 Central Time

Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android by clicking here

iPhone users simply tap on the phone number below or dial:

  • (646) 876-9923,,7854091838#
  • or (669) 900-6833,,7854091838#

Zoom enables one to control their participation through a series of hotkeys. The table below lists the possible actions and how to complete it based on your connection method:

Action Zoom for Windows Zoom for MacOS Zoom for iOS Dial into Zoom
Mute Alt A Command Shift A Mute Button on app Star 6
Raise hand to prompt moderator Alt Y Option Y Raise/Lower hand Button on app Star 9

Stay Informed

Stay up to date with the latest news and announcements from the Blind Vet Tech team, by doing one of the following:

If you have any questions, comments, or requests, feel free to send us an email here. All of our podcasts and other information related to Veterans, blindness, acceptance of a disability, and other resources may be found at BlindNotAlone.com

Don’t miss another Blind Vet Tech teleconference, click here to see a list of our teleconferences and others we support.

Assistive Tech Trainers and VA Blind Rehab Staff, Learn More About AIRA’s Ability to Assist Us Blind and Visually Impaired Consumers

Are you a VA VIST, BROS, or Assistive Tech trainer? If so, you may have received requests for more information about AIRA. AIRA enables visually impaired individuals to learn about their surroundings by an AIRA agent looking through a pair of smart glasses. Take it from an AIRA user, it’s definitely worth the time to learn more about it, and how it may impact the lives of your consumers.

First, AIRA is a service utilizing a pair of smart glasses that connects to the internet. An AIRA agent views the individual’s surroundings through the smart glasses’ camera, Google Maps, and input from the individual. The agent then describes, guides, reads, orientates, hires an Uber, or whatever else the individual requires from the agent. This occurs in real-time, with more features, like an AIRA system that will not require a smart phone to integrated OCR capabilities, coming in the near future.

I greatly enjoy my experience with AIRA. Over the weekend, an AIRA agent served as a play-by-play announcer during my daughter’s soccer game. This is the first time a dedicated individual described all of the action, allowing me to cheer on my daughter’s team in their first victory of the season. Even better yet, the agent captured some moments, like the below photo. Next up will be AIRA memorializing my starting and finishing of the KC Marathon or the Lap the Lakes Gravel Grinder. Aside from these extraordinary situations, AIRA aids me in some mundane situations, like crossing a parking lot, alerting me when the pedestrian sign permits me to walk, or reading a meeting agenda.
Youth wearing a light blue jersey and kicking a ball during a soccer game.
Understand, I approached AIRA with a high degree of skepticism. If not for the request from several participants of the Blind Vet Tech Monthly Tech Talk and close friends, I would not have invited them onto one of our calls. After the call and further evaluations, I determined AIRA will enable me to accomplish many tasks I avoid and empowered my independence.

If you are a VA Blind Rehab Services trainer, VIST, or BROS, consider attending AIRA’s informational webinar through Zoom this Wednesday, September 13, at 1:00 p.m. EDT. You can join by clicking here. This call will be an opportunity for AIRA staff and VA staff to learn about the unique veteran populations each region contains and AIRA’a applicability. In particular, AIRA will answer some common questions like how does the federal pricing work; how might prosthetics and trainers secure hardware; and what type of training might AIRA provide trainers and Veterans.

One of the most common questions individuals ask involves HIPAA considerations for individuals utilizing the device in hospital and healthcare settings. As a Social Worker, student at a medical center, and researcher, I needed to answer this question myself before using AIRA. Based on conversations with the legal and public affairs personnel and AIRA staff, an individual will only need to tell the AIRA agent to stop recording the session. For healthcare providers, you may not be allowed to use AIRA when in direct patient or consumer interactions. Its advised you to consult your legal or public affairs teams at your local facility to obtain their interpretations of HIPAA mandates and local policies.

Learn What Apps Will Not Be Supported in iOS 11 and an iOS 11 Sneak Peak

A suspension bridge spans the logo with the acronym BVT in the middle. Beneath the bridge the words Blind Vet Tech appears. The bottom of the logo contains morse code reading TAVVI.
In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides, News and Reviews podcast, we demonstrate how to check for what iOS apps are not compatible with iOS 11. iOS 11 drops support for 32 bit apps, which increases performance and battery life of iOS devices. We have a simple way to check for what apps will no longer be supported, which greatly aids in determining whether updating to iOS 11 is right for you. We also cover two new updates to iOS 11, the ability to drag and drop multiple items and Voice Over’s new ability to read text on certain images. Here is how to verify what apps are not compatible for iOS 11:

  • Open Settings
  • Tap on General
  • Tap on About
  • Tap on Application
  • Navigate through this page to see what apps are not supported on your device.

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on how to see what apps will not be compatible with iOS 11.

Stay Informed

Stay up to date with the latest news and announcements from the Blind Vet Tech team, by doing one of the following:

If you have any questions, comments, or requests, feel free to send us an email here. All of our podcasts and other information related to Veterans, blindness, acceptance of a disability, and other resources may be found at BlindNotAlone.com

Don’t miss another Blind Vet Tech teleconference, click here to see a list of our teleconferences and others we support.

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Join the House of Representatives Through the Wounded Warrior Fellowship Program

Are you a injured or disabled Service Member or Veteran interested in working in the House of Representatives? Do you want to directly assist your fellow Veterans achieve various legislative advocacy efforts? The House of Representatives offers paid fellowships for either a one or two year opportunity through the Wounded Warrior Fellowship Program. Currently fellowships are available at:

  • Brea, CA
  • Santa Clarita, CA
  • Washington, DC
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • More cities will be added in the next couple of months

Please see below for additional information. If someone meets the qualifications and would like to apply, they should provide the information requested below along with their city of interest. To the point of contact.
Job Summary: This position if limited to veterans with service connected disabilities desiring to serve a two-year paid Congressional Fellowship as part of the House of Representatives Wounded Warrior Program. Selected Fellows will work directly for a Member of Congress as part of their office staff. Fellowships are located in either a Congressional District office or in Washington, D.C.

Job Duties: Duties will vary depending upon the specific requirements of each Member office. Said duties may include, but are not limited to: working as a constituent services representative helping local constituents resolve issues with federal agencies; serving as a liaison to local Veterans Service Organizations (VSO); attending local events and meetings on behalf of your Member of Congress; and performing legislative work. Specific duties for each Member office will be discussed during the interview process.

Compensation: $35,000 – $50,000 a year.

Requirements: Fellowships are limited to veterans who served on active duty since September 11, 2001; have a minimum 30% disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs; and cannot be the recipient of a 20 military retirement. Veterans must meet all three requirements and have an Honorable Discharge to be eligible for consideration.

How to Apply: If you would like to be considered for a Fellowship, submit your resume, a copy of your last DD-214 (page 4 copy), and a VA letter indicating a 30% or more disability rating to housewoundedwarriors@mail.house.gov. Also include cities of interest. Do not send resumes directly Member offices.

For additional information, please visit the Wounded Warrior Program link at www.cao.house.gov/wounded-warrior.

The Wounded Warrior Program will be adding numerous fellowships across the country in the coming months. Search USAjobs.gov for current openings. Please note that this program is for the actual House of Representatives and is not associated with any Veterans Service Organizations with similar names. Also this information was a part of an email received by the program manager of this opportunity, requesting widest distribution. The poster edited parts of the original email to clarify a few points.

Service and Guide Dog Etiquette Recommendations

Service and Guide Dogs provide an invaluable service for their disabled handlers. Each may stem from a special breeding program and undergoes training for this most important job. There are guidelines people should follow when in the presence of a Service or Guide Dog promoting the safety and wellbeing for all. Disregarding these guidelines can distract the dog, which can create a dangerous situation for the dog and its handler. Aside from the Americans with Disabilities Act, KSA 39-1103 protects the rights of individuals to utilize Service and Guide Dogs. Interference is a misdemeanor in Kansas under KSA 39-1103. Other states and commonwealths possess similar types of statutes to protect the safety and rights of Service and guide dog teams. For more information about Service and Guide Dogs, click here to visit our resources page.

  • Please don’t touch, talk, feed or otherwise distract a working Service Dog.
  • Do not let your pets freely roam neighborhoods, front yards, or other public spaces, something most communities, townships, associations, etc… mandate.
  • Don’t treat the dog as a pet; give him the respect of a working dog.
  • Speak to the handler, not the dog.
  • Some handlers will allow petting, but be sure to ask before doing so.  If allowed, don’t pat the dog on the head, stroke the dog on the shoulder area.
  • Do not attempt to give Service and Guide Dogs commands; allow the handler to do so.
  • Service and Guide Dogs team have the right of way.  Don’t try to take control in situations unfamiliar to the dog or handler, but please assist the handler upon their request.
  • When walking with a Service and Guide Dog team, you should not walk on the dog’s left side, as it may become distracted or confused. Ask the handler where you should walk.
  • Many Service and especially guide Dogs receive training to walk on the left side of paths, sidewalks, streets, etc… This is for the safety of the handler, so permit them the right away.
  • Do not allow your pets to challenge or intimidate a Service and Guide Dog.  You should allow them to meet on neutral ground.

These pearls of wisdom originated from the Guide Dog Foundation’s Service and Guide Dog etiquette recommendations. Please visit this link to read the original. Also, consider donating to either the Guide Dog Foundation or America’s Vet Dogs. Both provide efficacious Service and Guide Dogs to individuals with disabilities.

Google Announces Pilot Disabilities Support Team

The Eyes-Free Google Groups recently announced a new accessibility and disability answer desk at Google. The project is in a beta version with efforts focusing on the limited user base from the Eyes-Free discussion group. The service aims to  serve individuals with disabilities fully utilize the various Google products and services, like Google Docs, Android, Hangouts, Gmail, and the various other platforms.

I am very excited for Google’s ongoing commitment to enhancing both the accessibility and support for individuals with disabilities, and hope we each may assist in the development of the new platform. Before you consider sending a note to the Google’s accessibility email, please read the below email that announced the creation of the service from the Eyes Free Google Groups. The group started several years back to develop things like Talk Back and has been the go to source for Blind and Visually Impaired Google users. Here is the forwarded email:

Forwarded Email Message follows:

I’m excited to announce that Google has a new dedicated disability support team who can be reached at disability-support-external@google.com. The support team will be available Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm PT, to answer any questions you may have about accessibility features within Google products, general accessibility and assistive technology questions.

While we’ve been testing internally for some time now, like any new product/project, we still have some kinks to work out. Therefore, we’re hoping the eyes-free community can help us

Read more to learn about the team and frequently asked questions.

What is the Google disability support team?

The Google disability support team currently consists of agents supporting all things accessibility related to Google. This means, any question(s) you may have with regards to accessibility within Google products or accessibility at Google overall can be emailed to disability-support-external@google.com and you will receive an answer to your question, feedback or concern by a support representative within 72 hours. Please note: At this time, the team will not be able to assist with product specific questions that are not related to accessibility.
The support team will be launching with email only, English only, Monday-Friday, 8-5pm PST.

Why is the Google accessibility team launching this?

Additional support and resources is one of the most frequent feature request we receive from customers, community members, Twitter followers, etc. This will be just one step further towards our long term goals of connecting more with the community and providing additional support.
For those who wish to have a more personalized experience with a Google accessibility expert, this will be a great option!

How can I help test and provide feedback?

That’s right, we’re still testing and we could use your help and feedback!
Simply email disability-support-external@google.com with any Google accessibility question (especially questions you may already know the answer to as this will help to provide feedback on the quality of the answer) and determine whether or not the response was accurate, timely (within 72 hours) and helpful. The feedback survey will be provided in the email from the support agent, simply fill it out at the end of your interaction with the team.

Want to know more? Check out some of the FAQs below:

Why the name “disability-support-external@google.com?”

Unfortunately, the word “accessibility” is often misunderstood as “access.” For multiple reasons, we needed to rule out “accessibility”, “access”, and “assist”.
“Support” and “External” are currently required. Eventually we’ll move towards a hyperlinked “Contact Us” throughout our support pages and Google accessibility site.

Why email only?

While we’re launching with email only, we have plans to quickly move towards additional support channels such as chat and phone. However, because this is a testing period, email allows us to take the time we need to ensure our responses and resources are as accurate as possible before moving to live support.

How long will the team be testing for?

We’ll be testing with just the eyes-free and accessible communities over the next month before launching more publicly.

What is Google trying to learn from this pilot?

Everything! Perhaps most importantly, what types of questions do our customers have and where can we improve our resources and external communication.

What are the next steps after the pilot ends?

Continue scaling! As mentioned above, we’ll be looking to add in additional support channels such as chat, phone and hangouts. Expanding support hours, languages and much more!

How to Listen to Podcast Via Amazon Echo

A suspension bridge spans the logo with the acronym BVT in the middle. Beneath the bridge the words Blind Vet Tech appears. The bottom of the logo contains morse code reading TAVVI.
In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides, News and Reviews podcast, we demonstrate how to listen to podcast through an Amazon Echo via TuneIn Radio. This episode continues to build upon our previous Amazon Echo and Alexa episodes by guiding one through a couple of new commands and further inspection of the Alexa iOS App. In this episode we:

  • Ask Alexa to play the Blind Vet Tech Podcast
  • Search for a podcast through the Alexa iOS app by
    • Open the Alexa app
    • Double tapping on menu in the upper left corner
    • Navigate to and double tap on Music, Videos, and Books
    • Navigate to TuneIn Radio
    • Navigate to Podcast
    • Enter into the search field and search for a podcast
    • Double tap on the Podcast and the episode to start listening
  • Add a podcast to the Favorite list in the TuneIn Radio settings by
    • Double tap on Now Playing tab in the lower right corner
    • Find the Cue link
    • Find the name of the podcast or episode and swipe once to the right so Voice Over is on an unlabeled link
    • Double tap on the unlabeled link and swipe to the right and double tap on Favorite

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on how to listen to TuneIn Radio podcasts on an Amazon Echo.

Stay Informed

Stay up to date with the latest news and announcements from the Blind Vet Tech team, by doing one of the following:

If you have any questions, comments, or requests, feel free to send us an email here. All of our podcasts and other information related to Veterans, blindness, acceptance of a disability, and other resources may be found at BlindNotAlone.com

Don’t miss another Blind Vet Tech teleconference, click here to see a list of our teleconferences and others we support.

Play

Optimize iPhone and iPad Battery Life

A suspension bridge spans the logo with the acronym BVT in the middle. Beneath the bridge the words Blind Vet Tech appears. The bottom of the logo contains morse code reading TAVVI.
In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides, News and Reviews podcast, we demonstrate how to optimize your iPhones and iPad’s battery life. Most iOS devices possess about 1000 charge cycles before you start to see battery life degradation. With these tips and tricks, you will be able to stave off charging your device, even if your battery begins to show its age. These tips and tricks will squeeze every bit of life from each charge by simply modifying various settings. All of these items stem from Apple’s support page on iOS battery life.

  • Check out the health of your battery in the Settings > Battery menu
  • Enable Low Power Mode from the battery settings, Control Center, or by asking Siri
  • Deactivate Screen auto brightness and set the screen brightness to a desired level in the Control Center or Displays menu
  • Turn on/off Cellular Data when needed
  • Set Mail and cloud accounts to fetch data in the Accounts menu
  • Turn on/off bluetooth as needed
  • Turn on/off Location Services in the Settings > Location Services menu
  • Turn on/off Background App Refresh in the Setting > General > Background App Refresh menu

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on how to optimize your iOS device’s battery life.

Stay Informed

Stay up to date with the latest news and announcements from the Blind Vet Tech team, by doing one of the following:

If you have any questions, comments, or requests, feel free to send us an email here. All of our podcasts and other information related to Veterans, blindness, acceptance of a disability, and other resources may be found at BlindNotAlone.com

Don’t miss another Blind Vet Tech teleconference, click here to see a list of our teleconferences and others we support.

Play

Listening to Podcasts Via Hims Blaze

A suspension bridge spans the logo with the acronym BVT in the middle. Beneath the bridge the words Blind Vet Tech appears. The bottom of the logo contains morse code reading TAVVI.
In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides, News and Reviews podcast, we demonstrate how to listen to podcasts on a Hims Blaze. Hims Blaze series of audio readers offers many features to enjoy various audio content like audio books from NLS BARD and BookShare, FM radio, internet radio, podcasts, and integrated OCR capabilities.
The Hims Blaze audio readers provides countless hours of listening enjoyment for individuals with visual impairments. The easy access to NLS BARD, BookShare, internet radio, integrated FM radio tuner, and ability to capture images and OCR text and colors makes it a wonderful addition to anyone’s technology tool kit. You may listen to the latest best sellers and mail, stream international radio, listen to your local FM radio, and much more. This episode focuses on how to acquire and listen to podcasts. NOTE: This Procedure assumes that a Wifi network is configured on your Hims Blaze.

  • Make sure you are connected to a Wifi network by pressing the Info button located in the top left corner on the face of the Blaze.
  • Press the down arrow on the main menu until you reach Podcasts
  • Press the right arrow or the circular OK button located within the four arrow keys.
  • To add new podcasts, press the Menu button located between the down arrow and #2 keypad buttons.
  • Press the down arrow to navigate to the search function and press the OK button, or just press the #8 button.
  • Use the left and right arrow buttons to navigate between category of word input modes.
  • Press the down arrow to explore options, and the up arrow to return to mode selection.
  • If opting to search for a podcast through word input mode, use the numerical keypad to type in the name of a podcast. Then press the down arrow to view results and left and right arrows to go between results.
  • Press the OK button to subscribe to a podcast.
  • Press the cancel button located above the #1 button to jump to the main podcast menu.
  • On the main podcast screen, use the up and down arrow keys to navigate between podcasts, and then the right or OK button to view episodes.
  • When you find an episode to listen to or to download, press the OK button.
  • Press and hold the cancel button for 2 seconds to delete a podcast.

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on how to listen to podcasts on your Hims Blaze.

Stay Informed

Stay up to date with the latest news and announcements from the Blind Vet Tech team, by doing one of the following:

If you have any questions, comments, or requests, feel free to send us an email here. All of our podcasts and other information related to Veterans, blindness, acceptance of a disability, and other resources may be found at BlindNotAlone.com

Don’t miss another Blind Vet Tech teleconference, click here to see a list of our teleconferences and others we support.

Play

Listening to Podcasts on a Victor Reader

A suspension bridge spans the logo with the acronym BVT in the middle. Beneath the bridge the words Blind Vet Tech appears. The bottom of the logo contains morse code reading TAVVI.
In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides, News and Reviews podcast, we demonstrate how to listen to podcasts on a Victor Reader. The Victor Reader series of audio readers provided countless hours of listening enjoyment for individuals with visual impairments. The easy access to NLS BARD, BookShare, internet radio, and podcasts, makes it go to solution to read the latest best seller or catch up on the latest news through podcasts. This episode will focus on how to use the podcast features of the Victor Reader. NOTE: This Procedure assumes that a Wifi network is configured on your Victor Reader Stream .

  • Turn off airplane mode by pressing and holding down the online features key (the top center round button.) This action toggles on and off airplane mode.
  • Press the online features key (the top center round button) until you are using the internal bookshelf. Note: this keystroke is a toggle between the two bookshelves, internal and external.
  • Press the bookshelf key (key 1) to go through the bookshelves until you find the podcast shelve. If you don’t hear the word ‘podcasts’ you are in the wrong bookshelf. Press the bookshelf key again to find the podcast shelf.
  • Press the right arrow (Key 6) or press left arrow (Key 4) until you hear “add a podcast feed”. Then press the confirm key (key #).
  • Press the up arrow (key 2) or the down arrow (key 8) until you hear “title search”. Then press the confirm key (key #).
  • Type in the podcast title (“Blind Vet Tech” in this case) and press the confirm key (key #).
  • Select the podcast title you want from the search list. This creates a folder named “Blind Vet Tech” and the podcasts will be downloaded Into this folder.

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on how to listen to podcasts on your Victor Reader.

Stay Informed

Stay up to date with the latest news and announcements from the Blind Vet Tech team, by doing one of the following:

If you have any questions, comments, or requests, feel free to send us an email here. All of our podcasts and other information related to Veterans, blindness, acceptance of a disability, and other resources may be found at BlindNotAlone.com

Don’t miss another Blind Vet Tech teleconference, click here to see a list of our teleconferences and others we support.

Play

AIRA Enhancing Independence Through Human Interaction

Our community of blinded veterans continues to grow. The population of older veterans who are more at risk to develop vision issues is living longer. In addition, with improved battlefield medicine we see greater numbers of survivors of injuries, many of them vision-related.
These men and women are returning home from the most recent conflicts and are attempting to enter the mainstream of society and take their rightful place within that mainstream.

One organization believes that the answer lies at the intersection of technology and human interaction. We believe that this opinion may be absolutely correct. Aira, a San Diego-based technology and services innovator, has created a solution that further enhances independence for our already independent blind and low-vision community.
The concept underlying the solution is simple: When given equal access to visual information comparable to that of a sighted person, the blind or low-vision person can operate more independently and with even greater confidence. Such a visual assistant should think like a set of eyes rather than as a brain. Blind or low-vision persons are perfectly capable of making decisions and need access only to missing visual information in order to make informed decisions. They should not necessarily have to rely on prescriptive directions from a third party on what to do with such information.

Have you wished for an on-demand sighted assistant to guide you while shopping, cooking, or just walking around the neighborhood? Many of us reside with family members or have nearby friends and other individuals to aid in these tasks—but not all of the time. Even after completing training from a Blind Rehabilitation Center and becoming equipped with portable Optical Character Recognition solutions, money readers, and the countless applications on iPhones, we as visually impaired veterans may still overlook or completely miss part of an address or the “Entrance Only” sign for the door of an office building.

The solution outcome has been Aira’s services platform, which incorporates Smart glasses, broadband services, and an agent network, into a fully integrated solution that provides immediate access to information about surroundings or elements within those surroundings. Users wear a pair of Smart glasses with an embedded video camera, an audio headset, and a GPS tracker. They are supplied with broadband network services which enable remotely located agents to view the users’ surroundings, get a precise location on those users, and then provide information that is relevant and helps them decide what actions to take.

Although technology is the key, it is the Certified Agents that provide the all-important human interaction many veterans prefer. Aira agents are trained on how to find and provide information through a proprietary agent dashboard based on location, time of day, obstacles to travel, nearby venues, and other important elements for the user to factor into a decision.

Access to the agents is a simple process. An Aira user presses a button on the glasses or the application on the Smart Phone to initiate a session with an agent. The response is immediate. A user can interact with an agent that is randomly contacted, or he/she can specify one with whom there is already a relationship. While the service is not yet available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the goal is for this to occur by end of the year. Agents are available currently from 4:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

Additionally, agents remotely serve the role of visual assistant, able to read labels, menus, instructions, or other items that may be important to the user at any given time. Most importantly, agents and users create relationships over time and establish confidence in one another.

It matters not if you prefer the white cane or a guide dog, this will certainly not change while using AIRA. In fact, the company’s founders claim that they will never suggest that their services become a replacement for a service animal or family member serving as a visual assistant. Despite this, we are finding any number of activities that Aira enables that are simply not otherwise possible. Here are a couple of them to consider:

  • Paul, as a totally blind veteran, used the service to shop in a big box retailer. The agent helps him navigate the aisles and then locate items on the shelf. It even reads labels via the glasses. Additionally, the agent is able to identify special deals through the store’s website and makes Paul aware of them.
  • An anonymous veteran of whom we are aware used the service to assemble a piece of furniture. With the agent identifying parts from 500 miles away and relaying directions found online, the blinded veteran user performed the assembly work. This dynamic team of three, two individuals plus the Internet, was able to achieve a task that simply would not be possible otherwise.
  • Other users arranged an Uber ride from their house to Walmart. The agent notified the individual when the driver approached the house. The agent also informed the individual of the Uber driver’s location. Once the agent received the individual’s shopping list, they quickly picked up all items on the list. The agent even described items on sale or nearby alternative items based on the individual’s preference. completion, the agent hailed an Uber ride back home, alerting and guiding the individual to the car.

There are many uses for the Aira service and virtually no limit as to what the agent and user can accomplish together. In the words of noted speaker and 9/11 survivor Michael Hingson, he himself blind, this is a game changer.
At present, Aira services are modestly priced to ensure broad access by the blinded veteran community. They are not yet available as a prosthetic device through VA Blind Rehabilitation Service, efforts between AIRA and the VA’s Prosthetics and Blind Rehabilitation Services are negotiating the particulars. We must remember AIRA is a subscription-based service. Currently two sites started evaluating AIRA. Once adopted, blinded veterans will be able to request information about Aira.

Personally, I am looking forwards to adopting AIRA to assisting in achieving several personal goals. First and foremost, AIRA will enable me to understand and engage with various activities involving my daughter. I am looking forwards to hearing play by play when she is on the soccer pitch or at a swim meet. I am now looking forwards to running down to the store and grabbing a few items for dinner or just perusing aisles independently. Finally, AIRA will allow me to break barriers when reading research articles littered with graphs, tables, and charts. OCR fails to recognize or often destroys these graphical depictions of data, forcing me to miss crucial points. I do not expect every agent to interpret these items perfectly, but it beats the complete inability to handle such information.

This article was crafted by Amy of AIRA, Paul Mimms, and Timothy Hornik.