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

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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

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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

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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

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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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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

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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.

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Optimize iPhone and iPad Battery Life

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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.

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Listening to Podcasts Via Hims Blaze

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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.

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Listening to Podcasts on a Victor Reader

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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.

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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.

Microsoft’s Seeing AI Is the One Recognition App To Rule Them All

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In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides, News and Reviews podcast, we demonstrate Microsoft’s Seeing AI. Microsoft essentially crammed the KNFB Reader, AI Poly, Tap Tap See, Red Laser, Facebook’s AI alt tag, and Apple Camera’s accessibility features into a single app. Unlike other apps which tried to do this, like Talking Goggles, Microsoft’s Seeing AI combines ease of use with fairly high accuracy, making Seeing AI a must have. Let’s just call Seeing AI, the Orcam killer. The main features of Seeing Ai includes:

  • Short Text
  • Document
  • Product
  • Picture and Facial Recognition
  • Scenery
  • Currency

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on Microsoft’s Seeing AI.

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

Introducing the Victor Reader Trek, Part Stream Part Trekker Breeze

How many of you miss the Trekker Breeze? Yes, I must admit some longing for Humanware’s awesome GPS and way finding solution. No other way finding device provided the blind with an easy to use tactile interface. However, Humanware faced a horrible dilemma when manufactures stopped producing many of the components of the Breeze, and users expressed their outrage.

Humanware spent the last year or so deliberating how to reinvent the Trekker Breeze, and did they ever. Imagine if the Victor Reader Stream and the Trekker Breeze hooked up at a bar, and produced a child. That is what the Victor Reader Trek is, the body and functionality of a Victor Reader Stream with way finding and points of interest capabilities of a Trekker Breeze.

The Victor Reader Trek brings everything you love about the Trekker Breeze into the Victor Reader Stream. Now you may leave your iPhone in your pocket as you head out for a walk, and listen to a Blind Vet Tech podcast or a book while receiving turn by turn directions.

The Victor Reader Trek retains the menu structure and button arrangement as the Victor Reader Stream. All of the Trekker functions will be accessed through various buttons, like the 5, pound sign, record button, and several others. Also apart of the Trekker update, Humanware goes wireless through Bluetooth 4.0, allowing pairing with headsets like the AfterShokz Trekz.

The Victor Reader trek dropped one of the Victor Reader Stream’s most beloved features, an integrated microphone. The GPS antenna now occupies the microphone’s space. If you wish to record audio with the Victor Reader Trek, connect or pair a headset or external speaker with a microphone and press the record button.

The Victor Reader Trek will sell for $699, and will be released later this year. For those attending any of the national conventions, stop by Humanware’s booth to preorder the Trek for the introductory price of $599. If you are not able to attend, contact Humanware directly and ask about pre-ordering the Victor Reader Trek at this limited time offer.

Check out Blind Bargain’s podcast on the Victor Reader Trek by clicking here. All information from this post comes from this podcast.

Five Alexa Commands All Echo Users Should Know

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In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides and Tutorials podcast, we demonstrate five Alexa commands Echo users should know. Listening to music and streaming radio, catching up with the news, setting timers and alarms, playing games, and checking your calendar ranks amongst the most common tasks blind individuals access through an Echo. Bookmark our podcasts on Amazon Echo to learn how to utilize the Echo to its fullest capabilities.

The commands we use include:

  • Alexa play WBBM Radio (or other radio station)
  • Alexa play songs by Pearl Jam (or other artists, song titles, and genres)
  • Alexa stop
  • Alexa next or previous track
  • Alexa play the News
  • Alexa play my flash briefing
  • Alexa next article
  • Alexa set a timer for 1 minute (or other time interval)
  • Alexa how much time is left on the timer
  • Alexa set alarm for 0600 tomorrow
  • Alexa play Jeopardy or Geography Trivia
  • Alexa what is on my calendar for tomorrow

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on five common commands for Amazon Echo’s Alexa.

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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Amazon Echo: Setting Up The Echo Dot

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In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides and Tutorials podcast, we preform step 2 of 2 when setting up an Amazon Echo product, setting up and paring an Amazon Echo Dot. In the prior podcast, we covered step 1, installing the Amazon Alexa app. The Amazon Echo enables you to interface with Alexa and all of your connected devices and other skills. We choose the Echo Dot due to its low cost, ease of use, and portability. Check out our article on Paul’s experience with a smart home from the Heartlander newsletter, and bookmark our podcasts on Amazon Echo to learn how to utilize the Echo to its fullest capabilities.

In this episode we will:

  • Describe the Echo Dot
  • Walk through the process with the Alexa app to set up the Amazon Dot
  • Quickly demonstrate how Voice Over repeating the tutorial commands can activate Alexa

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on setting up the Amazon Echo Dot.

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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Amazon Echo: Setting Up The Alexa iOS App

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In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides and Tutorials podcast, we preform step 1 of 2 in setting up an Amazon Echo product, installing the Amazon Alexa app. The next episode will feature step 2, setting up and paring an Amazon Echo Dot. The Alexa app is the center of managing any Amazon Echo product, since the app allows you to control your profile, enable new Alexa Skills, and connect new smart home devices to other products. You can even link your contacts with the Alexa app to call up other Amazon Echo users. The Echo’s and Alexa’s simplicity makes adopting the platform as the center of your smart home world a breeze, no matter your technology proficiency. Check out our article on Paul’s experience with a smart home from the Heartlander newsletter, and bookmark our podcasts on Amazon Echo to learn how to utilize the Echo to its fullest capabilities.

In this episode we will:

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on setting up the Amazon Alexa app.

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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Sendero Seeing Eye GPS 3.0 Rocks

Sendero Seeing Eye GPS just released version 3.0, and the new features amaze me. In fact, the update makes it one of the most powerful GPS and way finding solution for the blind. Here are the new features and why you should care:

  • Added waypoint or breadcrumb routes
    • Remember the feature on the Trekker Breeze where you can walk around a park or area and create a route? Well that is what waypoint routes bring to smart phones. No other navigational solution, including Blind Square, preforms this task. I cannot wait to map out some routes or potentially upload routes through my favorite areas other turn by turn apps fail.
  • New methods to find Points of Interest
    • Blind Square has been my go to method for finding Points of Interest since it arrived on iOS. No other app makes finding places around you easier. Sendero did develop Sendero Look Around which did an ok job at this, and eventually ported this into the Wand feature in the Sendero Seeing Eye GPS. Well, Points of Interest finding remained clumsy, when compared to Blind Square. Now Points of Interest finding between the two solutions are on par with each other.

    then released a simple

  • Indoor Navigation through beacons
    • The race for indoor navigation heats up between Blind Square, Sendero Seeing Eye GPS, and several other apps. It matters not who wins, as long as the opportunity for the race exists. Indoor beacon navigation will not become mainstream for several more years, but anytime anyone announces indoor navigation, even if its just moving a button into predominance, be happy its gaining momentum.
  • Uber now appears as a route option
    • Uber rocks for many reasons. Apps like Blind Square, Apple Maps, and Google Maps integrated Uber services awhile back, so its nice to see Sendero Seeing Eye GPS catching up.

Sendero Seeing Eye GPS 3.0 contains other updates you can check out by clicking here. If you are not a fan of subscription services, the non-subscription version of the app received a price slash from $299 to $199, so take advantage of the offer while it lasts.

Dolphin’s EasyReader Makes Reading Easy On iOS

The following article comes from Hazel, the Marketing Director at Dolphin.

Dolphin Computer Access celebrate their 30th Anniversary Launching EasyReader, a FREE Accessible iOS Reading App for Blind, Low Vision & Dyslexic Readers. Leading assistive technology specialists Dolphin Computer Access celebrate their 30th anniversary this month by launching a FREE accessible reading app for blind, low vision and dyslexic readers across the globe. The EasyReader app for iPhone and iPad users is immediately available to download from the iTunes app store and empowers millions of blind, partially sighted and dyslexic readers to browse and read accessible talking books and newspapers.

EasyReader has been specifically designed for readers with a vision or print impairment and, unlike other mainstream reading apps, has no restrictions to accessibility. Low vision readers can make their book’s text as large as their sight requires; adjusting colours, highlights and contrast to suit. Blind readers can ‘add speech’ to books and newspapers which have no inbuilt narration or choose from 100,000s of audio books available immediately. Readers with dyslexia can read with dyslexia friendly fonts and colours with perfectly synchronised text and audio.

The launch of the EasyReader app brings together the world’s largest collection of accessible books and newspaper services. Unique in offering direct and effortless access to 21 digital libraries serving print impaired people across 70 countries, EasyReader includes access to popular accessible library services including Bookshare®, NFB-NEWSLINE®, RNIB Bookshare, Legimus, NLB and Vision Australia.
“As a thank you to our customers and partners worldwide from the last 30 years, we’re delighted to release EasyReader – bringing our free accessible reading app to a global audience,” said Noel Duffy, Managing Director at Dolphin Computer Access.

“We’re passionate about people’s right to read and are committed to improving access to books and newspapers for people who are unable to use other channels. Technology has changed immensely since we first started and this is a 30 year milestone that we can all be proud of. We remain at the forefront of accessibility development and will continue to do so.”

EasyReader for iOS is the latest in Dolphin’s 30 years of innovating accessibility solutions for people with vision impairments. Early Dolphin innovations included Hal for DOS and the Apollo synthesiser – a software screen reader that ‘spoke’ through a hardware synthesiser. Available in more than 30 languages, this popular combination quickly became established as the industry leader across the globe.
1998 saw the launch of SuperNova, the first fully integrated magnifier and screen reader delivering accessibility for every visual impairment – developed at Dolphin’s HQ in Worcester, UK. SuperNova USB followed in 2005 and heralded the first assistive technology portable on a USB thumb drive. Publisher, developed in Dolphin’s Swedish development offices, remains the blindness industry’s preferred DAISY book creation tool and is the technology used behind the millions of accessible talking books available from blindness charities across the globe.

EasyReader for iOS is immediately available to download from the iTunes app store in English, French, German, Norwegian, and Swedish with other languages due to follow shortly. For blind app users EasyReader is fully compatible with iOS Voiceover and iOS supported braille displays. EasyReader for Android is set for release late Summer 2017. For accessible book libraries looking to tailor and deliver their own iOS, Android and Windows reading apps, EasyReader is also available as an app platform. Learn more about Dolphin’s Powered by EasyReader program here.

About Dolphin Computer Access
Located in Worcester, England, Dolphin offers a wide array of products that enable people with varying levels of technology experience—who are blind, visually impaired or have dyslexia—to do everyday things easily on computers and tablets. Dolphin has grown to become a global market leader, with more than 40 staff worldwide. The company has expanded to include offices in New Jersey USA and Falköping Sweden.

Learn more about EasyReader by clicking here.

Download EasyReader for iOS by clicking here.

The following accessible and taking book libraries are available for EasyReader.

  • Bookshare® (US and international)
  • RNIB Bookshare (UK)
  • CELA (Canada)
  • Legimus (Sweden)
  • Inläsningstjänst AB (Sweden)
  • NLB (Norway)
  • Nota (Denmark)
  • Vision Australia (Australia)
  • Passend Lezen (The Netherlands)
  • Anderslezen (Belgium)
  • SBS (Switzerland)
  • KDD (Czech Republic)
  • DZDN (Poland)
  • ePubBooks (All languages, no login required)
  • Project Gutenberg (All languages, no login required)

You can also access your periodicals if you belong to any of the

  • following services:Bookshare® Periodicals (US)
  • NFB-NEWSLINE® (US)
  • RNIB Newsagent (UK)
  • MTM Taltidningar (Sweden)
  • NKL (Finland)
  • Passend Lezen (The Netherlands)

For more information, please contact:
Hazel Shaw, Marketing Director, Dolphin Computer Access
hazel.shaw@yourdolphin.com
www.YourDolphin.com
+44 1905 754 577 or +44 7989 444 541

Blind Vet Tech News Update: Rise of the Accessible Microsoft Machines

Welcome to this installment of the Blind Vet Tech News Update. In this episode, Terry and I discuss the evolving accessibility culture filtering through Microsoft, our thoughts on Narrator as a stand alone screen reader, the accessibility and usability of One Note and other Microsoft Office products, and why machine learning to recognize objects and text excites us. The combination of these items truly demonstrates what happens when a company, like Microsoft, takes the stance to integrate universal design within its core beliefs.

For those skeptical about Microsoft’s commitment to accessibility, watch this Youtube video. It outlines exactly how accessibility is no longer a buzz word where Microsoft passes the responsibilities to fix inaccessible platforms onto third party solutions. Rather Microsoft takes the lead with integrated accessibility tools, accessibility checkers in Office products, and even promoting universal design amongst its partners.

Visit these links if you wish to learn more about how to use the Microsoft integrated accessibility tools or produce completely accessible Office documents.

Regarding Narrator, we both agree its a wonderful screen reader to use. Placing our screen readers where our mouth is, we both have made the commitment to adopt Narrator as our primary screen reader on Windows in the upcoming year. Currently a lack of end user guides exist, but Microsoft released a terrific user guide for those willing to take part in our challenge. Its from this guide we have started to produce the Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides and Tutorials Narrator series.

The final segment quickly reviews machine learning and how its recognizing the world around us. As blindness tech advocates, these complex systems needs to be promoted by our community. Its up to us to share how machine learning to recognize objects works, what type of descriptions would benefit us, and dispel myths about computers rising up against us to take over the world.

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.

Navigating Webpages and Netflix With Narrator’s Scan Mode

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In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides and Tutorials podcast, we demonstrate how to navigate around webpages and Netflix with Narrator’s Scan Mode. This episode builds upon our earlier podcast where we describe and demonstrate the basics of Narrator in Windows 10. Once you learn the basics of Scan Mode, navigating around webpages, apps, and other windows will be a breeze. Please refer to the Microsoft’s Scan Mode support page for a complete list of Scan Mode Commands.

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on navigating webpages and Netflix with Narrator’s Scan Mode.

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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How Narrator Reduces The Necessity Of The Windows 10 S To Pro Offer For The Blind

Microsoft announced on Global Accessibility Awareness Day some awesome news. The first involved a brief taste of upcoming Narrator updates that should scare VFO’s JAWS’ future. The second piece, which garnered more attention than warranted, stated users of assistive tech solutions will be able to update from Windows 10 S to Pro for free. Personally, the upcoming Narrator features grabbed my attention, while the free upgrade failed to captivate my interest. In the fall update of Windows 10, Narrator will receive some awesome updates, placing Scan Mode up front, general screen reading enhancements, and recognizing images and text through some nifty behind the scenes stuff. Microsoft’s Window 10 S systems target the budget, education, and similar markets, and individuals who receive their computers through services like the VA or VR programs will not have to worry about these changes. If we peel back the layers regarding the free upgrading from S to Pro for AT users, Microsoft simply is offering individuals of assistive tech solutions some time to gain some comfort with Windows’ integrated accessibility options, while acknowledging the third-party AT options are not in the Windows Store. Personally, end users should take the time to learn the integrated accessibility options, and third-party venters need to consider packaging their software to be distributed by the Windows Store.

I do champion the thought that JAWS, NVDA, former Window Eyes, and System Access users need to seriously need to try learning the basics of Narrator. The third-party accessibility software will remain viable for the near future, but I have to wonder about the longterm health of the industry. The blindness world seen its major players all merged together under VFO. This move reduced the platforms to just ZoomText and its variations, JAWS, and NVDA. Of these, NVDA and Narrator steadily increases its market hold, thanks to their non-existent costs and similar features to JAWS. ZoomText remains the best and really only plater in the screen magnification world, something that will only change if VFO opted to increase its cash by selling or renting out ZoomText magnification patents.

Narrator is a very viable accessibility solution for the blind.

Let me write that again, Microsoft Narrator is a viable screen reading solution for visually impaired computer users. I have no problems writing this, especially if your computing needs requires accessing the world wide web, email, productivity or office solutions, streaming media, and other rather regular and mundane tasks. A user with these requirements may enjoy the experiences offered by Windows 10 S, thanks to limited options. Yes, I can back this claim up, through my experiences on a cheap Best Buy Insignia brand tablet PC that costs less than $200. The PC lacks many of the hardware specifications found in traditional laptops and desktops, and I have not found any lag, refresh issues, or other performance concerns when using Narrator with Edge, Mail, People, Calendar, Adobe Acrobat DC, Netflix, Skype, One Drive, One Note, Word, and other standard apps. Of these, Adobe Acrobat DC is the only one not located in the Windows Store, but Windows offers its own document reader, and I am holding off installing iTunes until it reaches the Windows Store.

To summarize, the Windows 10 S to Pro free conversion for those requiring accessible assistive software will not be a big deal for most blind individuals who adopt Narrator. If you want to stick with JAWS and ZoomText, you would not be purchasing a Windows 10 S system anyways, but rather a Home or Pro version. Regardless, everyone who relies on a screen reader or screen magnification third-party solution should take a honest stab at Windows’ integrated options. Those who live in the world of Voice Over an Zoom through iOS and MacOS can attest to the benefits related to stability when accessibility is not bolted onto the operating system but is apart of the operating system’s core.

Windows 10 Narrator Basics

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In this Blind Vet Tech Quick Guides and Tutorials podcast, we demonstrate Windows 10 Narrator. Microsoft’s commitment to integrated accessibility options for the blind received much attention since releasing Windows 10, with more to come. No longer is Narrator the laughing stock of screen readers, but its now almost as powerful as NVDA or JAWS. This episode shows how to use Narrator to navigate around different screens. Here are the key commands used:

  • Windows Key, Control, and Enter to activate or deactivate Narrator
  • Capslock and up or down arrows to change navigational level
  • Capslock and left or right arrow to navigate to the next or previous item at the set navigational level
  • Control to pause/resume Narrator’s speech
  • Capslock and Spacebar to activate or deactivate scan mode
  • When in scan mode, the up and down arrows moves Narrator’s focus and the left and right arrows will move you by character
  • Capslock and plus or minus keys to increase or decrease Narrator’s rate of speech
  • Capslock and A to change the verbosity level
  • Capslock and S to spell the line or word
  • Capslock and W will read the entire screen
  • Capslock and F1 pulls up the Narrator key command list

Thank you for listening to this Blind Vet Tech tutorial on the basics of Windows 10 Creator’s Edition Narrator.

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Help the VA Revamp Its Digital Presence Through the US Digital Services Cohorts Study

Have you ever wondered how and why the VA developed their online interfaces? Many ask this question, especially since many pages and online resources might be accessible but far from usable. This is where the US Digital Services agency comes into play. The US Digital Services falls under the executive branch, after President Obama established it in 2014. The notable achievements of this self-described “SWAT Team of nerds” includes the Vets.gov, website to streamline Veterans experiences when accessing services, and saved the federal healthcare marketplace after its abysmal role out. Additionally, the team aids other state and federal entities, like the Department of Defense and various educational institutions, clean up and enhance usability of web-based an other electronic interfaces.

Based on early successes US Digital Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs decided its time to obtain the feedback from Veterans, caregivers, supporters, and other individuals who utilize VA services. The hope is to increase the number of Veterans who apply for benefits and services, which is at 10% for first time VA healthcare enrollees. Let’s face it, the reason stems from the VA’s over reliance on PDF’s and paper-based forms. These outdated communications methods not only impinge Section 508 compliance for the blind, but simply fail to address the evolving way our millennial’ Veterans interact within the digital landscape. The resolution is the new streamlined and accessibility healthcare digital application.

Ad Hoc spearheads the Cohort study on the behalf of the digital Services and VA. This is the team that created the previously mentioned online application for VA healthcare services, and now aims to expand to all other facets of VA programs and services. If you wish to contribute your experiences, please sign up by clicking here. This will take you to a webpage to learn more about the project. Then you will have to provide your basic contact information and preferred method of contact. The Ad Hoc team will then contact you.

Do not let this opportunity to restructure the VA’s digital presence slip by. To often do Veterans and caregivers comment about the usability of VA websites, and this is our chance to assist the agency which supports us through its benefits and services. I already signed up for the study, and I hope each of you do the same.

So what happens next? After signing up, you will be contacted by a person from Ad Hoc. The first call will just obtain some basic demographical information about yourself. The representative then mention possible upcoming sessions that will ask you to go through some websites and provide feedback. Once completed, you are then eligible for a $25 Amazon or PayPal gift card.

Important Items to Know

  • This has not been open to the general public, though all information cited above can be found through public access points.
  • Participation requires you to digitally sign a consent agreement. This is currently inaccessible for screen readers, as you cannot read the consent form and none of the text boxes are labeled.
  • The bulk of the assessment occurs through the VA’s e-benefits and Vets.gov websites, so make sure to have your DS account prepared